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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Help Me Ponify Sean Sorrentino aka Operation Briarpatch

Jeez, Erin, do you have to give a code name to everything you do?



Because it makes me giggle!

So for those of you who don't know. on this week's GunBlog VarietyCast my co-host Sean Sorrentino said -- on the record, in front of everyone (around the 30 minute mark) -- that if someone gave him the required $500 to attend, he would wear a purple pony shirt of my own design.

I reckoned that he's probably need three shirts, since Florida is freaking hot this time of year and conventions are sweaty, and he probably didn't want to wear the same stanky t-shirt for all three days.

As it happens, either people really want Sean to attend, or they really want to embarrass him, because as of this writing we've already received enough donations to cover his plane ticket and our hotel room. So now it's fallen on me to make shirts for him.

Special Super Bon Bon sized thanks to Sean's friend John Doughty for using his awesome skills to not only create a ponysona for Sean, but also to design a lovely logo suitable for putting on a shirt! John has saved me a TON of time and the end result looks better than anything I would have made.

Also, be sure to go to my Facebook page to vote for a name for Sean's ponysona!

So now I'm sourcing shirts for Sean, and here's what I've come up with.

I can get three of these from Allied Shirts for $56.35 and free shipping. But while they're nice shirts, I get the feeling that Sean won't wear them very often. But I'd much rather get just two of them for $37.57, and have the third shirt be a nice embroidered polo, like this one from Queensboro:
Some of you may well be wondering "But Erin, why are you getting a nice embroidered polo when you can just get a third t-shirt and be done with it for $56.35?" And that is an excellent question.

If I don't get enough contributions, then that's what I'll do. But my reasoning here is twofold:
  1. If we make it a very nice polo shirt, then Sean may not pay attention to the shirt he's putting on an inadvertently wear ponies to work or to a political function. And that will be HILARIOUS. 
  2. To meet the $50 car minumum for embroidery, I'd need to add an additional shirt to the order. And honestly, I'd like to have a pony polo shirt as well, featuring my ponysona (Powder Flash) in complimentary colors. There's an evening reception the first day of the Gun Rights Policy Conference, and Sean and I would look quite spiffy wearing our "team uniforms". You want me to look spiffy, don't you?

    Besides, unlike Sean I'd wear mine all over the place, like to the NRA Annual Meeting or the Big 3 Media Event. And if I ever have another TV interview like I did with the BBC, I'd wear it then as well!
I realize that this nearly doubles our total, but the shirts are REALLY nice and Sean has promised to wear his to all day and even be filmed wearing it. So please donate to my t-shirt fund and I will have a really nice shirt and Sean can be publicly embarrassed!

Any additional money will go defray my food and gas costs to get there, and any extra after that will be donated to helping Charles "Dustbury" Hill with his medical expenses.

Thank you very much!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: the Tech Level Characteristic

This is just a wild hair notion up my nethers. I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not; I'm just getting it written down so I can ponder the ramifications.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Before characteristics are rolled, the starting Tech Level of the character is determined by rolling 3d6-3, with a DM of +1 for Darrians and perhaps a penalty or level cap (at the GM's discretion) to other non-Imperial races. This gives a range of 0-15, which nicely matches the range of TLs available within the Third Imperium. 

The TL stat is used to determine the tech level of the character's homeworld, and therefore the level of technology that he is familiar with. The player should select that character's homeworld accordingly. 

During character creation, any opportunity to increase INT or EDU may be used to increase TL instead with the GM's approval. For example, it makes sense for a low-TL conscript within the Imperial Navy military to increase his TL; it may not make sense for an entertainer.

Using This Characteristic
TL is not rolled for skill checks. Instead it has the following uses:
  • A character injured in the course of a career uses the DM of the TL (+3 for TL15, +2 for TL 12-14, etc) in both the roll for injury severity as well as the roll to see if medical bills are paid by patron or employer. 
  • This DM is also used when rolling to avoid aging effects. 
    • In both of these cases, if the employer is the Imperium, the military of a system, or otherwise has a logically higher TL than the character, then use the TL of the system [15 for the Imperium] instead.
  • It provides a base for the Tech Level Familiarity rules as found in the 1e book Scoundrel, pp.134-135. 
  • Primitive: TL 0 to 3
  • Industrial: TL 4 to 6
  • Prestellar: TL 7 to 9
  • Early Stellar: TL 10 to 11
  • Average Stellar: TL 12 to 14
  • High Stellar: TL 15 to 16
  • Advanced Stellar: TL 17-19
  • Beyond: TL 20+
Familiarity and Comfort can be easily extrapolated to further categories as needed. The pattern is:
  • C for TL and TL-1
  • F for TL+1 and TL-2 to -4
  • U for everything else

U, F, C
Paraphrasing from Scoundrel:

A character unfamiliar with technology will not understand it or know how to operate it due to its alienness, advanced design, or his own technological ignorance, and suffers a -3 DM to his roll when trying to do so. Naturally, this does not apply to lower-tech items which are still in use on that character's homeworld; for example, the knife and fork are TL 1 tools, but even a TL 15 character will know how to use one. However, that same TL 15 character will likely be unable to start a fire using flint and steel without appropriate training in primitive technologies (such as the Survival skill).

DM penalties stack; attempting to manipulate unfamiliar technology without a relevant skill results in a -6 DM.

A character familiar with technology may not necessarily understand how the item works, but he is comfortable with using it and does so without penalty -- so long as he has skills in it. For example, a TL 2 musketeer could grasp the basics of using a gauss rifle after instruction, since he knows Gun Combat, but a farmer would have a -3 unfamiliar technology penalty (likely on top of a -3 unskilled penalty). 

Familiarity is on an item-by-item basis, not blanket across a TL: just because that TL 2 musketeer knows how to operate a TL 12 gauss rifle does not mean he can operate a TL 9 air/raft. Familiarity with the air/raft will also have to be acquired before he can use it, and until then he will suffer from a -3 DM (assuming the GM is feeling charitable and allows his Drive: Carriage skill to apply; if it doesn't, or if he doesn't have the skill, he's back at -6 DM). 

A character comfortable with technology can operate items of that technological rank because he understands the basic principles behind them. He does not need a skill to operate an item, although there is still a -3 DM unskilled penalty. Comfort extends across the entire TL, rather than on a case-by-case basis. 

Current Drawbacks to this House Rule
  1. There is definite benefit to coming from a higher TL (specifically in regards to aging and injury), with no commensurate benefit to coming from a lower TL other than comfort/familiarity with primitive technology. Given that TL is a stat and the conventional wisdom is "High stats good, low stats bad", this limitation may not be a fundamental flaw. 
  2. Players will have to keep track of familiarity and comfort levels for their characters through gameplay. 
  3. Given a term within the Imperial Navy/Marines, TL-as-stat may become meaningless, or at best a range due to 4 years' exposure to high technology. A stat of TL "9 to 15" is so broad as to mean little. 
  4. Given the main benefits of this stats exist during character creation, to adding this retroactively to existing player characters is rather pointless unless your campaign trends toward exposure to TL 16+ technologies. 
What do you think? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Story About Dawn

Last Tuesday was Dawn Faust Bibby's Celebration of Life. I actually have a Dawn story that I was saving for the Celebration, but since I wasn't asked to speak I figure I'll tell it here.
Back in November of 2014, I got a call from Oleg that he was in Florida and that I ought to meet him at our usual spot (said usual spot being behind the house of a friend down in Cocoa, in whose back yard we have frequently shot and once blew up a zombie target). I was specifically looking forward to seeing Oleg because I had been talking with him about my idea that eventually became the "Gun Owner Diversity" poster, and so we planned to have him take pictures of me.

It's out of character for me, but let me be uncomfortably specific here, because it's relevant to the story: I was bringing down several sets of women's clothes so that Oleg could photograph a bearded, obviously biological male in drag for the poster. 

When I arrived, however, Oleg wasn't alone. In fact, there were quite a few people there.
  • People I hadn't met before. 
  • People I who was, shall we say, uncomfortable showing that side of myself to, because I was freshly "out" as trans and didn't know how people would react and I really didn't want to cause a stir or confrontation. 
So while I waited for Oleg to finish, I talked to those people. One of them was John Bibby, and we became acquainted. He invited me back to his house for dinner later.

By the time Oleg got to me, we were losing the light (and I'd had plenty of time to work up a good level of nerves, due to being around people I didn't know), and so we compromised: I would put on something sporty and simple, and he'd take some establishing shots of me to 1) burn off my nervousness and 2) get a feel for how better to photograph me the next day.  I agreed, changed behind the house (no one was around), and let him take pictures.

(No, you aren't going to see those pictures; they're terrible. Don't get me wrong: Oleg's composition is fine, I'm just hideously uncomfortable and it's plain for all to see.)

By the time we were finished, we'd lost the light and night was falling quickly. However, I didn't have anywhere to change out of drag and into "respectable" clothing (I mentioned the house was empty and the lights were out, yes?), and this was a dilemma for me. Oleg assured me that I looked perfectly fine, and that both John and Dawn would be fine with me as I was.

Somewhat assured, I followed him back to the Bibby's house. I parked my car, got up to their front door... and proceeded to have a panic attack on their front porch.
I can't possibly go in like this. Not only do I look awful, but John's wife doesn't even know me or know to expect this. It's rude behavior, and a guest is supposed to be polite.
Heck, she might even take offense at this. Some women see transvestites and transgenders as a mockery. I certainly don't want to cause trouble. I can't go inside. 
I can't change clothes, though. I have no room to do it in my car, and I can't change on their well-lit porch or carport because this house is on a busy street and someone will see me being indecent. 
 I really, really want to leave. Just run away. But I can't do that, either, because it's also incredibly rude. 
What the hell do I do?
After what felt like 20 minutes of panic, but was likely only 30 seconds, I came up with a stopgap solution: I opened the door just a crack, said "Hi, sorry to be a bother, I'm just having a panic attack on your porch, please don't mind me. I'll be in as soon as I have my act together," then promptly sat down on their outdoor couch and proceeded to freak out.

I don't know how long I was out there. It felt like hours. Oleg checked on me and assured me that 1) it was going to be all right, that Dawn knew who I was and that it was okay, and 2) dinner was still cooking so I could stay outside until then but at some point I would have to go inside.

Dinner was announced, and I couldn't make myself come inside. I was entertaining possibilities of "Okay, maybe if I get in my car and find an empty cul-de-sac, I can change there and come back... but I don't have a map of the area, and if I leave I'll probably get lost and not be able to find the place again.."  when Dawn, in her unique style, solved the problem.

She came out onto the porch and sat down next to me. I was so so embarrassed I couldn't even look at her, but that didn't seem to matter. She just said, in her soft and kind voice, "Erin, I want you to know that Oleg has explained who you are to me, and I'm perfectly fine with it. I accept you as you are, and you are welcome in my home. Now please come inside and have dinner with us." Then she gave me a sideways hug and went inside.

In one graceful motion, Dawn had defused the entire situation:
  • Too embarrassed to come inside? No problem, she'd go outside to me. 
  • Didn't want to come into her house dressed like that? She didn't make me.
  • Worried about what she'd think? She told me what she thought of me, and how I was dressed, and welcomed me anyway. 
Well. After that, all of my objections were pretty much in flames... so after taking another moment to compose myself, I went inside. I had a wonderful time with her and John and Oleg, and they even put me up on their couch for the night so I wouldn't have to drive home and back again for the photo shoot the next day. 

That one moment defined Dawn for me: kind, accepting, and a delightful combination of "not accepting my nonsense but still being mindful of my feelings."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #105 - Purple Ponies at the Gun Rights Policy Conference

Erin "Voodoo Princess Daintyhooves" continues her nefarious plot to turn everyone in the gunblog world into ponies. This time, it's Sean "Unicorn Rampant Sable" Sorrentino who has fallen into her hoofy clutches!
  • The GunBlog VarietyCast is now a proud member of The Self Defense Radio Network.
  • Beth gives us some good pointers for on how to take a date to the range.
  • Why does he do it? No, not the "NC Teen who's been arrested dozens of times before being charged with murder;" why does Sean do the "Felons Behaving Badly" segment? We're glad you asked.
  • It sounds like a science fiction movie, but it's actually evil website design. Barron tells us all about "Dark Patterns."
  • In our main topic, Sean and Erin talk about the Gun Rights Policy Conference in Tampa, and Erin talks Sean into doing something he'll regret. 
Cunning likeness, wouldn't you agree?
 I'm thinking about calling him Purple Brash. 

This is a work in progress of Sean's ponysona, one of three shirts I'm going to make him wear (yes, a pony shirt for each day of the conference).
Would you like to embarrass Sean?
Send donations to the following link:

  • Did you know that Erin has a YouTube channel? She does Apocabox unboxing videos. What's an Apocabox? Erin explains.
  • Weer'd didn't want to leave out all the other anti-gun nuts at the Massachusetts AG press conference. It's their turn getting a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for NBC's TV show Aquarius.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here
Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support. Go to to join.

And a special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense at Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

Upcoming Law of Self Defense Seminars:
  • September 10 - Alabama specific - Talladega, AL
  • September 17 - Minnesota & Wisconsin specific - La Crosse, WI
  • October 1 - Pennsylvania & New Jersey specific - Bensalem, PA
  • October 15 - New York specific - Poughkeepsie, NY
  • October 22 - Iowa specific - Johnston, IA
  • October 23 - Iowa specific - Central City, IA
  • November 5 - Oregon and Washington specific - Sherwood, OR

Friday, August 19, 2016

SHTFriday: Apocabox Unboxing #13 (August 2016)

Once again, the curse of the Apocabox strikes. (This post is backdated to Friday the 19th, but I'm actually publishing it on Sunday the 21st.)

That's the bad news. The good news is that I've gotten the hang of my video editing software and I've cut out the transitions between items, which means the video is shorter while still having the same amount of good stuff in it. Now if I can just remember to keep my hands in the center of the frame...

Anyway. enjoy the video. This box, the Blackout Edition, was a box of extremes: there were some things that fell flat, but the good parts were really REALLY good, so it all evens out.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Requiescat In Pace, Bastardo


  1. stare openly and stupidly.
    "they were gawking at some pinup"
    synonyms: gape, goggle, gaze, ogle, stare, stare open-mouthed; informal rubberneck

    "I somehow managed not to gawk at his gorgeous roommate"
The news is grim at Gawker HQ this morn, as they've posted the above release. In a week's time, the doors will shutter, with Nick Denton having lost his trial against the Hulkster, and Univision picking up the shattered remains of a company leg-dropped through the legal system. I come not to praise Gawker, nor to bury it, but to dance upon its grave, urinate wildly on the headstone, and make a general nuisance of myself at the wake.

It would appear that Univision has decided not to shut down any of Gawker's satellite sites, such as Kotaku and Jezebel, but simply Gawker itself. The brand would appear too toxic to touch. I certainly hope, for their own sake, that Kotaku and Jezebel start making money soon, otherwise they'll be closed down as well.

So, uh... keep doing what you're doing, Kotaku and Jezebel. I'm certain if you keep up with your tried and true formula, you'll turn things around and won't end up shut down like daddy Gawks.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Gunday: a Transcript of Last Week's Gunblog Varietycast ITAR Rant

I thought folks might find it helpful to be able to refer to a transcript of what I said in GBVC Episode #103 regarding the new ITAR "regulatory guidelines" instead of having to listen to the podcast each time.

The Main Topic:
The State Department, ITAR, and Gunsmiths

This actually has me so upset that I’m in full-on nerd rage about it. I’m going to try to keep my thoughts coherent and logical, but please understand that just talking about this gets me very worked up. Sean, get your finger on the censor button because I might just start swearing.

So before I go off on a rant, let me explain what ITAR is and does before I explain how this latest regulatory clarification is both a perversion of the original intent of ITAR and a gross violation of rights.

ITAR is an acronym for International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and it was created in 1976 to prevent American companies from exporting arms to countries or entities that were hostile to the United States. Since then, its role has expanded to include certain technologies -- for example, some kinds of night vision -- that give our country or our military an edge, and so we heavily restrict the export of those technologies so that the bad guys don’t get it. It’s important to note that technologies can mean concepts as well as material, such as new manufacturing techniques and the like.

Now I’m practically a 1st Amendment absolutist over here -- I believe VERY strongly in Freedom of Speech -- but I do understand the reasoning behind ITAR. Put simply, we don’t want al-Qaeda or Daesh to have access to the same arms and tech that our warfighters have. So in that regard, I grudgingly accept the necessity of ITAR being able to tell companies to whom they may sell their property.

But this most recent regulatory clarification -- hoo boy. I’ve attached a couple of PDFs for people who want to read for themselves; I’ll paraphrase for everyone else.

A big THANK YOU goes out to Firearms Law Attorney Benjamin M. Blatt, Esquire, for helping me decipher the legalese and putting it into simple English. If you need a lawyer in Indiana, he’s your man.

So the short version here is that the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has decided -- because, you see, much like the ATF, this UNELECTED BUREAUCRACY gets to define the regulations it then enforces -- that, and I quote, “Many -- but not all -- traditional gunsmithing activities do not constitute manufacturing for ITAR purposes and, therefore, do not require registration with the DDTC.” Or, put another way, they have unilaterally and without legislative oversight decided that a lot of gunsmithing tasks DO require ITAR registration -- a process which, by the way, takes around two months and around $2,250 a year. So by making these requirements, they’re going to put many, many gunsmiths out of business. Why? Because fuck you, peon, that’s why.

So let’s look at these terrible technologies that ITAR is going to regulate:
a) Use of any special tooling or equipment upgrading in order to improve the capability of assembled or repaired firearms;
b) Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity;
c) The production of firearm parts (including, but not limited to, barrels, stocks, cylinders, breech mechanisms, triggers, silencers, or suppressors);
d) The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition;
e) The machining or cutting of firearms, e.g., threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation requiring machining, that results in an enhanced capability;
f) Rechambering firearms through machining, cutting, or drilling;
g) Chambering, cutting, or threading barrel blanks; and
h) Blueprinting firearms by machining the barrel.
Yes, you heard right: the DDTC is protecting us from the terrible scourge of 19th-century technology known as drilling, tapping, and threading. Who knew that a simple drill press and lathe could produce such awful, high-tech, restricted capabilities such as -- and I shudder to say this aloud -- putting a scope on a rifle?

I don’t see how anyone can interpret this as anything less than an overt “fuck you” to the gun industry and to firearms owners who want to modify their rifles. Want to put a suppressor on your rifle? Hahahah, screw you, your gunsmith can’t thread the barrel unless he’s spent thousands to become ITAR compliant.

Now some of you may be wondering how, precisely, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has authority over gunsmiths in this regard. After all, wasn’t ITAR designed to prevent the export of guns and high-tech concepts? How could this possibly affect American citizens doing work for other American citizens domestically?

Again, put simply, ITAR has been given jurisdiction over things called “Defense articles”. How does one define a defense article? That would be in the second PDF I have attached in the notes, but the easy answer is “practically all guns are defense articles.”

The very first category says “Nonautomatic and semi-automatic firearms to caliber .50 inclusive”, which is… practically every gun we can own legally. But wait, it gets better! Further categories specify automatic weapons up to 50 cal, shotguns with a barrel less than 18”, sound and flash suppressors, riflescopes manufactured to military specifications (and most scopes these days are), and barrels, cylinders, frames and breech systems.

A regular pump-action shotgun might get a pass, except that there’s a category which states “Firearms or other weapons having a special military application regardless of caliber.” I’m pretty sure that the Army issues Mossberg 590s to its Military Police.

So, basically… all guns. And, of course, all the components and ammunition for the above.

Now, here’s what this means for you, based on my knowledge and understanding of what Mr. Blatt told me:
  • If you’re a gunsmith, you’re screwed unless you pay the ITAR registration. And even if you do, you have to wait until your forms are processed, which could take longer than 2 months if a bunch of people -- like, say, all the gunsmiths in the United States -- suddenly applied. 
  • If you want to have your gun modified by a gunsmith to take a suppressor, scope, have it re-chambered -- you’re going to have to wait until your gunsmith pays his tribute and is licensed. Otherwise, anything you have done to it will be illegal. I don’t know if YOU will get in trouble for that, but the gunsmith sure will. 
  • Fortunately, this is all for commercial enterprises. If you do this in your own garage with your own tools, you ought to be okay -- for now, at any rate. Likewise if you allow your buddy to use your tools. I’m not sure how the law would regard a buddy paying you in beer and/or pizza to mod your gun for him, but I wouldn’t risk it. 
  • Regular gunsmith repairs to a broken gun are fine, so long as they don’t involve the BLEEDING EDGE HIGH TECH PROCESSES known as cutting, threading, drilling and tapping… 
    • ...except if such things don’t change the capability of the gun. For example. If you already have a drilled and tapped scope mount and you want iron sights installed, that ought to be okay. Then, drilling and tapping is perfectly legal. Clear as mud, right? 
  • Cosmetic additions and engravings are okay, as are adding accessories that don’t require those dark 19th century machining arts. So you could have a gunsmith install a suppressor for you, so long as the barrel was already threaded, but you couldn’t have him thread it for you unless he was ITAR compliant. 
  • According to Attorney Blatt, “There's an exception on the CFR munitions list for shotguns under .50 without military application. So gunsmiths SHOULD be able to go hog wild on .410s and 20 gauges without registering for ITAR.” I’m not sure if that’s a silver lining or just an oversight on DDTC’s part. 
  • Finally, and surprisingly, manual reloaders are okay. Actually, it says “Manual loading or reloading of ammunition of 50 caliber or smaller”, so it could be argued that this doesn’t apply to 12 gauge shotgun ammo. This seems aimed at systemic production of ammunition -- I’m not sure if the higher end reloaders, such as from Dillon, count as “automated loading or reloading”. I think this is more likely a measure meant to screw with ammunition manufacturers like Remington, Winchester and the like. The big companies will just pay the fine, but the smaller companies may go out of business because of this. 
So, welcome to the final days of the Obama Administration, where our petty and passive-aggressive Coward-in-Chief is going to screw with gun owners and the gun industry as much as possible, because he lacked the wherewithal to actually pass the gun control legislation he wanted.

There’s probably more of this crap ahead, too. I’ve attached another PDF that talks about the Firearm & Ammunition Excise Tax, or FAET. And of course there are all the nasty rumors, about how the EPA wants to define ammunition as hazardous or toxic, and how OSHA wants to implement ammunition storage laws. They’re going to find all sorts of creative backdoor -- and yes, double entendre FULLY intended -- backdoor means to screw with us.

So, how do we fight this current regulatory clarification? Reading through the clarification, you see many references to “the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning for “gunsmithing,” That means the DDTC is not using a legal definition for what gunsmithing is, and as we know by now, there are lots of legal terms of art in use -- such as how the ATF doesn’t define a black powder gun as a firearm.

So it ought to be relatively easy to legally define Gunsmithing, and what gunsmithing entails, as exempt and outside the common meaning of manufacturing. That would short-circuit a LOT of this bullshit.

How would we do that? If just 1,000 gunsmiths contributed $50, that would form an excellent war chest to fight this legislatively. Unfortunately, no one has yes set up a legal defense fund for this, so I cannot tell you where to send your money.

But if, for example, there was a gunsmith organization willing to raise the money, Prince Law definitely has the experience in federal admin law disputes to deal with this. I’m just sayin’.

Regardless, if you know someone in the legal world who has the time and inclination to create something like this, then you bug the shit out of them to do this. Because we have to fight this garbage, and we have to fight it NOW.

Show Notes

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

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