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Monday, October 31, 2011

Dealing with the Undead (1 of 3)



The elemental nature of the undead of Pellatarum
by Demonic Bunny


The Undead
Given the strongly elemental nature of Pellatarrum, and the manner in which the elements affect the world, it only makes sense that Pellatarran undead are influenced by the elements as well.

There are two main qualities of undead, mindless and true, and the latter group can further be divided into the four elemental categories of apathetic, obsessive, raging and fearsome. An undead may be sorted into one of these categories based upon the nature of its death, whether or not it was properly buried, and if it rose to unlife through necromancy or through natural exposure to elemental and necrotic energies.


Mindless vs.True
Mindless undead have no soul and are not necessarily created from the body of an intelligent being. They are animated by negative energy in a manner similar to golems and other constructs, and may be created from any once-living material. This is because decaying flesh and plant life absorbs negative (necrotic) energy fairly easily, and a corpse has already-existing joints and musculature -- which, depending on the skill of the necromancer involved, often makes the the difference between ”fearsome shambling undead” and ”something repulsive that ineffectually writhes on the ground”.

For example, the zombie template can cover everything from a reanimated corpse to a vaguely humanoid negative energy construct created from mud and blood. It would be wrong, however, to think of the mindless undead as mere automatons. The necrotic energy infusing them makes them, in effect, an extension of the Negative Material Plane, and as such it is often hard to tell where the creature ends and the will of the plane begins. On Pellatarum, mindless undead are sometimes created through necromantic magic, but most often rise due to exposure to naturally-occurring necrotic energies. Once risen, they usually do not pose a great threat unless they are present in sufficiently large numbers (mob-sized or larger), or there is a greater undead presence controlling them. To necromancers and higher forms of true undead, finding already-risen mindless undead is akin to discovering that you have a new pair of limbs that ache to be flexed.

Mindless undead, by their very nature, do not possess any elemental qualities, and are animated solely through negative energy.

True undead are always the undead remains of an intelligent being, and their manifestations (even if incorporeal) are tied to their mortal remains. True undead can be divided into four categories, each associated with one of the four elements and sharing the nature of their element. True undead are, without exception, more powerful than the mindless undead, but their free will and independence makes them a troublesome and two-edged blade to necromancers.


The Apathetic Undead
There is a reason why burial is the most common funeral rite in Pellatarum. As noted earlier, the effects of elemental earth are stasis, apathy and inaction, and this effect is far more potent against the undead than the living. Some scholars speculate that this is a deliberate design feature of Pellatarum, and that the dwarves chose to alienate themselves (to a degree) from their own element in order to safeguard their creation against undeath.

When used for consecrated burial (wherein the cleric or adept uses a variation of the 1st level spell Bless Water to convert a small amount of salt into elemental earth and imbue it with a minor amount of positive energy*), the pacifying effects of elemental earth remain the number one obstacle for any would-be necromancer. In areas where good burial practices are observed, it is usually impossible for necromancers to raise any large quantities of undead, as the properly-buried prefer to stay within their graves.

Even though they are not marauding, the presence of apathetic undead can still be noticed as a general sense of uneasiness about a place: animals become skittish and distraught; there is a feeling of being watched or otherwise not alone; plants are warped or stunted; and other eerie effects, such as dramatic weather, occur.

Examples of apathetic undead: The early stages of a Bonefield (before everything goes wrong).


The Obsessive Undead
The undead associated with the element of air are those which are trapped by their obsessions. They tend to be place-bound and focused on a single task. Typical tasks include protecting their descendants, bringing their murderers to justice, or some other grievance that haunted them at their moment of death. Likewise, if a gravesite is exposed to strong winds (windswept hills, deserts and plains, etc) there is a chance that undead will rise that would have otherwise stayed put.

Notable areas of obsessive undead infestation are ancient barrows. Low hills that were once covered with groves of trees, sacred to the people that raised them, but have long since been deforested and exposed to the winds. Now all that remains are the grass-covered hills and the undead who jealously guard the goods that followed them into the grave.

Examples of Obsessive undead: Ghosts, Revenants and Barrow-Wights.


The Raging Undead
The unthinking rage of fire and the eternal hatred of the living means that raging undead are rarely subtle or something you can ignore. They can quickly devastate a very large area unless they are swiftly and decisively dealt with. Raging undead tend to rise if the deceased experienced feelings of intense hatred or fury at the moment of death (typically violent forms of death such as murder or being slain in combat), or if the remains are exposed to fire or other forms of strong heat (deserts or volcanic landscapes). Even worse, those who have been cremated have a high likelihood of rising as incorporeal undead (in particular as ash wraiths, which manifest as a vaguely humanoid cloud of ash). As such, with the exception of the orcs and other savage goblinoids, cremation is shunned as a method of corpse disposal by all races.

Examples of Raging undead: Spectres, Wights, and the later stages of the Bonefield (as the fire element becomes dominant).


The Fearsome Undead
The fourth form of undead is the most diverse and insidious. These are the fearsome undead, and while they share the general hatred of the living with other forms of undead, they are generally far more intelligent and calculating. When an age-old undead conspiracy against all living beings isn't led by an ancient lich, then there is most likely another type of powerful fearsome undead at the helm.

Fearsome undead are also the most powerful. Those who are killed by fearsome undead usually rise as fearsome undead themselves, and they often form a nearly-symbiotic relationship with water. Stagnant water tends to absorb negative energy (leading to increased numbers of both true and mindless undead), and the presence of fearsome undead often causes the land to become waterlogged, eventually turning it into a bog, swamp, or marshland, or at the very least, subject to continuous fog and rainstorms.

Examples: Banshees, Bodaks, Vampires, and most Graveknights.


Final Notes
Some types of true undead exist in every category, and some have the elemental nature of multiple categories. However, they are still elementally influenced and will have the personality and abilities associated with their elements. For example, it is rare to see a lich that is associated solely with a single element, and while a vampire is typically associated with water, it is possible to find one that is obsessive and therefore air-aligned. This sort of variation is highly unusual, though, and generally only applies to undead which are both intelligent and powerful (in game terms, these are typically undead which are acquired templates.)



*Unlike Bless Water, this modified burial spell does not require powdered silver. The positive energy which imbues the ceremonial earth does not last very long, as it is meant to counteract any residual necrotic energies which may linger for a few weeks after death and result in the body rising as undead. This also means it is less potent than Holy Water; if used against already-risen undead it would merely be considered uncomfortable to them (less than 1 hit point of damage). The weaponized version of this spell does require powdered silver, and in that case acts just like Holy Water in that regard.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An open letter to OWS and MoveOn.org

Warning: politics ahead. Feel free to tab out if you come here for the lulz, ponies, and weirdness; it certainly won't hurt my feelings.


Dear Occupy Wall Streeters and MoveOn.org:

I applaud you for hauling out the Constitution and maintaining that it is your First Amendment right to gather and protest. Bravo. This proves to me that you've read the damn thing.

Now kindly please stop trying to infringe, restrict, and redefine my Second Amendment rights. No, don't try to tell me that it's a matter of interpretation or that it only applies to muskets or government agencies or whatever, because if you do that then I will say that the First Amendment only applies to, say, newspapers or protesters with permits.

You've read the Bill of Rights. You know what it says. What part of "Shall not be infringed" was unclear?

So tell you what, I'll make you an offer: You stop trying to take away my ability to defend myself from predators, and not only will I support the OWS movement, I'll go up there and STAND GUARD while you sleep. Because, y'know, I'll be armed.

Do we have a deal?


Love,
Erin Palette

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Gunday: Rules of Firearms Safety

It's kind of funny, really; I don't think of myself as a gun blogger, but rather as someone who has diverse nerdy interests which she talks about, one of those things being guns. However, I seem to have established myself within the periphery of the gunblog community, as I am an avid reader and frequent commenter of several guns-and-politics blogs, one of whom was even nice enough to add me to his blog roll (hi, Linoge!)

So because I kind of backed into this niche, and because I talk about guns not as an activist or as a pro shooter but as a hobbyist, and perhaps because I'm female, I seem to have a fair amount of other female readers who read my Monday Gunday posts with a mixture of fascination and mystery.

In other words, I take the scary and the politics and the jargon out of the discussion as much as possible, which has resulted in several female friends asking me questions like "How do guns work?" or "Where can I learn to shoot?"

Now this is cool, because I am very big on self-defense, and traditionally women are at a physical disadvantage compared to men, so any time a woman wants to talk to me about guns I will drop whatever I'm doing to answer her questions.

(As an aside: is there anyone in Indiana near South Bend who is willing to teach a friend of mine how to shoot for little to no cost? I'd gladly do it but there's about a thousand miles between FL and IN.)

Having blogged for a while I understand that for every person who asks me a question or leaves me a comment, there are 5, 10, or more people who are thinking the same thing but for whatever reason don't want to speak up. This tells me that I have a potentially large readership of people who would like to learn how to shoot, but don't really know where to begin and are often intimidated by traditionally male venues.

So if you're a gun virgin but you're still interested in learning how to properly handle a firearm, I'm going to give you a head start on gun safety, so that when you go to the range or to a shooting class you'll already have a leg up on some of the other participants.

Presented for your edification are the Rules of Gun Safety, with commentary by me.


JEFF COOPER'S RULES OF GUN SAFETY


RULE I: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
This rule is a bit preposterous when you think about it, because of course not all guns are always loaded at all times; you can't safely clean a loaded gun, for starters. If it helps, think of this as an application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle:  Until you verify it for yourself, every gun you ever see is always loaded and ready to fire. When you pick up a gun, it is your responsibility, and you own whatever you shoot! Therefore, unless you are prepared to shoot something the moment you pick it up, it is your duty to check -- both with eyes and with fingers -- that the gun is unloaded (this includes no bullets in the barrel as well as the magazine) and that the safety is on before you may safely consider it unloaded.


Corollary to Rule I: The moment you set a gun down and take your eyes off of it, it is no longer considered unloaded. It is always possible that someone other than yourself loaded it your absence. Imagine that you are constantly being followed by ninjas whose only purpose in life is to load and un-safe any firearms you leave lying around. Having a touch of OCD is actually of use in this case, as you should re-check any firearm you no longer have in your immediate possession.


RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY

As stated above, You own what you shoot. It doesn't matter if the gun goes off "accidentally"; it's still your ass if it does, and you are legally responsible for whatever damage or harm that bullet causes. Additionally, this rule keeps YOU safe; if you accidentally aim your gun at someone (this is called "muzzle sweep") you could be construed as threatening them, and be subject to legal action (if not shot by police, or by the sweepee who thinks you intend to kill him/her). Finally, it's just plain and simple courtesy, you know? Guns are like knives and farts: it's rude to aim them at someone else. 

RULE III: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
This has been called the Golden Rule of gun safety, so it baffles me why it's #3 on the list. But it's true; 99% of all accidental shootings (called "negligent discharges" or ND in parlance) happen because someone's finger was on the trigger when it shouldn't have been. Unless they have seriously damaged trigger mechanisms, or there is a hot round in the chamber that was struck by the firing pin but somehow failed to fire, guns do not just "go off" on their own. Remember that the word "trigger" is the key component in the phrase "hair trigger"; you would be surprised how little effort it takes to make one go bang. 


RULE IV: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET
There is more to this rule than would first appear. Not only is it telling you to be absolutely sure that what you are aiming at is what you think it is -- i.e., make sure that it's really an intruder in your house and not a drunk relative -- but also to be aware of what is behind your target. Overpenetration is a real thing, and while it's a fine thing to shoot an intruder threatening your family, it's a terrible thing to have your bullet go through them, into a sheetrock wall, out the other side, and into your spouse or child whose bedroom is on the other side. In other words, while you can aim at what you shoot, you don't always shoot what you're aiming at. Always be aware of where those bullets can go.


These are the 4 official rules. I always add two others:


RULE 0: DON'T EVER PICK UP A GUN UNLESS EXPLICITLY TOLD YOU MAY DO SO
This is sort of a catch-all. It prevents children from picking up guns (assuming you've taught them the rules and they obey you). It also helps prevent you from accusations of theft or menacing. Finally, it's another bit of common courtesy; much like going into someone else's room or driving someone else's car, you don't do it unless you are specifically permitted to do so.


RULE 5: DON'T TRY TO CATCH A FALLING GUN
Many, many NDs are the result of people dropping a gun, grabbing for it, and accidentally pulling the trigger due to a combination of finger placement, grip strength, and gravity. You have no control over where the barrel of a falling gun is pointed; don't make it worse by having it fire in that random direction as well. Additionally, nearly all modern firearms won't fire if dropped; most of those have "drop safeties" specifically made for this purpose. It is always better to deal with cosmetic damage to the gun, or replace a broken scope, than to deal with the legal, medical, and financial ramifications of accidentally shooting yourself or someone else.


If you memorize and keep these Rules firmly in your mind, you will observe proper safety at a shooting range (which will make the Rangemasters happy) and you will impress your instructor in class (which will make him happy). Do not be intimidated by these rules! I'm certain that every adult reading this blog knows how to drive a car, which is a far more complicated operation than shooting a gun. If you can drive on the interstate, you can safely observe these rules.

Happy shooting!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Never waste an apocalypse

It's October 21st, and the world is supposed to end today, according to Harold Camping. Of course, he also predicted it was supposed to end back on the 21st of May, as well as September 6 1994, and May 21 1988.

Yes, he's a false prophet, and anyone who listens to him is a fool. But that's not the purpose of today's essay (I've already covered that here.)  Instead, I'm going to talk about how you can utilize idiocy like this as part of your general disaster zombie preparedness.

You know how you are encouraged to change the batteries and check the readiness of household smoke detectors every six months, and therefore the best dates to do so are January first and July fourth? The same principle applies here. Specifically:

Whenever you hear someone talking about an apocalypse, check and change your disaster stores.

  • Pull out your zombie kit, bug-out-bag, or whatever else you call your disaster supplies, and completely disassemble it. 
  • Check for signs of deterioration in everything: torn or frayed fabrics, leaking liquids, rusting metal, corroded batteries, non-functioning electronics, spoiled food, etc. 
  • Fix everything which can be repaired; replace or throw away everything which can't. 
  • Rotate out perishables like food, medicine, and batteries, so the may be used by the household. Replace them in the supplies with fresher materials that have more distant expiration dates. (Especially important if you maintain a disaster pantry.) First In, First Out is the order of the day. 
  • Perform basic maintenance such as sharpening and oiling knives, reinforcing weak stitches, etc. 
  • Launder stored clothes to eliminate storage odors and to kill anything which may have gotten inside.
  • Make sure you can still wear stored clothing. Bodies change over time, especially if you have children. Add, subtract, or replace as necessary. 
  • Pets are your family too. Ensure they have supplies (food, water, bowls, leashes, grooming items, toys.)
  • Ensure that your supplies are still portable if that is a priority (an evacuation kit as opposed to a bugging-in kit). A backpack that you can no longer carry is a very expensive rock. 
  • If at all possible, use many of the items in real conditions, such as on a camping trip or in your backyard. 
  • Make a list of where everything is. If you need a trauma bandage, you should know immediately in which bag to look. 
  • Add money to a disaster fund. ATMs will be down in an emergency and you may need to buy something (like fuel or food).
  • Arrange multiple predetermined rendezvous sites in case you are separated while evacuating, or disaster occurs while at work. Have at least one site for each cardinal direction, and make sure they are accessible in case standard overland routes (interstates, etc) are impassible. Make sure everyone has a copy of this list of locations. 
  • Practice whatever evacuation or preparedness drill you feel is relevant. Since my area is prone to both tornadoes and wildfires, I like to pretend that we have been given an evacuation order and have less than 15 minutes to leave the house. 
If you perform this basic maintenance whenever an "emergency," "threat" or "apocalypse" looms, you will be prepared for when it actually occurs. 


If you feel I have forgotten anything, please mention it in the comments below! Thank you. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thinking about portals

You know what confuses and angers me? Doorknobs.

Specifically, the turny-latchy things in the middle of them. These things right here:


Take a look at that and answer me one thing: Is the door locked or unlocked?

The answer is "locked," and most readers are now looking at me with a "Yes, and your point is...?" expression. My point is this:

It doesn't make any goddamn sense.

What does a door -- specifically, a door that would use a knob like this -- look like? Why, it's a rectangle of course, taller than it is wide. In fact, it looks an awful lot like... the latch in the locked position.

But when that knob is unlocked, what does it look like? Why, a crossbar of course. Something which bars entry. A circle with a horizontal line through it looks to me like the universal "Do Not Enter" symbol.


So when the door is unlocked, every bit of symbol-recognition in my brain is telling me that the door is locked. And when it's locked, it looks like a door, and when we think of doors we think of going through them, ergo my brain tells me it's unlocked. Therefore, every time I'm presented with a knob like this, my brain screeches to halt as it goes, "Hmm, that looks like a 'don't enter' symbol, which would mean it's locked. But because I know doorknobs are screwed up and make no sense, I need to reverse that, so that means it's open. Right? I think so. But now that I've thought about it so much, I'm starting to doubt myself, like when I misspell a word and then I look up the correct spelling and everything seems wrong. You know what, my only option here is to grab the knob and find out for myself."

How do you people deal with this? How does this NOT make you mental? I know I'm not the most logical of persons, but this time my argument makes waaaaay more sense than any explanation you can come up with regarding why "horizontal" means "open."

Since I can't change the orientation of doorknobs in my house -- and even if I could, that would really mess me up in the outside world -- what I've done is taken some red and green paint, and put a thin bar of red on the top of the knob and a thin bar of green on the side, because as we all know, green means "go" and red means "stop." I have used color symbolism to defeat object symbolism.

Of course, red is now forever associated with "up" in my mind, but I can deal with that. At least I'm not crazy like you people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WNW: Doctor Whooves

Look, just deal with the fact that most Wednesday Night Wackiness entries are gonna be about ponies, ok? Just accept it and move on with your lives.

With that out of the way, I present to you a perfectly charming intersection of two of my fandoms: Doctor Who and My Little Pony.




Also included for your viewing pleasure: the Doctor Whooves theme (a DW/MLP music mashup).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Gunday: Accessorizing the Kel-Tec Sub-2000

Last time on Monday is Gunday, I reviewed the Kel-Tec Sub-2000. Today I'm going to talk about accesories for it because, as I have said earlier, my girliest feature is my need to put accessories on everything.


I'm still deciding upon a name for this one. In fact, I'm not sure if I should name it at all, since the moment I name it I consider it "mine" and this gun was bought as a self-defense weapon my mother could use. Admittedly, I'm the head weapons-handler (weaponista?) of the household, and therefore its storage, maintenance and upkeep fall under my purview. Still... I didn't buy this one, nor was it expressly gifted to me. And I'd feel really strange about taking it with me if I moved out, since that would leave mom once again without a way to defend herself.

Sigh. My feelings, they are mixed.

Regardless, these are the accessories I have bought for the S2k, either out of perceived necessity or desired comfort.


1)  Three 33-round magazines. (Although, by an odd quirk, one of them holds 34.) This allows me to put 2 full boxes of 9mm ammo into ready-to-use containers, which saves on space and time spent loading. The S2k comes standard with a 10 round magazine, which is probably sufficient for any self-defense scenario, but is a pain to load at the range. 3x33 is not only far more convenient, it gives the user peace of mind that they won't run out of ammo any time soon -- unless they're at the range. In which case, I can probably empty all three of these before the lanes go cold for checking & changing targets.You'd pay $35 for a Glock-branded magazine, but if you're willing to accept magazines made in Korea and approved by NATO, you can get them for $15, for no tax and free shipping, from Botach Tactical.


2) A Butler Creek UPLULA (Universal Pistol Loader/UnLoader Accessory). I had never loaded a pistol magazine before I owned the S2k, and let me tell you -- it is damned difficult. You have to hold the magazine in your off-hand while the thumb and forefinger of your primary hand simultaneously hold a bullet and try to mash it down and back into the magazine, fighting the spring. This is not easy even in the best of situations, as the more you load the mag the greater the spring compresses and therefore the force required to depress it increases. This is made even worse if you have a brand new magazine (stiff spring), small hands (like me) or arthritis (like my mother).

This bad boy, however, makes loading fast, easy, and practically idiot-proof. Best of all, it works for nearly all pistol-caliber ammo (9mm to .45), and if you shoot something smaller, you can get the Baby UPLULA for .22 to .380). It retails for $35 (and it would be the best money you ever spent) but you can get it for $24.95 and free shipping at Amazon.



3) This is more of a modification than a purchase. I took a sling swivel stud (machine screw kind, not wood screw), cut it down, and then threaded it through the sling loop in the buttstock. A washer and a locking nut secured it on the other side. I attached the sling loop, and now I can attach my single-point sling to it easily. When not in use it tucks snugly behind... 





4) ...a small Limbsaver-brand recoil pad. This is included not so much to reduce recoil as it is to make the hard plastic buttstock with uncomfortable knobby thing (seen above) more comfortable when held against my shoulder. You can get this at most any Wal-Mart for $20 - $25.




5) This is the flashlight which used to be on Leo, my shotgun. As soon as I'm flush with Christmas money I'll be getting another one so that both home-defense weapons have tactical flashlights. What's nice about this particular setup is that I can dismount the light from the barrel clamp with a single allen screw, revealing a single Weaver-style mount to which I can then attach other accessories as needed. 



Also shown: my modded operating handle, now covered in 3 coasts plasti-dip. 
6) This just arrived in the mail today: a bolt tube cover from Tacticool Products ($13.50, free shipping).  I bought it strictly to make the carbine more comfortable. From their website:
The Kel-Tec SUB-2000 carbine is fun to shoot, but the cheek weld to the steel bolt tube is a source of some discomfort.  The heavy bolt recoils inside the bolt tube which is in contact with the shooter's cheek.  The steel bolt tube is also a good thermal conductor, transferring heat or cold into the shooter's cheek.  The bolt tube cover insulates the shooter from the shock loads and temperature extremes, greatly increasing the comfort when shooting the SUB-2000.  It also provides a tough rubber armor for the bolt tube, making it an even tougher little go-anywhere, do-anything carbine.
I haven't tried it at the range yet, but so far I like it. It takes a little bit of work to get it installed, as removing the buttstock from the buffer tube is a pain in the ass. Once put on, however, it doesn't need to be removed, and it fits the tube snugly. 

Also, I ordered this product on the 14th and received it on the 17th. Free AND fast shipping? Love it!


I need a conclusion here, don't I? Drat. All right, how about this:  while I know I am a compulsive accessorizer, I hope it is clear that I add things which are a) useful and b) tasteful. If I'm wrong, I'm certain I'll hear about them in the comments below!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

MLP: Thoughts on "Student Zero"

Some spoilers ahoy if you haven't seen s2e3 of MLP.

  • I always suspected Twilight Sparkle's intense organization masked a barely-contained Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. 
  • Rarity has a fainting couch. This is most splendid.
  • Apparently Rainbow Dash has leveled up and not only can perform a Sonic Rainboom at will, she can now apply a Nuclear Rainblast to her target. 
  • Of course Fluttershy knows chiropractic and shiatsu massage. 
  • I find it strange that Twilight didn't check in with Pinkie Pie before the picnic.  
  • At this point I am convinced Lauren Faust employs people specifically to read Internet speculations about MLP just so she can more effectively troll us. First Derpy Hooves, then "Cupcakes"/Party of One, and now, in this episode: This is Rainbow Dash! Right now... she's Rainbow Glasses.
  • Rarity takes her fainting couch with her on a picnic. Truly, she is a highly prepared Victorian Lady.
  • Finally, the long-anticipated Twilight Sparkle freak-out. Now each of the Mane Six has had a moment of insanity related to Complete Cutie Mark Collapse. 
  • I approve of the Cutie Mark Crusaders being  trolled in this manner. 
  • Big McIntosh will now perform the role of Ash as the Ponyville Players present Army of Darkness.
  • Princess Celestia puts the deus in deus ex machina. She's even hovering in the air. Of course.
  • Big Mac shows us he has hidden depths! Eeeeeeyup. :)
  • In true familiar/flunky fashion, Spike receives little credit for saving the day. 

In summary: Now that we've gotten the obligatory two-part not-especially-fun season opener out of the way, we are back to having the seriously fun/funny/lulzy/nearly subversive humor we've come to expect from MLP. Huzzah!

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    More Pony Alignments

    I'm still not feeling great, but I didn't want to miss another day without posting something. So, in honor of (finally!) new episodes of My Little Pony tomorrow -- 9 am Eastern, on The Hub -- here is another version of the now-classic Alignment Picture Chart.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    WNW: Zombies, Zombies Everywhere

    Well, it's been a week and the virus which ravaged my home seems to have finally run its course with me. I'm in that gray area of "technically not sick, but not feeling good enough to properly be called healthy just yet" where I am no longer miserable but lack the energy to do much of anything.

    So, zombies. It's October, so they're in vogue once again, and I feel like I've just woken from a zombie state. Therefore I give you a hodgepodge of debatably amusing zombie-themed media.

    1. Run For your Lives is a zombie-themed 5k "fun run" where actors dressed as zombies chase you as you attempt to cross obstacles and make it to the finish line without "dying". Now, I hate running, but this looks awesome and if it were in my area I'd definitely give it a try. As it is, there'll be a gun show in my neck of the woods October 22-23, so I'll be preparing for the apocalypse in my own special way.

    A couple of videos made by RFYL to promote the event:







    2. An Ace Hardware store in Lenexa, Kansas (why is it always the midwestern states?) is running a Zombie Preparedness Special. In addition to sales they also have an extensive help section on frequently-asked zombie questions, such as the ever-relevant "My husband wants to use his blow torch to ward off oncoming zombies. Do you have any tips or suggested products to prevent fires?"  They also have a handy one-page PDF of guidelines for home zombie defense.

    They even have a clever video. Why isn't Ace Hardware making this a national ad campaign?




    3. Brownells (a shooting supply store) has a webpage which claims that the zombie apocalypse has already begun, and therefore is offering specials on ammunition. I find it odd that the zombocalypse is centered upon Iowa City, IA (there's that midwest connection again). Of course, if it spreads to Illinois, who would know the difference?



    4. There is no fourth entry. This has been included solely to comply with the Law of Fives. Don't have a Chao.


    5. Finally, enjoy an interactive movie about delivering pizzas during a zombie apocalypse in Deliver Me To Hell.




    Enjoy, and don't get eaten!

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    WNW: EPIC CUPCAKES

    Please excuse any absence of posting, I seem to have caught my mother's special blend of bronchitis and pneumonia.

    At any rate, please enjoy this video. I am impressed by the quality of its animation and the nearness of the voice actors to the actual characters, even though i get the feeling I am missing a joke somewhere.


    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Monday Gunday: Kel-Tec Sub-2000

    There's a new toy here at Ch√Ęteau Palette:  the Kel-Tec Sub-2000.



    Introduction
    The Sub-2000 (henceforth known as the S2k) is a pistol-caliber semi-auto carbine, chambered either in .40 S&W or 9mm Luger, and able to accept a variety of different magazines depending upon which model you purchase. Ours is 9mm Glock, because for the sake of utility and frugality I wanted a gun which used magazines from the world's most popular pistol chambered in the world's most common pistol caliber.* While it comes with a 10-round magazine, we went ahead and got a 33-round mag, along with a hundred rounds of 115 grain FMJ (that's Full Metal Jacket, meaning the bullet is entirely coated in copper and is neither a hollowpoint nor has a soft lead tip).

    I want to point out that this is not specifically MY gun; even though I picked it out and will be responsible for maintaining it, and I can shoot it whenever I like, it is technically my mother's gun because she's the one who bought it. Mom was feeling a bit left out because other than my .22, there weren't many guns in the house she could shoot. Dad has several revolvers in the .38 special - .357 magnum range, and while I can shoot them they aren't what I'd call comfortable, so it follows that my 72-year-old mother would not enjoy firing them. She wouldn't enjoy shooting my Mosin-Nagant, either, and my 12 gauge shotgun is pretty much out of the question.

    Basically, she wanted something she could shoot either for fun or for self-defense. I knew that a pistol-caliber carbine would serve her well, because the combination of 9mm bullet, semi-auto action, and a shoulder stock would make the recoil manageable. The fact that the longer barrel allows for greater accuracy and a more solid grip -- three points of contact between shoulder and both hands -- is also a benefit. Combine that with a "Why would I need to reload?" 33-round magazine, and this is a pretty potent self-defense weapon in a surprisingly affordable package.

    Retail price is around $400. We got ours for $350. Most 9mm handguns are in the $300 - $600 range, and because this was a long gun, we didn't have to wait 3 days to pick it up.


    Review
    The S2k is a surprisingly light weapon. I can hold it comfortably in one hand and it balances perfectly. Most of the weapon is covered in a plastic polymer; the exceptions are the stock (though not the shoulder piece) and the few inches of barrel not covered by a shroud. This plastic is one of three negative things I have to say about the S2k; there are quite visible mold lines ("flash" in model-assembly parlance) all over the housing and shroud, giving the gun an unfinished look. The checkering on the pistol grip is also quite rough, making it uncomfortable to grip without a glove, and there is a seam running down the back right where it can rub the sensitive skin between thumb and forefinger. Careful application of an X-acto knife will solve some of these problems, but I recommend either a shooting glove or a Hogue Handall slip-on grip.




    The second problem I have with this weapon is the manner in which it is cocked. The bolt assembly lives in the buffer tube to the rear of the action, so cocking it requires me to curl my index finger around the operating handle which protrudes underneath and pull it to the rear. As you may imagine, this requires a fair amount of force (akin to releasing the safety on a Mosin-Nagant) and all of it is concentrated on the crook of my finger. This is not only unpleasant, it's poor ergonomics, and something my mother (who has arthritis) would have trouble with.

    I plan to coat this in black plasti-dip to give it a more uniform appearance. 

    Fortunately, the fix for this is simple. I took the head from an old Mini Maglite and used epoxy putty to pack the cavity. This simple modification allows me to wrap three fingers and a thumb around it, giving me much greater leverage. While I had no problems with this extension when shooting, it is entirely possible that men with large hands might find it striking them on the back of their wrists. I don't think this is likely, as you hold the S2k like a rifle (forearm held at an angle) rather than like a pistol (forearm straight back from the pistol grip), but be aware of this possibility and test it before you permanently modify your S2k!


    Each square is 1 inch.

    The third and final problem is the buttstock. It too is made from the same uncomfortable plastic, and due to the locking mechanism on the back it does not sit comfortably in my shoulder. In fact, the ridges and protruding lock-knob make it feel like a cleated shoe. If it's uncomfortable just being held to my shoulder, I don't want to think about what it would feel like when firing. Fortunately, this is another easy fix; just purchase a small slip-on recoil pad.

    That's everything that I didn't like, and they're all easily solvable problems. Now let's talk about what I did like.



    Perhaps the most interesting feature of the S2k is its ability to fold in half. This allows you to carry the weapon in a backpack or any carrier large enough to hold a full-size laptop computer What's more, the S2k is completely incapable of being fired while in this configuration, which renders it "safe for transport." There is also a locking mechanism at the back of the stock which enables you to lock the S2k in its folded position for added security in case of theft or curious children.

    While this may seem like an oddity of little use, consider this: when folded, cleaning is a breeze. I have the convenience of using a simple cleaning rod while still going breech-to-muzzle. The action is similarly exposed, and I can attack it with a larger cleaning swab than I could if I had to go in through the ejection port. Finally, the sheer convenience of having it folded means that I can hold it in my lap to clean it.

    Another point in the S2k's favor is that the bolt mechanism is easily removed without needing specialized tools. Press on the retaining pin in the back with your finger (or a bullet if necessary) until you can pull it out the other side. This disengages the buffer cap and allows you to remove the recoil spring and two-piece bolt for cleaning and lubrication.

    Please note: the S2k manual says that you should never pull the trigger while the bolt is removed, as this will render the weapon inoperable. While this is true, it is by no means irreversible. If for some reason you are cleaning your S2k with the safety off (why??) and the trigger is pulled, do not panic. Simply find a small wooden dowel and run it down the exposed action until the hammer clicks back into place.



    The front sight is surprisingly effective. Essentially a pair of ghost rings with a fiber-optic post in the front, this low-tech approach provides a highly visible and easy to acquire sight picture. When I took it to the range this weekend, I was able to shoot this group (approximately 60 rounds) at 15 yards using the default sights. I was not braced against anything.



    Both accuracy and control are exceptional, and the recoil (with the pad in place) is barely more than that of a .22LR bullet.

    This last part isn't scientific, but I'll say it anyway: the S2k is downright fun to shoot. There's something very James Bond or G.I. Joe about the way it looks and feels, and when I pick it up I have a hard time resisting the urge to run around like a little kid making "bang bang" noises. It shoots almost exactly the way you expected a gun to shoot back when you had toy guns, and the fact that most of the S2k is plastic is probably what contributes to the strong nostalgia.


    Conclusion
    It's small, it's afforable, it's a breeze to clean and a joy to shoot. If it was designed with more stringent ergonomics it would be the perfect gun. As I have just gotten it I cannot speak to its long-term durability, though I plan to put several hundred rounds through it before the end of the year. It's also an American-made gun (Cocoa, Florida) and the Kel-Tec website offers a number of accessories for it.

    I wouldn't use this to go hunting, but this is an excellent gun for short-range self-defense or just taking to the range for a day of plinking. I am confident my elderly mother will be able to operate it effectively, as the controls are simple, the sights are accurate, and the recoil more than manageable.

    My rating: 9 out of 10.


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