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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Doctor Who: The Husbands of Oh God She's Back Again

Spoilers, sweetie..

Ok, to be honest I really rather like River Song. I even have an action figure of her. While a lot of people never got over how smug she was in her first few appearances, I gave her a chance based on the very clear statement that we came in at the end of her story as opposed to the beginning. When we meet her in the library, it's mere hours before she dies, sacrificing herself to save the Tenth Doctor and... well, everyone who survived initial contact with the Vashta Nerada. Since then, we've been working our way backwards, forwards, and sideways in her timeline, meeting her as a psychotic programmed killer, a helpless child, a rebellious teenager, a master con artist, and cat burglar and if you piece it together in HER chronological order, she's gotten a startling amount of character development, finally justifying the cocky assuredness of Silence in the Library.

When we met a ghost of her near the end of Eleven's run, I was sure we'd seen the last of her. The fact that she was literally appearing from beyond the grave, or so she claimed, seemed to tell of a final appearance, but she's back again.

This.. isn't a terribly good story. But then, it's a Christmas special, and we all know how to handle Christmas specials. They're completely bonkers. The overarching events may be in canon to the rest of the series, but the details are clearly hyperbole. Events like the Satsuma Incident of the Sycorax Invasion or the Great Sleigh Ride of the Twelfth are surely exaggerated versions of what really happened, possibly told by an as-of-yet unmet Doctor to an unseen companion. The story here is no different, with what amounts to a cross-time heist caper filled with ridiculous moments that serve less to tell a convincing story and more to set up a proper farewell to River.

The running joke of River not recognizing the Doctor in his twelfth incarnation, right down to stealing the TARDIS with him present, was great fun. Especially with his hilariously over-the-top reaction to the TARDIS being bigger on the inside, complete with a Danny Elfman-esque backing score. The personality of the villain Hydroflax's robot body was entertaining as well, even if Hydroflax himself was rather cookie-cutter villain. River is fun here, too, a different River than we're used to. More cynical and ruthless, or at least appearing to be.


But really, the reason we're here is the ending. As the Doctor uses the jewel River stole to fund the building of the restaurant he always promised to take her to, makes reservations for four years in advance, and changes into a proper suit for her all in the time it takes her to come to after their back-and-forth rescuing of each other. This really does feel like closing the book on River Song, especially coming so closely on the heels of closing the book on Clara Oswald. River gets a proper goodbye, and one last night with the Doctor, on a planet where the nights are twenty-four years long. Aside from his duty of care for Clara, this is truly the first time we see Twelve soften, even become romantic, as River gets what she's always wanted. To be with her husband, their timelines more in sync with each other than ever before, before seeing him one last time as a young man, his first meeting with her and her last.

Goodbye, River. You were controversial. You were cocky. You were scared and scary and dangerous and I had a lot of fun watching it all, even if not everyone did. You got what every good character deserves: A proper send-off. And during a Christmas special, too, with every excuse to be as bonkers as possible. Just like you.  


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #71

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Adam and Sean got up very early after Christmas to make sure that you got your podcast on schedule, even though Adam is very tired after a long holiday.
  • Don't miss our extra special "Felons Behaving Badly" segment. This week is that "ACTIVE SHOOTER!!!" in the Charlotte mall on Christmas Eve. The Gun Grabbers had their anti-gun mass blood dancing shoes all laced up and were already sending out Facebook press releases before they realized the magnitude of the Narrative Failure they were about to experience. You've got to hear this one to believe it. 
  • Erin Palette teaches you how to recycle Christmas trees in Blue Collar Prepping.
  • Putin and Trump seem to have quite the bromance, and Nicki Kenyon tries to stop gagging long enough to tell you what she thinks of it in Foreign Policy for Grownups.
  • Returning guest Ambulance Driver Kelly Grayson tells us about a very special White Christmas he and his ambulance crew endured in rural Louisiana in this little segment we like to call This One Time.
  • Our Special Guest this week is the President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League Philip Van Cleave. Philip joins us by telephone to talk about some good strategies to defeat the Virginia Attorney General's attack on Concealed Handgun Reciprocity. And guess what? "Boycott the whole state of Virginia" isn't on the list.
  • And it looks like the Imagineers at Disney have hauled out their audio-animatronic Hillary again. This time they took her to Late Night with Seth Meyers to see if they could fool anyone into believing she was human. Weer'd plays along and subjects it to another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™ in This Week in Anti-Gun Nuttery!
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Salem Watches a Movie -- Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The spoilers are calling to you... just let them in.

It's 2:17 pm Mountain time, Sunday the 20th of December. I've just left the theatre after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may have noticed that I'm not in a state of either euphoric bliss nor am I fuming with rage. As I've shamefully admitted before, I'm not really a fan of Star Wars. I'm not big on sword and sorcery type of fantasy to begin with, and setting it in space doesn't do it any favours, as I tend to see background characters and objects and want to know more about them than I do the flashy Jedi and Sith that are prominently in the foreground of the story.

And so, with The Force Awakens, has the story been brought to a level that I can appreciate? Yeah. Yeah, I think it has. One thing that the original films had over the prequel trilogy is that the characters were relatable. Every character in the prequel trilogy, without exception, was either dull and aloof or ham-handedly overacting, but those in the original trilogy were easily identifiable: the wide-eyed, naive farmboy; the haughty but tough princess; the cocky jackass space pirate.

The characters in The Force Awakens definitely veer more towards the original trilogy than the prequel trilogy, and not just the ones returning from the original films. Poe Dameron is the biggest smartass in a galaxy far, far away, Finn's got great comedic timing, and Rey is really likable. I can't think of a single character that could have been replaced with a block of wood to no detrimental effect to the film. (Hayden Christiansen, I'm looking at you.) And most importantly, there was not one comic relief character! Several characters had great comedic moments, yes, but there was no character dedicated to comic relief. Even C-3P0 was toned down from the original trilogy, and not a hint of Jar Jar or Ewoks in sight, anywhere. Even in the big alien bar scene, there were no “funny aliens”; in fact, the only really strange one was a meaningful character.  But on characterization, there are a few points that have been rather controversial lately.

In my opinion, Rey is a little bit Mary Sue. She's a little OP. Given her background in scavenging on a lawless desert planet, I can buy her combat expertise and engineering, but she's piloting a notoriously stubborn spaceship in incredibly breathtaking maneuvers after it has been parked for years, successfully using the Jedi Mind Trick with her first real try, and going toe to toe with the badguy by the end. I think I have eyestrain at this point from rolling my eyes so hard at people defending Rey by saying "Well Anakin was a Mary Sue, too!" People, if you have to compare your character to Anakin Skywalker to defend her, that's not a good thing. That said, Daisy Ridley pulled it off. I still like the character, and am willing to overlook her flaws (or lack thereof, considering that a flawed character is an interesting character) because of her performance. I just feel that people are praising her for the same reason they bashed Clara Oswald over on Doctor Who.

The special effects have advanced to a point where, when watching the dogfights in this film, you really feel like you're watching real spaceships shooting at each other instead of just advanced CGI. Possibly because of the practical effects and model work, and partly due to advancements in technology, this time around it really feels like you're watching actual things and not just a digital approximation of things. Seeing the Millenium Falcon swooping and diving in such visceral style was stomach-lurching, and the first time in the entire series I really felt like I was watching a spaceship in flight. The dogfights between X-Wings and TIE fighters have never looked better.

Choreography is a real sticking point for me as well. Granted, it can be easily explained away by saying 'That's just how the Jedi Order taught people how to fight and Luke wasn't trained by the Order” but in the prequel trilogies, it never felt like any particular swing of a lightsaber blade was aimed at anything but another lightsaber blade. With Luke and Vader, you could tell Luke was really trying to take Vader out. Likewise, in the climactic lightsaber battle of this movie, Finn and Kylo Ren, and later Rey and Kylo, really feel like they're trying to carve bits off of each other and barely care that the other has just as dangerous a weapon. Whereas in the prequel trilogy any strike of a lightsaber felt as if it had no impact, here I cringed every time one made contact. 

And speaking of Kylo Ren... while I don't particularly like him, at least he was a character. Unlike Darth Maul in the prequels, who had two lines and then just glowered menacingly before twirling his baton and flipping through the air like a majorette on whatever they were feeding Simpson over on Jessica Jones. Kylo Ren's character had a purpose, and almost had a story arc (and might still), but overall, he fell in with the other baddies in this film as my main disappointment. Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma got a ton of pre-release hype, but just turned out... less than impressive. The First Order officers came across as comically, over-the-top evil, with uniforms an imagery that unsubtly screamed Nazi allegory, and when the Stormtroopers gave their salute to their leader (whose name I don't think I actually heard at any point), I swear I heard somebody in the theater mutter “Hail Hydra.”

It might have been me.
Erin says: I like to call this scene Triumph of the Whills.
If you don't get that reference, you aren't a proper nerd. 
I'll tell you who my favourite character in the whole thing was: that Riot Control Stormtrooper. The one who spotted Finn, shouted “TRAITOR!” and dropped his weapon, then proceeded to throw Finn a beatdown with an electrified nightstick while Finn was holding a lightsaber.
That guy. Yeah. I want his action figure. Shame he's only available in a 2-pack.

Overall, this movie is certainly worth your time. It's not the most fun space opera I've seen in recent years (I'm sorry, Guardians of the Galaxy still has that spot), but it's close.

Update: I bought the 2-pack. Riot Trooper now stands proudly on my desk.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Break

I'm going dark until after Christmas.

Everyone have a safe, happy, and fun holiday season, and I'll see you on the flip side.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #70

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Adam and Sean bring you another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast -- now with 100% more Kurt Russell!
  • Erin Palette gives you some prepping advice straight out of Star Wars. No, seriously! 
  • Nicki Kenyon talks about that "Climate Change" accord that Obama seems so much more interested in than global terror. 
  • And Weer'd does his patented Audio Fisk™ on the Daily Show's silly attack on concealed carriers vs. mass shooters. 
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

May the Weather Be With You (tonight)

Salem isn't going to have a post for tonight, because he claims he has a long meeting before work, and that's when he writes his article. Myself, I sorta suspect he's sneaking out to watch the new Star Wars movie.

Ne that as it may, here is a delightfully nerdy and punny weather forecast performed by a charming and pretty Nottinghamshire lass.


There are supposed to be 12 puns in that forecast, but I only counted nine:
  1. "if you Luke farther west"
  2. "if you're Wookiee"
  3. "the Force is strong though"
  4. "the weather strikes back"
  5. "Don't be a trooper"
  6. "if you're forced to awaken"
  7. "it will be on the Dark Side"
  8. "Far, far away"
  9. "there's a New Hope for some sunshine"
Which ones did I miss?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WNW: Jerry Shot First

Since I didn't do anything gun-related on Monday, and Star Wars opens this week, here is my apology:  a video of champion shooter Jerry Miculek dressed as Han Solo and shooting an actual Broomhandle C96 Mauser made to look like Solo's BlasTech DL-44.


I think it's actually more impressive seeing the slide rock back and kick out the live round than it is to see a CGI laser blast from the muzzle, but that's just me and I'm strange...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: the Select-a-Splodey

The Select-a-Splodey, aka the Dial-o-Death, aka the Ammunition Selector, is something that's been in my game since 2013 and I keep forgetting to blog about it.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Most missile (and for that matter, sandcaster) magazines are linear: when you launch one, the next one in line is loaded. And that's fine and dandy if all you have is a homogeneous missile rack. But what if you want to select between, say, long range missiles at the beginning of the fight but then switch to slower but harder hitting multi-warhead missiles as you get closer? Or switch between chaff, pebble, sandcutter and traditional sand cannisters?

Per rules as written, your only option seems to be "manually load the new projectiles from cargo into the launcher between attack roles during space combat." But given that missile launchers are very low tech weapons, and High Guard has delightful rules on upgrading weapons to make them more versatile, it is easy to derive this:
Ammunition Selector (Double Upgrade): This upgrade changes the linear feed of a missile or sandcaster to that of a loop, allowing the gunner to select and launch specific missiles during the combat turn. 
Ammunition Selector (Singe Upgrade): As above, but this reduces ammunition capacity in half due to the space and power requirements for the carousel gears. 
Now there is nothing stopping you from mixing your missile or cannister types together and using them as necessary.

Of course, this comes with the double drawback of "costs more money" and "if you need a specific type of ammunition, you may not have enough of them due to the mix", but that's the price you pay for flexibility.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #69


http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
This week it's Bill and Ted's favorite episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast: Episode 69, Dude!
  • Sean and Adam bring you another episode featuring all manner of interesting subjects, including Felons Behaving Badly, Emma Newman, and Michael Bane.
  • Erin Palette tells us about the calming effects of Combat Breathing.
  • I ask Nicki Kenyon if the recent terror attacks in San Bernardino will change our foreign policy.
  • We heard your call for more book reviews. Well, at least Weer'd did, and so he reviewed Castigo Cay by Matthew Bracken.
  • And then Weer'd returned to take on Obama and his entire staff as they positively frothed at the mouth in their excitement after the two shooting events last week.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Willfully Misinterpreting Jessica Jones


Due to the possibility of spoilers, our dear editor is sitting this one out. Be warned. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the comic series Alias, and it's upcoming adaptation to visual Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones is a risky proposition for Marvel Studios, not because of its female lead, but because of its subject matter. There's some seriously mature ideas being explored, both on the show and in the original books, and it's down to the finesse of the showrunners to handle those ideas appropriately. So, did they?

Did they ever not!

Jessica Jones is a highly, deeply problematic adaptation of a comic book that featured an almost non-existent female character in a male-dominated medium. Before Jessica Jones, there was no female comic book characters that didn't exist solely to serve as eye candy for a presumed white male audience. Problematic depictions of female characters were on every page of comics, with unrealistic breast sizes and vapid dialogue, constantly put in peril for the male protagonists to rescue. Then along came enlightened male author Brian Michael Bendis and gave us Alias, in which a working woman and survivor of trauma co-opted a traditionally male role as private investigator and did the job while dressing halal-protecting herself from the male gaze by dressing sensibly.

Manspreading! And this isn't even the worst! 
The series, however, is a trainwreck of harmful tropes, stereotypes, and dangerous ideas. Jessica herself, to start with, is nothing more than a Ms Male Character, with an abusive backstory and lack of agency being the driving force of the series. Jessica is defined by her trauma, unable to perform basic tasks like riding the subway without being visited by the mental ghost of her abuser, while at the same time using violence to solve her problems. Anything from a client getting physical with her to her alarm going off too early can be solved simply by smashing something. Jessica reeks of toxic masculinity, from her childhood scenes of being a tomboy 'not like other girls' to her modern habit of manspreading. The cinematography doesn't do her any favours, either, with the camera replicating the male gaze by lingering on her otherwise-sensibly dressed rear end longingly and thus invalidating her conservative wardrobe choices, and showing us lots of flashes of her in intimate positions in her scenes with Luke Cage.

MALE GAZE!
The series takes a dim view of minority characters as well. The protagonist and antagonist are, of course, white, but one of the main characters is a black man who is a junkie. There's only one Hispanic person in all of Hell's Kitchen, apparently, and she's a drug dealer. There are a whopping three lesbian characters, but one of them is an unfaithful spouse, the other the mistress of said spouse, and the last is cruel and vindictive in return. With so few LGBT characters, it's harmful to show a negative depiction like this, leading only to the stereotype of the promiscuous gay character. And when a support group is set up to help victims of the white male villain, Jessica steadfastly refuses to participate, painting her as someone who would rather keep her victimhood instead of seek help.


And finally, there's a heavy theme of domestic abuse in this show, which is reinforced by the relationship between Trish “Patsy” Walker and Officer Simpson. While 'allegedly' under Killgrave's control, he attacks her and tries to murder her, and mere days later he returns to apologize, irresponsibly providing her with a dangerous firearm, and she rewards him with sex. In fact, the series seems to simply revel in physically abusing its female characters. I have never seen such a misog

-sounds of a struggle-

Ok, I'm done with that part. Jessica Jones was really quite good, wasn't it? For anyone that's ever been in a miserably bad relationship, it'll be really hard but sort of cathartic to watch. The casting of Luke Cage was spot-on brilliant. I was a bit on the fence about Krysten Ritter having only ever seen her in Breaking Bad and a sort of terrible sitcom, but she really delivered here. David Tennant was wonderfully sinister. Much like other MCU properties, I feel it did a really great job capturing the spirit of the source material while telling a new story, and I sincerely hope there's a series 2, providing everyone's not so entirely exhausted from making the show to do it. It was certainly tiring, in a good way, to watch it.

I would also like to say that yes, I have read Anita Sarkeesian's take on the show. I tried not to replicate any of her ideas here, as I've had this one brewing for a while but scheduling conflicts and a social media flood of alternating anti-Muslim and anti-gun propaganda sent me into such a tizzy that I had to focus my efforts elsewhere for a short time. Next week I'll be analyzing a Huffington Post piece, tentatively, and outlining the idea of “not even wrong.”  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to Create a Gun-Free America in 5 Easy Steps

In the liberal view of the world, abortions would continue unabated if Roe v. Wade were repealed tomorrow. When discussing the efficacy of the war on drugs, the vibrance of the black market is readily acknowledged and used as justification for ending these destructive policies. But our flawed narrative on gun control is propagating the absurd idea that outlawing guns will be different and will definitely reduce violence, with no regard for the unintended consequences of enforcing such a ban. If our aim is to reduce the level of violence in society, we must consider what such bans can actually achieve and the effects they’re likely to have, not fall into the easy habit of reactionary regulation.
-- Liz Wolfe, "The Narrative on Gun Control is Dangerously Misleading"

"But whatever, fuck it. Go big or go home, right?"- 0:47

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Collection Rejection

I'm still phoning it in this week, which is why this Tuesday article is being written & posted on a Wednesday.

For those paying attention to the 2e High Guard playtest, or who read last week's article on all the ways Collectors are broken, you will be heartened to know that all of our objections (not just mine) have been heard. Collectors have now been moved to the "Alternate Technology" chapter, alongside hyperdrives.

Well done, all!

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday Gunday: Phoning it In

I took a mental health day today because the stress levels in my house are getting toxic, so here's a picture from last weekend (I think) where I took my Mosin-in-its-Archangel-stock out to the range and ran about 50 rounds through it... the scope had gotten jostled a bit while I put it into the new stock and I decided to re-zero it. I decided that I wanted it to be 2 inches above center mass at 25 yards because, through some ballistics that I barely understand*, that means I ought to be dead-on at 300 yards.
That's a 21mm grouping, if you don't count the flyer. (Damn gravity fluctuations... grumble.) I believe that's pretty close to 3 MOA, which is a much tighter grouping than previous tries with the rifle. I'm not certian if it's because the Archangel stock delivers better performance, or if I've just become a better shot through practice, or some combination of the two.

Clearly I need to shoot it more so I can give it a better report, but like the title says... I'm phoning it in today. 


* I shall try to explain. 

Because a scope is mounted above a rifle's barrel, the focal point must be adjusted downward so that it intersects the path of the bullet. This means that when you are looking through your scope at a target in front of you, your rifle's barrel is actually pointing slightly upwards, so your bullets will arc upwards for a bit until gravity and air friction slow it enough that it starts to come down.

Interestingly enough, all bullets do this, so the thing about ballistics is finding the points where the rising equals the falling. If you do that, then you can zero your scope at the shorter range where it's easier to see the grouping and know that you're good to a further distance. 

So looking at the Mosin-Nagant round, you see that it intersects at both 25 yards and 200 yards, so if you zero a Mosin at 25 you're good at 200. Based on some vaguely-recalled calculations from other people, 2" high at 200 ought to be dead-on at 300. 

Why 300? I dunno. Maybe I'm just feeling badass. 
http://www.7.62x54r.net/MosinID/20041231001.jpg

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #68

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Adam and Sean bring you Episode 68 of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Pallette tells us about Zones of Assessment
  • Nicki Kenyon answers that burning question about Iraq, about Russia, and about Foreign Policy in general: "Was Romney Right?"
  • Weer'd takes his shot at that WRAL attack on NFA Trusts in one of his patented Weer'd Audio Fisks. 
  • And make sure to listen for a peek behind the curtain and we'll tell you how the podcast gets made.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor,Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Doctor Who: A Theory In Flames

Clara used to be an adventurer like you, until she took a raven to the stomach.

Well. I didn't see that coming. Moffat's take on the series end was a touch more... linear than mine, but I wasn't disappointed. Honestly, I think I'd have been more disappointed if I'd turned out to be right.

If Heaven Sent was the finest sort of experiment that New Who could give us, Hell Bent was an exercise in sending lore nerds apoplectic. Lore nerds like myself.
"Words are his weapons. When did they stop being ours?" 
This is the most in-depth look at Gallifrey that we've gotten since... well, since probably The Five Doctors. Probably moreso, as we've previously seen at most the council chambers, a courtroom, Rassilon's Tomb and Death Zone, and a not-insignificant portion of the capitol city's main complex throughout the entire series. Gallifrey has been previously described as a barren planet, with desert wastes stretching out where the unfortunate Gallifreyan population not part of the Time Lord elite live, and we see that here. The separation between haves and have-nots is markedly shown in the robes & armour vs. archaic farm-hand clothing and Rassilon's remark that “no one that matters” is out there with them.
Modern Cloisters
Classic Cloisters
Rassilon and the Doctor have never had the most friendly of working relationships, even in the old, early days of Time Lord society, when the Doctor was rumoured to have been known as “The Other,” and it's fitting seeing him undermine and strip Rassilon of his authority and respect. Saying “Get off my planet”, and the literal line in the sand, show just how much influence the Doctor has and how dangerous they see him. The fear in their reaction is similar to that of the Daleks, and rightfully so.

Seeing the Sisterhood of Karn again was agreeable, too. They've made quite a few appearances in recent years, since we saw them aiding the transformation between Eighth and War Doctors, and they're a real bonus to those of us familiar with the extended universe, having appeared in several books and audios in one form or another, not to mention having an origin in one of the classic series episode. On top of that, Ohila, speaker for the Sisterhood, is quickly becoming one of my favourite new series characters.

Which brings us finally to the difficult topic of Clara Oswald. Despite my eulogy for her a couple of episodes ago, I felt that her death was rather rushed and empty. I didn't feel that same emotional rush I did when Rose was trapped on the other side of the rift, when Amy shouted “Why did you say five minutes?” at him, when Ten said “I don't want to go.” At least, not until she whispered “Four and a half billion years.” Then my eyes welled up and stayed that way until the end.

The entire last half of this episode served as a fitting farewell, finally, for Clara. One that Face the Raven teased but ultimately didn't deliver. (Now if only she and Ashildr/Me can fix their own Chameleon circuit and figure out how to change the interior from factory settings. I swear, Chameleon circuits are the most unreliable part of a TARDIS.)
The origin of the Diner photos, aka the nail in the coffin of my theory.
As I said previously, some are taken from us; some are left behind; some forget; but rarely, if ever, are any forgotten. At the end, Clara becomes The Impossible Girl, but in a more evolved and perfected form: not aging, not changing, and forgotten from the Doctor's memory. A thing that shouldn't be and is taking the long way back – and as Ace and the Seventh Doctor showed us, it's a long way back to Perivale when you're taking the scenic route.

Interestingly -- and as I'm sure many people will willfully overlook -- Stephen Moffat explains the gender-political question of why the Doctor is a man with one act and three words: when the Time Lord General (a character established for a couple of years now as a white man) is shot and regenerates into a black woman, she says “Back to normal.” There's a pattern to their temporal DNA, but sometimes there are deviations, such as The Master becoming Missy, or the General becoming a white guy. And I never saw sainted Russel T. turning a white guy into a black woman.

And so, we're at the end of the this season:

  • Clara's taking the long way back to face the Raven. 
  • Those damned sunglasses are replaced with a new screwdriver (of which I'm certain there'll be a licensed toy soon enough).
  • The Doctor's got his groove back (wearing his velvety coat again). 
  • The casting of Maisie Williams paid off in spades, giving us a very memorable character and the promise of some great off-screen adventures.
  • The decision to make the majority of the episodes two-parters resulted in some stories that got a great deal of breathing room allowing us scenes like the Zygon speech
  • And the show that Capaldi carried nearly by himself will likely be remembered as one of the greats of the franchise.
All in all, a successful year with some truly excellent stories and only one glaring exception: Sleep No More. This was the Slitheen of the year, the episode you could really do without watching, that raised more questions than it answered and left you feeling very unfulfilled. I'm severely disappointed that they didn't revisit that to answer those questions.

I'll see you back on Boxing Day, as it looks like River's back. I'm sure that's causing universal celebration (he says with tongue firmly in cheek).

Friday, December 4, 2015

SHTFriday: Stop Sabotaging Your Situational Awareness

Today at Blue Collar Prepping, I talk about some of the many ways people choose to make themselves unsafe and what you can do to stop it.





Thursday, December 3, 2015

San Bernadino: Same Old Song And Dance

Breathe in, breathe out.
Breathe in, breathe out. 


I had a piece in my mind that was going to involve willfully misinterpreting Jessica Jones through a critical theory lens, but then two things happened. Anita Sarkeesian actually beat me to it (with a great deal more sincerity than mine was going to involve, or at least I think so -- one can never be sure) so due to some similarities I'm going to have to rework some of my ideas, and some assholes shot some people in San Bernadino.

When it first happened, and I first read about it, I was fine. I could still do this. In fact, until I opened the window to write this, I still had every intention of writing that Jessica Jones piece. The event itself wasn't the issue; it was watching my social media feeds last night, as every person who posted it with the intention of pushing an agenda -- some people I knew, some people I only knew in passing, and some people just internet randos or minor celebrities -- used it as an opportunity for gravestanding.

Actually, gravestanding is too dignified at this point. I'm going to refer to it as gravesquatting from now on.

Every post that was an argument to take away guns, or to get rid of the Muslims, chipped away at my ideas for a darkly sardonic piece about how Jessica Jones was really a harmful and problematic depiction of women and people of colour that propped up a white supremacist patriarchy. Chipped them away to the point where those ideas are scattered on the floor of my mind right now and need time to re-form.

So I'm writing this instead. I'm going to take every opportunity to ignore what happened and, more importantly, people's reactions to it, on my social media feed and instead just play more Fallout for the next three days or so until some other piece of annoying news catches the interest of the Internet at large. It's times like these that I think maybe I should have more friends out in the world instead of online, but I imagine they'd probably just do the same thing.

Every time. I'm getting so very tired.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Collection Objection

In my article about Tech Levels last week, J. Michael Looney brought up two notions which completely break the Traveller universe. I'll address the first one today.
Actually, the thing that T5 and MgT2 both have that changes the most of "Traveller Canon" is at TL 14.
Collectors. Changes jump fuel from 10% of the ship's dTonage per jump number to 1% of the ships dTonage per jump number, plus 5 dTons.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
I had missed collectors during my first skim of the 2e High Guard playtest, and so I went to take a look. Lo and behold, JML is correct:
Collectors (TL14)

These are accumulators, sweeping up exotic particles captured by a canopy. This charge is released in a single spike to power a jump drive; collectors cannot be used for normal ship operations.

Collectors consume 1% of the ship’s tonnage multiplied by the maximum jump number its drive is capable of, plus 5 tons. They cost MCr0.5 per ton.

It takes a week of normal space travel to fully charge an accumulator, and accumulators will not work at all in jump space.
My immediate first thought was "Does this mean Jump-6 Xboats are now possible?" And the answer is that they're not only possible, they're efficient.

Compare and Contrast:
Look at that. For what is basically double the price of a J-4 Xboat, you get more cargo room, 6G thrust, and the ability to perform frontier refueling (Why? The powerplant still needs fuel, and the processor only costs a single dton.)  In other words, Xboats no longer need tenders. They are now independent ships that only need resupply, and possibly a crew change, after every jump.* 

Now perhaps some of you are balking at the words "merely double the price."  This is fair reaction until you realize that 83.1 MCr for a J-6 ship is a steal when compared to the 198 MCr Mustang Express Packet utilized by the Scout Service and is downright ridiculously cheap when compared to the 297 MCr Imperial Navy Fleet Courier

* For added fun, consider the possibility of a retired Scout getting a detached duty ship as a mustering-out benefit, and choosing a J-6 Xboat! You can easily fit four PCs into it at double occupancy -- more if they're willing to lose cargo space.

Still not convinced that Collectors are broken yet?
My second thought was  "What's stopping the IISS or the Navy from setting up Collector stations to serve as fuel depots?" There's nothing in the (tiny) flavor text to indicate these stored exotic particles can't be transferred to other ships. That nicely mitigates the week-long downtime.

But here's the hugely-broken pièce de résistance: Capital ships no longer need to devote massive amounts of volume to jump fuel! Give them a collector for their Jump-4 drive (maybe even Jump-6 with the volume savings) and then have them carry just enough fuel for a Jump-1 or 2.
  • Met your military objective? Great, spend time recharging in the newly pacified system. 
  • Need to get out in a hurry? Jump to the next system over, or into empty space, and then recharge. 
  • For maximum brokenness, consider collectors and drop tanks! This allows either two back-to-back jumps, or (for military ships) the ability to jump in, do your  business, and then jump out again.
  • Finally, rifts become a thing of the past. Just load the cargo bay with plenty of food, make sure you have enough fuel to keep the power plant running for the months it will take you, and then make like Thor Heyerdahl aboard the Kon-Tiki. 
I'm pretty sure that Collector technology is going to revolutionize/ horribly break Navy ship design.

How To Fix This?
People have suggested that since collectors come from Marc Miller's Traveller5 (and honestly, a lot of changes to 2e can be traced to T5), we ought to abide by T5's rules about them which state that a TL14 collector can only fuel a Jump-1, and TL15 collector a Jump-2. That's certainly an idea, and it's one which is so obvious that I have to wonder why Mongoose didn't state as much in the first place! It's almost as if they deliberately chose not to limit them in that way. If that's the case, then I'm not sure how to prevent this from breaking the Navy and the Xboat service.

The easiest way to prevent logistical abuse, though, is to explicitly state that the exotic particles can only be found in quantity in a solar system (likely emanating from the stellar body), and that if done in deep space it increases the recharge time by X weeks -- or simply isn't possible at all. 

Of course, all of this assumes Mongoose doesn't change how collectors work between now and when 2e High Guard is published. The mechanics might be changed, or  the concept dropped entirely. 

Then again, seeing how "Mongoose" has become an epithet for poor organization, layout, and editing within my circle of players, you can understand why I have my doubts. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

In Which I Have Strong Feelings About the MLP Season Ender

Earlier this year, Salem took a page from my playbook and talked about the Season 5 opener of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This two-part episode was a remarkable thing, as it effectively took social justice warriors seeking enforced equality of outcome and cast them into a talking cartoon pony version of the East German Stasi.

I mean, just watch this video and shudder at such lyrics as You can't have a nightmare/ If you never dream.



You know... for kids!

As it turns out, the Glorious Leader of Our Town and villain of the episode -- one Starlight Glimmer* -- has been showing up in the backgrounds of various episodes this season, and so it comes as no surprise that she should re-appear as the Big Bad for the season ender as well. So far, all is good.

(I will spare you the synopsis and assume that if you're reading this then you saw the episode. However, if you haven't but want to know what I'm talking about, go here and start reading.)

What was not so good is how the ending just sort of... happened. As The_Jack wrote on my Facebook,
I liked the time travel and how it showed all the alt-ponies and the ways the present could have gone wrong. But man... that reform was too neat and tacked on.
Now lest you think I am expecting too much from a cartoon aimed at preteen girls and meant to drive toy sales, I first direct you to watch the aforementioned season opener again and marvel at how the story, while accessible by children, carries a message that is meaningful and relevant to adults.

Then I ask you to look at this summation of alternate dystopian timelines as a result of Bitchicorn Starlight Glimmer mucking around with causality:

http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1047457-my-little-pony-friendship-is-magic
What you are seeing here are dystopias. Kid-friendly dystopias, to be sure, but the fact remains that each and every one of them are great examples of places you wouldn't want to live. These are mature concepts made accessible by cartoon sensibilities. Fairly heady stuff, and one of the reasons I'm a big fan of the show.

The ending, however, was basically... this:
http://geek.cheezburger.com/bronies/share/8589520384

Yeah... that doesn't track with me, especially since Starlight Glimmer's end goal was this:
http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1047796-my-little-pony-friendship-is-magic

So with that in mind, here is my big rant on why I didn't like the too-tidy ending, how it was broken, and how it should have gone.

First of all, Starlight Glimmer has some sort of pathology -- sociopath, psychopath, I don't know for certain, but anyone who 1) is incapable of making friends without emotionally manipulating them and 2) basically says "I don't care about the future, I just want to hurt you" is some version of insane, callous, or other severe dysfunction.

Second, I have issues with the whole "Every time Twilight goes back in time, so does Starlight in order to thwart her" because it raises the logical question of "Where does Starlight go when Twilight is sent to the new timeline?" There are various possibly handwave-y answers to this, but they seem to reduce to either "Starlight Glimmer is willing to permanently strand herself in the past in order to keep enacting her revenge, which means she's psychotically crazy" or "Starlight Glimmer also returns to the new timeline but is unable or unwilling to see the consequences of her actions, which means she's delusionally crazy."

Third, Twilight is the Princess of Friendship. In this universe, it has been proven empirically that Friendship is literally Magic, which means that she's Princess of Magic as well. I have a really hard time accepting that mere unicorn Starlight Glimmer (with some undefined cutie mark) could out-magic the Alicorn Princess of Magic (who also has a magic cutie mark). That's akin to saying "This unicorn over here with a sun-shaped cutie mark is better at raising the sun than Celestia, the Alicorn Princess of the Sun." I'm sorry, but NO.

Fourth, here is how it should have ended: Twilight, realizing that Starlight Glimmer is pathological, decides that she needs to go back in time and prevent the childhood trauma from happening (basically, a pony version of Let's Kill Baby Hitler). So Twilight uses her special talent in magic -- remember, she was promoted to princess when she fixed a spell that Starswirl the Gandalf Bearded couldn't do -- to modify this other Starswirl spell and goes back to Starlight Glimmer's past. There, Twilight shows her how to make new friends, and halts the creation of the nascent sociopath.** Starlight Glimmer makes new friends and understands that friendship is the most powerful magic of all. Bam, problem solved in a proper pony manner and it makes sense.

Finally, let's say the writers really wanted that ending. OK, that still isn't a problem: just replace Starlight Glimmer with The Great And Powerful Trixie. This actually makes narrative sense, you see, as Trixie has a longstanding magical feud with Twilight (see Boast Busters  and Magic Duel), and she's demonstrated both an ability and willingness to find things which give her a magical edge (like the Alicorn Amulet).

If they'd used her instead of Starlight Glimmer, it would have changed the thrust of the episode from a stalkerish "I hate you and will do everything I can to ruin you" to "I'm going to prove once and for all that Trixie is the greatest!"

Which would mean the end conditions would change: all Twilight would have to do is admit that yes, Trixie beat her this time and Trixie is indeed both Great and Powerful, but The Great And Powerful Trixie's ego is turning the future of Equestria into a horrifying uninhabitable wasteland, so would she please stop screwing around with time? And Trixie, because she isn't an utter sociopath, accepts.

Either of these endings would have been preferable to the one we saw on screen. This matters to me because I have this terrible sneaking fear, given the final scenes of this season and the fact that the girls have been a unicorn short ever since Twilight was alicorned, that Starlight Glimmer will join the cast next season.

If it were Trixie, I'd be okay with it. The fans like her -- I like her -- and while she has an ego the size of an Ursa Major, she's not a bad pony and can easily be redeemed by the Avatars of Harmony. 

Starlight Glimmer, though -- is she actually redeemed? Or has she just been temporarily mollified by having been given what she wants, which is unconditional love? I think it's the latter, because I haven't seen any evidence that  she truly learned her lesson and has turned her back on her mandate of Enforced Equality For All. 

She's a ticking time bomb. And if she sticks around, Twilight and the others better keep not turn their backs on her.


* As Dustbury said back in the spring, "If you're a unicorn with a name based on a time of day, you're probably overpowered."

** It was asked "How come Starlight Glimmer's parents -- I assume she didn't arrive via parthenogenesis -- never saw this little ball of resentment growing? Unless they just didn't give a flip." Based on her actions and sense of entitlement, I'm guessing that their special snowflake could do no wrong in their eyes, and was likely an only child.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #67

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Adam and Sean bring you our Thanksgiving episode!
  • Erin Palette talks with her Blue Collar Prepping Blog co-blogger, Chaplain Tim about getting caught in a riot in Berlin, and the lessons that peppers can learn from his experience. 
  • Nicki Kenyon talks about the new cyber warfare, internet hoaxes. 
  • Barron B is still on assignment.
  • Weer'd does his latest patented Audio Fisk™ on Hillary's Brady Campaign award acceptance speech. 
  • And you don't want to miss the story of how Sean blew up his father's Dillon 650 in his wife's face! Check out the show notes for a photo of the powder burns on his arm. 
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Doctor Who: The Gallifreyan Lament Configuration

Pardon while I don my tin-foil fez...

A week or so back, I messaged Erin, ranting nigh-incoherently about hair and jumpers. I'd noticed something off, and it triggered a few memories regarding previous episodes. I'd noticed that Twelve's previously unkempt hair and ratty jumper were gone, and he was once again immaculate in waist-coat and finely-groomed hair. Why didn't he know how the Confession Dial worked? Why was it important now, after going unmentioned since the first couple of episodes and for that matter, who was he talking to when he was playing guitar and talking about Beethoven and the Bootstrap Paradox? Why did he say “Longest month of my life” when Clara referenced him thinking she was dead? Something is off, and I suspected we were seeing events play out of order again. Which led me to one conclusion:

Clara Oswald has been dead this entire season.
At least from the Doctor's point of view. And after this week, I feel that I'm still right. 

We learned what the Confession Dial is: it's a Gallifreyan interrogation room, a personalized prison and puzzle box. And in the course of the Doctor working out this particular puzzle, we get something that I've wanted to see specifically since Capaldi started and generally for much longer: an episode with just the Doctor. And did we ever get that. 

  • Capaldi veers seamlessly between quiet anger and abject horror as he's faced with his childhood nightmares and reminders of his failures. 
  • A monster that would be straight out of a classic Japanese horror film if it were shot differently. 
  • And some very real mature content, as his death scene is played out in gruesome detail. 
The image of a badly burned and blistered Doctor dragging himself by his fingernails is not something I thought I'd see, let alone him killing himself just so he could live the cycle all over again. But he was clever. Left himself a clue so that he could make progress in the puzzle, which is probably not something his captors were suspecting, even if it took two billion years to do it.

Capaldi's performance here has cemented his place in Doctor Who history, if it were not already so. Three of the four previous episodes have had truly shining moments in his performances, and now he's surpassed even “Everybody Lives”. Steven Moffat borrows heavily from another property for this episode, taking the Doctor into his own Mind Palace as he did Sherlock Holmes at the moment when Mary Watson shot him and his body was shutting down. The difference here is that whenever the Doctor is in danger (and not just dying) he thinks quickly. Very, very quickly, as he retreats into a mental version of the TARDIS, and depends on the one thing that's kept him going for a very long time: his companions asking him questions.

This is the perfect excuse to bring Clara back, perhaps for one last time, to give the Doctor one last stern order: Get off your arse and win. I wonder what strings Moffat had to pull to get the BBC to allow swearing on a family show, pre-watershed at that, but honestly I've been waiting for Clara to swear for some time now... she strikes me as the type to do so. (Repeatedly. With much imagination.)

But you have to read between the lines a lot in Doctor Who. The kids are watching, after all, and it wouldn't do to have a companion with, say, a ton of emotional and abandonment issues to be a stripper. No, she's just a kiss-o-gram.

Always read between the lines. The story's much more fun that way.

The Oncoming Storm Approaches
Which brings us back to my theory: Clara's been dead for a long time now. Certainly since before the beginning of this season, which is why the Doctor's in a funk and why he's dressing down. The Confession Dial's first proper appearance was this episode. We know it was given to Ohila of the Sisterhood of Karn (as seen in the Season 9 Prologue), who will most likely hand it off to Missy, at which point it will return to his possession, only to be given to Mayor Me/Ashildr. Until now we assumed that the prologue took place before this season started, but now I suspect it takes place between this week and next week's episode, or even after next week's episode. Who has the dial after Me/Ashilder is anyone's guess. As for Clara, there's production photos of her in a waitress uniform floating around the internet, so we haven't seen the last of her. But it's entirely possible that her erratic travels with the Doctor could be in part to him intruding on her timeline as far back as last year's episodes, as the ratty jumper and hoodie have made appearances previous to this season. 

My fingers are crossed that I'm right, and I'm genuinely eager to see what goes down on Gallifrey next week.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

SHTBlack Friday

There are some amazing deals to be found out there if you're into prepping. Now's your chance to get some high value gear at lower cost to you, including the current (non-HD) Kindle Fire for only $35!

Check out the rest of the sales (some of them slightly dated, as I wrote the post on Wednesday) over at Blue Collar Prepping.

The Splash 25, a dry bag/backpack with an inflatable frame. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Brief Musing about Star Wars

It's no wonder the Jedi Order fell, what with its ridiculous practice of taking small children, training them with laser swords and psychic abilities, and then telling them "Look, I know you're going through puberty right now, but you aren't allowed a boyfriend/girlfriend because that would be a distraction. Instead, meditate through it."

Frankly, I'm surprised no one pulled an Anakin-style "I want to get laid and I'll kill you all if I have to" massacre sooner.

You want to know how the Dark Side gets its recruits? The Sith let their apprentices fuck. It's that simple.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Tech Levels

To head off the likely first question: Since tech level is an important part of a system's Universal Planetary Profile, and the UPP is administered by the Scout Service, I think it's safe to say that the concept of "tech levels" exists within the setting of the game as well as outside it.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Tech Levels in Traveller are seemingly arbitrary things. For example. TL 1 encompasses everything between bronze-age Greek city-state technology (a la 300), iron-age Roman Empire technology, and Medieval "castles and plate armor" up to but not including the Renaissance -- in other words, TL 1 is "Dungeons & Dragons", and TL 2 begins with the invention of gunpowder. That is a huge spread.

Compare that to the difference between Tech Levels 14 (Zhodani Consulate maximum) and 15 (Third Imperium maximum) and you get... not a lot of difference: Jump-6 vs Jump-5, anagathics, early (read: prototype) black globes, and general quality of life improvements. Essentially, TL 14 vs. TL 15 is the difference between the 1990s and today: we had computers and the internet back then, too, but the tech was slower and its applications had not become essential for daily life the way that global social media, GPS, and portable global telecommunications have today.

In other words, TL 15 is just a fancy way saying "mature TL 14", because the differences as listed are about the same as the difference between early TL 7 (the 1980s) and mature TL 7 (the present).

There are two reasons for this extreme difference at both ends of the spectrum. The first is a mechanical reason: player characters in Traveller exist at the high-TL end of things, and so it's important to know what they, and their opponents, do and do not have access to. (I fondly recall an adventure that my players have taken to calling "Murder Island", where a team of NPC mercs with TL 12 weapons and armor messed up a PC party with access to much higher technology.) Similarly, when protagonists have access to space travel, energy weapons and advanced combat armor, the differences between inferior barbarians becomes academic.

This is Imperial Marine Battledress shrugging off small arms fire.
Do you think it matters to him if your swords are bronze, iron or steel?
No. No, it does not. 
"Differences between inferior barbarians" is actually the second, in-game reason. The Vilani had jump drive (TL 9) while Terrans were building the pyramids (TL 0), and their civilization has lasted for over ten thousand years. If you decide that the fall of the First Imperium and the intermingling of Solomani and Vilani cultures during the Rule of Man counts as the creation of a new, hybrid civilization then it lasted for only eight thousand, but that hybrid has lasted another 3,300+ years. To put that in perspective, the Chinese language & alphabet has existed for only 3,500 years!

Given such an old culture (and the Vilani are ancient -- remind me some day to write a blog post comparing Vilani conservatism /stagnation, Solomani dynamism /instability, and Zhodani stability /homogeneity), there is enormous cultural pressure to equate "oldest" with "best". The entire Major Race/Minor Race division? Entirely a Vilani construct to keep themselves on top as the oldest, and therefore wisest civilization... at least until it was discovered that the Droyne were far older, which may explain some of the Imperial derision towards them that isn't based upon fear and contempt of psionics.

What I am getting after is this: I believe that the Tech Level scale that the Third Imperium uses is deliberately vague and periodically undergoes revisions every few hundred years, compressing the lower ends and lengthening the higher ends. Further, I believe that the Imperium has been TL 15 for so long because it is culturally convenient to have a technological descriptor that is not only large but also a nice, "round" number.  The Imperium is TL 15 because it is important for them to have a higher technology than the other polities around them:
  • Aslan Hierate (peak TL 11, average TL 9)
  • Hiver Federation (peak TL 14, average TL 12)
  • Solomani Confederation (peak TL 14 and estimated to hit TL 15 within a decade, but average is much lower)
  • K'Kree Empire (TL 11, average TL 9)
  • Vargr Extents (balkanized, TLs all over the place)
  • Zhodani Consulate (peak TL 14, average TL 13)
You may note that of the three TL 14 civilizations near the Third Imperium, two of them are hostile and have fought wars with them. (The Hive Federation is more disposed towards psychohistorical manipulation rather than open warfare, and also has to contend with the militant K'krees that it shares a border with.)  In other words, the Imperium MUST have a higher tech level than its enemies for exactly the same reasons that the United States needed a visibly higher technological edge than the Soviet Union: it was good for morale and made opponents think twice about attacking.

The Imperium would be perfectly happily to cruise along at TL 15 forever, slowly compressing lower tech levels downward so that it always stays on top. However, that metric is tied to how Jump drives work in your game, as the key difference between TL 14 and 15 is the creation of the Jump-6 drive:
  • Per first edition Central Supply Catalog, "The ‘Jump-6 limit’ remains in force for some time after the invention of Jump-6 drives. Various promising fields of technology eventually fail to produce a workable Jump-7 or higher drive. However, other technologies continue to advance." (p.6, CSC). 
  • However, second edition High Guard (still in playtest and so subject to change) states that Jump-7, -8 and -9 are feasible at Tech Levels 16, 17 and 18 respectively. This theory is bolstered by Marc Miller's Traveller5 (p.344).
If you adhere to the first school of thought, then the Third Imperium is likely to hover at a stated TL 15 for quite some time, until a significant technological benchmark is reached (such as the invention of antimatter power plants, practical matter-to-energy transmission, or a significant weapons development like a disintegrator0; when that happens, the Imperium is likely to revise its tech level metrics and state "Oh my goodness, look at this, we are actually at TL 17 [or more]." That this will likely leave the Solomani and Zhodani two tech levels behind is deliberate.

However, if you follow the second line of reasoning, things are both more clearly delineated and also more problematic. An additional one parsec in jump distance is hardly worth crowing about unless you're desperate, but if you use this metric then it stands to reason that other developments in Jump can be developed:  perhaps one can reduce the time spent in jump to less than a week. The strategic and logistical advantage inherent in jumping 6 parsecs in four days rather than seven is immediately obvious.


TL;DR the reason Tech Levels are weird in Traveller is because it's beneficial propaganda for the Third Imperium.

Monday, November 23, 2015

PPRMG: LaserLyte Emitters

Last week I talked about the targets; this week I'll talk about the emitters.


Universal Pistol Trainer (LT-PRO)
The LT-PRO is essentially a laser boresight with a universal collar that allows it to fit any pistol from .380 to .45 caliber. This has both good and bad points.

Good: You can put it in a Trainer Pistol (see below) for a dedicated training platform, or you can put it in your carry guns and practice with your actual firearm. This allows for realistic training and one LT-PRO ought to fit all of your needs.

Bad: The emitter is sound-activated and listens for the click of a falling hammer or striker to trigger the laser. This works very well if your pistol has an easily thumb-cockable hammer or is otherwise dual action; however, if you have a striker-fired, single-action pistol like a Glock, you will have to rack the slide after every single shot. As you can imagine, this gets old very quickly, and will probably spur you to purchase one of the trainer pistols.

What's more, this system has a significant drawback: because it is sound-activated, it is listening for hammer-fall all the time. This means that if you forget to remove the batteries after a training session, they will slowly drain as the inbuilt sensor actively listens for the next click, and the next time to you go to train you will end up with dead batteries. (Fortunately, the LT-PRO runs on common LR626 batteries, which can be easily ordered in bulk from Amazon.)

Like all LaserLyte products, the LT-PRO comes with a fresh set of batteries.

Retail: The LT-PRO retails for $120, and while it is available in combo packs, it cannot be bought separately on Amazon. This is because it has since been replaced with the LT-PRE, or Laser Trainer Premium, which also retails for $120 but can be purchased at Amazon for $87.

I have not tested the LT-PRE. From what I can tell, it is similarly sound-activated, so it still has all the drawbacks of the LT-PRO in terms of  slide racking and battery drain. It does, however, have an on/off button for the microphone, which mitigates the hassle of having to unscrew the battery compartment each time.

My Rating: C
My metric for a C is "Functions adequately, but something pisses me off." While the LT-PRO laser emitter does indeed work, the need to turn off something which is not visibly on or risk draining the batters is a source of annoyance for me. Far more irritating is the poor synergy it has with my carry pistol, which is a Glock 26; considering that many law enforcement agencies issue Glocks to their LEOs, I consider this a major drawback. 

I received the full-size pistol (stated as "approximately the same size as a Glock 23"), although a compact-size trainer is also available. These trainer pistols are a cross between blue guns (nonfunctioning pistols shaped and weighted to realistically mimic actual guns for training) and toy guns which go "click" when you pull the trigger.

It's listed as being "weighted and balanced to give the realistic 'feel' of most semi-auto pistols," but on that point I must vehemently disagree; my unloaded Glock 26 weighs about 20 ounces, while the full-size Trigger Tyme weighs only 13.25 ounces.

It does have a working trigger, though, with a 5.5 pound trigger pull (just like my G26), and when it breaks it makes what can only describe as a click-sproing sound; the click is from the trigger breaking, and the spring is from a spring resetting in some manner. The sound echoes down the metal-lined barrel to facilitate the activation of the LT-PRO.

Retail: The full-size Trigger Tyme retails for $55, but can be bought on Amazon for $35. Alternatively, a combination trainer and laser set can be purchased for $98.

My Rating: B
It's not realistically weighted, nor is it shaped like an actual pistol, but considering that proper blue guns cost around $50, this makes an excellent tool for hand-to-hand training or a costume prop. I do not think it makes a good laser trainer, both for reasons related to the LT-PRO's performance and for the following anecdote.


An Anecdote Is Not Data, But...
The first LT-PRO and Trainer Pistol I received had issues:  I would put the laser arbor into the pistol, and it would take several trigger pulls before the laser would realize that I wanted it to activate. It would then activate most of the time, but not always. The problem persisted when I placed the LT-PRO inside of an actual pistol.

I mentioned this to the folks at LaserLyte, who promptly sent me a new LT-PRO. When I placed the laser within the trainer pistol, the problem occurred again, but interestingly enough the problem did not present when I placed the laser within actual pistols.

This leads me to suspect that either both the original LT-PRO and trainer pistol were broken in some manner, or if the laser was broken and the pistol just poorly built. As I am just one reviewer, I cannot draw a definite conclusion.


Trigger Tyme Laser Trainer
Also available in a compact version. this trainer (which I shall refer to as "Laser Tyme" to differentiate it from "Trigger Tyme", above) is leaps and bounds better than its non-laser sibling.

Slightly heavier (15 ounces) and with a trigger that breaks sooner and heavier than the Trigger Tyme, the Laser Tyme solves every problem I have with the LT-PRO and is an honest-to-goodness laser gun.

(I just have to stop and giggle about this. One of my earliest memories is of watching Star Wars at a drive-in, and ever since then I've dreamed of having a blaster. While this trainer doesn't do any damage unless you flash someone in the eyes with it, the fact remains that this is a laser gun and it's mine and I'm holding it in my hands and I'm shooting things with it. Pewpewpewpewpew.)

Where was I? Oh, right. By having a laser integrated into the pistol itself, there's no need to worry about the sound hitting the sensor and activating the emitter; it's all hard-wired into the trigger. Every single trigger pull results in a crisp burst of light, and I don't have to worry about the batteries running out because I forgot to take it apart afterwards.

It also has enormous endurance, with a battery life of 50,00 shots, compared to the measly 3,000 shots of the LT-PRO. (Like all LaserLyte products, batteries come included.)

Retail: Of course, all of this comes at a price: the full-size Laser Tyme retails at $150, and costs the same on Amazon. However, the compact version can be purchased with a single plinking can (reviewed last week) for as low as $90 if you can find them in stock.

My Rating: A+
It does everything I want to do it, and it does it smoothly and perfectly. Unless you truly need a laser that will fit inside your carry gun, save a bit more and get the Laser Tyme instead. You will not be disappointed in its performance.

Combine a Laser Target or a Score Tyme with one of these and you will have so much fun you will practice every day. As I said previously,
Yes, it's expensive. Believe me, I know this better than anyone; I am both poor and cheap. But you will save money with this system, because
  1. Practicing in the comfort of you home means you won't spend money on range fees and gas to and from the range.
  2. You can shoot as often as you like without having to buy expensive ammunition.
  3. Points 1 and 2 mean you will practice much more than you would with real ammo. For example, if I need to stretch my legs or clear my head, I'll fire up the target and take about 20 shots -- and I do this several times a day. That is something you simply can't do at a range. 
Besides, when you think about it, $258 for the Score Tyme and $150 for the laser pistol is still cheaper than a brand new gun. You're actually saving money when you buy this.. or at least that's what you can tell your wife when she asks you how much it cost.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this products for free. I was not paid for a good review. I do what I like. Call your mother. 

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