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Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Gunday: LaserLyte Center Mass Laser

http://tinyurl.com/pjoxo7r
Earlier this month I mentioned taking my Center Mass laser to the an indoor range with quite devastating results. Having had the opportunity to go to a shotgun range and pattern my 12 gauge with said laser, I am now prepared to give it a product review.






($220 MSRP, but $185 at Amazon)

Installation
The Center Mass Laser (hereafter known as CML) mounts easily to any Weaver or Picatinny rail, and a hex wrench is conveniently included.

The laser is offset enough to mount behind iron sights, and a variety of activation options (tape switch momentary on/off, button momentary on/off, and double press for constant on) mean that it can be operated from essentially anywhere it can be mounted.

Sighting In
This is the pattern of the CML. It is essentially a single green laser that has a refractive lens which turns one beam into a ring of eight. This ring effectively illustrates the spread of shot (aka the pattern) from a cylinder bore barrel. Conveniently enough, that is the barrel I have on my shotgun.*

To sight in the CML, simply aim at the desired point of impact and then adjust the center dot until it is where you want it. I used a 12 gauge bore sight laser to get mine lined up before taking it to the range for patterning** and fine-tuning, but if you have a reflex sight, red dot or other optic already zeroed, simply adjust the CML to that optic's reticle.

Like most lasers, there is no definite feedback system or locking adjustment like a scope would have; adjustment is via set screws and is performed using the "Well, that feels about right, let me take another shot and see if it works or if I need to move it again." I'm not fond of this, but I have yet to see a laser that has adjustment screws similar to MOA clicks.

* This is because my shotgun is set up for home defense, where a shorter barrel and wider choke give optimal results. For hunting or shooting skeet or trap, I would use a longer barrel which gives a tighter pattern and longer ranges. For those wishing to learn more about choke and spread, visit these two pages and look at the diagrams, or watch this video for a simple compare & contrast.

**For people who are not familiar with the jargon, patterning a shotgun is where you take it to the range and shoot it to make sure that it's hitting where you're aiming. It's much like zeroing a scope, except for the fact that shot is nowhere near as accurate as a bullet. That's why it's called a "pattern". For more information, watch this video.

Target Acquisition
As mentioned previously, I used the CML at an indoor range using frangible slugs at 25 feet, and it put those slugs where I wanted them. This is proof that even though it is designed for a shotgun, it will work just as well on a rifle. (In fact, I have acquired a smaller version of this laser and mounted it to my mother's PMR-30. Mom has notoriously poor eyesight, but the ring of red laser light is easier for her to see, and makes target acquisition faster, than a single laser does.)

LaserLyte says that the pattern grows at one inch per yard, but I'd like to put that into terms that are a bit more helpful.

Using a sheet with one-inch squares on it, I put the muzzle of my shotfun against it. At that range, the circle was less than one inch across. Considering that 12 gauge equals .73 caliber, this is logical.

I then measured the distance between my front door and the wall closest to the kitchen door, i.e. where I would be standing if I needed to shoot someone breaking in. It was 20 feet, and the ring of green now measured roughly six inches across.

(Yes, math types, I know that 20 feet comes out to 6.7 yards. However, the laser wasn't mounted to the wall, it was mounted to the shotgun which is forward of the wall. The actual distance from laser to wall was likely 18.5 feet.)

Daylight Operation
After that, I took my shotgun to an outdoor range to see how the ring spread matched the patterning of the shotgun. I set up a sheet of white paper at a distance of nine yards, with the intention of moving the target further back once I had matched the pattern to the point of aim.

However, at that range, the green ring completely filled the sheet of paper! ("Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.") And yes, the shot pattern of both birdshot (used for testing) and buckshot (used to make certain it was where I wanted it, confirmed with larger holes) also filled the target sheet nicely.

Only one thing disappointed me: despite being a very bright green laser, the light was very hard to see in the bright Florida sun. I was able to see the center dot by sweeping the target and looking for movement, and after that I was able to see the rings, but it was by no means a quick target acquisition.

This is not a fault of the product itself, however. Lasers are famously hard to see in bright sunlight, and a red laser would have been completely washed out. My only solution for a situation like this would be to switch to a reflex sight or green dot optic. Given the small profile of the CML and its ability to be mounted nearly anywhere, mounting an additional optic if necessary shouldn't be a problem.

Other Things I Like
Not only does it operate from a reasonably easy to acquire CR123 battery, the battery cap is also tethered to the casing. This makes battery changes "in the field" much easier and with less worry of losing the cap. In addition, it comes with clear instructions, a hex wrench for immediate mounting, and an already charged battery.

My Rating: A+
I like this product very much. It has certain limitations, of course, but its usefulness outweighs those. It's not ideal for most sporting activities, but in home-defense situations it absolutely excels. As an inexperienced but enthusiastic shotgunner, I especially like being able to see at a glance what my shot pattern will be.

It's expensive, but if you can afford it and use a shotgun for home defense, I cannot recommend it highly enough.






Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this product for free. I was not paid or otherwise compensated in return for giving it a good review. I just happen to really like it. Also, your mom wonders why you haven't written lately. 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #45

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
It's the .45 caliber episode!
  • There's no Adam this week, but returning for her second stint as co-host is that bratty kid sister of the gunblogosphere, Erin Palette! 
  • Erin also talks about what to do if your AC fails.
  • Nicki Kenyon answers the question "Are we pushing Russia too far?"
  • Our Special Guest Reverend Kenn Blanchard talks about guns in churches. It's a great interview so give it a listen!
  • Barron B. discusses data encryption and why you should do it.
  • and Weer'd, as a public service to all, reads the tools at Armed with Reason, so you don't have to.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here
Special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. If you use discount code "Variety" at checkout, you get 10% off anything you buy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Regressive Progressivism and Fallout 4

There's a Bush and a Clinton fighting for the white house. Jurrasic Park is killing it at the box office. Mortal Kombat is being blamed for a massacre and DOOM is getting heat from cultural critics for its violence. I feel so very old and so very young at the same time.

The outrage du jour following E3 this year was accusations that Fallout 4 is 'transmisogynistic.' A word I don't understand (and that spellcheck doesn't recognize, but then spellcheck doesn't recognize spellcheck either), and I'll explain why later. All of this sparked over a second-long part of a clip of combat and features in Fallout 4, previewed at the pants-darkeningly exciting Bethesda event, their first ever major showing at the yearly trade show.


The clip, as you can see, features a man wearing a dress. This is big news for several reasons:
  1. Just taking into account the last couple of Fallout games, there were some really excellent outfits and armor sets that were gender-specific: The Merc Charmer outfit, for example, had a bulky steel collar and coat for male players, but placing it on a female character it had a miniskirt and leggings. Similarly, the Stylish Gambler's hat in New Vegas for men was a replica of Indiana Jones's fedora (found on a skeleton in a 50s-style refrigerator) for men, but for women it was an ugly veiled pillbox hat. 
  2. The appearance of a man in a dress in Fallout 4's trailer signifies that you are no longer restricted by gender as to what clothing you wish to wear. For immersion and gameplay, this should be a huge step forward. You would think progressive-minded folk with a penchant for gender activism would be celebrating this. You would even think they'd go so far as to realize that you can now play as one biological sex that identifies as another gender.
But no. The logic is that Bethesda was using the imagery to express 'lol man in a dress is funny.' Nearly the exact words.  Meanwhile, actual trans people are pretty happy about this. (For example, the editrix of this blog. -- Erin)

And even if we're looking at this as just 'man in a dress,' one of the more irritating aspects of this particular outrage is that activists have a habit of erasing the progress that the drag queen/transvestite community has had in making things like breaking gender roles, homosexuality, and transgender more acceptable to the mainstream. Back in my teenage and early 20s, I had friends in the drag community, both gay and straight, and I saw the shit they put up with from ignorant and bigoted people, and it seriously rubs me the wrong way when people claiming the moral high ground shit upon them from a very great height.

And transmisogynistic? To borrow a phrase of theirs, the word itself is problematic. I believe this should (theoretically) fall under 'transphobic', as the word transmisogynistic a) excludes female-to-male transition and b) smacks of one ideology co-opting another group's concerns for their own. That's right, hashtagtivists, I speak your language. Fluently. I'd tell you to check your privilege, if I were capable of doing it with a straight face.

But it comes down to this: Fallout did it first. Those same slacktivists throwing a ticker-tape parade over Fire Emblem having same-sex marriage? Fallout 2 had same-sex marriage. A gay character? Go talk to Arcade Gannon in New Vegas or Carol and Greta the Lesbian ghouls in Fallout 3. Or Flak (and possibly Shrapnel) in Rivet City. I'm only surprised it took so long to ditch gender-specific clothing, and I'm happy it has, as there are some snazzy suits that Justine will look totally badass wearing. 

Fallout has a long history of being open to new ideas, and attacking it for making progress in an area like this isn't progressive, it's regressive.

Also, as a sidenote: I'm sick of hearing about flags, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: M202A1 66mm FLASH

A fellow on the Traveller Facebook group I frequent said this needed stats. I am happy to oblige.

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

Here is the 66mm FLASH (Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon):


Basically a 4-shot rocket pack that werfs flammen. This is easy to stat using the Central Supply Catalog.

First, we stat up the launcher. 
  • It was designed in the 1960s, so that gives us a Tech Level of 6.
  • Looking through the section on "Support & Artillery Weapons," I find something titled Reusable Launcher, Light (TL6). It is 60mm, which I decide is close enough. This will be our baseline. 
  • It is designated as a Light Artillery Weapon. 
  • Range is Rocket.
  • Damage depends on the rocket, and will be addressed later. 
  • Magazine is 4. 
  • Auto is No. 
  • Recoil is 0. 
  • Cost  is 8,000 Cr.
  • Mass is 12 kg when loaded (per Wikipedia). 

And now, the rocket.
This is a bit of a quandary for me; on the one hand, on same chart as the baseline launcher, there is another entry below it called Disposable Launcher, Medium, Incendiary. This sounds ideal... except for the fact that despite being a good 30mm larger than our baseline, it does less damage. (4d6 Flame vs 7d6). Perhaps incendiaries do less damage?

I check the table titled Artillery Weapon Payload Size Classes (CSC, p.109) and there I find "Extremely Light - 60mm - 7d6", which matches what's in the table for the Light Reusable Launcher. 

I then check p.112 for rules on incendiaries, and it says:
  • No effect on hardened structures
  • Damage is full for items in contact (I assume this means struck by the rocket)
  • 1/2 the weapon's base damage (flame) per round within the primary radius
  • 1/4 base damage per round within the secondary radius. 
So clearly the stats for the Medium Incendiary Launcher are incorrect, and its damage should be 8d6 Flame. 

On p.90 of the CSC, under Flame and Cryo Weapons, it states someone hit with a thermal weapon (which this is) takes additional damage each round (in agreement with the rules listed above), with the damage halved each round until it finally dies out. 

Therefore the damage for the 66mm FLASH is:
  • No effect on hardened structures
  • 7d6 flame damage for anything in contact/struck by rocket
  • 4d6 flame damage per round for anything within 5 meters of strike
  • 2d6 flame damage per round for anything between 5 and 10 meters of strike.
  • Damage is halved each round until 0d6 is reached. 
Curiously, no cost is listed. However, the cheapest rocket we have a price for is the TL9 Anti-Personnel Tac Missile at 1,800 Cr. which give us an upper boundary. The Grenades table on p.114 lists incendiary grenades at 30 Cr. which gives our lower bound. 

As grenades are listed as 30mm weapons and this is a 60mm rocket, I decide that doubling the price is a good enough approximation. 300 Cr. per rocket seems perfectly fine to me. 


Et voila, it is statted.


Monday, June 22, 2015

About Recent Events

I have, in general, kept quiet about the whole Charleston, SC shooting because
  1. my regular readers doubtless know my feelings on the matter anyway, and 
  2. it's really tiring having to make the some arguments that fall on the same deaf ears.
I have however felt the need to say something to counter, or at least address, all the invective being thrown at gun owners. This manifested in a series of  Facebook posts yesterday that were complete nothing statements like "As a responsible gun owner, I feel it's my duty to inform everyone in Charleston that I like pie."  And while that was good for laughs on Der Lederhosen, it struck me at being insufficient for this blog. 

Then I came across a very interesting article (courtesy of Sebastian), and I knew what I wanted to say. 


Dear Gun Control Adherent or Undecided Reader:

I, like you, was shocked and horrified about what happened in Charleston last week. Two days after that, though, something else occurred which also shocked and horrified me;


A seven-year-old boy is reportedly among the three people killed in Austria by a man who ploughed his car into crowds in the country’s second-largest city and then reportedly started stabbing people.
A witness told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that dead bodies were left lying face down in the road after the vehicle sped through streets near the the historical Herrengasse in Graz.
The killing only stopped when the driver parked his battered car outside a police station.
More than 30 pedestrians, including three children, were hurt at several locations during the rampage and 10 victims were in hospital with serious injuries. One patient was in a critical condition on Saturday afternoon.
Now, I am certain we can all agree that this is a terrible tragedy. 

However, I put it to you: If, after reading this, you do not feel that Austria needs to immediately implement stronger, "sensible" car control legislation in order to prevent tragedies like this from happening again, then I wish to congratulate you:

You are now thinking like a gun owner.

After all, you didn't get in a car and run into 30 people, killing 3 and seriously injuring 10. So why should the government restrict your car-driving rights? Why should the kind of car you own be regulated simply because some vicious jerk decided he wanted to hurt a lot of people?

This tragedy was performed with an SUV, but no one is seriously considering banning, restricting, or regulating SUVs. When people are killed by arson, no one seriously considers banning, restricting, or regulating matches and gasoline. So why, then, should we law-abiding and responsible gun owners be penalized when one jerk decides to shoot people?


If, however, you are now thinking "Hmm, yes, more car regulation would be a good idea," I would like for you to carefully consider the following questions:
  • Are you willing to give up your car in the same way you are asking gun owners to give up their firearms? After all, it could be reasonably asked that who, in an urban area, needs a private vehicle? Regulated public transport or specially trained and vetted taxi operators would suffice.
  • Are you willing to accept licensing and restriction upon internet access and electronic devices simply because they might be used in terrorism, or in cyberstalking, or in child pornography?
  • At what point are you willing to say "Enough is enough! These are my rights and I will not tolerate more encroachment upon them. I have committed no crime; I will not tolerate being punished for the criminal acts of others" ?
You need to know the answers to these questions, because eventually the attitude of "Pass more laws to prevent human behavior" will result in you losing something which is important to you. And when that happens, dear reader, you will discover how little-c conservative you are regarding this change. 

To which I will say: Welcome to our party. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #44

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Episode 44 of The GunBlog VarietyCast is out!
  • Adam and Sean host another fun episode. 
  • Erin Palette talks survival food spices and recipes.
  • Nicki Kenyon tells us more about why Edward Snowden is no libertarian hero.
  • Special Guest Sebastian, of Shall Not Be Questioned, discusses the classist roots of gun control.
  • Barron B. explains why Tech Support always tells you to reboot your computer,
  • and Weer'd talks about another dumb thing that Joan Peterson wrote.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And please, tell your friends.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Special thanks to our sponsor Andrew at Law of Self Defense.

Friday, June 19, 2015

SHTFriday: Recipe Week

It's been recipe week over at Blue Collar Prepping, where we've shared our favorite camping meals, ways to make scraps go further, and how to make the nasty into tasty.

In my entry for today, I talk about a dish I created while camping.

Trust me, it's tastier than it sounds.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Eulogy For A Departed Friend






















Friends, Occultists, Con-men, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Constantine, not to praise him. 
The evil that man does lives after him;
While the good is interred with his series;
So let it be with Constantine. The noble NBC
hath told you Constantine was unpopular;
If it were so, would it have grevious ratings shown
And grievously hath Constantine answer'd it.

Here, under leave of NBC and the rest --
For NBC is an honourable network;
So are they all, all honourable networks --
Come I to speak in Constantine's funeral.

He was my friend, fauthful and true to source material;
But NBC says he was unpopular;
And NBC is an honourable network.

Constantine brought few ratings home to NBC
Whose ransoms those coffers failed to fill:
Did this in Constantine seem unpopular?

When that the fans have cried, Constantine hath wept:
Series should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet NBC says he was unpopular;
And NBC is an honourable network.

You all did see that on Facebook
I many times shared praising status updates,
Which gathered many a like: Was this unpopular?

Yet NBC says he was unpopular;
And, sure, it is an honourable network.
I speak not to disprove what NBC spoke,
But I am here to speak what I do know.

You all saw the promise, not without cause;
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgement! Thou art fled to low-brow sitcoms
And studio execs have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is on the cutting room floor there with Constantine,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

My sincerest apologies for butchering the metric of The Bard. Season 1 always sucks and gets low ratings, NBC;, seriously, you could have given it another 13 episodes for it to grow. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Two Subsidized Liner Variants

I have been on a project involving the Type M Subsidized Liner (sorry, I can't talk about it just yet), and let me tell you, it's difficult to make what is essentially a cruise ship into something exciting.

So naturally, I made variants.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Sadly, these aren't very exciting either. I plan to do more of these, as I feel the Stellar class is underutilized -- Jump-3 for a civilian ship is impressive -- but these are the ones I had ready for tonight. 
Art by the amazing Ian Stead.
For purposes of comparison: assuming a full cargo hold of freight, all low berths full and all passages High, the standard Type M earns 598,000 Cr for each jump-3. Assuming all passages medium, this total falls to 347,000 Cr. But remember, these are ideal circumstances. 

Cargo Liner
(link opens Google document)
A variant I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned before, given that a lot of Traveller PCs like to trade in speculative cargo. The biggest hauler reasonably available to a PC group is the 400 dton Subsidized Merchant, which balances its cavernous 205 dton cargo hold with the fact that it can only make jump-1, thus restricting it to stellar mains. 

Well, guess what? When you strip out most of the passenger fittings from a Type M, you not only end up with almost as much cargo space as the Merchant, but you can also access worlds 2 or 3 parsecs away, opening up many more markets for trade. 

In addition to more cargo space I gave it slightly more weapons and some reflec coating, and improved its computer by one level to allow it to run better versions of Evade and Fire Control. But none of those things are strictly necessary, so long as the ship sticks to civilized space. 

Earnings per jump-3: 140,000 from hauling freight, plus maybe an additional 40,000 if some High Passengers are carried in the empty rooms. But that is, of course, for hauling freight. Most PCs wouldn't bother with freight unless the pickings were slim indeed; most experienced Traveller players are salivating at the thought of what they could do with 200 dtons of speculative cargo at all the markets they could reach at J-3. 


Colony/Refugee Liner
Let's go the exact opposite route and make a cattle car. Perhaps this ship is being paid by a local government or corporation to help establish a colony, or perhaps it goes into war or disaster zones to evacuate civilians. 

300 low berths are added, as is a second turret just in case and an additional fuel processor to speed up the return trip from the ass-end of nowhere. 

Earnings per jump-3: 455,000 Cr just to ferry people back and forth (again, assuming full cargo hold and low berths). This is better than the standard version full of middle passengers, but not as good as a liner full of high passengers. However, let me say this: it's a lot easier to get low passengers than it is middle or high. 

But Erin,  I hear you cry, there's a maximum of 9d6 low passengers at any given starport!

Well, fair enough. Maybe outside of a disaster area a ship like this won't fill up at once. But here's the good part: low passengers don't age, so it doesn't much matter how long it takes them to get there.  Set an itinerary and take a grand tour of the Spinward Marches -- you'll get them there eventually, and you can fill up along the way. Cut them a discount if they complain too much. 

... or, you know, there's always slavery. (Hey, it's dirty but it happens. There's rules for it in Merchant Prince which leads me to believe that at least one PC party tried it.)


All right, maybe these variants aren't economic powerhouses. They still show what you can do with an under-utilized design. 

I'll have more exciting versions later.


EDITED TO ADD: Neither of these designs require breaking the designated subsidy. I'm sure there are worlds three parsecs off the mains that would love regular freight and mail service, or assitance in increasing their population. A subsidy can do much to make such ships profitable -- and even a poor world can usually command enough money to make a captain of such a ship feel wealthy indeed. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Centennial Horse

Spoilers ahoy! Aweigh? A-neigh!

So for those of you who missed it, this weekend's episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was one long love-letter to its fans. It was pure pandering (but of the best sort), as it was full of references and call-backs and confirmation of fan theories, because it gave favorite background ponies important speaking roles and relegated the Mane Six to "once again saving the town".



There's so much that's wonderful about this episode that I'm geeking out about it.
  • Derpy speaks AND has an important, starring role!  True, they don't call her Derpy Hooves -- I don't think they say her name at all -- but that's unimportant. HER EYES ARE PROPERLY DERPED and that's all that matters. 
  • Doctor Whooves is canon!  True, they don't call him that either, or say the words "Time Lord" or "TARDIS" -- but it's so heavily implied that it's essentially stated outright. 
Look! It's even got a floaty central thing!
[[Bronying intensifies]]
  • And in case you missed it, there was one frame where the creative team showed up in horse masks:

Yes, it's quite obvious that as of this episode, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has...


... jumped the shark.


I bucking LOVE my fandom.  

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #43

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
A great show for you this week:
  • Adam and Sean execute their hosting duties flawlessly (or at least after careful editing).
  • Erin Palette talks to us about Colonel Cooper's Color Codes (Say that 5 times fast!).
  • Nicki Kenyon is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Our Special Guest this week is LawDog!!! He tells us this absolutely hysterical story about a dog named Buster and his run in with a chicken. You HAVE to listen to this one!
  • Barron B. is pretty angry about the data breach at the US Government's Office of Personnel Management.
  • And Weer'd talks about an anti-gunner who calls himself Baldr Odinson, and his attempt at taking a victory lap after the passage of a recent Oregon law banning private firearm transfers.
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. And don't forget to tell a friend.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

SHTFriday: A Guest Post Worth Reading

I completely forgot to link to this for the same reason that I had a guest post on Friday: a terribly headache brought on by stormy weather.

But if you haven't read it, head over to Blue Collar Prepping and read an informative (and funny) story by Keith about how, this one time, he was kidnapped and robbed in Caracas, Venezuela.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

From Salem's Archives: The War

It has been an incredibly busy week for me, and I haven't had time to properly devote to the sendoff for a dear friend that I'd planned, so in the meantime I'm going to leave you all with something I wrote about seven and a half years ago, that's been popping into my head recently. I'm hoping I can work on it some more, Erin was quite cross when I didn't write more of it.
It was written before the film Legion came out, and well before it's sequel series Dominion, and I was quite surprised when the premises were similar. 

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Prologue: Thoughts on the War.

Any time I'm faced with a situation that I can't understand, or don't want to comprehend, I take a very, very hot shower. When I'm done, I step out into the cold air, still nude, and watch the steam rise from my body. It's that juxtaposition of seeing something that appears supernatural occurring in a completely ordinary position that usually shocks my mind back to reality, allowing me to deal better with what is going on.

Usually.

There was a war, a long, long time ago. Possibly in a galaxy far, far away. Or possibly in this one, as it's the only one according to some schools of thought. All those pinpricks in the night sky? Nothing more than that. Pinpricks in near proximity of our home as it rotates around the sun. We weren't involved the war. Our country wasn't even a country at that time, our people hardly fit to call themselves a true species, by modern standards. Barbaric practices, and the lot. This war didn't happen when most people think it did. The Big One happened much later on in history, and didn't make it into the history books until after that.

I'm writing this now as a Will and Testament. My personal belongings I'm leaving, in equal share, to my dearest friends. My hidden, "job-related" bank accounts, split amongst my daughter and my ex-wife. My collection of little statuettes goes to my cousin. He always liked those.

No, it wasn't suicide, at least not in the traditional sense. More like a "suicide mission." One of those things for "the greater good" that they teach you about in Academy. Greater good indeed.

All I know, after the first engagement, I'll never forget the way hollow points sound as they chew through an angel's wings..

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Night Wackiness: Yes, but it's a dry heat

As we approach the summer, with its hot weather and hurricanes along the coast and tornadoes throughout the midwest, I was reminded of this picture I saw on someone's blog a few months ago:

I wish to state for the record that "Hurricane Terror" and "Air Made of Hot Soup" are not mutually exclusive states.
The "on fire" section  (long distance dedication to my boy Salem McG) reminds me of this video which went viral back in January:


"I think steel boils at this temperature..."  Yeah, but as they like to tell you:  it's a dry heat.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Ancient Terran Culture

Last game session, something interesting happened: a character asked about ancient history (or rather, what would be ancient history to his character) and it gave me a chance to riff on things like anachronism and information drift.

Here we go...
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
The context of the question is that I made a reference to some black-book ops ominously titled "Project Azathoth" and "Project Nyarlathotep". Most of the players immediately realized they were references to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, but didn't really know what those two entities were. A quick Computer check (the PCs used space-Google, basically) brought up the fact that they were, respectively, ancient Terran gods of "Madness & Chaos" and "Forbidden Knowledge & Destruction". 

(Yes, the Lovecraft enthusiasts in my readership are likely getting a bit itchy right now. Don't worry, we'll get to that.) 

After that, I figured the players would either go "Yes, we get the idea, these are disquieting codenames for equally noisome projects" and nope the heck out of there, or dig a bit deeper in what precisely these unsettling operations might be. I was therefore caught off-guard when one of them said "I'd like to do more research on these deities."

My first reaction was that good old GM standby: "Do you have any skills in history, anthropology or religion?"  The answer was no, but the PC did have Jack of All Trades-3. "Well, make an education roll." The role was made with minimal success

"These entities came to be worshiped during the early 20th century by Terran reckoning," I began, "during a period of extensive global warfare, mass pestilence, and of course the looming spectre of nuclear destruction..."

"Wait, wait, wait," my player interrupted. "You're telling me that the Cthulhu Mythos is real in this universe? It's not a collection of stories?"

"The Bible is a collection of stories. The Iliad is a collection of stories. The Kalevala is a collection of stories. The Ragnarok Cycle is a collection of stories."

"Well, yes, but we know the Greeks were real. The Trojan War actually happened. Are you saying that the events in Lovecraft's stories actually happened in this universe?"

"Modern Imperial historians equate it roughly with other mythology. Some are impossible to prove or disprove; some are considered allegory, and others prophecy."

"But don't we know that Nyarlathotep didn't actually destroy a New England town or whatever?"

I don't recall exactly what I said, because I was trying to express a notion I had yet to fully develop in my own mind. I ended up fumbling around a bit, and the PCs got the idea and went on their merry way. But that failure has been nagging at me for a while, so now I'm going to address it.


1) We are closer to the Pharaohs 
of Ancient Egypt than the Third Imperium.
The current year in my Traveller game is Imperial Year 1106. Per the Library Data book, that converts to AD 5624 -- 3,609 years from present-day 2015.

It's generally believed that Thutmose III was the pharaoh during the time of Moses. If so, that would put the Exodus of the Jews at 1446 BC, or 3,461 years from present-day 2015.

I picked Thutmose III just to be relevant and culturally accessible; he's actually a very late pharaoh from the 18th Dynasty. Pharaoh Cheops/Khufu (the one who had the Great Pyramid built) was from the 4th Dynasty, over a thousand years prior to that. The First Dynasty? That's sometime circa 3150 BC, or roughly 5, 165 years from now. 

In other words, we are to the Third Imperium what the First Dynasty of Egypt is to us.

Think about how very little we actually know about the culture and history of ancient Egypt, when compared to all the things we know about present day culture and modern history. Think about all the art and monuments and documents lost to disaster and war. Think about how we go search for their ruins, study their buried corpses, and even go through their trash in an attempt to understand how they lived.

I mean, we don't even get the middle ages right in popular culture. Not all of the swords present in the D&D Player's Handbook existed all at the same time, nor did their armor -- full plate was closer to Early Renaissance than Dark Ages. So a game of D&D, from the perspective of someone who lived around that time period, would probably look to them like this looks to us:
Strip #895 of Starslip's "Concrete Universe" arc. 

2) Loss of Data
What happened to all the records? Well, lots of things.

Disaster: the fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria was a huge historical loss. Before widespread duplication of knowledge, all it took was one good fire, landslide, or earthquake to destroy records and/or cultural sites forever.

Post-mass media, a suitably large event (such as a coronal mass ejection causing a global electromagnetic pulse can also destroy such records, and in fact entire civilizations (such as the Maghiz did to the Darrians).

On a much larger scale, the Long Night was a nearly 2,000 year long period of interstellar anarchy where technology declined (sometimes to Dark Age levels) and sometimes entire planetary populations just died.

War and Vandalism: Like the above, only deliberate and directed. There's a book titled How the Irish Saved Civilization and the premise is that when the Roman Empire -- notorious for its record-keeping -- fell to barbarians and was sacked, its knowledge was lost. Were it not for Irish monks in isolated monasteries making copies of books, the basis of western civilization would have disappeared, perhaps forever.

More recently, one only has to look at the actions of ISIS in Iraq as they destroy priceless historical artifacts, like the Assyrian city of Nimrud.

Combined with the Long Night, the Imperial Civil War of 602-622 and the varies "Sieges of Terra" that occurred (there were at least two: one during the Third Interstellar War and one during the Solomani War for Independence), there are plenty of opportunity for information corruption/loss and destruction of historical sites.

Looting: This can be personal, such as when individuals steal items of intrinsic or historical value and either keep them for themselves or sell them to wealthy private collectors. It can also be government-sanctioned, when a more powerful culture takes antiquities from native cultures to "protect" and "better showcase" them. A classic example of this is how Great Britain more or less systematically looted Egypt of most of its historical treasures.

It is not unreasonable to assume that arts and records were lost when Terra was besieged -- either by Imperials wanting to safeguard them, or by seceding Solomani who wanted to keep them out of Imperial hands. They might be in a private collection somewhere, or they might have been lost in a misjump.

Censorship and Information Warfare:  During the lead-up to the Solomani Secession, the Solomani Movement embarked upon a strong -- one might even say "racist" -- propaganda campaign which asserted that they were the superior strain of humaniti and best suited for ruling an empire. As we have seen from our own history, any such propaganda detailing how X culture is superior is almost always accompanied by the removal of cultural elements deemed unsavory or embarassing.

Similarly, the Imperium could have countered this by trying to expose the "shocking, barbaric truth" of the Solomani. Tailored computer viruses and other forms of data warfare were likely used by both sides during the Rim War, leading to the destruction or corruption of information. The actions of the Stuxnet Worm, designed to attack Iran's nuclear centrifuges, are a real-life example.


3) Cultural Assimilation and Drift
There are phrases from Shakespeare and the Bible that permeate our conversation, and yet most people don't know where they come from. How many know that "There is nothing new under the sun" is from Ecclesiastes 1:9 and isn't just something that their parents said?

Let's try something more recent: the last time I saw a rotary telephone was sometime in the 1980s, and yet we still say "dial a number" when we call someone. Given enough time land lines may disappear completely, yet we will likely say "hang up" when we end a call, despite having no handset that requires hanging on the receiver.

My point here is that humans regularly adopt things into their culture without thinking about where they came from. Once they've been added into the lexicon, concepts and phrases stay there for a very long time, being adapted to fit similar contexts when the original situation or event is no more.


4) What This All Means
Unless you have a PC who is an actual historian with skill levels, feel free to misinterpret history if it helps the plot or amuses you. Here are two examples from my own game:
  1. The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service frequently makes reference to what we would consider pop culture -- frequently science fiction and fantasy. From their perspective, naming a ship out of something from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica is just as literary and honorable as NASA naming the first space shuttle Enterprise or the US Navy naming the first nuclear powered submarine after Jules Verne's Nautilus. So if you ever encounter an IISS ship named Thunderbird 3, you ought to know you're dealing with someone who has a respect for the ancient cultural roots of space exploration. 
  2. I decided that in my pantheon of 20th century nihilistic gods, it made sense to add Godzilla to the Cthulhu Mythos. After all, he's a horror from the sea that rises to destroy the works of man... much like Great Cthulhu himself. Mythologically speaking, there's not a lot of difference between the 1920s and the 1950s. I also had some fun with explaining that "The ancient city of To Kyo was ritually destroyed on a regular basis. Likely it was the global version of the sacrificial king: destroying a city to ensure fertility."

When you're playing a story about the future, don't forget that your present is its past... and the past informs the future.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday Gunday: Just Call Me Slugger

Self, I thought, I want to shoot my shotgun today. 

Capital idea, old chum! I replied. But whence shall I discharge my scattergun? The county range doth disallow gauges.

Hmm. That is a good question. [Thinks] You know, I seem to recall that I could shoot at that indoor range if I bought their expensive frangible ammo. And I do need to test this nice Center of Mass Laser that Laserlyte was kind enough to send me...

Yoicks and away, old bean!

Yes, sometimes the voices in my head talk back in a Victorian accent.

Regardless, I went shooting today because 1) I really wanted to and 2) I wasn't able to go on the weekend due to health issues. And I figured "Hey, I already have the Gun Blog Variety Cast article in the bag, so why not just GO already?"

So I went, because there will likely never be a good time to go; just times that are okay which I can, hopefully, turn good through determination and hard work.

I got to the range, bought their ammo ($11 for five shells!) and set up.. only to discover that they'd sold me slugs instead of shot.

Um, excuse me sir, but I specifically said I wanted to pattern my shotgun and you sold me these slugs. Don't you have any shot?

Why no, li'l missy. We ain't got no shot, only slugs. You think them frangible slugs're expensive? You oughtta see frangible shot prices.

Drat. 

Well, I was there, and I'd already bought the slugs, and I'd never shot slugs before, and my heart was set on using my shotgun today, so... ah, heck with it, let's just shoot stuff.

I set the target up at either 25 or 30 feet (there is some disagreement on that; the line painted on the wall said "10 yards" while the position indicator that sent the target downrange said "25 feet" -- regardless, it was at what I'd call "home defense range"), set the center dot of the CoM laser at the illustrated heart of my target, and pulled the trigger.

I am pleased to report that, frangible or not, a 12 gauge in an enclosed shooting alley makes a dramatic KABOOM sound, much like a miniature cannon. (Which is reasonable, really, when you realize that a 12 gauge slug is actually a .73 caliber bullet.)

Shell: 12ga 2.75" Copper-Matrix NTF
Gun: Mossberg 500 with 18.5" barrel
How'd I do?

Boom, heart shot.
Boom, lung.
Boom, other lung.

By this time I was reeling a bit from the recoil -- which, while not as painful as I expected, was still pretty forceful and had rather a lot of muzzle rise -- so the spine and head shots were off by an inch.

Still, the spine shot hit the lung, and the head shot looks like I got him in the cheek or the jaw -- which is pretty damn discouraging despite being non-fatal.

Again, I'd like to point out that I accomplished very nice bullet hits using a laser designed to compensate for the spread of shot pellets, as indicated by the ring of lasers designating "your shot will land in roughly this area."

http://www.laserlyte.com/products/cm-15
It turns out that for a spread designator, that center dot is pretty bang-on accurate for slugs

(A full review of the Laserlyte Center of Mass laser will come later.)

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #42

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
Adam and Sean bring you another fun filled episode of The Gun Blog Variety Cast!
  • Erin Palette talks summer water preparedness.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses the FIFA scandal.
  • Special Guest Kelly Grayson tells us about this one time he found himself laying on the local mortuary's embalming table.
  • Barron B. reminds us that you never have enough time to do something right, but you always have time to do it over,
  • And Weer'd catches anti-gunner Joan Peterson whining about a Minnesota auto dealer's gun giveaway.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share with a friend!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Quote of the Year: Jenny Everywhere (Caitlyn Jenner pt 3)

Jenny Everywhere left a profound and beautiful essay in reply to the first follow-up to this series, and it was so eloquent that it deserves its own post. Everything below this is her work; I've simply done some formatting to turn it from a comment to a blog post.

Ms. Everywhere wrote:

I almost never quote the Bible. My tenure as a born-again Christian (yes, I was!) only lasted a year or so, and had the benefit of being at an MCC church, among other GLBT persons, and my then girlfriend with me. It was a comfort in a very dark time, and when it was over, it was over. But I had a thought back then, which I have returned to from time to time.

1 Peter 1:24-25 says:
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The issue of the transgendered is a dichotomy -- the spirit and the flesh. Flesh is as grass. It is as a beast, and Man has the dominion over the beasts. The soul, however, is directly the work of the Almighty, and is not that which may be marred by the works of others. 

A soul may be lost or cherished by its own free will, but the Creator does not make a marred soul. The person is as the SOUL determines. Not as the flesh determines. 

The soul is the light of God within the temple. 
The body IS the temple. 
You ARE a soul. You merely HAVE a body.

When the roof of the church is broken by a falling tree, do you refuse to repair it, because it is the roof of the House of the Lord, and may not be altered? Of course not. The congregation holds Bingo nights and Carnivals, and passes the plate so as to gain the funds to fix it! What is unchanging and cannot be altered is the soul within the church, shared amongst the congregation.

So when a person believes, in their heart of hearts, that their soul does not match the structure of the temple, that something is awry, do we claim the soul is mistaken, and refuse to fix the temple? Or do we do what must be done so that the soul shines out strong and secure? 

You are a soul. You merely HAVE a body.
 Do we not fix the roof?

Over the past decades, we have polluted our world with all sorts of things. PCB's, vinyl softening agents, estrogen washed into rivers and lakes from sewage treatment plants, the remains of birth control pills peed into the water supply, and most importantly, drugs given during the 50's and 60's that were intended to prevent miscarriages. Those drugs were potent estrogenic compounds, and the dosages were little understood, and were thus heroic in size. They were usually given partly into the first trimester, right when the body might decide a developing child wasn't quite right and spontaneously decide to try again. I'm of the mind that the soul is not wasted, but simply held until such a time as "again" comes around, and is once again placed where it should be in those cases. And if strong drugs prevent the miscarriage, then what effect might they have?

They might prevent the second testosterone wash in a male fetus. The first wash causes the body to differentiate in keeping with a Y chromosome, but the second patterns the brain. If that second wash from the mother's body is overshadowed by an extremely intense dose of estrogen, might it prevent the second wash from repatterning the brain -- which, like the body, starts in the female pattern -- from finishing the Y-chromosome's work? Between drugs and estrogenic compounds of all sorts as environmental toxins, it's little wonder it happens all too often! We have a storm, blowing in the populace, sending trees crashing into the roofs of some of the churches!

And all too many of the Creator's ministers are telling us not to fix the roof, but to dim the lights inside so we cannot see the dripping of the water and the groaning of the rafters. We are told the soul must continue to suffer, so the body is preserved -- no matter how much the soul hurts, and the person cries.


I cannot see that as anything but cruelty.


I have known and dearly loved many transgendered persons, both M2F and F2M, and cannot bring myself to believe that their souls are all wrong, and we must instead believe flawed bodies -- though all flesh is as grass, and withereth.

Friday, June 5, 2015

SHTFriday: Charging Cables

Today at Blue Collar Prepping, I review a couple of nifty cables with which you can charge your electronic devices. Give the article a look.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Hypothetical Review of the Supergirl Pilot

[author's note: the following critique is entirely hypothetical in nature, as the series premiere of Supergirl has not yet aired, and the leaked pilot is only available via less-than-legitimate means. The author in no way supports illegitimate ways of obtaining entertainment material, and strongly recommends you purchase an overpriced cable subscription from your local cable company. They need the money, after all. That said.. hypothetical spoiler warning]

I am not a fan of Superman. He really bores the hell out of me, and is really only interesting to me when he's Batman's punching bag. So how do you go about making Superman interesting to someone like me?

Question asked and answered: make her an awkward, insecure twenty-something who is completely out of practice with her powers.

When I saw the six minute long trailer for the series, I was not hopeful. It played like a bad rom-com with superheroes. Like Sex and the City or Ally McBeal with a cape... not helped by the appearance of Callista Flockheart.
Superdoof is best doof
Now that I've... hypothetically seen it. I'm happy to say that it's... really not that bad. Given that it's a CBS property, it borrows some elements from its CW cousins, Arrow and Flash. The light tone and adorably nerdy protagonist strongly echo Grant Gustin's Flash, and the voiceover “My name is..” introductory monologue returns from the two related series. It's got that DC spirit that's worked so well on television so far. The MCU juggernaut may rule the big-screen, but (despite SHIELD and Daredevil), DC still has television locked down, and I could imagine Kara joining Ollie and Barry for a 'super' crossover (I'm so sorry).

The episode's golden moment comes when Kara sees a plane with a failing engine that happens to be carrying her adopted sister, and struggles momentarily to remember how to fly before shooting up into the sky with a beautiful camera shot panning around her as she chases after the plane and carries it to a safe landing through a suspension bridge and into a river before climbing aboard the wing in view of cameraphones, news choppers, and lots of witnesses. Following up with Kara (in sweats, on her sofa) squeeing over seeing herself on the news adds the human touch missing from the first appearance of Superman.

It's got some delightfully subversive moments, too, such as Kara's reacting poorly to her boss Kat (Ms Flockheart) dubbing her “Supergirl,” suggesting it's not very 'feminist.' Kat then dresses her down beautifully. “I'm a girl, and I'm beautiful and powerful and successful. If there's a problem with SuperGIRL, maybe the problem's with you,” to paraphrase. Another moment later on when the big bad of the episode underestimates her because she's a woman (alien from a literal patriarchal society), allowing her to sucker punch him with heat vision.

She walks like she's got some steel in her spine when she's on the clock.

Aside from a few minor adaptation changes, the pilot so far hasn't strayed too far from established Super-lore. The one most noticeable exception is that now Jimmy Olson is no longer a scrawny excitable ginger, but a charismatic hunky black man. And possibly Supergirl's love interest. Which... I'm okay with. I like the actor. He does good work with the role.

There's some dodgy CGI. Some corny dialogue. A few head-slapping choices of musical scoring. The comedy best friend is annoying, and I'm not hopeful that he'll grow on us like Foggy Nelson did over in Daredevil. But overall, the pilot is nowhere near as bad as the six-minute first-look trailer made me worry it would be. Ironically, there's a human element to Kara Zor-El that almost every depiction of Superman so far has been lacking, and I think that might be enough to make the show worth watching.  

Follow-up to last post (Caitlyn Jenner part 2)

There's a lovely article at the Washington Post titled "For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner".  Go read the whole thing, but here's a taste:
What I do know is insulting transgendered people by mocking them does not gain us a hearing for the gospel. Mockery is not a characteristic of Jesus.

We do not have to understand the situation to love those in it. We do not have to understand why some have gender reassignment surgery to love those who have had it. We do not have approve of abortion to love the woman who had one or love her boyfriend who, under threat of abandonment, coerced the woman into having the procedure. We do not have to approve of greed to love the businessman who made a fortune lying to customers. We do not have to approve of pride to love each other when set ourselves above the rest.
This post got me to thinking, and it gave me an excellent way to handle people who claim to be Christian and yet are saying Ms. Jenner has committed a terrible sin because God doesn't make mistakes.

"Jesus was a friend of whores, thieves, lepers and tax collectors. He loved them. How do you think he would refer to Jenner -- as Bruce or as Caitlyn?  Remember, this is the same man who saved a caught-in-the-act adulteress from being executed by saying 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'."

If these people then say "Well, Jesus would just heal Bruce so he'd have no desire to be a women," then you go "Ah, so Jesus would want transgendered people to be at ease with themselves. Since you aren't Jesus and you can't heal with a touch, tell me how you would fulfill your Christlike duty to put Jenner at ease? Wouldn't that involve the very simple action of calling her Caitlyn?"

I'm going to use this the next chance I get.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

L'affaire du Jenner

I've been trying to stay out of this, I really have. I'm of the belief that whatever Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner does with her life is none of my business. Obviously, I am quite proud of her for having the courage to confront this difficult decision and go through with it in the face what is certainly public disapproval and private familial strife, but since I am neither related to Ms. Jenner nor sleeping with her, it doesn't affect me one whit. Therefore, why should I comment on it?

There's a saying on the Internet that, I think, originated with YouTube: Never read the comments. Sadly, I read the comments -- mainly because media, both traditional and social, has made L'affaire du Jenner inescapable -- and they raised my blood pressure enough that now I have to vent my spleen in order to calm down enough in order to sleep.

So just to clarify, let me explicitly state that the blog post is not aimed at Ms. Jenner, but at the commenters and the media in general. 

I) The only reason this is getting media traction is because it happened to a celebrity. 
"How many people go through similar things and don't get splashed all over the front page of everydamnedthing?" -- Linoge
Look, I get that our culture celebrates celebrity in an obsessive and unhealthy fashion, but this media circus is downright unseemly. As I said above, this ought to be none of our business. Instead, everything is "Transgender Jenner and the Kardashians" all the time now, and from my perspective there seem to be two simultaneous yet conflicting messages going out:
  1. This is now perfectly normal in our society, and we ought to accept her in her chosen identity. 
  2. HEY EVERYONE LOOK AT THIS SCANDAL!!!
I don't see how these two concepts can logically co-exist within the same brain. Either gender transition is no longer scandalous -- in which case, why all the media attention? -- or it actually IS an issue, no matter how hard we try or how often we say it isn't. And if that's the case, why are we talking about the transgendered person when we should be talking about the issue of gender change instead?

I'm of the belief that even though we as a society say gender change is no longer a scandal, our behavior about this proves that it is, in fact, a very juicy bit of gossip. We can, and should, make it less of a big deal by simply refusing to gawk about it.

Our society will accept gender change as normal (albeit uncommon and unusual) the moment that it receives exactly the same attention as mixed-race marriages.


II) The ridiculous "God doesn't make mistakes, and Jenner's body was made perfectly in God's image, so this is an abomination" argument. 

I'm going to give this line of thought all the respect it deserves by this simple logical exercise.

Have you, at any point in time:
  • Gotten eyeglasses?
  • Gotten something pierced?
  • Had an operation for something that isn't an injury (like a heart murmur)?
  • Taken medication for something congenital (like diabetes)?
  • Otherwise received treatment for a birth defect?
You have? Then shut up. God made you "perfectly", and yet you had the gall to seek medical treatment to improve your quality of life. That makes you either a hypocrite or a blasphemer.
If you call yourself Christian, don't presume you know better than anyone else how God intended to make someone. You don't. If you believe God has a plan, don't presume you know what His plan for another person is. You don't. -- Sabra Morse Onstott

III) The exclusionary "He can call himself whatever he wants, he will NEVER be a woman" argument. 

This "argument" is usually followed up with appeals to the shared experience of the sisterhood, like this:
Their understanding of womanhood is extremely superficial. They will never be women. They will never even come close. And to say that they are seems to disrespect the reality of womanhood... They will never know what it is to have PMS, to have cramps, and to bleed...ahem...every single month. To think that their little flesh costumes or even their synthetic hormones can simulate womanhood is to reduce women to bodies.
So in other words, you have to earn gender through gender-specific pain.

Now some of you may be nodding your heads in agreement at this, so let me illustrate, by means of analogy, why this is a poor argument:
Jose wants to become an American citizen. All his life he has seen pictures of how wonderful and sumptuous it is in the United States, compared to how poor he is in Mexico. But rather than being angry at Americans for having what he lacks, he instead decides that he, too, will become an American and enjoy everything that this country has to offer. He works very hard to get an immigration visa, and then a green card, and then seek citizenship.
However, the official at the Immigration and Naturalization Service says "I'm sorry, Jose, but your understanding of American-ness is extremely superficial. You will never truly be an American. You will never even come close. To think that you will is to disrespect every natural-born American. You will never know what it is truly like to be born in this country, to struggle with our culture. To think that a little ceremony and a little piece of paper can make you truly American is to reduce citizenship to a simple bureaucratic entry."
I really hesitate to use the P-word, but this sentiment reeks of exclusionary privilege. The only way to be something is to win the genetic lottery? Well then, if you're born poor I guess you ought never to try to better your situation, because you'll never truly be anything other than a poor person masquerading as someone with money. And if you're born stupid... oh.


IV) The incredibly hateful "This is a mockery of womanhood and is misogyny" argument. 

This is... oh my lord, every time I read this I hear a rushing in my ears and I get lightheaded:
Even if they managed to succeed at replicating every single body part - the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the hormones, fertility, periods - everything, they still would never know what it is to be a real woman (and being a real woman isn't always as glamorous as they want to believe). And their "female envy," I believe, is a form of misogyny. It objectifies women because it reduces them to bodies. The whole thing is a grave failure to appreciate womanhood for what it truly is.... I think they need help for not only their hatred of women, but also their hatred of their own bodies. He's not a hero, he's not brave; he's a rich guy with a psychological disorder. That the media glorifies this doesn't make it right.
There are two discrete concepts here, and I'm going to destroy the easiest one first.

Misogyny
Just to be clear about what is being said here, the contention is that they hate women so much that they want to become them. Which is why so many members of the KKK marry Jews, Hispanics and African-Americans, am I right?  And this is why anti-gun zealot Jean Peterson is a member of the NRA, yes? I mean, it's logical that the first thing you do when you hate something is that you try become exactly like that thing you hate in every possible way, including ways that are permanent and irreversible.

No?

Okay then.

Mockery of Women
So here we have someone who so truly wants to become a woman that she legally changes her name, gets surgery, and generally spends time, money and effort to look and sound and act feminine.

I just have to wonder if the women making the "mockery of women" argument (and this seems to be an exclusively female thing, as I've yet to see a man take this approach) are all bastions of femininity who always wear skirts and heels and makeup, always defer to their husbands like the Bible says, and are always heterosexual.

What's that, you say?  Some of these women wear trousers?  They not only don't wear makeup, but some of them actually refuse to shave their legs and armpits? They have careers and strong opinions and get divorces?  Some of them actually have sex with other women?

Why, clearly these women are making a mockery of men by acting like men! They need to be pointed out and shunned until they act in properly feminine ways, because only women are allowed to act feminine and only men are allowed to act masculine!

Oh, it doesn't work like that, you say? Women can wear pants and choose not to shave and sleep with whomever they want and make their own decisions, and still be feminine? And this behavior isn't mocking men?

Then the reverse of that argument doesn't work like that, either. You cannot have it both ways.


V) In Conclusion
3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -- Matthew 7:3-5, New King James Version (NKJV)


Update #1:  6/4/15
(This was originally a separate follow-up post, but I also wanted it included here for completeness' sake.)
There's a lovely article at the Washington Post titled "For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner".  Go read the whole thing, but here's a taste:
What I do know is insulting transgendered people by mocking them does not gain us a hearing for the gospel. Mockery is not a characteristic of Jesus.

We do not have to understand the situation to love those in it. We do not have to understand why some have gender reassignment surgery to love those who have had it. We do not have approve of abortion to love the woman who had one or love her boyfriend who, under threat of abandonment, coerced the woman into having the procedure. We do not have to approve of greed to love the businessman who made a fortune lying to customers. We do not have to approve of pride to love each other when set ourselves above the rest.
This post got me to thinking, and it gave me an excellent way to handle people who claim to be Christian and yet are saying Ms. Jenner has committed a terrible sin because God doesn't make mistakes.

"Jesus was a friend of whores, thieves, lepers and tax collectors. He loved them. How do you think he would refer to Jenner -- as Bruce or as Caitlyn?  Remember, this is the same man who saved a caught-in-the-act adulteress from being executed by saying 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone'."

If these people then say "Well, Jesus would just heal Bruce so he'd have no desire to be a women," then you go "Ah, so Jesus would want transgendered people to be at ease with themselves. Since you aren't Jesus and you can't heal with a touch, tell me how you would fulfill your Christlike duty to put Jenner at ease? Wouldn't that involve the very simple action of calling her Caitlyn?"

I'm going to use this the next chance I get.


Update #2: 6/7/15
(Also its own post, included for completeness.)
Jenny Everywhere left a profound and beautiful essay in reply to the first follow-up to this article, and it was so eloquent that it deserves its own post. Everything below this is her work; I've simply done some formatting to turn it from a comment to a blog post.

Ms. Everywhere wrote:

I almost never quote the Bible. My tenure as a born-again Christian (yes, I was!) only lasted a year or so, and had the benefit of being at an MCC church, among other GLBT persons, and my then girlfriend with me. It was a comfort in a very dark time, and when it was over, it was over. But I had a thought back then, which I have returned to from time to time.

1 Peter 1:24-25 says:
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The issue of the transgendered is a dichotomy -- the spirit and the flesh. Flesh is as grass. It is as a beast, and Man has the dominion over the beasts. The soul, however, is directly the work of the Almighty, and is not that which may be marred by the works of others. 

A soul may be lost or cherished by its own free will, but the Creator does not make a marred soul. The person is as the SOUL determines. Not as the flesh determines. 

The soul is the light of God within the temple. 
The body IS the temple. 
You ARE a soul. You merely HAVE a body.

When the roof of the church is broken by a falling tree, do you refuse to repair it, because it is the roof of the House of the Lord, and may not be altered? Of course not. The congregation holds Bingo nights and Carnivals, and passes the plate so as to gain the funds to fix it! What is unchanging and cannot be altered is the soul within the church, shared amongst the congregation.

So when a person believes, in their heart of hearts, that their soul does not match the structure of the temple, that something is awry, do we claim the soul is mistaken, and refuse to fix the temple? Or do we do what must be done so that the soul shines out strong and secure? 

You are a soul. You merely HAVE a body.
 Do we not fix the roof?

Over the past decades, we have polluted our world with all sorts of things. PCB's, vinyl softening agents, estrogen washed into rivers and lakes from sewage treatment plants, the remains of birth control pills peed into the water supply, and most importantly, drugs given during the 50's and 60's that were intended to prevent miscarriages. Those drugs were potent estrogenic compounds, and the dosages were little understood, and were thus heroic in size. They were usually given partly into the first trimester, right when the body might decide a developing child wasn't quite right and spontaneously decide to try again. I'm of the mind that the soul is not wasted, but simply held until such a time as "again" comes around, and is once again placed where it should be in those cases. And if strong drugs prevent the miscarriage, then what effect might they have?

They might prevent the second testosterone wash in a male fetus. The first wash causes the body to differentiate in keeping with a Y chromosome, but the second patterns the brain. If that second wash from the mother's body is overshadowed by an extremely intense dose of estrogen, might it prevent the second wash from repatterning the brain -- which, like the body, starts in the female pattern -- from finishing the Y-chromosome's work? Between drugs and estrogenic compounds of all sorts as environmental toxins, it's little wonder it happens all too often! We have a storm, blowing in the populace, sending trees crashing into the roofs of some of the churches!

And all too many of the Creator's ministers are telling us not to fix the roof, but to dim the lights inside so we cannot see the dripping of the water and the groaning of the rafters. We are told the soul must continue to suffer, so the body is preserved -- no matter how much the soul hurts, and the person cries.


I cannot see that as anything but cruelty.


I have known and dearly loved many transgendered persons, both M2F and F2M, and cannot bring myself to believe that their souls are all wrong, and we must instead believe flawed bodies -- though all flesh is as grass, and withereth.

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