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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One Aim: Safety For Everyone!

Operation Blazing Sword, in cooperation with the Central Florida Chapter of the Pink Pistols, is pleased to announce a FREE community seminar called "One Aim: Safety For Everyone!"

The seminar will begin with First Responders explaining what skills and training they can offer the community, such as First Aid and CPR classes, that will be helpful in any emergency situation. Keynote speakers Mr. Rommel Scalf and Mr. Steve Burnette will then give a 90 minute presentation titled “Active Shooter Survival Techniques”.

The seminar will be held on Saturday, June 17th, at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, FL and begins at 1 pm.

We expect seats to fill up rapidly, so email fccwp@fccwp.org and make your reservation today!


Update

Apparently we are now at the time of year in Florida when we have thunderstorms every afternoon.

This is relevant because due to my allergies I have constant sinus congestion, which means that every time the atmospheric pressure changes (such as, y'know, when a storm front moves in or out) the pressure inside my skull tries to equalize but can't, which results in painful headaches.

This ought to offer an explanation for my lack of posting over the last few days. Also, ow.

I'm going to try to write some catch-up posts while I'm feeling well enough to think. The first one is a pretty big Operation Blazing Sword announcement that deserves its own entry.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #144 - The Gross






"A dozen, a gross, and a score,
Plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Is nine squared and not a bit more."

-- Leigh Mercer, wordplay master and recreational mathematician (1948)
  • Do you get Holster Funk? Beth tells you how to avoid it while carrying in the hot, humid South.
  • Sell stolen guns and hold people at gunpoint? Momma might have something to say about that. Who got shot? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment this week.
  • They say “Choose your friends well, for your enemies will choose you.” Miguel shines a bright light on those who have chosen us, and what he sees will shock you.
  • In the Main Topic we welcome Special Guest Gail Pepin of the Massad Ayoob Group and the Pro Arms Podcast.
  • How do you answer when people ask you "Just how many guns do you really need?" Two-Gun Tiffany gives us her answer.
  • After last week's fungal infection segment, Erin follows up with some creams and ointments that every prepper should have.
  • A State legislator opens a stand to sell lemonade, cookies... and an AK-47, because he objects to citizens selling their property without government permission. Weer'd points and laughs.
  • And our plug of the week is for Carolina Ceramic Coatings.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:

Useful Creams and Ointments
Last week’s segment about athlete’s foot was unexpectedly popular! I received many replies about it, specifically in terms of home remedies. More than one listener reported that urinating on their feet in the shower cured their athlete’s foot. Other popular suggestions were soaking the feet in vinegar, or a 50/50 solution of tea tree oil and water, or my personal favorite because it didn’t require expensive components, "one tablespoon bleach to a half gallon of warm water for 15 minutes. Then rubbing the feet with olive oil after drying." I’m going to have to try that last one.

Also, I want to give a shout-out to listener Steven Bonaparte, who asked me if I meant Gold Bond medicated body powder, or if there was a special non-medicated version I was talking about. The answer of course is “I screwed up; I meant medicated. There is however an extra-strength version if you want that -- although not in handy travel size -- but there is no non-medicated version. Sorry! I derped!”

So on to today’s topic. I’ve already talked about how necessary it is to have body powder and antifungal cream in a bug out or get home bag, but there are other creams and ointments and deserve a place in your kit. Since we’re already talking about itchy feet, the logical place to begin is with an anti-itch cream. I like Cortisone-10 Maximum Strength, because it tames the itch of my athlete’s foot when the antifungal isn’t enough, but any 1% hydrocortisone cream will do. You can find it in any supermarket or drug store for around $5.

Itching isn’t the only kind of pain out there, and you really don’t want wounds to get infected in an emergency, so you’ll also want a combination pain relief and antibiotic ointment. I really like Neosporin with pain relief, which you can get for around $7 at any supermarket, but the words you’re looking for are “triple antibiotic” and “pain relief.” I know from personal experience that this works on things like rashes and sun burns.

But what if you have pain in the mouth? Not to worry, any 20% Benzocaine oral pain reliever will work. Not only will it soothe cold sores and fever blisters, but it will also help if you have a pain in your tooth and you can’t make it to the dentist immediately. A half ounce tube costs around $6, and you can get it from any supermarket. Sensing a pattern here?

Speaking of cold sores - soothing the pain is great, but when you get an outbreak, those little bastards will just NOT go away. I’ve found that the best way to get rid of them is to use Herpecin L, which not only removes the discomfort but also speeds the healing. It also serves as 30 SPF sunblock. A tube costs around $4 and you can get it in the medicine aisle.

All right, you’re all set for skin pain, but what about deep muscle and joint pain? Get your cheap jokes ready because I’m about to recommend BEN GAY. Yes, it’s stinky, and yes, it has a silly name, but when you’ve got an ache deep inside you, nothing hits the spot like Ultra Strength Ben Gay and the pleasant burn that hurts so good. There are probably other good pain relievers out there, but I just like saying BEN GAY. A 4-ounce tube costs $6 and, again, can be found at the supermarket.

Finally, keep an eye on your medications, especially if you keep them in the car where it’s hot. When they reach their expiration date, don’t throw them away; just cycle them out of your bug out or get home bag and put them in the medicine cabinet where they will be used soon. Medicines within a year or two of their expiration date aren’t bad; they’re just less effective. So keep the effective stuff in your kit for an emergency!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Doctor Who: Down The Rabbit Hole

There is seriously no way I can discuss this episode without going into spoiler territory. This is the only warning you get. Anything past here and you risk spoilers. If you want the non-spoiler version, here it is: This episode is good. Very good. And you should go watch it, right now.

Elon Musk has posited before that there's a very good chance that we're all living in a highly sophisticated simulation during a talk. I've included an embedded link to a relevant video below, as the themes of this episode tie very closely into that theory. The misdirection and slight visual cues this episode uses to link that theory and give us clues begin with the opening title and continue at strategic points throughout the episode, until the moment where (with some great deal of satisfaction on my part) Narwhal is literally removed from existence. I suppose you could say that this is the first episode in which he doesn't appear at all, technically speaking. Which also explains why he was so much less annoying than usual.



Also, a tip of the hat to Stephen Moffat, who has finally justified the Sonic Sunglasses in my mind. In the Doctor's current blind state, the sunglasses provide him some form of mobility and sense, not quite on par with, say, Daredevil, but definitely in the same vein, as well as the perfect Chekhov's gun in the form of an electronic recording to send to himself. Well, his real self. Which we see happen in the beginning, but the interruption of the title sequence acts as a misdirection to pull our attention away from the giant EXTREMIS display.

Being a gamer myself, I was fascinated by this episode, and the usage of Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario Bros as analogy to explain to Bill what's going on was quite apt. Subroutines advanced enough to realize that they are in fact subroutines and not flesh and blood rebel against the simulation and "glitch." Having played quite a few games in my lifetime, I've seen a number of instances where an artificial intelligence for an non-player character will act in a manner seemingly outside of its programming. One can't help but wonder if it's some crude version of this happening. As for the Veritas itself, can this be the explanation of game-breaking bugs? An NPC realizing during the coding process that it's not real and sabotaging the code to the point that the game cannot be completed?

Harry Potter is blasphemy. Twelve said so.
This episode was very clever. It's full of little callbacks, references, visual cues, red herrings, and other such things that are meant to lead you to the conclusion while at the same time leading you away from it. It was the first time this year I wasn't just watching and was actively trying to figure out what was going on. There's occasionally digital artifacting that happens after the Doctor activates the Extremis file. The Pope traveling in person, which the Doctor remarks upon. Bill's outfit, as seen above, actually being modern and tasteful. Someone in the wardrobe department really hates her, as she's back in an ugly sweater by the end of the episode. The "portals" which are not unlike the windows Madame Kovarian uses to spy on Amy's flesh avatar. CERN somehow having a stockpile of Looney Toons dynamite on hand. The resolution also was quite satisfying, as even a copy of the Doctor ends up being clever enough to overcome his programming and sabotage the simulation enough to send a warning to his real-world counterpart, even if it's more evidence of how stultifyingly arrogant and confident in himself that he is.

Additionally, the monsters revealed in this episode may be alien, but they look like proper zombies, which is refreshing after the disappointment of the zombies in space of last week's episode, and they're promising as a series arc villain. Anyone else noticing that Bill is making quite the habit of dying, though? She's going to give Rory a run for his money if she keeps this up.

The vault's secret has been revealed. Missy, under guard for one thousand years, as per the Doctor's oath to the executioners, as shown in the flashbacks. How long has he been guarding it? That's what we're unsure of at this point. We know who is in the vault, and why she's there. What we don't know is how much longer she'll be there, and what will happen when she's out. The appearance of John Simm's Master will surely tie into that.

We all have that one friend we can't help but forgive. 
This one is a definite must-watch. The first definite must-watch of the season. I am outright impressed, and I urge you to watch this episode, and if you already have, watch it again with a more critical eye and foreknowledge. You'll see the clues that are leading you both on and off the path and just how well-crafted this one was.

Also, for the record, Penny is most certainly *not* out of Bill's league. If anything, it's the other way around.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gotham Rain: Chapter 2

     Harley Quinn sits alone in a cell in the Extreme Incarceration wing of Arkham Asylum, sobbing quietly to herself, as she has for the past several hours.

Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I got here. Well, there's a good story behind it. I had the perfect plan: Draw the Bat into the nuttiest part of the nut hatch and wear him down with the adorably violent uncontrollable psychopaths before treating him to a nice dose of the electric floor. Quite rudely, he managed to make it through all the thugs I had with me without so much of a singe on his bat-patootie. Banged my head against a railing while he was at it, and tricked me into telling him where Mister J was, too. And... and, uh. Mister J... well, he wasn't too happy I let him down. I'm off the guest list. It's okay, though. I know he still cares. 


*record scratch* *freeze frame*
     There's a bruise on Harley's head and her wrist is strained from when Batman captured her and stuck her in the cell, but she's otherwise in one piece. With the Asylum under Joker's control, no one's been in Extreme Incarceration since the Bat left her in the cell. No one awake, at any point. She's pretty sure at least one of those guys that got stuck on the electric floor when she turned off the safeties is dead. She's not sure whether she's more upset that one of her mooks hasn't woken up or at how the Bat was so dismissive of her.

     Contrary to appearance, Harley is a very smart woman, smart enough to have earned a doctorate and an internship at Arkham Asylum. It's where she met him, where she found the new direction of her life, and what she thinks is true love. And it infuriates her to no end that even despite having met him then, lab coat and glasses and all, the Bat still underestimates her. Here, though, Harley sees no way out. Extreme Incarceration is where they put people they really don't want getting out.

     There have been noises since she was locked up. A few pretty significant explosions, and she's heard something rumbling in the walls. Something's going on outside, and she can only hope that means Joker's taken out the Bat. This is different, though; Harley's head perks up as she hears a door hiss open and a wet thump as something hits the floor. She presses her face to the bars of the cell and catches a glimpse of red and green near the doors.

    "Ivy? Ivy, is that you? Wow, babe, you don't look so good," Harley calls out, straining between the bars to get a better look.

     Ivy's voice is weak, raspy, the sound you make when you rub two dry pieces of wood together when she responds, "Quinn. Hold still. We have to get out of here. Batman's taken down the Joker and the police are swarming the island." She strains visibly, making it to her knees. She grasps one of the bars of the cell, and vines protrude from her arm, wrapping around the gap where the bars meet. Tiny strands of plant material force their way into the gap, and the bars slowly open, the hydraulics whining against the strain. Harley slips through the tiny gap Ivy created, and Ivy collapses in exhaustion.

Returning the favour
     "Pammy, baby, what'd he do to you? That awful Bat. He banged me up pretty bad, too," Harley says, as she catches Ivy before she hits the floor. She slips under one of Ivy's arms and lifts her, and the two begin to stagger towards the exit.

     "Not... not Batman. Joker... Joker pumped me full of that Titan trash. I don't feel so good, Harl..." Ivy manages before passing out. Harley clutches the vines on her arms and lifts her over her shoulder, feeling a swell of conflict passing through her. Mister J wouldn't hurt Ivy, she thinks to herself. Ivy's been one of the only people that's been nice to her, nicer even than... her mind won't let her finish that thought. He wouldn't hurt Ivy, and he only hurt me because I let him down. I didn't finish off the Bat, so I had it coming.

     She'll make it right, though. She has to. She'll make it right and he'll take her back and everything will be fine. She's just gotta get out of the Asylum first and back to the City.

     Then back to Mister J, so I can make this right. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Update on the Onstotts

Sabra has written about her experience here.

Big thanks to everyone who has donated to their fundraiser!



Here's an updated needs list:
  • curtains
  • flatware
  • pots & pans (pref. stainless steel, but they aren't going to be picky)
  • school supplies (not much, but Sabra does homeschool Marie year-round pretty much)
  • books; a fire hose went in through the window where the book case was, and there was heavy smoke damage there as well (Sabra & the kids read mostly sci-fi/fantasy; anything used is great -- adult level or stuff along the lines of Dork Diaries for Esther and super simple beginner books for Marie)
  • stuffed puppies, kitties, and bunnies (just a few)
  • yarn 
  • cloth diapers (probably definitely a need at this point)

They've had several offers of clothes and they think everyone but Lewis and maybe Erik are taken care of.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Onstott's home just burned down

If it weren't for bad luck, I think that the Onstott family wouldn't have any luck at all.

From Sabra's Facebook page:
Do you ever say to yourself "The only way shit could be worse would be if it was literally on fire?"

I'm gonna have to find a new one.

WE ARE ALL JUST FINE. Not even stinky.
Paraphrasing from Sabra's various FB status updates:
Yesterday, the stove caught fire - AGAIN - to the point where we could not smother it as we had in the past. We GTFO and called 911. (For the record, when the house is on fire, I get the kids out and then grab the computers and Psalm's ashes.)
The good news is that everyone is fine and we saved the 100% irreplaceable stuff. The bad news is that the trailer is uninhabitable and that the firefighters told us we shouldn't take our clothes because the carbon from the smoke won't wash out. We're currently staying at a hotel provided by the Red Cross, and we're going to move into the trailer next door as soon as the power gets turned on.
Sabra's husband Erik even gave in to my constant nagging and blogged about it:
I wouldn’t normally do this, but…

Gonna make this quick & dirty.

I got a text from Sabra yesterday afternoon saying a fire had started in the kitchen. The fire was contained to there, and everyone’s OK. We were able to secure another place from our landlord, and Sabra got all our electronics out and items of sentimental value…

…but there was a lot of smoke damage and the house is uninhabitable right now. Because of the smoke damage, all of our clothes are lost, as are all of the kids’ stuffed toys and other things, as well as all our furniture — beds, everything. The lovely and gracious Erin Palette has set up a fundraiser for us. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.
Like the man said, I started a YouCaring page for them. Please donate what you can; feeding and clothing six kids and two adults is a major undertaking when you're starting from scratch.


If you can't donate money but you have spare clothes or housewares, here is what they need:
  • queen sized bedding 
  • twin sized bedding 
    • (we'll need beds too, but I am going to contact Catholic charities for help there) 
  • curtains 
  • flatware 
  • plates 
  • pots & pans (pref. stainless steel, but I'm not going to be picky) 
  • school supplies (not much, but I do homeschool Marie year-round pretty much) 
  • French press or percolator 
  • slow cooker 
  • baking stuff -- cookie sheets, baking dishes, etc -- I'm not confident enough to take anything from the kitchen since that was exactly where the fire was 
  • books (a fire hose went in through the window where the book case was, and there was heavy smoke damage there as well) 
  • stuffed puppies, kitties, and bunnies (just a few)
They might need:
  • yarn 
  • cloth diapers (flats, prefolds, covers, pockets, whatever you might have) 
  • random baby toys (most of his stuff was in my room, which took the brunt of things)
    Clothing sizes:
    • Erik: bottoms are size 36; tops size L 
    • Sabra: size 22/3X bottoms, 3X tops (I don't wanna be picky, but please no button downs as they don't close properly over my chest); bra is 42K/HH (HH is British) 
    • Bobbie: bottoms anywhere from a 4 to an 8; mostly small tops, but she can wear a few mediums too; she's femme (bra size is 34D) 
    • Lewis: men's M in loose shorts and tops; juniors women's 13 pants 
    • Esther: girls' 10/12 bottoms, 8/10/12 tops, kids' L; she would really like dresses 
    • Marie: girls' 6 NOT slim fit (because she's got a booty), girls' 4/6 tops, girls' S dresses 
    • Doug: boys' 3T bottoms; girls' 4 bottoms (these actually fit him better); boys' 4 bottoms ONLY if they have adjustable waistband; 3T to 5T tops work fine 
    • Duncan: 18 or 24 months; 12M tops if they're big
      Goodwill gift cards would be welcome since there is one very close to them.

      If you want to mail something, their mailing address is 6725 Walzem #34, San Antonio, TX 78239.

      Play us out, Sabra?
      Thanks for the well wishes and offers of help. Love all of you.
      Couldn't have said it better myself. 

      Monday, May 15, 2017

      Operation Blazing Sword featured in Haaretz

      Last month I was interviewed by a reporter from Haaretz, which I'm told is "Israel's New York Times".

      The article was published this past weekend - in Hebrew. If you don't speak Hebrew and/or you don't want to subscribe to read the article in Haaretz, an English translation is here.

      Here's a bit of funny based on Google's translation of the Hebrew before it was hidden behind the paywall:
      My reaction was "Well of COURSE I kissed my concealed weapon permit when I received it in the mail - didn't we all? - but it's not like I make a HABIT of it or anything."

      Fortunately, the writer of the article saw my post and emailed me with this explanation:
      I saw that you posted it on Facebook, and people Google translated it in hilarious ways (e.g. since Hebrew has no vowels, the words "to kiss" and "for a gun" are written identically but pronounced differently, and a Hebrew speaker derives the meaning from the context). 
      I seem to be collecting odd titled. "Trans Woman Kissing a License" is one of my favorites, probably because it sounds like the title of a French impressionist painting.

      Sunday, May 14, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #143 - Fungi Aren't Fun, Guys

      Soothe that itching and burning for knowledge with the cool, creamy salve of GunBlog VarietyCast Radio.
      • Following up on last week's "Career Day" segment, Beth brings her son on the show to talk about the unfairness of the school letting a police officer talk about guns, but not his mommy.
      • A father of three was shot and killed in Raleigh. Why? Sean looks to see if there's more to this story.
      • Barron is on assignment this week.
      • Miguel looks at the vast difference in the size of pro-gun and anti-gun organizations, which prompts him to ask his legislators "Why are you so afraid of Mom's Demand?"
      • In the Main Topic we welcome Special Guest Keith Pantaleon, who also got to be a special guest of the State of New Jersey for the high crime of possessing a firearm while black.
      • Tiffany ran into Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter at the NRA Annual Meeting. Thinking quickly, she whipped out her cell phone and interviewed him on the spot.
      • Of all the fun things you can do in ROTC, no one ever told Erin that fungal infections were on the agenda. Luckily for us, she uses this terrible experience to bring you some practical strategies for getting rid of them.
      • What happens when Protect Minnesota’s Joan Peterson stands up and gives her anti-gun talking points at a town hall meeting? Weer'd will let you listen in.
      • And our plug of the week is for the NSSF-AFSP Suicide Prevention Lifeline

      Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Read the show notes here.
      Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

      Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
      Fungal Infections
      When I was in college years ago, I was active in ROTC. In my sophomore year of the military science program, I was chosen to be the “swimmer” for a rope bridge team in a demonstration we were putting on for the freshman cadets. My role, as you might have guessed, involved me crossing a waist-deep river with a rope tied around my waist, which I then tied to a tree. I did this multiple times a day. 

      Now this river wasn’t particularly deep or fast, but it did run through the subtropical forest of Florida. The next day, I discovered the river had given me two gifts: a 103 degree fever and a raging case of athlete’s foot. The fever, probably caused by bacteria in the water that reached my lips and nostrils, went away after antibiotics and lots of fluids. But the fungal infection has been a recurring pain in my foot for decades.

      Fungal infections are not life threatening, but they can sure make your life miserable. Constant itching, inflammation and even blistering are bad enough, but it’s worse if it’s on your feet because, you know, you need them to walk and it’s rather difficult to walk if your feet are in pain.

      And that’s just athlete’s foot. Other kinds of fungal infection run from the relatively mild ringworm to the horror of jock itch, but despite the different names, they’re all the same thing, and that means they can be treated identically.

      Preppers need to be ready for such fungal infections, because as common as they are right now, they’re only going to get worse in a bug-out or post-disaster scenario.

      The best way to treat fungal infection, of course, is never getting it in the first place. Fungi thrive in dark, warm, and moist environments - which is why they so commonly infect the feet and groin - and while you can’t do much about the warm part, and society frowns on exposing those parts of your body, you can do something about moisture in those areas.
      1. First, stay out of water as much as possible. If you do get those areas wet, take the time to dry your skin off and change into clean, dry socks and underwear. Dry your shoes out whenever possible - if you have a campfire, make sure your footwear is close to the heat and smoke. 
      2. Second, use a powder to absorb moisture from sweat. I’m a big fan of travel size Gold Bond powder - the one-ounce bottles can go anywhere from bug out bags to purses - and not only does it help keep feet, groin and armpits dry, it also acts as a “dry lubricant” for when body parts are rubbing against each other. If you’ve ever gotten a blister between your thighs, you know what I’m talking about. 
      But let’s say that despite all your precautions, you’ve still contracted a fungal infection. Fortunately for us, medical science keeps inventing increasingly awesome ways to get rid of it.
      • The best cure is a chemical known as Butenafine Hydrochloride, which is the active ingredient in Lotrimin Ultra and can be bought at places like Walgreen’s or CVS. If you can find a store brand or generic version, get that, as antifungal creams can run between $15 and $20, and generics cost about half that.
      • The next best cure is Terbinafine Hydrochloride, which is the active ingredient in Lamasil. I was prescribed this about 15 years ago when my athlete’s foot kept recurring, but it’s now available in the pharmacy aisle of pretty much any supermarket or big box store. Again, buy generic when possible. 
      • The cheapest stuff is called Clotrimazole, which is the active ingredient in regular Lotrimin. It’s better than nothing, but it’s about 20% less effective than terbinafine. 
      • If you see anything labeled “Tolnaftate”, take a pass unless it’s the only thing you can find. It’s the active ingredient in Tinactin, and it takes a looong time to take effect - probably because it’s a 20 year old formula that didn’t work great to begin with. 
      But what if you run out of antifungal medicine? Well, there is an old home remedy for that. I have no experience with it, and I know that anecdotes do not make data, but -- ALLEGEDLY -- the uric acid in urine will kill fungi on your skin.

      I’m told that the best kind of urine to use is the dark urine from when you first get up in the morning, because the uric acid is more concentrated after 8 hours of sleep rather than the paler urine of the daytime. Collect this urine first thing in the morning - this is why I recommend preppers carry an extra water bottle that you don’t drink from - and then soak your toes in the fresh urine for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash your feet in clean water and put on warm socks.

      For ringworm or jock itch, if you can’t immerse the body part, just soak a washcloth in the urine and use it as a wet compress. Be sure to wring out and rinse the cloth afterward, and then either put it in a plastic bag to keep in the smell, or in a mesh bag on your backpack to air out. If it helps any, remind yourself that your kidneys are incredibly efficient filters, and that fresh urine - fresh being the word here - is sterile when it comes out, despite the smell.

      Just pretend you’re a dog: pee on it, and move on with your life!

      Saturday, May 13, 2017

      Doctor Who: Zombies! In! SPAAAACE!

      Hearing Peter Capaldi saying "Space: The Final Frontier" was magnificent, as was his opening speech, but that doesn't take away from the issues I have with this episode.

      I love a good bit of science fiction. I love a good bit of outer space. I even love me some zombies. So why didn't I love this one? That's what I'll try and find out.

      Let's start with what I did like.
      • I did like his Space monologue, both in the cold open and in the class. 
      • I did like his antagonizing of Naggle. 
      • I did like the line "You only see the true face of the universe when it's asking for help." 
      • I liked how, when Twelve told Bill she was in artificial gravity, the first thing she did was hop. 
      • And finally, I did like the throwback to the very first appearance of the Daleks, where the First Doctor claims the TARDIS is disabled because of a "fluid link."
      • I did like how Bill got called a racist for her reaction to a blue person and her insistence that she's not, immediately following her fascination with how Dahh'ren's name was pronounced. 
                 

      Things I most certainly did not like include:
      • Naggle's prominence in the episode 
      • The damage done to the Screwdriver (those damn glasses are back, aren't they?) 
      • Bill is still 30 years out of date with her fashion (crop top and denim jacket with ripped jeans?). 
      • The twist ending that has implications that I certainly hope aren't going to last the rest of the season. 
      • Seriously, what kind of deal with a crossroads demon did Matt Lucas make to get Naggle as a recurring character? He's not funny. He's just snide and whiny. 
      • Trying to convince us that they'd killed Bill off. Twice. In 15 minutes' time. 
      Pictured: Doctor, Companion, Waste of Oxygen, in reverse order.
      I'm very conflicted about the other elements of the episode. In the current political climate, there are extremists that genuinely believe that capitalism in its current state is exactly the same as what is portrayed here. I'm trying to believe, given the way certain themes have been portrayed in other episodes recently, that it's only coincidence. Humanity has, in canon and in reality, had its ups and downs, and expansion into space would only make oversight more difficult. It's not hard to believe that a corporation would become greedy enough that it would consider its workers expendable, but the entire setup of oxygen being supplied by the 'company store' instead of actually being in the station like any regular setup (say, with primary and redundant filters, vents and pumps, and CO2 scrubbers) seems wildly inefficient (or purposefully malevolent). I'm trying not to think that this is a 'message' story; the writer, Jamie Matheson, is responsible for two surprisingly outstanding episodes, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, as well as the introduction of the character of Me, formerly Ashildr, so 'message fiction' isn't really his track record with the series so far.  

      Since the first series with the Ninth Doctor, there's always been at least one episode per season that I don't go back and rewatch later. From the Slitheen episodes to eye-booger monsters, the possessed television monster to the Robin Hood episode, there's usually an episode each season that just falls short, and I really feel like Oxygen is going to be the one I pass over this time around. If, by the time you read this, you haven't seen it, you needn't make it a priority. It was rarely good, a bit of a let-down at times, and mostly forgettable.

      Vault update: Naggle nags at Twelve and is reassured that Twelve is, indeed, still guarding the vault. At the end of the episode, we learn that the door may open on its own, and that Naggle refers to its occupant as Twelve's "friend." Couple that with the brief flash of Missy at the very end of the 'next time' trailer, and the signs are certainly pointing in a specific direction... but is that a misdirection itself?

      [shameless self-shilling here - still looking for work. Contributions welcome at Paypal, reverendsalem@gmail.com]

      Thursday, May 11, 2017

      Gotham Rain: Chapter 1

      [I haven't written fiction in a while, so I'm giving it a shot. On an unrelated note, I really hate to ask, but as I've recently been laid off, if you're feeling generous, I have a paypal at reverendsalem@gmail.com]

      The following occurs between the events of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.


           It's been raining for 3 days now. Not a pause and no end in sight. Here, in this sprawling concrete rainforest that is Gotham City, very few plants grow. My babies take refuge here, in one of Miagani Island's abandoned botanical gardens, at the southernmost coast of the city. The people, and their polluting vehicles, are fewer, and no one notices the patch of beautiful green high atop this vacant building. Since the Asylum incident, I've kept to myself, tending my babies and spreading my roots again through the city. The Bat and I leave each other alone. I imagine he's busy, he and his kind, scouring the streets for any of the degenerate maniacs that fled the island during the riots.

           She's been sitting on the balcony now for a whole day. She hasn't eaten. Hasn't spoken. I can hear her crying occasionally as I stroke the petals of my Alchymist rose, its peach blossoms growing strong and healthy. She's sitting out there in the rain because she thinks it's hiding the tears. She and I share something. Our skin is no longer the color it once was when we were human. When I was enlightened, I became a shade of green, but when he did what he did to her, her skin turned as pale as an orchid. But I can tell, when the nourishing water hits her face, what's her and what she's caked on as ornamental. The black streaks from her eyes trailing down her Hyacinth cheeks awaken in me something... human.


          Since my growth, I've felt less and less what these 'people' feel. Plants are much simpler, much less complex. I can feel their pain when they are cut down. I can feel their warmth when the sun hits them. But I can't feel hatred or jealousy or love or compassion like a person would anymore. But Harley, for some reason, brings that back to me. I've always felt some sort of kinship with her, and I'm not entirely sure why. That lack of certainty pricks at me like a thorn. The simplicity of a slowly growing plant is much easier to understand, and I hate that I feel this way. I wish I could leave her to her own devices, but I just can't.

          In the wake of the Asylum incident there was sheer chaos. While the GCPD was trying to clean up the mess that the clown left behind, I shook off the influence of the Titan formula and staggered through the rubble of Arkham Asylum's botanical gardens. The things he made me do were abhorrent. I create life and yet he made me destroy. I found Harley locked in a cell and summoned what was left of my strength to grow vines between the cracks of the cell's door until it burst from its hinges. Harley helped me to the shore, and again I summoned enough within myself to grow us a pod that would safely carry us North across the harbor to the shorelines of Miagani Island. Too weak to walk, let alone summon anything that would carry us to a safe haven, Harley stole a car and raided one of her stashes, abandoning the garish nurse outfit she'd worn to please him, while I cocooned myself and regained strength. I soaked in the brackish water that leaked into the basement of Harley's storeroom, and while she thought I was asleep, she ranted in anger about how he abandoned her.

           As soon as I was able, we left for the arboretum. Harley disappeared for a couple of days, intent on finding the Joker, but when she returned, she was different. She tried to play it off, but something had happened between them. I returned to tending my plants, bringing the abandoned arboretum back to life, but she sat on the balcony outside the glass walls of the greenhouse motionless.

           I can't stand to see her like this. I don't understand fully why. Why do I have this connection, this human connection with her? And what is this feeling I have, this feeling that, if I were still human, I would consider rage? Am I feeling this on her behalf, or do I selfishly want to make it go away just so that I can stop feeling it?


           I don't know. All I know is that I can't see her like this anymore. Every time he hurts her, she goes back. Every time he's almost captured, she takes the fall for it because he abandons her to the police or the Bat or one of his kind. I can't see it happen anymore. I won't see it happen anymore. And there's only one way that can be.

          The clown has to die.

      Wednesday, May 10, 2017

      Something Inspirational

      My post on Bob Owen's suicide prompted this gem of a reply by Timothy Callahan on Facebook, and I'm reposting it here because the world needs to see it.

      "Sometimes, when you are standing on a mountain, and all the world is dark before your feet as you ponder the cliff, you may chance to look up, and see the rest of us, guiding stars, twinkling as best we can in the night. Then, you fix your sight on whatever constellation you can, and let it guide your steps until the sun rises again.

      "None of us can truly light up that darkness. But we CAN shine for all we are worth, and hope that someone looks up." 

      — Timothy Callahan

      Tuesday, May 9, 2017

      On Suicide

      If you read gun blogs at all, you've no doubt heard that yesterday (Monday) morning, Bob Owens died, apparently by his own hand. I haven't yet heard it officially confirmed that it was suicide, but the circumstances of Bob's death and his final post to Facebook sure point to it.

      I have a complicated relationship with suicide. When I was younger, I actively considered killing myself because I was in a lot of emotional turmoil. I'll spare you the details of it, but the gist of the matter is that I felt like a hideous failure because I wasn't comfortable inside my own skin and no one wanted to be around me. (These feelings diminished once I stopped fighting who I was and, for lack for a better phrase, "gave myself permission" to be transgender.) I never actually attempted it, though. Perhaps I had too much survival instinct to give in to the destructive impulse, but let me tell you this: if you are feeling shitty enough to think that killing yourself is the answer to your problems, then not being able to go through with doesn't feel like a victory; it feels like "I'm such a failure I can't even kill myself properly."

      What I'm saying is that I get it. I understand the desire to eject from pain and suffering and hopelessness, and even now I feel that every adult on the planet has to right to choose to check out if that's what they truly want. The only thing we really have in this world is our life, and for me to demand that you live in accordance with my wishes seems the height of arrogance and selfishness.

      However, having the right to do it doesn't mean that I agree with it. Oh, in certain circumstances I can totally understand the reasoning — like someone in Stage 4 cancer deciding to go out before the agony starts — but in cases like Bob's, I can only fall back on the same belief that I have regarding freedom of speech: I may disagree with what you say (or in this case, do), but I will defend to the death your right to do it. 

      Of course, this is all in the philosophical abstract for me, not having known Bob Owens. I fully expect that if a friend of mine should kill himself, I will quite selfishly wish that it didn't happen because I would be grieving.

      That's the true cost of suicide right there. I don't remember where I saw or heard it, or when, but I recall vividly the quote "You've just killed yourself. Congratulations, you've just hurt everyone who ever gave a damn about you." It's one thing to kill yourself when you're going to die anyway, because (to me, at least) that's just a matter of rescheduling the grief. It's another thing — arguably, a very selfish thing — to kill yourself when your death could have been prevented by seeking help.

      I wasn't privy to Bob's thoughts, so I don't know what agony he was suffering that made him choose suicide. I can't judge him or his actions. What I can do, though — about the only thing that I can do — is to point out that if you choose to kill yourself, you're going to hurt the people you love in a terrible, intimate way. And because you love them, I don't believe, I cannot believe, that you'd want to do that to them.

      If you're looking for a reason to live, I'd say that "Not hurting those that I love" is a pretty damn good one.

      Sunday, May 7, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #142 - Cameron Diaz Meets Chocolate Godzilla at NRAAM 2017

      That's a movie I'd go see!

      Join Sean, Erin, Beth, Tiffany, Weer'd,  and Co-host Emeritus Adam as we record LIVE in the Media Room at the NRA Annual Meeting 2017. Subjects of discussion include:
      • SIG pistols
      • Grayguns
      • Airforce Airguns
      • Bribery Vodka from Covington
      • C-Products Magazines
      • Next Level Training's SIRT Pistol
      • Infiltrating the Mom's Demand Action protest
      • The derpiest holster EVAR!
      • Mike Seeklander
      • The NRA Women's Luncheon
      • Safer Faster Defense's SFD Responder
      • Second Amendment Foundation
      • 10K for 2A
      • Korth Revolvers
      • Cabot Guns
      Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Read the show notes here.
      Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

      Saturday, May 6, 2017

      Knock Knock, Doctor Who's There?

      OoooOOOohh. Haven't had a haunted house story in a while.

      Bill's wardrobe never ceases to confuse me. Horizontal pastel stripes and overalls? The more I see of it, the more I'm convinced she's out of her own time stream, and she's supposed to be from the Eighties. Her soundtrack motif is growing on me, though; it's cute and simple.

      The Doctor brought up Regeneration, and I think he's getting her ready for his. The next Doctor has already been cast, in case you haven't heard: it's the gobby one from Love, Actually. The 'bo'ol' one that picks up Americans with his accent. I'm not sure about that choice.

      The basic premise of the episode starts off simply enough: a group of students, Bill included, are looking for a cheap house and find a giant old mansion at a suspiciously cheap rate.  In the stinger, one student is... affected by the house, and more follow shortly. After helping Bill move in, the Doctor notices something off about the house and stays to investigate. Upon meeting the landlord, the Doctor noticeably interposes himself between the landlord and the students, perhaps telegraphing the climax of the episode.
      There's a draft.
      Bill continues to shine. I really like the way they're writing her character; she's not smug or overly clever, but she thinks very logically, and they show it off in her actions, instead of her words or by having other people tell us how good she is. This is very important, as one of the reasons a lot of people were unfortunately turned off to Clara (pre-timeline crisis) was that she was quite smug, and everyone around her was telling us how important she was, as opposed to her just showing it.

      I would ask Bill not to sit on the TARDIS console anymore, though. Butt-dialing a TARDIS sounds incredibly dangerous.

      The guest cast is serviceable, even if (in the immortal words of Supergirl's Cat Grant) they "look like the attractive yet non-threatening, racially diverse cast of a CW show." with two varieties of Asian (one of them a woman) and a Russian. No one else really stands out, aside from the sinister Landlord.

      The "monster" of the week is quite well done, also. Excellent make-up work, if not the first time we've seen someone made of her... materials.

      Finally, it doubles as a torch. 
      Nazghul Nardole makes a brief appearance near the end of the episode. It seems his only real function is to say a few snarky lines, chastise the Doctor, and walk off-screen, as it's all he's been doing recently. He could have been removed entirely from the scene and it would have suffered none for it. Capaldi has proven previously that he can carry an entire episode on his own, let alone one scene per episode. Nardole just feels unnecessary so far.

      So, the vault in the university basement. We know there's someone in there now, someone who can play the piano and likes scary stories, if not Mexican food. Someone who considers themselves a prisoner. I have two theories on this:
      • Theory one is that Twelve is making good on Ten's promise, and has caught Missy and is holding her. 
      • Theory two is that, pursuant to the rumours of John Simm's Master returning, that he's holding him as a contingency plan against her return.

      This wasn't a bad episode, overall, but neither was it a stand-out. The pacing is weird; my timer says the episode is 44 minutes, but it feels like it hits its peak very quickly and is maybe half that in length. Ironically, for a show about time travel, it feels much shorter than it really is. While there's a few key elements in the over-arching mystery of the vault in the University basement, there's not much that happens during this episode, and if you had to skip one so far, this would be the one. Expect my opinion on this to change next week, as the trailer shows that the annoying bald one goes with them on their next adventure and will likely have more screen time.

      Friday, May 5, 2017

      Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Guardian Harder


      [Author's note: I offered Erin to opt out of editing this, as to avoid spoilers. She accepted. Any and all errors and/or typos are on me]

      Otherwise knows as "Drax Has An Astoundingly Awesome Day." 

      I've just left the theater about 30 minutes ago now. It's still fresh in my mind.

      If Marvel rolled the dice and went big on Guardians of the Galaxy, they went hard and went bigger for Volume 2. Seemingly able to have solved the problem of 'the origin movie' always being the boring one, Guardians 2 brings together the established cast and thrusts them straight into an even bigger story than before, with a galactic (possible universal) level extinction event, and a story that puts an enormous emphasis on the theme of what it means to be family, on whether blood is thicker than water, and mending broken bridges, and manages to tie those two themes together astoundingly well.

      Having accomplished seemingly the impossible first by taking the B-Team of The Avengers and turning it into a monster franchise, then taking the D-listers of the Guardians and making them just as beloved, they've thrown all caution to the wind here. Guardians 2 has some of the most breathtaking visuals I've ever seen in science fiction. Yes, it's a big mass market appeal, but there are some amazing risks being taken here that simply wouldn't have worked without the world-building that the MCU has dedicated itself to.


      Spoilers from here on in...

      The story starts with a seemingly unrelated cold-open, much like a Bond film, with a great action sequence that reminded me heavily of Deadpool's opening: a pitched, high-speed battle with a focus on a humorous character set to the soundtrack of a very retro song. Sometime between the first movie and this one, Nebula is captured and in return for the opening sequence's actions, she is handed over to the Guardians to be returned to the Nova Corp for imprisonment, but due to Rocket's incredibly short-sighted (and later fortuitous actions) things go terribly wrong, and Peter Quill is reunited with his father, who turns out to be a living planet with less than benevolent intentions for the galaxy. A new character is introduced, some of the previous film's side characters have much more expanded roles, and there's even a surprise cameo (or two) that I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about. How they got him is no surprise, but how they got *him*? I swear Marvel has a time machine. Even the Stan Lee cameo (which if it's his last, is fitting) manages to explain how he keeps showing up in every movie.

      This is possibly the most colourful Marvel film to date, which is relevant considering how often Marvel Studios has been criticized for its limited colour palette. Ego's World alone rivals Dr Strange's trippy visuals, and his little pods showing Peter his history have a fascinating artistic flair of their own, very evocative of someone who can perfectly replicate life, but has no real understanding of what it means to be human (or any of the other species). There are even moments of absurdity that stretch your suspension of disbelief to the point where they'd be at home in Spaceballs, but still stay within the boundaries set by the film.

      No one in the entire cast was a slouch, either. The main cast delivered two-fold on the first movie's performances, and Yondu and Nebula's expanded presences were very strong as well, fleshing them both out and breathing much more life into their otherwise limited characters. The Sovereign managed to make the Nova Corps look downright humble and friendly. Kurt Russel's Ego was seductively charming and totally believable as space-rogue Star Lord's father, and disturbingly menacing once the big plot twist was revealed. The change in dynamic from Groot being a heavy to being a comedic and lovable character worked well. The stand-out performance, though, goes surprisingly to Dave Bautista's Drax, who was having a blast throughout the entire film. His unrelenting optimism coupled with a tempered naivete gave some of the most memorable moments throughout the film.

      You great big goof. Don't ever change. 
      The one thing that sealed the love letter to the old series, though, was Yondu's fin. Once it appears, Yondu has the most badass moment of the entire film, walking calmly through the carnage he's causing, with the ridiculous red head-fin of the comics proudly on display.

      Spoilers ending here: You should definitely see this. Guardians, as a franchise, is less connected to the MCU as a whole, and it has a lot more humour than the rest of the MCU, Ant-Man aside, and is much more easily relatable on its own, but it is hands down the best space opera I've seen in years, surpassing The Force Awakens, Rogue One, Star Trek Beyond, and even its predecessor.

      One thing I'd like to point out, unrelated to the movie itself, was that during the trailers, Thor: Ragnarok got a bigger audience pop than Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Maybe it was a better trailer. Maybe it was audience bias for premiere night of the newest Marvel Studios film. All I know is that a few people cheered for Jedi, but there was widespread applause for Ragnarok.

      Thursday, May 4, 2017

      A Brief Moment of Enlightement

      I had an errant thought cross my mind, and it got me to thinking. I haven't fully developed it yet, so you're all welcome to help out.

      According to Massab Ayoob, the three critical parts of a self-defense shooting are Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy.
      • Ability means that the aggressor has the tools or physical strength to cause death or grievous injury. 
      • Opportunity means they are in your presence and within the effective range of the tool. 
      • Jeopardy means that they have expressed a desire or intent to cause harm.
      All three elements must be present for a justifiable self-defense shooting.

      So here's what got me thinking: I'm sitting with you in a room and I have my concealed carry gun with me. That's the first two legs of the triad right there, ability and opportunity. The only difference between me and a murderer is that I have no intention (jeopardy) of hurting you.

      But here's the problem: no one but me knows what's inside my head. I could be harboring murderous thoughts and you'd never know until I acted upon them.

      I think this is why anti-gun people are so scared of civilian concealed carriers, and why they love the police: theoretically, police officers have had some kind of mental screening to weed out people who might be harboring thoughts of murder, but citizen carriers don't. I understand the anti-gun mindset a bit more now.

      NOTE THAT I DID NOT SAY I AGREE WITH IT! ...just that I "get it" a bit more than before.

      So now that I feel I have better understanding of their fear, the big question is "How do we, responsible civilian gun owners, allay those fears?"

      I'm thinking that drawing a parallel to cars might be the answer:

      • Other drivers also have ability and opportunity, but we don't fear them all as murderers-in-waiting;
      • Defensive driving is based upon the notion that other people are careless and might try to kill you by accident if not negligence or malice, so defensive driving and seatbelts are the vehicle version of concealed carry;
      • Cars are culturally less frightening than guns.

      Thoughts on this matter are most welcome.

      Wednesday, May 3, 2017

      Erin Palette on Cam & Co. 5/3/2017

      "Following the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Erin Palette created Operation Blazing Sword. It's a resource for the LGBT community to find LGBT-friendly instructors to learn the basics of firearm safety. After going to the range and having an opportunity to shoot, they can make an informed decision as to whether firearms are for them. At the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings, Erin tells Cam that there are now over 1400 trainers in all 50 states. She says that her greatest challenge is to communicate with the entire LGBT community. Ironically, she thinks that a good denouncing from Gays Against Guns would help the organization get the attention it needs." Originally aired on Cam & Co 05/03/17.



      Cam is a very cool and funny guy. Before the interview I told him "I'm always nervous when going on camera, because I'm worried I'll say 'clitoris' for no reason."  Cam replied with "In that case, we'd better get it all out of our system now: clitoris, ass, tits, pussy, dick..."  The laughter that ensued was captured in what is probably my favorite picture from the NRA convention, taken by a friend:

      I also did a phone interview follow-up to this, but there wasn't a handy link to that. If you want to see the whole thing, go here; my phone interview starts around the 2hrs 27 min mark.

      Tuesday, May 2, 2017

      Pellatarrum: Decomposition

      It's been a while since I last talked about my elemental-clockwork fantasy universe, so it's time to revisit it. In properly weird fashion, we're going to discuss the ways that various races decompose after death.

      But Erin, why does this matter for a D&D or Pathfinder game? Once the NPCs are dead, they aren't important any more. 

      Wrong! This matters because small things in the background (often derided as "fluff") affect and shape the formation of larger cultural elements, which go on to affect the PCs through the shape of rituals, customs, traditions and mores of the game world. Also, how many dungeons expeditions turn into tomb robbing?

      Dwarves
      As previously mentioned, dwarves do not rot; instead, they petrify and eventually turn into solid stone. In game terms, this means a few things:
      1. Dwarf corpses never come out of rigor mortis. Dwarven priests use the Soften Earth and Stone spell to unlock the joints for dressing in finery and posing for eternal rest (necessary if the death is sudden and the body is splayed in an undignified manner).
      2. Dwarven tombs are difficult to rob of their wealth, because the treasure is likely to be in the shape of weapons and armor that are now bound to, or being held by, several hundred pounds of unmoving statue. Bring a spellcaster, or an adamantine hammer and chisel and a lot of patience. 
      3. Given the elemental nature of Pellatarran undead, dwarves rarely rise as true undead as their bodies have become immobile and their natures apathetic.  However, necromancers can still animate their freshly-slain corpses.
      Elves
      It is of utmost importance that the corpses of elves be kept from water, else they rise as fearsome undead. Admittedly, every corpse must be kept from water because it is the element of fear; it just seems especially prudent to keep the race linked to water from rising as a fear-based undead because that sounds like doubling up on trouble. 

      The problem is that elf corpses don't rot; they deliquesce, their flesh (and later, their bones) melting into liquid. This can be avoided if proper elven funerary practices are followed, but this isn't always possible in cases of accident, misadventure, crime (like murder, or a kidnapping gone wrong) or the evergreen "an elven adventurer dies in a dungeon." The good news is that this means elves who rise as physical undead don't stay that way for long. The bad news, though, is that this drastically increases the chances of them rising as incorporeal undead. 

      It is rumored that powerful necromancers can capture the essence of these elves by storing the juices of their former bodies in properly enchanted canopic jars, and that by sipping from them like potions, the knowledge and memories of the captured elf can be accessed by the imbiber. Of course, these stories also hasten to warn that this is an excellent way to become possessed by the spirit of the elf you're sipping...

      Orcs
      Orc corpses don't rot; instead, they char from the inside-out. According to orc lore, once the soul is freed from its body, its passage sears its former flesh. The only way to tell if an orc died from a fire or by other means is to cut it open and see where the damage is greatest. 

      Given enough time, orc corpses will turn to ash and blow away. The orcish practice of cremation is largely seen as a way to speed this process along, as orcs have more important things to do than wait for bodies to ashify. 

      Much like elves, this means that orcs rarely rise as physical undead, but have a greater chance of becoming incorporeal undead. This ironic similarity is a source of irritation for both peoples, and mentioning it is a fantastic way to start a fight in either culture. 

      Dragons
      Despite what you may expect, dragon corpses do not evaporate into gas. That would be silly. 

      No, they just explode dramatically as their breath weapons seek to rejoin the air around them. (Air is breath, after all.) The size and power of the explosion is based on their age, so the corpse of a Great Red Wyrm will explode in a 24d10 fireball and be consumed by it. 

      This is one reason why other dragons will collapse a cave or mountain upon their dead. Another reason is "Not all breath weapons completely destroy the body, and undead dragons of any color are utterly terrifying."

      Sometimes this explosion happens days, weeks, or even months after their deaths; sometimes it happens immediately. Even in death, dragons are inscrutable. 

      Other Races
      Non-elder races, being creations of the Material Plane, just revert to the materials from which they were made through simple rotting.
















      What's that, you ask? What about the halflings?

      Oh. Well, there's nothing to tell, really. Halfling communities don't have an undead problem. They're just such a radiant, positively energetic people that for some odd reason, they don't become undead unless there are unusual circumstances, like a necromancer or a powerful artifact. 

      You know, come to think of it, you've never seen a halfling graveyard. Odd, that. 

      (Go on. Think through the implications of this. If you aren't disturbed, you haven't thought it all the way through.)


      Monday, May 1, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #141 - Be Yourself... No, Not Like That!

      I look forward to the day when being a gun owner no longer carries a social stigma.
      • Beth received a letter asking for speakers for Career Day at her son's school, but when she told them she was a firearms instructor, they said "Thanks, but No Thanks."
      • A man attempted to give girlfriend a ballistic abortion. Sean looks at his permanent record.
      • Barron is on assignment this week.
      • What’s worse than a rabid gun grabber running an anti-gun organization on Daddy Bloomberg’s money? A rabid gun grabber running a political campaign on Daddy Bloomberg’s money.
      • We welcome Special Guest Rob Morse, of the Self Defense Gun Stories podcast, to our Main Topic.
      • Tiffany is headed off to NRAAM. Will she once again be the only black woman at a gun rights event? Or is there truly a place for people that look like her?
      • Convention season is upon us. Erin gives you tips on how to comfortably survive what she calls "kindergarten for grownups."
      • ABC goes Full Gun Grab with "Designated Survivor". Weer'd has the audio and the facts.
      • And our plug of the week is Magpul PMAG Glock magazines.
      Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Read the show notes here.
      Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

      Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
      Convention Survival Strategies
      Because I was out all week, I used a previously-written article for my podcast. Therefore, the entire transcript can be found here.

      Doctor Who: The (Other) Beast Below

      Is it me, or is the third episode always a historical lately? Whether or not you count the Christmas specials or last season's two-parters as individual stories, the third episode of each season since launch has been a historical.

      A contemporary human companion's first historical trip is always a special occasion as the ramifications of time travel can easily be overlooked if you're travelling to the future or the past of another planet entirely, but travelling into your own planet's past makes it much more personal. This remind me strongly of the Shakespeare episode with Ten and Martha, in that the companion's initial concerns of being black and in the past were addressed and both brought up the Butterfly Effect. Twelve's response was much funnier than Ten's "Just don't step on any butterflies"; Twelve almost had me believing in poor old Pete.

      Your weekly moment of social issues are a mixed bag, however. The cartoonishly racist antagonist and (Twelve's response to him) was a bit much, but was still believable for the time period;  so was Twelve literally using the word "whitewash" when it's been established he has trouble telling individual human beings apart to begin with. But on the other hand, both the antagonist and the comment on the diversity of the crowds were accurate, and the comment about the little white boy being 'transported' was a fair touch as well.
      London-based period pieces are a walk in the park for the BBC
      The stand-out scene in this episode is where Bill learns who and what the Doctor really is after seeing a very tragic scene and gets properly mad at him. "I am over 2000 years old, and I have never had the time for the luxury of outrage" is a very powerful statement when coming from the mouth of someone who never just talks but always acts to help people.

      Pearl Mackie is showing a lot of unexpected versatility in this episode:
      Properly mad. 
      Nargle Nardole shows up for all of a minute or so, so that makes me happy.

      I think my absolute favourite part of this entire episode is that, while we see the monster (and I'm curious as to why it has human eyes), it's never explained what it is or where it came from. The Doctor even goes so far as to say it may even be native to Earth, but speculates no further. The villain doesn't explain it, the Doctor doesn't recognize it, and even the historical records don't mention it when Bill gets back to modern day.

      From a technical aspect, I feel that this episode was probably made with very little expense. The set for the Frost Fair must have been tiny, given the fog effects, and the BBC should have very little trouble finding a large vintage house and a brick-walled factory to film in.

      Three for three on decent episodes this year. No stinkers or stand-outs yet, and certainly worth a watch.

      Thursday, April 27, 2017

      Doctor Who: Grin and Bear It

      Week 2 of the new series brings us a proper sci-fi story: "Between here and my office, before the kettle boils, is everything that ever happened or ever will."

      I like to play a little game when I'm watching Doctor Who. Any moment that you see the TARDIS take off without one of the companions, any number of adventures might be happening off-screen. This is one of those moments, only with Noodle Nardole being the one left behind. Thankfully, he's barely in this episode.

      The story premise is amazingly simple: the first human colony is built, and something goes horribly wrong. It's similar to the recently-released Mass Effect: Andromeda, and yet it happens to tell a much more compelling story in 42 minutes than ME:A did in 42 hours.

      It's always interesting when someone writes a story with a very cynical view of humanity's ability to program robots with Asimov's First Law. For those unfamiliar:
      • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
      We're entering spoiler territory here. The robots, or "Vardi" (as if just calling them nanites wouldn't suffice.. must be a brand name), are programmed to keep humans happy at all costs. The only problem is that it's not at any cost to them, but at any cost to the humans.

      Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this episode, but how stultifyingly incompetent is the human race that they can't manage to program robots not to recycle them into compost if they're unhappy? And did the adorable interface bots program the skull-face emoji themselves, or was there some form of malicious intent in the programming, and the smile-or-you-die effect part of the plan? 
      Seriously. Who programmed this? 
      I can't help but remember that Missy (and possibly the Master) is coming back this year. I'm not sure if it's relevant, or simply a plot hole, but it's something that would be very clever if they later explained it the way I'm thinking. I do have to say the I love the interface bot's "skeptical" face. 

      Bill's continuing to do a good job of asking the right questions, coming to logical conclusions, and prompting the Doctor along when he's thinking aloud. And she's not the least bit annoying this episode! Again, her marketing really failed her, because she's turning out to be a good character so far and it's not the impression I got at all before seeing her in action. 
      I need to know if this was a set, existing location, or just green-screen. It looks amazing.
      I have to hand it to Future India, too. They've shown up several times recently, from the Indian Space Agency to Indo-Japan to the skeleton crew here. Future India seems quite an ambitious culture, although I'm not sure if the programming of the Vardi was any better or worse than Britain hijacking a giant space whale to power their floating colony.

      Continuing that train of thought into the meta, I have to give credit to the series for subtly promoting a culture not their own without ham-handed preaching. It's showing, not telling - let alone preaching -and that's something I really have to respect. 

      This episode, overall, was a mixed bag. There were some very, very good moments, and some very glaring plot holes. This season hasn't quite hit its stride yet, but it's still worth a watch. I didn't like it quite as much as I did The Pilot, but I'd still watch it again. 

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