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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Regressive Progressivism: A Case of Friendly Fire

Embedded journalist on the front
lines of the secret culture war.
Oh boy, do I get to talk about Anita Sarkeesian this week? I think I doOOoo!

I need to change my byline to "embedded journalist on the frontlines of the secret culture war." That would, of course, require having a byline to begin with, but considering the crazy things I find happening and the points of view that I find on them, it'd be worth it. Plus it sounds unbelievably cool.

(Editor's Note: Done.)

My Regressive Progressivism series has highlighted cases of hypocrisy, cultural cannibalism, and some spectacular own-goals in its time, but this one has to take the cake.

It's a special time of year, apparently. It's been so long that I actually forgot, despite being one of the few that witnessed and told the tale of, the original incident. That's right, it was recently the anniversary of Gamergate, specifically the "hate screed of the jilted ex-boyfriend" which was, in reality, an airing of grievances on a personal blog by a victim of domestic abuse. That'll be relevant shortly, I promise.

Kotaku UK recently interviewed prominent gaming YouTuber TotalBiscuit, host of possibly the biggest gaming podcast, professional Starcraft announcer, and all-around consumer advocate, on the topic of 'haters', which I assume means trolls and harassers. The discussion was around moderation tools and how to use them to guide discussion in the community. Overall, this was fairly tame stuff.

However, from the progressive side of the gaming eliterati, there were two problems with this. Firstly, Totalbiscuit was allegedly "pro-Gamergate" and the article was published on the anniversary of Gamergate. To a normal, sane, uninvolved person, this wouldn't have been an issue. However...
How many times have I said Twitter is a bad idea? 

Now, in isolation this isn't a big deal. Feminist Frequency (Anita Sarkeesian's project) disproves of an article. No big deal, right?

Wrong! Big deal. The article's author, a trans-woman named Laura Kate Dale, was met with a deluge of disapproval due to TotalBiscuit's support of  the ethics side (He disavowed any and all harassment while promoting the idea that there was a problem with videogame reporting) of the Gamergate debacle.

So, in a nutshell, what happened? A progressive trans-woman interviewed an internet personality with a solid take on moderating a community, which displeased a progressive cultural icon, which in turn resulted in harassment, threats, and (allegedly) doxing, resulting in Laura Kate Dale being chased off of Twitter. Granted, she said she wasn't leaving because of the deluge of negative attention, but that to me reads just like Joss Whedon's "I fell down some stairs" moment after Age of Ultron. 

You don't even get to explain yourself.
Kotaku all but retracted the original article. I'm surprised they even mentioned that Dale received threats. That's dangerously close to breaking the narrative. 
See the replies? It will never be good enough, no matter what. 

When even fervently progressive voices like Jim Sterling and Rhianna Pratchett call out how irresponsible and wrong it is to attack someone like this, you have to take notice. A group of people harassed a trans-woman off of twitter for talking about video game stuff, and yet this isn't about "evol right-wing gamers" or Brianna Wu; this is a progressive hate mob that attacked someone on their own side for talking to the "wrong" person about a relevant topic, and it's rather sickening.

You have to take this in perspective, and by the rules that have been laid forth:
  • Anita Sarkeesian is a cis-woman with over 700,000 followers who has spoken to the UN and appeared on Stephen Colbert's show. 
  • Laura Kate Dale is a trans-woman with less than 50 thousand followers who runs a podcast and writes for a site that's a bit of a joke. 
By nearly any definition, there's a clear power imbalance there, and I genuinely feel, no matter how much I disagree with Dale, that Anita acted irresponsibly and fanned some pretty hefty flames in her direction.

Oh, and anyone wondering why I haven't mentioned Charlottesville? Nazis and Communists are both bad. The ground could open up and swallow both the Alt-Right and Antifa and I wouldn't shed a tear. There, that's my community service for the week. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Templar & the Cloistered Cleric

Last month (before the entire country went mad), I complained that I thought clerics in pathfinder were too powerful and that they should be split up into two separate classes:
  1. The Templar, which is basically the traditional cleric except that it has reduced spell progression (like the Warpriest) and who casts spontaneously.
  2. The Cloistered Cleric, which is essentially a "divine wizard", giving up arms and armor in exchange for more knowledge and nine levels of spell progression. 
Well, it's taken me a while, but I've finally created Hero Lab .user files of both of these classes. I couldn't figure out how to force the Templar to start play knowing the various Cure spells like like Oracle does, so if you want to go that route you'll have to manually add them via the Adjustment tab.

If you use Hero Lab to play Pathfinder, please give these a look and tell me what you think. I've probably missed something important (the Hero Lab editor is very un-intuitive so I think it's likely I've overlooked something or made an error.)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The LGBTQ Sandwich

When I plugged yesterday's post on Google+ and Facebook, I introduced it with "I swear, I'm about ready to call us all 'sandwiches' because obviously we're some kind of BLT with Queso and Guacamole."

While that comment was made it jest, it sounded damn tasty. And many other people thought so as well. Therefore, I am Proud to present to you this recipe.

The LGBTQ Sandwich
(aka "the Queer")
(also aka "The Stonewall" if you want to sound classy)

  • toasted bread
  • Lettuce 
  • Guacamole
  • Bacon (1/4 pound minimum)
  • Tomato
  • 2.5 ounces Queso dip, spiced to your taste (go here for recipe suggestions)
  • mayo, mustard, or other condiments to your taste

  1. Cook bacon until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
  2. Toast the bread.
  3. Spread condiments on bread as desired. 
  4. Add lettuce. 
  5. Add 2 slices of tomato on top of lettuce.
  6. Arrange 3 slices of bacon evenly on top of tomato. 
  7. Spread guacamole over bacon. 
  8. Add more bacon so that the guacamole is layered between bacon slices. 
  9. Add top piece of bread. 
  10. Heat queso dip until it is nearly molten and serve in a ramekin
Dip the sandwich into the queso, fondue-style.
Enjoy the delicious flavor of gender and sexual diversity!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Scrabble Bag of Inclusion

For the past year I have been wracking my brain in an attempt to come up with a better term than LGBTQ. We need a better term because the current one is a mouthful and there's a creeping tendency for new letters to be added to it; the last time I checked, the "full and proper" version is LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual).

Look, I don't care how politically correct you are, you aren't going to say that name more than once a conversation, if that. LGBTQ is practically a full name by itself -- I once made a joke that you pronounce it like a Star Wars character, "Elgee Beeteeque" -- and so trying to pronounce Elgee Beeteecue Cueaiayaypee in standard conversation just isn't going to happen.

(This, by the by, is why I love the word "queer". It's short, it's easy to say, it encompasses everyone, and it's us reclaiming a word that was once offensive. Sadly, not everyone sees things my way.)

So I've been trying to brainstorm a new word for all us non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender folks. It's more difficult than you'd think, because the  ideal replacement word is inclusive, evocative, memorable, easy to pronounce, and - most importantly - NOT SILLY.

I present to you as means of illustration two counter-examples that weren't made by me:
  • QUILTBAG: Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer.  
    • Inclusive - yes. This word salad includes everyone. 
    • Evocative - kind of, but not in a good way. 
    • Memorable - sadly, yes. 
    • Easy to pronounce - absolutely. 
    • Not silly - OH HELL NO.
  • SAGA: Sexual And Gender Acceptance
    • Inclusive - no. Mainly because "acceptance" is an action and not a demographic. SAGA would be a great name for an initiative, but not a group. 
    • Evocative - absolutely. 
    • Memorable - sort of. I expect some humorous confusion where someone would mis-remember the name and try to make an acronym out of EPIC. 
    • Easy to pronounce - enviously so. 
    • Not silly - well, it's a bit camp in its pretension, but the word itself isn't silly. 
Not easy, is it? 

The best I've managed to come up with -- and I give you all blanket permission to laugh at it, because I know full well how silly it sounds -- is LABGASM (Law Abiding Gender and Sexual Minorities). 
  • Inclusive? Yes. Its strength is that instead of trying to pin everyone down, it just spreads an umbrella. 
  • Evocative? Yes. Unfortunately so. As a friend of mine remarked, "Sounds sterile, but with mice running in wheels running vibrators or something."
  • Memorable? Yes, but again, not in a good way. 
  • Easy to pronounce? I'm pretty sure people would be laughing too much to get past the "LAB" part. 
  • Not Silly?  Silly, campy, and straight-up ridiculous. 
Now one of you smart cookies will no doubt ask "Why not just use GSM, Gender and Sexual Minorities?" And that's a damn good question. The unfortunate answer is that, taken on its face, "sexual minority" could also be interpreted as encompassing illegal (non-consenting) sexual attractions. This is something to be avoided with extreme prejudice, because there are already people in the world who equate homosexuality with perversion and moral turpitude, and already one step away from bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia. Why should I make it easy for them to say "Look! By their own words, they include such perversion! (point, hiss, shudder)"

I'm not really sure what to do at this point. We desperately need a new, abstractly inclusive, non-silly word, and I'm not sure if such a thing can be created. 

But damn, do I love the word "queer". 

Special Thanks to my friend Erin Smith, who coined the term "Scrabble Bag" to describe the collection of letters you get when you try to explicitly include everyone. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Gender As Social Construct" Revisited

I apologize for not getting to that RAND report in a timely manner. It's coming, I promise. 

In the meantime, here's a fine discussion I had with reader Paul Koning in the comments section of Words Have Meaning, So Use the Right Ones about "Gender as a Social Construct." Since you may not have read the comments, I'm posting this here. 

If you haven't read the aforementioned post, please do so; it's essential for the following conversation that you understand we are discussing the concept of gender and not sex

This is great stuff. But I have to pick on a few details.
"Since gender is not biological, it must be sociological" -- not necessarily. I agree it's not biological in the sense of genetic. It might be biological in the sense of brain operation. A more conventional way of saying that is "it's psychological". Part of the reason I'm reacting that way is: I would think that gender is a personal attribute, not dependent on what society you're in. Am I wrong there?

I take "gender expression" to be "the way a person chooses to use the gender symbols of the culture". A particular item of clothing is a female gender symbol in some societies but a male one, or an either one, in others. Take the skirt you mentioned: a female symbol in most of the west, but either a male or an either symbol in Scotland and Indonesia. My thinking is that gender expression means looking for items that have gender symbolism in the culture you live in, and choosing those that mark your gender identity. Or the identity you want people to see (Klinger effect, that's a nice term). A sarong wouldn't do much for Klinger, certainly not in Indonesia; he'd have to find a different marker there.

Here's my take on things, you are of course free to disagree.

A more conventional way of saying that is "it's psychological".
It is and it isn't. It isn't, because there are very few "inherently female" behaviors seen in nature. Those that are typically involve reproduction: nesting, caring for children, accepting or rejecting mates, that kind of thing. Sure, you can argue that women are more verbal and men are more visual/tactile, but I have yet to see anyone say "You like working with your hands? How unfeminine" or "You're such a good speaker, how unusual for a man."

Instead, I argue that a lot of these behaviors are deeply ingrained from childhood. Put simply, it's a case of "Society says that women act this way. I've been taught this all my life. Now that I'm entering puberty and becoming a woman, I need to start acting this way." A lot of it isn't even conscious, but it's there. Example: Think of a bad habit or dysfunctional behavior you learned from your parents. You may not even be aware that you learned it, but while growing up a part of your brain went "These are my role models. I should learn to act like them. How they react is how I should react." This is why children from abusive homes often end becoming abusers themselves.

That's what I mean when I say it's cultural or sociological. It's learned behavior, not biologically determined.

I see what you mean now, and I agree with that.

I think what happened is that I thought you were talking about "wears a skirt" as a gender expression, which would have a different meaning in different societies. I got that backwards. Instead, a person, given the gender, adopts gender expressions that go with that (as you said "I need to start acting that way) -- and what those gender symbols might be is a social construct.

So I guess my conclusion is: the gender a person wants to express is a personal (psychological) question; the symbols used to make that expression are taken from the social environment that person lives in.

The social environment also shapes the psychology. It's a self-reinforcing system (this is neither a good or bad thing, it just is.)

Example: even if a typical Western man knows that gender expression is not associated with sexuality, he still does not want to dress as a woman because it makes him feel less manly and he does not want to be mocked.

Put another way, if high school is a microcosm of our society, then our society is high school writ large. Put that way, a LOT of social and cultural BS starts to make sense. 

...does not want to dress as a women because ...
... or because he doesn't want to send a misleading signal.

Yes, I see what you're getting at. It all makes sense.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #156 - Will Shooting Gun Games Lead Sean to be Slain Upon the Public Thoroughfare?

"Despise not the racketeer. Instead, despise his sport."
  • USCCA held its first ever PolymerPalooza, a unique and fun shooting event! Beth talks about some of their sponsors and products, and what she did there.
  • A man bit and partially severed another man’s nipple. How does that happen? Sean digs in to discover what sort of person would act like this.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We’ve all had that neighbor who’s not quite there. In fact, we’ve seen whole movies that revolve around the 'crazy neighbor' dynamic. But how do you deal with them? Miguel gives us some practical tips borne from 20 years experience with the crazy lady next door.
  • Our Special Guest this week is author and firearms instructor Grant Cunningham. Grant answers the important question: Will competition shooting get you killed on the streets?
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Friend of the show Amy asks, "I drive long distances in hot weather in an older car. What preps should I include for hot weather vehicle survival?" Erin's answer involves cold packs. 
  • NPR interviews the President of the Women’s March to talk about the NRA and its Dana Loesch video, and their bias is showing.  Weer’d takes them on.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the MAG-20  Armed Citizen's Rules of Engagement class in Matthews, NC.
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 -
Hot Weather Car Survival
Listener Amy writes in with these timely questions: How should I modify my car prep kit for hot weather? What's the best/safest way to store water in that scenario? I drive 45 miles each way to work, in a fairly unreliable car, so getting stuck is more of a "when" and not an "if."

This is a great topic, because while I’ve addressed cold weather survival in a car back way in episode 15, I haven’t done anything specific on car-based heat survival - which is odd, considering that I live in Florida.

The problem with giving advice on heat survival is that in my experience, it has a lot more “Well, it depends” factors than cold weather. For example, regardless of if it’s 30 degrees or 30 below, snowing or not, blowing or not, you know that you need to have an outer waterproof shell, an inner insulating layer, avoid sweating, and stay out of the wind; everything else is just a matter of degree.

But hot weather forces you to ask questions like:
  • Is it a humid heat or a dry heat? 
  • How hot does it get?
  • Do you get a lot of reflected light due to terrain (like glare off a desert or water), or is it absorbed by vegetation or dark soil?
  • Are you going to be surviving in the shade, or out in the sunlight?
Plus there are the general questions of “Are you planning on waiting for rescue, or is this an "Ah crap, I gotta hike out of here" kind of situation?” and “Have you any health problems?” that I ask of anyone who comes to me for advice.

Here are Amy’s answers:
  • Humid. Gawd-awful humid. My poor curly hair...well, I just HATE summer.
  • Highs in the upper 80s/low 90s usually, late July we can see higher with sickening heat indexes. 
  • Not much reflected light...most is absorbed by the crops. Which is pretty much all the terrain in my area. 
  • It depends on where in my route I'm stuck. I probably wouldn't even call it stuck if my car died in town at either end, so we'll go with wait.
  • I'm that person who brings a separate list of medications to doctor appts and writes, "see attached." Soooo....asthma, insulin resistance, some random but serious allergies, chronic migraines, ADHD, social anxiety, OCD...blah, blah, blah. So, a mixture of some physical illnesses that could go downhill quickly in the heat with some mental illnesses that, while controlled well with medication, could make an emergency situation feel or appear (and, therefore, become) more desperate or crippling than necessary. I wear a medical ID bracelet, carry necessary meds with me, and keep extra epi-pens in my car.
So, first off: Good job on being prepared with medication and epi-pens! Now my advice is going to come with a few assumptions:
  • I assume you already have things like a first aid kit, battery backup for your cell phone, tools for basic car repair, etc.
  • I assume you have a reliable way to call for help and you don’t travel through dead zones. 
With those in mind, here’s what I would suggest you add to your car:

A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. The one I’ve linked in the show notes is a khaki boonie hat with detachable flaps for your face and neck to prevent sunburn.

Speaking of sunburn, carry the highest SPF sunblock you have.

At least one gallon of water, preferably more.
 The human body needs half a gallon of water a day, but that doesn’t take strenuous activity or dehydration into account. I’d buy plastic gallon jugs at the store and remove them at the beginning of winter (you don’t want them to freeze, burst the plastic, then thaw and leak everywhere). Make sure you keep them covered, or in the trunk, because water exposed to sunlight can start to grow algae. 

If the water does start to go bad, you can still use it for things like wiping your body down or pouring on an overheated engine. A thick washcloth will help with all of that.

Wiping sweat off your body with a wet washcloth is a good way to feel cool for a little bit, but it doesn’t last. For a longer-term solution, get some chemical cold-packs and keep them with your first-aid supplies. Not only can you use them to prevent swelling, but a cold pack on your neck, between your thighs or under your armpits can make you feel a lot better. You can get a 24-pack of them from Amazon with Prime shipping for $14.50.

Just in case you don’t have a space blanket in your preps, get one. Yes, most people use them to stay warm, but a reflective surface can help keep you cool by reflecting the heat away from you.

If you have to stay in the car for shelter -- and if you do, I assume you’ve rolled down the windows -- the windshield can be covered with a commercial sunshade, which usually costs between 8 and 15 dollars.

I also suggest the longest shovel you can fit in the car and can comfortably use. Don’t use a folding shovel unless you have no other choice; you can get plenty of nice 27-inch shovels at the hardware store if space is an issue, but get a longer one if you can. You can use this shovel for a variety of tasks, but the two that I’m thinking of are “digging your tires out if they get stuck” and “Digging a trench to lie down in because that will be cooler than inside your car.”

waterproof tarp with a reflective side will also be useful; not only can you use it as a sun shade, if you do decide to dig a shelter it can be used (reflective side down) to keep the dirt and bugs and yuck off you.

And, of course, ways to tie all this down. A 100-foot hank of paracord and a roll or two of duct tape will help immensely!

Finally, have a map of the area, the more detailed the better. If you know how far it is to the nearest aid station, that will do a lot for your peace of mind, and it will help you give navigation assistance to whomever is coming to help you.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Recommended View from Salem

I have a hard time keeping up with television. Maybe it's an attention deficit problem; maybe it's the fact that most stories I experience are in games, and are more interactive. All I know is that, with a few exceptions, I struggle to keep up with more than one or two television shows,and don't watch very many movies. As a result, most of my "entertainment" comes from adding random interesting videos to my YouTube "Watch Later" list and letting them play on a second monitor while I play a game.

About a week ago, someone at Google with more conservative viewpoints than the average "Googler" (seriously, they actually call themselves that) posted on the company's internal social network a memo that cited scientific sources to explain why Google is struggling with its internal 'diversity', suggestions on how to address it more effectively, and noting that thinking outside of the accepted norm is discouraged and feels like it could possibly lead to being fired... so Google fired him for thinking outside of the accepted norm. The press jumped on this quickly, labeling it an "Anti-PC, Anti-Diversity Screed" and running the author's name through the mud.

What do these things have in common? Well, I really don't have much to contribute this week. My mind is elsewhere, and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by life at the moment. I'll put it simply:

  • YouTube is run by Google. 
  • My Watch Later list is made up of videos from all over the political spectrum. Far Left, Far Right, In-Between, and completely unaffiliated. 
  • Google has recently announced they'll be setting loose an algorithm to police "extremist" content on YouTube which has the aims of moving "controversial" content into a sort of limbo where they won't be recommended, can't be voted or commented on, and will get no exposure. 
I worry that Google has, in pursuit of being "good", has lost sight of it's old motto of "Don't Be Evil." I worry that they might be planning to infringe upon my right to listen, and I say that knowing full well they aren't a government organization. It seems that as soon as people started trying to protect their First Amendment rights, crazy people started trying to get corporations to enforce censorship when they realized government couldn't.

Simply put, I want to make the decision about what thoughts I listen to. I don't want Google deciding for me. If this turns south, for all the good it will do, I'm jumping ship from Android and getting an iThing of some sort.

I'll let someone who is much more experienced in the YouTube world than I am explain it to you better than I could. Yes, this video is roughly 30 minutes long. That's no big thing for me; I regularly listen to lectures and debates that are 2+ hours, but it explains my concerns well. Put aside any nationalistic or idealistic differences you may have with the speaker and listen for me.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The DM's Lament

I need 6 more hours in my day in order to get stuff done. Can anyone tell me where I can go to get a 30 hour day? Maybe start a petition at or

At any rate, this has been another typical week of being tired and working hard with little to show for my efforts. I'm even late in posting a silly little video that I should have done on Wednesday night.

Not only is this funny and fits within my experience as a DM, but the tone of tired frustration nicely matches how I feel in Real Life.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Big GRPC 2017 News

If you're one of my Facebook friends, you saw this last Monday.

If you listen to GunBlog VarietyCast Radio, you heard my announcement in this week's podcast.

But just in case you've been living under a rock, yet somehow can still read blog posts, here is the formal announcement:
I'm going to be speaking at this year's Gun Rights Policy Conference in Dallas, Texas.

I don't yet know what day or time I'll be speaking; I'm going to guess Sunday afternoon, because I'm just not that important.

I also don't know which panel I'll be on, or how much time I'll have to talk (but probably not very long), or what I'll be speaking on (although the smart bet is on "Something related to Operation Blazing Sword and/or LGBTQ and Guns".)

People keep telling me I shouldn't be so down on myself, so I'm pleased to announce that while this invitation caused me to freak out, not once did I think inviting me was a horrible mistake.

If you'll be in the area, come by and say hi!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #155 - RINO Hunting

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." - Groucho Marx
  • Beth and her husband went to Shootrite Academy in Alabama. They discuss what it’s like to train as a married couple, and Beth learned an important lesson about defensive pistol use in 101 degree heat.
  • Sean has a doozy of a Felons Behaving Badly segment featuring five, count 'em, FIVE suspects involved in a kidnapping. You're going to need a score card to figure out who is related to whom!
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We're all supposed to grow up, not just grow older, but some people miss the maturity bus. Miguel tells us what to do when you run into an alleged adult who throws a childish temper tantrum in public.
  • Sean went RINO hunting with the pro-gun group Grass Roots North Carolina. There were people dressed in Rhino pajamas, a rhino mask, and more Sergeants-at-Arms than you can shake a pro-gun banner at.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Erin finishes up her series on Surviving Survival with a double-length segment on successful coping strategies.
  • The One and Only Anti-Gun Podcast brings on a researcher to talk about research and the anti-gun agenda. Weer’d listens so that you don't have to!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Holder
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 -
Surviving Survival
For the past two months, I’ve been talking about what trauma is and why our brains respond it the way that they do, and giving suggestions on how to manage anger, fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. This week I conclude this series by giving general strategies for getting past the traumatic event and getting on with your life. In other words, how to survive the rest of your life once you’ve survived the emergency, tragedy, disaster or trauma. 

There are six strategies that lead to successful outcomes. Of these, the most effective strategy -- contrary to all expectations -- is Suppression. In other words, Put it out of your mind. Just don’t think about it. Think about other things instead. 

In the paper titled Study Of Adult Development, psychiatrist George Vaillant found that simply suppressing a traumatic experience and getting on with life is, quote, "the defensive style most closely associated with successful adaptation". Suppression is straightforward, practical, and best of all, it works. "Of all the coping mechanisms," Vaillant writes, "suppression alters the world the least and best accepts the terms life offers." 

However, not everyone can simply stop thinking about things that trouble them. This is a problem which I have; when something bothers me, I end up chewing on it over and over, like a cow with its cud. For those of you who end up ruminating on your problems like I do, here are other successful strategies:

Sublimation - Do something to channel anger, energy and anxiety into something productive. This is engaging the seeking pathway, and I went into this in detail in episode 148. Sublimation is another form of suppression, because seeking pathway overrides the rage pathway of rumination. 

Altruism - Do something kind for someone else. This helps you twice: first by occupying your mind with the task, and the second with the chemical reward that comes with positive emotions when your gift makes its recipient happy. 

Anticipation - See the future and prepare for it. Like studying for a test so hard that you score a 100% on it, if you over-prepare then the actual event is a nonissue. This is an excellent strategy for things which have a definite end goal, such as a diagnosis of cancer. If you’re a prepper, you are constantly using this technique. 

And finally Humor - Being able to laugh at yourself is healing. It has been said that you “Can’t be laughing and worrying at the same time,” and I’ve found this to be true, which is why I always try to make a joke to lighten the mood when things seem horrible. 

The best coping mechanism of all, if you can manage it, is to combine suppression with laughter. Laugh about the good things in life and don’t think about the terrible things -- or laugh AT the terrible things, to rob them of their power. A thing you mocking is not a thing to be feared. 

There are 12 steps for successful survival, whether you are in the middle of a disaster or you are dealing with the aftermath. 
  1. Perceive & Believe - Recognize the reality of the situation. Don’t deny it is happening; accept it and deal with it. 
  2. Remain Calm - acknowledge whatever fear, rage, or sadness you have, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, use that energy to be productive by engaging the seeking pathway. 
  3. Think, Analyze, Plan - Know what you have and what you want. Once you have a realistic assessment of your resources and predicament, set achievable goals. Tell yourself “OK, this bad thing has happened. Now what?” Look to future instead of ruminating on the past or what could have been. 
  4. Act on that plan - This is sublimation, and it effectively directs negative emotions outward into productive effect. Do something other than dwelling on pain and trauma. 
  5. Celebrate success once action is taken - This creates a dopamine reward within your brain, which makes you feel better and causes you to want to keep progressing forward. This is a “virtuous circle”. 
  6. Count your blessings - This results in gratitude, which calms negative emotions. 
  7. Play - Have fun, which is part of living a healthy happy life. Without joy, you aren’t living, you’re merely existing. 
  8. See the Beauty - Focus on positive, ignore the negative. This binds you to the world so you want to keep living. 
  9. Believe you can influence events - Believing that you will succeed is the attitude of the survivor, not the victim. Do not wait for rescue; rescue yourself. 
  10. Surrender - Don’t let your fears hold you back; let go of them and move forward.
  11. Do whatever is necessary to make that move happen - By this point, you should know, deep within yourself, that you have the will and skill to accomplish what is needed for healing or rescue. Do not let obstacles keep you from your goal. 
  12. Never give up - You’re still alive. That means you can always improve your situation. 
Finally, there is happiness, which is what everyone wants in life. I’m going to conclude this series with three key thoughts on happiness and the pursuit thereof:

“It’s possible to lead a healthy happy life even in the aftermath of trauma. Perhaps more importantly, happiness is not a matter of avoiding trouble; it’s a matter of how you deal with it.”

“Happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster. Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing.”

To make your live more complete, and therefore help you achieve happiness:
  1. Do something you love.
  2. Do something for someone who needs you.
  3. Be with people who care about you.
I can’t stress that last one enough: Be with people who care about you.

Take care of yourself, folks.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

'Comic Fans' Don't Have To Be Your Audience. 'Comic Fans' Are Over.

Wow, that title sounds familiar. I wonder where I've heard something like that before? 

When I spoke previously about the Exponential Outrage Theorem, I had no idea it would become relevant again so quickly, and in such a ludicrous manner. Several years ago, I commented that Marvel was playing a long game in diversity, and it was working for them; they were introducing new characters while promoting legacy characters to keep them around, which respected both new and legacy characters, and DC was making some very public and messy mis-steps.

Since DC's Rebirth event, they've become wildly popular amongst comic fans, and the diehard Marvel purists (as well as more casual fans) are starting to turn away from Marvel due to creative decisions such as the disrespect shown the character of Thor, turning the ev0l cis-het white male Captain America into a 'Nazi', and the introduction of a black girl who got her start by stealing things from MIT as the new Iron Man lead. Sales have slumped a bit in comparison to DC, who is not only overtaking them in comics sales and popularity, but also just had their first broadly-accepted cinematic universe movie in the fantastic Wonder Woman (which despite having a female lead and a female director, was devoid of any out-of-place identity politics).

Last week, an innocent Marvel editor took some of her co-workers to Ben & Jerrys, and posted a selfie getting milkshakes. This innocent act earned her a deluge of abuse, harassment, and threats, which were detailed on such sites as Bleeding CoolUpworthyThe Mary Sue, and, who went so far as to label this the "new Gamergate." OH! That explains the title. I was wondering where I got that from. So these articles went on, as they always do, to display the requisite six nasty tweets the editor...

...what? Oh, I'm sorry. I'm being informed that they did not display the six requisite tweets from literal nobodies. Bleeding Cool supplied 5 mild tweets from literal nobodies, Upworthy only 3, and both sites showcased a literal deluge of support from industry insiders, fellow co-workers, and assorted random people. The Mary Sue supplied no negative tweets at all. No screenshots were provided of the alleged DMs from anyone. Most of the coverage consisted of this same pattern: a small example of mildly rude tweets, then easily 3-4 times as many pictures of random people with milkshakes supporting the editor and her friends. This hardly paints a picture of hostility. In fact, The Mary Sue even went so far as to respond to the criticism of their coverage with what can only be described as plugging their ears and shouting "I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I??" This is quite possibly the most juvenile piece I think I've ever seen on their site, and that speaks volumes.

With all due respect (that being very little) to, the only way in which this seems to be a 'new Gamergate' is in that an enthusiast press is attacking its audience for what seems to be a minor slight at most, all the while celebrating what good people they are. I've seen far too many overblown outrages over the last few years to take anything at face value anymore, and the evidence is getting flimsier and flimsier each time it happens. This is, by far, the most exaggerating instance I've seen. It's so exaggerated that someone did some preliminary math over in Reddit's r/comicbooks and, basing the number of Marvel readers (conservatively) on the number of issues of their biggest book sold (roughly 225,000) against the 7 negative tweets they found (reminder that Redditors, at least most of them, are not paid to do the work that journalists don't bother to do), they came up with the fact that three-thousandths of one percent of Marvel readers objected to the milkshake picture in any form.

I am tired. I am very tired. This tires me. But I will not stop pointing out the sheer BS that happens every time something even remotely controversial gets drummed up in entertainment press. This is by far the worst offender so far, as it's provided the least actual coverage of the alleged wrong-doings and wasn't even based on an announcement or change or anything like that, but just a selfie.

Stop trying to paint your readership as monsters. Stop trying to fit your customers into a little 'basket of deplorables' and expecting them to thank you for being good people when you do. It doesn't work like that.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Arcane Recovery

I need a break from talking about gender dysphoria and the military, so here's a little thing that I took from 5th edition D&D and turned into a Pathfinder Feat.

For those who don't know, 5e grants the Arcane Recovery ability to wizards at first level:

Arcane Recovery

You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your Spellbook. Once per day when you finish a Short Rest, you can choose expended Spell Slots to recover. The Spell Slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up), and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher.

For example, if you’re a 4th-level wizard, you can recover up to two levels worth of Spell Slots. You can recover either a 2nd-level spell slot or two 1st-level Spell Slots.

In 5e, a Short Rest is defined as "a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds."

Since my 2nd level PCs were still struggling with resource management, and because the wizard had never used his Scribe Scroll feat, I gave him the opportunity to replace scribe scroll with the new Arcane Recovery feat.

He took it, saying "Given at 2nd level I've only got 3 first level spells per day, that one extra spell is like 33% extra. And that round up makes it neater at level 3."

I'm not even sure why 1st level wizards even get Scribe Scroll. It takes 250 gold to create a 1st level spell scroll, and starting gold for wizards is at most 120 gp. By the time they have the gold to create scrolls, they're likely 2nd or 3rd level.

Coincidentally, 3rd level is a feat level, so my PC still wants Scribe Scroll, he can take it then.

Anyway, if you like to use Hero Lab, here is Arcane Recovery.user for your downloading pleasure.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Words Have Meaning, So Use the Right Ones

Erin, is this post about yourself, or is it more about the 'Transgender Military Ban"?

Both, actually. I've realized that a lot of the confusion stems from people not using the proper terminology (either due to ignorance, or confusion, or conversational shorthand) and making certain assumptions based on those terms. So I'm going to explain things as best I can so that we can all get on the same page and then have constructive discussions rather than destructive arguments about the situation.

First, I'm going to talk about me and my transgender journey, where I explain why I use a different term for myself now than I did when I first came out. Not only will it clear up some confusion, it's also a handy reminder to old readers and an important notification to new ones that when I talk about the difficulties involved in being transgender, I'm not pulling "facts" out of my nether regions but rather talking about life experiences (either mine, or those of a friend. I have more than a few transgender friends).

Then I will give some useful definitions regarding gender and sexuality. You might not think this is important, but it is; someone actually got upset at me on Facebook for telling them the word for "non-transgender", as if I'd created the term wholecloth. If we all use the same words and we all know what they mean, we won't have that level of confusion muddying the issue.

Once that's done and we're all on the same page, I will be able to talk about hat much-touted RAND report and everyone will be able to understand me. I'll have to do that in a follow-up post because this one has become too long.

Genderqueer vs. Transgender
When I first came out, I told everyone that I was genderqueer. I picked this word for a few reasons:
  1. I was under the impression that unless I was planning to get sexual reassignment surgery, I could not consider myself a proper male-to-female transgender. 
  2. Because my plumbing was one of the few body parts I was okay with, I felt that saying I was transgender was inappropriate because it gave the wrong impression.
  3. I also didn't live full-time as a female, due to living with family (for financial reasons) to whom I was not "out".
I went with genderqueer, even though it wasn't a perfect fit,  because it seemed more honest, more "I'm not as female as I'd like to be but please don't gender me as male, thank you kindly." than transgender. And there are times, -- a lot of them -- when I want to be treated as female, but for whatever reason I can't look that way. For example, it's an involved, 3-hour process to hide my stubble and look female, and I have to repeat it every morning, and by the afternoon the stubble is still growing back in and starting to texture my face, and I just feel like "FML", to use the vernacular.

So I called myself genderqueer, and I ended up explaining what it meant again, and again, and again, and I just got sick of it because it always brought conversations to a screeching halt because I had to keep explaining how it was different from being transgender. Eventually I just started calling myself transgender because at least people knew what that word meant. I figured that technical inaccuracy that served to get a conversation moving to the important teachable moments was acceptable.

Funny enough, it was only years later, when I became more active in the LGBTQ because I was outspoken about who I am,  that I discovered that I could be a transwoman without having my penis removed. My reaction was a mixture of incredulity and relief: "Wait, I can DO that? That's actually a thing I can do in this community and I won't be denounced for it? Really?"  It felt like a weight had been lifted from me, because I realized I could legitimately refer to myself as trans without feeling like a filthy liar or tourist. I still feel like a proper transwoman would do things like presenting as female 24/7, up to and including dressing in femme-but-range-appropriate-attire for MAG40 class, but I am me and I do the best I can, and no one but me gets to dictate how I live my life.

Now that you've seen how even I could get hung up on what "transgender" actually means, it's no surprise that a lot of other people do. So let's cure that.

Let's start with the ones we all think we know. 
Sex: either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their inherent biological & chromosomal characteristics and reproductive functions. 

Gender: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with a particular sex. This is sometimes called "gender identity". 
So your biological identity is determined by your sex but your emotional and psychological identity is determined by your gender. For most people their gender matches their sex, and life is good. Other people don't have it so good, and they suffer from Gender Dysphoria.
Gender Dysphoria: the condition of having one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex. As this is an actual psychological diagnosis per the DSM-5, one needs to be diagnosed as gender dysphoric by a professional before one can get assistance with transition. 
However, this doesn't mean that if you're a man who wears dresses (aka "The Klinger Argument") that you're gender dysphoric. You can be perfectly happy with your biology and still enjoy dressing as the opposite sex.
Transvestite: a person (usually a man, usually heterosexual) who derives comfort and/or sexual satisfaction from wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. Also called cross-dresser; not to be confused with drag queen (q.v.). 
Drag Queen: a man (female version: "drag king") who dresses as the opposite sex as part of a performance or public persona. Usually homosexual, but not always. 
Since how one dresses is not biologically linked to one's sex or sexual preference, we have a special term for this:
Gender Expression: the way in which a person expresses gender identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behavior. It does not have to match a person's sex, although it usually does. 
A woman with a masculine gender expression might have short hair, wear t-shirts and jeans, and not use makeup or perfume. A man with a feminine gender expression might wear makeup or crossdress. It doesn't make them gay or straight or gender dysphoric.
"Gender Is a Social Construct"While I can't speak for everyone who uses this phrase, what most people mean by it is "Sex is a measurable biological quality whereas gender is not. You cannot determine the gender expression of a person through a medical test and therefore you cannot tell which gender (not the same thing as sex, see above) that person is. 
Since gender is not biological, it must be sociological. Our society determines what behavior is masculine and what is feminine. Example: in Western cultures, men wear trousers, and wearing clothing which does not separate the legs is seen as effeminate (unless kilts are involved. I don't understand how or why kilts get the exception, but they do and it's glorious). However, in many Eastern cultures, what we would consider a skirt is perfectly normal male attire:
From Wikipedia:
"Javanese men often wear sarongs during religious
or casual occasions. Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia."
Are these Javanese men considered effeminate for wearing skirts? In Indonesia, no. In America or other Western countries, they likely would be. 
With that said, we can now get to the actual definition of transgender and explain why it doesn't mean what some people assume it means.
Trans: across; beyond; on the other side of. From the Latin word for "across." Example: Trans-Siberian Railroad, Transatlantic. 

Transgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. This term has become a blanket term to describe anyone who is not cisgender (q.v.).

Transsexual: a person who has undergone or is undergoing treatment in order to acquire the physical characteristics of the opposite sex, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). Read this Wikipedia article for a more in-depth explanation. 

Cis: on this side. Contextually, on the side nearest to the speaker. From the Latin word for "on this side of." Example: cislunar, cisalpine

Cisgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

Cissexual: someone who is biologically male or female. 
So using me as an example, Erin Palette is technically a transgender cissexual male (or cismale) with a feminine gender expression. Clear as mud, right?

So Here's the Problem
It's quite simple, actually: when folks hear or read "transgender people in the military" they think is means "transsexual people" - possibly having SRS, almost certainly on HRT - when I have a suspicion that what most of the military means by transgender is "gender dysphoric".

Gender dysphoria used to be a disqualifying condition in the military, just as homosexuality was. But so long as someone who is gender dysphoric does not begin taking hormones, they still maintain operational readiness.

I'll go into greater detail on this in my next post, when I discuss that RAND report everyone's talking about.

The Fine Print

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