Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Palette's Product Reviews: the Speedy Sharp

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have been a fan of knives longer than I've been a gun-owner.

I have many, many sharp things, including a Cold Steel Kukri Machete and a Mora Clipper, as well as several spears (but, sadly, no swords. Yet.) and two things remain the same in my experience:
  1. They all need to be sharpened
  2. There is no such thing as a universal sharpening system
Pocket knives usually have a different grind than a fixed-blade knife, and certainly are different from the grinds of the heavy working edges of  axes and hatchets.  Combine that with the different types of steel used (440 stainless vs. 1055 high carbon vs. Sandvik 12C27, for instance) and I end up having to keep track of which sharpener works best with which knife.

Hollow Grind, Flat Grind, Sabre Grind,
Chisel Grind, Double Bevel, Convex Grind.
(At this point I fully expect someone with more blade experience will pipe up and prove me wrong. Oh well. All I can say is that what sharpens one of my knives will blunt another, and that any sharpener claiming to be "universal" categorically isn't.)

Therefore, when I find something that works along a broad spectrum of sharp objects, it thrills me. Doubly so when it's inexpensive. 

Enter the Speedy Sharp.($9.95, plus $2.00 shipping)

It's a chunk of Micro 100 Super Carbide mounted to what feels like a handle of aluminum and coated in a rubberized plastic grip. It's dead-simple to use, whether you are removing rust, aggressively sharpening a banged-up edge, or just honing a knife to greater sharpness.

How good is it? It was able to easily put a false edge on the back of my Kukri Machete when previous attempts (using both a diamond sharpener and an abrasive lawnmower sharpening puck) took lots of time and effort for minimal result. It truly does, as the package claims, "Peel the Steel."

HOWEVER -- and I want to make this absolutely clear -- this is NOT a tool for beginners. If you have not yet learned how much pressure to apply when sharpening, you will likely carve a chunk out of your knife. If you do not know at what angle to hold the sharpener, it may not work well, either sliding over the steel without sharpening or cutting an additional bevel into your blade. And if you do not understand the difference between positive and negative rake, you won't know which end to use when.

Have I scared you enough?  Fortunately, Speedy Sharp has instructions to help you along, both in print and in video formats.

With a little bit of practice (hopefully on a beater blade), you should have an idea of how best to use this handy tool.  While not a universal sharpening system (see Point #2 above), I have found that between this and the EZE-Lap Pen Sharpener ($6.37, Amazon), I have a nearly-perfect sharpening system that fits in my pocket and costs less than $20.

As a point of interest, carbide is also much more effective at creating sparks on a flint surface than a standard steel striker. Put one of these in your bug-out bag and you can make fire and sharpen your knives!

I give both of these products an A+ rating and carry them everywhere as part of my Every Day Carry kit.

Dear FCC:  I paid for both of these items. Kindly go away.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Gunday Quickie

Apparently I'm just not meant to own an AR-15, because every time I try to order parts, I end up with someone taking my money and then refusing to send me my merchandise.

The last time this happened, it was from someone I knew over Facebook. This time, it was from an internet vendor with an actual physical address and everything. Both times, they've tried to scam me and refused to communicate when I asked, quite reasonably, "Hey, where's that stuff I paid for?"

To everyone who thinks I am paranoid for not showing my face on the internet:  this is one of many, many reasons why I feel that, honestly, I'm not paranoid enough. I'm obviously far too trusting when it comes to believing people will actually send me what I pay for.

And this is the main reason why I bought an SKS: because I suspected I'd never get my AR built, and I wanted something to fill the "semiautomatic rifle" slot in my firearm inventory. At least this way, I have one from each of the major food groups.

I will go into greater detail, including the name of the vendor, as soon as the credit card company assures me that the chargeback is complete. Oh, believe me, I am going to vent my spleen and name names, and hopefully no one within the sound of my voice will buy from this company ever again.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Unknown Ponies: One Bad Apple (Part 1)

Yes, it's the post you've been waiting for! Thanks for your patience, everypony. I've decided to break this into pieces because this post is getting quite large.

OK, a few assumptions before I begin the dissection of an MLP episode as a game of Unknown Ponies:
  • The Cute Mark Crusaders are PCs; all other ponies are NPP (non-player ponies). 
  • The PCs start out with completely empty Friendship Tracks and no Magic points.

The Show Begins

0:00   The Ponymaster informs Apple Bloom's player that her cousin from Manehattan is coming to visit for the first time. Apple Bloom (henceforth AB) looks at her character sheet, sees the lack of Friendship Points, and decides to do something about that. She then describes AB running around, trying out increasingly silly ensembles in an attempt to make a good impression. This causes the PCs to laugh, and thus a point of Laughter is earned.

During the role-play between AB and Applejack, the Ponymaster casually references the Harvest Day Parade. The PCs might notice this, but probably might not; the Cutie Mark Crusaders have shown an inability to pay attention to crucial details, especially when spoken by adults.

AJ lets it slip that the cousin also doesn't have her Cutie Mark. AB realizes this is going to be critical to the plot (heh) of the episode and runs off to gather the rest of the PC group. This does not gain her any specific Friendship Points, but it moves things along and gets all the characters together in one place.

Opening Sequence

1:09   It's entirely possible that some or all of the PCs will sing the opening song for the show. Depending on how many of them participate or how funny they are, points might be awarded:
  • Loyalty if everypony sings along
  • Laughter if somepony does a silly or hammy performance
  • Kindness if somepony does a really awesome and sincere job of singing
It is my suggestion as writer of these rules that points for singing along should be awarded only for groups that meet infrequently. Regular players would likely get tired of singing along every week. It is my contention that the Cutie Mark Crusader PC group meets regularly.

Act One 

01: 45  All the PCs are gathered at the train station, giggling and running around and generally acting like kids do. As this is good role-playing, the PM allows Sweetie Belle (SB) and Scootaloo (SAL) to roll for Unicorn Magic and Flight, respectively. They do so, and roll well enough to score an improvement with those skills, and thus SAL is described as making wing-enhanced jumps which have lots of air time and SB's unicorn horn produces a brief burst of magical light. Since this is charming goofiness and the other CMCs are exhibiting the same giddiness as Apple Bloom, the PM decides that both SB and SAL get a Laughter point as well. Now all the CMCs match.

02:09  The train from Manehatten pulls up, and AB starts with "That's her! No, no, that's not her... ooh, that's her!" routine. This might be worth another Laughter point, depending on how well it's received at the table, but it's already been established that AB is looking forward to seeing her cousin and this action doesn't bring anything new to the scene.*

* This might make for a good guideline to be added to the rules:  acquiring Friendship Points only happens when it brings something new to a scene. This prevents lawyer-ponies from arguing that giving away 10 cupcakes to 10 different ponies earns them 10 Generosity points all at once.

02:30  Now we have more role-playing interaction, which is good. (I half-wonder if the PM has brought in a friend to role-play Babs Seed, but that's not important.)  And hey, the CMCs mention the Summer Harvest Parade, which means at least one of them was paying attention to the NPP giving out important information!

03:00  The Cutie Mark Crusaders are trying to recruit Babs into their organization. It is worth stating that this is categorically NOT worth any Friendship Points, because when you think about it, the founding purpose of the CMCs -- to find their special talents -- is inherently selfish.  They are not a service organization like the Filly Scouts; their only purpose is to advance the abilities of their members.

However, this is a new scene, so any humorous role-play is worth another Laughter Point. 

04:28  Another new scene, another chance to convince Babs to join the CMC. However, the Ponymaster has something nefarious up her hoof, and decides to have Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara show up.

  1. I imagine that Tiara's father, Filthy Rich, was visiting Granny Smith at Sweet Apple Acres to talk business and dragged his daughter along. She in turn brought along her best friend, and the two of them got bored and wandered off to find something to do. 
  2. It is a testament to the strength of this show's writing that I despise these two bitches more than some actual people that I actually hate. The writers seem to have tapped into a rich vein of catty schoolyard mocking that brings back all sorts of unpleasant memories for me.
  3. Watching these two in action makes me wonder if there should be an inverse of the Friendship Track, which monitors the Elements of Discord. I like the idea in general, but am not sure if it would improve gameplay or just be another bit of bookkeeping. If you have opinions on this, please let me know in the comments.
It's not entirely clear to me how this scene would play out in an actual game in terms of mechanics, but here are the salient points:
  • The CMC are totally oblivious to the fact that Babs in insecure about not having a Cutie Mark, despite having covered her flank with her tail both times it's been brought up. This lack of empathy on their part is the core of this adventure. 
  • Tiara and Spoon, on the other hand, wig to this immediately. Part of this is due to them being run by the Ponymaster, but part is due to the fact that they get special joy from harassing blank flanks. 
  • Presented with the option of joining one side or the other, Babs chooses the team she thinks is less likely to rub her lack of a Cutie Mark into her face. 
  • Some destruction and bullying occurs, which again makes me think of Elements of Discord, as Babs demonstrates anti-Kindness quite well. 
06:23  Here is another recurring CMC motif:  One of the PCs knows what should be done, but the other two shoot it down. It's unclear whether the players of these characters are clueless or really, really committed to playing the roles of "kids who frequently miss the point."

Act Two

06:42  Presented with a clear problem -- "How do we deal with a bully?" -- the CMCs brainstorm to figure out what to do next. AB exhibits her proto-special ability by suggesting they build another float, which is shot down by SAL, and SB once again is the voice of reason and is once again shot down. Eventually it is resolved that they will solve their problem by hiding from Babs until she leaves town.

07:24   Sweetie Belle's player, annoyed with this, decides to concoct a musical number to highlight the futility of this plan. The other Pony Characters play along -- perhaps Apple Bloom's player is the "set builder" and thinks up venues (soda shop, movie theater, etc) where they could be minding their business. Scootaloo's player is all about action, so perhaps she contributes the chase scenes, the awful things Babs could do, etc. Loyalty Points are awarded for participating in the song.

While this all seems like script padding, this is actually an important development, and it is as critical to this episode as any scene in The A-Team or MacGuyver where the heroes build stuff to the accompaniment of music, because the characters now realize (with perhaps some help from the Pony Master during the song) that they must be proactive instead of reactive to solve their problem. (This is reinforced at the 09:20 mark where Babs steals their clubhouse, leaving them without any safe haven.)

10:01  They're all in Sweetie Belle's room. We know this because Apple Bloom says Babs kicked her out of her room, and we see SB's father fishing on the dock in front of the house, and for all we know of her home life, Scootaloo is a homeless orphan who mooches off her friends to keep from starving.... wow, it just got Dickensian here for a minute, didn't it?

(As an aside to Newbiespud:  in your Friendship is Dragons comic, Scootaloo should totally be a courier/smuggler who is used via cutout (Sweetie Belle) by Rarity the Rogue.)

10:32  Either AB's player has a moment of insight, or the PM shows mercy* on the characters by having her spot the preparations for the Summer Harvest Parade as a clue-by-four. Regardless, they realize that the Parade is going to be critical to their plans... despite the fact that revenge is not how polite ponies behave.

*It is a point of philosophical debate whether the Ponymaster is setting the PCs up to fail by suggesting they do something which is contrary to the principles of Friendship, or if she is simply mad at them because they have failed to Get A Clue and Talk To An Adult, or the players behind the Cutie Mark Crusaders are more than a little masochistic and enjoy catastrophic failures. Were I to guess, I would say that  #3 leads to #2 and then to #1, with the PM thinking "If you're going to mess with me, I'm going to mess with you right back!"  As long as everyone at the game table is having a good time, I see no problem with this.

11:16  They are finally putting a plan into action! Hooray! The players are probably being circumspect and not letting the PM know what they are plotting. This is also fine, as it is both amusing and worthy of a Loyalty
point for all concerned.

12:03   OH MY CELESTIA IT'S A DELIBERATE A-TEAM HOMAGE. Laughter point for all ponies!

12:19  It's funny that two of the three CMCs are  progressing towards their cutie marks with this sequence:  AB with her general "build stuff" skill, and SAL fast-talking the PM with a "I like going fast on my scooter, so that should mean I know how to tweak a transmission" line.

12:37  After working all night, the ponies have finally finished their build. As this was hard work, aka Honest Labor, they each earn an Honesty point. If Scootaloo had said "I think we're golden" that would have earned her another Laughter point, but she didn't.

12:50  End of Act 2.  Current tallies for the Cutie Mark Crusaders are as follows:

Laughter Points:  3
Loyalty Points:    2
Honesty Points:   1

NO points in Kindness, Generosity, or Magic.  Hmmm. It's almost as if the Cutie Mark Crusaders are missing the entire point of the episode...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gunnies Helping Gunnies: an Update

Relax, I'm not going to ask you guys for money. (Yet.)  Instead, I'm going to give you all an update on the various people you have helped, either via my nagging or otherwise.

  • She hasn't mentioned it on her blog (yet), but according to Facebook, Tam's nose is healing nicely. "I went in for my 5 wk checkup and they said zombie nose was good. I'm scheduled for scar revision in May," she says. 
  • Squeaky Wheel says she doesn't have uterine cancer, and if you're into that sort of thing you can totally see pictures of her internal organs, hubba hubba.  She's going to need another surgery, though, and I'm not sure if it's funded or not. If not, you can bet your sweet bippy I'm going to hit you up for donations. 
  • Earlier in the month, MSgt B asked for $500 in donations to help Sam, a 6 year old boy with brain cancer, afford chemotherapy. Thanks to your help, "Team Sammy Conquers Cancer" raised three times that amount -- $1,875 in fact. Well done, everyone! Take a victory lap. 
  • Speaking of cancer, AGirl has learned that the thing on her head is, in fact, Basal Cell Carcinoma, and is treating it with cream under the watchful eye of her doctor. (I had no idea there were such things as anti-cancer creams! Truly, this is The Future.) 

Overall, it's been a bad month for cancer. Let it roll, I say.

My apologies if I left anyone off this list. Let me know in comments below and I'll fix it immediately. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Possibly the Greatest App EVER

The Herp Derp browser extension replaces YouTube comments with, well, herp and derp.

Whoever created this should have charged for it. "Shut up and take my money!" does not do justice to my feelings.


I'll just leave this here.

(Ad blocking software my prevent the video from loading. If so, follow the link above.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Traveller: Jumping Out

Last week I covered jumping into a system. Amazingly, this week I cover jumping out. Unexpected, I know.

Before a ship can jump out of the system, it must move to outside of 100 diameters of a gravity well.  This is far easier to say than to do, because not only must the GM take into account the diameter of the world the PCs are leaving, but also the diameter of whatever it's orbiting -- if it's a moon of a gas giant, or close to a stellar body, it's possible to be outside 100 planetary diameters but not 100 stellar or gas giant diameters.

Annoyingly, Traveller (which is usually full of tables and formulae) has nothing in the rules to handle this. Fortunately, I have a workaround.

1. Look up the system on on the Interactive Atlas of the Imperium. 
In this example, we are using the Wonstar system.

2. Find the spectral class of the star. 
In this case, Wonstar is a type M0 V, but is a binary system with a type M1 D (dwarf star).

3. Determine the closest safe orbit using this table. 
Table, and in fact most of the information in this post, is taken from this article. The number in front of the / lists the first orbit outside of the 10-diameter limit (for dangerous jumps); the number after lists the first safe orbit outside the 100-diameter limit.

Dangerous/Safe Orbit Table
Spect   Luminosity 
Class    Ia        Ib        II        III       IV        V        VI 
B0       6/10      5/9       5/9       4/8       4/8       3/7      --- 
B5       7/10      6/9       5/8       3/7       2/6       2/6      --- 
A0       8/11      6/10      5/8       2/7       2/6       1/6      --- 
A5       8/11      6/10      4/8       2/6       1/5       0/4      --- 
F0       8/12      7/10      4/8       2/6       1/5       0/4      --- 
F5       8/12      7/10      5/8       2/6       1/5       0/4      0/4 
G0       9/12      7/11      5/9       2/7       1/5       0/3      0/3 
G5      10/13      8/11      6/9       3/7       1/5       0/3      0/2 
K0      10/13      9/12      6/10      4/8       1/6       0/3      0/1 
K5      11/14      9/13      8/11      6/10      ---       0/2      0/1 
M0      11/15     11/14      9/12      7/10      ---       0/2      0/1 
M5      12/16     12/15     10/14      9/12      ---       0/1      0/0 
M9      13/19     12/16     11/14      9/13      ---       0/0      0/0

Dwarf Stars
DB       0/0
DA       0/0
DF       0/0
DG       0/0
DK       0/0
DM       0/0

Wonstar Prime is an M0 V, which means that an unsafe jump may be performed anywhere in the system, but in order to reach the safe 100d limit, a ship needs to be in at least orbit 2. Since Wonstar Main is in orbit 3, this is not an issue. Wonstar Second is a dwarf (0/0) and therefore irrelevant.

4. Determine planetary diameter and safe jump distance. 
This is easy. The Interactive Atlas tells us that Wonstar Main is a small planet with a diameter of 6,400 km. Multiplying that by 100 give us -- surprise -- 640,000 km.  If it were a moon of a gas giant, then things get a bit vague and tricky, as these calculations are assumed to go from the beginning of the planetary atmosphere and moon orbits are significantly higher than that. Since I don't have a good solution, all I can do is say that small gas giants are approximately 400,000 km in diameter and large ones are 900,000 km. The ship won't need to go the full distance to reach 100 diameters, but how much less is up to the GM. Consult the section labeled "Surface-Habitable Moons" in this article and fake it.

5. Determine transit time. 
If you're a math nerd, go ahead and figure out how long it takes your ship to reach 640,000 km assuming a constant acceleration of whatever your ship's thrust rating is.  If you're like me, consult the table on p.145 of Mongoose Traveller and pick the closest value -- in this case, it takes 106 minutes for a 4-G ship to reach 400,000 km. So let's spitball and say it takes 120 minutes, or 2 hours, to reach a jump point. If your players complain, make THEM do the math.

6. Don't forget random encounters!
Pirates, collisions, aliens, etc.

7. Plot course; divert power; check to see if jump was successful or a misjump occurred.
Two protons expelled at each coupling site creates the mode of force, the embryo becomes a fish that we don't enter until a plate, we're here to experience evolve the little toe, atrophy, don't ask me how I'll be dead in a thousand light years, thank you, thank you. Genesis turns to its source, reduction occurs stepwise though the essence is all one. End of line. FTL system check, diagnostic functions within parameters repeats the harlequin the agony exquisite, the colors run the path of ashes, neuronal network run fifty-two percent of heat exchanger cross-collateralized with hyper-dimensional matrix, upper senses, repair ordered relay to zero zero zero zero. Counting down. All functions nominal. All functions optimal. Counting down. The center holds. The falcon hears the falconer. Infrastructure, check. Wetware, check. Everyone hang on to the life bar, please. Seized by God, they cry for succor in the dark of the light. Mists of dreams dribble on the nascent echo and love no more. Jump.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oh, right, it's Earth Day

Three posts in one day?  You lucky  little buggers. Don't get spoiled now and expect this all the time!  Soon enough I'll be slack-assing my life away and posting 3 times a week.

So anyway, here's a link that shows Earth Day all the respect it deserves:  The Bob & Angus Show, a 5 minute webcast-thing where two muppets talk about games. In today's Earth Day special, they discuss "green" games like Settlers of Catan.

*whistles innocently*

So... welcome to my blog

So, um.  Hi. I'm Erin, and apparently a screed I wrote at 2 am in a fit of high dudgeon is blowing up the internets right now.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

So now that you're here, I feel I must warn you that I don't always talk about guns. I don't always go on amusing rants, either. In fact, I try to be pretty chill and cultivate a geekier-than-thou pose.

I'm tempted to post a week of nothing by My Little Pony just to mess with your minds.

Yesterday on Facebook

This actually happened. Some parts are rearranged to make a more coherent story.

Salem MacGourley:
So I have this action figure of Bellatrix LeStrange. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, and in fact have not even seen the film that she's in, but she's a totally badass representation of Helena Bonham Carter, and I have a weakness for Helena Bonham Carter.

I hate that the figure is not very posable (waist swivel, severely limited ball joint neck, thigh swivels), but the worst part of this is that there is virtually NO pose she can hold that she won't fall over immediately.

I'm seriously about to take a box cutter to this woman's boots.

Katrina Roets:
I read that as boobs and thought wow, is she that top heavy?

Salem MacGourley:
She's rather realistically proportioned, which is a refreshing change in action figure sculpting. Just one of the legs is molded at such an angle that the boots are unbalanced, and her skirts aren't long enough to balance the figure and it's driving me to irrational levels of frustration.

These boots are awesome, but they were sculpted wrong. The heel on the right boot is too short, putting her forever off balance. Part of this boot is coming off.

Erin Palette:
You need something no-nonsense to keep her upright. I'm talking a Serious Block.

Salem MacGourley:
...there's a joke in there that I'm in the wrong fandom to get, isn't there?

Erin Palette:

Katrina Roets:
Erin - Are you thinking something control top? (I know, probably the wrong reference but that's what no-nonsense made me think of.)

Erin Palette:
Sigh. You people.

Salem MacGourley:
Yep. That's HBC. Nobody does crazy eyes like HBC. Also, I think I get that joke, now.

Erin Palette:
What's funny, at least to me, is that there are more than a few times in that clip where HBC reminds me of Geena Davis.

Salem MacGourley:
Geena Davis busted out some pretty impressive crazy eyes from time to time, but I'll always remember her from The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Katrina Roets:
It's time for bed. I just sat here wondering what the heck an HBC was and why it sounded like a bank. Brain obviously stopped functioning..have fun shaving her foot. G'night you two. :)

Erin Palette:
Gee thanks Katrina, now I'm stuck wondering what HBC would look like as a Hobbit...

Salem MacGourley:
Actually, I misread it in my head as HBK once or twice and wondered why we had strayed into a Professional Wrestling thread.

Katrina Roets:
ahahahaha...Okay, I'm going to try to walk upstairs to bed now without falling down because I can't stop giggling at the thought of HBC being a hobbit pro-wrestler.

Salem MacGourley:
A Hobbit pro-wrestler with a Wizard gimmick!

Erin Palette:
This has become exceptionally kinky and therefore you now have my undivided attention. Mostly because I'm envisioning hobbit HBC wrestling Geena Davis.

Salem MacGourley:
That doesn't strike me as terribly fair, Geena Davis is at least six feet tall.

Erin Palette:
Worse, I'm imagining her as her Cutthroat Island character.

Salem MacGourley:
PIRATE Geena Davis vs Wizard midget HBC is the main event.

Erin Palette:
It's basically a distaff version of Willow, innit?

You do not know how sad I am that I wasn't able to say "She's hobbit-forming" or a similar pun.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My "So-Called" Rights

From a comment on my previous post:
You know, I like most of what you post, and followed you even though I disagreed with you on your position on so-called "gun rights".
Oooh. Isn't that just delicious contempt ? It's so thick and creamy you could drizzle it on a pancake. I especially like the one-two punch of  so-called and the scare quotes. They aren't rights, they're "rights". That's quality passive-aggression right there.

Here's what you fuckers need to know about me:  I am not a nice person.  Yes, I am geeky, and I like girly things like magical talking cartoon ponies. I even do generous things for people. This does not make me sweet and nice and kind.

Do not, for one second, assume that I give a shit about your disdain for me.

I do not need your permission to be who I am, and I do not seek your approval. I am not a placid doe-eyed submissive.  I will spit in your face and laugh at your tiny penis, even as you try to rape me of my rights. And maybe you will succeed, but by God you will know you've been in a fight, because I'll have bitten off your ear and gouged out an eye and squeezed your testicles until they ruptured.

Because fuck you, that's why.

You fear me. You are scared of me and you want to weaken me, marginalize me, diminish me. You want me unable to defend myself and utterly at the mercy of men, so you seek to rob me of the great equalizer.

Here's the lovely thing about rights: They aren't up for a vote. That's why they're rights.

Let's put it another way:
  • your so-called "suffrage"
  • your so-called "emancipation"
  • your so-called "integration"
  • your so-called "religious freedom"
  • your so-called "freedom of speech"
  • your so-called "right to due process"

Are you offended yet? You should be. You should be screamingly furious that anyone would diminish these rights with the phrase "so-called". And yet my inalienable right to defend myself with the most effective means possible is threatened because one, ONE asshole out of 10 million law-abiding gun owners decided to commit a raft of crimes that another law would not have stopped. 

You say "Gun control."  I hear, "We want you to defend yourself against a man who is a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier with your bare hands."

You say "Common sense regulations."  I hear, "We don't like these cosmetic features, like an adjustable stock or a foregrip, that make it easier for a woman to use."

You say, "If it saves just one life."  I hear "Except yours, you stupid bitch. We'd rather you get raped and murdered while waiting for the police to arrive."

You say, "Think about the children."  I hear "But not yours. We won't let you defend them, and if we find out you have a gun in the same house as a child, we'll take them both away."

You say, "Compromise."  I say, "Fuck you, you mewling cowards. I will not embrace victimhood. I will not willingly disarm. If you demand I give up my life just to make you feel better, you are selfish on a level that is beyond comprehension."

Does this frighten you? Does my passion offend you? Have I somehow crossed beyond the pale, and forever lost the sublime privilege of your eyes reading my words?





I am me, and that is all the justification I will ever need. If you cannot stand that, go elsewhere. I won't censor myself for your benefit, and I won't allow your weakness to dictate what I do or say or write. 

If you will not accept me as I am, you are not welcome here.

Now, kindly fuck off.  The cool kids are going to talk about ponies, and role-playing games, and guns. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

And now, for the gloating (Warning: Politics)

This has been blowing up on my Facebook page, so I thought I'd post it here. If you have a delicate constitution, dislike politics, or are in favor of gun control, you really should skip this post. For a less inflammatory take on this, please read this Wall Street Journal article

Dear Gun Grabbers in Congress: Fuck you.

No, seriously, FFFFUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOUUUUU, with me flipping you the bird with both hands, sticking out my tongue, and shaking my butt in your direction.

You anti-rights cultists had the best possible chance to pass gun control, and you blew it. You had a Democrat-held Senate, the full weight of the White House behind you, and you even trotted out the parents of the dead children from Sandy Hook to be used as props.

And you shot yourselves in the foot.

You claimed to have 90% approval for legislation, and yet you couldn't pass a thing. All the gun control bills of Wednesday were shot down. Thursday, the very good Barrasso Amendment was passed. This was such an utter failure that Harry Reid tabled the bill because -- guess what? -- he knew it wouldn't pass. I don't expect to see it again until the lame-duck session after the 2014 elections, if then, because gun control is now poisonous.

How poisonous? Democrats have a supermajority within the Illinois House of Representatives -- a state known for its ruled-unconstitutional gun laws and NO concealed carry whatsoever -- and when the speaker tried to push a gun control law, HALF THE DEMOCRATS opposed it and the bill was killed. They can't even pass gun control in  Obama's home state.

You've lost. You had the best chance in 20 years, and you blew it. You let the radicals in your party over-reach (hello, Diane Feinstein!) and that galvanized the millions of lawful gun owners into calling, writing, protesting, and even personally visiting their Senators.

Freedom won. Liberty won. The Constitution won. And you lost so thoroughly that I will quote the movie Serenity to you:

"You know, in certain older civilized cultures, when men failed as entirely as you have, they would throw themselves on their swords."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WNW: Agent of Good

More witty than wacky, but I still like this video.

Do me a favor...

If you're a blogger who has my blog in your sidebar, and you're not in mine, let me know and I'll add you.

I just found out that I'm on Not Clauswitz's blogroll and I have no idea when that happened.

Why I haven't talked about the Boston bombing

A few reasons, really.

1.  I have nothing to add to the discussion. 
It's a tragedy. Of course it's a tragedy. But you already know that. I don't need to say it, because no one is going to think I am heartless or condone the bombing because I didn't speak out about it.

2.  I am all tragedied out. 
Call me all sorts of names, but with 9/11 and Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and New Town, I am emotionally exhausted and cannot deal with this shit. Also, I have other things commanding my attention, like my family, the Gun Control bill, and whatever shenanigans North Korea may or may not pull.

3.  The news cycle will eat your soul.
As Tamara said, "I think that they fear if they don't feed the microphone a steady stream of words, it will become hungry and eat their face." And so it's all endless speculation and fear-mongering.  I remember the days after 9/11, when I was desperate for someone to talk about something else. Anything else. Yes, please, tell me about your bowel surgery, it will keep me from thinking about terrorism for 15 minutes. So instead, I write about guns and Traveller and whatever else I like to write about so that you, dear reader, have the option of not having to deal with tragedy for a few minutes. No, this doesn't make me a bad person -- see Point 1, above.

And now, enjoy a soothing video of a sloth snorgling a cat. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Traveller: Jumping In

From what I understand of Jump Drives -- which, let's be honest, are based upon vague assumptions about physics and lots of handwaving* -- they work by generating a field of some sort which propels the ship into a higher-energy state (or dimension) and it is the presence of a gravity well** which collapses the Jump Field and returns the ship to normal space.***

Sensibly, this means the reverse is also true:  a safe, reliable jump field cannot be generated within a gravity well of any sufficient strength. This is backed by the rules, which states that jumps cannot be made at all within 10 diameters of any planet or solar mass, and that safe jumps cannot occur within 100 diameters of same. There are even charts detailing how long, on average, a ship of X thrust must travel in order to reach a safe jump point.

Which makes it all the more irritating to discover that there are no handy rules for determining where they jump into the system in the first place.

Since there must be a gravity well to interrupt the jump field, the ship needs to arrive somewhere more concrete than a vague reference to "in system."  Are they close to the mainworld, or is it on the other side of the solar system? Is the gas giant along their path? Or are they circling that tiny, lone planetoid with the elliptical orbit deep in B.F.E.?

"Getting there," I am told, "is half the fun," and so in the spirit of this fun I offer a more complicated process for arriving in-system. Why more complicated?  Because Traveller.

1. Find the system to which they're going.
I wish to state for the record that there's no way I could run a Traveller game without the internet. The resources it's offered me have been extraordinary. One of these resources is the Interactive Atlas of the Imperium.

Let's say that the PCs are jumping into, say, Wonstar (0538/Five Sisters, Spinward Marches). A quick click on that link will give you access to system data and planetary UWP  (including stellar type!)  Another click on the system detail link will give you the planets in the system and their orbits.

2. Determine the position of the planets.
I don't keep track of precisely what day it is on the Imperial calendar (Bad Traveller GM! Bad!)  because I would rather, you know, have fun than worry about how many hours were spent in jump space and therefore what day it is. So I just cheat and enter the date of the game we are currently playing. Since we play weekly, the dates naturally change, and I have yet to worry about them hopping back and forth between two systems. If that becomes a habit, I would naturally need to keep a closer eye on things for sake of consistency, but until that happens I'll just fake it.

3. Roll to determine which planetary mass collapsed the jump field. 
Roll, or have one of the PCs (preferably the pilot or astrogator) 2d6-1 and having that result be the planet to which they are within 100 diameters. In case of an empty orbit, choose the closest planet based upon how well the astrogator plotted the jump route.

Normally, plotting a jump route is an Easy (+4 to the roll) task, minus the number of parsecs in the jump -- but this is just to get to the system. If the astrogator wishes to plot a more precise course that takes orbital mechanics into account, then the task becomes Average (+0) and the degree of success is applied to the results of the roll above, thereby getting the ship closer to its destination. An astrogator wishing to aim for a precise planet will take a penalty:  -2 if aiming for a large mass such as a gas giant, -4 if aiming for a medium-sized planet (4 through 10 on the size table), and -6 if aiming for anything smaller.

4. Plug in their starting slot, destination slot, and thrust. 
Et voila, you have transit time!  As well as plenty of opportunities to get into trouble with pirates, customs ships, wreckage, navigational hazards, and Eris knows what else.

Leaving the system uses a different set of numbers, which I shall save for another post.

*This is not at all meant disparagingly. I myself occupy the back corner where pseudoscientific jargon happens to back into "Well, that just might be barely plausible."

**  How is it that gravity somehow propagates into this higher dimension? There's a plot seed here.

***  Unless you are of the opinion that the field shuts down because all the jump fuel is exhausted.**** This strikes me as terribly unwise -- the interstellar equivalent of "Sure, we can make it to the next gas station" and "Well, when the car stops moving our trip must be finished."

****  Which isn't to say this isn't an option; I expect certain deep-space refueling facilities used by the military can only be reached this way. I'm just saying I wouldn't do this as my first choice, and certainly not on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lo! Cometh the Erin-skald

Sits I, upon padded wooden-horse, whilst fingers clicky-box and palm-scroll-point, eyes fixed upon flat-show-me, mini-keg of go-blood perking.

My brain is slowly turning into that of a Viking skald: it can't think of the proper name for things anymore, and so it uses kennings instead.

The dishwasher, for example, is the hot box (not to be confused with the wet box, which is the washing machine, or the spin box, which is the dryer). The recycling container is the ching bin (because when you toss metal or glass into it, you hear a noise that sounds like CHING!). A door is a move-wall, etc.

As awesome as this might be, soon I will be utterly incomprehensible to everyone but James Joyce enthusiasts. What a slog it would be to read a story in that style...

... on the other hand, I am immensely entertained with the notion of a cookbook written entirely in this manner. Every recipe an adventure! Never entirely sure what you're going to get, or even if you're doing it right!

(a schedule for cook-making)

Quaff of Coagulated Cow
Thricequaff Toothrot
Quaff Latenight Winterdrink
Victorian Spade Antichoc
Twice Morningcrow Extrusion

Quaff of Purple Bag Elixir
Hemispade Antivinegar
Hemispade Daily Wage
Fourquaff & change Powdered Plant

Dial sunbox to prime numbers. MMA the trinity. Aforethought malice, murder the unborn one, two, then white. King the mix. Pay the king his wage, plant his crops, heat the Coke until Highlander. Testicles. Metal scrotum. Tan for demiglass. Relax upon brassiere. In your mouth, like sex.

If ye cannae ken me thinkmeat shapesongs, then Mark I the MSDS yon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: More on Starship Fuel

Some tidbits regarding last week's post:

Enough people commented/emailed/IMed me saying "Jesus Christ do you know what you're saying? Ammonia is one of the worst fucking substances in the universe!" that I was pretty much forced to reconsider my stance on the subject.  I am now embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize just how hazardous ammonia was.

This leaves me in a bit of quandary. The obvious solution (pun intended) is to say that the deuterium is stored as Heavy Water. This actually makes the most sense from an OSHA point of voice, since it's not flammable, naturally liquid, and barely reactive or hazardous.

On the other hand, this makes fuel leaks extremely boring from a storytelling perspective. The only way to make it exciting it to have the hole become large enough that drowning is an issue. While that is kind of cool, any damage which will make a hole that large is also likely to crack the structural integrity of the hull, in which case all the water is going to vent outwards, along with the atmosphere, via explosive decompression.

In other words, it's not sufficiently fuel-like for dramatic purposes.

On the other hand, some folks suggested methane as a storage medium: it's less nasty than ammonia, is stable, and is an actual fuel -- but then we're back to "wrapping yourself with explosives" again. Yes, I understand that it burns only when mixed with air and that "liquid methane does not burn unless subjected to high pressure (normally 4–5 atmospheres)", which probably means it's a good choice. But I don't know. There's something about it that bugs me, but nothing I can vocalize.

Still, it works. It's a stabilized hydrogen compound, isn't as insidious as hydrogen, and is sufficiently fuel-like for storytelling purposes. Therefore, I am now revising my opinion and stating that In My Traveller Universe, starships store fuel as Tetradeuteromethane, which means it's your farts that make the ship go instead of your pee.

As a point of interest, all this talk about fuel and refinement and whatever made me realize something that's been bugging me for a while now.  In Mongoose Traveller, if not in earlier editions, it's possible to scoop up a shipful of unrefined fuel and refine it on your way out to the jump point. This bothered me for some vague reason, and it was made worse by the fact that 99% of the time, starships have their fuel processors next to or behind their fuel scoops.

Um -- if you're refining fuel already in the tank, why must the processor be at the entry point?

And then as I considered the ramifications of using deuterium instead of hydrogen, it really hit me:  Deuterium refinement is basically separating all the D from the H and venting out all the rest. If D is less than .02% of all H in the universe, then if you load up your tanks with unrefined fuel and then start the refinement process... you're going to end up with empty tanks, since 99.98% of their volume will be unusable.

So that's another sacred cow slaughtered right there:  clearly, the refinement must take place as the ship is taking on fuel to begin with. Mechanically, this isn't game-breaking: we're just shifting the time-sink of fuel refinement to the front of the line. Dramatically, however...

Frontier refueling takes a hell of a lot longer now. It's not 1-6 hours to fill your tanks, it's however long it takes your processor (at 1 dton/hour*) to refine a full tank. This has the delightful effect of making a typical murderhobo crew either have to interact with people or part with their hard-earned money, because:
  • 20+ hours on the surface of a planet refining fuel results in more adventure. Either their ship is stuck at a spaceport (in which case, you can hit them with adventure hooks and charge them additional docking fees if it takes more than a day for them to fill a tank), or they're in the wilderness for hours and hours, where you can hit them with planned or random encounters. 
  • 20+ hours skimming gas giant atmosphere is just asking for trouble. Not in the sense of  "This is a stupid and dangerous thing to do"; more like "Gas giant skimming is not a routine procedure and there is always the possibility that something can go interestingly wrong with a failed roll or two."  This was reinforced last game session when the group's pilot decided he would rather spend two days in transit to a mainworld, where they could safely refine fuel from seawater, instead of spending 20 hours of refueling operations in the gas giant that they were practically orbiting. 
  • If the PCs are running a merchant ship and time is worth money, buying refined fuel for 500 Cr/ton suddenly looks a lot more appealing than spending days refining the cheap stuff. A 400 ton Fat Trader needs 52 tons of fuel and only has one processor aboard -- if you're on a deadline, the math does itself. 
For the Game Master, this is a win-win decision. 

* Okay, technically it's 20 tons/day. I like mine better, thanks.

Monday, April 8, 2013

PPR: Timney Trigger for the Mosin-Nagant

Before I begin this review, I need to make a few statements:

This review is four months late.  While I have semi-good reasons for this -- Christmas holidays, my mother's hospitalization on December 26th, her subsequent surgery in February and her slow recovery while I took over her duties, general health issues on my end -- these are not sufficient excuses in my mind. If I'm going to be thought of as a professional writer and reviewer, I need to act like one, and being this far past a deadline (even if that deadline was self-imposed) is not at all professional. Therefore, I must beg the forgiveness of the Timney Trigger corporation, and hope that the thoroughness of this review will make up for its tardiness.

Any time I review a product for a Mosin-Nagant, I can always expect certain comments from the purists. "Why would you want to bastardize a perfectly good piece of history?" is one of them. "Why would you spend X amount of money on a cheap rifle that's only worth a hundred bucks?" is another.

The answer is simple: "Because I want to. This is my rifle, so I can do what I like with it, and who are you to demand I justify myself?"

Therefore, if you are inclined to ask these questions, I am going to warn you now:  This review is not for you.


If, however, you like modifying firearms, or at the least are tired of the 8-9 pound trigger pull on your Mosin, then these words are for you.


Palette's Product Review: 
The Timney Trigger for the Mosin-Nagant ($103.95)

When I first contacted Timney for a test & evaluation trigger, there were several things I wanted to discover:
  1. Will it drop in like they say it will?
  2. Will this trigger reduce the horrible pull weight of the stock trigger?
  3. Will it improve my accuracy?
  4. Is it, in fact, worth the price of a (pre-panic) Mosin-Nagant?
Little did I know that this simple request would send me on what can best be described as "An adventure in gun modification."  

1) Ease of Installation

Let me immediately clear the air about something:  When I first groused about "Not all drop-in triggers actually are," I was operating from an incorrect assumption.  I had seen that Timney triggers for both the AR-15 and the Ruger 10/22 were "drop-in"  (meaning no modification or gunsmith needed), and I foolishly assumed that all Timney triggers were drop-in.  This is not the case, and nowhere on their website, in their marketing literature, or on the product pages do they claim that all of their triggers are drop-in. This was my fault.

However -- and this is where I feel a bit vindicated -- any instruction manual which says "Step 7: Using a Dremel tool, remove enough wood [from the stock] so the trigger area will partially insert" without having previously warned you, either on the product webpage or at the beginning of the instructions with "Tools you will need" that you will, in fact, need a Dremel tool, has dropped the ball in a significant manner. I was quite irritated to have gotten my nifty new trigger only to find that, before I could install it, I needed to buy a power tool. 


This is the only bad thing I can say about the instructions, though. They are clear, concise, and well-illustrated. I particularly love Diagram B with its clearly labeled "Save these parts" and "Discard these parts."  Other accessory makers could take a lesson from the clarity of these instructions.

In addition, were it not for the required inletting of the stock, the trigger itself is, essentially, drop-in: Drift out trigger pin and unscrew trigger screw; insert Timney trigger; re-insert trigger pin and trigger screw. Assuming you've already removed the action from the stock, the entire procedure takes five minutes, tops.

The real time sink is in Dremeling out material from the stock in order to make the trigger fit, and that is where things got a bit crazy for me. Never having used a Dremel before, I became too aggressive with it and took off too much material. (I hope this is a common malady among new Dremel owners.)  This left me with a stock that might be dangerous to use due to the gaps and amount of slop and wiggle that would surely follow.  I decided that I might as well use this opportunity to bed the action; not only would this fill in the gaps, but I had read that a bedded action allowed for greater accuracy. 

I will spare you the details of the procedure. If you like, you may hum the MacGyver or A-Team theme while imagining me putting Vaseline on the contact surfaces of the action and forming Loctite Repair Putty * into the gaps while watching The Walking Dead. Instead, I will simply show you the final result, although this picture will no doubt shock and horrify the purists:

The reason it looks uneven in places is because I used a Sharpie marker to color in the places where the gray epoxy was peeking out past the stock. It's ugly, yes, but it works -- which is basically the entire point of the Mosin-Nagant, after all, so it all coordinates thematically.  More importantly, I did it myself without needing to pay a gunsmith to do it for me. If I can do this, then so can you.

* Why Loctite epoxy putty?? Because it's what I had on hand, and I was impatient. Considering the epoxy has a bond strength of 1400 psi and can be sanded, I think it's a fine choice. I've since shot several hundred rounds of milsurp 54R through the bedded rifle and haven't had a single problem.

2) Trigger Pull

If you have ever shot a Mosin with a stock trigger, you know how terrible it is: that long, slow, painful draw until the rifle finally, mercifully goes "bang!"  It's a Russian design in every bad sense of the word.

The best way I can describe the difference between it and the new trigger is like this:  you know how instructors are always telling shooters that the gunshot should come as a surprise?  At the range  with this new trigger, I settled in and started pulling -- and promptly went "Holy crap!" when the rifle fired about a quarter through my expected pull. I was, literally, startled by how smooth and easy it was. Not only is the Timney trigger an absolute pleasure to shoot, it made my shots more accurate simply by eliminating over half of the pressure needed to squeeze the trigger. This meant I didn't have to concentrate on keeping the rifle from shifting as I applied pressure and could instead focus on aim and smoothness of pull.

3) Accuracy

This is me at 50 yards. I needed to fine-tune my scope a bit, hence the "walking in" effect.

And this is me at 100 yards, with the scope fully zeroed and having gotten used to the new trigger:

Compare this to the last time I shot my Mosin at 100 yards:

Considering that the time between these two pictures is about 9 months, I can't attribute all of that to an increase in skill. Clearly, the lighter and smoother pull is reducing trigger jerk, and that results in increased accuracy.

4) Reduction of Barrel Whip

Interestingly enough, after this I noticed that my Mosin did not do its expected "jump several inches into the air and come down on its bipod in a different place" dance like it usually does. (Note: I did not use the Armadillo Bag for this test.) Now, I do not for one second believe that the Timney trigger is responsible for this; I believe it's due to the action having been bedded. More contact area with the stock means more mass and surface area to counteract any twisting and whipping that will occur as the barrel (and therefore the action) attempts to twist out of the stock. Even indirectly, Timney has helped tame my beast of a rifle, and for that I am quite grateful.

5) Is It Worth Buying?

As always, the answer is "It depends."

If you enjoy having a cheap, no-nonsense rifle, do not buy this product.  If you enjoy abusing yourself or your friends with a nine-pound trigger pull, or if you cannot accept paying for a trigger that costs as much or than your rifle is worth, then do not buy this product.

On the other hand, if you enjoy having a manageable, adjustable trigger, buy this product. 

If you like having a safety that you can actually use (during hunting season, say), buy this product. 

If you enjoy shooting a Mosin for fun and want to increase that fun, buy this product. 

In short, owning the Timney Trigger has improved both the experience of shooting a Mosin-Nagant, and my performance with it. While it is expensive, if you are a serious Mosin shooter you will find it worth every penny. I highly recommend it all of my comrades in the Mosin Militia (especially AGirl, whom I know owns a Mosin), and I would consider it an essential upgrade, second only to a recoil pad.

Just make sure you have access to a Dremel tool.

My Rating:  A+

Obligatory finger to the FCC:  Timney provided this trigger to me for free and with no expectation of a good review. However, they did include a Watermelon-flavored Tootsie pop in their packaging, which is something that I wholeheartedly endorse. In fact, more manufacturers should include goodies in their T&E packages. Just sayin'. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Do you hate me yet?

Speaking of health and contributions, MSgt B has a post where you can donate to help defray costs for a 6-year-old who is battling brain cancer and is undergoing weekly chemotherapy.

Yes, I am aware that I am rapidly becoming Beggar Girl, asking for you to part with your hard-earned money for various charities. If that bothers you, I apologize. I have very little money of my own to give, so I use the one talent that I have -- writing -- to try and get other people to donate. Believe me, if I were Neil Gaiman I'd just toss off a short story and send the proceeds directly to the charity myself, but I'm not and likely never will be.

I wish to point out that Sam's father was only asking for $500, and he's already met that goal -- so if you are unable to contribute, you do not have any cause to feel bad. Still, we all know that cancer is a sumbitch and they will likely need more than that to help kick its ass. If you would like to help, here is the donation link.

Regardless of whether or not you donate, thank you and God bless. 

Final Mom Update

Yes, I missed the last two days again. The bipolar weather is playing merry hell with my allergies and sinuses, and I've been miserable. It feels like having a flu, only without the fever. I do not recommend it for anyone as it is absolutely no fun at all.

People have been asking me how my mom is doing, and I realized I'd stopped complaining about her. Whoops!  Some time in late February or early March, she started taking her naps back in her bedroom. She couldn't sleep back there full-time, because her shoulder was giving her problems and, being a side-sleeper, could only take a few hours on it. Still, it freed up my afternoons, and so if you look back and find when my blogging began to pick up again, that was probably when.

That was a marked improvement to my quality of life, as I had the house to myself for a while and could do writerly things like pace around the house in my underwear and talk to myself. Having been given this release, I didn't need the outlet of complaining here or on FB about how my life was full of awful first-world problems.

Since then, things have steadily improved. Within a few weeks, she was sleeping in her own bedroom. She was able to make it to church for Palm Sunday. Most recently, she said that her shoulder just "popped" one day and it stopped hurting, leading her to believe that during the operation it had been slightly dislocated when they had strapped her down tightly.  After that, she felt she was good enough to help me walk dogs, and last Sunday I was told I didn't have to get up at oh-dark-thirty in order to walk them.

So if I can just get over whatever is bothering me, maybe I can get back on schedule for writing.

In related news: Squeaky has the lowdown on her current health, so you can go see your contributions being put to good use. Again, I want to thank everyone who helped her achieve 100% for both procedures -- you rock! Woohoo!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Fusion

In this installment of Traveller Tuesday, I slaughter some sacred cows. 

Traveller Rules-as-written (RAW) indicate that starship fuel is liquid hydrogen (LH2). I find this to be a ridiculous concept, as the requirements for cooling or pressuring tons of hydrogen into liquid form are both wasteful and potentially dangerous.  Here is how it works in my Traveller universe (IMTU):

Power plants IMTU use the Deuterium-Deuterium (D-D) fuel cycle as its base. This produces less power than the Deuterium-Tritium (D-T) cycle -- 3.2-4 MeV versus the D-T's output of 17.5 MeV -- but it has the twin virtues of not requiring expensive/dangerous/time consuming Tritium breeding and needing only a single universal fuel.

Therefore, the Deuterium fusion cycle of a typical Traveller powerplant goes something like this:

Apologies for the crap resolution. If you click through it will be readable.

Or, as a single line,

(For the curious, 43.2 megaelectron volts = 6.92140232 × 10-12 joules. I'll be honest and admit that I don't really know what these numbers mean, as I pulled them from various articles on the web, but they look large enough that my non-engineer brain has no problem accepting them as suitable output for a starship. If you're an engineer and you spot something wrong with any of my assumptions, please let me know.)

Fuel Refinement
However, since Deuterium is less than 0.02% of all naturally-occurring hydrogen, it needs to be distilled ("refined," in Traveller parlance) before it can be used. Fortunately, Deuterium is stable and non-radioactive -- unlike Tritium, which is (mildly)radioactive and has a half-life of 10-12 years.

So these are the basic procedures of fuel refinement: 
  • Take in a liquid or gas with a sizable Hydrogen component (ocean dipping, gas giant skimming, crushing iceball asteroids);
  • Crack it into its components, saving useful elements (oxygen) and expelling the waste;
  • Separate the Deuterium from regular Hydrogen (a process which can take quite some time);
  • Store it in liquid form for later use (see next section).

This tells us some interesting things:
  1. A fusion reactor that needs to be cold-started cannot use unrefined fuel, because by my definition unrefined fuel is unsorted molecular hydrogen, and power is needed to refine the Hydrogen into Deuterium.
  2. Contrary to what RAW says, small craft cannot use unrefined fuel unless they have onboard fuel processors.
  3. This also answers the unasked question "Why would anyone buy refined fuel?"  Well, you need it for your small craft and cold-starting reactors.
  4. This also has the side-effect of requiring class C starports to carry refined fuel, albeit in limited supplies. I don't see this as a problem, because nearly all C ports have fusion power anyway. If you intend to buy in quantities larger than small-craft fuel tanks, you can expect to pay out the nose for it.

Fuel Storage
Even though Deuterium is stable and non-radioactive, it's still hydrogen and therefore explosive. Just the kind of thing you want sitting around a busy starport in large tanks, or surrounding the crew and ammunition in a starship, right?

Therefore IMTU, fuel which is in the tank (as opposed to being in the reactor) is converted to a more stable form.  Civilian ships* convert it to ammonia for storage - specifically, triply deuterated ammonia, which is three atoms of Deuterium bonded to one atom of Nitrogen.**

Ammonia is poisonous, yes, but it has the following benefits over liquid Hydrogen:
  1. It's not explosive.
  2. It doesn't need compression or refrigeration to be a liquid.
  3. It's not explosive.
  4. If there's a leak, you can smell it (much like why natural gas has additives).
The nitrogen used to convert the D to ND3 is part of the life-support system, as it is added to the oxygen reserves to create the nitrogen-oxygen mix that humans enjoy breathing (with the pleasant side effect of reducing atmospheric flammability). A single tank of Nitrogen will serve a starship for a long while, as it is being constantly recycled from the air to the tanks via the life support system (there's lots of Nitrogen in urine).

*Military ships convert it to a metal hydride form which, while bulkier, has the twin benefits of not exploding and serving as secondary armor.

** I am aware that ammonia is bulkier than liquid hydrogen and therefore NH3 contains less H per unit of volume, but since we're dealing with handwavey units of "H per dton" and it's universally applied across the board, I can claim that the required tonnage is for NH3 instead of LH. As long as everything is consistent, I don't think there's a problem here.

In conclusion
  • If the ship has a life-support system, it can convert deuterium to ammonia and back.
  • If it has a fuel processor, it can refine hydrogen to deuterium.
  • Your pee helps make the ship go.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A clarification

With today being April Fools' and all that, I wanted to make it perfectly clear that yesterday's post about Squeaky meeting her medical goal was NOT a prank. It really happened. So yes, Glockenpony 2 will also really happen.

Although so far, no one has posted a suggestion for what the want to see. Y'all might want to get on that.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.