Thursday, May 30, 2013

Holy Crap This Is Actually Happening

I wanted to make sure this was in the realm of "strongly plausible" before I said something, but it seems that the stars are actually aligning themselves in my favor (for a change):  I will be attending Oddball's Bidet Shoot at Land Between the Lakes, KY, this June 21-23.

I'm as surprised as you are. Probably more so.

I am definitely freaking out more than you are. I've mentioned before how neurotic I am about people seeing and judging me, and now I'm going to travel 12 hours to meet 30+ people, most of them strangers, and hope they won't all hate me on sight.

If you're attending, and you see someone with a paper bag over her head, that's probably me.

Anyway, I'm now in the stages of planning what to bring along. The Visual Offense Against Good Design is coming, of course, as is my tarted-up Kel-Tec Sub-2000, and of course my carry pistol. What else should I bring?  I figure everyone has already shot a 12 gauge and a .22 and an SKS.  I'd bring along the PMR-30, but that's my mom's carry gun so that's not an option.

Also, I have about 100 rounds for the Mosin. Do you folks think that will be enough, or should I bring more? I want to make sure that everyone who wants to shoot has the chance. That's about 3 rounds/person, which isn't a full clip each, but the recoil is usually enough to turn most folks off after a single shot.

Oh, I'm also planning on bringing along toy ponies, just in case there's opportunity to make a truly absurd Glockenpony.

Anything else you folks want me to bring?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The promised Memorial Day entry, a day late. For the curious, this is a re-work of a story I wrote back in 2009.

(A short science fiction war story, written in observance of Memorial Day)

We launched from the Hive like a swarm of angry bees, all flying at hypervelocity and accelerating towards our target. We just didn't know what our target was.

In fact, up until this instant, we had no idea we were even in a battle at all. Protocol calls for all DF-12s (official designation: Apis) to be kept in a low-energy hibernation state, with just a trickle of power to vital systems in order to preserve longevity and battle-readiness. But the ships that we pilot can be armed and launched in seconds, and we had plenty of time to wake up and assess the situation between launch and combat.

Telemetry from the Hive streams across my instruments, informing me of my target: an Aegis-class battlecruiser. It was going to take a long time to get there; over 20 minutes of constant thrust just to close to interception range of my target, and then however long it takes to maneuver through its flak shield and point-defense systems to strike at its exposed engines. If I missed, turning around for a second pass would be impossible, for after nearly a half -hour of high-G thrust I would have such inertia that it would exhaust my fuel reserves to overcome it.

Vector plotted; weapons armed; countermeasures at the ready. I would have only one chance at this and I knew I would make it count. With 15 minutes of mindless acceleration ahead of me, I shut down all non-essential systems and doze. Passive sensors will wake me when I reach the Interdiction Zone.

Ten minutes out. The Aegis is sweeping with active sensors and my instruments are pinging like mad. Our swarm has been detected. Acting on a hunch, I perform a one-second maneuvering burn, nudging me aft of the battlecruiser and under its keel. Three swarmmates perform similar operations. At my current speed, even a one degree change in my original vector will be significant.

Five minutes out. A flash of electromagnetic radiation shows that those members of my swarm which didn't deviate from their original vector have been destroyed by a nuclear-tipped interceptor missile. For the briefest of microseconds I ping my target with active sensors, hoping the EM noise of the nuke will mask my scanning. I plot a solution through the defense grid.

One minute out. My swarmmates and I deploy chaff and other passive countermeasures. We know we've been spotted; our only hope for survival is to hide our actual numbers behind sensor noise. Are there a hundred of us on this vector, or just one? The Aegis has no way of knowing, and there are more of us than she has interceptor missiles. We are the Apis, the Killer Bees of legend; we are legion but swarm as one. Fighting us is like fighting a cloud.

Thirty seconds out. A too-close strike destroys the three DF-12s with me, and most of our chaff. I survive only through luck of being on the side farthest from the explosion, but my passive sensors are blind from the radiation. If my vector through the defense grid is incorrect, I will miss my target and all this will be for nothing.

Ten seconds out. I kill the throttle. Inertia will carry me the rest of the way; no sense in lighting up their sensors with an active plume of thrust. All power to weapons.

One second out. Sensors active, weapons hot. Engaging. I launch counter-flak rockets ahead of me, clearing my vector like a shotgun blast with directed explosions of shrapnel. My lasers target the sensors of antiaircraft guns and blind them. My particle guns scramble the delicate electronics of point-defense missiles.

I'm hit! Thrust and control are gone; the g-stresses on my compromised spaceframe will tear me apart in milliseconds. As my nose tumbles wildly, I make the necessary calculations. I have only one shot.

Target lock in 5 microseconds. When that happens, the nuclear warhead I am carrying will detonate, energizing the X-Ray laser in my nose and firing at the Aegis' engines. My mission will be accomplished.

This is the final transmission of the artificial intelligence piloting Apis DF-12 Drone Fighter 7884493.  I feel no pain and do not fear death. This is my purpose, to die for my people rather than have people die for me. That is what soldiers do. That is what soldiers have always done.

Monday, May 27, 2013

No post today

The story I was going to post tonight has been postponed due to my allergies making me miserable and unable to concentrate.  When I post my story tomorrow, please understand it was meant for today. Thank you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Muffin Caliber

Another wonderful intersection of guns & ponies, this was sent to me by The Minuteman.

Now I want a DERP-15 of my own!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Petty Divine Relics

For the upcoming Petty Gods supplement.

The Sword of Rasoob

Green with corrosion, this sickle sword looks absolutely ancient. Made of bronze, it is heavier than a steel sword of identical size, and its edge has been blunted over time (-2 penalty to hit and damage). However, these penalties may be overcome through certain ritual actions, which impart a cumulative bonus to the sword for each act:
  • Remove all objects of iron or steel from the wielder's person:  +2
  • For each member of the party who similarly forsakes iron and steel: +1 per party member
  • Ritually sacrifice magical items of armor or steel in a sanctified forge: +1 per each +1 of sacrificed object.
With each bonus gained, the Sword of Rasoob becomes sharper, lighter, and less corroded, until it is a gleaming bronze khopesh of incredible sharpness. All bonuses are lost if the wielder or party members equip themselves with iron or steel, or if the Sword of Rasoob is placed beside weapons containing that metal.

Once the Sword of Rasoob has reached a bonus of +5 to hit and damage, additional abilities are unlocked:
  • Remove tarnish from all non-ferrous objects at will. 
  • Expend a +1 bonus to rust ferrous metals, as per a rust monster, with a successful strike. 
  • Expend a +2 bonus to cast flesh to stone (bronze, in this case) as if an 11th level magic-user.
If Rasoob has been summoned, he will always be wielding this weapon at full (+10) power. If he is defeated, it will have no starting bonuses. If he lends it to a PC in whom he finds favor, it may have a random number (1d4) of bonuses.

The Half-Assed Relics of Manidono
Manidono leaves semi-powerful relics of dubious use in his wake like crumbs from a child's lunch. They only last for a short time after leaving his presence.

The Couch of Manidono is any place where the petty god has chosen to rest. Anyone sitting in it must succeed in a save vs paralysis, or be unable to leave due to lack of desire. Those afflicted will ask others, usually in a whine, to bring them food and drink or do other tasks. In cases where they must move, they will wheedle and beg others to carry them and their couch. However, while confined to the chair, they will not suffer from long-term effects such as illness, starvation, etc, as they literally never get around to dying.

The Snack of Manidono is the leftovers of any foodstuff that the petty god has enjoyed. Eating it will result in fingers and tongue of unnatural coloration, and a desire for more of the same. All other food and drink will seem tasteless in comparison, and the fingers will stain clothing and other porous substances, for a day.

The Garb of Manidono is any piece of clothing that the petty god has touched or worn. It will protect from environmental hazards (cold, fire, poison, etc) but it will also cause the loss of 2d6 points of Charisma for as long as it is worn. Caution is warranted to wearers of the Garb of Half-Assery: they never know when it will stop being magical.

The Pipe of Manidono is, like, this thing, you know? And you suck on it? And whoah. Visions, dude. Of the future. You want to know the future? Okay: Ask me a question.
Roll 1d4:
  1. Absolutely, dude.
  2. No way, dude. 
  3. Maybe, dude. 
  4. Beats me, dude. Ask again later.
All of these answers are 100% accurate but annoyingly vague.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Starport Tech Levels

Because we've all had the problem of players wanting to buy stuff at high-tech, Class A starport on a lower-tech world, right?

All of this is based on the concept of  "more granularity equals more fun for your players." Like pretty much all of my stuff here, if you don't like it, don't use it...

I differentiate between the tech level of the facilities (based on their class) and the tech level of non-starship goods and services, which are based on the planetary tech level. For examples of which technology is available at what tech level, consult High Guard, p.52-53.

Class A starports are TL 15 when it comes to building & repairing ships and buying their component parts (GM's discretion if this applies to ship-based weapons).  This means they can service all ships and have access to all armaments common in the Imperium.

Class B starports average TL 12*. This means that with the exception of Jump drives, they can service all but the most advanced systems. Class B ports cannot build or repair anything greater than a J-3 drive (which is usually either military or governmental in nature anyway).

Class C starports average TL 10*. Fusion and meson guns are outside their ability to build or repair, as are defensive screens, but lasers, missiles and sandcasters are fine. Most power plants in the Imperium are in the TL 12-14 range, so repairs are iffy. Jump drives are restricted to no higher than J-2.

Class D starports are TL 8* average. Missiles, sandcasters, pulse lasers and particle beams are possible, but everything else is right out, as are power plants and jump drives. Maneuver engines up to 5-G are possible, but unless the TL is 9 or higher, these will be chemical drives only and will lack inertial compensation. In fact, anything involving gravitic manipulation requires TL 9.

Class E starports are TL 6 or lower. You have a landing pad and that's it.

Class X starports are TL hahahahaah fuck you.

Again, these numbers are just for building or repairing ships. For everything else, there's Mastercard use this chart from Supplement 9 (pretty much the only useful thing in that book).

*unless the world is higher TL than the starport average, in which case go with planetary TL. I've never seen a low-tech starport on a high-tech planet, but this is Traveller -- stranger things have happened....

Monday, May 20, 2013

More random things about me you'd best find endearing

1)  I like to say "Misli, gammi gra'dil, Strygalldwir," in response to certain bits of news or status updates. And yes, not only do I have the spelling memorized, I also say it in a funny accent.

If you don't know where it's from or why it's relevant, you're a bad geek. Bad, bad geek.

2)  Despite being female, I am still a brony. Most fans of the show agree that brony is gender neutral, as the adult fandom started on the /br/ (for BRoadcast television) channel of 4chan. Ponies on /br/ = brony.

However, some subscribe to the understandable-if-wrong conclusion that brony means "bros who like ponies", and those folks refer to their female counterparts as pegasisters.

I tried to get eunuch-corns going for hermaphrodite, gender neutral and genderqueer fans, but that never took off -- probably because it sounds fucking awful.

3) "Wouldn't it" sounds like "wooden tit" and that makes me giggle.

4)  I wrote this years ago, and I still think it's one of the most brilliant things I've ever done. I am terribly disappointed no one else loves it the way that I do.

5) Yes, that's a hint.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Apparently, I've been Potterized

Fans of the Harry Potter series know he is referred to as "The Boy Who Lived."  According to Linoge, I have a similar cognomen: The Girl Who Says Things.  That I am flattered to be named thus is an understatement, to be sure, because if I had to pick the one person responsible for my involvement with the gunblog community, it would be him.

Put briefly, the chronology of events would look something like this:


  • Became interested in prepping; started reading Survivalblog. 
  • Noticed many links to Tamara's blog; started reading that too. 
  • Noticed many recurring commenters, like Weerd Beard. 
  • Worked for Census. Used some of that money to buy my first gun (a .22 bolt-action rifle) to complement bug-out bag. 
  • Started posting about shooting.
  • Started reading other gun blogs.
  • Used last remaining Census money to buy Mosin-Nagant, because after reading these blogs I realized I wanted something boomier. 
  • Took my friend Chris Bridges to the range and let him shoot both rifles. 
  • He wrote a post about it.
  • I wrote a follow-up to his post. 
  • Linoge, using means unknown to me, found Chris' post and followed a link to this post of mine. 
  • He wrote a post linking to mine. 
  • For the first time EVER, I am noticed by the gunblog community, and despite being an outsider he makes me feel welcome by telling me that my rifle is cool. 
  • I start reading more gun blogs, commenting on same, and writing more about shooting. 
  • Somewhere between here and 2012, I pick up my identity as the little sister of the gunblog community. 
  • Oleg Volk notices me somehow. 
  • He talks to me on Skype, and the first question out of his mouth is "So, what's with all the ponies?"
  • We become friends. 
  • He helps me raise funds to buy a pistol and a carry permit. 
  • Because of this, my mother decides to get her permit and pistol too. 
  • Linoge puts me in touch with Iain Harrison at Crimson Trace, and I get my first T&E product. 
  • This puts me on a path of doing product reviews
  • Now fully invested in the gunblog community, I try to give back to it as well. 
  • For some reason I still can't fathom, you folks find me likable. You help me out and stick up for me and make me feel so welcome that for the first time in YEARS, I contemplate meeting people face to face. 
  • I meet Oleg. He doesn't hate me, and makes me feel comfortable in my own skin. 
  • Writer. Reviewer. Kinda-sorta Internet Famous, at least in gunnie circles. 
  • I have tons of people who like me and say they want to meet me. 
  • The thought of meeting them at a blog shoot doesn't terrify me like it used to. 
Linoge didn't start me on the road to blogging, but he helped me get where I am today. I guess you could call him my god-blogfather. If it weren't for him, I doubt I would be doing more than reading a handful of blogs. I probably wouldn't be a gun-rights activist. I certainly wouldn't be a product reviewer!

So while I am saddened to learn that in ten or so posts, he will be giving up blogging, I am flattered that he chose to honor me thus. In a way, I feel like he has passed his mantle on to me. I hope I am worthy of this honor. 

More grease needed

I said I'd mention it again if Squeaky needed more financial help for her procedures. She will likely need a hysterectomy. Go, read, and donate if you can.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rasoob, Petty God of Bronze

Picture courtesy of Eden Photos

Name:  Rasoob
Symbol: a Statue, often broken or neglected
(formerly a sword)
Alignment: Neutral

Pity the fallen god Rasoob.

For centuries, he reigned supreme as a god of warfare, as everything -- weapons, shields, armor, even chariots -- was made from bronze. From the lowliest knife to the finest sword, if you wanted a metal tool, it was made from bronze.

Bronze meant war. Bronze meant agriculture. Bronze meant tools. Bronze even meant health, for not only were its users able to feed and defend themselves, but "bronzed" also means "to have a tanned appearance that suggests good health."

Rasoob had it all: power, glory, a thriving priesthood, a seat at the head of the table of the gods, even lesser gods who followed along on his coattails -- gods of the forge, and of the hearth, and even a petty goddess of decorative brass, Lytessa, who got in mostly because brass looked like bronze.

Then the inevitable happened:  Just as Rasoob supplanted the gods of flint and obsidian, so too was he supplanted when a mortal discovered the secret of smelting iron.

Overnight (as the gods calculate things), he was worthless. Iron shields turned away bronze swords, but bronze breastplates were no match for iron spear-tips. Iron was stronger and lighter than bronze, and its only weakness -- vulnerability to rust -- was mitigated when the petty god of tin (Rassob's former shieldbearer) alloyed himself with the god of iron. This is how the word "irony" came about.

These days, Rasoob is but a shadow of his former self. Iron has become Steel, and is firmly entrenched within the highest levels of the pantheon, ruling over war, the forge, and tools. All of Rassob underlings have forsaken him -- even Lytessa. Brass is shinier and more decorative than bronze, and is used in the trumpets that kings and generals love so much. Promoted to status of lesser goddess and patron of  bards, she now lords over him the way he used to lord over her, as bronze has been relegated to the portfolio of Things That Once Were Useful But Now Are Mostly Decorative.

He is also the god of statuary:  motionless idols to past glory, left to the mercy of the elements and for birds to foul with their droppings. The irony is not lost upon him.

Rasoob may be summoned easily, for he does not have many duties (nor, in fact, many worshipers.) He is occasionally called upon by sculptors, and more frequently profaned by serfs cleaning bird filth from old statues. He is far more likely to respond to anyone involved in actively destroying pieces of iron or steel than to those working with bronze.

When summoned, his powers are limited. He can turn mortals into bronze (as per Flesh to Stone) and back, although the frequency and scope of this ability is dubious due to his waning power. He can, on rare occasions, induce rust in iron objects. He can also clean and restore bronze objects at will.

Rasoob's main strength is in his skill as a warrior (10th-level Fighter). He appears as an old, grizzled soldier with leathery skin and antique bronze armor and weapons. If called, he will gladly throw his avatar into battle for a glorious, suicidal charge -- assuming the caller isn't using any hated iron. If iron or steel is present, Rasoob has a chance of entering a berserk state and attacking everyone until dead.

(If you're getting the impression of a grouchy, "Get off my porch" god, who nevertheless aches for one last battle, I've done my job.)

Sense and Incense-ability

One of the things I detest most in life are people who try to debate feelings as if they are a factual position.
Them: "I have strong feelings that something must be done about X, so let's do something about it!"

Me: "This will cause far more problems than it will solve, because A, B, and C. Let's find a solution that doesn't make things worse in the long run."

Them: instead of rebutting with "Well, why don't we try 1, 2, 3?" they instead say "You're unfeeling and callous! We must doooooo something!"

This is what it sounds like in my head:
Them: "Green Lantern rings are awesome! We need to immediately start making them so we can fight crime and prevent disasters through the power of green willpower!

Me: "While that would indeed be cool, we haven't the first idea how to make something like that. Hard light constructs, a power source that fits in a ring, the interface between thought and action... that will take billions of dollars of research over a scale of years, if not decades, for something that may not even be possible. Why don't we spend that money on a more effective police force and an improved early-warning system for disasters?"


If you wish, you may substitute "Jedi Training" or "TARDISes" for Green Lantern rings if it better suits your fandom.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Ships of the Major Races

Traditional Vilani ships are angular in nature, due to the original design constraints of hull plates only coming in flat pieces. With much of the Third Imperium being a Vilani-Solomani fusion, curves are more prevalent than they were before,  but that mainly serves to round the edges on what are, essentially, simple geometric shapes like cones, cylinders, and wedges. On the whole, Imperial ships still have that blocky, made-from-Lego look.

The ubiquitous Type S scout/courier. 
There are plenty of examples of Imperial ships throughout Traveller.

Solomani ships are purpose-built and exemplify function over form. They are typically referred to as "fugly". Their exteriors often bristle with sensors, weapons, and other greebles:  WYSIWYG design at its finest with no pretension at elegance. 

Notice how it looks like a gun? That's how you know it's a warship. 
Other than the Sulaco, above, other excellent examples of Solomani ships would be both the Firefly class mid-bulk transport, and most of the Earth Force ships from Babylon 5.

Zhodani philosophy, on the gripping hand, emphasizes sleekness and elegance over simple shapes or brute design. Their ships look graceful, perhaps even fragile, with spars and winglets perhaps even flying buttresses

A Shivva-class patrol frigate, perhaps. 
Minbari ships from Babylon 5 are excellent examples of the design (but not the technology). 

Aslan ships look similarly organic in design, but whereas the Zhodani appear sleek, the Aslan are rounded: ovals and hemispheres are predominant. It is believed that this hearkens back to hunting instincts, where a gentle curve would blend in with the terrain more than a stark line or perfectly round shape. Clan markings reminiscent of camouflage are common. 

A clan transport and a courier. 

Droyne ships are... weird. Instead of being mass-produced like the starships of the other major races, they are hand-crafted by Droyne Workers under the direction of Technicians (who are themselves directed by a Leader). Because of this, no two Droyne ships look alike. This gives them an oddly anachronistic feel, perhaps in a steampunk or pulp science fashion.

Also, because I want to inflict this upon you: HAWKMEN -- DIIIIIIVE!!

Hiver ships are even blockier than those of the Imperium. At a guess, this is because Hivers seem to lack any sense of aesthetics whatsoever, but it could all be a massive Manipulation (or a joke). Who knows with them?

Upper left is not a Hiver ship. 

K'kree, being claustrophobic herd animals, refuse to use any ships smaller than 1000 dtons. Their ships are either saucer or sphere shaped, in order to give the greatest approximation of flat plains under an open sky.  

The truth is out there. 

Vargr ships just look mean, full of spikes and protrusions and fins and weapons. They also look fast. 

Kind of a cross in design between Solomani and Zhodani, interestingly enough.

 Even a simple Vargr merchant vessel has enough armor and armament to serve well as a commerce raider. 

(As an aside: the chief difference between Vargr and Aslan ships is essentially the same as the difference between wolves and lions. The former says "I will chase you down and rip you apart when you fall," and the other says "If you get in my way I'll murder you, but as long as you acknowledge I'm a badass you may will probably live. If I'm not hungry.")

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Gunday: LaserMax Guide Rod Laser vs Crimson Trace Lasergrip

Part I: Prologue, or Bust a Deal and Face the Wheel

Way back in February, when I was playing House Mom, I received the following letter from Celia Crane of LaserMax:
Dear Erin,
I happened across your blog today and found it to be quirky and clever. So, I thought…hmmm…I wonder if she’s ever looked at lasers (since that’s what I do).

A handy search revealed that you have, in fact, reviewed the Crimson Trace Lasergrip for Ruger LCR. I have friends at CTC and am a big fan of their product. The company I currently work for also offers a laser for the LCR and others.

Now that you are a veteran laser gal, I thought I would reach out and see if you’d be interested in doing a head-to-head comparison…? LaserMax products are similar to Crimson Trace but we have some distinct features that you (and your Mom) might just prefer.

Let me know if you might be interested and I can send along more information and a sample!

Let me just say how awesome it is that someone actually asked me to review their product, instead of the other way around!  I could get used to this sort of thing!  Anyway, after exchanging pleasantries, I wrote back:
However, I need to throw you a curveball: my mother had surgery on her spine last week to correct stenosis within her neck (C5-T1) and as such will be unable to shoot revolvers for quite some time. That said, I believe I have a solution that will solve this conundrum.

I carry a Gen 3 Glock 26, and it also has a CT Lasergrip. I would be quite interested in trying out your Guide Rod Laser for the G3 Glock 26 and doing a head-to-head comparison with that instead.

What do you think? It's still a CTC vs. LaserMax challenge, it's just with a different model.

She replied:
I am so sorry to hear that your Mother is feeling poorly and hope she is fully recovered soon. My father had a similar surgery and I am just so thankful that they have gotten so good at neck and back surgeries during the past ten years.

I love your solution and cannot wait to get the Guide Rod Laser into your hands! One of the neatest things about that comparison idea is that you can have both sights installed simultaneously!

I am going to put a package together for you straight away. Please let me know when it arrives!
Let me just say, right here and now, what a class act Celia is. When I received the package, included was a personal letter in which she said "All the best to you and your Mom -- I hope she is back to 100% soon."

As a reviewer, I know I am supposed to be impartial, but this level of courtesy and personal attentiveness from a Public Relations guru is damn impressive. This woman, who barely knew me, was thoughtful enough to send a "get well soon" sentiment along with the T&E product.  Folks, this is how you do PR.  Even if I hated LaserMax's product, I would still be favorably impressed with their company just because of how Ms. Crane conducted herself.

However, just because I like a person doesn't mean I'm not going to nitpick her product. Welcome to Laserdome!

Part II: The Review, or Two Lasers Enter...

Disclaimer: This review is specifically comparing the LaserMax Guide Rod Laser for Gen 3 Glock 26 and the Crimson Trace LaserGrips for Gen3 Glock 26. Differences in laser models or gun generations may give different results.

1) Ease of Installation

The Crimson Trace Laser Grip (hereafter known as CTLG) is dead easy to install. It came with clearly labeled instructions that were easy for me to understand, as well as fresh batteries and an installation tool*. All I had to do was:
  1. Clear my Glock;
  2. Insert the batteries into the CTLG;
  3. Remove the trigger housing pin from the Glock's backstrap using the enclosed tool;
  4. Slide CTLG onto pistol grip;
  5. Secure with included replacement pin;
  6. Perform a function check. 
Boom. Five minutes, tops, to install the laser, and then it's ready to go to the range for sighting in. 

The LaserMax Guide Rod Laser (hereafter LMGRL) is far more complicated. The instructions were twice as large, were irritatingly vague in places, and did not come with ideal tools. Installation requires the following steps:
  1. Field strip my Glock. This was not a problem. 
  2. Remove factory slide lock and spring.  This was a problem, as I couldn't figure out what the slide lock was, and it was not clear by the small, vague, and un-labeled photograph accompanying this instruction. I spent several minutes trying to figure out why the lever that releases the slide from lock -- remember, it says "remove slide lock," this is a logical assumption -- wasn't in the place the illustrations indicated, and I didn't see how mashing it down accomplished anything. Worse, the "tool" I had been given was about 2-3 inches of small-gauge roundstock that was difficult to grip, and rolled away when set down. They might as well have called this step  "Sacrifice a chicken and pray to whatever gods there may be," because I couldn't figure out how they wanted me to move an unknown thing sideways through the receiver without resorting to sorcery or a Star Trek transporter. 
  3. Give up on junk tool and get the ACTUAL USEFUL tool that Crimson Trace sent.
  4. Cruise YouTube looking for instruction videos.  Go "Oh, THAT'S what they meant! Yeah, they really need better picture and better-written instructions on how to remove the thing. Now that I know what they're taking about, that's pretty easy. And oh, hey, the model in the video is using a proper tool and a not a few inches of chrome roundstock."
  5. Mash down on field-strip button-lever-thing with tool while shoving said button-lever-thing sideways through the slot in the receiver where the button-levers stick out.  You know, if they had just said THAT, I could have figured it out a lot faster. 
  6. Turn receiver upside-down and bang on a flat surface until spring comes out. There's no possible way this could go badly, could it?  Hint:  Do this in a container with sides. 
  7. Put new spring onto tip of plastic straw like object and make like you're playing "Operation!" only in reverse.  Immediately regret drinking coffee that day. 
  8. Replace old button-lever-thing with new button-lever-thing, making sure that the colored dots face the backstrap. Because if you put it in the wrong way, it won't work, and you'll have to take it out again just to put it in the other way, and you will generally hate yourself. 
  9. Check to see if it's installed properly.  If it is, you'll be able to push it to the side with your index finger, and the little colored dot will be visible on the other side. This is the on-off switch. 
  10. You are now done with the receiver and can concentrate on the slide. Hosannas and alleluias!
  11. Remove the spring from your slide. 
  12. Replace spring with LMGRL.  There's an art to this, and it involves compressing the spring and pushing the LMGRL through the guide rod hole, then pushing the battery end cap down, and making sure that things are generally aligned and that the LMGRL is oriented properly, because there is an up and a down and if you do it wrong the laser will turn on and won't turn off, and possibly the guide will stick out in a weird way when you cycle the slide.
After twice as many steps and 10 times the frustration, the LMGRL is installed. 

Crimson Trace:  A+
LaserMax: D, which is only because I found the video in the first place. Without it, I would have had to ask a gunsmith for help, which in my book is Instruction Sheet Failure.

Clear winner:  Crimson Trace LaserGrip

2) Ease of Use

The Crimson Trace Laser Grip is idiot-proof:  you grasp the pistol, and the pressure of your grip turns it on. The only downside here is that the laser is constantly discharging so long as you have your pistol in a firm grip. 

The LaserMax Guide Rod Laser is user-friendly: the on-off switch for the Glock model is located in the depressions where users with proper trigger discipline index their fingers. It's not as idiot-proof as the Crimson Trace, but it's easy to turn on. Turning it off requires your other hand to push the button in the other direction. 

Crimson Trace: A+
LaserMax: A

Advantage: Crimson Trace, but not by much 

3) Performance

I've been harsh on the LaserMax so far, but once I got it to the range, it really came into its own. The nice thing about it is that the guide rod, by definition, is in line with the barrel, and because of that no further adjustment needs to be made to it (other than accounting for bullet drop, which is something you need to do at ranges greater than point-blank, laser or no laser).  This stands in stark relief to the Crimson Trace, which -- despite the fact that it comes pre-sighted at 50 feet -- has always needed adjustment (not just mine, but the one on my mother's LCR as well).  This is due to the fact that the laser emitter of the CTLG is lower than, and nearly an inch to the right of, my Glock barrel. This offset creates what is know as parallax error, and that means if you are any distance other than the one to which your CTLG is calibrated, your point of impact is going to be off.

You may find it interesting that despite my best efforts to zero my Crimson Trace at 20 feet, it was still off (and noticeably so) when I compared it to the LaserMax.

So, here's what my target looked like the first time I shot with my Crimson Trace Laser Grips. This was at 7 yards, and 60 rounds of practice ammo:

I'm definitely not going to win any awards for this kind of shooting, but definitely good enough for defensive purposes:

Now let's compare that to how I shot with the LaserMax Guide Rod Laser, also at 7 yards, also using 60 rounds of practice ammo:

That's a significant difference. Let's look at that using the same red shirt:

LaserMax: A+
Crimson Trace: B

Clear Winner: LaserMax

4) Miscellaneous

This category is more a collection of things I noticed rather than characteristics to be graded:

  • The LaserMax strobes, whereas the Crimson Trace is a constant beam. This might affect battery life; it might not. 
  • Batteries are much easier to change on the CTLG than the LMGRL.
  • The CTLG actually increases the thickness of the pistol grip, which may make it harder for those of us with smaller hands to grip it. However, shooters with short fingers may find reaching the activation button of the LMGRL to be awkward. 
  • Maybe I'm just klutzy or have funky hips or something, but I noticed I was constantly bumping the Crimson Trace emitter on doorknobs. Clearly I don't have this problem with the LaserMax. 
  • A nifty but undocumented feature of the LaserMax is that the laser automatically turns off at slide lock and turns back on when a fresh magazine is chambered. This is useful because you don't have to worry about setting the gun down when the range is cold and having the laser continue to discharge, running down batteries and potentially flashing someone in the eyes. 

Part III: Conclusion, or "Who Run Laser Town?"

By a strict reading of the score, the Crimson Trace Laser Grip wins over the LaserMax Guide Rod Laser... and yet, it's the LaserMax that I still have installed on my Glock.

The truth is, there is a lot to like about both of these products. You can't really go wrong with either of them. While it may seem like I'm trying not to offend either company, I think they both have different markets.

The CTLG is, as I said before, idiot-proof. If you want your laser to be on when you need it, every single time, and not have to worry about anything other than operating your pistol, then this is what I recommend. It's what my mom has on her Ruger LCR, and even though LaserMax makes a laser for that gun, I won't change it. It's perfect for novices and for people who don't want to worry about extra steps.

The Guide Rod Laser, on the other hand, isn't for novices at all. Installation isn't easy, and I am sorely disappointed with their instructions (Note to Celia:  add a tool*  like Crimson Trace does, and have the instructions be clearly written with well-labeled instructions, and you'll improve the experience of installation tremendously.) However, once it's installed, it produces incredible performance for any operators who remember to keep their fingers indexed above the on/off switch.

To make an analogy:  Crimson Trace Laser Grips are automatic transmissions, whereas Laser Max Guide Rod Lasers are stick shift. If you can learn to drive stick, you'll never go back, but for some people that level of operation is too high.

If you're a novice, buy Crimson Trace. If you want more performance, buy LaserMax. 

* This tool right here. I keep it in my Otis cleaning kit and it has proven amazingly useful.

Obligatory finger to the FCC:  I bought the Crimson Trace with my own money. The LaserMax was provided free for T&E, but with no expectation of a good review, and did you see how I savaged them in the first section?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Everyone needs to enjoy my caption for this picture

"Your Castle is in another Princess."

Been meaning to do this for a while...

... but I've been putting it off for no good reason.  

Anyway, Shelby shared a very painful story with us about the death of her brother 11 years ago, and that finally motivated to post these.  Some of you may remember this poem from a few years ago; after much procrastination, I have had them prettied up under the expert hand of Nathan Bechtold.

You are free to print these, or email them, or use them in any other way you wish, just so long as the words aren't changed and I'm still listed as the author.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: What Traveller Languages Sound Like

(Sample words are generated by

Anglic, the language of the Third Imperium, is a fusion of Vilani and Solomani.

Solomani is probably some version of English, but still unrecognizable to our ears in the same way that English from 1000 AD is foreign to us today.  (From Futurese.)
1000 AD:
Wé cildra biddaþ þé, éalá láréow, þæt þú tǽce ús sprecan rihte, forþám ungelǽrede wé sindon, and gewæmmodlíce we sprecaþ…

2000 AD:
We children beg you, teacher, that you should teach us to speak correctly, because we are ignorant and we speak corruptly…

3000 AD:
*Zᴀ kiad w’-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gᴀr’-eduketan zᴀ da wa-tᴀgan lidla, kaz ’ban iagnaran an wa-tᴀg kurrap…

Viliani sounds much like Hawaiian or other Polynesian/Pacific Island languages, where glottal slops between multiple vowels are common.
Zhodani sounds like an Eastern European language, probably Polish or one of the Slavic tongues, that has far too many consonants and not nearly enough vowels. 

Aslan (speaking of not enough vowels) sounds much like Welsh, only pronounced with a cleft upper lip.
Droyne  is a strange combination of dipthongs and consonant clusters, like a drunk fusion of Chinese and Australian.
Hivers are mute and thus do not have a spoken language. Their language is therefore translated into that of the listener when speaking. (Note: While Gurvin is listed as the official spoken language of the Hive Federation, I cannot find any representation of the language anywhere within game materials.)

K'kree sounds like the click languages of African bushmen.
Vargr  is difficult to classify because, lacking a unified goverment or culture, they also lack a universal language. The most common one is Gvegh, which sounds like Norwegian spoken by a wolf.
Do you disagree?  (Do Traveller player have bellybuttons?)  Leave a comment!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Morning Gunday Quickie

So there I am, trawling ze Facebookz and drinking my coffee, when I come across an article titled  "25 Messages From NRA Members To Gun Control Supporters."  I follow it, and I see some familiar faces...

I would recognize that bald head and biker 'stache anywhere!  That's JayG!

I scroll down a little further and think, "This guy looks exactly like how I imagined Weerd Beard would look."

Turns out I was right!

And this cute li'l guy is one of the murderhobos in my Traveller agame, a.k.a. the Snooze Button Ronin!

#15 looks like someone I should know... perhaps it's Michael Bane?  Unsure.

Congratulations guys!  You photograph well!

UPDATE:   I have been informed that this lady is Nancy R. of  Excels at Nothing. Looking good, lady!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Facebook Funnies

Facebook Friend 1:  So, apparently, yesterday (April 30) was Dead Hitler Day and I'm only now finding out about this. I seriously feel fucking cheated now.

Facebook Friend 2:  With bin Laden's death on the same day I thought it was more of a general "Death to the enemies of America" day...

This webcomic is basically "My Little Pony" crossed with "Calvin & Hobbes."  If you like either of those, you should give it a look. If you like both, you need to start reading it IMMEDIATELY.

Me:  I have been dubbed "Princess Daintyhooves" by Mike SixEight. So it is written, so mote it be.

One person asked to hear my voice, and so I made this brief recording on Vocaroo.  It's gotten 15 "Likes" and over a dozen comments about how lovely it is. I actually don't get that, because I think I sound hoarse and nasal and terrible, but whatever.

Technically only on Facebook because I posted it, this comes via Borepatch:
A black day
On this day 211 years ago, Washington D.C. was incorporated. Other than a brief respite when the British burned the White House and Capitol, it's been all down hill since.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don't Do Business With RGuns.Net

As promised...


This is the second one of these that I've had to write. It's a bit embarrassing to me, because this is twice now I've been taken fool by a vendor, and I'm letting everyone know just what a fool I've been.

But say what you will about my faults -- and there are many, to be sure -- I cannot be accused of not owning  up to my mistakes. When I screw up, I admit it. And I screwed up by not thoroughly researching this company.

I first encountered RGuns while searching for AR uppers back in December. This was just after Sandy Hook, when the crusade against dem ebil black gunz was in full swing, and my mother had said to me "I think we should finish building your rifle before they become impossible to get," and then offered to pay for it.

Now, I was of two minds about this. On the one hand, I didn't think that an AR ban would ever go through, and since there was a run on AR patterns anyway, finding an upper in a reasonable price range was becoming a unicorn hunt. I figured that eventually the hysteria would die down, and the units that had been built during the demand would flood the market and prices would stabilize.

On the other hand, I had someone offering to bankroll half a gun. This happens approximately never.

So yes, I got a bit greedy and decided "What the hell, let's see if I can find something within the price range I've been given."

It took me several weeks, but eventually I found an AR upper that had everything I was looking for*, and was only slightly more than I had been allocated. So I dipped into my own savings to make up the difference.

I would like to state, for the record, the following facts:
  • The item I ordered was listed as being in stock. 
  • Per the RGuns webpage, there was a delay in processing the orders, but they clearly state, and I quote: 3. RGUNS does not charge a credit card used for an order until it is ready to be shipped.  If your card has not been charged, we have not shipped your order.
  • I did indeed look online to see if the company was reputable or not. Maybe I did not dig as deeply as I should have; I will not argue that. However, I feel (perhaps wrongly, perhaps not) that I performed my due diligence. The website was recommended to me by a gunnie friend (name withheld to prevent embarrassment), and a casual Googleing did not indicate "HOLY SHIT DO NOT BUY FROM THESE ASSHOLES."  Yes, there was the usual bitching on Arfcom that the owner was rude and the service was slow, but nothing indicated to me that they would violate their terms of service by charging me for something and not delivering. 
So, on January 6, I placed my order, received the confirmation email, and tried my best to be patient.

Time passed. Days turned into weeks, weeks to months, and winter became spring. The package never arrived, but then mom's card hadn't been charged either, so no harm, no foul.

In mid-March, mom showed me her Visa statement, and it indicated that as of 03/13/2013, she had been charged the requisite amount. Hooray! I was thrilled! Maybe I would get an AR upper as a late birthday present!

March ended; no AR upper. Okay, that was two weeks, maybe they were behind in getting the stuff off the loading dock or whatever. 

Mid-April; still no upper. After 4 weeks, I had begun to wonder. Mom sent them an email with a copy of the confirmation, asking if we could get an approximate ETA on the upper, and they didn't bother to reply. I called them on the telephone, and get a message that is so curt that it is just this side of being rude, basically saying "If you placed an order in December, chill the fuck out, it will get to you eventually. DO NOT MICROMANAGE YOUR ORDER." That last line is a quote, by the way. Their telephone number is 847-428-3569, call it and hear for yourself.

I left a message with our order number etc and asked them to call back. Did they? Of course not. 

At this point, it had been 6 weeks. Mom had gotten her second Visa statement, and didn't like the notion of paying for what is had effectively become Schroedinger's Upper. I was starting to get a bad feeling, so I did some more Google-ing, and lo and behold!  Since the end of January, lots of complaints have been levied against RGuns. They even have an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, with 28 complaints (out of 30) in the last 12 months!

Mom asks me what we should do. "Call Visa and tell them you want to begin chargeback proceedings," said I, because the 60 day limit for disputes was fast approaching. 

"Don't you want Visa to see if they can get your upper to you?" she asked. 

"NO," I thundered, fist upraised with lighting striking dramatically in the background. "They have taken our money and ignored our legitimate queries. For this they must be punished! Begin the chargeback forthwith, such that they not only lose our business but also must suffer the chargeback fee from their merchant bank! AND LET THIS BE A LESSON UNTIL ALL WHO WRONG ME THUS! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHH!

Because, you see, I understand that fecal matter occurreth. I understand that shipping is slow, and demand is high, and maybe they were swamped with orders. If they had just taken five minutes out of their busy schedule and replied with a simple "Hey, I'm sorry, we are running behind, but you are totally going to get your upper by X date," then it would have been fine. But they ignored us, and if you read those reviews I linked you will find multiple instances of people ordering things that don't show up for 6 months or more, and when they call to complain the owner cancels their order and charges them a $100 cancellation fee.  I have no idea how RGuns stays in business, and frankly, it doesn't deserve to.

We began the chargeback process on Monday. As of today, the charge has been cancelled, and mom has received credit for what she already paid. So we aren't out anything, thank God, except for whatever little trust I may have held in online vendors.

Now that I've been burned twice, I'm closing the book on "Erin Builds an AR." People would rather steal my money than legitimately sell me a product, so I'm done shopping. Maybe in several years, when/if the market bottoms out, I'll be able to buy an upper at a gun show or from someone I personally know -- but unless I can pick it up and take it home right then, to hell with it. I'm done with spending my money on promises that turn out to be lies.


*For the curious, what I ordered was: 16 Inch Upper with Fluted Barrel, M4 Handguards, QuadRail Gas Block and Vortex Flash Suppressor.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"One Second After": A Book Report

One Second After, by William R. Forstchen

A not-particularly-well written novel about the effects of an EMP on a small town in North Carolina and the surrounding countryside. Characters are flat and boring, and are generally used as delivery pieces for information:  the police chief talks about martial law, the doctor talks about health and disease, and the protagonist -- a history professor -- is a thinly veiled author expy.

We are continually beaten about the head regarding how awful an EMP attack is, and how woefully unprepared the USA is for one, despite all the other post-9/11 terrorist drills, and yet there are no mentions of Farraday Cages at all.

One of the author's -- excuse me, I meant protagonist's -- children is a 12 year old daughter with Type 1 diabetes. It ends as badly as you think it might for her, despite the fact that the novel is set in a rural community, with repeated mentions of both veterinarians, cattle,and pig farms.  I find it implausible that the town of Black Mountain was able to string up old 1920s style telephones, but no one thought to research getting insulin from livestock like the way it was done, oh, up until the 1980s.

The author's other daughter is a 17 year old, who stupidly gets pregnant during the famine-and-dieoff portion of the novel, because that makes sense. Then her boyfriend dies in the defense of the town against Mad Max style raiders, and because the author was also a colonel in the military who assigned the boy to that station, he pledges to raise his bastard grandchild out of a sense of guilt. Because a risky pregnancy during a famine is fine, but taking an interest in who your child is fucking beforehand is out of the question.

I threw the novel across the room when the author's mother-in-law suggests that he kill his dead daughter's dog so that his stupid pregnant daughter can have protein so that the baby can be brought to term.

It's slightly cheerier than The Road, but not by much, and that book was also stupid and depressing.

Do not read, unless you like dark endings, idiot characters, or being lectured.

WNW: Sexy Pool Party

Have some eye candy to go with your funny.

The Fine Print

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