Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Gunday: End of summer ammo count

Summer is over, and the heat is receding alongside the Great Ammo Draught of 2012-13. Let's do the Grand Ammo Count and see what needs replenishment!

  • 180 rds FMJ
  • 60 rds HP
  • 675 rds FMJ  (440 of which is in a sealed spam can)
12 gauge
  • 120 rds Birdshot
  • 50 rds OO Buckshot
  • 5 Deer Slugs
  • 1050 rds FMJ
  • 140 JHP
.357 Magnum
  • 25 rds 140gr. FTX
.38 Special
  • 50 158gr RN
  • 15 130gr RN
  • 38 125gr RN
  • 1050 rds 100gr RN
  • 25 rds 90gr FTX
  • 20 rds 85gr +P JHP
22 Magnum
  • 100 40gr RN
  • 50 40gr PDX1
.22 LR
  • 400 36gr HP
  • 1748 40gr RN
I'm actually surprised at how much I still have, given that I went to a blogshoot in June. I was sure I had less than this (especially 9mm round nose), and in the instance of the 7.62x54R, I think I actually came home with more ammo than I brought down.

I'd like your thoughts on what I should beef up first  (There is no such thing as "enough" ammunition -- you either need more, or you are dangerously low and need more right now. I won't be happy until I can make a sofa-fort out of ammo cans), but here are mine:

This is somewhere between "a good start" and "sufficient -- for now."
  • 240 rounds for my SKS is simply Not Enough. I need at least 500 rds, preferably 1000. 
  • 675 rounds for my Mosin is probably good, considering how it kicks like a mule. Would still like 1000ish. 
  • Shotgun ammo is dangerously low, and probably needs to be bought first. I'm thinking a nice 250 rd case of buckshot. 
  • 9mm stores are looking good! I can practice with a clear conscience, so long as I can replenish what I shoot. 
  • No, you cannot have any of my .22LR ammo. Well, maybe if you offer sexual favors in exchange. 
  • The .38, .357, .380 and .22 Mag are for my mom's guns.  She needs more of everything, but I'm not in charge of her spending habits.  We probably have more ammo (minus the 22 Mag) in dad's room, but I'm not privy to those numbers. 
UPDATE:  I have since added 200 SKS rds and 250 rds of OO buck. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Frustration, or Ideas flow as the Whiskey goes.

In Media Res: I am jealous of Jenna Marbles.

Several years ago, in the era which could best be described as fallout from the end of my marriage, I had two goals. To search for something (jesus, answers, absolution, etc) at the bottom of every bottle I could get my hands on, and weaseling out of as much actual work as I could at my job. Eventually, I did myself a damage to my prostate from sitting cross-legged on the floor and draining whiskey bottles for hours every day. I've since had to stop, and for various reasons have not felt up to getting hammered on a regular basis since.

The work thing turned out pretty well. I've managed to move from one semi-supervisory position to the next with a great deal of responsibility and very little effort required. High-risk, high reward. That reward being, currently, the ability to sit on my arse and play video games while I'm clocked in.... I mean, regularly review training materials in my downtime between helping other agents.

Back to the alcohol: I was one of those proper drunken writers. I could down a few glasses of whiskey and then hammer angrily and miserably at the keyboard for an hour and turn out something actually quite good that I didn't even remember thinking of.

Smash cut to the present: Jenna Marbles's latest video is her hammered and slurring into the camera as she's doing her hair. It's really quite genius, in that it's been up only a few hours and she's already gotten 35,000+ views. I remember doing this, in blog form, only without an audience. Or much of one, at least.

It's kind of frustrating, having one or two ideas every now and then sort of half-materialize only to fizzle out. As it is, I think I just wrote a few paragraphs about how I can't write anything. The irony is not lost on me. And I'll have a proper subject next week, I'm sure.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oh for fuck's sake

Apparently life thinks it would be funny to throw a lot of shit at me at once, and keep me from writing anything substantial today.

Fuck you too, life.

I don't know when, or even if, I'll have the time to write when my family or my body isn't turning against me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My GM Codes

Since I seem to be kinda good at this "Running an RPG" thing, and because I saw them over at Faoladh's place, I figured I ought to post these "What kind of GM am I" codes so that folks know what kind of game I run. (My players probably already know these from firsthand experience, but just in case...)

Tactics are an important part of my games. I will set traps and ambushes for the unwary, and will take perverse glee in springing them on you. It is not my fault if you blunder into a deathtrap because you weren't paying attention or foolishly overestimated your chances.

My games will tell an interesting Story. I do not much care for sandbox-style or random games; I like Dramatic Plots with Interesting and Deep Characters. If you're a two-dimensional cutout, you will most likely bore me, and then I will either ignore you or kill you out of boredom. Protip: Keep the GM entertained.

My games focuses on Exploration & Mystery. Also known as, "I require you to think, not just roll dice. There are NPCs out there with proactive plans, and before you can thwart those plans you first need to know what they are."

The GM is In Charge in my games and "rule-zero" is in effect. Hello, my name is GOD. No, really, that's my Roll20 name in the Google Hangout: Game Operations Director. Mostly this means "Don't get all rules lawyer on me."

My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than pre scripted content.  Because one of the first things I learned as a GM is that no adventure survives contact with the PCs, so why bother? As a result, I have become very fast on my metaphorical feet.

My games focus on interesting Characters and Drama. I'm an actor at heart, and I love getting into character and doing funny voices. Also, the best villains are the ones that have histories and motivations.

My game is primarily Non-Combat in nature.  Mostly because combat is a time sink that can be spent doing things which are more fun. On the other hand, sometimes you just have to open a can of whoop-ass, and when I do, fights can be very nasty.

Players in my game should be prepared to Run when the odds are against them.  See above, re: Tactics. Life isn't a balanced encounter, so why should a game be scaled to your level?  Fly, you fools!

I frequently Tinker with the rules of the game.  I'm essentially the Doctor Moreau of RPGs...   as if Traveller Tuesdays weren't enough of a hint.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

No free Ice Cream on Fridays

Sorry about that.  Apparently the gal behind the counter doesn't like to work on Fridays, since she hasn't shown up twice in a row now.

Don't worry, I've written her up and given her a stern talking-to. If it happens again I'll have no choice but to begin administrative action against her.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Justine, or Sometimes I'm A Woman.

     I'm sure you've all heard the theories and dismissals:   

  • They're probably all a bunch of pervs, pretending to be girls online.
  • Well, who wants to stare at a dude's ass for hours on end?
  • They just want to play dress-up with skimpy armor!    
     I'm one of those weirdo guys that plays as female characters. Why? Can't be the first one. I never claim to anyone in multiplayer that I'm female. I'm willing to use my microphone, and have a distinctively male voice. As for the second, I'll play female even in first-person, where there's no arse to stare at. As for the last, I dress conservatively enough most of the the time (that ark hunter outfit below made me a little uneasy, but it just looks *so* badass) that I get hit on because other players think I'm really female because I'm not showing skin.

     Of all the games I play, the ones that hold a special place in my heart are the ones where you can create your own characters. I'll concede the point that there are a glut of 20-to-30-something, short-brown-haired white dudes as protagonists in video games, as there are in many forms of media, so my interest is always peaked at seeing a good, strong female lead. Give me a Faith Connors, a Jill Valentine, the new Lara Croft any day for a dash of variety in storytelling. If there's an option of male or female character, I'll actually feel more comfortable playing as the female character. There's a good reason for that, too.

Ark Hunter Justine
Commander Justine Shepard
     Which brings us to Justine. Justine is a topic I'm not always comfortable talking about, as there's a whole population boom of folk claiming head-mates and what-not (I swear I don't have a Tumblr account), but I was recently told it might make for good discussion. Justine was a loose set of viewpoints that floated through my head in my early days of writing, as I tried to inform a believable female voice to characters that I would write. I've always felt I had a gift for seeing the world from other viewpoints, and I felt that perhaps if I pushed that gift a little further, I could speak with a voice unlike my own. So a loose set of ideas and viewpoints remained in my head until such time that gaming started moving in a direction that allowed for deeper character customization.

     I think Commander Justine Shepard, Biotic Vanguard and XO of the Alliance frigate Normandy SR1 was the first time the name appeared. And appeared is probably the most apt term. I've never known a Justine in real life, and I can only think of a handful of pop culture folk that have the name, none of which had a particularly heavy influence on me. But Justine Shepard formed a more solid image in my head, with the first few defining traits. Red hair. Hard features, pale blue eyes, and a shotgun. Justine, from Vault 101, was the next time she appeared, and gained a touch more solidity. She'd be willing to help those who approached her, slow to anger, and a bit of a loner. Justine the Courier for the Mojave Express would try the diplomatic approach, but the moment you drew on her, she'd put you down. When she went back into space on the Normandy SR2, she fell in love with an old friend; he had reach, she had flexibility.

    Due to differences in game engine and artistic style, her looks do vary a little, but there are some things that never change. Red hair, blue eyes, almost always human (thanks, Kingdoms of Amalur, made me play a freakin' elf). Some way of getting right up in the enemy's faces, be that a cloaking device, biotic charge, or shotgun loadout. Sensible armor and/or clothing.  She'll negotiate, but she won't back down. She's fiercely loyal to her crew (except dumb muscle-heads that defy orders and wreck her shuttle), but wary of strangers.

Courier Justine, probably the most developed image of them all.
Justine, Dragonborn
Justine of the 3rd St Saints
      She's since been a celebrity gang leader, an Ark hunter, and someone who speaks with the voice of a dragon, but she's been the same person each time. She makes the same decisions that feel natural for her to make, picks the gear that would make sense for her to pick. It's almost like I'm not playing alone when I'm playing a game as Justine.

     Now, for those of you worried, I fully acknowledge that she's not a real person. She's merely a viewpoint in my mind that gets a lot of exercise. She has, however, grown past simply being a literary tool or a way to see through the eyes of another person. Either way, I take some comfort in the fact that I'm not picking my protagonists just to see some tail waggling in my face for hours on end.   

(In case you're interested, the games referenced here include the Mass Effect series, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Saints Row The Third, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Defiance)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WNW: Funny advertisements (NSFW)

One of these is absolutely real, the other is false but still funny.  I leave it up to you to decide which is which. 

Advertisement One:
When canned Carnation Milk became available in grocery stores in the 1940s, she read an advertisement offering $5,000 for the best slogan.

The producers wanted a rhyme beginning with "Carnation Milk is best of all."

She thought to herself, 'I know everything there is to know about milk and dairy farms. I can do this!'

She sent in her entry, and several weeks later a black car pulled up in front of her house. A large man got out, knocked on her door, and said, "Ma'am, the president of Carnation milk absolutely LOVED your entry. So much, in fact, that we are here to award you $1,000, even though we will not be able to use it for our advertisements!"

He did, however, have one printed up to hang on his office wall.

Here it is:

Advertisement Two:

This video.    (H/T to Evyl Robot for the link. )

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Droyne thoughts

The Droyne are my absolute favorite race in Traveller, so I have of course fleshed them out with details which make sense to me.

Droyne are communists. I mean this in the economic and not ideological sense; they are commune-ists. The oytrip (community) is closest in nature to the Jewish kibbutz.

Unlike human societies, Droyne make communism work because they are caste-based and inherently psionic. They are "wired" to be communal, and do not function well unless all castes are present. This means that they lack concepts of selfishness and (excepting Leaders and Sports) ego. In other words, Droyne communism works because they are alien. 

Droyne do not have a religion. They have a philosophical doctrine of morality, of which the closest human analog is Buddhism, with Yaskoydray (Grandfather) occupying the role of Buddha. Whether or not they believe in reincarnation of the soul (or a psionic version thereof) has yet to be determined.

All Droyne mathematics are Base 6. This caused initial confusion among Imperial researchers, as Droyne have 8 fingers, until the link between Coyns and the caste system was discovered. As there are six Droyne castes, a heximal system of counting makes perfect sense. Young Droyne are taught to count only using their fingers and not their thumbs.

Heximal multiplication table

Similarly, there are 36 letters in Oynprith, the Droyne language. (6x6=36)

While Dryone understand the concept of uncasted things easily enough (nonliving things, animals, plants, and immature children all fit), they struggle with the concept that adult sentient beings do not fit into rigid, easy to understand molds. Therefore, aliens are terrifyingly random to the lower castes and are often baffling to Leaders and Sports. While the easiest way to explain aliens to other Droyne is to compare them to "a race of nothing but Sports,"   1) this is still quite horrifying to them ("How do they get anything done?") and  2) deeply disturbing when they see an individual who nominally occupies a caste role suddenly act outside his parameters -- such as when a Marine (Warrior caste) is in charge of medics (Drone caste) and signal corps (Technician caste).

It is rumored that one of the reasons Sports are adapted to being away from home is to prevent lower caste Droyne from gibbering in terrified confusion at such chaotic beings.

Because this rigid social hierarchy is written into their genes, Droyne are an intensely law-abiding society. (In D&D terms, they are perfect Lawful Neutral.) This gives them an abiding love for both procedure and ritual: checklists, flowcharts and specialized tools are near and dear to their hearts. Both the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the ritual preparation of absinthe are aspects of human culture that the Droyne are able to fully appreciate.

Despite this, however, they find regulatory bureaucracy to be useless. ("Why use all these forms when everything would work more smoothly with a Drone reporting to a Leader?")

There are also some secret facts about Droyne which I shan't post because my players are reading this...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Gunday: Catching up with gunbloggers

Yes, I know, Monday Gundays have been exceedingly sparse of late. Ammo is still expensive here (especially 9mm and .22LR), so that eliminates indoor shooting. My outdoor range is closed for repairs/renovation, which suits me fine since during the summer it's hot enough to melt aluminum anyway. Hopefully actual shooting will occur once cooler temperatures emerge.

So let's check in with some gunblogger friends, shall we?

McThag is just $100 shy of his very modest $500 Kilted to Kick Cancer goal. I encourage everyone to support him, because 1) he is a friend of mine and 2) he was so very discouraged about his chances of making his goal that I was worried this would be the last year he would participate.

Look, we all know JayG is going to win this year, like he does every year. All I'm asking is that you help McThag reach his goal, and then you can donate to the prize-bearing folks like last time.

Squeaky Wheel is making progress on her surgical front. She had a CT scan on Friday, and today she has appointments with both surgeons.  Based on her morning consult with her oncology surgeon (just in case that tumor was cancerous, which they're pretty sure they aren't now) it seems like her surgery will be laparoscopic rather than the predicted "Gut her like a fish, pull everything out, remove uterus and nodule, then push innards back inside" surgery.  This is all incredibly good news, and on behalf of S.W. I thank everyone who's been praying for her and wishing her well.

Surgery is tentatively scheduled for end of the month or beginning of next, and after that we'll have a better idea of what this final bill is and how much she'll need to handle prescriptions and other expenses. She's fine for now, but we just might need to do another fundraiser in October to help her through the lean period.

And now, me.  Again, I'd like to thank everyone for being incredibly cool and supportive about my coming out, and for accepting me for who I am. I originally had planned a "I am one of you" speech during my reveal, explaining that you should judge me for my actions and not for my appearance, but in the heat of the moment I forgot all about it until days later. And I'm glad I did, because it would have detracted from the piece and, as it turns out, was entirely unneeded.

Now if it were up to me, I would speak no more of this, ever. You donated, I revealed, you accepted, let's just drop the whole thing so you can continue to think of me as I want to be thought of.  I really have no desire to be a symbol or a figurehead. But seeing as how I seem to be at the forefront, however briefly, of "alternate lifestyle gunnies," I might as well take advantage of a teachable moment and ask the following question:

"Is there anything I can do or say to help make this situation more understandable and accessible to those of you who are confused?"

If so, drop me a message/ leave a comment and I'll do what I can to clear things up.

On the other hand, if no one says boo, I will take this as an indication that everyone is fine, and I will let the matter drop with a sigh of relief, hopefully never to be mentioned again.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Funny Story

I originally wrote this story on Facebook in reply to a picture someone posted, but it's too good not to share -- and there's no way I'm letting all this typing to go waste.

It was either 1983 or '84, which means I was 9 or 10 at the time, and we were living in Europe because my father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. (Name dropping for those who would like to fact-check: the base was AFCENT; it was in Brunssum, the Netherlands; my father was part of the Readiness Group that handled, among other things, the Fulda Gap strategy. If you know what Able Archer 83 was, you can blame my father for part of that.)

So anyway, for our yearly vacation we decided to visit Berlin. The thing about Berlin at the time was that West Berlin was this little island surrounded by East Germany, and so there were only three ways in or out: take a plane to the Berlin airport; drive 100 km or so along a tightly restricted highway through Checkpoints Alpha and Bravo; or ride into the city on a train. I believe that, because we were military and my father was an O-5, we weren't allowed to drive and if we had to take the train we were required to take a military troop train. We could have flown, of course, but that was expensive.

So we took a British troop train, because we were cheap, and it was a long, crappy ride through a desolate countryside with husks of buildings on the horizon that looked like they'd been abandoned since the 1940s. I remember being disappointed that the British troops weren't dressed like WW1 Tommies with Brodie helmets on their heads and puttees on their legs. I was a kid, I thought dumb things.

So we get to West Berlin, and see the sights, and then we get on a bus to visit East Berlin. We go through Checkpoint Charlie and there's the usual drama of having our vehicle inspected with mirrors and dogs by armed guards. Because of some kind of treaty, all active duty military personnel were required to be in uniform, so my dad was wearing his Class B's, and because he was an O-5 he was senior officer aboard.

I told you ALL THAT so that you won't think I'm bullshitting you when I tell you the rest of this story. Hopefully I have established my bona fides that I really was there and not making stuff up.

So we do the usual tourist thing in East Berlin: see the Wall from the other side, see the goose-steppers changing guard, see the Brandenburg Gate, etc. Then we went to the only church (cathedral? My memory is fuzzy on this) in East Berlin. While there, my dad goes to use the toilet, and mom sits down on a bench to rest her feet. I was playing nearby.

While she's there, this German guy comes up to her and starts chatting. Says hello in German, mom says she doesn't speak much, so he does the "Oh, you are American? I speak English!" kind of thing. You know, friendly and enthusiastic, and he goes from asking her questions like "Do you like Berlin?" to subtle pointed ones about the size of the tour group, etc... basically pumping her for information.

About this time, my father comes back -- remember, O-5 in full uniform, fruit salad, the whole bit -- and he sees the guy, and dad just *knows* the guys is KGB. Guy sees my father, excuses himself, and makes himself scarce.

Dad doesn't think much of this, other than the usual "KGB trying to get information from an officer's wife" until about 15-ish years later, when he sees Putin on television. Dad says to mom, "That's the KGB agent who tried to pick you up in East Berlin!" Mom isn't entirely sure -- she doesn't have a good memory for faces -- but she doesn't disagree with him either.

So according to my parents, Vladimir Putin tried to turn my mom into an asset when we were visiting East Berlin.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

OCRD, or Salem Fails Weapons Handling Forever

     So we find ourselves at the intersection of gunnies and gaming again, I've handled firearms, having gone to high school in Alabama and spending a year or two of that time in the JROTC program. I learned how to load, handle, discharge, and maintain a weapon, but admittedly it's been years and years, and I've probably forgotten most of what I learned, but I remember the respect and caution that come with handling a weapon. In the intervening years, I have not kept up with firearms, but I've still been exposed to a reasonable facsimile thereof.

     I'm not sure if you guys are aware, but guns are kind of common in video games. Everything from platformers to first person shooters have them, and some of them are awfully authentic. I have well over 600 hours in a game called Killing Floor, which is a smaller, indie-ish title developed by a company out of Georgia called Tripwire Interactive. Their other big title is the Red Orchestra series, which is sort of a Call of Duty for people who want proper warfare, not the viagra-mainlining hyperactive arcade that the CoD series brings. Tripwire puts a great deal of love into crafting their firearms, with a scary focus on realistic sounds, reactions, handling, and reloading animations.

    All of this brings me to my point. I have a confession to make. My name is Salem, and I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Reloading Disorder. OCRD is a common, if overlooked, affliction in the gaming world. Independent studies* show that 3 out of every 10 gamers has this, and up to 75% don't even know they have it. OCRD can be a painful and debilitating condition* that manifests itself as compulsively reloading your weapon with a partially emptied magazine. Some people justify this behaviour by only reloading after a magazine is half-emptied or more. Some people...

     I was playing Resident Evil 6 earlier and trying out the quick-shot ability, which basically lets you fire a round in a 'from the hip' manner, to follow up with a melee kill on a stunned zombie. Naturally, this leaves you with a magazine missing exactly one bullet. Which I can't help but reload. The aforementioned Killing Floor will leave me reloading after every few shots, or any time there's not something currently in my cross-hairs. The problem is even worse if I'm playing something competitive like Call of Duty. I'll be so convinced that I'll need *every* bullet in the mag to take out another player that I'll spray a few shots, reload, and only to die face-to-face with someone while I'm stuck reloading my weapon. In real life, this would add up to a monumental waste of ammo, and perpetually unfilled magazines.

     Yet another reason why Salem should never be allowed near real firearms.

*there are no studies. I'm pulling this out of my ass. 
*see previous note. I'm still pulling this out of my ass and I know that actual, proper OCD really is a burden on a lot of people's lives, and mean no disrespect to those that have this or similar conditions. Except my ex-wife. I hope somebody rearranges your DVDs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Night Warriors

As I've stated multiple times on this blog, 9/11 is typically an emotion-filled day for me. I wake up pissy, proceed to angry in the afternoon and by the evening my stomach is burning with rage. I took a break from blogging about it around 2009 (or 2010, I can't recall) because I was emotionally exhausted -- don't get me wrong, I was still mad as hell, I just couldn't find the precision required to adequately express my frustration with words.

Then, in 2011, we killed the fuck out of Bin Laden, and that made me feel a hell of a lot better. We hadn't gotten all the bad guys, but we'd gotten THE bad guy in an act of righteous vengeance. I thought that maybe I could put the rage behind me.

Then Benghazi happened on this exact date last year, and the old familiar rage came rushing back. It's probably a good thing I'm not a politician, because I am quick to overwhelming anger in a way that only Irish-German types can muster, and so my natural response would probably be to arclight the Middle East and North Africa until there wasn't a single stone standing atop another.

On the other hand... the anti-rights gun grabbers had their asses handed to them last night in the Colorado recall elections, and we aren't (yet) beginning the overture to World War 3 through needless military action in Syria. These raise my mood from "GRR ARGH KILL RAWR"  to "meh".

I realize, however, that I need to do something to honor those killed since 9/11/01 and those who went to war afterwards. Therefore I present to you The Warrior Song, which should be the new Army anthem because it makes me want to fight and fuck and eat bacon all at once.

Aim with the hand
Shoot with the mind
Kill with a heart like arctic ice.

Goddamn, y'all. If this doesn't give you a figurative boner, there's something wrong with you. 

There are also versions for the Navy and Marine Corps. I highly recommend putting all three on rotation  in your iPod and blasting this at full volume throughout the day.

Turn it up to 9/11, motherfuckers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Message for you, sir

This post inspired by the fact that I think it's too easy to generate mail with its rather high profit-to-tonnage ratio.

How to Generate Mail the Erin Palette Way
First, throw out the system in the Core Book. In my experience, it generates too much mail too quickly. If you find this is not the case for your particular band of murderhobos, use the rules as written.

Second, use this flowchart:
  1. Begin with the Population Rating of the planet you are on.  This is your base number. 
    • +2 to base number if this is a High Tech (TL 12+) planet. 
    • -2 to base number if this is a Low Tech (TL 5-) planet. 
    • -4 to base number (cumulative with above) if both worlds are on an Xboat route. 
  2. Consult Passenger Traffic Modifiers between worlds and apply DMs to base number.  
    • If modifier of -10 or more:  -2 DM
    • If modifier of -9 to -5:       -1 DM
    • If modifier of -4 to +4:      +0 DM
    • If modifier of 5 to 9:         +1 DM
    • If modifier of 10 or more:   +2 DM 
  3. This is your Mail Traffic Number. Roll 3d6 and add to Mail Traffic Number. If 18+, mail is available. 
    • Optional rule:  a +2 DM to this roll may be given if at a Starport of C, D, or E quality to represent mail piling up without regular outbound service. 
  4. See if characters are eligible for mail. 
    1. Their ship must be armed. 
    2. They must have a full-time gunner aboard. 
    3. Optional: Roll Rank (Scouts) or Social Status + Admin (8+) to represent bureaucratic approval.
  5. If eligible, see how many tons of mail are available. 
    1. Roll 1d6-1, minimum of one [or 1d10/2 if you're polyhedral]. 
    2. This is how many dtons of mail in Uniform Mail Containers (1 dton each) are available. 
    3. Each dton of mail is worth 5,000 Credits if delivered in a timely manner. 

You've got mail!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Palette's Product Reviews: Halo Pocket Power Charger

I was first alerted to the existence of the Halo Pocket Power Charger (hereafter referred to simply as 'Halo') after Shelby talked about it on her blog back in May. Being a good little prepper, I thought that a gadget with such a small form factor which could charge any electronic device would be useful. That it reportedly held a charge for up to 12 months, however,  was what sealed the deal for me.

Now,  Shelby bought the version with the built-in flashlight ($32.96 + S&H) but I bought the one without it ($29.98 + S&H). I did this for two reasons: One, I already have a small flashlight in my every day carry kit, and my bug-out bag contains a crank flashlight, so I don't need that function; and two, I read that it was pretty easy to accidentally turn the flashlight on, which would of course drain the battery -- and a dead battery in a recharger is useless.

This is of course not a slam against Shelby -- she bought the one which was right for her, I bought the one which was right for me. Diff'rent strokes, world go 'round, etc. I mentioned this solely to make clear that my review doesn't specifically speak for hers, and vice versa.

The Halo charger itself is a very basic cylinder that is 3/4s of an inch in diameter and 3.75 inches in length. For a battery it does not seem especially heavy, perhaps as much as a "C" cell. Also included are instructions, a charging cable with a universal mount at one end, a collection of device adapters, and a carrying bag.

Micro USB, mini USB, and 30-pin connector all come standard.

As far as I am concerned, the true genius of the device is the cable. It has not one but two USB plugs, and the Halo can use either one to charge a device. Not only do you not have to worry about which end to use, this also means that you can charge your device from the battery while you're also charging the battery from a USB port or a wall plug with a USB adapter. This is quite convenient, especially when you're in a rented car and your iPhone dies...

Does it hold a charge for 12 months?  I don't know. What I do know is that I charged the Halo back in May when I bought it, and when I needed it during my drive to the Bidet Shoot nearly 2 months later, it still had a full charge. I used it to recharge my iPhone when, for whatever reason, my iPhone would not take a charge from the rental car's USB port. (This wasn't a problem with my phone's cable -- I bought a new one at a truck stop and it still wouldn't charge. I think that the voltage from the car's USB port was too low.)  Not only did the Halo charge my iPhone so I could listen to music and audiobooks during the drive up, it was also able to take and hold a charge from the USB port, which enabled me to stay in electronically entertained bliss for the 2,000 mile trip up and back.

Since coming back from the Bidet Shoot, I haven't used the Halo charger. Turning it on indicates it still has a full charge, and it was able to take my Kindle Fire from a 45% charge to 50% in only a few minutes.

Things of mine which the Halo will charge:
  • 5th generation iPod
  • iPhone 3GS
  • any flip phone we have adapters for
  • Kindle Fire
Things of mine the Halo will not charge:
  • my 2010-vintage Nook Color (the Nook is quite power hungry)

So far, I highly recommend this product.  I say "so far" because I have yet to test its claims of holding a single charge for 12 months. So far, it has done what I want it to do and takes up very little space. It is a touch expensive at $30, though, and there are less expensive versions available. However, I have yet to see another model that even offers 12 months to a charge. 

I'm quite happy with my purchase, and I recommend it to everyone. If you try another model, please let me know how well it works and I will include your findings. 

... Yes, I know, it's kind of a boring review. What do you want from me?  The Halo is a charger, it either works or it doesn't. This one works. 

Obligatory FCC disclaimer:  I bought the Halo with my own money, so neener neener. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Batffleck, or why this might just be a good thing.

     Stepping out into the great big world of nerd culture lately, you'll see there's been a firestorm of controversy surrounding the next Superman film. Given how Man Of Steel kind of quietly sunk when compared to the majority of the recent Marvel films, this comes as a little bit of a surprise to me. I'm a little bit behind the times, and am kind of ashamed to admit I haven't seen Man Of Steel yet. Supes kind of bores me a little, but I am looking forward to that awesome armored Kryptonian depiction of Faora.

     I really hate the term nerd-rage, because it speaks to that whole 'new-wave of geekdom' that's all a little embarrassing (I'll get into why another time), but it's kind of fitting here. The day the announcement was made, my Facebook feed was, quite literally (as Erin had inquired) every other post nerd-raging about the casting news. The unthinkable had happened. Batman was appearing in the Man of Steel sequel, and he'd be portrayed by Ben Affleck.

     When I first spotted this, blearily scrolling through my feed at 5 in the afternoon, it took a few posts for my brain to make the connection. "...Affleck? Really?" I felt no nerd-rage myself, though. In my mind's eye, Batman has been fouled up pretty bad except for two actors: Michael Keaton and Kevin Conroy. Keaton was Tim Burton's Batman, and I think he did a magnificent job, especially considering his primarily comedy background. If you're not familiar with Kevin Conroy's work, this is the part where I say stop reading and go watch an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Heart of Ice or Perchance to Dream, preferably. Two of my favorites. Or go play either of the excellent Batman Arkham Asylum/City games. I won't recommend Arkham Origins yet, as it's a different developer, and I haven't played it yet.

     I didn't like Val Kilmer's gloomy Bruce Wayne. I hated Clooney's goofy-ass Batman. As fitting as Adam West's campy Batman was for the tone of the show, I wasn't a fan. And I sat through three films wishing Christian Bale would a) take a lozenge and b) do some proper detective work.

     So I started fighting back. I started posting memes and images and random thoughts supporting Affleck, tagging the #Batffleck. Initially, this was just a joke. It amused me to be contrarion. Then I really thought about it. Then came a public declaration of "I'm going to sell you people on #Batffleck." I'm deadly serious now. I fully support Affleck.

     If you want to keep Bats true to character, there's exactly two physical features you need. 1) a white guy with 2) a strong jawline. Affleck has that completely locked. He's played a dark and brooding superhero with a flippant alter-ego before in Daredevil, and whether you liked or disliked that film, the point is he's got experience now. He'll have learned from it. Those douchebag roles he's played so well in the past? Can you really think of a better Bruce Wayne? I hear some of his later works, such as Argo and The Town were really quite good films, with a darker tone, too.

     Really, I urge you. Look past Gigli. It was a perfect storm of cinematic excretion. Forget Armageddon. Go dial up that Daredevil DVD and watch the scene when he comes in from his night job, strips off the suit, and you see the scars, how he moves in pain, popping the pills and slipping into that isolation chamber. Batffleck really could be the best live-action Bat we've ever seen.

     And, you know I'm obligated to say: Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WNW: Trippy Fan Mail

I received this email yesterday, and I almost deleted it because I thought it was spam based upon the subject:

Pregnant Portent Clouds strike while the iron's ardor is most incandescent.

I'm so glad I didn't, as this is possibly the best letter I've ever received. At first I wasn't sure if it was just email from a fan whose command of English is... interesting... but profoundly poetic (or maybe just stoned), or if Skynet actually had a profile of my interests and had evolved a sense of context. I mean, it references guns, My Little Pony, Lord of the Rings,  and Firefly/Serenity... that's all of my nerd interests right there!
Strike when the iron is hot.

Well, I hope that the iron has cooled somewhat and that the portent pregnant clouds are troubling the heads and hearts of others more deserving. I intend not to strike but to offer support. I know you not at all save for the blogging; which I find entertaining, thought provoking and informative. For I didn’t know that My Little Pony was still a thing. Pegasus got caught, would this happen to a real pony?

It took a great deal of fortitude to paint yourself into that corner for a friend. And then to come out with it in a twist so twisty that the internet probably had to screw its knickers on the next morning. And then to come out with it in a twist so twisty that the internet probably had to screw its knickers on the next morning. I wanted to lend my voice, or at least, typed words of support; I’ve been reading your blog for not too long, and found it by way of View From The Porch, I think. Point is: I will continue to read. It matters not that my concept of what the one at the helm looks like has changed. It is the internet after all, and if you aren’t comfortable in the skin you’re born in, this realm can allow those thus inclined to fashion a more comfortable mantle; and to have cast that mantle aside for a friend in need is surely an act of nobility.

I do feel a since of camaraderie with many of the bloggers in your sphere that I read, a bit of a late blooming Brown Coat I’ve discovered myself; and the sense of Family and Loyalty you folks foster fits right in the breast pocket of that Brown Coat I’d discovered I occasionally wear. Guns, Books, music, Loyalty and Family, all shapes, all sizes; round, square, straight as an arrow or queer as clockwork oranges, we’re all just folk. Some a little strange around the edges, others so odd it drips all over them, and every smear along a broad continuum.

And in that vein, and though much geography intervenes allow me to join the chorus of people who may have never properly met you but who will wax Gilmli on the subject, anyone gives you any shit, you have my axe…Well, 11-87; at least.

It turns out that it's from a fan whose first language wasn't English and who wrote this while sleep-drunk.

Either way, it's pretty damn awesome. The turns of phrase are so delightfully weird that I'm actually jealous. And I'm definitely going to use the phrase "wax Gimli" in the future.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Streamlining Space Combat

This blog post does not add additional tonnage to your Space Combat rules, but it does increase their cost by 10%.

After having two space combat sessions in Traveller nearly back to back, I've noticed that things don't flow quite as smoothly as they should. While the Order of Events in the core book makes perfect sense from a layout perspective, in practice things get a little odd -- especially when it comes to damage.

Here, then, is my own work-in-progress system to help make space combat a little less confusing for the harried GM.  For completeness' sake, I shall list the entire order of events; changes to rules as written are indicated through italics. While the outline is longer than the original, this should help prevent the GM having to frantically thumb through the section, looking for what happens when.


Order of Events

  1. Setup
    1. Determine range between ships
    2. Determine crew positions
    3. Determine initiative
      1. Commanders make Tactics (naval) check
      2. Effect is added to ship initiative score
    4. Determine number of reactions based on initiative
  2. Maneuver Phase
    1. Burn initiative for bonus reactions? Y/N
    2. Pilots allocate thrust to movement or maneuvering
    3. Position of ships is changed based on thrust
    4. Pilot make skill rolls for maneuver actions
      1. Dock with another vessel
      2. Help line up a shot
      3. Perform evasive maneuvers
        • Spend thrust as a reaction
        • Each point of thrust spent allows Pilot check.
        • Each successful check gives -2 DM to attacks against that ship.
        • These DMs stack until end of turn.
  3. Combat Phase
    1. In order of initiative, ships can take actions. Reactions are performed by ship being fired upon.
    2. Fire turret weapons (each turret uses a single Gunnery (Turret) roll)
      • Reaction: Launch Sand? Y/N
        • May only be used as a reaction if Sensors are functional
        • If not, sand is launched along with turret weapons
        • Sand cloud disperses at end of turn
    3. Launch Missiles (if from a turret with mixed weaponry, uses the above roll)
      • Reaction: Point Defense? Y/N
        • Can only be used in the turn they will impact
        • 1 hit = missile destroyed 
        • Gunner may keep shooting at missiles until one is missed
        • Each point defense roll after the first suffers cumulative -1 DM
    4. Attempt boarding action
      • Reaction: Point Defense vs. Boarders? Y/N
      • Use Quick Resolution of Boarding Actions (p. 148) if desired
    5. Repeat until all ships have taken all actions.
    6. Resolve damage
      1. All energy weapons from one turret count as one incoming block of damage.
      2. See if missiles hit (table, p.149)
      3. Resolve all missile hits separately.
      4. Determine damage to ship.
      5. Resolve crew hits from radiation
  4. Ship Action Phase
    • In order of initiative ships may take actions:
      • Increase initiative through Leadership (Captain)
      • Repair damaged systems (Damage Control)
      • Switch computer programs (Computer/Sensor/Comm)
      • Establish sensor lock (Sensor)
      • Determine type of missiles inbound (Sensor)
      • Perform electronic warfare (Comms)
      • Communicate with other ships [including hostile] (Comms)
        • Check to see if electronic warfare prevents this
        • If so, comms operator must defeat jamming through opposed roll
      • Launch/retrieve small craft (Pilot[Small Craft])
      • Perform Jump (Engineer [Jump Drive])
    • Only one action per crew member each phase
  5. Next turn - go to Maneuver Phase, above

Monday, September 2, 2013

Thank You

So, y'know, I came out last Thursday. As you might have noticed from my tone, or from the banners of support which popped up like mushrooms after the rain (thanks, Squeaky!) I was expecting a rather significant pushback from some of my readers.

As it turns out, I received nothing but cheers and words of support here (100 comments and rising! Wow! That's more than I received with my previous big hit, "My So-Called Rights.") and with one small exception, the exact same thing happened with every single blog who posted in support of me -- and those exceptions were pretty quickly told to fuck off by various members of my Pony Posse. To my knowledge, not a single blog has written a post about my coming out in a negative light which, frankly, shocks me.

So, thank you.  Thank you to everyone who said they were proud of me, or who said I was brave, or said that this didn't change how they thought of me. That's a Big McLarge Huge deal to me, and I don't think I can effectively communicate how grateful I am at being accepted like this. I'd like to personally thank everyone who has left a comment or support, but I don't know if I'll be able to. If not, I hope this heartfelt message of thanks will suffice.

Another big "Thank you" to everyone who donated to the "Spay Squeaky" surgical fund. According to her, she has enough to make it to mid-October, which means that aside from unforeseen difficulties (and those always happen) she'll be okay until post-surgery. This means that August was a VERY successful fundraising month, where you guys obliterated all but the most outlandish of goals. Go you! Go, Team Us!  We rock!

The fundraiser will now go on hiatus for the next month, as September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and that means it's time for the annual Kilted to Kick Cancer hijinks! I am proud to throw my support behind Evyl Robot Michael and McThag, as both of them are dear friends and members of my Pony Posse, and (not insignificantly) Bronies. So if you want to donate but aren't sure who you'd like to support -- well, support one or both of them!

Finally... thank you all so very fucking much for picking "50 Shades of Gray" as the source material for my dramatic reading. While it has been pointed out to me that I could simply read the title page, dedication, and perhaps the table of contents to fulfill the letter of my obligation, I have something... special... planned. I warned you my revenge would be epic, and now you're all going to suffer. You're going to be so incredibly sorry that your pain will be legendary, even in Detroit. 

Well, that'll loosen your bowels

It would be in poor taste for me to make a joke about the driver in this video being named Ho Li Shit, wouldn't it?  Yes, it probably would.

For added fun, watch it again and look at the top of the mountain at the 0:02 mark.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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