Friday, November 29, 2013

The Darkest Day of Them All

So it's a holiday, and even if I don't really do much to celebrate it, we all have to play the lazy card sometime. Here's something I wrote a little over six years ago now, in celebration of this particular time of year. 
It all began with a bump on the head. At least, that's what I tell myself, when I'm wondering just how this all came about. Makes it seem all so innocuous, just a little bump on the head. Not even a band-aid. Will they still make those, one day, do you think?

Anyway. I'm writing this now, and I'm about 97% sure that no one will ever see it. I feel bloody ridiculous, I do, but I've got to get this off my chest, to someone, even if it's the grains of graphite scratching across this old safety manual.

Because it's all. My. Fault.

That's right, it's me. I'm the one who threw the switch, I'm the one who ended it all, caused all this chaos and suffering. It's all my fault. Only, it isn't. It was an accident, and I will swear to the end of time that it was ALL AN ACCIDENT. I only bumped my head.

We had been experimenting with utilizing cheaper resources, making and distributing common goods with much lower overhead, and trying to keep schtum about it, lest it get out to public and cause a media frenzy. We really were working towards the greater good. The time of year was perfect for it, too, with everyone going into a financial crunch and looking for cheaper ways to live. I was so sure we'd planned for everything, but we hadn't planned for this.

Right on schedule, the facility went live at 06:oo hours Friday morning. This is apparently a big deal where I'm stationed, I'm not terribly familiar with the concurrent holiday, something about breaking bread with natives. Generally don't concern myself overmuch with other people's holidays.

Only, something was wrong. We opened the steel shutters seperating the operations area from the outer wall, leaving only soft-plated glass, and there they were. Hundreds of them, with dead looks in their eyes and hungry mouths. Listless and vicious, all at once. They saw the shutters go up, and they knew we were in here. As long as that glass held though, everything would be fine.

We were making final preparations, when I'd tripped over stray wire near the plate glass doors. I fell against the wall, and reached out to try and catch myself, when my head slammed into the door panels. I heard a soft sigh, as the glass parted, and it got very quiet for a moment. Then it all went bad. Horribly, horribly bad.

They were inside the facility, inside our safe haven, far before we'd planned, and farther even before we were ready for them. Immediately my friends and coworkers were swarmed, their cries of pain lost among the mindless drone of the crowds. It went on for hours, except for me, stuck in the door control booth. I considered sealing the doors, but if my friends tried to run, I didn't want to trap them. I waited it out. Finally, it was quiet. I warily left the booth, stepping over scattered papers and smashed boxes.

Let this be a lesson, I say. A $200 dollar laptop after Thanksgiving is NOT worth trampling a human being for. Try not to be a bastard this Black Friday, ok kids?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things for which I am thankful

For ponies!  :D

That once again, no one in my family has killed anyone.

(But brace yourselves, because Christmas is coming, and that time of year is always iffy.)

That my mom managed to set off the fire alarm this year, making me feel less bad about my own kitchen misadventures. 

That my putting the turkey in the pan upside-down turned out to be a happy accident, as that allowed the (normally dry) breast to marinate in its own juices, resulting in a moister, juicier, tender-er turkey. Mom plans to cook it upside-down from now on.

That folks donated money just so that I could attend the Bidet Shoot. 

That I have awesome friends who send me awesome presents for no reason other than "We like you and want you to be happy."

That everyone accepted me wholeheartedly when I came out back in August. 

That lots of talented people donated really killer prizes to Squeak or Treat. 

That so many of you were generous enough that Squeaky made her donation goal to cover medical bills. 

That Squeaky made it safely through surgery and seems to be recovering well. 

That Oleg is going to be in Florida in December, and he wants to see me. 

That once again, I've made it through another year with my Second Amendment Rights intact.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Glock and Pony

Since my shooting range is scheduled to (finally) open tomorrow, hopefully today will be the last Monday Gunday where I phone it in.

However, I still have no real material for today. But since many people have asked me what was in that tactically giftwrapped package -- because everyone seems to know that I have no patience whatsoever and that of course I opened it rather than wait for Christmas -- I figure I'll just show you now.


Now, to make this relevant to my post's title:   I have acquired some degree of fame/infamy for my pony-themed gun safety visual story "Glockenpony." I don't really know why this is so, but I'm happy to take the credit/blame for it (although, given it unexpected popularity, I now wish I had taken better quality pictures with a less crappy camera -- ah well). 

So yes, guns & ponies are basically 2/3rds of my blog content, and thus I decided that I should try to take a nicer picture of both. 

Glock and Pony. 

It's not as nice a picture as Brigid or Oleg can take, and my hopes for turning it into a blog header seem dismal at best, but still -- not bad for an amateur, right?  And cute, I hope. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday, Pony Sunday: Thoughts on "Princess Twilight Sparkle"

Needless to say, there will be spoilers here. If you haven't seen the Season 4 opener yet, go and watch it now.

Now that we have that over with, some idle (bridle?) thoughts:

  • I like how the writers aren't just glossing over the whole Princess thing with "Sure, she's royalty, but nothing has changed!"  Things HAVE changed for Twilight, from her duties to how her closest friends treat her. I don't know if this will be reinforced in later episodes, but it should be. I want to see a struggle between "You're a princess!" and "Yes, but I wasn't always one! I'm not used to be being treated this way!"
  • Side note:  I still think Celestia is grooming Twilight to be her ultimate successor. What we are seeing here, hopefully, is the evolution of a Princess not just for the ponies, but of them as well.  From what I've seen, I get the opinion that Celestia is tired of being revered (and Luna is definitely sick of being feared), and part of that is due to the fact that the Princesses are seen as goddesses. Twilight is more like "girl next door makes it big" -- she's approachable, and while deserving of respect certainly isn't getting the same amount of awe and reverence C and L do.  Of course, given a thousand years, that's likely to change...
  • Any episode involving Discord is always a good one.
  • Did you notice how Twi used the Sombra power to transmogrify the potion?
  • Insights into the mysterious past of Equestria are always welcome!  This is pretty clearly a Deep Mythology episode. 
  • Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that when Luna became Nightmare Moon at the 20:28 mark, she looks a bit surprised? Like maybe there's a part of her that doesn't realize what's going on? Perhaps her corruption into NMM was also the result of Discord's plunder seeds.
  • Why does NMM have a colt's square jaw in some of these shots?
  • It's kind of funny that her voice is still Luna's, and not that of NMM from the series opener. I guess we can attribute that to "maturity of power" or something -- or perhaps the Discord-induced NMM persona grew dominant.
  • As The_Jack pointed out, NMM's beams of destruction look a lot like the cutting beams from Babylon 5's Shadow vessels. 

  • And Celestia using the Elements of Harmony looks a bit like the Excalibur. 

  • The Elements of Harmony are from the Harmony Tree. This jibes nicely with my hypothesis that the Elements are semi-sentient, much like the Pattern in the Amber Chronicles.
  • Anyone else getting a Kabbalistic Tree of Life vibe from this? No? Just me? Okay.
  • Oh look, the symbol for All Magic matches Twilight's cutie mark. She really IS the Harry Potter of Equestria. But why were Cel and Luna's marks there, too?
  • Why does Applejack seem to think saving a tree is weird?  She practically doted on Bloomberg.
  • One thing I've noticed about the Everfree Forest is that lots of the creatures are very elemental. Timber Wolves are, naturally, wolves made out of (animated?) wood. And while I'm pretty sure AJ calls it a crocodile, given its coloration and the sound effects it makes, it really should be a rockadile.
  • Speaking of this, and of Discord, does this mean all the weirdness of the Everfree Forest is the result of Discord? Considering that everything else in Equestria is tightly regulated (even the weather is made by ponies), a place where things grow wild without help is pretty chaotic.
  • Heh. Discord did a good deed and was so subtle about it that nopony noticed. I'm taking this to mean that he really IS reformed. Well, semi-reformed. As reformed as an incarnation of chaos can be, at any rate.
  • And now we have a MacGuffin that will require an epic quest to unlock. I bet it will take the entire season to find all six keys. So much for the original command of  "every episode needs to be able to be seen in any order," eh?  Of course that kinda went out the window with Princess Twilight.
  • My guess? Inside the box is a seed for a new Tree.
  • Fluttershy's raw power continues to terrify me. They've admitted to Discord  that the Elements of Harmony are gone, and that they no longer possess the power to contain an Avatar of Raw Chaos -- and yet a little yellow pony can give him the stink-eye and guilt him into helping clean up because, if he doesn't, she'll be disappointed with him.
  • I, for one, welcome our soft-spoken, yellow-coated overlords.
  • Huh. Twilight has a new crown.
  • We need a name for that maneuver of hers. Twilight Sparkboom?

And that's about it. Did I miss anything noteworthy?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tactical Giftwrapping

I just received a package in the mail from The_Jack and inside was the most delightfully wrapped present:

550 cord used instead of ribbon!  Isn't that amazing? He even managed to make it curl.  It's pretty AND it's practical.

Gentlemen, if you have a tactical lady in your life, do this for her. She'll be impressed. Likewise, ladies, do this for your menfolk: they'll appreciate the practical nature of it and you'll have less garbage to throw away afterwards!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm More of a Team Player than You'd Think

The buzzing of the overhead lights is a persistent bug in my ear, and rather a bit of a distraction. My two mates share a nervous glance, and check their gear. DJ Scully adjusts that ridiculous balaclava and checks the tank on the flamethrower he salvaged from the last outbreak site, and Foster strings a crossbow bolt with shaking fingers. Two of our number dead in the last encounter, one before that. Who knows how many elsewhere in London falling every minute, torn to shreds and eaten by these cannibalistic monstrosities. I thumb a few shells into my shotgun and check the sights.

And then they're on us. Scully and I working as one: him setting the little fleshy ones ablaze, weakening their stretched flesh as the buckshot tears gaping holes in them two and three at a time. They keep coming, and we keep mowing them down, almost in a bloody trance, a dance of carnage. Then my heart drops, and the spell is broken, as I hear the roar of a chainsaw and a sick chuckle just underneath it. One of the big, nasty ones has gotten loose. A Scrake. Chainsaw for a hand, and looking for all the world like Hell's own surgeon general. Foster takes one look and cracks. He loses it and sprays the Scrake down with flames. It laughs from behind that stained surgical mask and charges him. The chainsaw bites deep and comes out the other side. Foster's screaming through his gas mask until he goes limp. The monster lowers his arm, shaking him off the chainsaw. We make eye contact, and I swear my heart stops.

The air rushes past my ear with a loud, low THWUP as the crossbow bolt connects, splitting the Scrake's head open. He drops to his knees, the chainsaw chewing its way through two of the little ones before choking to a stop. I nod at Foster, slip another few shells in, and bring the shotgun up again.


     So sometime in the last week, the latest Call of Duty game came out, and I completely cannot be arsed to worry about it. 100,000 12 year olds are questioning the virtue of each others mums and each others sexualities as they quickscope and noscope and other such abuses of perfectly good marksman's rifles. The series has become so popular that in some circles it's not even considered gaming anymore, it's become its own thing. So I'm not going to spend any more time on that topic. I think there's enough I could probably write another entire essay reflecting on the good times I've had earlier on in the series.

     Instead, I'm going to offer a different point of view on online shooters and a recommendation. I really hate competitive shooters. Sometimes I'm really good at them, sometimes I'm really bad at them, but after an hour or two I'm just not having fun anymore. Even the ones that I know are really good, like Team Fortress 2, just get old and frustrating quickly for me. Cooperative modes, though, that's what I really enjoy. Be it a cooperative campaign like Left 4 Dead or Borderlands, or a horde mode like Mass Effect 3's or the Transformers: Cybertron series are just loads of fun for me.

     The one I'm going to recommend today has probably gotten more hours out of me than any multiplayer game to date. Killing Floor, from Tripwire Interactive, is a PC-exclusive game built on an aging version of the Unreal Engine, on a shoestring budget, with little to no publicity. What it does have is a lot of imagination, a dedicated development team, and a lot of love crafted into it. The guys making this game are the type to go to a gun range and know a weapon inside and out before crafting a digital representation of it.

     Killing Floor was released way back in 2009 as on official version of a much older mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. The development team has periodically released more content by way of maps, characters, and weapons, each time making sure not to release something that would split the community like the map packs that Call of Duty releases for almost as much as this game costs at full price. And the community has rewarded them. Over 3 years later (which is an eternity in multiplayer games), the community is still strong and surprisingly friendly. For the most part, new players are even welcome, as long as they're willing to learn how to overcome that early learning curve.

     It's a deceptively simple formula. You pick a character, join a server, select a specialization (perk), and kill monsters. Between each wave you hit up a trader who sells you weapons, armor, and ammo, and after the final wave you face a big, badass monster. The storyline is one sentence long. Horzine's medical experiments have gone horribly wrong and overrun London. Slow moving hordes of disgusting creatures come at you relentlessly until they're all dead or you've been overrun. It sounds dumb. It sounds simple. It sounds shallow and not terribly immersive but Steam tells me I've done this for 614 hours, and I picked this game up on sale for $5 I can't remember how long ago.

     Next time you think about jumping into one of those big, crowded, hostile online environments full of screaming teenagers, take a step back and try something different. You might find a long-term investment in a game like this. Gunnies especially will enjoy this, as you'll be hard-pressed to find a game that has better gunplay (without going into Tripwire's other major release, WWII sim Red Orchestra 2).

Killing Floor is available on Steam, and for shamefully cheap during their upcoming holiday sales.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What would I say?

There's this app (called What Would I Say?, cleverly enough) on Ze Facenbooken that scours your previous posts and assembles bits of them into amusing selections of word salad.  Since I haven't been feeling chatty or creative lately, let's try phoning in a blog post!

Sometimes I get the feeling that this is what a lot of my readers hear when I try to explain something:

It needs it up, but please do like removing that what might happen to make me started on the road and shouldn't try. Just take off the spread is that same earlier conversation, but on a pirate but a JPop/Heavy Metal from Team Fortress 2 Me God billboard during the Jewish high holy days, and give me to believe?

I found this hilarious for reasons I can't explain. 

That's a matter of heat/shrapnel. Even with all those things at which I'm not a feminist.

Tamara, Brigid, The_Jack -- this explains SO MUCH. 

Indiana, or In the Daleks manage to accomplish anything.

Yeah, they're called "My friends".

Hmm. Well, you've told I can walk into psychopathic cannibal murderrapists.

And all the ponyfolk said "Amen."

So yes, Luna is our Guardian.

Help Wanted

I am looking for someone who is fan of both my Pellatarrum setting and the Oracle class from the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game.

If you are that person and are willing to bounce ideas back and forth regarding the place of Oracles within Pellatarrum, please let me know.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sometimes I look at all the stuff I've written about ponies, and roleplaying games, and everything that isn't political, and I think Why am I doing this? In ten years this won't matter. What matters is making a difference today, and I can only do that by trying to make the world a better place. 

Then I spend a few hours reading political blogs, and I become burdened with a soul-crushing weariness about the world in general.  And that's just from becoming informed about what's happening in our world. It makes me wonder What kind of miserable thing would I become if I had to deal with all this crap on a daily, professional basis?

That's when I positively RUN back to ponies and games.  It isn't that I don't pay attention to what happens in the world; it's that if I had to write about that constantly, I'd find no joy in life whatsoever.  And this blog, aside from the occasional spleen-venting, is about me trying to find joy in what interests me and sharing that with others.

Maybe what I write here will have no lasting difference on the world. So be it; I'd rather be non-notable and happy than influential and miserable.

Two quick updates

1.  My shooting range, which was supposed to reopen "sometime mid-November," is now saying "We hope to reopen Tuesday Nov. 26."  Kindly note the use of the word "hope".  Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I firmly believe that hope has no place in any kind of logistical planning:  If you have to resort to "hoping" you will open at such-and-such a date, clearly you're being run by incompetents. Either get it done on time, or admit that you have no clue and just leave it open-ended by saying "It gets done when it gets done."  Continually pushing back the date does not fill me with confidence.

As an aside, who wants to bet that this will be done before Christmas?  I've got even money that it won't be finished before the first of the year.

2.  All the raffle winners have been matched up with all the donors. While I cannot state with authority that everything is in the mail (heck, I still have to get down to the P.O. to mail out the three prizes I have in my possession), I think it's safe to say that all winners should receive their prizes before the end of the month.  If December rolls around and you haven't received your winnings, please contact me and I will immediately work to fix it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Life, Flip-turned upside down.

     Today, I woke up at 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the definition, so it was a good hour, hour and a half by the time I could truly consider myself fully functional. There was a bit of breakfast, and a flurry of internet activity as I answered messages that had stacked up during the day, belting out one witty one-liner after another now that my brain was firing on all cylinders. Had a little walk in the chilly fall air, then settled into a bit of gaming, before finally going to work at 10 PM.

     It's safe to say that my world does not function like the average person's world. By the time I get up, most of the day has passed. Decent people are leaving work. By the time I go to work, decent people are turning in for the night. It's given me a different, strange perspective on the world at large. The world where I live is darker, quieter, colder, and maybe a little more dangerous.

     I've got a sleeping disorder. I may be up all night, but I'm not an insomniac. Sleep comes easily for me, just not at the same time as most people. Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder is the fancy way of saying that I go to bed much later and wake up much later than the societally expected times. When I go to check my mail, the temperature's already dropped out of its highs for the day. When I go grocery shopping, the aisles are mysteriously absent of squealing children and kamikaze shopping carts. When I go for a drive, the roads are empty. Most of the people I know in the real world are already gone to bed by the time I hit my second wind.

     How long has it been this way? Quite a while. Longer than I can clearly remember. It's surmised that my problem may sometimes be caused by traumatic head injury. I know this problem started in my teenage years, because it took me forever to get out of bed in the morning and I'd often fall asleep in classes. I was in a pretty nasty car accident that claimed part of my right ankle when I was about 17. My head, or so they tell me, punched out the back windshield of a Honda Accord that was in the middle of performing some Hollywood-level Automotive Gymnastics. Grass-sky-grass-sky-grass-sky. That sort of thing.

     I did attempt to live a normal life for a while. Was married for a few years, and worked morning shifts. Slept fitfully and woke up groggy, stumbled through work and life, and don't remember a lot of it. Weekends would be spent getting the kid up, then sleeping on the couch while she watched cartoons. Since that part of my life ended, I've gone back to working the latest shifts they'll give me, and I'm more alert and remember more of  what's gone on since then.

     It makes having a social life a bit difficult at times, this nocturnal existence, but that's a small concern to me these days. I will say it adds nicely to that air of dark, mysteriousness that I've cultivated oh, so well. You meet the most interesting people working the night shifts, and can get into the most entertaining types of trouble. I should really go into that at some point..

My Gnomes are Different

The problem with gnomes in fantasy games is that no one can really agree on what they are. Elves, dwarves, etc. all come from a distinguished line of Tolkien-inspired literature, and so it is easy to make Pellatarran versions of them different by simply stating how they differ from the standard. Gnomes, in my experience, do not have that luxury, and their entire basis for being in D&D is that they were brought in to substitute for halflings back when TSR was being sued by the Tolkien estate.

Pellatarran gnomes are not:
  • Knockoffs of halflings with some characteristics changes.
  • Ridiculous tinkers, a la Dragonlance.
  • Tiny folk in red hats and blue coats. 

They are instead:
  • Magicians, thinkers, and philosophers who have a symbiotic relationship with humans.
  • Prone to humor that ranges from wry and dry to dark and morbid to obscure and occult. 
  • In short (pun intended), they are the I.T. nerds of society. 

An ambassador race, the gnomes were created by elves specifically to parlay with dwarves. Short in stature and comfortable underground, they proved ideal for this task, and soon became their default diplomats to all races. (Kindly note that the Bard class is ideally suited for diplomacy, especially if they choose "oratory" as their type of bardic performance.)

Considering that humans were originally created by the dwarves to be ambassadors to the elves, eventually two races began interacting with each other more often than with the races they were intended to liaise. It's not surprising that the two peoples quickly adapted to each other and formed not only an easy, effective working relationship, but also a kinship that lasted well after the two races were emancipated by their creators. 

As such, humans and gnomes get along like siblings, or at least cousins: occasionally there is a squabble that results in mild violence but usually both races can live in harmony with each other. In some larger human cities, gnomes comprise half of the population, creating a race-based division of labor with the taller, stronger humans performing tasks which require height or muscle mass and the smaller, magically-inclined gnomes taking on duties which require scholarship or greater dexterity.

This is not to say that gnomes seek positions of power within society while leaving the humans to be the working class; far from it. If nothing else, humanity's dwarven origins would prevent such an unequal situation. It is more that the Two Peoples gravitate to their respective strengths, bolstering the weakness of the other. 

On the whole, humans prefer positions of physical or martial strength, or good honest labor, whereas gnomes prefer to be left alone at their desks to read, study, or administer. There are of course exceptions to these rules -- there are plenty of scholarly humans and martial gnomes -- it's just that these run counter to the stereotype. 

Gnomes and humans are known to intermarry, but are infertile.

As race created by the elves -- who are chaotic, terrifying, as prone to unpredictable violence as the sea, and possessed by crippling phobias -- gnomes are surprisingly stable. Their magical nature and chaotic origins were tempered by the inherent purpose of their design: to interact with more boring (read: less chaotic) races. As such, they manifest their chaos through socially acceptable means: odd obsessions, strange senses of humor, whimsical decisions which make little sense at the time. Despite all this, most humans find their behavior oddly endearing, or "eccentric but harmless".*

It is a point of mild interest that while gnomes make fine healers, they are generally not drawn to the Church (which is largely a human endeavor). They are more likely to be drawn to the paths of Druidism and the Gray Cabal.

In general, while sociable, gnomes do not do well under stricture and hierarchy. They much prefer to be left alone to pursue their studies and hobbies, reporting in only when they require assistance, have something to report, or need more work to do.  (See reference to I.T. nerds, above.)

Gnomes of Pellatarrum are physiologically indistinguishable from other Pathfinder RPG gnomes. Quoting from the Pathfinder System Resource Document:
Gnomes are one of the smallest of the common races, generally standing just over 3 feet in height. Despite their small frames, however, gnomes are extremely resilient, and not as weak as many of their foes assume. Though their diminutive stature reduces their ability to move quickly, gnomes often train to take advantage of their size, especially when fighting foes much larger than themselves.
The coloration of gnomes varies so wildly that many outsiders assume gnomes commonly use dyes and illusions to change their skin and hair tones. While gnomes are certainly not above cosmetic enhancement (and may wish to change their appearance just to see how outlandish they can look), their natural hues truly range over a rainbow of coloration. Their hair tends toward vibrant colors such as the fiery orange of autumn leaves, the verdant green of forests at springtime, or the deep reds and purples of wildflowers in bloom. Similarly, their flesh tones range from earthy browns to floral pinks, and gnomes with black, pastel blue, or even green skin are not unknown. Gnomes' coloration has little regard for heredity, with the color of a gnome's parents and other kin having no apparent bearing on the gnome's appearance. Gnomes possess highly mutable facial characteristics, and their proportions often don't match the norm of other humanoid races. Many have overly large mouths and eyes, an effect which can be both disturbing and stunning, depending on the individual. Others may have extremely small features spread over an otherwise blank expanse of face, or may mix shockingly large eyes with a tiny, pursed mouth and a pert button of a nose. Gnomes rarely take pride in or show embarrassment about their features, but members of other races often fixate on a gnome's most prominent feature and attempt to use it as the focus of insults or endearments.

Crunchy Game Mechanics

Gnomes were created by elves to be an ambassador race to the dwarves, so having both low-light and darkvision is reasonable. They also don't hate kobolds like traditional gnomes or go to war with giants; most Pellatarran gnomes live with or near human settlements, so pick something that replaces defensive training and hatred to make your gnome more interesting. 

Gnomes are generally not Lawful in alignment, although there is no in-game mechanic for this. A good reason for why this character breaks the mold would be good to have, though. 

Relations with Halflings
Gnomes are also known to cohabitate with halflings, although their similarity in size usually results in a more equal division of labor which most gnomes resent. However, if there is a practitioner of arcane magic within a halfling community, odds are excellent that it is a gnome.

Gnomes and halflings may interbreed, but their children are always the same race as their same-gender parent.

* Usually. That said, when a gnome goes psychopathic, it's a terrible sight to behold. Think "magic-wielding serial killer" or "deathtrap-builder in the Saw vein."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Deal Alert: Buy a Solo Stove, get free Solo Pot

You also get free shipping, which is also pretty significant.

I'm an enthusiastic fan of the Solo Stove; it was only one of two camping stoves that I reviewed which received an A+ rating. It's practically idiot-proof, and when you combine it with the pot, you have a complete cooking system. Also, the stove rests within the pot, so there is no lost space.

This sale only lasts until Friday. If you don't have one, you really should get one.

Free Solo Pot 900 Holiday Sale!
View this email in your browser

Buy a Solo Stove, get a FREE Solo Pot 900 plus free shipping!

Coupon Code: FREEPOT900
The holiday season is here and the spirit of giving is upon us! Each week, for the next 6 weeks, we'll be sending you AMAZING sales at We're starting this week off by giving away a FREE Solo Pot 900 with the purchase of a Solo Stove (Titan not eligible). You'll also get free shipping. Add a Solo Stove and Solo Pot 900 to your cart and use the code FREEPOT900 during checkout. Code expires on Friday 11/15/13 so hurry!

If you think this week's Holiday Sale is good, you'll love what we have in store for you next week!
Click to Shop Now!

WNW: Or as the British call it, "a spanner"

For those who don't get the title, clearly you weren't around the internet during summer 2012.

Anyway, enjoy this "not precisely SFW" montage of techno music, written profanity, and Jeremy Clarkson. H/T to Salem for posting this on his Facebook wall a while back.

Also, now I have the phrase "edging like a mad cunt" permanently embedded into my lexicon of profanity.


Back during Squeak or Treat, I mentioned that JayG had offered a sweetener to entice folks to donate:
Jay Grazio of Ma-rooned has graciously offered to encourage donations by posing for pictures! For each $20 donated, Jay will put on his kilt and be photographed doing whatever you choose, so long as 1) It isn't illegal, and 2) Won't get him in trouble with his wife.
Well, because of lame excuses like getting a new job in a different state and house-hunting and moving his family and all his worldly belongings,  Jay has been negligent in his duties.

So I'm posting this as a sort of "call to arms" to everyone who donated. There simply aren't enough of these suggestions! If you donated $20 or more, you have the right to request a pose. I want there to be LOTS of these requests.

So far, these are the only requests I have written confirmation of:
  • Jay doing the doing the Jayne Cobb "Let's be bad guys" pose
  • A shot of Jay sans shirt, leaning over his bike and washing it, in the style of a 1940s pinup.
  • "Can Jay do something where he looks like he's facing off against ninja's or Darth Vader? And, if he can, ask if he minds it being used in part of a real estate ad. "
  • "imagining him in OB/GYN stirrups might make for a nice circular finish to this whole thing..."
  • "I want to see a picture of him contra dancing in a kilt. If he needs more information on where to find a dance in his area, he can go to or ."
  • "JayG either slicing something with his sword or or annihilating something with his favorite rifle. Bonus points for WW2 era."
If you donated but didn't request a pose, please do so now!

Monday, November 11, 2013


First of all, a huge Thank You to all veterans for their service and their sacrifice. Others have said it better -- having never served, I feel like I can't really add anything of consequence other than to nod at the eloquence of others and agree with them.  Still, I thank you for all you've done and all you've given and all you've lost, and I hope that my meager thanks are sufficient.

Second, a big Thank You to everyone who donated prizes to the Squeak or Treat raffle. I quite literally could NOT have done this without you:

  • Joie Brown
  • Ezra Hinson
  • Mark White
  • Evelyn Hively
  • Allison Babcock
  • Thirdpower
  • Prentice Osborne
  • The_Jack
  • Taryn K
  • Danica West
  • Echo Sling
  • Michael Z. Williamson
  • Larry Correia
  • Julia H. West
  • Brook West
  • Dan Willis
  • Alfred Trujillo
  • Jay "Da Tinman" Ater
  • Troy Hickman
  • Howard Tayler
  • Daniel G
  • Mike Pondsmith
  • Jim Wrench
Speaking of prizes, I have coordinated almost all of the winners with the donors. (Still waiting to get a confirmation from one donor.)  Prizes should be in the mail already, if not this week. If you haven't received your prize by Thanksgiving, let me know. I can nag like you wouldn't believe. 

And of course, an equally big Thank You to everyone who donated money for Squeak or Treat.  While I couldn't have done it without the prize donors, it wouldn't have been a success if no one had bought tickets. There were even some people who donated anonymously and refused all offers of tickets. This was especially kind because that increased the odds of winning for other people!

For everyone who donated this month, or back in August, THANK YOU SO MUCH.  Together, we met our goal and even exceeded it!  According to Squeaky, while she will not know for certain how much the cost of her procedure will be (apparently, medical bills slowly filter in over the course of months), she is 90% sure all her expenses have been covered. 

What this means for you is that I get to hang up my fundraising hat (for a while, at least), and you folks get to enjoy the holidays without me hustling you for more money. And that's a good thing, because I'm pooped. :)

And to conclude, here is a video recorded by the lovely Squeaky Wheel herself. I apologize for not posting it sooner -- apparently, I missed its Oct. 24 premiere -- but other than a wish for a Happy Halloween it's not dated.  So if you want to find out how S.W. is doing, or want to know what your donations helped do, now's your chance to ask her yourself!

Again, thank you all so much.  We now return this blog to its usual insanity.

Monday Gunday: Stalling for time

Bit of a confession:  I haven't reviewed the TAPCO SKS magazines because I haven't shot them yet.

When I started up this "Accessorizing the SKS" thread, I was under the impression that my shooting range would be accessible.  As it turns out, its summer repairs have stretched on longer than expected  (it's county run and funded, so that explains it), and last I heard it was "expected' to open "sometime mid-November."

With the range not open, I can't go shooting. If I can't shoot, I can't use the magazines to tell you how well they work. And if I can't test them, I have no business reviewing them.


Hopefully same time next week, yeah?  *fingers crossed*

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Literary Equivalent of Throwing a Bottle at the Wall.

     So this was originally going to be some light-hearted piece about how the new Call of Duty came out, and how I hate playing competitive multiplayer and would much prefer something like a cooperative campaign or horde mode, but then I saw that latest Simon Pegg film, The World's End, and got a little depressed for a few minutes. I'm a bit Gary King, see, and I don't want to explain it for fear of spoiling the film for anyone that wants to see it.

     So instead, I'm going to get a little bit introspective, a little gazing of the navel. I'm going to look into the abyss for a bit, and other such pretentious ways of looking at it. See, I've got this problem with socializing.

     Wait, wait, it's not the usual problem. I'm not claiming Asperger's or saying I'm a wallflower with no social skills. Quite the opposite. I've got a ready smile and charm with a smooth voice and a healthy ego (obviously, right?) and a self-deprecating sense of humor. I just really. Really. Really. Hate socializing. I've taken those Meyers-Briggs test multiple times, and come out INTJ 9 times out of 10. I watched House for 7 years before realizing that House wasn't the character I was supposed to be identifying with.

     For my school years I found myself in a situation where I was forced to socialize. And so I did. Despite the goth kid persona, I spoke to pretty much anyone. Talked my way out of being bullied and learned to stare down the ones too slow to follow my evasive logic.

     After high school, I was a complete social animal. I had at least three different scenes that I frequented, and fell in and out of love with a frightening rapidity. Then I went off to university and discovered high-speed internet.

     In retrospect, that might have been one of the things that caused me to leave school, adding up with mental and social exhaustion, a sleeping disorder rearing its ugly, inconvenient head, and being an intellectual at a 100% football school. So I withdrew for a bit.

     Then I moved to Mobile, following a woman and working a shite job, living a very small life. That job didn't last, and I was nearly broke and unemployed and alone, having observed how unstable things had gotten with the woman I'd followed. So I was forced out into the big, scary world again, and threw myself into it. I was a bouncer at a strip club, got ordained in a church, cleansed people's homes and persons of evil spirits, and was social royalty for a while in the larger beach town of Pensacola. Good times, Bianca. I still think of you now and then.

     Then I snapped back again. Didn't leave my apartment for six months for longer than it would take to visit the nice Bahranian gent who ran the corner store a block away in the dead of night. Then my lease was up, and the call of a woman beckoned me to Texas. I went.

     That, though, is a period of my life that you and I, well, we just don't know each other well enough to talk about just quite yet.

     After that ended, though, I was life of the party again. I drank more than I thought possible, dallied with many a lovely woman, and realized just how broken I was when I disappointed one woman in particular that deserved better than I could give her.

     Some health problems coupled with a change in my job (our site shut down, and a few dozen of us got to work from home) contributed to the longest, if not most intense, period of social withdrawal yet. I haven't regularly gone anywhere and done anything since sometime in 2009.

     Anyone worried about me may be relieved to know that I have actually been regularly leaving my apartment here in Albuquerque, where I relocated to six months ago. My health has, more or less, stabilized and while I may not have any friends in the area, I am at least re-training myself in socializing. I don't put my hood up as often, and will often speak to people while I'm out. The only thing is... I'm not sure if I want to. I kind of like the solitude, and I'm having some very real internal conflict about whether I want to rejoin the real world again or not.

But that's enough about me and my problems. Geek culture resumes next week.

Ten Dolla Holla!

As promised (though a bit late), here are the winners of the $10 Squeak or Treat raffle!

Carl Eranio was this category's big winner, securing SIX of the big ticket items:  the IWB magazine holder, 200 rounds of .45 ACP, a signed copy of Monster Hunter International, the signed and numbered Schlock Mercenary book, the signed copy of Common Grounds, and the Celestia Mech!

Snooze Button Ronin, not content to sweep the $5 category, also made gains in this one, picking up signed copies of MHI, Hard Magic, and Mind Bridges.

Next we had several dual winners:   Laura Bradshaw won the decorative shield and the MHI challenge coin; Ted Nelson won the metal butterfly and the signed copy of Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads; and Jonathon Na won both issues of Project: Shadows.

Do Unto Others seemed to be the Michael Z. Williamson book of choice, as both winners -- Frank Earl and John Kochan -- picked that to be their prize.

MHI continued to be the favorite Larry Corriea book, being chosen by both Chris Bridges and Sean Hert.

Clifford Fargason won a signed copy of The Flux Engine.

And finally, proving that dreams DO come true, Brandon Kuhn won the Luna Mech with a single, last-minute entry.  Lucky bastard.  :P

Once again, a BIG thanks to everyone who donated their time, their talents, and their money toward making this fundraiser succeed. We met our goal and even went a bit over! Give yourselves a big pat on the back.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Five - Five Dolla - Five Dolla Winnas!

Sorry about not posting yesterday, everyone -- I had a headache that just wouldn't quit. Oof.

But now, after much wrangling and sorting and emailing, I have the list of everyone who won prizes in the $5 "Squeak or Treat" grab bag!

Some people won more than once -- but that's okay, because they bought more tickets, and that's how probability works!

The_Jack was the category's big winner, walking off with SIX prizes:  the wind chime, the tan Echo Sling, and all four of Ezra Hinson's pony portraits!

Second place goes to the Snooze Button Ronin, who scored a Cunning Jayne Hat, 2 pounds of smoked meat, the militia rocker tabs, and both sets of soaps. (He's not going to need stocking stuffers for female friends this year!)

The Jayne Hats proved to be the runaway hit of this category, with everyone seeming to want one.  Brook West and Brian Hert also got one (in fact, Brian was so generous that he said he ONLY wanted the hat, and forfeited all his other prizes to other people -- thank you for your generosity, Brian!), and Roland VanHorn  picked the "Baby Jayne" hat for his nine year old.   If you wanted a hat but didn't get one, let me know in the comments below and I will put you in touch with the artisan. I'm sure she'd be happy to make you one for a small fee.

Dwight Brown won the second Echo Sling. Fittingly, it was the brown one.

Gwen Patton, one of my guest authors, won the crocheted Sgt. Schlock.

David Baumiller won the Joie Art print, and picked Ponythulhu!  This is doubly cool because his wife, Michelle, bought him a ticket -- ONE TICKET -- for his birthday. And he won!  Happy birthday, David.

Carl Eranio  won the tech support session by Allison Babcock.

Ingrid Shappard  won the painting by Renee Williams.

And finally, Robert Roman  won the Prentice Osborne message -- he's going to have her record a book trailer.  She's never done anything like that before!  She's excited to do something new and he's excited to get professional help promoting his book.

Once again, a BIG thanks to everyone who donated their time, their talents, and their money toward making this fundraiser succeed. We met our goal and even went a bit over!  Give yourselves a big pat on the back.

Tomorrow, Eris willing, I'll announce the $10 winners.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Squeak or Treat

UPDATE (10/18/2013):  Due to Halloween happening on a Thursday, and the financial tightness of the recent government furlough, I will be extending the drawing to happen at midnight Eastern time, November 3rd.  This gives folks time to earn another paycheck before the raffle runs out! 

UPDATE TWO (10/21/13): For clarity's sake, I should mention that when you enter, you aren't just assigned something at random if you win. What I do is, first I will draw to see who wins. Then I contact the winners and tell them to give me a list of, say, their top 5 prizes. The first winner gets #1 on his list, and the second winner gets the first item on his list -- unless the first winner claimed that, in which case he gets #2 on his list, and so forth. By this method, I hope to pair up prizes with people who really, really want them!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Boots in the Dust

     There's a chill in the late autumn air, a wind carrying a warning of a coming bitter cold, of unnatural creature and desperate men. My boots crunch on the blasted gravel and dust of the hillside. I shift my rifle's weight from one shoulder to the other, adjusting the uncomfortable metal plate of my leather vest. Cresting the hill, I sit for a moment on a shattered piece of concrete, grimacing at the foul taste of the dirty water, choking back a momentary wave of nausea. Probably mild radiation poisoning. Have to get some meds for that in the next town, otherwise I could grow a third breast or fingers on my leg. At least, that's what the overseer always told us.
     Behind me, there's a shifting noise. I tense up, my rife falling from its sling on my shoulder as I drop to one knee, taking aim at the hill I just climbed and blowing the hair from my eyes. The safety catch releases as a silhouette comes into view and my finger approaches the trigger...

     I've been visiting some old stomping grounds recently. The Fallout series and I have some history, as most old school gamers do with it. I played the old games off and on, probably never actually finishing any of them, but spending plenty of time wandering about in them. Fallout 3 is a touchy subject for me, though. It was an outstanding game, a revelation in gaming even, as it was basically an Elder Scrolls game that wasn't about swords and sorcery. For those of us who wanted that kind of an experience but had no interest in the D&D type worlds, this was our world. All vacuum tubes faux-Leave it to Beaver and nuclear age paranoia.

     Fallout 3, though, was a difficult game. Due to the sheer size of the world and all the tiny little details of it, it was an incredibly unstable game. Even after fan patches, official patches, and countless mods, I still can't run it. I've rage quit the game twice, once the first time I ever tried to play it and once only six or seven months ago when I tried to play it again. Only after playing its quasi-sequel Fallout: New Vegas did I force myself through the game despite its  crashes, but for some reason or another it just flat-out will not play anymore on my system.

     Then I found the Tale of Two Wastelands mod. The entirety of Fallout 3, imported into Fallout New Vegas's more stable, improved, and more moddable engine. I'm about 5 or 6 hours back in now, just long enough to reach the second major settlement, Rivet City (a massive  aircraft carrier beached in a dried riverbed in Washington, DC) and it's a joy to be back. I have every intention of playing these two games to their conclusion yet again, even if it takes another 200 hours.

     I sincerely recommend the DC and Mojave wastelands as vacation spots for anyone that wants to chill at their games console or computer and get lost for hours and hours at a time. Don't be surprised if you start getting attached to certain things, too; thinking of Megaton as a home, or sharing quiet moments on a hillside with Rose of Sharon (don't call her Whiskey Rose) Cassidy. There's a kind of serene, broken beauty to be seen, and tiny stories to be told in graffiti left on buildings or the remains  of people huddled together in abandoned houses. I thought I'd had my fill of it, but this place will probably never not feel like home.

     Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas are both available on Steam for cheap (and probably cheaper come the Winter Sale in late December).

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