Monday, March 31, 2014

No free ice cream

Ice cream sounds delicious, though, mostly because my throat is raw and scratchy from a thoroughly disgusting amount of post-nasal drip that I've had this morning. (Seriously, we're talking German kink porn levels here.)

Because I feel like such crap, I'm phoning it in.  Hopefully this is just allergies and not a cold or worse, because as miserable as I am right now I really don't want to feel any worse.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Critical Irony Overload!

     So here we find ourselves back at the intersection of Gaming and Gunnies, this time under more agreeable circumstances, I'd say. For today we have seen someone dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light to show their own sins when they would persecute us for our hobbies and lifestyles.

     Leland Yee is an asshole. I tried to come up with a more artistic way of saying that but it's pretty simple. A few years ago he tried to legislate a bill that would make it a crime to sell violent games to kids. Now, I'm not saying "think of the children" here (I hate that mentality), but kids have parents for a reason. If you don't want your child jacking cars and running over prostitutes, or tea-bagging soldiers after shooting them in the head, don't buy GTA or Call of Duty for them. There's plenty of games that focus less on violence that you could get for them if you took the time to review the content for yourself. It's not like we don't already have a content rating system (that's sometimes a little overzealous anyway) and it's not like our biggest retailers don't already card people buying games.

     The biggest irony here is that just a year or so ago, Mister Yee was crusading for tighter gun control, specifically one of those fiddly bits of gun laws that someone who knows more about the subject than me is going to have to comment on. Whether it was gun manufacturers trying to find a way around a current legal limitation or whether it was them trying to stay within those limitations of their own accord is something I'm not qualified to comment on, but he trotted out the "think of the children"

"But I am a father, and I want our communities to be safe, and god forbid if one of these weapons fell into the wrong hands."

"Think of the children. The poor innocents that must be shielded from any and every thing in the world that I personally find the least bit questionable." I suppose it's perfectly fine if one of those guns you were instrumental in smuggling ended up in your kid's hands, just not a legally purchased and well-maintained rifle that they were trained in using by a responsible adult, right?

The whole thing stinks of the kind of sandbox-crime game that he was trying to criminalize. A Grand Theft Auto or Sleeping Dogs writ large, what with the Chinese gangster connection and "Shrimp Boy" Chow being implicated alongside him. Between the company he's been keeping and the guns he's been running, the irony has hit critical mass here. A mutual enemy of gunnies and gamers, today, has been reduced to a laughingstock, and faces real repercussions. Not like that time he stole an $8 bottle of suntan lotion in Kona and the charges were dropped. For reals this time.

Hey Leland. Too bad you can't just give the cops 2 Grand and all your weapons so they'll let you go, huh?

As an aside, I'm going to be really red-faced if I've been using irony wrong this whole time..

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

[A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store] Do We REALLY Need A System For This?

The other day, Facebook showed me an advert for something interesting. Not, I fear, interesting for the exact reason that the algorithm suggested it might be, but interesting nonetheless.

Shadows of Esteren purports to be "a medieval role-playing game somewhere between Ravenloft, Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu" - yes, two out of three of those ARE extremely relevant to my interests and the third isn't exactly a million miles away either, so I can see why the recommendation came through.

What piqued me about this wasn't so much the premise, though, as the pimping. Somewhere between this RPG and that RPG by way of that currently-hyped fantasy product. Which is fair enough, but... isn't mashing RPG systems together something we can do for ourselves?

Nevertheless, I made with the clickening and sought deeper...
Shadows of Esteren is a medieval role-playing game with a horrific and gothic influence. Drawing inspiration from Celtic myths, this universe has a discreetly fantastic side hidden under a bleak, realistic surface. This world is populated with humans who have to struggle through tough daily lives, while facing a supernatural threat lurking in the dark. With the focus of its adventures being investigation and survival, Shadows of Esteren favors an immersive mood and interaction among the Players.
So it's Gothic, it's Celtic, it has a slant toward investigation and player interaction... this isn't, so far, looking like anything I couldn't just... run myself. Under some rules system I already own.
This particular atmosphere is drawn from several sources of inspiration: the harshness and romanticism of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart; the universes of Tim Burton, particularly that of Sleepy Hollow; Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke; as well as Berserk, the manga by Kentaro Miura.
 OK, it wears its heart on its sleeve, I like that, but these still feel like inspirations for a campaign. I might see merit in running a dozen sessions of something that's influenced by all these things (well, I haven't read Berserk, but you get the idea), but buying a set of rules that work toward that fairly narrow plane? Do we need a whole system specifically for that atmosphere?

I find myself asking this question of new RPG releases quite often, and I'm increasingly sure that the answer is no. I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel every time we decide to run a different kind of game, tell a different kind of story. I think, or feel, or perhaps suspect, that in the last forty or so years we've seen more than enough sets of rules for pretending to be wizards or vampires or ordinary people trapped in a web of supramundane terror to need no more.

Now, I hear a predictable objection flapping through the air like the Shantak-bird, so let me hoist my elephant gun forthwith before I'm carried off to Kadath: I am not saying that we need fewer games. Let's blast "but more games is better you want less games means you hate fun" out of the sky right now. I'm saying we need more games - as in "my role playing game using this system with these house rules and these resources and inspirations, which I run in this style directed toward these goals" - and fewer systems.

I don't think you need to make up a whole new RPG rule set from scratch just to play a Celtic-themed horror game. I am, at my time of life, disinclined to learn a whole new game system that stands alone, but I would welcome a creative fillip and a shot of pure inspiration in the arm for a system that I already own and know and play. I would like to read a very well produced, exquisitely pretty supplement - something with well-tuned gameables, consistent art and usable resources, designer's notes on what's been changed and to what ends. I would like to see the RPG 'industry', especially the DIY RPG 'industry', shift away from endlessly reinventing the wheel, and toward doing something inventive with the wheels we already have. How else are we supposed to go from wheels and axles to Big Ben?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pellatarrum: My Dragons are Different (part 10)

Oh my God, I can't believe I never finished this. I had every good intention of so doing, and then I got distracted, and now it's been three years since part 9?   Good Lord.

Anyway, this is the conclusion to the My Dragons are Different series.  Please accept this with my sincerest apologies!

Written as a cooperative effort by Erin Palette and Mike Kochis

"Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth... Tame the dragon and the gift is yours."
-- Noela Evans 

XI. Life, Death, Rebirth

Herein lies a hodge-podge of thoughts and notions which didn't merit an entire category.

Being especially long-lived (a competent dragon can live for a millennium or more), dragons are equally slow to reproduce.  Finding a suitable mate is the first hurdle;  it is difficult for innate schemers to trust each other enough to become intimate in such a manner. Therefore, mating is (much like all things draconic) planned out in advance, by proxy as much as possible, and through intense negotiation.

When all is finally said and done, their mating is more akin to a human "one night stand" than anything else:  the two dragons, having finally determined that turning on each other mid- or post-coitus will result in mutually assured death, meet in a location carefully determined to be tactically non-advantageous to either party (saying "without possibility of ambush" is rather facile, as of course both dragons will bring along allies to watch their backs during the deed); the male deposits sperm within the female's egg sac; then they both leave.

"Will my offspring be a threat to me or my future plans" is a keen consideration when mating, especially among males, as all children are birthed by the mother in her lair, and therefore out of the father's control. Ideally, the male is from far enough away, and has interests sufficiently different from the mother, that any offspring will not infringe upon the father's territory -- and recall, dragons interpret "territory" as "within my area of interest".   If this ideal cannot be met, then a typical arrangement is for half of the eggs to be delivered to the father's kobolds after being laid.  No male dragon will ever accept delivery of live young!

Gestation within the mother takes a year, but incubation within the egg takes decades or centuries, depending on the age of the mother; a good rule of thumb is to assume that incubation is roughly equal with a dragon's age category.  Therefore, the eggs of a young adult (the youngest age at which a dragon can give birth) would take between 50 and 100 years to gestate, while an ancient dragon's eggs take nearly a millennium to gestate!  The benefit to this, however, is that the hatchlings will have absorbed a massive amount of information while "in ovum", and therefore will be far more powerful than their peers:
  • Young Adults' offspring are Challenge Rating -1;
  • Adults' are base CR;
  • Mature Adults' offspring are CR+1;
  • Additional +1 to CR for each age category after that. 

This is why fathers refuse to accept live offspring: by the time they are delivered, they will already have been indoctrinated into the mother's way of thinking (including her distasteful regard for the wrong kind of thing to hoard).

Eventually, some ambitious adventurer will get it into his head that it would be a great idea to steal a dragon egg and raise it as his own.

Setting aside for the moment that this sort of thing requires an epic expenditure of time, treasure, and effort to rival killing the mother (for that is what it will take), as well as the time requirement for gestation -- this adventurer now must contend with a young being who is, at birth, as smart and as strong as a human adult; possessed of a terrible hunger both physical and intellectual; lacking the cultural and ethical conditioning of the mother; and only going to get larger, stronger, more ravenous, more territorial, and more uncontrollable as time passes.

Meanwhile, in the real world, animal specialists with doctorates are routinely maimed and/or killed by animals dumber than they are.

If any player character wishes to raise a feral dragon, the GM should smile and say "Yes, absolutely," and then harshly punish even the mildest mistake or lapse in judgement.  If necessary, consult the parents of teenagers for ideas.

Given the difficulty in finding a suitable mate, and the massive amounts of time and effort it takes to bring a dragon to term, the existence of half-dragons -- the product of a shape-shifted dragon and a member of a lesser race -- suddenly makes more sense. These cross-species "booty calls" have two benefits:  the dragons satisfies its biological urges (more common for males than for females), and, if pregnancy occurs, a useful tool/minion/catspaw is created.

It is worth noting that if a female dragon is so impregnated, she must stay in that shape-shifted form for the duration of the pregnancy, else the child be miscarried. However, a female dragon carrying eggs that were fertilized by another dragon, but are still unlaid,  may shift form without detriment to the young.

Pellatarran Half-Dragons are created as per Pathfinder rules.

Despite being exceptionally long-lived and paranoid, dragons can and do die. Usually this is through enemy action, but it is possible (however unlikely) for them to succumb to illness or injury; death from old age is unknown. Indeed, it is entirely possible that dragons cannot die due to age.

However, just because it is difficult to kill a dragon does not mean it is impossible, and this fact worries many of them. If they are worried enough, they will consider becoming undead through dark rituals; these undead dragons are known as Dracoliches or Raveners.

White dragons in particular are most prone to this, as their typical area of interest is "survival", but any dragon of sufficient age and expertise will have amassed enough foes who want it dead that making itself immune to death is a tantalizing option.  Black dragons, with their passion for knowledge that encompasses occult lore both forgotten and obscene, are the ones most likely to posses the know-how to become undead without needing the assistance of a divine spellcaster. Green dragons, on the other hand, are the one species actually less likely to embrace undeath, as their obsession with biology and living things is anathema to reanimation.

It is worth noting that any necromancer of the Dark would give his left anything to gain an undead dragon for an ally. However, this also means that said necromancer has some degree of power over the freshly undead dragon -- a situation which any proper dragon cannot abide. Therefore, any Cultist of the Dark assisting a dragon into undead-hood needs to be very powerful and very clever, or else he will end up very dead at the claws of his newest creation.

The Church of the Light, naturally, regards Dracoliches as abominations of the highest order and will spare no effort to destroy one.  Even the Cabal of the Gray regards undead as unnatural and will go out of their way to aid in the destruction of a  Ravener.

Dragons regard becoming undead with an attitude that combines the concepts of  "That's disgusting," "That's cheating," and "That is damn useful, I need to figure out how to do that myself."  Naturally, any dragon known to be undead will be regarded as a greater threat than typical, and so its rivals will display an unusual amount of cooperation to take it down... followed immediately by the victors fighting among themselves for possession of the knowledge so they can do it to themselves.

No Monday Gunday for you!

Sorry to go all Soup Nazi on you, but here's what happened:

I originally planned to do a post on "Felt recoil difference between 124gr +P and 147gr." Then I realized, Hey, maybe I should get more data on this, as this is just my experience with my pistol.  So I logged in to #GunbloggerConspiracy to ask around.

Well, it turns out that some of their experiences were different than mine. I felt that what I needed to do was shoot the ammo from various pistols to find out for sure.  Someone who is ging to the NRA Annual Meeting offered to let me shoot his various 9mm pistols.  So okay, I put that one to the side in favor of collecting more data.

Then I got the idea of asking, "Hey, what kind of bad gun habits do you have?"  I don't mean irresponsible gun handling or anything, but more like "I do this thing and it's probably poor form but I'm not violating any Col. Cooper's Rules so it's only a mild peccadillo at best."   Like, I'm talking the gunnie versions of "I don't always wash my hands after I use the bathroom" or "I still pick my nose" kind of things. I guess I figured people would read it, and laugh, and say "Oh, hey, I do the same thing, it's not a big deal"  or "I do this thing that's kinda weird and kinda funny, you'll like it" and we'd all have a good time.

So I wrote the post, including my own minor little sin just to start things off, and then after it was ready to go I held off from posting. That little voice in the back of my head was asking Hey, is this really such a good idea?  You know how much people on the internet love to be self-righteous and jump all over folks who do things the "wrong" way.

I was still up in the air about it (because, y'know, I've kind of built this blog around being confessional about the dumb things I say and do -- Useful Idiot, I make mistakes so you don't have to, etc) when I thought of a second, and probably better, reason not to post it:

We gun owners have enough difficulty with our opponents as it is. Why should I give our political enemies more ammunition (heh) to use against us?  The last thing we need is for someone to link to my blog and say "Oh, so you gun owners are so responsible?  Why then does Erin Palette pick her toes in Poughkeepsie with a P-38, then? Huh? Huh?"  And then everyone would get annoyed and sigh deeply and roll their eyes and ask me not to help our opponents so much.

Now it's 2:15 am my time  (not yet midnight on the West Coast, so I'm counting this as a win), and the only thing I have to show for today is this.

And that's why no soup for you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SHTFriday: Spring Forward, Fall Back, Prep Up

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 

In today's SHTFriday post, I recommend that you use the time change to remind you to check your preps as well as your smoke alarms. And preps mean more than just gear and supplies...

Ironically, this post is two weeks later than the actual time change it talks about. Ah well, better late than pregnant I always say!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My mom is badass

So, my mother:

Is YOUR mom this badass?

Also: doggie photobomb. 

Doctor Wholmes, Interdimensional Detective [part the second: The Rock Star]

     Loud, flashy, larger than life. Impossible to ignore. A surfeit of style. A brilliant mind and a self-awareness of that fact. In this second installment of comparisons, we look at Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes and David Tennant's Tenth Doctor.

     RDJ's portrayal was (at least prior to the BBC's modern day version) arguably the most famous, with an international film release and (for the first time in over two decades) a theatrical release in the US. The films are loud, flashy, over-the-top, but still with all of the elements necessary to be recognizable as Holmes. In much the same way, David Tennant's run was where Doctor Who reached, and possibly surpassed, it's previous heights of popularity with an audience as wide and as fervent as any you'd see in Tom Baker's day.

     Having gotten over his Time War PTSD, this Doctor knows how to have fun, how to be cocky, and how to get peoples' attention. He moves through the universe leaving a large wake behind him like a geek-chic tornado of cool. Much in the same vein that RDJ's Holmes is an amplified version of the character, Tennant is The Doctor turned up to 11 (I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for that pun). He brings a physicality to the role that had been lacking for a while. The Tenth Doctor is no passive chess-player or wounded soldier. He's out dueling intergalactic cultists within minutes of his first conscious moments, and building a reputation that would scatter armies at the mention of his name, culminating in that moment where he defies the laws of time and is brought down from being "The Time Lord Victorious."

     Much like Tennant's amped up Doctor, RDJ's Holmes is also an amplification, borderlining on exaggeration, of everything that Sherlock Holmes is, was, and could have been. He's brilliant, there's no doubt, but there's a practical application of that brilliance. When combining the way his mind works with the physicality that previous portrayals have lacked, this is a man that steps into a bare-knuckle boxing ring and has won the match before it even starts. And unlike some portrayals, this version (despite having only two films under his belt) is shown traveling a great deal more than some, much like his Time Lord equivalent.

     Tennant's Doctor is also the only one of the relaunch Doctors to square off against his Moriarty, the Master. Contrary to previous appearances, the relationship is also deeper and more contextual. This is not just the hero squaring off against a dangerous enemy. Ten and the Master (as portrayed by John Simm) could believably have been brothers, best of friends, comrades in another life. They are truly equals, one on the side of the angels and the other clearly not, much like Holmes and Moriarty. Much more so than previous incarnations.

Next time: An East wind blows to Trenzalore.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

[A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store] Of Chainsaws and Disintegrators

Sayeth Von:
"ERIN! I'm having thoughts. Thoughts along the lines of putting a bullet through GAME OVER and transferring my various content elsewhere. You'd probably get more reliable Wednesday output (since whatever I happen to have to say about RPGs would be said on Lurking Rhythmically) and I'd be posting RPG stuff on a platform where more people seem inclined to read it..."

Sayeth Erin:
"I am completely in support of this!"

Here it is, then. I still plan on doing the 'here's an adventure based on the last song I heard, the last book I read, and what I had for lunch yesterday' thing from time to time, but I also want to share some of the other Starry Wisdom that percolates through my foetid brain-meat from time to time. (Hopefully once a week, roundabout Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning. That'd be helpful.)

As a start, I thought it might be worth talking about Erin and I as GMs. We both naturally gravitate to that side of the screen, but how we approach the building of worlds and the running of games is... startlingly different. This might also explain why I've only ever written one thing for Pellatarrum and am unlikely to write more, even though I really like what my gracious hostess has done with the place.

Erin is a self-identified Chainsaw GM. She revs up her engines and hacks out great chunks of rules systems, stapling them - still raw and bleeding - into place on others like some demented Cenobite until she has something she's happy with.

I am more like some sort of space gun - a Disintegrator GM. I look upon the three-hundred-page rules tome with a dismayed frown and proceed to flay it away, one layer of cruft at a time, until the essence of what makes this RPG distinct from others is laid bare... and proceed to run with just that.

When Erin writes about Pellatarrum, the setting is system-neutral and the posts establishing it are generally focused on describing the world and its cosmology, what it's like and how it got to be the way it is. It's elaborate, and detailed, and it fits around a central mission statement, it's clearly designed. Very much a writer's world; you discover it by reading about it and into it.

When I write about Auld or the Iron Kingdoms or the World of Darkness or wherever, the setting and system are intricately bound together to create a particular genre of experience. I scorn the Fantasy Encyclopaedia style and focus on playable concepts: in general, I am occupied with the practice of play, with my development work being shown obliquely. Very much a gamer's world; you discover it by playing in it.

Erin identifies as "high fluff, low crunch", and so do I, but I wonder if we mean something a bit different by that.

High fluff, to me, means that it's the armchair-theatre aspect of the RPG that makes the RPG distinct from the board game, and if I'm not looking for an excuse to put on funny voices and overinvest in my playing pieces, I'd just ask if we could play Small World or Settlers of Catan or Dominion instead.

Low crunch, to me, means minimalism: rejecting the idea that we need four pages of grapple mechanics to accurately simulate all aspects of grapplement. I merely wish to know whether or not my victim is engrappled, and how hard Hark will be able to backstab said victim, and what said victim has in their pocketses, with the bare minimum of sums, cross-referencing and rolling a surfeit of dice.

I don't insist that everything be expressed within game rules, necessarily, merely that the game rules do what's required of them and stay the hell out of my way the rest of the time, because I don't think we need too much help pretending to be wizards or vampires or steampunk goblins; we need just enough paraphernalia to excuse us for doing so.

I'm not sure where Erin stands on that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stewing & Skulking

I have another rant stewing in the back of my head right now, but I currently have a case of Outrage Fatigue and I can't summon the proper amount of High Dudgeon.  Soon, however.... soon.

But just saying that and posting it is a piss-poor example of a blog post, and my readers have come to expect more from me than that. Therefore, I will show you a birthday present I got from my brother, along with a rare picture of me!  Yes, actually me, and not an avatar.

The rarely-seen Erin Palette, venturing outside her native habitat and wearing a Tactical Burqa. She is part of the Palmetto Tribe, which are either a band of Orcs or an offshoot of the Tusken Raiders -- details are unclear, but the Palmetto tribe are known to walk in an orderly fashion on sidewalks to disguise their numbers.

She is armed with an improvised spear (made from a knife, a utility pole bought at Home Depot, and 100 feet of paracord) and an unknown number of weapons concealed beneath her foliage. 

She may, in fact, be part tree. 

WARNING! If you cannot see the Palette in this picture you may be only moments from death! Your only hope is to placate her with offers of ammunition (7.62 and .22LR are preferred) or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic toys!

I like how these pictures turned out. Rather fetching, don't you think?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Today, we are all Irish...

... even ponies!

Lyra is Lord of the Prance!

Lyra wishes everypony a happy Saint Paddock's Day!

All images taken from here. I do not know who originally drew them, nor do I claim ownership of these pictures.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SNL: Train Wreck Party

Full Disclaimer: It should go without saying that I am not involved with any activist groups, nor am I to be considered an official supporter of any such activist groups. I support individuals, not ideologues. I'm not crusading on anyone's behalf here, and I'm not personally offended by any of the subject matter, except for maybe how damned un-funny it is for a comedy show, nor am I suggesting what you should or shouldn't be offended by.

I haven't watched Saturday Night Live in years. When I was younger, I'd catch re-runs periodically, and there was some good stuff from time to time. A lot of top-notch comedians (even ones that I can't stand, but recognize have broad appeal to audiences) have come out of that institution throughout the decades that it's been on the air. Some of my favorite films owe their existence to SNL. There'd be no Ghostbusters, no Blues Brothers, no Animal House, no Mean Girls.

I've long heard the refrain that SNL, that old grey mare, just ain't what she used to be, but as I don't watch a lot of broadcast television these days, I had no real exposure. I just nodded my head, figured it was the usual sort of quality dip any show that runs for-fucking-ever gets, and went on with my day. Then someone forwarded me the "Jewelry Party" skit. This is dismal. It's available on Hulu, if you *really* want to go watch it, but be warned: It's some painful cringe.

Ostensibly, the point of this sketch seems to be to set up a strawman of a Men's Rights Advocate, and then tear him down. I say strawman, and I really do mean strawman, because one of the 'prouder points' to this character was that he had personally shut down two Planned Parenthood clinics. I thought to myself, "self, that sounds pretty high-profile." So I went looking. Literally the only correlation I can find between Men's Rights and Planned Parenthood on the internet is articles describing how dismal and off-the-mark this sketch is. What I did find was some interesting info on how some of the MRA crowd is interested in expanding birth control options for men, and how the Planned Parenthood site pretty much sums up the current options as "condoms, snip, or don't put it in."

What I'm more interested in, though, is the method in which this sketch went about attacking the strawman. The tools used were ones that social justice warriors often attack people (and each other) over. One character is practically in spray-painted brown-face and shouting in such an over-the-top fake Venezuealan accent that *I'm* offended on behalf of Venezuelans. Even If Lena Dunham (this being her anticipated episode apparently) hadn't been hit by the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hash-tag before, she definitely will be now. The women are portrayed as shallow, materialistic, and catty; shaming the man in the sketch for being a virgin (is this the opposite of 'slut-shaming?') and not having 'big muscles'(body-shaming?)

Given that I'm not looking for an excuse to get upset, I'm sure I've missed a few things, but the point stands that whoever was writing this sketch (as of now, I still can't find an answer on that) had an agenda, and an enormous Legendary Axe of Frost Smiting to grind, and used a hell of a lot of questionable tactics to do so. But more importantly, and the bigger problem that a lot of respectable websites and pundits with far more journalistic integrity than myself are commenting on is that this is damned un-funny. It's dull, forced cringe. This isn't the hysterical laughter that Tina Fey or Belushi would create, it's nervous, awkward laughter.

To paraphrase a better man than I, allow me to direct a statement to whoever it was that wrote that sketch. You've tried ignoring them. You've tried laughing at them. Now you've shown a light on your enemy, and you'll be forced to fight them. Next time, just try to write something funny, or you'll just be considered a nail in SNL's long-overdue coffin.

This shit makes me miss MADTV.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Birthday Wrap-Up

Sorry about not having a post yesterday, folks -- I was worn out from having too much birthday!  Also, having to get up very early and run errands all day contributed to that as well.

Starting off, I am posting this picture of my finished cake in order to make my mom feel better. I don't think she expected me to take a picture of the "plague cake" and immediately post it all over social media! So in the interest of fairness, here is the properly decorated version:

Yes, hearts, because awww.

Gunz 'n Poniez

Mom thinks it's hilarious to buy me pony toys for Christmas and birthday. Who am I to tell her to stop? The reactive targets, of course, are always useful.

I also got some spending money for my upcoming NRAAM trip, and an Amazon gift card from my big brother.

I also got a ton of birthday wishes from people here and on Facebook!  Thank you so much. I lost count after a hundred or so, but believe me, I read every single one and they all made me smile!  :D

However, I do want to give a special shout-out to Awelowynt, who decided to fulfill his dream of, and I quote, "ordering you an actual Glock from Amazon."

No link to Amazon for it because I don't want to know how much it cost!  It's a VERY nice blade, however, and while I haven't tested it yet I can tell you this much:

  • It is Properly Sharp. One of the few knives I haven't had to sharpen after opening the package!
  • It looks like a bayonet, except it doesn't have a mounting bracket. 
  • It feels like a dagger/combat knife, both in terms of length and how it feels in my hand. It's definitely more weapon than tool.

And finally, while not technically a present, I received a literal family of camping stoves to test from Bushcraft Essentials!
Micro Stove, Pocket Stove, and Bushbox XL 

Yes, that's an OMG SO ADORABLE little baby stove on the left. Both mom and I squee'd with delight when we saw it!  I am looking forward to testing them all. 

This blog post needs a conclusion, but I can't think of one, so... uh... purple dishwasher. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It's mah birfday...

... and I'm still 10mm, dammit! ;)

( .40 caliber = 10.160 mm; .41 caliber = 10.414 mm)

Anyway, this exchange actually happened last night:
Mom, from the kitchen: "Your birthday cake has the plague."
Me, getting up from the computer to come see: "Why, does it have buboes?"
*sees cake*
Me: "... yep, it sure does."
The pox marks are actually where the chocolate chips melted
and stuck to the pan rather than come out with the cake.
My weirdness... I come by it honestly.

Speaking of weirdness, Herr Kapitan Von pointed out to me that I share a birthday with not one by TWO science fiction luminaries:

You know what? For John Barrowman, I'll swing that way. Have them both washed and brought to my room immediately!

Nah, I'm just joking. :)

... don't bother washing them!  ;)

But for realz, everypony, just wish me a happy birthday (and I keep forgetting my blogiversary -- Lurking Rhythmically turned 7 years old back in February!) in the comments section. 

And now, I'm going to veg out and watch science-fiction TV while gorging on my Pox Cake.  Have a great day and do something geeky and fun in my name!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Putin the Boot In

Look, I tried to come up with a better pun, but "Putin on the Ritz" didn't seem relevant, and "Crimea River" seems both ignorant and insensitive, so this was the best I could think of.


I'm sure you good folks remember my story last fall of how Vladimir Putin, during his KGB days, tried to get information from my mother while posing as a tourist?  As it turns out, lat week there was a story in the Independent Journal Review titled "When Ronnie Met Vlady," and as you can guess, it was about how President Reagan met Putin -- who was again disguised as a tourist, and who was still a KGB operative -- when he traveled to Moscow in 1988.

That's Putin on the left. No word on whether or not the child in the foreground is
supposed to be his kid or not. 
So, there you go:  Photographic proof that KGB agent Putin posed as a tourist, 4-5 years after he tried to turn my mom into an asset.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to prove that this actually happened... probably because I know that it sounds like such a BS story, but I'm honestly not trying to BS you guys!

Speaking of Berlin, and in an interesting coincidence, I found this blog post by Not Clauswitz, and  I actually had an OMG I WAS THERE! moment.

This is the changing of the guard at the Neue Wache, which (at the time) was a "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism" that was dedicated in 1960. We will set aside, for the moment, the cognitive dissonance involved in having goose-stepping German soldiers guarding a tomb dedicated to the people who were killed by other goose-stepping German soldiers about two generations prior, because there's another story I want to tell you:

On this same trip to Berlin, my parents and I went to see this changing of the guard, as it was a major tourist attraction for Westerners (and probably compulsory attendance for East Berliners). We were along the street, not the sides, and because I was a young child I was in the front row. As it happens, we were right in front of the soldier on the left.

Now, perhaps it was because I was small and they were large, or perhaps it's because I was young and impressionable and thought that because they were Communists they were evil, uncaring people, or perhaps the guards just like putting on a good show -- but I swear to you that I thought he was going to kick me right in the face.  You can see how high he steps, and that's approximately head-high to a 10 year old. And he came so close that I could see that his boots had no tread (probably so they'd get that impressive smacking sound on the pavement).

Here is a nifty video showing the changing of the guard. At the 2 minute mark, you can see just how close they get to the onlookers. While I was probably perfectly safe, as I was behind the marked line, to this day you cannot convince me that the guard would not have kicked me right in the head if I had been too close.

Here is another video, this time taken from the side:

There you go: Putin and jackboots. Perhaps not too terrible a pun after all, now is it?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Doctor Wholmes, Inter-dimensional Detective {part the first}

The Soldier

     So if there are two great institutions of British storytelling, it's Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. Two formative memories were my mother's leather-bound, bible-paper paged copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes and my father tuning into Doctor Who, and later pulling out the VHS copies of the black and white episodes of the first and second Doctors. I don't have a clue where he got them. My dad was well-connected, and kept up with modern tech.

     As I've grown through the years, I've noticed connections that, while I'm sure they aren't completely intentional, were at least parallel between the two. Doctor Who is hardly the only, and probably not the first, to be influenced by Doyle's works, but since 2005, since the relaunch series, I've seen more and more parallels emerging. I'd like to take a look at a few of them. As much as there's been Relaunch Doctors, there's been "Relaunch Holmeses," so to speak. Of course, the order's not the same, as you'd expect when dealing with time travelers and sociopathic detectives..

     The 9th Doctor is a lonely man, fresh out of a war. War comes in many forms, and can have many different meanings to different people. Johnnie Lee Miller's Holmes, of Elementary, is a man fresh out of a war as well. His own personal war with heroin, that was born out of going to war against a criminal mastermind. He used the drugs as tools in his war, until they dulled him, broke him, and the war was over. The Doctor, just prior to regenerating into the 9th, had used tools that proved detrimental to him as well in his war, and they had broken him as well.

     Both men were desperately alone. 9 met Rose, and Holmes met Joan Watson, and after initially trying to chase them off, relented, and had a moment where you could see the honesty and pain in their eyes, where they reached out for a true connection. Angry, broken men putting themselves back together after a war.

     Both men are out of their element, with the Doctor having spent centuries under the shadow of the Time Lords and then suddenly, brutally gone, and Holmes out of London and in New York.

     Both men, when confronted with a soldier of their arch-nemeses, were prepared to go through with inhumane torture to accomplish a goal. 9 with the lone Dalek in Utah, and Holmes with "M."

     Both men have initially acerbic personalities, relying heavily on sarcasm and dry humor, sending snappy remarks over the heads of people that don't register as worth their time, but treating those who they value with the utmost respect. Once they've taken someone, say Rose or Joan Watson, under their wing, they're the greatest ally you could hope for. Both strong, both soldiers for their cause, but both tired and in a great deal of personal pain.

Next week: The Rock Star

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So, that happened.

An open letter to a certain blogger, who shall remain nameless:

You know, I thought we were friends. And, as friends, I thought that meant we could disagree on certain things without taking it personally.

Apparently I was wrong, as you have currently written not one but four screeds on your blog, each one more frothingly upset than the last, where you manage to insult me, my hobby, my blog, and my co-writers, using such words as "bigotry" and "bullshit" and "masturbatory".  What is worse, you also withdrew your written statement of support for my coming out -- which, to be fair, is not a big deal in and of itself, but the fact that it happened at the same time you wrote these angry blogs is pretty darn telling.

And all of this because I disagreed with you. Wow. Just wow, dude.  That really hurts.

I'm not sure what hurts me more:  That you value our friendship so little that you're willing to throw it away over a disagreement as trivial as this; or that you talk trash about me and mine in an attempt to get back at me; or that you'd rather badmouth me behind my back than talk to me, in person, like an adult.

I don't think you truly understand how much this has hurt me, that you would throw our friendship away over what amounts to a simple "Your Thing X sucks. My Thing Y is better."   The distress you've caused me has basically ruined my entire day, as I've tried to figure out why you'd do this to me.

You have a track record of letting your mouth and your temper get you into trouble. I know all too well that there are bloggers you will have no dealings with because, in one way or another, they offended you. When this happened I would give you my advice and defend you to others.  I have defended you a lot over the years, both because I knew you and your intentions to be good, and because I give my friends the benefit of the doubt.  I feel hurt, I feel sick, I feel betrayed that you could not extend this simple courtesy to me as well.

So be it. It is with heavy heart that I accept your un-friending. While I would like to keep our friendship, I see that this is a pattern with you and that I am not immune from your rage, your temper, your verbal abuse. I respect myself too much to be subject to this kind of thing, especially when I do not deserve a single drop of it.


PS:  You will note that I have not mentioned your name. I do not intend to mention it to anyone who asks. However, if you should decide to comment here, please note that you are outing yourself in so doing, and therefore opening yourself up for further criticism.  Were I you, I would simply let the matter drop.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store: A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

Apologia: I generally write these posts on Monday night, or on Tuesday morning before I head off to work. Last week, I didn't do that. Last week, what I did instead was find myself falling over within ten minutes of getting home, paying off the sleep debt racked up from SmogCon and two nights of staying up doing all the planning/marking/teacherstuff that I would have done the week before had I not been betrayed by my damned persistent mental illness and spent four days of that week in the grip of a soul-draining mood swing. And then I had more teacherstuff to do the day after. I'd like to say "it won't happen again" but what I mean is "I'll try my best."

Inspirations: Our gracious hostess held this up before my mortal eyes this morning (time being relative, she'll say it was Monday night, but like the Doctor, Palette lies) and said 'I bet you could do something with this'. You're damn right I could, it's not like I don't collect photos of industrial dereliction (there's a lot of that around Wolverhampton, where I lived for five years, and Manchester, where I lived for two, and London's Docklands, where I currently work...) for RPG resourcing purposes. So I guess this week is a 'Von raids his stash of random photographs and strings together an encounter out of them' week.


So. Let's start with 'abandoned ship, off the beaten track but adjacent to a fairly major waterway'. Far enough out of the way that not everybody sees it, not so far out of the way that it can't be stumbled upon by hapless fools player characters. In our source material, it's entirely abandoned and left to rot on private property for entirely innocent, albeit environmentally dubious, reasons.

That's boring. So, let's spice it up a bit. What's on the ship? I've a folder here... 'Scenes, Objects, People', which is mostly people, let's be honest...

Image by Mordere, who has - alas - deactivated her DeviantArt page.
Ignoring the urban setting here, what we have is smallish, empty crates - a valuable cargo, and sufficiently dangerous to be transported alone, possibly frightening enough to be abandoned alone - and a lady who appears to be in something of a state, all framed in shafts of light through narrow apertures. I wonder what happens if you touch her?

Mummies are actually quite scary once you get past Imhotep, the Tomb Kings of Khemri, and all that stumbling-around-in-bandages malarkey. Don't say "it's a mummy", just chuck this out and say "that's what you've just stuck your finger in". I did have a marginally better photo from my last trip to BMAG, but have with spectacular competence carried it around, unused, for two years, on a phone which I wiped and sold last month. Damn. Point is, something has not only mummified her alive but has gone to the trouble of glamouring her so she looks like she's still alive.

Perhaps the truth is only seen when she moves through the light, and if she's a subtle beast, she stays out of it, like how Camille avoids being around two people at once. Is she actually a monster, or is she a tragic victim?

Anyway, 'fighting a mummy on a boat', that's not really enough for me. We have those crates to consider too; what's in them? Dust, I imagine, their contents ransacked long ago... but their orientation describes something, something which might be found scratched into the floorboards where the carcass lay.

It's a map, of sorts, the crates corresponding to certain of the larger shapes, the shapes perhaps apparent in the dust within the crates. Not only a map, but a key; and what a key needs is a lock.

'Industrial Ruins'. I wonder what's in here?

I'm not sure why this is in here, but there it is. Overlooking the ruined ship, possibly concealed by the ship from the surrounding waterways, there is a cave. Like the ship, it is overgrown; unlike the ship, it gives off a profound air of being inhabited.

What emerges from the cave, scythe poised to swing, is an ethereal figure attended by ravens; my limited knowledge of D&D presents her as a 'Shadow Druid', if that's a thing? The point is, she's a protector of nature gone all wrong; her purview extends over the cave and the ship and she's the one that set the glamour on the last poor fool who tried to unlock what she's protecting.

Align the crates in exactly the right way and the cave opens fully, becoming a steep slide down into the top left corner of the above map. Perhaps there was something in the crates that was meant to provide guidance or help through the labyrinth, but the dead girl's cohorts have been and gone and taken it already...

Perhaps I'll continue this one next week. What do we think, hostess and colleagues? 'Von Does Dungeon Design' for a few posts?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Gunday: my Home Defense Carbine

There's quite a spirited discussion going on, both at the Blue Collar Prepping blog and Facebook group, about what makes the best home defense weapon.  Some folks think it's a shotgun, others a handgun, and still others a rifle.  They all make good points, and I feel that there is no objectively right answer; much like ".45 vs. 9mm" or "Colt vs. Glock" arguments, it's a matter of what works best for you.

So with that said, let me show you what I have set up for home defense

Yes, that is the most recently configuration of Kelly, my Kel-Tec Sub-2000. He is chambered in 9mm and eats from 33-round Glock magazines. I have three of them and they are all filled with Speer Gold Dot 124gr. +P JHP rounds, meaning I can bring 100 rounds of deterrence to the party if necessary. I'm told that the longer barrel effectively increases the muzzle velocity of the rounds such that they hit with a force closer to a .357 Magnum than a 9mm, but I've never chronographed them.

Kelly is further pimped out with the following goodies:

Now obviously, I have not used this firearm in an actual home defense scenario (and I hope I never will), so I cannot tell you how well it works under those conditions.  What I can tell you, however, is that I have been using all of these items for years, taking the gun to the range (and the Bidet Shoot) and practicing my "ZOMG intruder in the house what do I do?" drills*, and so far not a single one of them has failed or broken.

So, what's YOUR home defense gun wearing? Let's see some pictures, gunnies!

* Yes, I realize how stupid that sounds. As I lack formal training, I'm basically making it up as I go along anyway, so I might as well give a stupid name to my stupidly fumbling in a darkened house as I try to slice the pie in the most tactical manner possible. 

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