Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 0: I Am The Mistrəss of The Dərp!

See, I TOLD you all it was Derpy's fault for distracting me! ;)

Happy Nightmare Night, everypony! May you all get something sweet to bite.

Halloween Countdown, Day... 1?

Day 1?  But Halloween isn't until tonight!

Dammit, Derpy, this is what happens when you fly around distracting me.

Okay... well.... I suppose I can salvage this by saying something like "Halloween Night is more important than Halloween Day, and therefore deserves to be separate" or something like that...

Anyway, may you all be safe from herds of Trick or Treaters trampling to your door!

Listen to them, the children of the night. 
What music they make!
... SHUT UP, children of the night!

SHTFriday: 10 more preps for under $10

I'm getting ready for a Halloween Soiree, and since I figure most people are doing likewise, here's another quick and easy 10 for $10 post that you can read tonight -- or tomorrow morning over your coffee, should you be too busy with ghouls, goblins and wee beasties.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 2

Citizens of Ponyville! We have graced your tiny village with our presence so that you might behold the real Princess of the Night! From this moment forth, the night will last forever!

cf. Lasombra

Doctor Who is Eyein Mah Lemon Drink

Spoilers are often found in the deep, dark Forest.

     Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself that Doctor Who is, at its core, a children's show. A family show. It always has been, even through its darkest periods, it's a show friendly for kids, especially very clever kids. The writing can be snappy, the themes mature, the visuals gruesome, and the namesake irascible, but it's not until you literally fill the TARDIS with children that I am reminded who the target audience is. It's comforting that I still don't feel out of place watching it, surrounded as I am by action figures and video games and for some time now being technically an adult.

     Speaking of, I can't stand children. I really can't. I consider myself childfree, barring a period of my life I'd rather not at this junction discuss, and as such tend to avoid any and all interaction with anyone not out of their teenage years. And then some, usually. Taking this into account, I was quite surprised at just how much I enjoyed expanding the character of the class of Coal Hill School. Maeve especially. Her interactions with the Doctor were quite the highlight of this episode, and her creepy posessed singing voice fantastic. But more on her later. And poor, dear Rubi, who has no imagination. Just ask Miss Oswald.

     We did finally get an explanation to why the Sonic Screwdriver doesn't work on wood, which is nice. Only took them, what, 5 years? Up until now it's just been “doesn't work on wood.” No circuitry or moving parts. When you think about it, it really does make sense. The science in this episode was an interesting case, and I feel it's a pleasant blend of fairytale mysticism and pulp science. Usually an episode is one or the other (like the retro80s SF we've seen earlier this year or the SF Fairytale feel of a number of the Eleven/Pond episodes). The entire premise of this episode essentially re-tells M Night Shyamalan's The Happening, but without all the hilarious suicides and shots of prop fans just off-camera blowing grass. Mysterious forest grows overnight, obscuring the world and casting everything in shadow that turns out to be an unexplained planetary defense system against catastrophic solar events. It's more solid than Kill The Moon, but far more outlandish than Mummy. I did cringe a bit at “small human broadcasting to the world” bit, though. Didn't we already do that in Kill The Moon, and find out it didn't work then, either?

     I think I'm finally getting a read on exactly why Clara's character is getting more and more interesting. From the direction her character is going, she seems to be the Anti-Donna. When we first met Donna, She was vapid, loud, and shallow. Over the course of her time with the Tenth Doctor, she calmed, became more rational, more clever and more competent. Clara started out as a cipher, and we can pretty much discard her entire first year as far as character development goes, but if you look at her starting with Deep Breath, she started out as caring, clever, and competent, but as she's gone on she's starting to keep secrets, starting to become a bit more careless and cavalier. Overconfident, even. I have a feeling, starting with next week's finale, we'll see some interesting events in Clara Oswald's life. 

He Is Groot appears courtesy the BBC

     A little bit of mild social commentary was noted and appreciated here. Poor Maeve, who hears voices unless she's taking medication, turns out to actually be hearing voices, and by not medicating away this 'problem', she's able to help the Doctor figure out what's going on. And the Doctor snarls some appreciation by with a very clear message of “let children be children.”

     And speaking of the finale, I really would have thought there would be more development on Missy and this afterlife, but aside from a few people being greeted that have fallen along the way this year, We still know next to nothing. Aside from she's got an iPad and a vested interest in Clara. This finale really has its work cut out for it across the next two episodes.

Next week: Clara plays chicken with Cybermen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 3

Playtime is over for you discordant Anarchs!

cf. Ventrue

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #10

I forgot to link this earlier in the week, so you get it now if you aren't already subscribed!

In this week's BCP segment, I talk about pasteurizing water into drinkability and an affordable little gadget that lets you know when the water is safe.

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Palette's Product Review: Red Lion Precision Front Sight for Kel-Tec Sub-2000

Last month, I received some merchandise from Red Lion Precision for my Kel-Tec Sub-2000. As a review of all them  (front sight, muzzle compensator, rail system) would be too much for a single article, I've broken it up into a series. This article will be about the Red Lion Precision Front Sight with Picatinny rail ($77.00).

I'm going to lead with the bad news: 
In order to install this sight, you are going to have to destroy the stock Sub-2000 front sight. 

The instructions (which are clear and easy to follow) say so, plain as day. I know that there are websites out there which tell you this isn't necessary, but I don't see how this is possible, and here's why: 
Despite looking like a flimsy bit of polymer, the stock Sub-2000 front sight is attached really well to the barrel. It's actually far stronger than it looks. 
You see, I tried to remove the front sight non-destructively. I read that all I needed was a butane torch, and that if I heated the barrel near the sight, the Loctite bonding the sight to the barrel would release. Well, I tried that, and after several minutes it didn't release. Now, one of two things was clearly happening here:
  1. I was moving the torch too much, which is understandable since I didn't want to ruin the temper of the barrel with a constant application of flame to it. 
  2. The heat required to make the adhesive give just wasn't conducting through the barrel in the right amount. 
I'm going to go with option #2, because the metal did get hot enough to cause the plastic of the blade part of the front sight to melt and detach from the ring around the barrel part. 

With the sight already damaged, I said "To heck with it!" and took a Dremel tool to the rest of the plastic to get it off. Then I applied the remainder of the butane flame directly to the metal bushing that kept the sight anchored to the barrel. After several minutes of applied heat, it came off. After that, the installation was easy: 
  1. Place the muzzlecomp inside the sight;
  2. Tighten the screws slightly to keep muzzlecomp in place;
  3. Place the sight on the barrel the way you want it;
  4. Tighten everything up.
It is worth noting that you don't have to remove the bushing to install the RLP Front Sight; however, if you choose that option, you can't use a muzzle compensator. 

Considering that there's only one merchandise choice (adapter non-muzzlecomp) if you keep the bushing on, but three if you remove it (adapter muzzlecomp with teeth, adapter muzzlecomp plain face, and adapter non-muzzlecomp) if you do, I'm just going to assume that most folks who will go to the trouble to mount a precision metal front sight to their Sub-2000 are going to say "Heck, why not?" and get the muzzlecomp.

(The muzzle compensator will be the subject of my next review). 

And now for the good news:
I love everything else about this sight. 

While it isn't as immediately visible as the Kel-Tec fiber-optic blade, it makes up for that by being an absolute breeze to adjust. Here is the how they differ:

Original Sight
  1. Loosen the screw that the holds fiber-optic blade in place. 
  2. Wiggle the fiber-optic blade until it's roughly where you think you want it.
  3. Tighten the screw back up.
  4. See if the blade is actually where you need it to be.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 as necessary.

Red Lion Precision Sight
  1. Place the sight tool over post (elevation) or in knob (windage).
  2. Click it the same number of times you'd adjust the elevation & windage on AR-15 iron sights.
There's a reason the word Precision is in the name.. 

And while I was impressed with how sturdy the Kel-Tec plastic sight was, this one is even more impressive:
  • It's machined and anodized from aircraft aluminum
  • The semicircular sight instead of full circle aids visibility
  • It locks into the Sub-2000 buttstock when folded, just like factory version
Best of all, the rail underneath the sight is ideal for mounting all sorts of things: flashlights, lasers, bipods... even a bayonet.

Yes, I mounted a Laserlyte Pistol Bayonet to my Sub-2000. I like bayonets.  Don't judge me.

My Rating:  A+

The only drawback the RLP front sight has is that it's pricy: $69.50 for the base unit plus $9 for the cheapest adapter. The version with a Picatinny rail costs an additional $7.50, and the fancier muzzlecomps run between $15 and $20, so you could easily drop $100 on this front sight assembly.

That said, replacing the plastic front sight with an easily-adjustable precision metal sight is arguably the best improvement you can make to your Kel-Tec Sub-2000. (For me, it's a toss-up between this and the Extended Cocking Handle made by Twisted Industries -- heck, get both!)

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer:  I received this product for free. I was not paid or otherwise compensated in return for giving it a good review. Also, your mom says you should call her more often. 

Halloween Countdown, Day 5

A little while ago, my Sire and Regent sent me to live in Ponyville. She sent me to study Domination, which is something I didn't really care much about because it took me away from my studies in Blood Magic. But now, on a night like tonight, I can honestly say I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for the Blood Bonds I've forced upon all of you. Each one of you taught me something about power, and for that, I will always be grateful. 

Spike, take a note: Today, I consider myself the strongest vampony in all Ponyville. Henceforth I shall be referred to as Princess. 

cf. Tremere and ghoul

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 6

You all thought I'd forgotten about today, didn't you?

Fortunately, today's entry is just fashionably late:

Leafe me allllloooooooone! I vant to be ALONE! I vant to vallow in... vhatever it is that famponies are supposed to vallow in! 

... Do famponies vallow in pity...? 

OH, listen to me, I don't eefen know vhat I'm supposed to vallow in! I'M SO PATHHHHEEEEEEETIIIIIC!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 8

One does not choose Malkie Pie as a friend. 
Malkie Pie chooses YOU. And when she does...

cf. Malkavian

SHTFriday: My In-Home Medical Kit

Someone in the Blue Collar Prepping Facebook group asked a question about it, based on a passing reference I'd made in a previous post.  This spawned a photographic answer for today's article.

Doctor Who: A Painted Backdrop No More

Spoilers exist in more (and less) than 3 dimensions..
     How do you explain “out” to a 2-dimensional person? Say a very talented painter, one so talented that he could quite literally breathe life into his paintings, one day painted a picture of a person. A painting so exquisitely detailed that the person on the canvas came to life. When that 2-dimensional person wondered who created them, how could the painter put into words an answer they would understand? How could they explain “out” to their creation? More importantly, what if their creation didn't care? What if their creation could pull them into a painting and kill them?

     The series so far, whilst for the most part very good, has only hinted at creepy. Previous series have brought us giant killer dolls, man-eating shadows, and the weeping angels, but this series has been very pulp-sci-fi heavy, with lots of aliens and killer robots and retro spaceships. I've loved it, but I've been wondering where the creep factor has been. Flatline delivers, where episodes like Listen have merely teased.

     I'm honestly surprised that a show that's explored alternate dimensions and regularly deals with a ship with interior dimensions vastly larger than the exterior dimensions has never broached this subject (I'm choosing to ignore Fear Her). The execution of monsters that exist only in 2D, which I think Twelve called “The Boneless,” was brilliant. This was obviously cheap CGI, but the design of the monsters, once they leave the walls and enter into 3D space was terrifying. The budget CGI actually may have made them more distressing. I have not seen a monster quite so disturbing to human sensibilities in some time. I'm hard-pressed to say that there's been a monster in the new series to match them. My skin crawled seeing them stagger unsteadily through the tunnels, like zombies you can't quite focus your eyesight on. And the sheer horror of how they take their victims, sapping them of a 3-dimensional existence and reducing them to a mere image or projection... I really can't express how unsettling these monsters are. Poor #22 George...

     If I'm disappointed by one thing, it's the lack of opportunity to use the joke that someone's performance was 'flat.' Taking a step back from the creepiness and excitement, you have to stop and admit that Peter Capaldi spent pretty much the entire episode stalking around the console room and ranting, and still managed to make it feel like he was an active part of the story. Clara's growth continues, and she seems to be moving in a very interesting direction. It feels like some of the scrapped plans for Ace back in the day are being adopted for her. I would go so far as to say that's she's being inadvertently groomed, like Ace was supposed to be, to hold her own in a situation The Doctor would normally find himself in. I'm not going to say she'll end up a Time Lord herself, but I really don't think we're going to get a standard story's end for a companion with her.
Possible mini-TARDIS courtesy my kitchen counter
     Clara really does take the lead in this episode, in a manner unlike any other companion has, and it's very interesting to see how naturally she takes to the role of leader, even getting her own Companion. From “the one chance you've got to staying alive” to Missy's having “chosen well,” Clara leads the charge in this episode, with the Doctor reduced to Mission Control role, much like you'd find in a video game, little more than a voice in Clara's ear, occasionally handing her a tool. And Jenna Coleman sells the hell out of it. These are the kinds of companion-led episodes that you'd normally only find in the novels or Big Finish audios. I'm really looking forward to where this is all building to.

     This episode was written by the same person that wrote MummyOn The Orient Express, Jamie Mathieson, and given that he's now 2 for 2 in excellent episodes, I hope they invite him back next year. He's batting a higher average right now than even Neil Gaiman did. I like the little touches that were thrown in, too. The Addams Family reference, resulting in Twelve hilariously piloting the TARDIS Thing-style. “Siege Mode” basically resembling a tiny Pandorica, and the Doctor's hair seeming flatter in seige mode. The fact that the mini-TARDIS looked almost exactly like the “flight and sound” TARDIS toy for the 5.5 inch scale figures. Twelve's speech at the end about having to play the role he's dealt as he comes charging out to banish the Boneless back to two dimensions as he declares himself not just protector of our universe, but our very plane of reality.

     “Good had nothing to do with it.” Clara is understanding, on a level few companions have, how much darkness and burden that the Doctor has to carry. I hope she's strong enough to carry that, because I get the feeling she might soon have to.

Next week: The forests of London

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Countdown, Day 9

The Prince's party is today and every vampony in my class will be there and they’ll all have their clan marks and I wanna get my clan mark, but I'm no good at turning invisible or dominating wills or ritual thaumaturgy but I wanna go to the party but how can I go to the party if I don't have my clan mark, which Malkie Pie says I can't just make appear but I need it to appear... right now!

Silly Caitiff. The answer is always Diablerie.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Traveller Tuesday Follow-Up: Idyll Speculation

Yesterday's post really struck a chord with some of the GMs in a Traveller discussion group. Here are some of the best comments!

Paul Nunes

[Idyll Hands] Would need to be heavy in maintenance bots and a control AI.

Then separate AIs (Ghost in the Shell types) that prowl datanets at high rates.

Probably would have to link to satellites in system that are already aggregating data via their own AIs.

The time delays for light speed transmission would make collecting data [difficult] let alone the lags of a orbital satellite transmitting a ground based intranet.

The recluse would need to be a uber-rich genius from a very high tech world to have the means to own any worlds data net. Just having codes isn't enough. Software would be the most major hurdle..... Everyone is going to have their own style of windows, unix, cobol, C++, etc. Any jump insystem would require the AIs update or teach themselves the local programming code before tackling 512k fractal encryption protocols.

I interjected

Although I don't know if it would need self-updating AIs if it has access to the Scout Service's comm network, which certainly must be standardized across the Imperium.

Paul continued

The Scout Network is probably linked with self propagating software patches........ Dirtside, Orbital, and Belter computer networks wouldn't have to conform necessarily, and in some systems where Imperial presence is barely tolerated systems likely would not.

Now, a satellite in orbit over a world that has a legitimate reason for being, such as weather or telecomms, could also be sniffing every level of the electromagnetic spectrum. The AI onboard would be sorting (like Carnivore) by keywords, origin, repetition the data for relevance and flagging for review. The satellite would then dump a copy of the AI into a transmission when queried with the right code sequence. That copy would be downloaded whole to storage onboard and aggressively file scanned by Intrusion Countermeasure AIs for hidden code, altered code, trojans, viruses, and outside source subroutines. After that the AI would report to a Triumvirate of superior AIs that would analyze and vote on the relevance or importance of the data, a 2 of 3 or 3 of 3 agreement would be required for the data to be flagged for second review or human action.

Ted Kocot

The question you have to ask yourself Paul, is, well, let's take a system where Imperial presence is barely tolerated and they're not conforming. When did they start not conforming? How much code is getting recycled even if they aren't in compliance with the standards? And most importantly, how many code monkeys and custom software firms can an eccentric information broker obtain a significant stake in over 100 years?

We're maybe 50 years out from when computers first became a common tool for business. But remember how in 2000 we suddenly desperately needed COBOL programmers and we needed them right now or we were all going to diiiiiie from the Y2K thing! Nobody was rewriting their 20 or 30 year old code then - just patch it and move on. And that's 20st century Earth where the biggest difficulty a programmer in Oslo will have in setting up a conference call with her colleagues in Osaka, Mumbai and San Francisco is getting them all in the office at the same time and the vast majority of your coders are still going to be alive.

Now think about a universe where travel across a sector takes more than a month in the fastest ship and some of your software is really old. If we're reluctant to rewrite code that works just fine now, how long do you think it takes them to update fundamental things? Insert yourself into the system early enough or deep enough and don't do anything that's going to leave too much of a "Hey, someone knows our every move!" smoking gun and you don't have to do anything to stay in the loop - just sit back and let them send your various and sundry agents new copies of the keys to everything.

Vinge created a profession - programmer/archaeologist - "where your job is to excavate the underlayers of the old programs your computers are running". Unless you're doing hard core New Era stuff with fears of the Virus at every turn, I'm guessing that programmer/archaeologist is going to be a pretty common profession in the Traveller universe.

Paul again

As for the ship...... This guy needs to be a talented and multidisciplinary engineer....... Software analysis, Facilities maintenance, robotics, heuristic computer networking, power systems, naval electronics, drive systems........

The ship would need a control AI / Damage control AI..... possibly another triumvirate voting system that is the hivemind of a fleet of semi-autonomous maintenance bots. Maintenance begins before something breaks. Bots would query sensors for accurate readings, Xray scan structural members for stress fractures, change filters, clean cosmic dust from exterior comm antennas, windows, lenses, etc, change filters and media in environmental systems.

That and be a fine pilot, astrogator, insystem navigator, ships systems engineer, communication officer, and cargo handler.

And now, some lovely rumors and speculation:

No one knows how True Tomas takes on supplies or gets repairs. The general theory is that since ships of this class come with a 20 ton launch, perhaps it is being sent to port for supplies.

Or possibly the Idyll Hands has a tortuga port somewhere.

Or maybe it meets with other vessels in the empty space between systems

Or perhaps everyone on board ship is dead, and it's run by an AI that thinks it's human... an AI back up of True Tomas, perhaps? An artificial copy of the long dead guy that was just meant to answer calls when he was sleeping.

Hmmmm. How many Idyll Hands are there really? The Aquemna is a VERY common design.... the hardest part would be spoofing the transponder. Which, given Paul's analysis above, wouldn't be that hard for someone with those abilities.

Or, to come at this from another direction - the PCs are hired to do something dull during some kind of scientific survey to some otherwise uninhabited systems blah blah snore - and all they have to do is refit a backup system or three en route. Four or five jumps and then back to where you started with a bunch of sorely needed credits. Literally, the GM is just GIVING the players a month or so of pay for rolling a few dice.

It's not until later they realize that their times spent in boring out of the way systems corresponded almost exactly with Idyll Hands' visits to nearby major systems. And that scientific surveys generally don't have money to just throw at things like refits in space. And is there any way to capitalize on that....

There could be all sorts of nifty lost data sitting ignored in its DB, which would probably log anomalies as a matter of routine.

I can totally see there being this BS body of lore built up around him:
  • He keeps transferring his intelligence into clones of himself
  • He's an Ancient device made to gather intelligence for their inevitable return
  • He's the last surviving TL16 Darrian, kept alive by advanced science
  • He leads the Ine Givar
  • It's a false flag by the Scout Service
  • It's a secret op by Navy Intelligence
  • It's a Zhodani psyop
  • He's Rasputin
  • He's actually a committee (Something like Anonymous, with more trigger discipline)
  • He's a project an investment concern manages to make sure they're always a little bit ahead of everyone else, but not so much that anyone would notice

Heh, I could also see playing it such that True Tomas and the Idyll Hands aren't directly related - like confusing UPS, with Amazon, with the companies that make all the stuff that you can buy on Amazon's website. So that when the players go to great lengths to pick at one string they find more strings leading to a whole different tapestry.

So, True Tomas basically rents bandwidth on the Idyll Hands?

 Or hitches a ride, hidden in the data.

Any or all of these might be true. Isn't speculation fun?

Halloween Countdown, Day 10

Yes, for the next 10 days I'm going to count down to Halloween with a set of Vampire: the Masquerade-themed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic art.

You have my permission to start screaming.... now.

cf. Giovanni

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Idyll Hands

This is a rumor that I frightened my players with last game session....

The following is all rumor and hearsay, told by spacers in dive bars and by computer users on forums and newsgroups alike. It's about as believable as the theory that Lyme disease was bioengineered in the 1950s  at Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York by former Nazi Eric Traub to be a weapon against the Soviets during the Cold War, i.e. there's no way to substantiate any claims, but the data seems to line up.

The Ship
According to the legend, there is a ship that trawls the spacelanes between Regina and Sol, collecting and transmitting data. Known as the Idyll Hands, it is a 10,000 dton Aquemna-class Fuel Tanker that was bought by an eccentric information broker. Completely automated, the ship requires no crew and carries only the owner himself. Given the massive amounts of fuel it carries, it can perform four Jump-2s before needing to replenish. Between this long range, and its capability to perform frontier refueling, the Idyll Hands disappears for months between check-ins.

And check-in it does; when it makes an appearance, it is nearly always within a system that is an Xboat hub. Failing that, it chooses a high-tech, high-population system with a good commnet. There, it sends out an information-dense burst transmission -- in much the same way Xboats do when arriving in-system -- and then refuels and departs. It is assumed that during this time the Idyll Hands is downloading data, but it has yet to be confirmed.

One would think that an automated tanker like this would be easy prey for pirates, but one would be mistaken.  For one, it travels at 4 Gs of thrust. For two, its sheer size (10,000 dtons equates to 66 hull and structure points) means that a single pirate ship will be unable to bring it down for the same reason that a single harpoonist cannot bring down a whale, and pirate armadas are shockingly rare outside of Vargr space. For three, it has almost certainly been up-armored and armed, because if you're an eccentric that is automating a capital ship, why not pay more for survivability?

It is worth noting that the ship never docks. Never. It jumps into a system, transmits, and then either immediately leaves or it hangs around for a bit (possibly refueling) as it uploads, and then it leaves.

No one knows how it takes on supplies or gets repairs. The general theory is that since ships of this class come with a 20 ton launch, perhaps it is being sent to port for supplies. Given its size and non-existent crew, it could theoretically go for years without needing repairs if sufficient supplies were laid in.

Or possibly the Idyll Hands has a tortuga port somewhere.

Or perhaps everyone on board ship is dead, and it's run by an AI that thinks it's human.

The Owner
Immediately after the burst transmission, posts from someone known as True Tomas pop up. If you have ever been a member of a mailing list, forum or website that has been in existence for years, you know that there is invariably one member of the "old guard" present, who has seen all of the newbie questions so many times that he has the FAQ set to auto-reply and can shut down most flamewars by his very presence? That's True Tomas, and he's on nearly every one of them that is dedicated to what you might call "useful information".

Conspiracy theories, war nerdery, political forums (of all manner of orientation), and the various gray- and black-net sites of legalities ranging from "dubious" to "a lifetime in prison,", True Tomas trawls them all. He rarely posts, mostly just aggregating data... but as the rumor goes:  If you need to know something, and you have information of equal or greater value to exchange, and you say his name, he will contact you and arrange a trade.

Sure, there are plenty of people who say they've had dealings with True Tomas, but none of them have offered any proof of their dealings.  It's generally believed that any who have information worth trading also have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about what was traded, and that the big mouths are just posers.

Sometimes True Tomas will post. It is VERY rare, and it is usually happens when someone is impugning his reputation. It is a data slapdown, done with all the grace of an @nuke (think of how 4chan deals with people it doesn't like), so destroying that person's reputation (both online and real) such that they have to find another planet on which to live.

No one knows how True Tomas manages to get all of his information. (The storage and aggregation isn't an issue -- a stock Aquemna has a Core/4 computer with a 50 Rating, more than enough to hold yottabytes of data.) Rumor has it that True Tomas owner is an ex-Scout who somehow managed to retain his access codes to their information network, but that rumor is... troubling... because this particular ship has been in existence for over one hundred years. 

And there are records that True Tomas has been around even longer...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #9
I'm guest host on this week's Gun Blog Variety Cast because WizardPC's wife had a baby! Congrats, Wizard family!

So naturally, this means that I bring up the topic of cute little cartoon ponies... and I get it on record that Sean Sorrentino approves of "Epic Wub Time."   ;)

Don't worry, I also do my usual Blue Collar Prepping segment as well.

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Sunday, Pony Sunday: the Pony Cast

Yeah, I haven't done one of these in a while. I decided to get back into the habit.

Friday, October 17, 2014

SHTFriday: Apocabox Unboxing #2

Go over to Blue Collar Prepping and view my second ever YouTube video. Hopefully I've learned a few things and corrected some mistakes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Doctor Who: Flappers in Space

Once you see spoilers, you have 66 seconds to live.

     Well, after last week's excursion into bad science, the series is back on track (oh, ho, ho) with nothing less than a classic Universal Horror monster on a train flying through space. I'm going to jump right in, because the script does the science a great service in this episode. Little throwaway lines here and there to explain things. How does a train fly through space? Well, as the Doctor mentioned, it's a little bit wider, which could easily account for propulsion, atmospheric systems, insulation, and other various and sundry things that would be required for safe space-flight. The mummy's tech is fairly well-established in science fiction as well, and was in fact handled better here than even on the venerated Star Trek: The Next Generation.

     If you'll cast your mind back some decades now (yikes, it has been a while), Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode called "The Next Phase". In this episode, the Enterprise comes across a crippled Romulan ship that had been experimenting with a phase-cloak. Geordi and Ro Laren beam back after attempting to assist, but are lost mid-transport. Turns out they're knocked out of phase with the Enterprise, and spend the rest of the episode being chased around the ship by an angry phased Romulan. They can run through walls, but don't fall through floors. Any oxygen transported into phase with them would have long since been exhausted. Never mind how the angry phased Romulan is taken out by being pushed through a bulkhead into space.

     But here, the mummy is initiating a phase transport that's only slightly out of phase, say somewhere between the dimensional phase its using and the one we're in, so that the victim is still visible and (maybe) tangible, explaining the victim's blurry vision. The victim is only alive for 66 seconds after being taken out of phase, so hardly time to use up any phased oxygen and suffocate. The mummy doesn't need to worry about oxygen, as it's life-support tech is already fully capable of keeping dead and rotting flesh mobile and animated, and it's clearly completely out of phase, made obvious by the shiveringly gruesome sight of its hand reaching right through the Doctor's head. All in all, this is some refreshingly solid science fiction premise, especially after Kill the Moon's giant space butterfly hatching from the moon and laying a new moon immediately after birth. 

That woman's name is Foxes, and she's appearing courtesy the BBC

     Story-wise, I like where this episode is going, too. It's setting up some real character conflict for Clara, who (BTW, can she rock a flapper's gear or what? A far cry from her normally conservative wardrobe) has been experiencing more character growth in half a season than past companions have in 2 year's time. She clearly has an addictive personality and, despite her anger with the Doctor's actions previously, she can't bring herself to quit him. To quit her adventures. Even after she realizes that this wasn't just a peaceful “final trip” she gets mad for a moment, then outright lies to him about her and Danny's discussion before eagerly begging for another hit.

     And I can't help but feel that, had he not had that row with Danny a few episodes back, The Doctor might well not have made it out of this one alive. When he realizes that the mummy is a soldier, it marks the first time he treats a soldier with respect in this series. Surrendering, then relieving him of his duties. And finally, the touching moment at the end when he comes clean. He's a man who makes hard decisions, and has to live with the memories of those hard decisions. Which is why he so rarely looks back, because if he did, he'd see so much regret and pain that he may not ever look forward again. Capaldi really carried this scene, proving himself adept at handling the quiet moments as well as the manic, shouty ones we've grown quickly to love him for.

     Please tell me I'm not the only one that caught the First Doctor's tie, the Jelly Babies in the cigarette case, and the “Are you my mummy?”

Next week: I swear, I have that tiny TARDIS sitting on my shelf.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Berlin in Pictures: 25 Years Ago, and Now

25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell.

True story:  On this date, 25 years ago, some time after lunch, I was in my high school library looking for a topic for my Honors English term paper. And while I was sitting at a table trying to think of a thesis, one of my fellow students, Eric S.,  walked up to me and engaged me in conversation.

This was notable because Eric S. and I did not move in the same social circles. In fact, I was a nerd (back before nerds were cool), and he was a popular jock.  But we both had obviously German last names.

So Eric walks up to me and, out of the blue, asks "So, do you think East and West Germany will ever unify?"

I think about this for a moment and I reply "Eventually, sure. It might take a war, or it might take improved relations between us and the Russians, but it could happen. I don't think it will happen within our lifetime, though."

He nodded thoughtfully at this and walked off.

That night -- THAT NIGHT -- I was doing my homework after supper when my parents called me into the living room to see the Berlin Wall come down, live on broadcast news.

After watching for a few minutes in dumbstruck awe, I pulled out the phone book (we still had them in those days), looked up the phone number for Eric S. (I told you his name was distinctive), and when he answered I practically shouted into the phone "WHAT DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WEREN'T TELLING ME???"

He just laughed and said "I didn't know anything. I'm as surprised as you are."

25 years later, Germany is still unified. For an interesting retrospective, go look at this interactive photo essay at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, where you can compare photos taken that night with new ones taken recently.

And if you haven't already, I encourage you to read my Berlin Trilogy posts.  It was an interesting place to visit, and it's rather odd knowing that I once visited a country that no longer exists today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Social Status

I have been thinking about noble ranks in Traveller, and it bugs me that

  1. You can enter the Noble career track with a Social Status of 10, but you aren't considered actual nobility until you reach Soc 11 (Knight)
  2. A player character can achieve the rank of Duke (Soc 15) in character generation. Considering that, per the rules, a Duke commands an entire subsector of space, that begs the question "Why, exactly, is this person adventuring?"

So here's my proposed Corrected Nobility Chart:

Social Status 10:  Knight/Dame
Anyone who is knighted can enter the Noble career, as per character generation rules, if they wish to climb the socio-political ladder.

Social Status 11: Baronet
A highly ranked hereditary knight, who may or may not have a fief -- owning land would make the Baronet a member of the peerage -- and therefore this rank is intermediate between "elevated commoners" and "actual nobility".

Social Status 12: Baron/Baroness
All Barons have fiefs and usually represent unimportant or undeveloped worlds.

Social Status 13: Marquis/Marquesa
A Marquis represents a single world that is important for some reason (rich, powerful, trade hub, etc).

Social Status 14: Viscount/Viscountess
Viscounts are in charge of, administer, or otherwise represent a cluster of semi-important worlds or a collection of unimportant ones, all within Jump-2 of each other. Barons typically report to Viscounts.

Social Status 15: Count/Countess
A Count is an extremely important personage, responsible for either a very important world within a sector (such as a subsector capital) or a cluster (2-3) of important worlds. Marquises typically report to Counts.

Player Characters cannot progress past this point in character generation without GM approval

Social Status 16: Duke/Duchess
Dukes oversee an entire subsector of Imperial space. One of these Dukes always has precedence over the others and is considered the Sector Duke. Counts report to Dukes, and Dukes report to the Sector Duke. The Sector Duke of the Spinward Marches is Duchess Delphine Adorania Muudashir of Mora.

Social Status 17: Archduke/Archduchess
An Archduke administers an Imperial Domain, which is typically 4 contiguous sectors. Sector Dukes report to Archdukes, who report to the Imperator. The Spinward Marches is part of the Domain of Deneb (created in 598) but, as of 1106, no Archduke has been appointed.

Excerpted from GURPS Nobles

Social Status 18: Imperial Prince/Princess
A handy way of saying "a member of the royal family."  The designated Imperial Heir is known as Grand Prince/Princess, who in this case is Grand Princess Ciencia Iphegenia Guuilbataashullibaa Alkhalikoi. Second and third in line for the throne are, respectively, Prince Varian Alkhalikoi Alkhalikoi and Prince Lucan Alkhalikoi Alkhalikoi, twins and nephews of the Emperor.

Social Status 19: Spouse of the Imperator
Currently the Empress Iolanthe Abartii Guuilbataashullibaa.

Social Status 20: Imperator
Currently the Emperor Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi.

Monday, October 13, 2014


So, on a forum I frequent -- or I suppose I should say used to frequent -- there's the typical "Them faggots and their wanting to marry like decent folk is gonna be the end of this great nation" opinion that gets trotted out time and again.  And it bothers me to a great extent, because this one issue aside, the forum-goers and I are usually in agreement.

And yet, every time I try to pipe up with the usual "Hey guys, we're not all out to get you or destroy the country, some of us just want to have nice Cinderella weddings and the legal protection of marriage like the rest of you lovely hetero folks" or "Come on, fellas, you sound like people from the 1950s claiming that interracial marriage is going to end the Union" and, inevitably, I get shouted down and told that I'm passive-aggressive for even writing that kind of comment and wharrgarbl.

But eventually, I just gave up with on them. Their minds are made up, and even though I am okay (*pat pat* on head), there's still a pernicious homo-agenda to totally destroy the nuclear family, inculcate our kids into sexual deviancy, and put all the straights into concentration camps. And so, rather than waste time and effort trying to convince these people that I'm on their side so would they please stop trying to infringe my rights, I just gave up and stopped commenting. And reading.

I doubt they'll notice. They've built themselves a nice little echo chamber.

However, before I thought the better of it, I did momentarily think about what I might be able to say to change their minds about people like me.

It turns out that my friend Gwen Patton (who kindly wrote for this blog an article about carrying the PMR-30 concealed) has experienced similar -- though not identical -- problems, and who this afternoon wrote an excellent Google+ post about it. Reading it, I felt that her sentiments mirrored my own.

With her permission, I am sharing her post. All formatting is mine.

I get all sorts of articles sent to me by all sorts of people, wanting my opinion on them. Friends forward stuff to me because they think I'll be interested. Many times, I am. Other times, not so much. And a small percentage of the time, what they send me is okay, but the comments under it are just plain infuriating.

The comments of a fairly-popular gun blog contained comments along the lines that the problems with law-abiding citizens using weapons to protect themselves getting harassed by law-enforcement is due to some strange confluence of "ties with Communism, Muslims, and the Gay lifestyle". Oh, and Obama, too.

Someone responding to this wag said "Hey, I'm gay, and I probably own more guns than you and are a better shot. Don't bring the gays into this."

Two responses made me shake my head sadly: "So you're part of the Homosexuality Addiction Mafia?" and "And you are proud of your perversion? WOW. I doubt that you are a better shot than anyone or even know which end of a firearm emits the bullet."

It just stonkered me. Who you love has nothing to do whatsoever with how good a shot you are, or whether or not you like guns. I'll look beyond the clear prejudice of "Homosexuality Addiction Mafia" and "proud of your perversion", as they're just ignorant blather.

I was that initial poster. I'm right up front with it -- I'm queer as a lemonade sandwich, a phrase I stole from The Register. And I'm not only a damned good shot, I've probably taught near to a hundred people to shoot, including a young lesbian girl who was an Olympic hopeful -- in target shooting.

Plenty of people have bristled at the concept of the Pink Pistols. They don't think sexuality has anything to do with firearms, with shooting, or with the Second Amendment. They're right -- they don't have anything to do with sexuality. We're all created equal, and we all have an equal right to keep and bear arms, an equal right to pursue happiness, and an equal responsibility to do both of those with care, with dignity, and with respect towards others.

Where sexuality comes in isn't in the gun-owning part, but in the kinds of targets evil people choose for harm. The FBI crime stats show that sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation is second only to racial bias as a reason for someone to select a given person for harm. Third on the list is religion, and in any given year, religion and sexual orientation switch places back-and-forth for the second and third spots. So while sexual orientation has nothing to do, per se, with the right to keep and bear arms, it can be a very good motivation for someone to make the choice to go armed.

My father taught me to respect and even love firearms when I was still in grade school. I fired his old service .45 for the first time when I was only 11. He had me help him strip it and clean it, explaining all of the parts as he went along. The weapon had no mysteries for me; he taught me everything about it so I would never treat it with ignorance. Later in life (admittedly after I left the anti-gun state I was living in and moved to one with far more reasonable laws), I got my carry permit, my first gun, and started the Delaware Valley chapter of the Pink Pistols.

14 years later, I'm running the Pink Pistols' international office, dozens of chapters all over North America, two of them in Canada. I've had my own words put before courts all over the country, including in Heller v. DC and MacDonald v. Chicago. My facility with a firearm has been shown on television all over the world in 60 languages, via Voice of America TV. I have been a champion of firearm ownership and the Second Amendment for my whole life, and actively for a decade and a half.

But some people still cling to their prejudices, even when confronted with absolute proof that they are incorrect. This is what I meant in my TTAG article when I spoke about the phenomenon of postjudice.

We're all familiar with the concept of prejudice -- holding a belief on a subject prior to learning anything about that subject. Racial issues are rife with prejudice, beliefs about races different from your own that have zero to do with actual knowledge or experience, usually based upon rumor and stereotypes. But when you have had those stereotypes and rumors disassembled before your eyes and proof give you that your beliefs are utterly false and unfounded, when the actual facts are laid before you and you STILL cling to those original beliefs...that is postjudice, judging after the fact and STILL arriving at the incorrect result.

Some stereotypes about gay people include a belief that gay men are effeminate, weak, and fearful. One of my first students -- who later surpassed me and became a fully-certified NRA instructor -- is anything but any of those. He's one of the toughest men I know. He is built like a brick starship, muscles on top of muscles with that same chiseled rugged handsomeness that reminds me of Clint Eastwood. And he's so manly, he practically emits a flop-sweat of pure testosterone. You would never look at him and think "there is a gay man", but he is also utterly unmoved by women. He's a hell of a shot, a hell of a hunk, and totally into guys.

But I have no doubt that these prejudiced little whiners on that gun blog would, after they had a chance to meet this man and find out what he was like, still persist in believing that gay people can't shoot, don't know anything about guns, and are some kind of weakling perverts suffering from some kind of addiction.

Gay people are people. There's nothing to set them apart from anyone else EXCEPT for the fact that they are attracted to people of the same sex. That's it. That's all. They still have to get jobs, pay bills, eat food (the same food everyone else eats -- there isn't special "gay food"), and defend themselves from harm. Instead of putting so much energy into postjudicial, false beliefs about gay people, how about treating them like...well, like PEOPLE? If you're not going to sleep with them, why does their choice of bedmate or romantic interest have anything to do with you?

Trick question. It doesn't.

Well said, Gwen.

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #8

In which I talk about building up a Prepper Pantry and the shelf life of canned food.

Hint: It's longer than you think.

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

STHFriday: Don't buy a $10 cookie

.. especially one that says it's a survival ration.  I bought two of them, and they suck.

Go to Blue Collar Prepping to read more.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Doctor Who: Moon Spiders from.. the... moon.

There's spoilers on the dark side of the moon.

     I am so very, very torn over this episode. So instead of addressing the big conflict, I'm going to start with something else. Courtney Woods, aka Disruptive Influence, has returned. I've stated before that I really like her character, and how she could fit into future stories, and this episode is clear evidence of that happening. She gets some solid development, wrenching her out of one-dimensional bully kid territory and into the realm of fleshed out character that obviously has home issues, self-esteem problems, and compensates by being a troublemaker. The Doctor, who once went out of his way to tell somebody that everybody was important (while the world was being eaten by The Langoliers scarier cousins), told her she wasn't special, and now she's doing everything she can to get his validation. And, after being nearly eaten by spiders (more on those later), she had an honest, realistic response. She got scared. She wanted to go home. And once she was out of immediate danger, she realized just how badly she wanted to see more. I am seriously pushing for Disruptive Influence to take Clara's place when she goes.

The rest of the episode really is a mixed bag. The digital artists were on their A game in this episode, as everything looked good, from the Moon Spiders to the giant space butterfly to the moon itself. Especially the moon itself. It may be, as Erin suggested, just a color corrected desert, but that is one damn crisp and fine looking color corrected desert. The moon spiders themselves were icky and terrifying, and moved in a convincingly arthropidic manner, but there is no way those are 'single-celled organisms', let alone bacteria. Biology simply doesn't work that way. You don't form complex structures like legs and teeth in mono-cellular life. The idea of the moon being an egg is neat, and I can kind of work out how they think it works, but.. no. This is on the level of a gold arrow being shot into the hull of a space ship boosting the engines. And I can see what they were going for. The moon is 'laid' and is a mostly solid chunk of material, with a small life gestating in it. The life grows, consuming the interior of the moon for sustenance, but how does that increase the mass of the moon, causing the weather problems on Earth? This is bad science, and bad science that even I can't rationalize. And anyway, isn't the moon already 80 billion+ tons anyway? What difference is 1.2 billion tons going to make? And how's it supposed to just collapse into dust after hatching? 

And how many suits did he nick from Sanctuary Base? Courtesy BBC
The other major issue is the Doctor's behaviour. Analyze the episode. Really look at it. The Doctor contributes sweet eff all to the resolution of the story. He realizes the moon is pregnant and then buggers off like a deadbeat dad. He jumps in a hole, says a few rude things, and comes back at the end to act all smug.

Which I really think works. There comes a time in every Doctor's life when you realize that you're not always safe when you're around him. That time came early for Twelve. Hot on the heels of the Everybody Lives moment of Time Heist, he manages to lose all but one of the guest cast, and righteously anger Clara by leaving her, and by proxy the human race, responsible for something he knew the proper outcome of. Clara very well could have been responsible for an extinction-level event, and that shook her badly. And he just swoops back in the end, acting all smug, like he's done a hundred times before, but Clara's just not having it. I hate the way he acts in this episode, and I love that it makes me hate it. Because he's such a dick, but he's not an out-of-character dick. It still feels like him, it's just that aspect of him that we want to overlook because he's the Doctor, and he'll always save the day... right?

A few other things I liked: The rather severe British woman leading the charge to the moon on the antique Space Shuttle (those things are seriously so pretty. I cried when they retired them) played by yet another returning Spooks/MI5 cast member. That apparently, by 2039, Mexico has a commercial space program. That Africa has enough of an electrical grid to be seen from space. The Doctor vehemently objects to his pictures being posted on Tumbr. That we saw how we went from where we are now, with a languishing space program to where we see ourselves in the future, as building a far-reaching galactic empire. Danny's words to Clara, and a hint at his 'really bad day.'

I do feel bad for Captain Lundvik, having to walk who knows how far in a space-suit to get back to NASA.

Next time: I'm hoping this is better than Titanic In Space was.

Addendum: There may be a rogue "T" floating around in this article. The formatting got ballsed up when I added the pictures, and I can't find it now. I've an official Marvel No-Prize for anyone who finds it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Catching up with the Gunnies

Let's check in with some friends and see how they're doing, eh?  Don't worry: I won't be hitting you up for any donations. 

This time.

1)  The Onstott Family

I am pleased to report that Erik and Sabra Onstott are doing about as well as can be expected, given that their daughter with Limb Wall Body Complex died 90 minutes after she born. As her parents said, "She knew nothing but love her entire life", and that's not a bad way to go.

Yeah, I'm sorry about all the dust in here. Go get a tissue, I'll wait.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you all -- give you all the largest, sincerest, most heartfelt expression of gratitude possible -- for everything you've done for this family. Thanks to YOU, and people like you, the Onstotts have had all of their solvable problems fixed as they happened since the moment they asked for help:  their van was repaired, they found a new place, and they moved into it. Sabra's medical expenses, Psalm-Angel's funeral, all of that has been taken care of; and in the wake of her birth and death, more donations came in to their YouCaring site to help cover the shortfall that came about because Erik was missing work to be with his family. Again, thanks to you, this family didn't suffer a single late bill... and all of this was during Kilted to Kick Cancer's month.

(Psalm-Angel's memorial service is on the 21st of October.) 

2) Tin Can Assassin

Mentioned at the same time as the Onstotts, I am pleased to report that things are looking good for TCA:  for the first time in four months, he was able to hug his beloved daughter.  In addition, his wife has dropped the TRO she filed against him (purely for legal leverage if you ask me), and the two of them are moving towards reconciliation. So another big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to his legal fund or otherwise helped TCA out during those harrowing four months.

3) Squeaky Wheel

She's doing pretty well these days. She continues to have issues with Lyme and its related indignities upon her body, but her quality of life is so much better since she had her hysterectomy last year.  Oh, and she has purple hair now!

4) Borepatch

Yeah, this is a recent thing:  As of yesterday morning, Borepatch had a nasty motorcycle accident where he broke a collarbone and 7 ribs, and also bruised a lung. He's doing okay, as these things go: nothing permanently damaged, he's out of the ICU, and nothing appears broken on the bike except for the windscreen.  So go over to his page and wish him a speedy recovery, willya?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Flash Flashback

So, tonight the CW aired the pilot episode of The Flash, and it was pretty good. This ought to come as no surprise to anyone who watches Arrow, as they're cut from the same cloth (and have more or less the same executive producers). Marvel might rule the cinema, but DC owns television -- at least until ABC picks up that "Agent Carter" series I've been hearing about.

Also, I was really quite impressed with the nod to TV history by the casting of John Wesley Shipp -- the star of the 1990 version of The Flash -- as Barry Allen's father. I might have even let out a fangirl squeal at that.

Equally nifty were little visual references that might pay off (a broken animal cage with the word "Grodd" on a nameplate) and might not (testing at a Ferris Aircraft runway).  Oh, and a throwaway bit at the very end about a future merger between Queen Industries and Wayne Technologies, which gladdens my heart because it's a reference, however oblique, to Batman existing in the CWiverse.

And then there's Barry's traumatic past, which likely ties in with a certain character we've already seen -- who fans will have recognized by name alone, and who casual fans probably won't have even noticed.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the head of STAR Labs, Harrison Wells, has a middle name that starts with the letter "G"...

All in all, a good show:  good acting, fun writing ("Lighting gave me abs?"), great special effects, and a more lighthearted feel than the (deliberately) gloomy Arrow.

But you know the real reason I'm writing about this?  Because it's all about me. Me me me me me. Back in 2008, I wrote a post about the Flash that I felt didn't get the traction (hurr hurr) it deserved, and now I have an amazing opportunity to re-use it!

Some of you folks may have heard of Goldentusk, a YouTubie who writes lyrics to well known theme songs (Superman, Batman, and James Bond, to note a few). But I've noticed that, well, he missed one. Notably, a certain scarlet speedster who had his own short-lived series in 1990.
Naturally, I have corrected this glaring oversight. Do feel free to sing along!
(PS: Wait until the 7 second mark.) 
A flash of light

Is very fright

This is how I

As I go fly

And hit my own logo...
(ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow my ego)

Bolt from the blue
Now I see you
Justice is swift
D'you catch my drift?

Demon in red
Cannot be shed
I will pursue
You have no clue

I am the Flash, the monarch of motion
I'll knock you on your ass!
I am the Flash, the fastest man alive
And I run really fast!

This is my love interest
Tina McGee
She's replaced Iris

Then there's this guy
What is his name?

He's Julio
(was never canon)
I gotta go
(get my run on)
Bust some heads!

And you'd!
Think that!
I am seeee-
cretly police scientist Barry Allen!

And just in case you didn't find that amusing, I leave you with this:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #7

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Also, I forgot to link to podcast #6 last week; that may be found here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

SHTFriday: Prepping for Ebola

Ebola is scary, sure, but it's not worth panicking over. Over at Blue Collar Prepping I tell you why, and what you can do if you feel you must do SOMETHING.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Doctor Who: Intergalactic Janitor

Let me just clean up this spoiler section..

      In another universe, we got a string of episodes which showed us in great detail the events of the opening montage, culminating in an epic season finale battle against the cybernetic Turian that was sadly and quickly dismissed... twice. What we got in this universe, instead, was hands down the most hilarious episode that I've seen in quite some time. This was the level of comedy 2006's Love and Monsters was trying for, but fell flat on its face. Where everyone was praising the humor of Robot of Sherwood, this is where I feel the real, smart humor is to be found.

      I complained earlier this week that the premiere of Gotham had some of the worst dialogue that I'd ever seen on television. It didn't help its case that I'd seen this only a day or two prior. This episode is so dialogue-heavy, and very little of it is wasted. The lines come fast, snappy, and before you've realized it a joke's flown past your head and another one's headed your way. And servicing this is the performances of virtually everybody from Capaldi and Coleman all the way down to the assistant principal and Adrian, the Shakespearean Matt Smith clone, with everyone hitting pretty much every mark. The main strength of this particular episode is the performances and dialogue.

      Which isn't to say the episode is perfect. Really, the adventure here is all of 5 minutes long, and only serves as an excuse to pull the focus away from Clara's adventures in time and space with The Doctor and on to how those adventures affect her life outside the TARDIS. Which, while frustrating (as I'd LOVE to see more of that crazy mech), actually turns out well.

      Last year, I was ambivalent towards Clara. She seemed pretty flat. Kinda boring. Most of her development was based around “The Impossible Girl,” which worked as a plot device, but not as character development. Companion characters tend to be one of two types for me. Like Rose, whom I started off liking as she was spunky and fearless, but turned into obnoxious by the end, or Amy who started off perfect (shouty Scottish redhead) but turned into terrifying and borderline-abusive by her end. Or they turn out like Donna. I couldn't stand Donna, but she turned into such a great character by the end that I truly didn't want to see her go, and openly wept. Clara, thanks to the character development she's getting this year, is turning into one of the latter characters.

      And I am really liking Clara even more. Apparently she's made peace with the TARDIS, as she can snap the doors close in response to Twelve snapping them open. Her 'control freak' tendencies, as previously mentioned, are serving her well. As she seems to be the only person in recent history to effectively rebuke The Doctor, dressing him down to an extent even River Song couldn't manage, when he snidely and sarcastically remarks “Why do I even keep you around?” and she replies “because the alternative would be to develop a conscience of your own.” 

SIR YES SIR courtesy of BBC
      Now, if no one minds me pulling out my unfinished Psychology minor, I think I've finally figured it out. Twelve has been very, even unnecessarily, harsh on the subject of soldiers. From snide remarks, to disrespectful dismissals, to outright hostility, from the human soldiers fighting the Daleks to Danny Pink himself, Twelve has been blatantly hostile towards the idea of soldiers. This episode has finally given me enough to extrapolate. He's projecting. He recently had some emotional wounds re-opened when he was reminded of a time when he was the most effective, most deadly soldier in the universe. The time when he had to get his hands dirty, and contrasting against the rest of his life spent waging war against the universe's nightmares, turning his companions, his family, his friends, and even bystanders into soldiers themselves. He's racked with a tremendous amount of guilt, centuries of it, and he's really not handling that guilt well at all.

      Courtney Woods is quickly becoming my favorite bit part. I sincerely hope, a few years from now, she comes back and gets a year in the TARDIS herself. The Doctor needs a disruptive influence every now and then, and Woods strikes me as a modern-day Ace. Maybe if Thirteen is a manipulative chess-player, he and Courtney would make a great team.

Next week: Frikkin Moon Spiders!

BTW: If you're looking for a good deal on some games, check out GreenManGaming. That's my referral link. If you spend $2 or more, I get $2 and so do you!

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