Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, Everypony

I'm out for the year.  Gonna go watch the latest Hobbit movie tonight, because I'm a massive nerd and have no social life. Have a great time, be safe, and celebrate responsibly.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Free Will is a Matter of Quantum Uncertainty

Imagine, if you will, a cat placed within a box. This box has no windows and is soundproofed. Further imagine that you then leave the room, during which time I might, or I might not, poison the cat and kill it. When you come back into the room, you have to decide – without opening the box, mind you - “Is the cat alive or dead?”

The answer, of course, is “I won’t know unless I open the box and observe it. Until such time as I do, the cat exists in a state of quantum uncertainty, meaning that the cat is potentially alive and dead at the same time. The act of observation solidifies the probabilities into certainty.”

This (highly simplified) version of a thought experiment known as Schrödinger‘s Paradox can be applied to the notion of free will*. For centuries, humankind has argued whether or not we have ultimate control over our own actions, or if everything that happens to us and everything that we do is predestined, whether it be by Deity or by the inter-relatedness of cause and effect. Indeed, it could be theorized that entire branches of science and commerce – specifically psychology, advertising, and politics – are highly advanced tools of mental and social manipulation designed test whether or not we have the free will not to succumb to their machinations.

However, I disagree with both sides of this argument, because I feel they are proceeding from an incorrect conclusion. Proponents of free will vs. predestination both like to believe they are the scientists, and if they just look hard enough they will find the evidence necessary to collapse the probabilities into a certainty. They are, unfortunately, incorrect in this belief.

Humanity is not the scientist. Humanity is the cat.

The cat does not understand what is happening to it. It cannot comprehend why it has been placed in the box, or how long it will be there, or what will happen to it while it is there. The cat is completely incapable of affecting its environment: it cannot escape, cannot make its presence known (remember, the box is windowless and soundproofed), cannot do anything other than wait for the experiment to run its course.

If the cat had the intelligence, it might notice that it is utterly trapped and its every action within the box is futile. If it understood logic, it might realize that, having been placed into the box by a scientist, it follows that a scientist will remove it. If the cat had self-awareness, it might conclude that this removal does not necessarily precede the cat starving to death. The cat might even despair, were it self-aware enough, and attempt to kill itself in order to die quickly, rather than suffer a slow lingering death of negligence.

This is humanity. We understand that we are alive, and trapped inside this reality. We cannot change anything about this reality other than to choose to leave the experiment early. Everything that we do, including suicide, is done because we are inside that metaphorical box. It is irrelevant to our existence if we have free will within this box, because the “free” portion of free will is so thoroughly constrained by the environment of the box. It does not matter if the cat has free will to pace within the box, because the cat cannot leave that box.

Humanity has created philosophy and religion in an attempt to explain the box. Some beliefs state that the box only exists within the mind of the cat, and that it can leave any time it desires. Others say that the box is a test, and that if the cat is virtuous, it will be rewarded with a paradise on the other side of the box. Some will argue that the box is a death sentence, and that it doesn't matter what the cat does, because it’s going to die there. Regardless, all of these beliefs try to bypass the fact that the cat is the experiment, and try to make it into an observer.

The cat cannot observe itself in the same manner that the scientist can. The cat can only perceive part of itself, and only while it is alive. Once the cat dies, its observation of itself ends – but that does not mean it cannot still be observed. The scientist which placed it there (Deity, Mother Nature, Causality; call it what you will) will observe it, living or dead, and remove it.

What all this means is that the concept of “free will” is irrelevant. If we have free will, we still cannot comprehend the outside of the box from the inside, nor can we understand our purpose within it. If we do not have free will, it does not matter, because we only have the illusion of free will while trapped within that box. We will only know the truth once an outside force – God, death, whatever – removes us from that box.

The point is not “Have we free will or not,” but “How have we spent our time in the box?”

Monday, December 29, 2014

Palette's Product Review: American Eagle vs. Silver Bear

Or put more thoroughly:

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Review: Federal American Eagle vs. Barnaul Silver Bear 9mm 115gr FMJ

Bit of a mouthful, isn't it?

Back before the holidays started, I was approached by a representative of who asked if I wanted to do an ammunition review for them. Having done ammunition reviews before, I was happy to say yes!

I chose to perform a head to head test between two 9mm cartridges, Federal's American Eagle (made in America) and Barnaul's Silver Bear (made in Russia). This allowed me to an "East vs. West" showdown a la...

.. well, you get the idea.

IN THE WESTERN CORNER: Weighing in at one hundred fifteen grains, boxer-primed and with a gleaming brass case, is American Eagle!

IN THE EASTERN CORNER: Also weighing in at one hundred fifteen grains is Silver Bear, with a distinctive zinc-plated steel case and berdan-primed!

Both are chambered in nine millimeter Luger!

Both are full metal jacketed rounds!


American Eagle is clearly the prettier of the two cartridges. Its gleaming brass casing reminds me of fields full of amber waves of grain, while Silver Bear isn't really silver at all; it's just sort of a shiny metal that isn't even polished.  Of course, who really cares how ammunition looks?  That's just pre-fight trash-talk.

Round One
American Eagle is reloadable because of its brass case and boxer primer. Berdan primers require special tools to reload, and while it is possible to reload a steel casing, last time I checked it is't advisable for the hobbyist due to the wear it will cause on resizing equipment. Winnah: American Eagle!

Round Two
On the other hand, no one really saves money by reloading anyway (you end up spending the money on powder, primers and tools), and the lower price of the Steel Bear means you get more bang for your ruble. Winnah: Silver Bear!

Round Three
Regarding performance, both were excellent. I did not experience a single dud, misfeed or failure to eject from either one. The only noticeable difference was that the American Eagle was slightly louder in its report, and the Silver Bear had slightly more recoil. However, when I mixed them randomly inside the same magazine, I had difficulty telling which was which and was correct in my guess only about half the time. Winnah: Tie!

Round Four
But wait... Silver Bear is a bi-metal bullet! According to conventional wisdom, a steel-cored projectile will wear out a barrel faster than the pure copper of American Eagle. However, others say this is nothing at all to worry about. Winnah: Judges can't tell. 

Because this is an exhibition match, this fight is ooooooooverrrrrrr!

The winner:  American Eagle, but just barely. Silver Bear performs well and is affordable; American Eagle costs more (though not much more), and most of that is due to reloadability. I honestly do not know if shooting bi-metal bullets is detrimental to a firearm over the practical lifespan of a non-warfighting weapon. I do, however, refer you to this brass vs. bimetal torture test for more information. 

The main reason that I picked American Eagle as the winner is not due to price, or reloadability, or single-metal projectile;  I picked it because it's made in the USA, and I believe in giving American money to other Americans, rather than to Vladimir Putin. But if you choose to shoot Silver Bear, I certainly won't fault you; just make sure that your firearm can eat steel-cased ammo, as some cannot.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this product for free. I was not paid or otherwise compensated in return for giving it a good review. Basically, someone said "Hey would you like some free ammo in exchange for your pretty, pretty words?" and I of course said yes, because ammo. It's not like they could ask for it back after I shot it. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #19
This week, in the final Gun Blog Variety Cast of 2014:
  • I talk about fitness for preppers.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses Cuba.
  • Miguel Gonzalez gives you his pick for the best Christmas movie of all time.
  • Barron B. explains when security updates aren't enough.
  • and Weer'd breaks down some audio anti-gun hate.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share this with a friend!

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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Doctor Who: Christmas Goes Deeper

And in the end, everybody lied. The Doctor lied to Clara about Gallifrey. Clara lied to the Doctor about Danny. Missy lied to everybody about everything. And everyone knew everyone was lying, and they were all too polite to say anything. 

Spoilers are found in stockings underneath the tangerine. No one likes either. 

And after a brief interlude of rooftop lunacy, we see the consequences of those lies.

I went into this episode with a great deal of trepidation. I'm quite fond of Nick Frost, from his days with Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes, et al. Spaced and the Cornetto Trilogy are fantastic, and have my highest recommendations. That said, this is Santa Claus in Doctor Who. Even if it is a clever and sarcastic Santa Claus, it only leaves" an episode of Who to be directed by Edgar Wright" before I've got Bingo.

Take what I've previously said about finales, and multiply it by a factor of 10; Christmas specials are even more unlikely and even more bonkers than the finales. Starting with the arguably the calmest story of the Christmas specials, Eccleston's regeneration into Tennant (which only featured killer Christmas trees, Santa robots, and an asteroid spaceship shattering the windows of every building in central London), the Christmas specials have been an affair of escalating madness over the last 9 years, and "Last Christmas" is really no different. For context:
  1. Aliens use 'blood-magic' to hypnotize a large percentage of Earth's population only be chased off by the newly-minted Tenth Doctor, then blown out of the sky by Earth's first Death Star Laser.
  2. A glimpse at Ten's dark side as he stops an alien spider queen from hatching a brood of spider-babies that have been nesting at the Earth's core since its formation. Drains the Thames.
  3. Space-Titanic nearly crashes into Earth, buzzes Windsor Palace. Kylie Minogue almost becomes a companion.
  4. Ten meets what he thinks is a future possible incarnation of himself. Hundreds-of-feet-tall Steampunk Cyberman stomps around Victorian London.
  5. The first half of Ten's epic showdown with the John Simm Master. Later goes on to inspire a scene in the third Transformers film as Gallifrey starts to leave the rift it was in, entering Earth-space.
  6. Eleven becomes the ghosts of Christmas's past, present, and future to inspire good in a bitter old space-tycoon to save Amy and Rory from a crashing ship. Air-sharks.
  7. Eleven repays a grieving widow who once helped him by helping her bend space and time to bring her bomber pilot husband home after his plane was lost in the war. Tree-people.
  8. Eleven becomes a bitter recluse hiding in a cloud. Clara's debut, along with Strax, Vastra, and Jenny. The villains are no less than Sir Ian McKellen and former non-canon Doctor Richard E. Grant.
And now Twelve: Inception with guest-stars Santa Claus and Aliens.

In short, Christmas stories are insane, more-so than season openers and finales combined, and "Last Christmas" is, again, no different. The jarring juxtaposition of dingy polar base and creepy brain-eating head-crabs with Santa Claus and his elves is nigh-disorienting. It really shouldn't work, and the mind screams out that it doesn't, but somehow Nick Frost with a jolly beard and red suit somehow fits right in.

It is quite good seeing Coleman and Capaldi on-screen again, especially seeing how difficult and unresolved their last scene was in "Death in Heaven". Twelve tries to distract Clara (successfully) from the dream-crabs by saying something unkind about Danny, and she hauls off and slaps him in a way that he hasn't been slapped since Jackie Tyler. There's an air of open hostility from Clara towards him as they reveal they were both lying the last time they spoke, which is met by Twelve coming as near as it seems possible to walking on egg-shells. Normally Twelve and Clara butt heads quite well, but this time he was almost petulantly deferential to her. This is a very different dynamic for them, one I found enjoyable but also severely strained; it was almost out of character for Twelve, but he was still enough him that it felt natural.

I also really enjoyed the heart-wrenching dream sequences with Clara: first, with her last Christmas with Danny (PE stealing the show even after he's dead), and then her last Christmas with the Doctor. By the end I was sitting by myself and saying out loud “Don't do that again, I can't take it.” 

This episode also marks the sixth appearance of Slade's "Merry Christmas Everyone", as the most Northern girl in the world dances like a buffoon to distract herself from the threat. Other highlights include the dream logic of “it's a long story”; magic carrots; bigger on the inside; Santa questioning how ridiculous the Doctor himself is; “There's a horror movie called Alien? That's... really offensive. No wonder everyone keeps invading you”; and the scene that would not have worked in any other episode: Twelve's sheer joy in piloting Santa's sleigh. And of course the ending, implying that we will get another year with Clara who, given last year's character development, needs and deserves it.

I do have to wonder where this leaves Nine, though, with the exchange at the end of "The Doctor Dances": 

Rose: “Look at you, beaming like you're Father Christmas.” 
Nine: “Who says I'm not, red bicycle when you were twelve...”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy Heart's Warming Eve

This is the most magical time of the year. And because Friendship is Magic, this means it is also the friendliest time of the year.

Thank you all for being my friends.

May you, and everypony you love, have a blessed holiday.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #18
It's time for Episode 18 of The Gun Blog Variety Cast!
Check it out. Download, listen, and subscribe. And tell a friend!

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I'm pretty sure this entire video constitutes "incitement to commit a crime"

But hey, you know what the anti-gun cultists say:  1st Amendment good*, 2nd Amendment bad!

And no, just for fun, let's play "Count the Crimes Committed":
  • 0:15 - Burglary (kid entered his mom's bedroom with the intent to commit theft).
  • 0:23 - Robbery AND minor in possession of a firearm AND, depending on the state and the value of the firearm, grand theft.
  • 0:40 - Clearly, the kid has time to think about what he's doing -- it's not a spur of the moment thing -- so there's probably some premeditation going on.
  • 0:46 - Bringing a firearm onto school grounds (Dinb ding ding! Federal Felony! But good news, Johnny: jail is a gun-free zone, so you ought to feel plenty safe there!).
  • 1:41 - Brandishing and/or menacing.
  • 1:46 - Transfer of stolen goods AND illegal transfer of a firearm (and, also notably, no Background Check performed on the teacher).
Did I miss anything?  Other than the whole "Video encouraging kids to commit a felony" thing, of course, but unlike my opponents, I'm not going to call for censorship of ideas I find distasteful. (And yes, I know it's actually an airsoft and not a real gun.)

Hat tip to Joe Huffman.  Also, per Joe on my Facebook page:
To get the point across this concept is just wrong, replace the gun with a religious book. Stealing and turning in a constitutionally protected object to an authority figure is pretty warped.

Get your licks in now, folks -- I'm pretty sure comments are going to be disabled soon, as the dislike to like ratio is currently 92:1.

* Well, only so long as that free speech is about something they approve. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

In Which I Tell You a Story

More like "show you a story," as this is one better told in moving pictures. This story mirrors my own research of the topic of #GamerGate, but is writ larger and grander. And with a slightly different ending, at least as far as I can tell, given that this thing is hardly over (going on four months now!), and the story still unfolds a little more every now and then.

David Pakman is progressive liberal, a feminist, a registered independent that votes Democrat, and until recently, a member of The Young Turks network. In short, he's the platonic ideal of 'anti-GamerGate', but he's also, despite his political leanings, a proper journalist who isn't afraid to ask hard questions to even those he might be sympathetic towards, and in that he's got my respect. He's been covering GamerGate in a series of interviews since late October, and has come to embody the saying of "If you've got both sides accusing you of being the for the other guy, then you're doing your job right." He's probably doing his job better than I am, if only because he started from a stronger, further Left position than I did.

The thing is, I can understand the cognitive dissonance he's suffering right now, and that becomes more and more apparent as the series of interviews and opinion pieces goes on.

It started with an interview with Brianna Wu (antiGG), who was there to discuss her involvement in GamerGate (interestingly claiming the movement was 2+ years old and began with Anita Sarkeesian and Samantha Allen), but ended in her accusing him of putting her on trial when he asked too many questions. Interestingly, when discussing an interview with Milo Yiannopoulos, she had some similar allegations...

...which led to Pakman's interview with Milo Yiannopoulos (neutral, leaning proGG) regarding his attempted interview with Brianna Wu and his own impressions of GamerGate. Milo has fantastic hair.

Pakman's next interview was a rarity. A female perspective from (proGG) Jennie Bharaj, gaming personality and herself a gamer. Honestly, Jennie doesn't interview well, but I feel she came off no worse than Ms. Wu.

A watershed moment, though, was probably Pakman's interview with professional gamescaster and one of the most prominent YouTube gaming personalities (proGG) TotalBiscuit aka John Bain, who, mere days after cancer surgery, brought another relevant perspective regarding his own experiences in dealing with games publishers and press. He has a magnificent voice.

Arthur Chu (antiGG), Jeopardy winner and possibly the most baffling nerd culture pundit to date, was Pakman's next and, to date, longest interview. The highlights of this interview were Pakman repeatedly assuring Chu that they're on the same side, and Chu accusing Pakman of giving voice to an angry mob and 'insane conspiracy theorists.' Chu does not interview well either.

Possibly one of the few True Neutral alignments, Liana Kerzner came next. Kerzner has a gift for cutting through erroneous bullshit.

Canadian and (self-described) radical feminist group The Fine Young Capitalists were the next to speak to Pakman. Their involvement with GamerGate came early, when Zoe Quinn accused them of being exploitative towards women and transphobic because they stated that entrants in their game-jam had to identify as female before a certain date in order to participate.

8chan Admin Frederick “HotWheels” Brennan (neutral, free speech advocate)spoke to David, placing an emphasis on free speech and roundly denounced doxxing, harassment, and illegal content.

Here's where the story gets really interesting. David discussed his own opinion of GamerGate, stating that while there is a problem of sexism, it's hardly exclusive to games and is really no worse there than anywhere else. He also believes that ethics in games journalism isn't the biggest problem in the world, especially in light of things like water shortages, wars, and human rights violations. And he's right. But I think what he misses is that this is a fight that gamers are equipped to fight, and it's a fight that's in their own backyard.

And then the CBC got involved, and showed a snippet of one of Pakman's videos in a one-sided smear story, specifically during a segment that talked about harassers.

The CBC then responded with the reporter saying 'we're totally not calling you a harasser, we promise.'

Pakman found out that he was on a 15,000+ strong blocklist of 'harassers.' Other harassers include actor Taye Diggs and KFC. No lie.

Again, Pakman found himself labeled a harasser by an alleged former 'GamerGater' and blocked by Arthur Chu.

Porn Star Mercedes Carrera (proGG), herself a woman with a history in technology, appeared on his show (safe for work, I promise!) to tell the story of how the AbleGamers charity backed out of a fundraiser she had been planning because of her involvement in GamerGate. This is possibly the most blatant example of David losing his cool, as he does interrupt her to go on tangents periodically.

I apologize if I've left a great deal of material for my readers to sort through, but I feel a personal connection here, if not to the subject matter, then to the idea of a liberal person who asks too many questions having their perceptions broken. Pakman has faced such hostility from the anti-GamerGate side for questioning what's presented as unassailable truths, and this mirrors my own experience in recent years; first in my decision to retire the label 'feminist" in reference to myself in the face of populist third-wave feminists, and now even the reluctance to identify as liberal or progressive due to the behaviors of others flying those flags.

As for me? I still don't know if I identify as Pro-GamerGate, but I'm sure as hell Anti-Anti-GamerGate.

This is the end of Salem's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" series of articles. If anything further develops, it will be addressed as an epilogue or a follow-up article. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'm on vacation

And that's it. Christmas burnout has collided with mid-month blues, so I'm putting this blog to bed.

Don't worry, I'll still be doing Blue Collar Prepping, and Salem has at least one more entry to his GamerGate analysis.

Have a merry Christmas everyone; I'll see you in 2015 if I don't come back before then.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #17
This week on GBVC:
  • I talk about prepping for pet owners.
  • Nicki Kenyon explores foreign aid to Israel.
  • Special Guest Ben Berry from The Triangle Tactical Podcast tells us why we should all be shooting competition.
  • Barron B. tells us about future developments in more secure credit cards.
  • Weer'd rounds out his "Gun Death" series with the very serious subject of suicide.
Don't miss the show. Download, listen, and subscribe. And make sure to tell your friends!

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 4: Factions Form

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson 
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

In Which I Take a Look at All Sides

When I mentioned in  Part 1 that there were more than two sides to GamerGate, I was simplifying the issue. Even now, I'll be forced to simplify the issue yet again, as there are degrees, sliding scales, and sub-factions that complicate the mere effort of even trying to tell who is on what side. To the uninformed on the outside that are getting their news from Huffington Post or The Verge, it's pretty cut and dry:

There is an army of cis-hetero white dudes living in their mothers' basement that are harassing and sending threats to poor, defenseless female developers and critics, trying to drive them out of the industry. Standing up to this wave of immoral darkness are brave souls, trying to drag the industry kicking and screaming into a loving and inclusive future.

But is it that simple? Of course not. It's never that simple. And I'm not going to parrot the same things you've read elsewhere. I'm peeling back the bandage to look at the sides that don't get shown.

I. GamerGate
It's important to remember that there are no leaders when looking at this side of the debate. There are voices that are louder than others, but they come and go; someone you might see as a spokesperson one week is gone the next. But some of the more prevalent myths need debunking:
  • GamerGate is a bunch of white dudes: This was one of the first myths to emerge, even before the hashtag was created. The gaming press itself has debunked this one, with its celebrated articles claiming that over 40% of gamers are women, and shortly after the initial firestorm of August 28th, #NotYourShield was created by a black games developer as a rebuttal to this. The response was... unpleasant. Female and minority gamers were called sockpuppets at first, then once they were compelled to prove their female/minority status, were called “Uncle Toms” and “house n******” by people claiming to fight racism and bullying. Willful misinterpretation that these were no different from claims of “But I have a black friend...” was thrown in as well. Eventually, the hashtag's creator was fired when pressure was put on his employer by the opposing side.

  • GamerGate only uses the excuse of journalistic ethics to harass women and minorities: I'm willing to concede that, early on, some harassment may have come from the Pro-GG side, especially prior to the hashtag's creation. But those people moved on. They're long gone, if they were ever there. It's been over three months now, on an internet whose attention span can be measured in seconds. I've watched the hashtag on twitter. I've lurked on the chans and irc channels, and a few of the sub-reddits, and I've never seen any concerted attempts at harassment.

    But, more telling, I've seen things like the GamerGate Harassment Patrol: a group dedicated to reporting twitter accounts that are actually harassing; and its complementary party, the GamerGate Hug Patrol, which has provided kind words to both pro- and anti-GGers who've expressed exhaustion and emotional distress. I've seen too many posts chiding people for getting off-track when discussing people instead of digging for ethical issues. (I'm beginning to suspect that people are defining “harassment” as “disagreeing with me” and don't understand that Twitter conversations are public.)

    Most importantly, this is a group with no membership requirements. Even the threats that have had their screenshots on national television haven't been using the #GamerGate or #GG hashtag. 
  • GamerGate is an MRA/Right-wing conspiracy: I think it's telling that this one is frequently used to slur a consumer revolt. In all honesty, I've seen people all over the political spectrum on both sides of GamerGate. Yes, I've seen conservatives and Republicans, but I've also seen liberal progressives; I've seen MRAs, but I've also seen feminists. Religious, non-religious, races, genders, etc, this is one of the more diverse groups that I've observed (see #NotYourShield). Also, if you're one of those people that uses a politico-ideological stance to slur somebody, consider not doing so... you won't win anyone over to your side that way.
  • GamerGate has clearly and obviously targeted non-journalist women: Look, Zoe Quinn got a shit-ton of attention, but objectively speaking, it was her relationships that were the proverbial straw on a camel's back. I feel bad for her. But then there's this to consider:

    From my observations, the usual suspects that get trotted out as the major targets simply aren't. In fact, I have a hard time not considering them 3rd party trolls, as they involve themselves every chance they get. The best explanation for this misconception is that most of the male journalists targeted for scrutiny tend to keep their heads down and not engage, while a few people actively engage, and then loudly complain about all the messages they get afterwards.

II. Anti-GamerGate
I've written three separate drafts of this section that named names before deleting them all. This is mainly because there are people on this side of the debate (that are already public figures with trust funds and far less to lose) that have released names, addresses, and personal information, siccing thousands of followers on people for the horrendous crime of disagreeing with them publicly.

Yes, there is a rather vocal contingent of people who are vehemently against GamerGate. From what I've observed, they think they're the good guys. They think they're fighting some great evil. I have a hard time believing this when I see Twitter blocklists that are in the tens of thousands of users, and include such known harassers as KFC restaurants and actor Taye Diggs, not to mention syringes and knives mailed to neutral reporters as well as GamerGate supporters.

For my own safety I'm not going to mention the names of any of the Anti-GamerGate side, as some of them have a documented history of considering merely mentioning their names as harassment, and that's a headache I don't need. Besides, you've probably already heard their names and voices on television and in internet stories, not to mention in previously documented articles. From some of the things I've seen, I'm rolling the dice here with the risk that I'd get doxxed for even trying to remain impartial.

I mean that. I'm genuinely concerned, and picking my words very carefully here, as even with my piddling view count, I've gotten messages 'politely' suggesting that I should let this topic drop.

I simply cannot muster the cognitive dissonance required to believe that the people who are vocally against GamerGate are people who, like they claim to be, are against bullying, against harassment, against doxxing people and exposing them to actual, literal, physical harm, and against racism and sexism, especially with the way people using #NotYourShield have been treated. I will say that by focusing on identity politics and leveraging a small amount of fame (with press connections, no one should be surprised), the Anti-GamerGate side has a louder voice. The BBC, MSNBC, and others have regularly engaged with them, giving them a much more powerful weapon: Control of the Narrative. 

I also don't have the cognitive dissonance to believe that these people want GamerGate to just stop and go away when I look at their twitter feeds, because they talk about it more than the people who are Pro-GamerGate.

So I'll leave this section with a quote and a link. “There are no bad tactics, only bad targets”- Bob Chipman, aka MovieBob

III. Third Party Trolls
But I know that neither side, despite my trepidation in even speaking about one of them, is responsible for the worst of this. As Alfred said to Bruce in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

There are several groups at play in the battlefield that are on neither side. The GNAA allegedly admit involvement. SomethingAwful's GoonSquad has also claimed involvement, if not outright starting it. Pro-GamerGate even tracked down the man behind some rather particularly nasty harassment of critic Anita Sarkeesian, as even Kotaku admitted. Beyond that, it's hard to tell, due to the nature of third-party trolls, but even the more reasonable Anti-GamerGate voices recognize the presence of a third party at work.

IV. Misinformed Celebrities
So Joss Whedon, Adam Savage, or Seth Rogen came out against GamerGate. Honestly, I can't blame them. Just reading the mainstream media and not looking too closely at it, it seems to be a good argument. Besides, celebrities are busy people, they can't dedicate the time to look past the headlines most of the time, and feminism is trendy these days. Especially for famous white dudes. Especially for famous white dudes that live in California. Especially for famous white dudes that live in California who want to look like good people. They're still just people, and they're still capable of having an uninformed opinion, and I'm not saying that people in Hollywood tend to be self-serving... but people in Hollywood tend to be self-serving.

There's more to it than this, but there are certain things that I'm not willing to, at this time, go into. Partly because I don't want my own life invaded, and partly because it's just too exhaustive and would take a month's worth of daily articles twice the length I usually write to cover it all.

Next week: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WNW: Santapoop

I've been a fan of Poo-Pourri videos for a while. Anything that shows a posh Ginger talking about poop in a delicate British accent is, to me, utterly hilarious.

Then I saw their latest video, and knew I had to share it.  Merry Christmas, one and all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Still Alive

Yeah, I'm still here. Sorry for missing a few days. Let me bring you up to speed:

On Sunday, Oleg posted a casting call for models in Apopka, FL. I immediately emailed him with
It's only an hour's drive for me. But I expect you'd want someone prettier?
And he replied with
You would do fine, plus we'd get to socialize!
Which surprised the heck out of me, because I figured Oleg could make pretty models materialize out of thin air. But hey, I like the guy, so I packed up my stuff and drove to meet him.

As it turns out, Oleg CAN make pretty models materialize out of thin air, because he bumped into the manager of the hotel that he was staying at, and not only is she drop-dead beautiful, she's also a gunnie (has a CWP, shoots trap & skeet).

And she has this amazing ability to go from "sweetly adorable" to "I'm going to kill everyone in this room" and back in the blink of an eye.

So I wasn't really needed that night, but I don't mind. She really knew her stuff (she modeled as a child) and it was a pleasure to watch her work. She also laughed at all my corny jokes and got all of my nerdy references. We talked about Star Trek, Babylon 5, MacGuyver and Walking Dead.

Unicorns exist, folks. I met one that night. I shall not see her like again in my lifetime...

(I apologize for my face in that link, but it was necessary to prove that I was in her presence.)

So that was Monday. Today was less pleasant:  my allergies were really bothering me, so I took a Benadryl on top of my regular allergy medicine. It worked, but it also made me very tired... combine that lethargy with the onset of my my mid-month blues and Christmas overload, and I just felt the need to hide in my room for most of the day.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #16
This week on the Gun Blog Variety Cast:
  • At the request of new father Adam, I talk about bugging-out with a baby. 
  • Nicki Kenyon talks about how one of our allies designated two U.S. groups as terrorist organizations. 
  • Miguel Gonzalez gives us some lessons learned from Ferguson. 
  • Barron B. Explains Phishing.
  • And Weer'd Beard gives us part 2 of his "Gun Death" files, Domestic Violence.
All that plus Felons Behaving Badly, Strange Laws, Fun with Headlines, The Quest for Sharpshooter, and Things that Grind My Gears.

Download, Listen, and Subscribe. It's a treat for your ears.

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 3: Born In Fire

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

In Which I Make An Analogy

In the year 2013, the video game industry raked in over $66 billion. Gaming regularly dwarfs other forms of entertainment, like movies, TV, the music industry. People who buy and play video games are a very large, very diverse, and very influential demographic.

The industry itself, though, is very young, and has faced relatively few of the trials that other mediums have faced, but the ones it has faced have come in rapid succession. From (disbarred attorney) Jack Thompson to (indicted for corruption) Leland Yee, from invasive Digital Rights Management software to politico-moral crusading and cries of “think of the children,” gamers have been fighting one battle for respect after another for a few decades now. And in the meantime, the gaming medium has grown: it's become more mature and more inclusive, and most gamers have embraced that. So if you think that video games aren't “a big deal,” you might want to rethink that.

As I've discussed previously, the relationship between gaming press and gamers has been tenuous at best, but when the medium you write about is approaching the status of being the officially largest form of entertainment in the world, you really should feel some duty to be a consumer advocate. But, to quote Destructoid now:
“That said to me that this "gamer" term has some inherent power to it. It makes people feel something, for better or worse. Compare it to terms like "golfer" or "golf journalism." Imagine if golf pros and commentators were to declare that the term "golfer" is dead. The collective golf community would likely raise an eyebrow, shrug, and get back to golfing. That's not what we're seeing in the "gamer" community right now. “
Would they? Would they, really? I mean, excuse my ignorance (and I know a large number of Erin's audience are gunnies, so also excuse me if I sound a bit repetitive) here, but if Guns & Ammo declared gun owners “obtuse shitslingers, wailing hyper-consumers, or childish internet-arguers” and declared the term “gunnie” dead, would they really just raise an eyebrow, shrug, and go back to the firing range?* Would you really want them to be the public voice advocating for and representing your hobby, that important chunk of your life, or how you choose to spend your free time and income? Would you want them as the loudest voices defending your passion when the U.S. Government turns its eye towards you, with new legislation on the purchasing, ownership, or registration/licensing of firearms?

What if all that you and your friends at the range wanted for years was for more people to understand how satisfying firing off a few rounds was, and the pride of a well-maintained firearm, and then American Handgunner decides to publish a piece about how more new people are discovering firearms, and the people that were already at the range are just mad about “all these scary new people enjoying their pastime?” What if a self-professed gun owner called gunnies “misogynistic losers that are making all gun owners look bad?” What if a disturbingly large number of news outlets started referring to gunnies as people that just want to see children dead because of “muh secin ammenment?”

Now imagine if a dozen such articles dropped inside of a 48-hour period on a dozen different firearms-enthusiast websites, like what happened here:

Obviously, in no way, a coordinated strike.

One would think that if all of this was just about an attack on Zoe Quinn, then articles about it would have come out immediately after the incident went public. But they didn't; two weeks passed between The Zoepost (August 16) and the day in which the gaming press carpet-bombed their own readership (August 28). Two weeks is a long time on the internet, especially in a trade that has a 24-hour news cycle. It took two weeks for the immature blow-out that was the “5 Guys burgers and fries Quinnspiracy” to blow over and for people to start noticing links between developers, journalists, publishers, and publicists, and to start asking questions.

It's been argued that these gaming sites are not talking about all gamers, but they make little to no effort to differentiate between any gamers that might (and I say might, as no one has any solid proof) have been involved in any harassment that may have taken place and those that might not have been.
In fact, some go so far as to say things like “Let's say it's a vocal minority,” only to follow up in the next paragraph with “those people do represent your community” and how “so much of gaming culture is howling and flinging shit like a death-metal festival in the Monkey House.“

In short, the unfortunate incident that revealed some ugly details about a relationship also shined a light on some things the gaming press apparently did not want seen and, when questioned, decided that instead of taking a second look at their policies and procedures, went on the full offensive. (This list doesn't repeat any of the links found elsewhere.)

Imagine my above scenario again, with the firearms-enthusiast press attacking gunnies left and right. Now imagine that, in the rough world of online journalism, where your revenue lives and dies on clicks, pageviews, and ad revenue, you find out that competing websites are colluding on a narrative. And sharing that information with representatives from weapons manufacturers. And no matter how many questions you might ask, even from a neutral perspective (yes, I'm bringing my own experience in here), you're told that even questioning the narrative makes you a woman-hating misogynist. Imagine discussion forums where 25,000+ comments are deleted. Where accounts are banned for questioning what's being presented as irrefutable truth. How would you know who stands where?

And this is where we find ourselves: in the fiery ground left in the wake of a sect of entertainment press that chose to to carpet-bomb their own readership rather than address the appearance of impropriety and earn the trust of the consumers they should have been advocating for. And in that fiery ground, in the ashes left behind by the immature and frankly embarrassing reaction to the Quinnspiracy incident, is where GamerGate was born.

Next week: Factions Form

*  Erin says:  As a culture, gunnies probably wouldn't care if some pundit stated that the term "gunnie" was dead. But as for the rest... well, one only needs to Google such luminaries as Dick Metcalf and Jim Zumbo to gauge our response. 

SHTFriday: My Bug-Out Bag

In this Part 1 of a series of indeterminate length, I talk about my bug-out bag, why I chose it, and begin detailing what's inside its various compartments.

Considering all the stuff I have inside of it, this might take a while...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Universal Choad Theory

It occurs to me that I've never explained my Universal Choad Theory. It is quite simple:
At any public gathering of geeks engaged in a competitive group endeavor (this theory was tested whilst playing Magic: the Gathering back in 2002 or so, but any CCG or wargame will do. I suspect this theory would apply to cosplay, but I have yet to see it in action), if you loudly ask the assemblage "So, which one here is The Choad?", a majority of participants will immediately point to one person.
That person is usually the youngest, but not always. Regardless, he is almost always the one who bought the best deck/army to make up for his really shitty tactics. They match his shitty interpersonal skills -- he spits when he gets excited, interrupts constantly, doesn't respect your personal space, is constantly touching your stuff without asking (usually with greasy fingers), doesn't bathe as often as he should, etc. 

Yes, even geeks have pariahs. Every group has its own social dynamic, and even non-standard groups have members that don't fit in with the rest. The Choad isn't seen often in private gatherings, due the majority of people going "Jeez, not THAT guy, if he shows up I'm not playing". But in places like tournaments or open game nights, there's going to be at least one.

It's a tremendous accomplishment to un-choad a choad, but that requires a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of patience. It's possible when they're young, but past a certain age, it's not happening. They're set in their ways. 

You think I'm being exclusionary? Gunnies, I have two words for you:  Leonard Embody

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Identity Politics

I have been told that, simply because I am trans*, if I am not anti-gamergate then I am enabling my own oppression.

Okay then, let's unpack this premise.

Main Thesis: 
If I am X, I must vote/support/endorse things which benefit X. 

Since I am a transwoman, I must perforce be on the assumed "pro-woman" side. (I'm not even going to address the assumption that anti-gamergate is pro-woman; for purposes of this discussion, I shall let it stand unchallenged, even though it desperately needs challenging.)

Consequence of Main Thesis: 
Since I am white, I must vote/support/endorse things which benefit white people. 

That's what I'm being told, right? After all, this isn't about what my sense of morality and personal ethics tells me what's right; I'm an X, and so I have to vote for X. This means I have to side with Officer Wilson and against the people of Ferguson, no matter what... which is something I expect the speaker does not agree with. Whoops. 

And it's not just me who has to do this; all minorities must endorse things which benefit them, even if it harms or disadvantages other ethnicities. In other words, Hispanics can only vote for things which benefit Hispanics, and to hell with Asians, who can only support Asian causes, even if it comes at the expense of Hispanics. We all have to move in lockstep with the rest of our demographic, regardless of what our consciences tell us. Otherwise we're enabling our own oppression, and have internalized hatred or something. Double whoops.

In Other Words:
My demographic, uber alles.

Furthermore, I'm not even allowed to have an opinion on races and cultures and sexes and religions that aren't my own: since I'm female and must always vote pro-female, my opinion on male issues (say, circumcision) is going to be colored by that obvious prejudice. Since gay men always vote on gay male issues, their opinion on female genital mutilation is apparently irrelevant. Three whoopses for the hat trick!

Identity Politics is inherently illiberal. 

Finally, I'll just leave this here, okay?

Bill Clinton: Gender and Racial Politics ‘Greatest Threat’ to Country’s Future‏

Well... golly. It's almost like a great bastion of the Left is telling me that I ought to think for myself, and not simply vote for X because I'm an X. So either Clinton isn't a proper Liberal... or he's come to the same conclusions outlined above.


*Technically I'm not trans, although I don't mind being called it. I only quibble semantically** because I don't want to give folks the wrong idea. The technically correct term is "genderqueer", although that's a bit of a mouthful.

** Tee hee hee!  "Semen." 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Palette's Product Reviews: LaserLyte Pistol Bayonet

I've established by now that I am a big fan of bayonets. After all, a gun without bullets is just a club, but add a bayonet and even an empty gun becomes a spear.

So when I discovered that the Red Lion Precision Front Sight had a forward rail that was just perfect for mounting a bayonet to my Sub-2000, I immediately went looking for one that would attach to a tactical rail.

As it turns out, I could only find ONE rail-mounted bayonet for sale: the LaserLyte Pistol Bayonet.

The Bad News
  1. It's a pistol bayonet, which means it's short. Depending from where you start measuring, it's either 2.75" long (from tip to the end of the working edge) or3.5" long (tip to hilt). 
  2. I'm not sure how strong the mounting bracket is. It's made from glass-filled nylon, but I haven't stabbed things with it to see if the quick-release tabs break under sufficient force. My guess is "probably". 
  3. It's difficult to hold. The hilt is small -- I have small fingers and I can only get three fingers around it, so men may have difficulty with that.What's more, the mounting bracket is molded into the grip, meaning it's awkward to hold comfortably. I managed this grip which works okay, but then I also have tiny hobbit hands: 
The Good News
  1. It's from Ka-Bar, which has been making knives for the U.S. Marine Corps since World War 2. They have a reputation which carries weight, and they are unlikely to throw it away on some novelty. 
  2. The knife is carbon steel and has a full tang. 
  3. The factory edge is acceptably sharp.

My Rating:  A 
This is due mostly to the fact it's inexpensive and makes me giggle. For pure functionality, it's a B at most; even if it doesn't work as a bayonet, it's still a nice knife. For actual bayoneting it's probably a C.

Yes, it's a novelty item, but it's one that has good characteristics (sharp, full tang, carbon steel) and comes from a good company. Best of all, it's only $16 at Amazon, so even if you buy it and don't like it you aren't out much. Sure, the quick-release tabs might fail if you need to stab one with it (and I sincerely hope you never do), but 1) knives have a psychological effect on people when pointed in their direction, so it might not ever come to that, and 2) I'm pretty sure you can get in one stab even if it breaks after that.

Besides, it's fun. Aren't hobbies supposed to be fun? Do it because it makes you happy, not because guns are SRS BSNS.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I bought this with my own money. Go away. 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #15
This week, on the Gun Blog Variety Cast, a sampling of the smartest bloggers talking about their favorite subjects:
  • Erin Palette, ironically a Florida resident, tells you how to prep for winter survival outside the home.
  • Miguel Gonzalez delves into Chapter 5 of the Entertainment Industries Council's "Firearm Depiction Suggestions" book. 
  • Barron B. gives us a great example of why offsite backups are a good idea.
  • Weer'd Beard starts the first in a three part series about "Gun Deaths."
All that plus Felons Behaving Badly, Strange Laws, Fun with Headlines, The Quest for Sharpshooter, and Things that Grind My Gears.

Download, Listen, and Subscribe. It's a treat for your ears.

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 2: A History Lesson

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

What really happened?

To understand the history of GamerGate, we have to go back. Back further even than the beginning.

Jeff Gerstmann is a figure that's been prominent within games journalism for years. Even before the 21st century began, he was a public face of gaming. Gerstmann served as Editorial Director for Gamespot for a period of time before the game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was released. I have personally played Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and in my opinion the game is a resounding “Meh.” It's like an archaic Grand Theft Auto without the open-world aspect; essentially a corridor shooter in a game engine that's not built for that. Gerstmann reviewed the game for Gamespot, giving it a “fair” recommendation but overall rightly panning the game as lacking. Gerstmann was shortly afterwards dismissed from Gamespot. It was later revealed the publisher, Eidos, was unhappy with the review and, in the words of Gerstmann, “management gave into publisher pressure.”

Robert Florence was a writer for Eurogamer. Or he was, until he wrote a piece detailing corruption in the games press back in 2012. You might recognize, if you've been following my work here, the picture used in the 'amended' version of the article.

The original version of that article is available at Neogaf. Florence was dismissed for saying the following:
One games journalist, Lauren Wainwright, tweeted: "Urm... Trion were giving away PS3s to journalists at the GMAs. Not sure why that's a bad thing?"

Now, a few tweets earlier, she also tweeted this: "Lara header, two TR pix in the gallery and a very subtle TR background. #obsessed @tombraider"

And instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalist's apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she's in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR team. I'm sure she isn't, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

Another journalist, one of the winners of the PS3 competition, tweeted this at disgusted RPS writer John Walker: "It was a hashtag, not an advert. Get off the pedestal." Now, this was Dave Cook, a guy I've met before. A good guy, as far as I could tell. But I don't believe for one second that Dave doesn't understand that in this time of social media madness a hashtag is just as powerful as an advert. Either he's on the defensive or he doesn't get what being a journalist is actually about.

Mass Effect 3, released in March 2012, came under fire from gamers for its ending, which took a series that focused on player choice and storytelling and slapped an ending that was abstract, gave no answers, opened up more loose ends than it tied, and varied only in the color of the energy burst of literally the galaxy's largest Deus Ex Machina. There was quite a bit of fan outrage over this; some would arguably rightfully so, considering most had spent nearly $200 and hundreds of hours crafting their story with their own customized character, myself included.

Gaming press's response was to label their readership as entitled whiners.

I bring these incidents up to show that the relationship between gaming press and gamers is far less cozy than between gaming press and publishers, which is why I think that the birth of 'the incident' was as painful as it was. Gamers knew AAA publishers had journalists in their pockets, but the indie developers were looked at as a breath of fresh air. Gamers knew, or at least thought they knew, that the coverage of indie devs was not bought and paid for like the AAA coverage.

Then it happened. Eron Gjoni -- by all rights someone that I probably couldn't stand to be in the same room with -- went public about what he (and people that have analyzed the evidence provided) felt was mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a woman he'd broken up with -- a woman who happened to be a game developer. There was an immediate immature and juvenile reaction to this, as people were tittering about with a hashtag.

No, not that hashtag. That came later.
  1. First it was #Quinnspiracy, because in the infodump that Gjoni had made, there were allegations and admissions that Zoe Quinn had cheated on him with several people in the gaming industry, including not only writers for Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, which had covered (if not in review form) her and her game positively, but also another developer who had been a judge at an indie games competition where her game, Depression Quest, had been nominated. 
  2. A YouTuber called MundaneMatt did a brief news summary video about the post, and was hit with a DMCA notice by Zoe Quinn
  3. In response, a much more popular YouTuber TotalBiscuit condemned the misuse of the DMCA notice and took a neutral stance
  4. At Quinn's request, the Reddit thread where this was posted was turned into a graveyard of over 25,000 deleted comments. 
  5. Contrary to how the media narrative has thus far suggested, this is where Zoe Quinn is no longer relevant to the debate. While any harassment she may have received during this time period is both regrettable and reprehensible, something happened shortly afterwards that caused events to move completely past her. 
  6. August 27, 2014: Actor Adam Baldwin (Yes, that Adam Baldwin, of Chuck, Firefly, Full Metal Jacket, and The Last Ship. Also, a frequent voice actor in games) linked to a video (since removed) that detailed the allegations set forth in Gjoni's post with the first documented use of the hashtag #GamerGate.
  7. August 28, 2014: The Financial Post, Ars Technica, The Daily Beast, The Stranger, Beta Beat, Gamasutra, Polygon, Kotaku, and more, release articles within a 24 hour period claiming “Gamers are Dead” and “The End of Gamers.” 

Since that time, I have observed one side has focus primarily on emailing advertisers and digging up other examples of corruption and cronyism, while another side has shifted its narrative time and again from “cis-white man-babies living in their mothers' basements” to “right-wing conspiracy movement” to “misogynists and harassers.”

Yet another side has just lit fires on both of the aforementioned sides and ran for the sheer fallout. The GNAA (Google it; I'm not going into that here) and goons from SomethingAwful have confirmed their involvement in this.

But discounting the obvious third-party trolls, I've seen some vile stuff slung from one side to the other. I've seen people called terrorists. “Worse than ISIS.” Recommendations that groups of people be herded into gas chambers. Echo chambers set up.

And it's not the side you think.

Edit: Some factual errors have been corrected

Next week: Born In Fire

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, Everypony!

May your day be full of food, festivities, and friendship.

PS: No, they aren't eating the little orange pony. That's just set dressing (heh) and is a reference to a recurring in-joke about the character, Scootaloo, being a chicken.

For those folks who want something a little more serious, head on over to Blue Collar Prepping as Chaplain Tim talks about prepping lessons to be learned from the pilgrims.

The Fine Print

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

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