Friday, January 30, 2015

SHTFriday: Almost Finished with this Bug-Out Bag Series

It's okay if you're tired of this series. I am, too. I didn't realize it would stretch into a 6-part monster, but that's what happens when you have a lot of gear and insist on photographing it all. 

Anyway, if you're still here, go read the next-to-last installment

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Thor Question

A few months ago, I spoke at some length about how I wasn't terribly pleased with the news that Marvel had decided to 'make Thor a woman' and my reasons for feeling this way. I think I was rather rational about it, and it turns out that some of my concerns may have been alleviated, but some may still remain.

I encourage the reader to look back on that article, as it's relevant today when we take a look at the major factor that I could not, at the time, cover: Will it be any good?

Three months or so have passed since the book launched, and three issues have been released that I've been able to obtain and read. To summarize what's happened, during a battle on the moon, Nick Fury (who'd recently stolen the secrets of Uatu the Watcher) whispered something in Thor's ear that stopped him in his tracks and made him drop his hammer. Thor had been on the moon , basically sulking and trying to lift Mjolnir unsuccessfully. Becoming broody and unresponsive, his mother Frigga (filling in for Odin) is naturally concerned for him, and Odin himself returns and attempts to lift the hammer, failing in this as well.

The Asgardians finally leave the moon at the end of the first issue, and an unidentified woman approaches the hammer, says to herself that there must always be a Thor, and lifts it easily, empowering her with Thor's abilities and covering her in Thor-esque armour. About this time, Malekith (disappointingly looking nothing like Christopher Eccleston) launches an attack on an undersea research base owned by Marvel corporation Roxxon with a legion of Frost Giants after beating up a Mjolnir-less Thor, chopping his arm off, and wearing it as a scarf for the next few issues. The woman now wielding the hammer returns to Earth and attacks the Frost Giants as they make their way up from the ocean floor to a floating Roxxon base. 

Sir Not Appearing In This Book
 So the questions are: Have my concerns been laid to rest and, more importantly, is it any good?

To the first: Not completely. I will say that in three issues so far, she has not once referred to herself as Thor, and no one has positively identified her AS Thor. As I explained previously, I'm perfectly OK with Thor being somehow deemed not worthy to hold the hammer, and if anyone could convince him that he's not it's Nick Fury (with or without Watcher knowledge). I'm still not sure why Odin of all people can't lift it, and that had better be explained as well, as he's the one that enchanted Mjolnir to begin with. What I wouldn't be ok with is literally calling this woman Thor, as she's clearly not. Thor is the man's (god's?) name. It's not a title or an office like “Captain America” or “Iron Man.” You don't put James Rhodes in an Iron Man suit and call him Tony Stark, you call him War Machine. You don't give Bucky Barnes the Red/White/Blue and call him Steve Rogers, you call him Captain America. I'm perfectly ok with either a) turning Thor into a woman or b) giving the status of God(dess) of Thunder to another person, but you don't just give someone's name away. It's a bit disrespectful, and so far that hasn't happened, but I hear in a future issue it might. As an addendum to the points I've made previously, I'm perfectly fine with a woman taking over a traditionally male character, if it's done right. Renee Montoya's been one of my favorite supporting Batman characters, and when she took over the role of The Question, I was thrilled. DC did not disappoint there. But we didn't start calling her Vic Sage. She was still Renee Montoya, just in The Question's mask/suit. 

Seriously, go read Crime Bible: Five Lessons In Blood. DC can do diversity well.
As for the Goddess of Thunder's identity.. that's still not been revealed. I can tell, through dialogue, that it's not one of my top three picks for female replacements for Thor, though. There's an internal monologue portrayed through thought bubbles that this woman is clearly not used to having superpowers, which rules out Valkyrie, Carol Danvers (Ms/Captain Marvel), and Angela, and a scene in which she's isolated from the hammer briefly and starts to lose her powers confirms this. And as for that dialogue.. it's very cringey. It honestly feels like they're half-assing Spider-man's insecure internal monologueing for whoever this is, and it makes the character feel a little unlikeable.

In short, the book's a bit dull, and it feels like it's riding off the mystery and controversy of a female Thor without actually bringing a good story, and that's kind of disappointing. As much as I was dead-set against what Marvel seemed to be doing, I was still holding out hope they'd surprise me. So far, I haven't been. So far I've been kinda bored, but I'm going to stick around and see how it turns out. Avengers: Age of Ultron is only a few months out now, and I'm going to be very cross if they dump this and go back to Thor Thor after such a lackluster performance.

Besides, we've already had a proper female Thor. And she was a goddess to begin with.
I think it's telling that, for a review of this book, I've spent so little time actually talking about what happens in this book. I'm hoping it picks up soon, because it's got a lot of ground to cover before AoU comes out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I am amused by the contextual gender flexibility of the word "guys".

One guy is always male. (Which isn't surprising, since Guy has been a man's name for over a thousand years.) Therefore it follows that if someone says "It's a guy thing" or "Guys' night out" you know with 100% certainty that said guys are male.

But I have seen a woman address a group made up entirely of women with "Hi guys!" in which case those guys are now 100% female. However, even though a group of women can be called "guys", I have never seen that group subdivided such that one women would be a "guy", regardless of how logical that might be. 

Interestingly enough, I have witnessed both genders refer to a diverse collection of both men and women as "guys", and neither male nor female has been offended by this. 

So not only is it one of the very few words in English which is gendered in the singular but genderless in the plural -- the only other of which I can think of is "man/men/mankind" -- it actually tops it. Many women feel that the word "mankind" is sexist when used to refer to all humanity, but I have yet to see any woman seriously object to "guys" even when used in nearly the same way. 

I don't really have a point to this other than Huh. A distinctly gendered noun has become a gender-neutral collective through cultural drift. Who'da thunk it?

PS:  If the title of this blog post immediately made you think of this, then congrats! You're old, like me. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Planetary Habitability Codes

Are you a Trekkie? Do you wish you had the opportunity to say "Class M planet" in a game of Traveller?  Well, now you can.

By cross-referencing Traveller's Universal World Profile definitions with Star Trek's Planetary Classifcation definitions, we arrive at this handy Venn Intersection of science-fiction geekery.

Please note that these are approximations; Star Trek's system isn't as granular as Traveller's UWP.

Class A, B, C
  • Different only in how the planet is heated
    • Class A is geothermal (heated internally)
    • Class B is geomorteus (heated by a star)
    • Class C is geoinactive (frozen)
  • Size:1-6
  • Atmospheres: 0-3
  • Hydrographics: 0-1 

Class D
  • Planetoids
  • Size:0-1
  • Atmospheres: 0
  • Hydrographics: 0

Class E, F, G
  • Highly volcanic
    • Class E is geoplastic: the entire surface is molten
    • Class F is geometallic: the surface has cooled somewhat with significant metal deposits
    • Class G is geocrystalline: volcanic eruptions have mostly stopped and the surface is beginning to metamorphose into traditional rock
  • Size:6-9
  • Atmospheres: 9-12
  • Hydrographics: any

Class H
  • Desert
  • Size: 5-9
  • Atmospheres: 9-13
  • Hydrographics: 0-1

Class I
  • Large Gas Giants

Class J
  • Small Gas Giants

Class K
  • Uninhabitable without technology
  • Size: 3-6
  • Atmospheres: 0-10, but always tainted or exotic
  • Hydrographics: 0-1

Class L
  • Marginally habitable
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 4-9, tainted
  • Hydrographics: any

Class M
  • Terrestrial
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-9 (taint is likely to be from industrial pollution)
  • Hydrographics: any

Class N
  • Terrestrial, with reducing (hostile) atmospheres
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-12
  • Hydrographics: any

Class O, P
  • Water worlds; main difference is that class O is pelagic and class P is glaciated
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 5-9
  • Hydrographics: 8-10

Class Q, R
  • a.k.a "questionable" or "random", i.e. "WTF? This makes no sense. I blame the Ancients."
  • Size: 3-9
  • Atmospheres: 1-10
  • Hydrographics: any

Class S, T
  • Supermassive Gas Giants 

Class U, V, W (unofficial)
  • Artificially constructed habitats
    • Class U: hollowed-out asteroid
    • Class V: Ringworld
    • Class W: Dyson Sphere

Class X, Y, Z 
  • a.k.a. "hellworlds" or "demon planets"
  • Size: 6-9
  • Atmospheres: 10-15
  • Hydrographics: any, but rarely H20

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Gunday Product Review: Witt Machine Muzzle Brake for Mosin-Nagant 91/30

Back in March I received a Witt Machine Muzzle Brake (normally $85, but I got mine through a group-buy that only cost $55) for my now-infamous Mosin-Nagant 91/30. (Witt Machine also makes M44 brakes.)

As you can see from the attached photos, this is not a cheap brake that clamps on with a single screw and will end up flying downrange after a few shots; this is a solidly machined piece of anodized aluminum that sockets onto the barrel exactly like a bayonet does, and is then further secured by no less than four screws.

The instructions also call for the user to further secure it in place with application of blue Loctite along the contact surfaces of the barrel. However, this was not ideal for me because 1) with the brake permanently mounted I could not fit it inside my longest rifle case, and 2) I still like the idea of being able to use my bayonet.

I remedied this by calling Witt Machine leaving a message with the receptionist. I received a call back from the president of the company (it turns out the receptionist is his wife), and when I explained the situation he said -- and I paraphrase here because it's been nearly a year -- "Yeah, it should be fine with just the socket and screws. That's how we test each of them before we ship them. The Loctite is just an extra layer of security. But if your brake fails, send it back and we'll replace it."

I am pleased to report that my muzzle brake has yet to fail, and I don't think it ever will, either.


This muzzle brake is supposed to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise up to 70%. While I cannot accurately speculate as to how much recoil it reduces due to all the other recoil-reducing gimcrackery I have on my Mosin, I can tell you that it does indeed kick less. In a previous post I noted that Oleg Volk said I had managed to drop the recoil down to that of an AR-15.

I'm not sure if I would go quite that far. What I will claim, however, is that this brake eliminated nearly all of the twisting, bucking and jumping antics that drove me crazy. (No joke: every time I fired it, the rifle would jump up about an inch and 2-3 inches to the left. This made re-acquiring my target at 100 yards a severe annoyance.)

If you shoot corrosive surplus ammo, you know the importance of cleaning. One of the first things I thought when looking at this brake was "I bet all those vents and baffles make it a pain in the rear to clean."  I am pleased to say that I was completely wrong about this, and here's why: I can take the brake off and stick it under hot running water, or soak it in a pot of boiling water, or just spray the heck out of it with solvent. Then I just wipe it down, possibly apply some CLP to it, and it's ready to go again.

However, if you glued it to your barrel, you're probably not going to have a fun time.

My Rating: A+
I encourage every Mosin owner to get one of these. Not only does it help tame your beast to make it more fun to shoot, the brake is just as rugged as your rifle. It's easy to put on, easy to take off, and its multiple methods of securing it make it clear that its designer is serious about it not coming off during operation. The fact that it also has a 100% lifetime guarantee further demonstrates that the manufacturer believes in its reliability.

The brake mounted on a certain infamous 91/30.

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #23

Episode 23 is out and ready to impress!
  • Sean reveals that he's been reading short stories on the internets, and he tells you where to find them.
  • I tell you about my Twelve "C's" of Preparedness.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses Foreign Policy Fails
  • The recent incidents of SWATting are making Miguel Gonzalez angry.
  • Barron B. pours cold water on the idea that cops are going to search your home with radar.
  • Weer'd explores the frequent anti-gunner refrain that "There's no such thing as a law abiding gun owner." 
  • And to top it all off, hosts Adam and Sean talk about the hidden gun rights message in Disney's hit movie "Frozen." 
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Check it out. And don't forget to share with a friend!

Musings Upon a Missed SHTFriday

I had a truly awful headache on Friday that culminated in me crawling into bed for 6 hours until the pain went away. Naturally, this left me unable to write my scheduled Blue Collar Prepping article.

Fortunately, I was prepared for such an emergency, and called up a guest post. Titled "A Prepping Guide for Beginners," it lists 4 easy things you can start doing right now to get prepared for emergencies and disasters, and I encourage everyone to go read it.

Entry is always the hardest part of a hobby-lifestyle, and a lot of folks are overwhelmed at the prospect. With prepping, the normal desire to get it right is compounded with the fear that getting it wrong could result in disaster, injury or death.  This is one reason why I rail against shows like "Doomsday Preppers"; it presents extreme outliers as if they were the gold standard and anything short of that is failure, and that's simply not true.

If you have a camping backpack that has a tent, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, some food, and the ability to start a fire, you have preps and you are immediately much better off than anyone without them. That backpack is now your core; build around it. Add to it, bit by bit, as much as you can afford. I've been prepping since 2009 on a budget of around $30/month (not counting Christmas and birthday presents) and I have quite a respectable bit of gear. I'm certain I could survive a tornado, a hurricane, or a forest fire, and could exist in relative comfort until help arrived or power returned.

I'm still not sexy enough for Doomsday Preppers to notice me. And that's fine, because that program is sensationalist crap. It promotes bad practices (breaking Operational Security by appearing on a nationwide TV program, for starters) the way women's magazines promote unhealthy self-image.

In conclusion, I heartily recommend new preppers check out David Blackard's Wednesday articles. David is a fellow with a limited budget who is essentially re-building his supplies from the ground up. While his articles may not be as entertaining as the others, they are packed with good information on how to be a stingy prepper.

I'm going to close with David's signature farewell" Remember, Some is always better than None!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Salem's Shameful Sci-Fi Secret

I'm going to be upfront here. I don't like Star Wars.

Let that sink in. I'm a big Doctor Who fan (obviously, if you've been keeping up with me here). I love Star Trek. Especially Deep Space 9. I've been reading Marvel, DC, and a few of the indie companies for decades now. I even keep up with the lore behind Transformers (not the Bay films, pls). But Star Wars has never really resonated with me for some reason.

I remember, as a kid, seeing the films on television around Christmas or Thanksgiving, depending on what part of the world I was living in at the time. I'd seen, through bits and pieces, but probably never the whole way through, the entire original trilogy, albeit not in the proper viewing order either due to never actually having sat down to watch them and whatever various bits got cut out for commercial breaks. I got a bit swept up in the Episode 1 hype. I mean, being a nerd, I was supposed to be excited, right? Star Wars, in the theaters, for the first time in my lifetime. I didn't camp out waiting in line or anything (I hate queueing. Avoid it at all costs), but I visited some friends who did on opening night. And when my friends and I went to go see it, we threw popcorn up in the air and cheered appropriately when a giant spaceship flew across the screens for the first time. I pity the usher who had to clean up after that showing.

The hype died shortly after seeing Episode 1, of course. Didn't end up seeing either of the latter films in the prequel trilogy until much, much later. I still don't think I've seen Attack of the Clones the entire way through, due to falling asleep pretty much every time I attempted. I've probably seen the RedLetter Media Plinkett reviews more than I've seen the actual movies. For the record, they're right. Lucas is a maniac that needs to be reigned in sharply.

Only.. I think I might like Star Wars. A little, at least. I clearly know that I'm not fond of the aspects of it that are Sword & Sorcery In Space. I can't stand the Jedi Order. They strike me as hypocritical, repressive, overly judgmental, and prone to propaganda at least as much, if not more, than Palpatine during his power play. I've never been fond of stoic warrior monks at the best of times, and when they have a council with executive power in government, that just rubs me the wrong way. I have a feeling that I'd need fitting for a cybernetic arm regularly if I lived in the Star Wars universe for very long. Temptation to mouth off to a Jedi would just be too much for me.

And I won't even get into my theory about how movies 2-5 could have been avoided if Obi-Wan hadn't been such a dumbass right now.

So I recently sat down and watched the Classic Trilogy and, worryingly, I could clearly identify things that I enjoyed. Mos Eisley. Jabba's Palace. The Millenium Falcon. The Cloud City of Bespin. Lando Calrission. Boba “What Exactly Did I Do To Justify All This Fan-Worship” Fett. The bounty hunters on Vader's ship. And the lynch-pin of all of these elements: puckish rogue Han Solo.

I realize that while I dislike a majority of Star Wars, what I'd really like is a series of films about Han Solo. The world of smugglers and bounty hunters, alien crime lords and blockade runner ships. I want a movie where Han didn't so much shoot first, but didn't even give Greedo the chance to fire. Given my relative unfamiliarity with the Star Wars canon, I'm open to suggestion if anyone's got a good recommendation on any Solo-centric stories, visual or print, I might enjoy.

In the meantime, I made a physical concession to the series.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All right, that's it

I have had it with the complaints and the inability for Disqus to have a proper coloration that matches the background. As of this moment I basically have two choices:

  1. White text on black background
  2. Black text on white background
And since I've already gotten gripes about white text on black, I've gone with this. If you have problems with it I don't want to hear them, because this is the default coloration for books and the internet. 

(No, I'm not getting rid of Disqus, I find it too damn convenient.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sweet Buttery Eris Lays a Deuce on Me

People often ask me "So Erin, why are you a devotee of a chaos goddess when you can't stand uncertainty and hate drama?" and I frequently reply with Goddammit it's 3:30 in the morning get out of my lingerie drawer I just got it organized. 

But I think the real reason I follow Mother Mayhem is this: 
  • I'm not sure she exists.
  • I'm not sure ANY deity exists, if I'm being honest, as they all seem to ignore me
  • But bad things seem to happen to me anyway, so it helps to put a "human" face to them. 
  • This way, when life shits on me, I can go "I am so blessed! Lady Chaos is showering me with her love and affection!"
  • And I end up not taking it as personally, because it's like Eris is Overly Attached Goddess and this is just how she is. At least I've got a deity paying attention to me, even if it's incredibly dysfunctional, yeah?

Case in point:  Today I woke up to the dulcet tones of "Oh, good morning Tech Support!"  Before I'd even had my coffee, I had to fix the family computer that kept booting to the Windows Recovery Utility. I am not awake enough, nor drunk enough, to deal with this shit. 

I pop in the Vista disk and see if I can fix it. The Startup Repair tool says "Dude, ain't nothin' wrong here."

Oookay. I try to do System Restore from last good known save point... and it still boots right back to Recovery Console. 

12 hours later...

Well, I've managed to figure out how to clear the Admin password and unlock the account, which means that I'm making progress. But clearly there's something wrong with the partition, because when I type DISKPART at the command prompt, I get this:

when I should get something that looks like this:

Gee thanks, Mama Mindfuck! I really wanted to be doing IT stuff all day instead of writing. And hey, the big steaming crap you took on me is keeping me nice and toasty warm. 

If there's any good side to this, it's the fact that it's nice to periodically remind The Colonel that I do serve a purpose in this house, and that if I weren't here he'd be spending money on tech support that would take the computer for days and not really care if they fixed it or not. I, on the other hand, am invested in this, and while I try to fix it he can use my laptop to check his email. 

Oh, Eris. Why must your love sting like hate?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Free Ice Cream Delayed

I spent the day working on a paying gig.  I'll try to have two posts up tomorrow.

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #22
Episode 22 of The GunBlog VarietyCast is out!

  • I gives my thoughts on the perfect water bottle.
  • Nicki Kenyon talks about the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea.
  • Miguel Gonzalez reminds us that if you're not planning on acting like a grownup when you lobby, just do us a favor and stay home instead.
  • Barron B. explains why Leap Seconds can lead to computer problems.
  • And Weer'd Beard finds two anti-gun bloggers who try to dance in the blood of the Paris terrorism victims.
  • Plus Adam and Sean have a few choice words for those Yankees who like to talk smack about how Southern folks handle snow. 

Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Don't forget to share it with a friend!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday, Pony Sunday

I'm not impressed with this new season of Mythbusters. I was told that by cutting the build team, there would be more attention to science and that we would see how the experiments come together.

Instead, I see rather a lot of padding as Adam mugs for the camera and they try things over and over. And then we see them from different angles doing it all again. And then there are the annotations which flash so quickly that if I want to read them, I have to hit "pause".

Do you know what would make me happier? If they replaced the entire cast with ponies.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Two related thoughts on an idle Saturday afternoon

One of the problems of being a lesbian shopping for clothing is that I have to keep asking myself, "Do I like this dress because the color and cut would look good on me, or do I like it just because the model looks really cute wearing it and I find myself sexually attracted to her?"

I'm curious if gay men have the same problem.

Apparently there's this pop song being played in a Diet Coke commercial, and it has the lyrics
You're so cute I wanna wear you like a suit
I think you'd look pretty good on me

I have two questions about this.
  1. Am I the only one who hears this in the context of "I want to wear your skin"? It really sounds less like "I want to be inside your body for sexy fun times" and more like "I want your flesh as clothing".
  2. When did the body-swap fetish become mainstream enough that it was okay to reference it in a Diet Coke commercial during prime time?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Simple Contract in Plain Language

Count Drugula (see previous post) was an NPC in my Traveller game for over a year. When the PCs met him, half of the party was in jail for accidentally tear-gassing Starport Authority Security (long story) and he was hired as their lawyer to get them out on bail.

Of course they met him a bar. Why would you even ask?

Anyway, several play sessions full of hijinks later, the PCs were looking to replace the ship they'd lost (longer story) and asked him to be their patron. Why they thought this was a good idea is unknown to me, but this is the same group who later installed the Turbo-Encabulator on their ship on the principle of "Hey, the science is sound", which tells you that they make poor life choices pretty regularly.

In fact, I made this for them last August:

Made at

Back on topic:  the PCs wanted a filthy-rich noble of a party disposition to be their boss and buy them a ship. The Count thought about this and gave a counter-proposal, which they accepted.  Reading the terms of the contract should give insight into how his mind works:

Yes, during the course of play the Count did make demands regarding where to fly, or what to do. The PCs were often drafted into roles as bodyguards, entourage, and flunkies. The Count also got them into trouble about as many times as he got them out of it.

Sadly, Count Tobias Stavelot is no longer part of their adventuring group. As a result of a botched encounter with an active Ancient base and a functioning, genocidal AI, the Count was trans-speciated into a Droyne along with most of the planet's inhabitants. (Even longer story).  He is now quite happy as Leader of Leaders on Fulacin, his psionic powers restored and his every whim attended to by an adoring population of lower-caste Droyne who now look to him for guidance.

God help the Imperium.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: the Count of Upward Failure

The following character is a long-running NPC from my Traveller game (now entering its third year of play). He started out as a thought exercise: What do you do when you roll a character with the stats 2, 6, 4, 2, 6 and 11?

You put the 11 into Social Standing, choose the Noble career, roll on the Personal Advancement charts to raise those horrible stats, and do your best to fail upwards. 

Tobias Stavelot,  portrayed by John Quale
If the rumors are to be believed, Tobias Albert Stavelot, first issue of Duke Walter and Duchess Helena Stavelot of Jewell, was born on Holiday (001) of 1028 and has never stopped partying. 

Growing up in the Ducal household of Jewell, Tobias ("Call me Toby") never seemed to mature into the man his father wanted him to be. Instead of becoming the professional soldier, administrator and politician that would one day one day inherit responsibility of administering Jewell Subsector, he instead possessed what can be charitably called "an artistic temperament" -- in other words, he was undisciplined, hedonistic, and fickle. 

It is believed that this was the result of a radical treatment performed upon him during his early teens. With the onset of puberty came indications of psionic aptitude at a strength that was both remarkable and rare. Needless to say, revelation of the Duke of Jewell having a psionic heir would have caused a scandal within the Imperium, and the proximity of Jewell to the Zhodani border might have resulted in the Stavelots losing their appointment and being recalled to Capital. 

Duchess Helena Stavelot,
portrayed by Audrey Hepburn.
Therefore, the Duke (against his wife's wishes) insisted that his son have all traces of psionic ability purged from him. This was accomplished through what was, essentially, a very precise chemical lobotomy. The doctor who performed this procedure assured the Duke that there would be no noticable brain damage, but in hindsight it was apparent that Tobias deeply missed his psionic connection to the world. Having been robbed of a sense he considered vital, he spent the next 16 years in the pursuit of such vice and chemical stimulation that it would make Hunter S. Thompson blush. 

He became the media darling of the Jewell cluster in the style of Lindsey Lohan crossed with Paris Hilton: famous for being famous, a glorious trainwreck of debauchery followed by the tabloids, equally envied and laughed at by the populace. Were it not for his doting mother, he might very well have been disowned by his father; instead, she exerted her influence with the media to keep his worst excesses off-screen. She believed that he simply needed to come to terms with who he was now, and she allowed him to indulge his vices while providing him with a security detail to prevent any harm from coming to himself or others. 

She was eventually proven correct: by age 25, Tobias decided there needed to be more to life than becoming trashed every night, and asked his father for an internship within the Jewell Diplomatic Corps. When asked what he could possibly offer as a diplomat, he answered "Father, you may know politics, but I know people. I understand vice like you understand war, for I have lived it nightly. Even heads of state let their hair down from time to time -- after all, I have seen the galas you and mother have thrown. Tell me, what would it profit you if I could show an ambassador such a good time that he was predisposed to agree with you?"
Duke Walter Stavelot,
portrayed by Campbell Scott

The deal was struck, and Tobias entered the Diplomatic Corps that night. The press immediately dubbed him the "Count of Upward Failure," and he embraced the term unironically, even going so far as to change his noble title to Le Comte Raté vers le Haute.

For nearly 30 years he did, indeed, manage to fail upwards, essentially a weaponized Keith Richards (with a Carouse skill of 6) who greased the social wheels to subsector politics. At some point along the way he actually became an acceptable diplomat and half-decent administrator, even going so far as to earn a law degree. As a reward for his service to the Imperium, he was granted the family vacation home on Mongo which he turned into a Casablanca for visiting dignitaries. So great was his effectiveness that he became known as "Count of Mongo", despite the fact that the planet never warranted any noble greater than a Baron, and he ceded his inheritance to his younger brother, Eneri. Tobias stepped down to become a mere a Baron of Jewell, and Eneri Stavelot became the heir-apparent. 

Then, in 1081, disaster struck. It's unfair to say that the Count started the Fourth Frontier War. It's more accurate to say that a lapse of judgement led to an indiscretion with a Zhodani ambassador's daughter, which caused said ambassador to return home in a huff. This chilled relations between the two polities, and therefore when tensions arose over the Imperium reopening the Naval base at Quar, diplomatic relations were at a significant low. It is believed that the Zhodani perceived Quar as provocation piled atop insult, which is how the shooting began. 

After this debacle, it was suggested that Tobias quietly retire and leave Jewell cluster, as even his mother's influence could not protect him from backlash. And so, the Count of Upward Failure left to travel the Imperium and sample all the forms of hedonism he could find.

The Most Honorable Tobias Albert Stavelot, 
Le Comte Raté vers le Haute, 
Count of Mongo and Baron of Jewell
Carouse-6, Deception-3, Diplomat-3, Persuade-3, Admin-1, Advocate-1, Blade-0

"My dear boy, I have eaten, drunk, injected, snorted, absorbed and imbibed every substance known to humaniti. I have fucked my way across entire star systems. Once, I even buggered a K'kree. Do not bore me with your pedestrian vices, for I seek the nirvana of stimulation itself." 

Count Tobias (known in some circles as "Count Drugula") has an encyclopedic knowledge of vice. In many cases this gives him rudimentary knowledge of chemistry (drug interactions), medicine (hangover cures), anatomy (pleasure zones), and the like. As a rule of thumb, if a skill roll can somehow be derived from hedonism, allow him to roll half his Carouse instead. 

The Count has very extensive augmentation; in addition to body mods (muscle & bone lace, subdermal armor, advanced antibodies, etc) and mental augments (dedicated neural computer to aid in memory and access to library data), all of his internal organs are cutting-edge biotechnology. The ostensible reason for this is to make him immune to poison and overdose, and allow him to keep entertaining guests when a normal human body would give out. The real reason is closer to "He would have died long ago from abusing his body if his mother hadn't ordered this." At this point, he can metabolize practically any toxin, and probably urinates pure LSD. 

He has been on a steady dose of anagathics since joining the diplomatic corps, as have his parents. Between that and high-TL medical procedures, his appearance is that of a man in his perpetual 30s.

As a result of the medical procedure which burned out his psi aptitude and decades of abusing mind-altering substances, he is immune to telepathy. Oh, his mind can be read, it just returns garbled nonsense, like tuning in to a scrambled television channel. Prior to his indiscretion, he had the best relationship with the Zhodani of any diplomat: they knew he was hiding nothing from them, and yet there was no danger of him revealing any state secrets to them (largely because he didn't know anything of value). 

The Count is fabulously wealthy, with assets totaling over 20 MCr. Nearly all of this is in investments and property, which grants him a lifetime income of 100,000 credits per year for doing absolutely nothing. Some of this money he banks, and some he gambles with, which means that at any given moment he could have several MCr in his pockets, or he could be completely broke. In the rare instance that happens, he practices Imperial law out of a rented starport office (which starport? It doesn't matter) in order to pay his bar tab. 

The Count can be a patron, a foil, or a rival (or all of the above) to Traveller PCs. 

Playing the Count: Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow (a.k.a. Johnny Depp's Keith Richards impression) cosplaying as either Hunter S. Thompson or Denny Crane (from Boston Legal). 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Gunday: This is a dumb, useless thing

I am a Second Amendment Activist. This means that I am enthusiastic about the right to carry a weapon and the right to defend myself (and your right to defend yourself). However, this does not mean that I believe everyone must carry; that is a personal decision and one I will not force upon you. I simply believe that you should be able to make that decision in the first place.

Or, as I like to put it, "I'm not trying to put a gun into your hand. Please do me the same courtesy of not trying to pry my pistol out of mine."

And then I see something like this, and it makes me fear for the future of our species:

From the offending company's website:

  • These devices are for those who wish to feel protected but do not want the hassle of owning an actual firearm
  • PCD's require no background check or permit since they are not actual firearms
  • Store doesn't have your favorite ammunition in stock?
  • Want to wear in a parking lot and stow away in purse once you've reached your destination and not fear a discharge? 
  • Don't want the fear of young children finding a loaded weapon by mistake?
  • Give your unarmed security staff a more authoritative presence
  • Shop owners concerned about robbery
  • Know someone who could benefit from carrying a handgun, but aren't safety conscious?
  • Don't want to be approached by a criminal element? As you can see, the uses and possibilities are endless.
Don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that may not be used? The all in one piece construction of these devices addresses all of these hurdles while still allowing for the benefits of open carry.
Personal Carry Decoys, or Personal Crime Deterrents are designed to provide a "strong" defensive posture to those who wear one and has the look of a live weapon. Remember, Perceived Carry is all about the perception that you are ready for business and let's face it, perception is reality.
Be intimidating. Be protected.


  • Safe one piece construction, device does not come out of holster
  • Life-like appearance of actual firearm
  • Comes with holster that includes a belt loop
  • Increased level of protection associated with open carry

I... you... what?

Look, I'm going to make this really easy for you: If you don't want to carry a gun, then don't carry one. It's that simple. 

If you think owning a gun is a hassle, I'm not going to judge you: there are lots of things I don't own because they're a pain in the rear to maintain or are otherwise more work than fun. But for the love of all that's holy, do NOT strap a toy gun to belt to make you feel more protected.

Don't. Just... don't. Would you like some reasons why?
  1. Guns are not totems. They do not magically keep you safe by their mere presence; you have to know how to use them, and more importantly, you have to have the will to use them. Everyone who carries a pistol for self-defense knows, at some level, that they may need to take a life in defense of themselves or another. This is an intensely personal decision that they make every time they strap that holster to their body. Carrying a piece of inert plastic requires no such decision and no such will; it has all of the protective juju of a lucky rabbit's foot. 
  2. What are you going to do when a criminal sees the fake pistol and decides that either you get shot first, or that he will take your weapon from you? (And believe me, if you aren't mentally prepared to shoot someone for realsies, carrying a plastic totem is not going to give you confidence and an anti-crime aura. The most you will look like is an easy victim with a high-value item.)
  3. Carrying openly?  See #2, above, only magnified. You might as well be a 100 pound nerd in an 80s movie with taped glasses and a sweater vest. 
  4. Carrying concealed? I imagine you don't have a permit, since carrying a real gun is too much of a hassle. Tell me, how do you think the police will react if they see a gun-shaped bulge and you don't have a license for it? Do you think they'll laugh at the all-in-one plastic design and say "G'wan, ya joker, get outta here"? Or do you think they will confiscate it, likely write you a citation, and possibly arrest you for carrying something that a reasonable person would think is a concealed firearm? 
  5. As a gun owner, I am held to a higher standard of behavior. I must keep my cool, because if I have a freak-out and threaten (or attack) someone, and the police are called, simply having a firearm in my possession makes things worse. Someone who owns a toy like this won't have that mindset. That someone might lose their cool and say something like "I'll kill you!" to another, who might rightfully feel threatened by someone wearing a gun delivering death threats. See #4, above, for how the police will likely respond to that. 

Please, don't do this. Carrying something like this is only the illusion of safety. It's like saying "I am afraid of kitchen fires, but I think owning a fire extinguisher is a hassle, so I'm going to get a plastic fire extinguisher instead. It will give me confidence when dealing with situations where a fire might occur."

If you're going to carry a gun, carry it for real and accept all of the "hassle" that comes with it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #21
It's time for another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast!

Adam and Sean host another riveting episode:
  • I talk about Light and Fire.
  • Nicki Kenyon drops in to talk NSA and Edward Snowden.
  • Miguel Gonzalez chats about what lessons we can learn from Paris.
  • Barron B. sees some computer hacks in the wild.
  • And Weer'd takes note of the anti-gunner blood dancing over the poor woman in Idaho accidentally shot by her child.

All that and more, so download, listen, and subscribe. And don't forget to share it with a friend!

Listen to the podcast here,
Show notes may be found here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

SHTFriday: More Posts About Bug-Out Bags

Oh, wow. So apparently not only did I forget to post the link to part 3 of my bug-out bag series for Blue Collar Prepping article on Friday (I'm postdating this so it shows up properly in the archives, but I'm actually writing this on Sunday), I also forgot to do the same thing for part 2 as well. Sheesh!

All right, then. For consistency's sake:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

From the Archives: Seashells

Hi everyone. Still on vacation. Next week resumes with new material, but here's a bit I wrote involving one of my favorites series of all time. One of the few pieces of fan fiction, you might say, that I've ever written. Video included for context if you're not a Mass Effect fan. 

In a reality sideways from our own, some details were different about the Reaper War. Some lives that were sacrificed in our timeline were spared, and some lives spared were ended prematurely. This is one such story.

     About an hour before the last light gave up on the beaches of Nevos, Doctor Mordin Solus squatted carefully in the sand, taking an inventory. As was often the case, Solus was lost deep in thought, and muttered to himself in half-song, half scientific jargon.

I've studied species mollusk, horseshoe, and exuviae

I'm quite good at conchology as a subset of zoology

because I am an expert which I know is a tautalogy

     Mordin picked up an especially interesting specimen, an Asari mollusk that grew abnormally large in Nevos's freshwater oceans. He turned it over in his hands, his primary finger tracing the coils affectionately.

My phylogeny studies range from aquatic to agrarian

Appreciating gastropods and cephalopods and scaphopods

In short, in matters purely mollusk and crustacean, I am the very model of a...

     “Hm. Last verse...problematic. Oceanographer too long. Marine Biologist clumsy....ah!” He hissed to himself with the pleasure of finding the solution.

I am the very model of a malacologist Salarian!

     Mordin looked up, spotting the red-haired woman in Alliance blues.

“See? Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.”

     With a barely suppressed grin, she tactfully replied, "Mordin...have you thought of learning a new song?"

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Because I dislike leaving good material on Facebook

So my friend Moe Lane gave us this delightful phrase when he saw that Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her retirement:
If you listen, you can hear the faint sounds of Democratic politicians all across California as they get up from their breakfasts and calmly go to open up their weapons caches.

Which led to the following exchange on Der Lederhosen:
X: You don't HAVE a democracy- you have a democratically elected Republic.
Y: We have capitalism, which trumps any elections.
Z: What red/white/blue animal logo would represent the Capitalist Party?

My response to that question brings us to here, my aforementioned good material:

I'm going to make one hell of an obscure reference 
and say "a hand turkey".

Don't let me down, internet. I know that at least one of you is going to get this. Please please please get it. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WNW: This is specifically for my friend Jennifer

No, not the wife of the holstermaker. Another Jennifer.

Because she said this:
I'm not a praying gal but thank God for two things today: one, that it's not -30 today, and two, that the carwash hose exploded on ME and not a customer!!!
I therefore give her this:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year, New Look

So, as you may have noticed (unless you read this by email or a feed reader), I've changed the colors a little bit.  I felt it was time for a change, and enough people have told me that they found the white on black painful for their eyes that it was time to try something new. Hopefully the light gray will be easy enough to read while still indulging my desire for dark colors.

Fewer of you may have noticed that a while back I experimented with removing Disqus from this blog. The short version of the experiment is that I didn't like the results: I lost very useful functionality and gained nothing in return. I had hoped that by removing it I would get more commenters (because comments are the preciousss to a blogger) but that didn't happen, so now Disqus is back. If you are one of the folks who has tried to leave a comment and has failed, I apologize;  I had no problems registering for a Disqus account. The only solution I can offer is for you to email me (erin dot palette at gmail dot com) and I will personally help you set up your account.

And... that's about it, really. My allergies are kicking my butt, and I'm inexplicably sad, so no real content out of me today. I mostly did administrative work here and at Blue Collar Prepping, but that's at least something accomplished.

Would you like to cheer me up a bit?  Please head over to BCP  and add yourself to the Followers and/or Networked Blogs widget. Seeing large numbers of followers cheers me up for some silly reason.

Thank you, goodnight, and hopefully the free ice cream will resume tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Palette's Product Review: Tacticool Products' Buffer Cylinder

I have written previously about Tacticool Products' Sub-200 accessories: I have their Bolt Tube Cover and I love it a lot, despite having to engage in some jiggery-pokery to get it installed (more information on that procedure here). But have held off on buying their Recoil Reducing Buffer Cylinder ($9.50 and free shipping) for years because of its inherent "If I install this, I cannot lock the bolt open" drawback.
And then I shot 100 rounds through my Sub-2000 without a recoil pad, and my shoulder ached for several days afterward. It was at this point that I thought "Being able to lock the bolt open isn't worth this discomfort. Besides, it's just ten bucks; what can it hurt to try it out?"

I installed it in time for my "East vs. West" ammo review, and let me tell you: It is so worth the money. Shooting 100 rounds with the buffer resulted in no shoulder ache the next day. And yes, while this same effect can be gained with putting a Limbsaver pad over the stock of the Sub-2000,

  1. You can't fully fold and lock the Sub-2000 with the recoil pad in place (but you can with the buffer cylinder);
  2. A recoil pad adds length to the gun and friction when shouldering it;
  3. The buffer cylinder is cheaper than a recoil pad to begin with.

My Subbie, which is already fun to shoot, has become an absolute pleasure with this new addition. It's inexpensive, it works well, and it's easy to install. I don't know how many cycles it will last, but per the website:
The expected service life exceeds the expected life of the SUB-2000, and the buffer cylinder has the same lifetime warranty as the SUB-2000. If the buffer cylinder ever fails, send us the buffer cylinder for analysis and we'll immediately ship a replacement.
In my opinion, all of this is well worth the ability to lock the bolt back, plus, there are workarounds to that:
  • At the range? Fold the carbine in half. I've yet to find an RSO who will insist that the Sub-2000 is unsafe in that configuration. 
  • Working on it at home? Pull the stock pin to release pressure on the recoil spring. 
Either way, your problem is solved. 

My Rating: A+
If you own a Sub-2000, get one of these. It's an inexpensive add-on that ranks right up there with with the Extended Operating Handle in terms of improving your shooting experience.

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #20
It's the first podcast of 2015!
  • I make recommendations on knives.
  • Nicki Kenyon discussed the recent collapse of the Russian Ruble.
  • Miguel Gonzalez asks me some questions about my recent IDPA shooting.
  • Barron B. tells us what he thinks about biometric security.
  • and Weer'd explodes yet another gun grabber myth.
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. And make sure to tell a friend!

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

Friday, January 2, 2015

From the Archives: Ruminations on the Fallacy of the Friendzone.

 I'm taking a week off, busy stuff in preparing for a visit from a friend, so here's something I wrote about 2 years ago. Always interesting to look back, because at this point I think I still considered myself feminist, but the label was beginning to crack.

Old meme is old.

Before I start, male and female in this post are used arbitrarily. Men do this to other men, women do it to other women, and both genders to it to each other. Even educated bees do it. That said, I'm trying to avoid any cries of sexism or gender-bias, but the he/she mechanic really is the easiest way to address this.

The internet is a wonderful place. It really is. It's birthed some of the greatest ideas, and allowed others to grow. It's given a voice to people who otherwise wouldn't have one, employment to those who would otherwise be shut out of inclusive industries, and entertainment to those who are tired of the same old cliche from aforementioned industries. It's allowed people to express themselves in positive ways without fear of repercussions, but it's also allowed some pretty negative ideas to flourish as well. And with every negative idea, there's a knee-jerk response.

There has been a recent escalation in the occurrence of the 'friendzone' meme, countered by an 'anti-friendzone' meme. The perpetrators of both of these memes seem to be laboring under some pretty severe misunderstandings. I'd like to say there's nothing I can add to it, but the one thing that neither side has been able to bring to the table so far has been reason. Given this premise, I have points I'd direct to both sides in this particular conflict.

To the pro-friendzoners: The picture has a point, if a very one-sided one. Just because you're nice to a girl doesn't mean she's going to have sex with you. There has to be chemistry, and that chemistry is required on both parts. If it's not there, it's not there, I'm sorry to say. This may mean that she sees you as just a friend, or it may mean that she really wants nothing to do with you and she's either too polite or doesn't want to feel guilty about telling you to piss right off. Either way, you didn't end up there because you're nice. You ended up there because a) biology doesn't like you, b) you're not assertive enough, or c) she's just not that into you. The best thing you can do in this situation is move on and look for someone that's going to show as much interest in you as you do in them, and reciprocate those feelings. Back up off of her until you feel comfortable being her friend again, if she truly wants that. If not, don't force it. Find someone who's really going to be your friend.

 To the anti-friendzoners: Most guys realize they're not working off of a scratch-card or tokens. There's a pretty under-represented part of the population that only incidentally wanted to sleep with you because they view you as an interesting person and want to have an emotional relationship with you. As is with most things, sex is part of that. So when you let them know you can't see them as any more than just a friend, don't get pissy and complain about this mythical friendzone idea they have in their head, because there's every possibility they're hurting and need time away from you before they can act like a rational human being in your presence. Your feelings may not be there, but theirs still are, and it's pretty inconsiderate to go "yeah, sure we're still friends" and expect things to automatically go back to the way they were before they manned up and told you how they felt. On the other hand, yes, there are guys who are the "nice guys," complete with air quotes, that complain about being friendzoned. Just be honest with them, explain your position, and if need be write them off.

This entire headache is just one more cancer that I place squarely on the shoulders of that awful Friends show. If they hadn't popularized the term, it wouldn't have taken off, and men wouldn't hate women for valuing friendship, and women wouldn't hate men for having feelings and not being able to handle them properly. The more I think about this, the more it makes me think of that rather "enlightened" view of how patriarchal society hurts men as much as women because of the whole 'man up and hold in those emotions, don't let your sadness and misery show otherwise you're less of a man' guff that we've been feeding men for the last five or six decades.

Or, I'm sure we'd have found another way to do it without the word "friendzone."

Long story short? Yes, there are people who tell other people "yeah sorry, let's just be friends" and don't mean it. And there are guys that walk away as soon as they realize they aren't gonna hit that, then joke about the whole friendzone thing. But this whole pro/anti-friendzone thing has gotten out of hand. You want to handle it? Open a dialogue.

This has been partially prompted by some shitty writing in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. I really wish Anthony Burch would stop using Mister Torgue as his personal mouth-piece. He was a good character up until a certain point, then just got annoying.

SHTFriday: Guess what fits inside a Power Pot?

Go over to Blue Collar Prepping and find out!

The Fine Print

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