Friday, February 27, 2015

SHTFriday: Prepping and Magic: the Gathering

In perhaps my geekiest column yet (well -- maybe not here, but definitely over at Blue Collar Prepping), I compare assembling a bug-out bag to building a Magic: the Gathering deck, and it makes a surprising amount of sense.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Morales vs Thor: A Study in Contrast

Pardon me while I plug in my waffle iron once again. This really should be the last time that have to bring up female Thor.

In fixing my poor education on the subject of Peter Parker, I've recently read through the last half of his Ultimate Spider-Man run, into the second volume that culminates in the death of Peter Parker and the rebirth of the character of Spider-Man as Miles Morales. It's something that echoes and contrasts nicely the difference in the handling between Miles Morales and the mystery female Thor.

The main contrast between these two situations is the respect in which the handover from seasoned hero to rookie newcomer is handled. In Spider-Man's case, there was an epic six-issue final battle in which Normon Osborn, as a hulked-out Green Goblin, escapes SHIELD custody, springing some of Spidey's biggest and baddest adversaries in the process and begins a hunt that ends at Aunt May's house. Spidey, Human Torch, and Iceman face off against Goblin, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, and Kraven. Parker is particularly heroic, having just survived being shot through the torso taking a bullet that was meant for Captain America, as he webs himself shut and drags himself to the battle, before crushing Goblin with a truck. Aunt May even gets a shining moment of awesome as she shoots Electro down with her own revolver. And in the end, Parker is given a magnificently noble send-off, in which a young boy is standing in the crowd watching as the life slips away from him, and he finally makes peace with being unable to save his Uncle Ben. A young boy named Miles Morales.

Morales's uncle is the Ultimate universe version of The Prowler, a professional burglar (that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Deadpool) who does a job on Oscorp labs only to unwittingly provide a ride to an enhanced spider that ends up biting his nephew. The first 10 or so issues, as far as I've read, of Morales has him treating Peter Parker's legacy with awe and reverence, and rightly so. He's a young kid, younger even than Parker was, coming from a different background and a different life experience. His Uncle Ben moment comes when, after discovering his powers, he gets to the scene of the final battle too late, and blames himself for Parker dying. His appearances are initially met with hostility, then slow acceptance, particularly with Jessica Drew, Parker's female clone and Spider-Woman of the Marvel Ultimate universe. Morales has a natural and believable amount of self-doubt for someone of his age. A palpable sense of “Who am I to take Spider-Man's place?”

Pictured: The Absorbing Strawman
Pictured: Character Assassination
on a female villain.
The new Thor... does not take this approach.
Contrasting between
Morales and Thor, one subject is treated with a great deal of respect, where the other is not. Where Parker got a hero's death, and a supporting cast that transfers into the new character's life to both keep him grounded and teach him how to be Spider-Man, Thor gets none of these benefits. Where Morales is both well-established and likeable, the new Thor is flippant (in her own mind) and arrogant (in addressing other characters). Morales's book shows minority characters interacting naturally with one another as well as established characters while Thor's book turns a pair of established villains into a strawman anti-feminist critic and a pushover girl-power cheerleader. We get to know Morales as a human being and as a budding hero, where Thor just plops a stranger in front of us and says “We're not going to tell you who this is, but you're going to like her whether you like it or not!”

And finally, Parker is treated with respect. Given a hero's death and a lasting legacy. Thor is turned into a drunken layabout with a deified case of depression. Ultimate Spider-Man is how you go about replacing a hero. Thor is how you go about disrespecting your own property and alienating fans for clickbait attention.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WNW: Machine Gun Antics

This video seems to be making the rounds of the gunblogs, and since Wednesday is my "phone it in so I can write for money" day, I figured what the hell:

h/t to Joe Huffman for the link.

Speaking of machine guns, here is the cutest little full-auto I've ever seen:

I want one of these so, so much. Even if the ammo expenditure at current .22LR prices makes me weep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Starship Weapons Revisited

In a Traveller group I frequent, Ian Stead said "MGT missiles are weak, 2d6 is far better damage."  This got me to thinking, and as my players know, bad things happen whenever I think.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

My thought was, quite simply, "How game-breaking it would be for Mongoose if all missile damage increased +1d6?"  This is a question I have to approach carefully, because I'm already experiencing some arms inflation within my game.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I like having triple particle beams, and don't see the need to fix errors that Mongoose introduced into the system. However, this did have an unforeseen side effect: If a single particle beam does 3d6 damage, then a triple turret does 9d6... and so why would anyone install a 50 ton particle bay that only does 6d6 damage?  

My initial inclination was simply to increase damage, but it was pointed out to me that, due to math, this would result in bays that were ridiculously powerful. The other simple option was to invoke Rules as Written and say "OK, only one particle beam per turret."  I didn't like this option, either, as it resulted in too may ship refits.

I eventually worked out a compromise which came about as a result of me hashing it out with my players. This was fun, because while they benefit immensely from 3 particle beams in a turret, they also know they lose if they make things too powerful. This is because their GM plays by the rule of "If it works for you, then it works for everyone else in the game," and I've already proven I am far more evil than they are.

So here are the rule adjustments we came up with:

Turret Weapons
  • Separate weapons within the same turret may be fired independently, or linked to fire at once. 
  • Linked weapons must be of the same type and have the same upgrades.
  • Linked weapons require only one roll to hit.
    • If that roll succeeds, all linked weapons hit, and in the same location, meaning all damage is delivered at once. 
    • If that roll fails, all linked weapons miss. 
  • Unlinked weapons may fire individually. 
    • Individually fired weapons roll for damage separate from each other. 
    • One unlinked weapon missing still allows other weapons to roll to hit. 

Bay Weapons
  • Due to the focusing components, power supply, and other apparatus within a bay, each 50 tons of bay gives a free upgrade. 
  • This upgrade stacks with others due to technology. 
    • Therefore a 50 ton bay could have Mega High Yield (all 1s, 2s and 3s on damage dice are counted as 4s), and a 100 ton bay could have Ultra High Yield (1234s become 5s). 
    • Or you could stack 2 double upgrades where you normally couldn't, like Accurate and Variable Range. 
  • Bays become more versatile, and while scary hopefully aren't game-breakingly powerful. 

Hero class Trader fires! by Drell-7

So now that I've told you what we've worked out, let me muse out loud about Missiles.

My biggest complaint regarding missiles is that a lot of combat -- or at least the combat I've run -- takes place at such distances that missiles can be quite leisurely intercepted before they reach their targets. Zero time-to-target energy weapons are preferable to me, both for dramatic pacing and because they require less bookkeeping.

But missiles are a part of Traveller, and I can't just stop using them. And since I've already written two different posts about them, it seems a waste not to use them.

The problem here is that missiles are both slow and weak -- a nuke does as much damage as a beam laser (plus some radiation damage) and basic & smart missiles are the same as pulse lasers. It seems like they ought to have a damage boost, but I don't know what the repercussions would be. Torpedoes, aka "heavy missiles", are currently 4d6 damage... with nukes being 3d6, would they require an upgrade? Or are they fine as they are?  I don't know.

Finally, I think that missiles are just too damn easy to shoot down. I have a notion that Smart missiles ought to be able to "evade" point defense via a roll... perhaps rolling 2d6 vs. the point defense gunner, with the higher roll winning? It  would certainly make Smart missiles smarter, and would counteract their vulnerability to ECM spoofing (which is a weakness their Basic brethren lack), but does it make them too smart?  I don't yet know.

I think these notions are worth investigating. But what do YOU think? Leave a comment below. Let's hash this out!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Gunday: Firearms and Fashion

Recently on Der Lederhosen, I was introduced to a new friend (hi Rinnie!) who knew nothing abut shooting, but wanted to learn how . It turns out this new friend is actually shorter than I am -- I know! I was shocked as well! --and at 5'2.5", she had difficulty getting her hands around most pistol grips at her first trip to the range.

She felt bad about this, and then I busted out a peculiar bit of Palette wisdom that I've been saying for years. I thought I'd said it on this blog, but a search doesn't turn it up. So let me lay it on you now:

Erin's Firearm-Wardrobe Analogy (EFWA)
  1. Picking out a gun is like picking out clothing at the store:  You need to try it on before you take it home with you. 
  2. Much like good clothing, the fit of a firearm can be tailored to an individual. The more you pay, the better the fit. Go cheap, and one size will have to fit all. 
  3. Long guns are like coats: Really, you're more worried about the style (caliber/ magazine capacity/ semi or bolt) than you are about whether or not it fits. Yes, shorter people need shorter guns with shorter lengths of pull, but that's the same as finding the right size coat to fit your shoulders. Once you find the right size of the style you like, generally all of those coats will fit you all the time. 
  4. Pistols, however, are like shoes: Intensely personal choices that need to be worn, and what suits your friend with identical measurements might not suit you at all. Walk around with it and see if it's comfortable; it might be the right length but too wide, or slightly too small for comfort, or maybe that one protrusion rubs uncomfortably. Test as many as you can, and be as picky as you want, because ill-fitting shoes and an ill-fitting gun are both terrible things to have to wear. 
  5. To further the analogy: ammunition type/ weight/ pressure compares to heel height, sandals vs. pumps, etc. Sure, you can experiment with different rifle rounds, but the mass of the stock will eliminate the felt difference between most. But change the grain weight or the pressure of a handgun cartridge and you're likely gonna feel it -- just like you'll feel the difference between a two-inch heel and a three-inch. 
  6. Finally, purses = holsters. You're going to acquire a ton of them to go with your various outfits. Some are old favorites you'll return to over and over; some will go with only a few ensembles; and some will be worn once, then tossed into the closet to gather dust. Accept this, embrace it, learn to live it. 
While there will never be any agreement on what constitutes a firearm version of a Little Black Dress, one thing is certain: While individual fashion sense varies, fit and function are fundamental. 

Don't suffer for the sake of firearm beauty!

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #27
Episode 27 is up!
  • Adam and Sean celebrate their new logo:
  • Erin Palette helps out when Sean needs advice on what he should have in his prepper pantry. 
  • Nicki Kenyon reminds us that despite all the talk of 50 Shades of Grey and Gwyneth Paltrow's steaming nether regions, ISIS is still slaughtering people. 
  • Miguel Gonzalez and Sean argue about "Real Guns." Pro-tip: Don't get a Taurus Judge. 
  • Barron B. tells us all the interesting things we can do with the $35 Raspberry Pi computer. 
  • and Weer'd deconstructs the anti-gunner mythologies about so-called "waiting periods." 
Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

This looks really, Really, REALLY COOL

These were brought to my attention and they look super-nifty keen.

Similar in use to the Drama Deck from TORG, but made for D&D/Pathfinder, they allow a player to salvage a run of crappy luck with a one-time use card. And they can be given out as rewards for good roleplaying or being clever without worrying about breaking the game.
It's also similar to 7th Sea's Drama Dice mechanic, whereby whenever a player uses a card to improve a roll, that resource is turned over to the Game Master to be used to make the players' lives more complicated.
Plus there are ways to "power up" by trading in a set number of cards to draw from the Epic Hero Deck.

Everyone who plays D&D or Pathfinder really should consider backing this project -- and it's already fully funded, so you aren't going to get a broken heart by supporting a lost cause! I am looking forward to getting my hands on some and seeing what kind of change it brings to a game.

Go to their Kickstarter page and see what else you can unlock!

Friday, February 20, 2015

SHTFriday: Apocabox Unboxing #4

My newest video (featuring only my sexy, sexy hands and my sexy, sexy voice) is up!  Go to my article over at Blue Collar Prepping and see for yourself what goodies came in the February Apocabox.

I apologize in advance for my sexy, sexy sniffling.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Law & Order: Humiliation Game

Oh.. looks like the revolution was televised.. What's a camper?

Crime procedurals are not a favored genre of mine. I have not regularly watched one, save Elementary (because the funny cranky British man!), since my ex-wife would have them practically on non-stop repeat. Law & Order, NCIS, CSI, Homicide, you name it, she watched it. So some of it soaked in, through a form of virtual osmosis if you will, to the point that I know that Ice T is still not a good actor, that CSI is completely bonkers, and that Law & Order is not Law & Order without Jack McCoy and Lennie Brisco.

“Intimidation Game” is the 342nd episode of the 407th season of Law & Order: SVU, a show that people watch because it tickles their scandal bone, showing them things that they shouldn't find titillating as a good, decent person, yet they do. Sex crimes. You'd think of all the things that people would protest as demeaning, victimizing, and objectifying to women, Law & Order: Sport Utility Vehicle would be at the top of the list.

“These guys.. they just.. can't stand Women in Gaming

Rather than a blow-by-blow of the episode, there's a few things I want to focus on. Firstly, the reaction that the games press has had to this has been nothing short of hilarious. The tl;dr of the story is that there's a game developer, Rayna Punjabi, making a sort of strategy/MMO. She's totally focused on the game, to the point of downplaying the threats, avoiding gender politics discussions, and refusing police protection. Her launch is interfered with, she's kidnapped, raped, and in the end leaves the industry in tears. Games media reaction to this has been split. Some sites are doubling down, saying that these are events that have actually happened (they didn't). Some, maybe recognizing the irony, are bewildered as to how the public at large could have gotten that impression of gaming. Self-awareness levels at an all-time low, the gaming press has been writing this script for the last six months. When Law & Order says “ripped from the headlines,” it's the gaming press's headlines they've been ripping this story from.

“I read on Kotaku that it's better than Civ 5 with the Brave New World expansion pack.”

The thing is, I actually really like Rayna Punjabi. She's allegedly supposed to be a mix of famous names on the anti-GamerGate side, specifically Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian, being a female games developer, a “face of women in gaming,” and fond of large hoop earrings. The actress even nails line delivery and hand gestures from a certain XOXO festival speech. But despite all that, I don't see it. In fact, I see the opposite. She strikes me more as a Kim Swift or Jade Raymond.

“There's always a few haters in the mix.”
“I block [the haters out] and focus on the game.”
“You're roping me into a feminist debate, I'm here to discuss my game.”
“You have officially warned me. I accept full liability.”

This is a woman who's totally focused on her game. And that game actually looks pretty good. It's not a glorified power-point presentation or eye-destroying iOS game. It looks like a proper grand strategy world-building title on the level of something Peter Molyneux would promise us but never deliver. Rayna's not interested in gender politics or 'social justice,' despite at one point being called a 'social justice warrior' by the anonymous internet gamers (dressed in masks and standing in front of a flag – Gamers are Literally ISIS, anyone?), and the anonymous internet gamers cry of "NO SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GAMING" is completely out of place here, as there is literally no one pushing any ideology in this episode save the writing staff. Which makes the ending even more insulting, not only to gamers, but to women in the gaming industry who are more focused on making an artistic product instead of stirring up drama and getting their own names out there at any cost. Women like Amy Henning, Jennifer Dawe, or Roberta Williams.

“No reset button in the real world."

I can only imagine the lens of critical theory applied to this episode. Not one but two Damsels in Distress. Rape used by a character to punish another character. Not to mention the name Rayna Punjabi itself, being used for a character of middle-Eastern descent. Sort of like having a British character named Johnny English. Completely divorced from real-world context, giving the Feminist Frequency treatment here would be brutal. 

In the end, though, this episode is so over the top, so completely ridiculous that I don't see this harming gamers, at least not any more than the gaming press has done in the eyes of the public. But the dialogue, the moral of the story... I think what we're looking at here is the Reefer Madness of gaming. A story written by people so hopelessly out of touch with the subject matter with the sole intention of fear-mongering that it falls flat on its face, and only serves to (hopefully) make the people writing the headlines it was ripped from stop and reflect on their own positions. Still, it doesn't hurt to remember that despite how insane Reefer Madness was, marijuana is *still* not legal in most places.

So I suppose I'll leave you with a slightly relevant, friendly message of tolerance and acceptance from one of the stars of the show, Ice T, in which no white women are mercilessly gunned down with minimal to no provocation. I certainly hope that fans of this can tell the difference between a game and the real world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Day

Here's how I spent my afternoon:
  • 2.5 hours spent driving my father to the VA clinic in [city several counties over.]
  • 1 hour spent sitting in the waiting room as he is seen.
  • 2.5 hours spent driving home.
At this point I think I would welcome a rectal exam, if for no other reason than to say to the doctor "Since you're already down there, would you mind pulling on my tailbone to put it back into place?"

Or, if I wanted to be saucy, I would say that my coccyx needs a good tug.

I should probably add a rimshot at the end of that, but I'm pooped and don't want to seem excessively anal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: 3 Merc Cruiser Variants

So I was writing some flavor text for a Traveller project I'm not yet allowed to talk about, and one of the things I needed to write about was the 800 dton Broadsword-class Mercenary Cruiser. During my research, I realized the following:
Image by Jesse DeGraff, who sadly
took his blog down ages ago. 
  1. It's really poorly designed, and that's before taking the goodies from High Guard into account.
  2. It has a design flaw that popped up during the conversion from Classic to Mongoose: 800 dton hulls now only need K-code drives to reach jump-3/3G performance, not the M that's listed in the core book. This frees up 20 dtons of space, not counting powerplant fuel. 
  3. This design could be turned into an orbital bombardment platform really easily. 
Therefore, you get variants!

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

Mace-Class Mercenary Lander
Art by Ian Stead

Look, this whole business about the MC not being streamlined and therefore not being able to land on planets with atmospheres is just silly, so let's add streamlining into the design.

While we're at it, let's turn it into a reinforced garrison so that the marines have a safe location they can fall back to at night by giving it bonded superdense armor, some medical facilities, and a nuclear damper. A briefing room and a brig just make sense here, as does using barracks instead of staterooms for the marines.

Now that it's on the planet, let's turn it into a forward firebase as well. Better electronics and controls means the missile launchers become missile artillery for the ground units, and the laser & sand turrets become anti-aircraft/anti-personnel defenses. Probe drones aid in reconnaissance.

Art by William H. Keith, 1980
Oh, and let's add some fuel processors so that the ship isn't forced to capture a starport after landing.

Yep, I like that. Sure, it increases the cost of the design by nearly double, and it doesn't include the cost of ammunition, spare cutter modules, APCs or other armored vehicles, hiring the mercs, outfitting them with arms, armor and ammunition....   overall, completely outfitting this thing will probably cost about a billion credits, and that's not even counting interest on the mortgage.

Still, it's quite an effective little Beachball of Doom, innit?

Ballista-Class Ortillery Platform

Art by Ian Stead
All right, so the first thing we do is we rip out all the barracks space and use that for ammunition. This gives us a LOT of room to play with. We keep the electronics, screens and armor add-ons, because it's likely to be a big orbital target. Armor remains crystaliron in order to keep the price, but if you want better protection for the tonnage and don't balk at a difference of 24 million credits, go for it.

The probe drones have been subsumed into the Survey Sensors -- and yes, the Ballista has two sensor suites available. Survey sensors are used for scanning the planet and setting up recon and communication sattelites, and the Countermeasures are used for targeting ortillery strikes.

60 tons of storage are retained for cutter modules to grant flexibility. Common modules are:
  • Weapon system (converts cutter to gunship)
  • Sensor platform (a 20 dton TL15 military countermeasure suites turns a cutter into a spy craft and communication repeater)
  • Screen (Meson screen or additional nuclear damper)
  • Small craft bay (cutter becomes mothership for one 20 dton (or two 10 dton) fighters
    • Alternately:  Lose one of the cutters and cut a hole in the top of the cutter well. This gives 80 dtons of space for fighters, although staterooms will need to be added for pilots. 
All of this is less expensive than the Mace... but that doesn't include the cost of ammunition, either. 

Speaking of losing a cutter and putting that space to better use, let's install a 50 dton bay weapon in the cutter well and use the tonnage allocated to the spare module as a magazine for it.

The Trebuchet has 90 railgun slugs. An ortillery slug does 8d6 damage... but that's starship-scale damage.  For personal scale (like people and vehicles), roll that damage and multiply it by 50.

It also has 144 ortillery missiles, but they only deal 4d6 damage.

If you wanted to make this beast even more frightening, you could strip out the second cutter and either add a second 50 dton bay, or replace them with a single 100 dton bay, but then you'd have to make this ship streamlined so that it could perform frontier refueling.

Happy mercing!

Art by Ian Stead

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why I Carry: One Reason Out Of Many

I missed yesterday's Monday Gunday article due entirely to tomfoolery on my part, so I'd like to rectify that by encouraging folks to head over to Kathy Jackson's excellent Cornered Cat blog and read what she posted there today.

Her first paragraph:
In the video below, you’ll see an incredible event: a machete-wielding attacker literally hacks his way through a locked apartment door. The resident does what he needs to do to protect himself and others in the home. It’s like a scene out of a horror movie — but most directors wouldn't use the footage, because what audience would believe that a door could be so flimsy? Or that someone with a machete would hack his way through it? Nevertheless, this really happened.
If you're not already subscribed to her blog, I encourage you to go there now and give it a read. It will be a quick read, and the embedded video needs to be seen to be believed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #26
Has it been six months of podcasting already?
  • I tell listeners how Doomsday Preppers is designed to make everyone look bad.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses the 2015 National Security Strategy.
  • Miguel Gonzalez wants us to get our heads right by reading some good self defense books.
  • Barron B. talks about how two factor authentication needs to come to banks.
  • and Weer'd scores an interview with Joe Huffman about the Seattle Smart Gun Symposium and how so-called "Smart Guns" aren't really all that bright an idea.
  • And of course, Adam and Sean continue to execute their host duties flawlessly.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

SHTFriday: the 12 C's of Preparedness

By popular demand, an extended text version of my Gun Blog Variety Cast segment from a few weeks ago. Go read the whole thing

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

No More Peter Parker

Oh so much to talk about lately..
So the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown just a little more grander, as Sony and Marvel have finally reached an agreement to share Spider-man. Which I'm more than a little glad to hear, as Sony's been spinnings its wheels pretty hard trying to get Spidey over again, and it continues the trend of Marvel gobbling up its properties since it struck out on its own and started being profitable again by making the mostly excellent MCU films and live-action properties such as Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD.

Yay, right? ...right? Truth be told, I've never really been a fan of Spider-man.

Pictured: Me not being a Spider-man fan

Ok, well, let me specify. Peter Parker kinda bores me. He's a nerdy guy with super powers that talks a mile a minute when he's in the mask. Parker really just doesn't do it for me. I appreciate his prominence and his importance in not only the storytelling structure of the Marvel universe, but as one of the faces of comics to the world at large. I mean, the man's got his own 3D theme park ride (which is pretty fun – I got to ride it a few weeks ago. Only complaint is that it runs at 30 frames per second). He's had one of the longest-running comic books of all time, more animated series than even Batman, multiple feature films (even before super-hero movies really took off) and video games, etc, etc.

Almost all of it focused on Peter Parker. I really can't see how people can't be suffering Parker burnout at this point, especially given the 5 feature films over the last 12 years focused around him. By the end of the first movie, I'd already gotten sick of Tobey Maguire's doughy, weepy face and I'd never liked Kirstin Dunst as Mary Jane. Andrew Garfield actually made me start to like Parker, and Emma Stone is perfect in nearly anything (shout-out to the far superior Gwen Stacy), which makes it a little bit of a shame that we won't see these two back again for a third film. Marvel's looking at rebooting the franchise yet again for the MCU, which irritates me to no end.

But some of Spidey's supporting cast is really interesting.

So here's the Spider-film Salem would make. Spider-man already exists. No origin story. We know how it happened. That ground has not only been covered, but it's been paved, re-paved, and turned into a freeway, hit by a comet, abandoned, then turned into renewable farmland. So not only do we go in with the premise that he's already been Spidey, but that he's worked with the brains of the MCU already. He knows Tony Stark, he's butted heads with Nick Fury, done a back-flip off of Cap's shield, and been terribly awkward around Black Widow. He's older, more experienced. He's still Peter Parker, but he's much further along in his career. I mean, at this point who hasn't seen at least the last two films?

Cue the twist: Anya Corazon. The current Spider-girl is a character I'm actually quite fond of. Her dad was friends with the Fantastic Four. She's worked alongside some of the best in the Marvel U, and she's faced down some pretty hefty threats including the Red Hulk. So we re-align some of the events and people in her life to fit. 

And she's the gosh-darn Spider-girl

As previously discussed, Parker's established. He regularly works with Tony Stark. Her father, who was friends with Reed Richards in the comics, is now the go-to reporter for Stark. So let's say there's an attempt to get to Stark by the Sisterhood of the Wasp through Happy Hogan. Hogan's attacked by them, and as we all know he's not terribly adept at physical combat, so he's taking a beating. Anya, on her way to meet her father, is with Hogan, and jumps in the way of a kill-shot. Hogan calls it in and Stark and Parker show up as backup in full costume/armor. Anya's fatally wounded, but Stark thinks he has an answer..

Through a combination of a blood transfusion with Parker and Stark engineering, Anya's life is saved and she's enhanced with powers similar to Parker's. We skip most of the mysticism of her original powers as well as the “Spider Island” origin of her current powers, and tie her and Parker into the current MCU. Additionally, if Marvel wants to skip turning General “Thunderbolt” Ross into Red Hulk, we can use Banner's Hulk (any excuse for more Mark Ruffalo) for her to play off of and just compress the Ravens and the Sisterhood of the Wasp into the same storyline and have Parker mentoring her while they and Hulk take out the Wasps.

This would also set her up as a secondary character in the Captain Marvel film(s), sort of like Black Widow in The Winter Soldier, as she's regularly worked with Carol Danvers as both Ms and Captain Marvel. Granted, this is all in my head, and I sincerely doubt Kevin Feige is reading Erin's blog, but if he is..

Call me, Kev. We can make this work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


So, I sliced the hell out of my left index finger last night.

No, I wasn't being careless with a knife. Some idiot* left a razor lying face up under a pile of things, and when I reached down to grab things from that pile to sort them, my finger caught and dragged across the blade at just the right angle to slice off a wide strip of skin from my fingertip. It's not deep, but it's broad, and it hurts like a mofo (because it's on my fingertip, where so many nerves are). Imagine a skinned knee, but on my fingertip instead.

It also bled like a stuck pig, soaking through bandages like crazy. I managed to stop it last night by wrapping it in several paper towels** and taping them in place because Band-Aids just weren't up to the task. But when I changed the bandage this morning (because I couldn't get anything done with a freaking clown nose around my finger), it started bleeding again.

This is the second bandage, applied by a family member. You can see how the
cotton is completely soaked through.  You DON'T want to see the first bandage. 

I say this not for sympathy (although I'll gladly take well-wishes) but to say the following:
  1. Don't bury sharp things under other things. Just... don't
  2. It's amazing how much blood a superficial cut can make. My bathroom looked like an abattoir by the time I was finished. 
  3. It's really hard to open first aid supplies without an index finger. Band-aids, apparently, need two functioning hands to properly open and apply.

*Sadly, I was that idiot.

** Why not gauze? Because as I discovered last night, it's hard to open those glued paper packages with just one hand and a couple fingers from the other. It's even harder when blood is running down my hand, dripping everywhere, and generally getting that paper wet so that it just tears off in little pieces like soggy tissue. Paper towels, meanwhile, I could just grab and rip off by the handful.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Walking Dead and the Law of CBM (spoilers for 2/8/15)

And by CBM, I mean "Conservation of Black Men."

Now before I begin, let me make something clear:  I'm not calling the writers of The Walking Dead racist. I'm NOT. They've killed young and old, black and white, male and female. It's just that I've noticed this pattern and I wonder if anyone else has, as well?

First there was Morgan Jones, in the very first episode ("Days Gone By"). He's a neat character who I wish we'd seen more of (and hopefully we will if he catches up with the group this season), but he stays behind when Rick goes to Atlanta. This gives us a Black Male Value of 1.

However, the BMV of the show doesn't change, because even though we've lost Morgan we meet T-Dog in the next episode ("Guts"). Sadly, T-Dog doesn't do a hell of a lot for his entire run and his character is never fully explored, despite being on the show for two seasons.


In the second episode of season 3 ("Sick"), our intrepid group of survivors goes to the Prison and finds several inmates inside. This is where we see the Law of Conservation of Black Men in action, as three of the characters (Andrew, Big Tiny, and Oscar) are black and, at this moment, any of them could join the group. But within that same episode, Big Tiny is killed and Andrew becomes a villain, fleeing from the group. This sets our BMV to 2.

Big Tiny

The next time we see them ("Killer Within"), T-Dog is killed by walkers and Oscar takes his place within the group. The BMV is reset to 1, and the LCBM is observed to be constant.

In episode 8 ("Made to Suffer"), Oscar is killed when the group assaults Woodbury to rescue a captured Glenn and Maggie. Later that episode, we first meet Tyreese, but he is not accepted into the group due to Rick flipping out, and so Tyreese goes to Woodbury. The BMV stays at 1 for the duration of season 3.
By season 4 I'm already aware of the LCBM, so when we're introduced to Bob Stookey I'm convinced he's going to die horribly that episode ("30 Days Without An Accident"). I think perhaps the writers are aware of this as well, and so they spend a good chunk of the season messing with us, making us think Bob is going to die at any moment: trapped under a shelf of booze to be eaten by walkers, getting alcohol when he should be getting supplies, generally annoying the group, etc.

Miraculously, Bob survives the entire season, which means that the BMV has permanently been set to 2. I think this is mainly due to the fact that Bob and Sasha make an adorable couple, and this gives Tyreese a family he can look after... which means the stakes are upped as now even more heartache can be inflicted upon these people as the things they love are ripped away.
This brings us to season 5, and in the second episode ("Strangers") we are introduced to Father Gabriel Stokes, who is both a priest (Episcopalian) and a black man. Much like Bob, in his first few episodes we wonder how he's survived this long and when he's going to die... but there's always the possibility that he can pull a Bob and increment the Black Male Value by one.  Does he?

Nope. Bob is captured in that same episode, and he's dead by the next. Both the BMV and LCBM remain constant.

In episode 4 ("Slabtown"), we are introduced to Noah. He's a bit of a statistical anomaly in that he isn't part of the group, but is rather a prisoner held by the same people who captured Beth. Later he escapes, and even later he meets up with Darryl and Carol. He doesn't join the group until episode 8 ("Coda"). BMV temporarily rises to three...

... and then, in episode 9 ("What Happened and What's Going On"), the LCBM reasserts itself and Tyreese dies in what is probably the best and most touching farewell episode ever given to a character.

Again, I'm not asserting racism. I am asserting either lazy writing or a deliberate attempt by the writers to screw with us.

Look, basically what I'm really saying is this:
  1. The moment Morgan catches up with the rest of the group, someone's gonna die (right now it's even money between competent-yet-injured Noah and  Father Gabriel the moveable feast)
  2. If the survivors ever run into another Asian male, I'm going to be very, very frightened for Glenn's safety. 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #25

Episode 25 is up!
  • Adam, suffering from lack of sleep, still keeps up his end of the hosting duties. Sean remains unaffected. 
  • Erin Palette, deep within her Blanket Fort of Prepitude, talks about the difficult decision of with whom to share your preps.
  • Nicki Kenyon is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Miguel Gonzalez gives us some pointers on ammunition reloading.
  • Barron B. discusses why security should be built into computer design, not tacked on at the end.
  • And Weer'd shows us the depths that the anti-gunners will sink to in order to take away our civil rights.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to tell a friend!

Friday, February 6, 2015

SHTFriday: My Last Bug-Out Bag Post

Well, my last post in this series, I mean. I'm not specifically excluding any possibility of talking about BOBs in the future.

I do hope everyone enjoyed this series. At this point I think I've photographed nearly all of my personal preps (and that's a key word, personal -- I'm not going to show you any of the preps we have as a family, or what people other than myself have, to preserve Operational Security) and so hopefully I won't have to do any more of these long, image-heavy series in the future.

I hope.

Anyway, do go to Blue Collar Prepping and read today's article.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hipster Batgirl hurts me. Deeply.

(if you thought Female Thor bothered me, just wait..)

Gail Simone is one of my favorite comics writers. She's always found a way to work in interesting, complex characters (some of whom just happen to be female) into interesting and complex stories without ever being preachy about any beliefs she might hold in the real world. She's done some fantastic work on Deadpool (very hard to write for Deadpool without straying into lolsorandom territory) and fleshed out the Birds of Prey title, giving a lot of extra life and backstory to one of my personal favorite comics characters, Barbara Gordon. When the New 52 event happened in DC and all the books relaunched, Batgirl was relaunched as well, with Gail Simone at the head.

Not pictured: Stilettos, spandex
I was in a bit of an outrage at the time, as since Alan Moore's “The Killing Joke” ended with Barbara being shot in the spine by Joker resulted in Barbara's growth from Batgirl to Oracle, tech support and girl genius for the Justice League. She was the one the heroes turned to when they couldn't figure something out or couldn't get the job done on their own. She even proved herself still physically capable, sparring regularly with Nightwing and Black Canary, and defending herself from Prometheus when her clocktower base was compromised. The news that Barbara would be back on her feet and resuming her role as Batgirl, I was less than pleased. Like throwing things less than pleased. Gail Simone's writing was my one ray of hope and it just so turned out that not only was the series not bad, but was actually pretty damn good.

Simone took Barbara through hell and back, introducing new villains and teaming her up with some familiar faces, dragging her into the Death of the Family with the gruesome new Joker and squaring her off against (and finally redeeming) one of the Talons of the Court of Owls before bringing her face to face with her disturbed brother, James Gordon Jr.

And then Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher took over. The last few panels of Simone's final issue have Barbara deciding that she's got to 'get away from it all' and resume in Fletcher and Stewart's first issue with her moving to a trendy, hipster borough of Gotham called Burnside (think Williamsburg) and returning to college(despite having already earned several degrees). Leaving, bafflingly, the storyline with Batgirl wanted for murder and being a fugitive of the police unresolved, her brother still at large, and unresolved issues with both her father and her boyfriend.

What follows is an unprecedented tonal shift which left me with such a case of whiplash that I genuinely thought I'd picked up the wrong comic. This feels like an alternate universe or Young Adult title, and not at all like the issues that logically follow on from Simone's run. The art is simplistic and flat, not unlike a middling web-comic. The characterization is completely out of place. Barbara is overly awkward. Black Canary shows up and is so glum and grumbling that the artist might as well have just drawn a permanent storm cloud over her head. Simone's trans character(who is a good character on her own without straying near tokenism), Barbara's roomie Alysia is left behind. And in every goddamn panel is somebody wearing skinny jeans or horn-rimmed glasses. The complaints people have about this book being too hipster? Totally valid. There's Starbucks mocha half-caf skinny soy vegan latte and ironic disinterest dripping from the pages. There's hashtags and tinder references every other page. I think I know where they got their photo references from.

And the costume..
I'm fine with the costume. Honestly, in another context, it would be fine. A Young Adult version of Batgirl would be fine in this costume. But Barbara Gordon, in the last three years since regaining her complete physicality, has faced some serious threats, and a single layer of leather is not sufficient for someone who regularly punches out of her weight class. And it's almost like the author knows it, and is embarrassed, as in one of the first few issues of the new team, Barbara's nearly taken out by a cosplayer on a motorcycle with a sword when the costume gives way with one slash. And I've seen people say “Oh at least it's not spandex and stilettos.” **Batgirl did not wear spandex and stilettos**. Read the book. Read. The. Book. Batgirl had proper boots with armored knee covers. Teflon armor with impact resistant plates. Shock plates in her cowl. All those little lines on her New 52 costume? Those aren't sewing seams. Those are armor plates. Batgirl had some serious gear that took a budget to maintain, so don't tell me “oh the van caught fire so I have to make a new costume out of thrift store finds.” Fuck right off with that. Barbara Gordon is damned resourceful and smart, and fully capable of restocking her arsenal with or without Wayne funding.

Better yet, we know Misfit's in the New 52. Give that costume to her. It'll fit. Or have Stephanie Brown move into Burnside and have her be Batgirl of Burnside in that costume. It fits either of those two characters far better than Barbara Gordon, who is a professional crime-fighting vigilante. 

Most damning of all, Gail Simone gave us a very mature, very adult Barbara Gordon. One who faced hardships, betrayal, and devestation and still managed to pick herself up and keep going. Cameron Stewart's batgirl is two giggles and a hair toss from being just another god damn manic pixie dream girl, and that just does not sit right with me.

Oh, Salem, surely you're just overreacting..
I'm tickled that a cross-dressing villain (think Warhol with a Batgirl fixation) garnered him accusations of Transphobia from the SJW crowd after tweeting this. If that's what you think of Barbara Gordon, sir, you don't deserve to clean her highly-functional armored boots.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Writing, Thursday Publishing

This is something I put together Wednesday night, and then promptly spent the next 24 hours wondering if it was worth publishing or not. (This post actually went up late Thursday night.)

I finally decided that I would put this up on Patreon as Patron-only content. However, here is a free taste:
I love you,  she says, putting the pistol on the table between us. But we can't go on like this.

I stare at the gun in front of me. It's a revolver, all blued steel and walnut, the bluing starting to patina from age and the checkering on the grip scratched and worn from use. The barrel isn't pointing at either of us, it's pointing to the left; my left, her right, the handle such that I could easily grab it.

She's left-handed, so she could easily grab it, too.

I look up at her, confused. Her mouth is quirked in a half smile, half wry pout. I don't understand, I ask, my voice rising higher than I intended.

We can't go on like this. One of us has to end it.

I look down at the gun again. The hammer is cocked all the way back. I look up again, and my mouth does a fish impersonation, opening and closing silently, before I find my voice again. Why?

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Red Zone

A handout from my most recent Traveller game, when the PCs jumped into the interdicted system of Grant to refuel. Upon exiting jump, this message immediately played on the ship's comm system on endless repeat.


This system is interdicted by Imperial Law and enforced by the Imperial Navy.

At no time are you to approach the mainworld or scan the mainworld. Non-compliance will be met with extreme sanction.

All vessels within 100 planetary diameters of the mainworld must broadcast their credentials and leave at once, or be boarded and inspected. Non-compliance will be met with extreme sanction.

All unauthorized vessels within 10 planetary diameters of the mainworld may be shot down without warning.

If you require assistance, shut down all engines and transmit SIGNAL GK across all spectra. Be advised that falsely reporting SIGNAL GK is a crime and may result in fines, seizure of ship and/or cargo, and up to 10 years in prison.

All ships that wish to refuel are instructed to follow navigational beacons to gas giants. Staying longer than is necessary to refuel will result in boarding and inspection. Non-compliance will be met with extreme sanction.


This system is interdicted by Imperial Law and enforced by the Imperial Navy...

A text-to-speech conversion of the above message may be found here, if you wish to play it aloud for your game.

In my universe, messages such as these are played using synthesized voices just on the other side of the uncanny valley;  human enough to be recognizable, but artificial enough to remove any doubt that there might be someone behind the message capable of empathy.

An artificial voice also makes it easier to tailor messages as necessary (replace mainworld with forbidden location of choice, replace Imperial Navy with Scout Service, etc) with just a few button presses.

Naturally, any system interdicted by the Scout Service will have fewer "Comply or we will use you for target practice" threats, but you get the idea.

A similar message for Amber Zones, transmitted by navigational beacons, could be used to inform travellers of the nature and duration of the hazard. As this message would be made by the Traveller's Aid Society, the tone would be quite different... perhaps a pleasant female voice rather than the harsh male used for Red Zones.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday, Pony Sunday: Superbowl Ponies

So I came home tonight after my annual "Let's go watch a movie while everyone else is watching football" celebration to find that someone had posted "Well, we finally made it" to my Lederhosen wall, along with this video. If you don't feel like sitting through all of it, just fast-forward to the 35 second mark.

Super Bowl 2015 MLP Commercial by GradeAStuff

Yep, that's right: My Little Pony got a two-second segment during a freaking Superbowl commercial!

I'm actually a bit surprised they're ALL Colts fans.
Applejack strikes me as a Broncos kinda gal. 

What's more, that isn't a clip from the show.  It was specifically commissioned by the NFL for this commercial!  We have made it, indeed!

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #24
Adam and Sean bring you another amazing episode of The Gun Blog Variety Cast!
  • I remind you that putting all your prepping business on the internet is a bad strategic plan.
  • Obama goes to Saudi to King Abdullah's funeral. Nicki Kenyon gives us her thoughts on whether that was a good idea or not.
  • Miguel Gonzalez reminds us that just because it wears a police uniform doesn't necessarily mean it's an actual cop.
  • Download sites are serving up a big helping of crapware and this just irritates Barron B. to no end.
  • And Weer'd notes the PSH in the gun hater crowd when they found out that Kalashnikov was opening an AK pattern rifle factory in Pennsylvania.
  • And as a special bonus, Barron makes a book recommendation. 
All this plus a your regular favorite segments like Felons Behaving Badly, Strange Laws, and Fun With Headlines. Sean updates you on his progress in The Quest for Sharpshooter, and we finish with an especially ranty Stuff that Grinds My Gears.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to recommend us to a friend!

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

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