Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: TL7 Weapon Bays

So I was thinking (and thus begins a phrase that typically sends my players panicking), "Traveller has missile turrets and missile bays, and fusion turrets and fusion bays, and particle turrets and particle bays... why doesn't it have laser and sandcaster bays, too?"

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

Laser Bank 
(50 dton/100 dton)
TL: 7
Range: Medium
Damage: 4d6/7d6
Cost: 15 MCr./30 MCr.

Unusually expensive due to the focusing lenses and beam collimators needed, the laser bank is replaced by more efficient particle bays and double laser turrets by TL8. Until that point, however, it is the only beam bay available to low-tech spacefaring navies.

TL7 Laser Barbettes (Medium range, 3d6 damage, 2 MCr.) are available for non-capital ships.

Sandcaster Bay (50 dton)
TL: 7
Range: Close/Special
Damage: Special
Cost: 5 MCr.

Sandcaster bays are rarely seen due to improvements in armor and hull design, but they are still effective and are typically found on planetoid monitors, highports and other orbital installations. Deploying 20 canisters in a single salvo, these bays can fill the sky with sand and reduce damage from beam weapons by 20d6.

Loaded with chaff instead of sand, these bays can disrupt sensors, communications, and missile attacks, penalizing all such rolls with a -3 DM. Sandcutter rounds can also be loaded to disrupt enemy defenses against energy attacks.

It is rare for sandcaster bays to be loaded with pebble canisters, but it has happened and is devastating in the close-quarter scrum of a boarding action. At Close range only, a 20 can salvo of pebble rounds does 8d6 damage at ship scale. Against boarding parties, this is increased to 25d6!  Gunnery officers refer to this as "birdshotting".

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gun Blog Church Cast #32

Well it's official. We've quit guns and started a church. Our first fundraiser is up and we're looking to raise $20 Million so we can buy ourselves the Holy Five Million Dollar Pilatus PC12 Single Engine Turbo Prop Aircraft manufactured with care in Switzerland. Please give generously.
  • Reverends Adam and Sean execute their preaching duties flawlessly.
  • Sister Erin Palette tells us all how to re-purpose all those wine and champagne bottles we've got lying around into useful self defense tools.
  • Sister Nicki Kenyon explains the connection between money laundering and private jets.
  • Brother Miguel Gonzalez, using his unparalleled fashion sense, tries his best to impart a sense of style on Sean.
  • Brother Barron B. explains how with his help the GunBlog ChurchCast will have the finest digital security ever devised.
  • And Brother Weer'd tells us about that enormous threat to truth, justice, and the American Way, the Anti-Private Jet activists.
All this and more, so don't forget to download, listen and subscribe. And tell a friend about us. And give us money, don't forget that either.

Can I get an AMEN?
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

SHTFriday: the Spool Tool

Wow, two product reviews in one week!

Today, on Blue Collar Prepping, I review a nifty little gadget called a Spool Tool, and it not only holds your paracord, it gives you the tools you need to use it (a cutter, a rope holder for tying knots and melting the ends, and a place for a mini lighter).

Go to BCP and read the review!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the Matter of Mister Clarkson

So, as I'm writing this, I'm skimming through the BBC article announcing Jeremy Clarkson officially being sacked from Top Gear (and listening to a university lecture on Postmodernism, but that's unrelated... maybe). It's sad news, and I'm sure people are expecting me to rage against the dying of the light of a program that I've watched (and re-watched) for several years.

Thing is... they're not wrong. Sure, there were millions that signed the petition to keep Clarkson at the BBC on Top Gear. There were tons of people on the hashtag on twitter. Unspeakable amounts of support for him. But the thing is, the BBC was right to terminate him.

Clarkson had an altercation with a producer. There was a long day of filming, and there was no meal waiting for him when he was done, something that presumably his producer was responsible for. Clarkson is, by all accounts, a complete asshole, and didn't respond well to this. He went off on a tirade against the producer and then physically assaulted him. He even went so far as to turn himself in to his employers to report it. Clarkson did something wrong.

If this were just him saying something stupid again and another neo-puritanical moralistic outrage campaign, I'd be on his side. But it's not. He's still on his “final” warning from the BBC, or was until yesterday. And the thing is, I want the BBC to take responsibility for its talent. It has a terrible history of covering up internal problems. There are literally hundreds of potential cases of child abusethat the BBC covered up for decades in the wake of Jimmy Savile's death. To see them taking appropriate action in a clear case of wrong-doing, even though it may hurt to lose Clarkson, is a good thing.

Thing is, I can't say I didn't see it coming. And I can't say I believe it's not a coincidence that a year earlier, Clarkson sold his share in Top Gear for a frankly ludicrous amount of money. It's also heartening that apparently Hammond and May are refusing to go on without him. I have a sneaking suspicion that within a year or so, at least by the time that Hammond and May's contracts are up, we'll see them socking their own producers and taking off to join Clarkson on some Top Gear-esque production of their own.

This will not be the last time Clarkson's face terrifies us.
In fact, I'm calling it now: some sort of online-only digital streaming network, in the style of Top Gear, with Clarkson, Hammond, and May, putting out regular content, on-demand, for maybe $5 a month or so, with access to behind the scenes footage, specials, and probably 10-12 full episodes per year. With a model like that, the boys are likely to rake in much more than they'd be making on the BBC and have much more creative control over the end product.

In the short-term, it's heart-breaking to lose Clarkson, but I can only see this is a good thing, as it gives us an opportunity to let Top Gear grow beyond the constrains of the BBC. It's one of the biggest shows in the world, and it's not the BBC that made it that.

Top Gear can survive without the BBC. But it can't survive without Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Star Wars Anime

The Star Wars franchise has basically been dead to me since George Lucas' runaway goiter* took control of his mind and directed him to make the fractally execrable** prequel trilogy

But this?  This is cool. The Empire always did have the coolest uniforms and equipment.

Like Andew Eldritch said: "I think the great lesson of the 20th century is that you have to separate the ethics from the aesthetics. The Nazis did have the best uniforms, there's no denying it."

More information about the characters can be found in this PDF by the creator. Example: the Star Destroyer captain "is a big fan of fruit, and always offers fruit to underlings during briefings."  I find this oddly hilarious.

* Look, judge for yourself:

** Not merely execrable, but execrable on every scale, with pockets of small execrableness concealed within larger execrable masses; execrable from any analytical viewpoint, self-similarly execrable.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Kami-Kasi

This fellow was originally just a pilot sent up from the Ducal household to fly a ship down when one of the PCs requested a "combat drop". I chortled wickedly, and thus an NPC was born...
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Kasimir Jeannot Rothbauer was born on Jewell in 1060. He nurtured a passion for flying, and on a high-tech world where speeders and air/rafts were as common as ground cars, he was soon flying by the time most kids knew how to drive. He tried to join the Naval flight college, but his grades weren't good enough. Undeterred, he enlisted in the Navy in 1078 and was assigned to the Baumlaibair, a Ghalalk-class Heavy Cruiser.
In 1082 the Fourth Frontier War broke out, and a surprise attack by the Zhodani on the Jewell system destroyed the Baumlaibair and left many of the crew unable to escape its rapidly disintegrating hulk. Using his rudimentary flight skills, Spacehand Rothbauer was able to pilot a troop transport laden with survivors to safety, and then coordinated the rescue of others that were floating in vacc suits or survival balls. For his actions he was promoted to Ensign and awarded the Combat Command Ribbon and Meritorious Conduct Under Fire. 
Having demonstrated initiative and pilot skills, Ens. Rothbauer was tapped for Special Operations where he flew marine dropships under enemy fire. Due to his fearless nature and the speed at which he piloted his landing craft, he was awarded the call sign "Kamikaze" (a play on "Kasi," the diminutive of Kasimir). 

During a combat landing on Farreach, Rothbauer's dropship was hit by enemy fire and was forced to crash land. There were no fatalities due to Rothbauer's piloting, but he and others were seriously wounded. He was extensively rebuilt by the Navy, which did not wish to lose a war hero, However, the war was over by the time he returned to active duty, and so his squadron was put into reserve duty for the post-war drawdown. 
Now a Lieutenant, Rothbauer pushed to have his unit reactivated by engaging in aerobatics with transport craft. While his officers did not approve, the public delighted in the spectacle of large dropships moving in intricate choreography. Rothbauer was given command of his own squadron, the Flying Diamonds, which performed in airshows across the Jewell Cluster. This brought him much public acclaim -- he was the subject of multiple TV shows -- but it also earned him the enmity of his commanding officer. 

Promoted to O5, Cmdr. Rothbauer was given command of the entire group. As a result of daring decisions, jettisoning deadweight, and a "lead from the front" attitude, the 86th Jewell Combat Transport Group achieved its highest levels of efficiency and was returned to active status. Unfortunately, his commanding officer has been promoted ahead of him, and was able to steal credit for the reorganization. Disgusted by the politicking inherent in the higher levels of the officer corps, Rothbauer mustered out for the private sector after 24 years of service.

He was immediately approached by agents of the Ducal household, who were eager to recruit a photogenic war hero to be the Duke's private pilot. Promised the ability to fly expensive craft at the best of his ability for ridiculous wages, luxurious accommodations and -- best of all -- no politics, Kasimir Rothbauer became the chief pilot for the Duke and Duchess of Jewell. 

Kasimir Jeannot Rothbauer (Commander, Jewell Sector Fleet [ret.], MCUF) 7D888A

Notable skills: Pilot/6 (Small Craft), Pilot/6 (Starships), Pilot/4 (Capital Ships), Admin/2, Leadership/2, Tactics/2 (Naval), Battle Dress/1, all other relevant skills at 1

Equipment: Officer's sword (Monofilament), Advanced laser carbine with power pack, scout battledress optimized for vacuum operations (extended life support and grav belt).

Personal Augments: [Classified under Ducal seal]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Reviews: LaserMax Centerfire for Colt Mustang Pocketlite

As I mentioned last Monday, the Colt Mustang my father owns (and I shoot) had some issues with accuracy until I was able to add a laser to it. This is the review of that laser, the Centerfire by LaserMax ($139).

Installation and Fit
I am pleased to report that, unlike the Guide Rod Laser I reviewed in 2013, the Centerfire is a breeze to mount on the pistol: you just snap the pieces around the trigger guard and secure it with a single screwdriver. It fits snugly against the frame when installed.

The button to activate the laser sticks out a bit more than I expected it would -- 1/8th inch on both sides -- but it can depress at least half that before it turns on. I haven't had any problems with it catching on clothing, but there is the possibility that it might happen to someone else.

Other than that, there is nothing that might snag or catch when drawing the pistol.

I can easily reach the ambidextrous controls with my index finger. However, I have small hands and this is a small gun, so that's to be expected. I do not see how folks with larger hands might have difficulty with using it, other than the expected "Everything is small and my fingers are bumping into things unexpectedly." If that's a dealbreaker, then perhaps a pocket pistol is not for those folks, in the same way that large double-stack guns are not for folks with small hands.

This is where I began to have some minor problems with the product. Minor, yes, but this is a review and I'm nitpicky.

First, the laser is supposed to come "factory aligned at 10 yards," and in my experience it was off -- way, way off.  However, I had that exact same issue when I shot the Crimson Trace Laser Grip on my mom's Ruger LCR. I don't know if it's just my quirky luck or something else entirely, but every adjustable laser I have ever used has always needed to be adjusted, regardless of what distance they are supposed to be sighted in for.

Second, and tied inextricably to the first, is the fact that the laser is adjusted by set screws. What this means is that there is no immediate feedback regarding how much I have moved the point of aim; there is no "one click means one-quarter inch at X yards" like one has with scopes.

While this is understandable -- this is a small form factor we are dealing with, after all -- it does make sighting in the laser an exercise in patience and precision:
  1. Shoot gun.
  2. Observe that sight needs to be adjusted in X or Y direction. 
  3. Use tiny Allen wrench to adjust the laser the exact smidge needed to get it on target without going past. 
  4. Shoot gun again. 
  5. Readjust sights based upon new performance until it is sighted in or you say "that's good enough" and leave it. 

That said, even with the Centerfire's flaws, it gave me a huge improvement over iron sights at the same distance:
Still at 10 yards.
All shots  were made using a bench rest to eliminate variation due to shaky hands. 
Top: The holes in the middle of the picture are where the bullets hit before using the laser. Further holes in the top target are from me "walking in" the windage and elevation
Right: It was getting difficult to see where I was hitting, so I shifted here. You can see the groupings getting tighter as I tune things up. 
Left: This is where I go "Yes, that's good enough,"  as this pistol is meant for self-defense at close ranges and not for precision shooting. I then took it off the bench and shot a new target using my usual (unsupported) stance. 

This picture is my final target. Windage appears pretty much straight on (I figure anything an inch or less from zero is from poor technique on my part), but the elevation is still about three inches low, as you can see from the grouping below:
6" target at 10 yards. 

(The shots above the bullseye are from deliberately aiming higher. )

I decided this was good enough for two reasons:
  1. I'd already played the "up... up... dang, too high! Lower.... crud, I'm too low again!" game too many times and I was fed up with it. 
  2. If I'm going to be off in any direction in a self-defense scenario, low is the best direction to go. Too high, and I might shoot over my assailant's head; too far left or right, and I might miss. But if the sights say I'm aimed at his heart, and I actually hit him in the lungs or abdomen, I'll take that*. A non-fatal hit is better than a miss, and given the length of the human body I've got a nice big margin for error. 

Of Note
One thing to keep in mind is that the battery is a 1/3 N Lithium -- not exactly common, but neither is it nonstandard. This isn't an issue for me, so it doesn't affect my rating, but it might bother others.

My Rating: A
It does what says it does, and its ease of installation and use cancel out my nitpicks regarding having to sight it in. 

In my opinion, the LaserMax Centerfire redeems the Colt Mustang Pocketlite. 

* I think this the point where I'm supposed to use the term "acceptable combat accuracy".

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: LaserMax sent me this laser for review. They didn't ask for anything in return, not even a good review. Go away. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #31

It's time for Episode 31 of the Gun Blog Variety Cast .
  • A very caffeinated Erin Palette talks to us about "Springing Forward", prepper-style.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses our President's recent imposition of sanctions on Venezuela.
  • Speaking of Venezuela, Miguel Gonzalez reports on the incredible rate of "Express Kidnappings" in that country.
  • Barron B. wants us to know that bits rot, which can cause backups to fail.
  • and Weer'd gives that "Funny or Die" video a good audio fisking.
  • As always, Adam and Sean tie it all together.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

SHTFriday: Normalizing Prepping

In today's installment my my prepper column, I field some questions from a non-prepper in an attempt to explain why prepping isn't weird and paranoid, but normal and healthy.

People wear seatbelts when they drive cars and have smoke detectors in their homes. Preps are just an extension of that mindset.

Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

An Open Letter regarding #ChangeTheCover

As of the time this is published, indeed as of the time that I write this, I already know it's too late. The artist of the cover to Batgirl #41, under pressure from a mob of neo-Puritanical zealots, has requested that DC not use his artwork for Batgirl #41. I no longer have a dog in this fight, but I refuse to give up completely.

To Mr. Rafael Albuquerque: your cover was fantastic. It upset some people, and that's okay. It was supposed to. It was art, and art is often upsetting. And pleasing. And evocative, scary, titillating. And inspiring. And when it comes to Batgirl, it was inspiring.

Not because, as some complete numpties have suggested, because I as the reader was supposed to identify with the Joker and feel a sense of power over Batgirl. That's, pardon me, fucking ridiculous. How the hell do you seriously suggest that someone identifies with Joker? There's not just something wrong with Joker, there's very nearly nothing right with Joker. Another few mis-wired neurons, and the man would probably not be able to sit up straight or feed himself. Anyone who thinks that the audience is supposed to identify with Joker has something seriously wrong with themselves. And I welcome any accusations of ableism that statement brings.

No, Mr. Rafael Albuquerque, it inspired me because I knew by the end of the story, Barbara would overcome the fear shown in her eyes, and being the character I identify with in the book (that's right, neo-Puritanical zealots, a cis-het-white-dude can identify with a formerly disabled woman) that inspires me. I've had some really dark, really low points in my life, and it was around then that I picked up Birds of Prey for the first time. I'd had no idea what had happened to Barbara Gordon since the tragic events of The Killing Joke, but what I saw was amazing, and I fell in love with the character ever since. A lesser person would have allowed themselves to be relegated to the background, but not Barbara Gordon. She became even more indispensable to the DCU than ever. Seeing her on that cover, I knew she'd overcome her greatest fear: Joker and a gun. Because that's what Barbara Fucking Gordon does.

It's a human character that has one great, paralyzing fear. No pun intended.

I am shamed that you may have received threats and harassment over your commissioned artwork by the comics fans (the official word is you didn't, but I was watching the hashtag. I know what I saw), but I also feel that you're apologizing to the wrong people. I really don't believe it's the actual fans of Batgirl that are giving you grief over this. You had nothing to apologize for.

To Cameron Stewart: You didn't so much throw Rafael under the bus as you drove said bus yourself. And then backed up over him.And then drove for 17 blocks with him stuck to the undercarriage of the bus. Nice job.

Which leads me to DC: You've capitulated to the formless cacophony of people that not only weren't going to buy your product in the first place, but would likely have found something “problematic” with whatever you put out, even if it were a relaunch of Archie Comics where Betty and Veronica realize they don't need Archie, form a relationship with each other, then set out to smash the Patriarchal culture that Jughead reinforces.

I had empathy for you, though, up until now. It hasn't been easy, I know, watching Marvel drag itself out of the financial collapse, dust itself off, and become an entertainment powerhouse whilst simultaneously playing a long game at easing into diversity in a natural way. And you were catching up. It wasn't as fluid or as smooth as Marvel's changes, but it was there. When they stumbled with Thora (a blatantly unlikeable character that's only been positively received among those whose ideology is being blatantly pandered to). But following up Gail Simone's powerhouse writing with cheap-webcomic art and a writer that openly referred to the title as “sjw”? I'm not sorry anymore that it's resulted in accusations of transphobia and reinforcing rape culture.

By editorial mandate, you have undone years of hard work on a character that is very personal to me, and that's a bed I'm content to let you lie in. I was prepared to sit out Cameron Stewart's run and check back in when a new creative team took the lead, but since buckling to #changethecover, I no longer have faith in the creative direction that could possibly be taken. Any risk in storytelling will, going forward, be measured against the possible social media backlash by people that feel no connection to the character or her stories and wouldn't have purchased the final product anyway.

DC, my trust is broken. I'll go back and read through Birds of Prey again. I'll read Gail Simone's run on Batgirl again. I'll go back and read Batgirl: Year One, and even the Cassie Cain and Stephanie Brown stories where Barbara is mentoring them. I'll even go rewatch that painful Birds of Prey TV series for Dina Meyer's excellent Babs, but I'm scared to come back to you now, as it's clear you're not writing for the fans. I'll leave you to your drunk party girl Batgirl and smiley selfie covers. I hear there's a great writer doing some good stuff over at Dynamite with Red Sonja in the meantime.

As for the rest of you: In response to "just how wrong Barbara's tears are", compare that cover to this video. This is probably the most messed up thing I've seen in Batcanon. (Spoilers for Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker)

In conclusion:  The Joker is a messed-up individual. He does things to hurt people to get at other people. Barbara is not alone in this. Tim Drake and Jason Todd were both victimized to hurt Batman.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: So, how much life support for a planet?

Yes, I'm phoning it in today.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under 
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
There's a really cool article over at Sploid that shows the proportion of water and air to rock on this starship we call earth:

Per the article: The density of the air pictured here corresponds to its density at sea level (one atmosphere.)

Want to know how much of that water is fresh? An older article from Gizmodo answers that handily:

Kind of humbling, isn't it?

And finally, to keep this from being a TOTAL phone-in, I present something I teased you with last week: the Khoghue Armed Junker version of the Sgt. Major's Daughter.

 Appropriately enough, I've called it Sgt. Major's Vargr

More art by Ian Stead

Fookin' aye, Eire!

I have several pagan friends who don't like this day, and I understand why they don't like it, but I celebrate it not because it's a saint's feast day but because it's essentially Hooray Irish Culture! day. It helps that I'm half-Irish myself.

If someone wants to be honorary Irish today day, I don't mind. Being upset that someone wants to temporarily join my tribe is like being upset at girls who suddenly like comic book movies because Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans are hunky: look, I don't care how you got here, just pull up a seat and join us.

PS:  I still think that this blogpost is my best St. Patrick's Day post, ever. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Reviews: Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380

I am, in general, not a fan of the .380 cartridge or platform.  The pistols (by virtue of being pocket-sized) are too light for the cartridge, resulting in what some folks call "snappy recoil" and I call "feels like getting hit repeatedly in the webbing between thumb and forefinger by a police baton with only slightly less force needed to create a bruise." I have an excellent track record of handing new shooters my mom's S&W .380 Bodyguard, warning them about the recoil, and after the first one or two shots they decide that they no longer want to shoot that pistol.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that my father's Mustang Pocketlite .380 is actually quite pleasant to shoot. 
I started shooting it last year, shortly after dad fell and broke his hip. I found the Mustang still in its box, unfired, as we cleaned a metric ton of crap out of his bedroom, and this bothered me on a personal level: guns are meant to be used, damn it.  

So with his permission, I took it to the range and discovered that it's actually a pretty neat little gun. 

What I Like About It
The small form factor means it fits my Hobbit-sized hands well, which so rare these days as to be notable. 

The trigger is so much lighter and smoother than the 12-pound pull of the S&W Bodyguard that there's really no contest. I have fine control when I'm shooting the Mustang; the Bodyguard might as well be a finger-strengthening machine that tosses a bullet out as a reward. 

The other controls (safety, slide release, mag release, etc) are similarly smooth. 

The recoil is somewhere between "Hey, that's not bad!" and "Wow, this is fun!" I'm not sure if that's because the Mustang is made from metal, or if it's just the superior engineering of a 1911 pattern scaled-down to shoot .380 cartridges. Either way, it doesn't cause me physical pain to shoot, which encourages me to shoot it more often.

What I Don't Like About It
Despite not having harsh recoil, the entire gun snaps upward after each shot. This makes it hard to re-acquire the sight picture, which is a necessity when it comes to self-defense. 

Speaking of sights, I could not hit with any degree of accuracy using the iron sights. I'm not sure if I was flinching, or holding the pistol wrong, or something else entirely, but it seemed like all of my shots were way, way low -- six inches below my point of aim, or lower. I expect that some of this had to do with the very short (4 inch) sight radius. I received some instruction on point shooting, and that helped with the aim somewhat -- I was able to make it onto the target, at least -- but it still didn't feel natural. I have since remedied this problem with a LaserMax CenterFire Laser, which will be the subject of a later review.

After about 100 rounds, the pistol begins to misfeed. I believe this is due to the short barrel leaving unburnt gunpowder residue that fouls the action, because after shooting a box or more this pistol is filthy, regardless of what brand of ammunition I use.

Stripping and cleaning the pistol is easy, but reassembly can be difficult. The recoil spring assembly does not want to re-seat, and it requires frequent cursing and several re-tries to get it back in place. A worse offender is the ejector, a little L-shaped hook that has a tendency to get pushed down and out of place. (Does "out of battery" apply here? I feel like it should.)

Despite what the manual says about this situation --
Mustang Ejector 2 of 2 photo Mustangejector-2.jpg
-- I have NEVER been able to fix it in this manner. I end up having to detail strip the thing, and am only able to return it to battery (yeah, I just decided it applies) after removing the entire hammer-spring assembly in order to manhandle the ejector into place.

Do I Recommend It?
My answer is a definite sort of.

On the one hand, it's a nice little gun that carries well and shoots well. Sights are an issue, but I like lasers so that isn't a problem for me. I would feel confident in letting my mom, who is 75 has arthritis, use this for self-defense.

On the other hand, it's not the easiest thing in the world to put back together, and unlike a Glock there are lots of little parts to get lost. Given the tendency for the ejector rod to get stuck, I would NOT give this to a novice to clean! If, however, that novice lived with someone more skilled with firearms, and that person was in charge of cleaning and maintaining it, then that would be okay.

Overall, I'd give it a B- rating*:  clearly one of the best .380s I've shot, but its maintenance issues keep it from scoring higher.

* This rating is only contingent on having an aiming laser. Without it, this pistol would fall to a C.

For those curious, here's my grading logic:
A: Does everything smoothly & perfectly.
B: Does everything well, with some issues.
C: Functions adequately, but something pisses me off.
D; Does the bare minimum needed to qualify as a thing. I.E. a gun would have to go "bang" and throw a bullet some distance downrange.
F: Doesn't have basic "thing qualifications", or does so in an unsafe manner (goes bang but injures your hands). 

Dear FTC:  This review was not bought, and your mother says hi. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #30

Episode 30, The Theme Episode, is out!
  • Adam and Sean jibber-jabber their way through their usual segments, laughing and generally having a wonderful time.
  • Erin Palette explains what a Cargo Cultist is, and how preppers can sometimes act like one. 
  • Nicki Kenyon discovers "Blowback".
  • Miguel Gonzalez talks about Magical Thinking.
  • Barron B. reminds us that overcomplicating the problem doesn't solve it
  • and Weer'd takes us inside the mind of the anti-gunners.
Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share this with a friend!

Friday, March 13, 2015

SHTFriday: Rust Never Sleeps

Ah, I knew I was forgetting to do something, and int his case it was "Write a quickie post here to point at my much longer post about rust over at Blue Collar Prepping."

Well, problem solved, and through the miracle of post-dating I can make it seem like I did this on time. Success!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kotaku's Fave Is Problematic

Much of the drama around video games (and other nerd/geek culture) drama these days stems from self-proclaimed critics viewing entertainment through the lens of critical theory. Critical theory is, in theory, a tool for critiquing societal and cultural circumstance using the disciplines of sociology and the humanities. In practice, the aforementioned modern critics use critical theory to nitpick games, movies, comics, music, and television and paint them as society-destroying crimes against the oppressed.

Recently, Kotaku (home of many such cultural critics) celebrated the announcement of a new character for Blizzard's upcoming Team Fortress 2 knock-off, Overwatch. The article was typical Kotaku fare: name-checking Anita Sarkeesian, complaining about how all female characters are “svelte,” having an actual word-count of a Hallmark greeting card, consisting mostly of graphics taken from Blizzard's actual promotional materiel, and unsurprisingly missing the point.

But then, criticizing Kotaku is like taking candy from a baby (satisfying and all-too-easy), so instead I'm going to use critical theory (or at least, misuse it in the same way modern cultural critics do) and nitpick Blizzard's 'attempt at diversity':
  • Zarya is Russian. She's also a) a soldier and b) a power-lifter, perpetuating two cultural stereotypes. 
  • Zarya has pink hair. Pink is a gender signifier. 
  • Zarya has boob-plate armour. Boob-plate armour is not designed for functional purposes, it's only designed to draw the attention to the breasts, thus sexualizing the character. 
  • Zarya may have a large and muscular physique, but she has pixie same-face that could easily be swapped out with a number of other female characters without looking out of place. 
  • Zarya's armour has bare arms. This is a common gender signifier for women as well. 
  • Zarya has a body type that is difficult if not impossible for most women to attain. 
  • Most damning of all, Zarya is literally Ms Male Character, practically being a gender-swap of Team Fortress 2's Heavy Weapons Guy.
Do I sound like an asshole right now (moreso than usual, at least)? Absolutely. There's critical theory for you. It's a great tool for attacking anything you don't like or aren't personally invested in. The most amusing part is that, despite Kotaku's enthusiasm for Blizzard's apparent embracing of cultural critic-bourne diversity, their readers took the route I took above, only with a great deal more sincerity.

In all honestly, I rather like Zarya. She is different from a great deal of (male and female) characters that are often presented in games. She's got a striking silhouette, and a ton of personality shoved into her design. Best of all, she's visually based off of an actual Blizzard employee. But anyone with a mind for critical theory, ie Kotaku's main demographic, will compulsively attack. Especially something presented to appease them. Especially if it means they can ignore actual diversity and progress that they should be applauding.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's my birthday...

... so please wish me a happy one!

And before you ask how old I am:

I shall not violate my OPSEC.  ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: the Sgt. Major's Daughter

One, two, three and a quarter,
I got a date with Sgt. Major's daughter
Sgt. Major, he's a sucker
He doesn't know that I'm gonna SOUND OFF!
One, two...
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Lighters are cargo haulers over 100 tons that are used for in-system freight transfer. While many cargo concerns use the Lighter Aboard Ship (LASH) method -- think a freighter version of a Battle Rider -- some ships, like subsidized merchants, are too small to use such a dedicated vehicle and yet too slow to make it to a starport in a timely manner if they are on a tight deadline.

This is where Lighters For Hire come in. An LFH is a fast system ship with ample cargo space which provides a variety of services:
  • Delivering refined fuel and/or life support supplies 
  • Picking up cargo at the starport and hauling it to the merchant ship
  • Picking up cargo from the merchant ship and delivering it to the starport
  • Delivering passengers and/or swapping out crew

In return for the convenience of delivering cargo to/from the merchant ship at high speed, the crew of the LFH typically charges an additional 10-20% of the going rate for such goods and services. While charging 2,000 credits for delivering 13,000 Cr. worth of life support may seem excessive, consider the following:
  1. Given the distances involved, a secure lasercomm to the highport is unlikely. Therefore, requests for LFH services must be transmitted "in the clear", where anyone can listen. 
  2. Any pirate listening in will now know that valuable cargo is being delivered to X location at Y date along Z vector, which places the lighter crews at substantial risk. 
  3. Therefore, the price is driven by a combination of "risk of piracy" and "paying off the arms and security put into the LFH" in order to make the profits worthwhile. Naturally these are all complicated factors, including how long the lighter is in transit, if it has to traverse areas of questionable safety, if the entire thing is a scam engineered by pirates to have loot deliver itself, etc. 
So at this point you're probably wondering "Why would any crew work aboard a Lighter For Hire in any system that isn't pirate-free and patrolled to a fare-thee-well?" And the answer is
  1. There's more profit in it, and
  2. Some NPCs become adventurers, too.
In other words, "That is totally a player character thing to do," and it gives the GM a chance to use old PCs to crew a ship that their current PCs might run into... such as Sgt. Major's Daughter, a Lighter For Hire that started life as a Recovery Ship (Mongoose Starports, p.105) but had its jump drive removed and its system upgraded in a way that only other PCs would do. It is piloted by a retired scout, commanded by a retired Navy officer, has its cargo handled by a retired merchant, and whose security is run by a former Marine with combat armor and high marks in Vacc Suit, Zero-G and Gun Combat. 

Art by the amazing Ian Stead.

Are you getting a strong Firefly vibe?  Good, that's by design.

The fact that this quiet little ship also makes a dandy little pirate of opportunity?  Totally a coincidence.

(Want a nastier ship? Use a Khoghue Armed Junker instead...)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Gunday: Following Up on Last Week's Post

I am pleased to report that the many hours spent scrubbing with a blue bristle brush and CLP have paid off; all of the rust spots I talked about in last week's post have been eradicated with extreme prejudice and show no signs of returning.

You may all breathe a sigh of relief.

Now let me show you something interesting:

These are pictures of my car dashboard, where I put the rain-soaked targets to dry. Notice anything unusual about that picture?  Like maybe  a suspiciously white substance outlining where the targets were?

Now I'm no chemist, so I had to rely on the old "lick my finger and taste it" test, but you know what I tasted when I did that?


I honestly didn't think it was possible to have salt rain, due to the rain cycle being nature's own distillation, but it turns out that "In open ocean and coastal areas [rainwater compositions] have a salt content essentially like that of sea water (same ionic proportions but much more dilute) plus CO2 as bicarbonate anion (acidic pH)."

So look... not just salt rain, not just acid rain, but goddamn salty acid rain. I am simultaneously horrified and vindicated.

Horrified, because I didn't realize such a thing was possible. However, a friend of mine (also a Floridian) said
I used to do auto glass for a living. Had a customer in Cocoa Beach that wanted me to put a windshield back on his car. It was a new car, but the windshield had been replaced a couple months before. The metal was not primed correctly, so in those few months the whole bottom of the windshield rusted out. Long story short: metal in that area rusts if you look at it wrong.
Fortunately I live further north, and further inland, than Cocoa Beach... but this has disturbing implications for my prepping plans. I clearly need to investigate rust-proofing solutions.

Did I mention it rained a lot?

I also feel vindicated because now I feel like less of an idiot for allowing my guns to get rusty in the first place. I have a suspicion that by the time I got home (which was several hours after shooting, due to eating dinner with Oleg & Rin and then driving back to Daytona) the guns had already started t rust and there was nothing I could have done to prevent that.

Sure, if I had taken them out earlier I would have had to do less work cleaning them up; I don't deny that. and it's lesson I'll never forget. But I'm pretty sure I can forgive myself now.

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #29

It's Sunday night, so you know what that means: the next episode of The Gun Blog Variety Cast is out!

  • Adam and Sean talk dogs, guns, crimes, strange laws, and the stuff that grinds out gears.
  • Erin Palette, irritated about all the rain she's had, talks waterproofing.
  • Nicki Kenyon lets us know just how little she thinks of Dan Carlin's podcast, "Common Sense."
  • Miguel Gonzalez tells us about another person in Florida who has "gotten away with killing someone" (not really) using the Stand Your Ground law.
  • Barron B. reminds us that bad government decisions 20 years ago lead to bad computer security today.
  • and Weer'd discusses the gun haters' fetish for government forced training before people are allowed to exercise their civil rights.

Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share it with a friend!

Friday, March 6, 2015

SHTFriday: NeverWet (a Palette Product Review)

So, you know that magical "NeverWet" substance that you can spray on iPhones so they work underwater?  And you can spray on your shoes and t-shirts so that mustard and other things just slides right off without staining?

Yeah... it has some serious drawbacks.  Namely it discolors fabric, gives it a tacky surface, and rubs off too easily.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'm Done With Tim Schafer.

This'll be a short one this week. I'm a bit under the weather and a bit fuming to put thoughts together properly, but I've got something I want to get off my chest.

Tim Schafer's a game developer that's quite popular amongst a lot of gamers. He's worked on some of the most beloved titles ever. Psychonauts is probably my 6th or 7th favorite game ever. I never finished Grim Fandango because I can't follow classic point and click adventure game logic, but it was pretty entertaining nonetheless. I even kinda like Brutal Legend despite my hatred of Jack Black. But Tim's had some problems in recent years. Had an early access game on Steam called Spacebase DF-9 that was never finished. Broken Age, despite raising 3.3 Million against its original $400k goal, apparently needs more money to be finished, releasing "part 1" as a way to fund "part 2." Add to that his tendency to be a complete jackass on Twitter and his affiliation with some people that come off as pretty despicable, and he's sort of been pushing his fanbase away for a while.

But last night, at the GDC Awards, he took a moment to not only completely shit on his fanbase, but say some things that come off as pretty racist and misogynistic, even in the opinion of someone who makes it a point not to throw around those terms as casually and carelessly as most.

The #NotYourShield hashtag, by the way, was women and/or minority gamers that supported GamerGate and were trying to buck the media narrative that they were all sockpuppets of white dudes. And here's a white neckbearded dude, allegedly on the side of 'truth and justice', dismissing the existence of and talking over women and minority gamers. On stage. At a professional awards show. Time and a place, you jackass. You want to be an asshole on twitter, go ahead. But seriously, Tim. Stop shitting up the industry. Maybe it's time you retired.

These are the people you're shitting on, Tim. They're real. And I'm so done with with you, with Double Fine, that I'm now off to delete the Steam backup folder that has Psychonauts in it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Sydkai Detached Cruiser

So once again there's a ship that I think can be designed better...

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

OK, so during the days of MegaTraveller, the Sydkai-class cruiser was invented. It had a similar purpose to a Kinunir , but was larger by 800 dtons to give it greater operational scope and range. It was, basically, a colonial cruiser on steroids, and it became known as a "detached duty cruiser" because its purpose was to perform long-term anti-piracy and anti-insurgency patrols along the Imperial border.

The problem is that it was only statted according to MegaTraveller rules, which use a totally different system of ship creation from any other version of Traveller.

And lo, the Sydkai did languish in disuse, until such time as Ian Stead upgraded it to Mongoose rules for that project I'm not yet allowed to talk about (yes, he's working on it too), for such stats were necessary for me to do my thing.
And while it was a faithful translation of an MT ship into an MgT ship, I felt the results were unsatisfying, because a faithful translation doesn't take into account all the cool improvements to be found in the various Mongoose books, nor does it stand a change against player cheese and ingenuity when armed with such improvements.

In other words, I made it deadlier.

  • First things first: 16 triple missile turrets out of 20 is just plain ineffective. Replacing them with four 50 dton missile bays still grants me the ability to unleash a flight of 48 missiles at once. Sure, you can argue that I've lost flexibility in targeting,  but now I have more hardpoints to play with and therefore engage more targets. 
  • I've added my usual hellish mixture of particle beams for long range, fusion beams for mid-range fighting, and pulse lasers & sandcasters for point defense. Things like "high yield"
     and "variable range" make me giggle due to the sheer bloody-minded effectiveness of overlapping fields of fire for weapons batteries. 
  • I also upped the thrust rating to 4, because 3Gs from a warship designed to kill pirates is just not sufficient to my mind. Jump-4/4G is fleet minimum, and while the Sydkai can get by with J-3 for is mission, maneuver drives are cheap and their benefits are immediate. 
  • Naturally, all these goodies (namely the bays) do come with some drawbacks, and so I had to sacrifice some armor. Of course, I upgraded it to Bonded Superdense (because come on, this is supposed to be a TL 15 ship here) and to only 2 points of armor were lost. 
  • In another of my signature moves, I added "free armor" mods of reflec coating and radiation shielding, because I honestly don't see why warships don't have these things standard. They don't cost tonnage, only money, and I've yet to see a government care that much about cost. 
  • A higher-tech hull and structure increases the amount of punishment it can absorb, and the addition of meson screen and nuclear damper further increase its survivability. 
  • I'm honestly not sure if a magazine of 2400 missiles and 1000 sandcaster barrels is sufficient. I really wanted a magazine size of 3000 and 2000, respectively, but I didn't have the tonnage. 
  • I wasn't sure how much cargo space I needed. I started with around 100 but reduced it to 85 in order to get 4G thrust, which to my mind is worth the spent volume. 
  • Added goodies like probe and repair drones, because warship. 
  • Rather than break down the number of staterooms for everyone, I just shoved everyone except the Captain into a barracks  (a barracks takes the same space as double occupancy staterooms anyway, so it works for volume calculations.)

Sure, I've taken a billion-credit ship and made it 2.5 times as expensive, but let me ask you which is more expensive in the long run: a billion-credit ship that's lost or destroyed because it's ineffective, or a 2.5 billion ship that trounces its opponents and stays alive?
Besides, the Third Imperium regularly builds Tigress-class Dreadnoughts that cost over a quarter of a trillion credits without blinking, so don't give me that nonsense about "cost overruns".

Art courtesy of Ian Stead

Erin, what's up with all the time-shifting?

... I hear you asking.

Well, it's like this:  Sometimes I don't quite finish a post the day I intend to publish it, due to distraction or not feeling well or having to tend to responsibilities or just running out of time.

And because I can backdate a post, I do.  It doesn't make sense to have a Monday Gunday appear on a Tuesday, now does it?

Basically, it's for archival purposes and to appease my OCD.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #28

Episode 28 of the Gun Blog Variety Cast is out!
  • Adam and Sean commiserate about the weather.
  • Erin Palette brings on a Special Guest, Brandon, to talk about first aid supplies.
  • The new Secretary of Defense gets the Nicki Kenyon seal of approval.
  • Miguel Gonzalez digs up a congressional report from 1982 that confirms that, even then, they knew that the Second Amendment is an individual right.
  • I might be getting a new computer, and Barron B. tells how to get rid of all the bloatware, adware, and preinstalled garbage.
  • And Weer'd discusses the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill currently in Congress.
Check us out!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share it with a friend!

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.