Friday, July 31, 2015

SHTFriday: Sabotage

I forgot to link to my 7/31 article titled "How Will You Deal With Sabotage?" at Blue Collar Prepping. 

So on the off chance that people who read my blog here don't have a subscription to (or otherwise check on) BCP blog, now's your chance to go read it.

This post has been backdated for chronological continuity. I actually wrote it on Monday, 8/3, because I derped and forgot to write it on Friday 7/31.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Picture Worth About 162 Words

I'm phoning it in this week. My granddad died Saturday, I think I'm getting a sinus infection, I just installed Windows 10 and I seem to have misplaced OpenOffice, so I'm going to leave you all with a picture gleaned from the comments section of a recent Gawker article regarding ousted Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and their narrative that it was rampant misogyny that drove her out.

"Pending Approval."

That's the sound of a narrative breaking in the head of someone that was Listen and Believe-ing hardcore. Gawker's in flames, and their only hope is trying to pretend everyone's surprised that a 60 year old man said something racist years ago. Here's hoping Hogan's lawyers leg-drop them through the judge's bench. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WNW: Guided Meditation

It's bad enough that I have this thing going on where my mind blanks on the proper names for things. But now I'm having trouble typing coherently. In an email I wrote "Ye I fond hat" rather than "Yes, I found that."

Said one wag on Facebook: When you find that fond hat, you'll find your mind - it's inside the hat. Well, that makes as much sense as anything else in my life.

But instead of starting to worry that there's something neurologically wrong with me, I will listen to Fuck That: A Guided Meditation.

No, seriously, give it a listen. It's surprisingly relaxing. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Random Thoughts about the IISS

Because someone on the Traveller Facebook group posted a picture that caused me to riff, here are just my idle musings about the Scouts in no particular order.

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

Scout service uniform colors are officially silver and flat dark earth, with imperial red accents. Ostensibly, these colors are supposed to be symbolic:
  • Silver represents the unknown void of space, both jump- and regular. (The Imperial Navy already laid claim to black, and silver is more romantic in a dreamy, nebulaic* sort of way.
  • Flat dark earth represents fertile soil -- both the soil of home, and that of new planets Scouts seek to find. 
  • Imperial red represents the sacrifices made by all Scouts, and wearing this color honors their service and memory.
* NO, I don't mean nebulous. I literally meant "like a nebula". 

These are the official reasons. However, during long missions older scouts like to tell junior members this plausible tale: 

"Tenderfoot, you stay on expedition long enough and soon all your clothes end up looking the same colors. All that dirt, all that washing in recycled water, and pretty much all the colors fade to a dull gray-white and all your whites acquire a sweaty beige grunge. And some fool will invariably leave something red in the wash and give everything a pink tinge. So the Eagles on Sylea, knowing what Scouts get up to and what we give a damn about, decided that they'd make the official uniform in un-faded colors to begin with. This way, we're still considered 'in uniform' no matter how long we've been in the field."

Typical Scout service fatigues look a bit like the picture above (replace the black with flat dark earth, add some red trim on collars, shoulders and sleeves, and subtract the strange dangly bits). They are basically a utility jumpsuit with a slightly dressier coat that can be tossed on to look presentable. The jumpsuit fits comfortably under a tailored vacc suit.

Senior Scouts wear white uniforms, with the connotation being that they were in the field so long that everything faded. This is not always true, however (see slang). 

Special Operations Scouts do not have a distinctive uniform. 

  • The proper term for a rookie Scout is Tenderfoot.
  • Especially competent scouts are (informally) known as Badgers.
  • Senior Scouts are referred to as Eagles. This is allegedly because they are the most competent and a comparison is being drawn to the ancient, respected Fraternal Order of Eagle Scouts. 
    • But to anyone in the field, being called an Eagle is a sign of derision: an eagle considers itself above everything else, and its feces always falls on everything below it. 

Naming Conventions
(Some parts reprinted from a previous article)

The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service frequently makes reference to what we would consider pop culture -- frequently science fiction and fantasy. From their perspective, naming a ship out of something from Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica is just as literary and honorable as NASA naming the first space shuttle Enterprise or the US Navy naming the first nuclear powered submarine after Jules Verne's Nautilus.So if you ever encounter an IISS ship named Thunderbird 3, you ought to know you're dealing with someone who has a respect for the ancient cultural roots of space exploration.

This frequently results in Scouts trying to, essentially, out-nerd each other. Sure, every Scout worth his vacc suit knows what the Delta Flyer is -- but meet one with a ship named Nell and he'll look at you with an expression of "Eh? Eh???" to see if you get it.  If you do, he's impressed; if you don't, he scores social "coup" against you and you're forced to listen to him explain the mythological roots of the name while you buy the drinks. 

This does however lead to certain unfortunate names, as Scouts attempt to one-up each other. Naming a courier ship Boom Tube is worth a giggle once (twice if it's being used by SpecOps) but it's generally not that funny or clever after that. Naming the Stellar-class liner assigned to an expedition as mobile hospital and R&R ship Cloud 9, however, turns you into the Scout version of someone who thinks its funny to pass gas in elevators or throw rocks at birds of good omen. But naming a Purcell-class Xboat Tender Kearny-Fuchida? That's pure gold.

Scouts -- like all explorers -- are properly superstitious about their ships, and so there is a formalized ritual for un-naming and then re-naming a ship. I imagine it goes something like this.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gun Accessories I Still Need to Review

I'm writing this post because I need to get into the swing of writing again, and because putting a "to-do" list here ought to help nag me into doing them. It also serves as a sort of "coming attractions" post, and if it encourages folks to go Oooh yes! I really want to know what you think about [product]!, that will only help to accelerate the process.

In no particular order:

I got this in late April, and needed to tinker with it a bit to get it to accommodate the bent bolt I
received for my birthday in March. By the time that happened, it had become too stinky hot to make a trip to the rifle range comfortable. 

I've shot it a few times, but I really want to put at least 100 rounds through the rifle with this new stock before I can write a proper review, and that needs to wait until the weather cools off or I get access to an indoor range that will let me shoot 7.62x54R. 

I bought this at NRAAM this spring, and aside from fooling around with it at home, I haven't used it (see: stinky hot weather). I very much like what I see, though, and I look forward to trying it out with my .22 boltie. 

Various LaserLyte Goodies
Hoo-boy, I have a bunch of these. 
  • Red Center Mass Laser: I mentioned this when I reviewed the green CML last month. I just need to carve out some time to grab my mom's PMR-30 and go to the indoor pistol range to give it a try. I expect good things of it.
  • Laser Trainer Pistols: For sake of completeness, I will be reviewing both the trainer pistol with integral laser and the removable laser cartridge (AKA the LT-PRO) that fits into any gun, including the Trigger Tyme training pistol. Expect a head-to-head, compare & contrast review. 
  • Laser Targets: Another compare and contrast, this time between the no-frills Laser Trainer Target and the much-frillier Score Tyme
  • Laser Plinking Cans:  I could probably review these now, but I feel like I really ought to review the laser trainer pistols first. They are, however, a heck of a lot of fun, and my only complaint is that the fun is over too quickly. 
What's really slowing me down with a review of the trainer pistols and targets is that it's hard to talk about targets without discussing lasers, or lasers without discussing targets, and it's threatening to turn into a massive review where I talk about them all at once. 

My newest acquisition, I haven't really had time to play with it. I'll likely take it to the range the same time I test the Red CML and try them both out on the same pistol (as it's the only pistol we have that possesses an accessory rail, it's a no-brainer).

I will probably end up reviewing the two pistol lasers first, followed by the trainers, and then the Archangel stock and bipod sticks last. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #49
Here's Episode 49 of your weekly GunBlog VarietyCast!

Included in this week's episode:
  • Adam and Sean tell you what podcasts we listen to. We listen to a lot of podcasts. You should too. But listen to us first!
  • Erin Palette talks poison plants with a quick primer on disease prevention in Gotham City.
  • Even Nicki Kenyon will eventually bow to peer pressure. You've been asking her to talk about Iran, so she finally does.
  • Our Special Guest, Reverend Kenn Blanchard tells us about this one time he found himself in deep, deep water and needed a miracle.
  • Barron B considers the Ashley Madison hack and what could have motivated it.
  • And Weer'd points out how the anti-gunners have gone beyond their usual lies and have started slandering the rest of us.
Thanks for downloading, listening and subscribing. Like and share us on Facebook, and don't forget to tell a friend.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
A special thanks to our sponsor, the Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off the best legal self defense training you can get.

Friday, July 24, 2015

SHTFriday: Poisonwoods and Death-Apples

Today at Blue Collar Prepping, I give one of my patented "Erin Palette Infodumps" where I talk about some nasty plants in North America that only want to make you miserable.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Salem Watches a Movie: The Indelible Ant-Man

Warning: what is this, a spoiler for ants?

Ant-Man, the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is not a big, flashy event movie like an Avengers or Iron Man title would be. The events don’t, at least at first glance, hold earth-shaking implications for the greater narrative of the MCU. Startling revelations are not made about previously beloved characters.

And you know what? That's OK. It's exactly what it needs to be. After the last few films it's nice to get a fun little flick that works on a few levels and doesn't amp up the adrenaline level of the MCU.

Like most Marvel films, Ant-Man is primarily a genre film first, with added superhero panache. Like Winter Soldier was a spy film with superheroes, Thor was a fantasy film with superheroes, and Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera with superheroes, Ant-Man is a tight, competent heist movie with superheroes (and shades of the old 50s giant insect movies). It's certainly not on the level of The Italian Job or Ocean's Eleven (or even Ocean's Twelve), it does its job well and retains the trademark Marvel sense of fun while displaying a level of technical storytelling that wouldn't be present in one of the event films like Age of Ultron. While Age of Ultron brought us “Bad guy uses space metal to lift a city and drop it in an extinction-level event,” Ant-Man instead gives us “Reluctant criminal uses liquid nitrogen to expand the door and locking mechanism of a safe and blow it open.”

The character work in this film in interesting as well, as it brings us a new take on a hero. Paul Rudd's Scott Lang is a bit of a fuckup. Like Chris Pratt's Star-Lord, he's very good at what he does, but unlike Star Lord is nowhere near the master criminal he'd like to think he is, as evidenced by the opening scenes showing him being released from San Quentin, and then later being arrested twice, once even in the Ant-Man suit. There's something really humanizing about the protagonist being someone who really just wants to do the right thing but constantly goes about it the wrong way.

Michael Douglas (finally!) brings us the Marvel Universe's most maligned super-genius, Hank Pym, and adds a really interesting human touch as a much older character (even having an altercation with Howard Stark and an aged (but lovely) Peggy Carter in the opening) who is a driven scientist and neglectful father filled with regret over a tragedy in his life. His daughter, Hope Van Dyne (portrayed by Evangeline Lily, who I don't think I've ever seen in anything before), is bitter and angry, and as we learn by the end of the film, has every right to be. 

Aside from the continuity nod to Howard Stark and Peggy Carter, there's an appearance by The Falcon, making up for the disappointment of not seeing him in action on Age of Ultron, with a proper throw-down between he and Lang. This is probably the best and most blatant bit of fan-service in the film: a throwback to the superhero crossovers of comics, where two heroes meet, fight, and team up... only this one is without the team-up. The fight is fantastic, utilizing both Falcon's and Ant-Man's power sets well, especially with Lang ending it by straight-up cheating.

Ant-Man is not a driving narrative piece of the MCU, but I feel it's what we need right now. A smaller story, with a few ties to the other, larger pieces and a chance to catch our breath after Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Age of Ultron one right after the other, and Civil War in May of next year. And speaking of Civil War – stay after the credits. You'll see some familiar faces. 

Pictured: Team Ant. Seriously, how does this keep happening? 
Seriously. Go see Ant-Man. It's fun, it's down-to-earth and fantastical at the same time, and it's really good. 

And keep an eye on Hank Pym's key-chain.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still alive, just not feeling it

My apologies to my faithful readers. I appear to be a funk right now.
I need a muse like this.
I don't know if I'm depressed, or burned out, or something else, or a combination of all of the above. I'm just not feeling especially witty or creative, and the only thing I want to do lately is either sleep or play games -- i.e. turn my brain off.

The voices in my head which keep me active have been quiet lately. Is this what sanity is like? If so, it's boring, and I hate it.

I need to get in touch with my inner chaos goddess. Earlier this week, Salem introduced me to Jinx from League of Legends. Now, I don't play the game, but from this video she looks like a cross between Deadpool and Pinkie Pie:

That's.... that's everything I've ever wanted to be, man. *sheds a single tear of joy*

Well, okay, maybe I don't want to be a violent criminal or psychopathic murderer. But being a adorable little pixie of wanton chaos? Yeah, sign me up.

Le sigh.   Yes, please.

Oh hey, look at that. I managed to write a blog post after all. Cool.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #48
With the end of The Gun Dudes podcast, we've moved up a rung to be the 47th most popular gun blog in the entire universe!! Sad about the Gun Dudes, though.
  • Erin Palette gives us some good ideas for summertime skills practice.
  • Will the Greek anti-austerity vote have ripple effects across the Eurozone? Nicki Kenyon tells us what she thinks.
  • Special Guest Bob Owens of Bearing Arms tells us his thoughts on the US military moving to hollowpoint bullets.
  • Barron B tells us how to handle hard drives before selling or disposing of computers.
  • And Weer'd fisks the statist tools of "Armed with Reason" (Now full fledged members of the Bloomberg Brownnose Brigade) and their desperate wish for a Federal Permit to Purchase Pistols. 
  • And make sure to stick around to the very end to hear why Sean thinks that those "Bridge Ices Before Roadway" signs are completely stupid.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And a special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout to get 10% off. (Shhh, that's a secret. Don't tell everyone! If you did, they might all go out and sign up for the best legal self defense class anywhere, and then how would you win arguments about your state's gun laws?)
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

SHTFriday: Good Survival Television

Erin, I hear you say, We all know you hate Doomsday Preppers. But are there any survival shows you do like?

Well, yes. Check out my post at Blue Collar Prepping for a list of 4 programs which don't suck.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The PC Master Race Salutes A Fallen Hero

On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer” - Satoru Iwata

I stand here today as a proud member of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race. Though our jerks be circled and tongues planted firmly in cheek, we do take a certain pride in our gaming, as it's done at high resolutions and framerates thanks to hardware that we've invested in and, often, put together ourselves. Most of us are our own tech support, our own labour and assembly.

But we know when to step back and appreciate a true visionary and mourn the loss of one of the hearts of our world. Satoru Iwata was taken from us too soon, but not without leaving an impression on our world that no one will ever forget.

I began gaming on my dad's Commodore 64, but pestered my parents long enough they finally capitulated and bought me one of those Nintendos everyone was talking about. That's right, for a while I was a console kid. Had one all the way through the Nintendo 64. Nintendo has delivered some of the most memorable experiences in my gaming life. Super Mario Brothers 2, Metal Storm, Final Fantasy II. Secret of Evermore, Mega Man X, Final Fantasy VI. Mario 64, Smash Bros, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. After the N64, I went pack to PC and have stayed there since, but I've always had a strong respect for Nintendo. While the other major consoles were in an arms race to try and outdo each other with outdated and underpowered proprietary box-PCs, Nintendo broke away from that pattern early on and tried to make the gaming space a more interesting place with motion controls that worked, handhelds with touch- and dual-screens, and that adorable Wii U pad with the miniature screen. Nintendo never stopped inventing weird shit to put out, and they've always been looked upon finely from the ivory towers of PC gaming.

Iwata was seen as a figurehead, someone who really cared about what he was doing, and someone unafraid to make sacrifices. When Nintendo posted a loss, he took a cut to his own salary to keep paying the people working for him. When distrust grew with the gaming press, he brought us Nintendo Direct, which kept fans informed and entertained. But he wasn't simply a corporate figurehead. Iwata was a genius coder as well, once compressing the map of an entire Pokemon game to fit on the limited cartridge space of another one. He coded for Pokemon Stadium, which I had no idea I'd enjoy playing, but came bundled with the N64 I purchased on layaway back when I had my first job. He produced one of the most beloved RPGs ever made, Earthbound.

Mister Iwata, if there is an afterlife, and if I may humbly imply that you might notice my own post regarding your passing, I want you to know that you were instrumental in making many memories, and that's not a legacy to be taken lightly. The world weeps at your departure, but many a game will be played to honour you. I may not currently own any of your own work, but the next game that I finish, I will do so in your name. You never stopped believing in us, the gamers, and we will in turn never forget what you have left us. I say this, sir, direct to you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Out of Free Ice Cream

Nothing today folks. Hopefully tomorrow the soft-serve will be restocked.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #47
Another excellent episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Adam and Sean compare notes on how carrying a gun has changed their lives. 
  • Erin Palette talks medical treatment of heat injuries with Kelly Grayson
  • Nicki Kenyon is on assignment and will return next week
  • Special Guest Rob Reed tells us about his adventures as a cub reporter for a radio station who got sent to cover the Kalamazoo air show
  • Barron B has been released from Facebook Jail in time to tell us how to guard yourself from Kickstarter scams
  • And Weer'd does another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk. This time the target is the Minister of Propaganda for the Coalition to Stop Gun Ownership, Ladd Everett.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here
A special thanks to our sponsor, The Law of Self Defense. Make sure to use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off training seminars and merchandise.

And please, share us with a friend.

Friday, July 10, 2015

SHTFriday: Too Much of a Good Thing

Think that there's no such thing as drinking too much water?  Think again.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Jesus, Salem, don't DO that to me!

I was ready to fucking KILL YOU after that first paragraph.

In hindsight I should have seen it coming, and realized you'd never prostitute yourself by working for Gawker. But still... you know how to push my buttons, dude.

I have had three co-bloggers here at Lurking Rhythmically. You're the only one of them still here, the only one who keeps plugging away, writing quality content for me. Sure, you occasionally phone it in, but I don't think you've missed a week. And if you have, I'm pretty sure you told me about it beforehand.

Some readers wonder why I keep you around. At least one of them tells me that he can't stand you. And the answer is: I like you and you have talent and worth. 

I touched upon it when I wrote your introduction two years ago, but I recently re-discovered something of yours that I thought so important that I reposted it here, on my blog. You've shut down your old blog, which is a shame -- you had some really good entries there -- so all that's left of your recorded wisdom is this:
Some lie because they are insecure or unsatisfied with their lives. We put a lot of these people on medication, whether they've hurt anyone or not. Some people lie to entertain people. We call these people writers, musicians, actors. We cut these people paychecks sometimes. Some people lie to better their own lives at the cost of other people's. We call these politicians, and we can't do anything to them because they're writing the laws. -- Salem MacGourley, Notes from the Sonic Stapler
I titled that as "Too awesome to let pass unnoticed", and it still is. I keep saying you are quite wise in many ways, and I hope that one day you will write a book of your wisdom.

Because that's why you're my co-blogger: you write well, and I want you to do it more often.


With a heavy heart I must announce

This week marks the two-year anniversary of my first article here on Lurking Rhythmically (and I still can't spell Rhythmically without a spell-checker). It's been a wild ride, but all good things, seasons turn, time to reap, time to sow, etc, etc. I'll be taking my leave, as I've signed on with a position with Gawker Media, contributing regularly to both Kotaku and Jezebel.

Nah, I'm just kidding. I'm not going anywhere. I would like to, though, while I have your attention get a few things off my chest. A number of years ago, under unrelated duress, I left the great city of Mobile, AL and moved to Texas. I took up residence, and eventually married, a long-time online friend. After a few years, we divorced, and I moved away. I've since been dealing with some emotional issues. When Erin and I first met, I was drinking myself to sleep every night, crawling off the couch and going to work, then doing it all over again.
Since then I quit drinking and moved to the wasteland (as I affectionately refer to my current desert home) have taken advantage of my job's health program and been to a bit of therapy. Due to events transpired during my time married, it would appear that I am currently in recovery of a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, having experienced-

-god it's hard to type these words-

-having experienced what my therapist clearly referred to as domestic abuse. Between societal stigma of a man claiming an experience of domestic abuse, my ex-wife's best efforts to paint everything that happened as my fault, and the last words of someone I once felt was important to me doubting that it ever happened, it's hard to reconcile the thoughts in my own head. I'm still not up to telling the whole story. I'm not sure I ever will be. But I'm beginning to accept a few things and finally move past them.

I'm.. I'm not ok. I'm not sure I'll ever really be ok again, but I can say that I am, at least, within a mile of home.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

WNW: 8-Bit

Yes, this video is from January, but I just saw it this week.

So if you haven't seen it, enjoy.

And if you have seen it, watch it again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Language Rules

My players are getting ready to go into Zhodani space, and as it turns out, none of them speak Zdetl. While the usual answer for this is "get a translation program for your handcomputer", one of them is a diplomat

In my Traveller Universe, all Imperial ambassadors to the Consulate are required to speak in Zdetl while there. This has been codified into official diplomatic culture for many hundred years (probably sometime around the First Frontier War), and Zhodani diplomats simply will not interact with any Imperial counterpartwho speaks Anglic. No translator bots, either; speak it yourself or GTFO.

The reason for this is to level the playing field. The Zhodani are a psionic race, and their diplomats are used to constantly scanning while talking with someone -- it's just something they do, and it's expected by other Zhodani . But Imperials don't like that, and so they wear psi shields. This puts the Zhodani at a disadvantage, because now they have to rely on hunches, body language, etc, and non-psionic Imperials are better at that than Zhodani nobles are. So requiring Imperials to use a language they aren't native with handicaps them, too. The fact that Zdetl likely doesn't have as many linguistic gray areas and dodges that Anglic has (and politicians are keen to exploit) further helps to make things level.

In other words... house rules for languages!

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
According to the Rules As Written, Language-0 is basically the ability to use a foreign language to order a beer, ask for directions, and get slapped in a variety of cultures. It's a smattering of useful phrases and little else. Other languages become specialties. 

The problem with specialties is that they are supposed to relate to the core skill:  knowing how to shoot a rifle imparts general familiarity with pistols, and knowing biology gives a basic grounding in chemistry. The problem with languages is that, other than being spoken communication, there's very little common ground. 

Modern day example:  Let's take an average European adult -- let's say Dutch, because in addition to speaking their native language they nearly all speak English and German, and a fair amount of them speak French as well -- and put him in Africa. Will our quad-lingual Dutchman be able to speak the click language of the Kalahari at "level zero"?

Of course not. Click languages are alien to Europeans. Why then should capital-a Alien languages be any different?

So here are how languages work in my universe:
  • All characters speak their native language at level 3. This skill also imparts a general understanding of history and culture. 
  • Languages with similar roots may be specialties. 
    • For example, speaking Anglic (the language of the modern Imperium) at level 3 allows a character to communicate with Solomani at level zero, and vice versa, because the modern Imperium is a fusion of Vilani and Solomani cultures. "High" languages, like Latin or Vilani, are not cross-linked in this way. 
    • Similarly, Vargr languages are all specialties of the same root, as they are all offshoots of the original Arrghoun language in the same way that the Romance languages are all offshoots of Latin. 
  • However, Trokh, Oynprith, Gurvin and K'Kree are categorically NOT related, and are effectively their own skills. 
  • By this logic, Zdetl ought to be its own skill as well, as the Zhodani are an offshoot of humanity that were taken from earth in the distant past and have had 300,000 years to develop their own language and dialects within their sphere of space. 
    • However, I have no problem with knowledge of Zdetl-3 granting (Other Zhodani dialect)-0. 
  • Whether or not knowledge of Anglic allows an Imperial to speak the language of other races (such as the Darrians) ought to be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. 

But what if I want my character to be able to order a beer, ask for directions, and get slapped in a variety of languages?
I would say that is an excellent application of the Carouse skill. So long as it doesn't require anything overly complicated or technical, the skill that reads "the art of socializing; of having fun [...] social awareness and subterfuge in such situations" seems like a good way to get into and out of trouble in a variety of cultures. 

On a related note, see my post titled What Traveller Languages Sound Like for more linguistic flavor. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday Gunday Product Review: Glock Magazine Floorplate with Flashlight Holder

I own a Glock 26, and while its small size suit my small hands and make for easier concealed carry, it does have one rather significant drawback: it lacks a tactical rail to mount a flashlight.
I'm not certain why this is so. I've heard arguments that "It's a pistol designed to be small; why would you want a light on it that increases its length?" And to a certain extent that's true... but it's also true that some of us (me, for instance) own just the one carry pistol and might need to see what we're aiming at in a self-defense scenario.

There are various work-arounds, of course. One option -- I'm really not sure how popular it is -- involves clamping an aftermarket rail to the trigger guard. However, this rail extend far forward of the pistol and looks rather ungainly, and I honestly wonder if the recoil wouldn't knock it out of position.

The other option, and the one I'm reviewing today, is Glock's solution: a flashlight mount that attaches to the bottom of a standard magazine. This keeps the G26 the same length as standard (although it does add 1.5" to the pistol's height).
The Good
  • It works with any double-stack Glock magazine. 
  • The flashlight can easily be operated with the weak hand. 
  • It's made by the same company that makes the pistol and magazines, so there's an inherent assumption that it really ought to work well. 
  • It doesn't cost much, so if you try it and don't like it you aren't out much. 
  • When installed, your pistol looks a bit like Star-Lord's blaster

The Intermediate
  • Depending upon the length of the flashlight and the size of the operator's hand, some users may feel cramped. (My small hands find it quite comfortable; my strong-side pinkie finger can rest on the extension, and while my weak-side fingers need to fold a bit, it isn't awkward by any means.)
  • The flashlight it not held parallel to the barrel; it angles down approximately five degrees. While this is more than sufficient for illuminating what's in front of you, and does a good job of lighting the ground so you don't stumble and fall), it doesn't do a very good job of illuminating my sights. I was very grateful to have night sights on my pistol, as the combination of tritium dots and a flashlight proved quite effective. 

The Bad
  • Having a flashlight mounted to the butt of your sub-compact pistol makes it decidedly less compact. (See below for kludgy workaround.)
  • Not all flashlights will fit, even ones listed as being 1" diameter. I was able to fit my Cree Ultrafire into the holder with some effort (I removed the flashlight pocket clip, trimmed the outer edge of the holder with a knife to give the mouth a bit of a ramp, and then pounded the magazine over the light with a rubber mallet until it finally seated), but I'm pretty sure it's not coming out again without some serious work. 
  • Similarly, removing the baseplate requires a long tool to disengage it from the insert. I have a GTUL that I use for this, but it could also be done with a hex wrench of the proper length and diameter. Even so, it's not easy; the word "awkward" perfectly describes this process.
  • And then there's the elephant in the room: the light is attached to something which is designed to eject during a fight. Once the magazine is empty, your light goes away. This is a HUGE disadvantage in my eyes, and it caused me to discount this as an option more than once... however, I simply couldn't find any better way to mount a light to my G26. So yes, it's dumb, but I can't find a way that is less dumb, and at least this dumb way works. 

My Recommendation
This is the most negative positive review I've given. 

If you have a Glock 26 or 27 and need to mount a flashlight to it, this is the least dumb way to go in my opinion. It's not great, but it works. 

I would further recommend that you get a magazine carrier for your belt (this one is what I have). That way you can keep the flashlight in the holder during the daytime and have a +2 magazine inside your pistol. Also, if you end up using this at night and your magazine goes empty, you could theoretically place the empty mag in the holder so you don't completely lose all light. Of course, swapping magazines like this brings its own complications.

Rating: B
It works... it's just awkward. If you find a better solution, use it.

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #46
It's time for Episode 46!
  • Adam is back from his terrifying eye surgery. Well, it would terrify most of you. 
  • Erin Palette tells us how to stay hydrated in the summer heat.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses the Greek default.
  • Special Guest Bob Owens of Bearing Arms gives some "Tips for Terrorists."
  • Barron B (Who is currently in Facebook Jail because they don't believe him that Barron is his real name) talks about that viral "OMG THERE'S AN ANTENNA ON MY CELL PHONE BATTERY!" video. 
  • And Weer'd talks about how Bloomberg, sensing victory over Uber, has started gunning for room sharing website Airbnb.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here
Special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off books, hats, and legal self defense seminars.

And if you like the show, tell a friend!

Friday, July 3, 2015

SHTFriday: Recommendations

A few weeks back, someone on Facebook asked me to consolidate all of my gear recommendations onto a single page so they could be easily found.

Easily done.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Regressive Progressivism: Arkham Knight

I am vengeance. I am The Night. I am Spoilers.

I love the Batman: Arkham series. I have since I first played Arkham Asylum, the beginning of the series. I was wary of them at first, as licensed games have a long and storied history of being completely shit. Super-hero based titles in particular. One of my favourite super-hero films is Iron Man, and I was psyched when I found a clearance copy of Iron Man: The Game. Sadly, it was one of the worst games I've ever played.
Seriously how do you mess this up?
Not since Goldeneye 007 on the N64 had there been a good licensed game, and Asylum sparked the return of good licensed games, followed up with High Moon's Transformers: Cybertron titles and Deadpool. Even now, the genre hasn't recovered from the damage done, but at least there are good licensed games out there, and we owe it mainly to Arkham Asylum.

Arkham City, the sequel, may have been lacking the tightly focused narrative of the original, but it made up for it in scale of playable area and the mountains of sidequests, expanded roster of villains, and innovations in gameplay. The prequel game Arkham Origins (while not made by Rocksteady) is easily the worst of the series, but still an outstanding game. It innovated very little (expanding mainly on the Detective Mode in such a way that Rocksteady recognized and used in Arkham Knight), but it told a great story with mainly b-team villains. A mobile game, Arkham Origins: Blackgate wasn't necessarily a great game, but it wasn't terrible either, and was ported to PC and consoles later. 

It's previously been fashionable to bash the Arkham games for their treatment of women, primarily Catwoman. Despite being a playable character (both free-roam and story) and given her own motivations, agency, and the chance to rescue Batman, the game was still branded sexist because common street thugs called her 'bitch.' I'm honestly not sure how people who are locked up in a city-sized prison can be expected to treat one of the two women publicly making their residence known in said city-prison respectfully, but apparently the words of minor villains are the lesson the developers wanted us to take away from the game. Not that Catwoman is a badass capable going toe-to-toe with dozens of hardened criminals and Two-Face himself, but that she's a bitch. You've got me there.

For the most recent outrage, Arkham Knight is coming under fire for its treatment of Poison Ivy, mainly that she's a scantily clad damsel in distress. I'll grant you exactly one thing, she is scantily clad. But Ivy's so far mutated from baseline-human that her brain doesn't process human modesty the way the rest of us do. Is that an excuse? Maybe, but it's one that works in the context of the story. But that's as much leeway as I'll give those claims. 

My only assumption can be that the people writing these articles haven't played the game, but only seen a few short, selected clips. The claim is that she's kidnapped with a gun held to her head by a goon that she should be able to take out herself, Batman rescues her only to take her again and throw her in a cell, and use her when she's useful again, as a 'power-up.'

Let me tell you what really happens: Ivy is involved, as a party with agency, in a meeting of villains called to pool their resources to take out the Bat. Exercising that agency, she refuses, and is somehow rendered unconscious. It's not explained how, but she wakes up in a chamber with a gun to her head, at which point Batman enters the picture, beats up a dozen guys outside of said cell. Scarecrow gasses her and goon, but it only affects goon due to her natural immunity to toxins. She proceeds to smash his head into the glass of the chamber, and then walk out under her own power. She explains the situation to Batman before casually tossing him off of a building with her vines. Naturally, being Batman, he's waiting for her when she exits the elevator. Deciding the fight isn't worth the trouble, she allows herself to be arrested and taken to the GCPD. Batman later realizes he needs a way to purge Scarecrow's toxin and releases her from custody. She then takes control of a giant root system underneath Gotham and wreaks havoc on the Arkham Knight's tank division while Batman provides a modicum of covering fire. The game's mission objectives even reflect this by instructing you to "work with" Ivy, not "protect" Ivy. Finally, she sacrifices herself to purge Scarecrow's toxin from Gotham in a heroic redemption.

Reducing Ivy's role in the story of Arkham Knight to 'damsel in distress' is downright insulting. Insulting to the character, to her creators, the developers of the game, and her fans. She plays a major part, and Gotham would have been lost halfway through the game if it weren't for her.

Catwoman's part is being criticized as well, but that one's only partially valid. It's true, Riddler has her. She's got a bomb collar on, and Batman must complete challenges for keys to the bomb collar.. only some of those challenges involve taking direct control of Catwoman. And she's in this situation in the first place because of a character trait that's been present in Catwoman from day one: She's greedy. Riddler paid her to do a job, and double-crossed her by fitting the collar on her in the process. She even straight-up tells Batman that she doesn't want her situation to act as a motivation for him.

I'm only going to say this about Harley Quinn: She's wearing more clothes in every game and still you consider her sexualized.

Don't you go there, Kotaku.. don't you... you went there.
As for my favourite character in all of Batdom, Barbara Gordon... Kotaku, you go back and finish the goddamned game. And when you get to the part where Barbara Gordon looks Scarecrow in the eye and says “You don't scare me”, you come back and you apologize. And you replay those parts where you track her movement, where you hear about the soldiers that were taken out by a 'cripple in a wheelchair with ninja sticks.' Where you find the scene of the humvee she managed to crash by macing the driver, and how she crawled away until someone put a warning shot in the pavement a foot from her head, only to leave Batman a way of tracking her location without a trained and highly skilled villain noticing. And don't you ever call Barbara Gordon a 'professional victim' again. A professional victim is someone that milks a tragedy (real or imagined) for sympathy. Barbara Gordon took that tragedy and turned it into a legacy, becoming one of the most important characters not only in the Bat-titles, but in all of DC. 

The Ivy criticism made me sigh. The insult to Barbara Gordon made me genuinely angry. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WNW: Sidekicks

(In proper comic-book fashion, I'm engaging in some time travel to make up for days I missed this week.)

This video doesn't need much introduction other than "Villainous Anne Hathaway vs. Heroic Joseph Gordon-Levitt."

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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