Friday, October 30, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The 5 Most Disgustingly Oversexualized Costumes I Saw When Walking Through "Spirit Halloween" Monday Night.

Outrage! Click the link and be outraged! 

It's that time again, the time of year when innocent people go shopping for costumes so they can have a good time sitting and discussing Important Things with Special People at Halloween parties (and definitely not getting plastered and making out with a complete stranger). And with that comes the societal pressures that the Patriarchy puts on women to dress as "sexy" versions of costumes. Fine thinkers such as Laci Green and the folks over at Jezebel have pontificated to a great extent on the oppression laid bare by our society. So, in that spirit, I took a stroll through the Spirit Halloween store (located in just about every city in America for the next week or so) and have documented the five most disgustingly objectifying costumes I could find.

1: Sexy Cat In The Hat
That's right. Even Dr Seuss isn't safe from the disgusting objectification of our society. Note the clear differences between the male version (displayed in the picture and obviously not included in the package) and the female version. See how the male version looks completely normal and accurate to the source material, while the female version accentuates the female form and bares so much more of that filthy flesh.
2: Sexy The Walking Dead Michonne
Michonne is a beloved female lead character in AMC's The Walking Dead. On the show, she tends to wear body-hugging clothing, but it's still functional, as it's meant to make it harder for zombies to grab loose clothing. Her one concession is to modesty, where she covers that form-hugging clothing with a loosely draped cloak, often imbued with zombie viscera to throw them off of her scent. See here how the costume completely misses the point, instead sexualizing her struggle to survive in the zombie apocalypse.

3: Sexy Dottie The Clown
Even beloved childhood entertainers are not safe here, as this ladiess clown costume obviously veers wildly into the 'sexy' territory. I mean, look at those bared elbows! Those exposed ankles!

4: Sexy Baby Jammies
And speaking of childhood, not even children are safe, as this takes an adorable baby's pajama outfit and cuts it down to nothing but a mere slip of a costume, exposing things a baby should never be exposing, and coupling it with a huge phallic object.

5: Sexy PBJ

And the coup de grace, a Halloween costume that blatantly perpetuates Patriarchy, insinuating that a woman's costume is incomplete without a complementary man's costume. Literally a sexualized piece of bread with jelly that is clearly a menstrual metaphor, and useless without the man's sticky contribution.

I'm sure I don't have to explain that this is completely satire. The purpose for writing this is that I'm getting a little sick of hearing about sexualized Halloween costumes. Yes, there are a lot. Yes, some of them are sexualized versions of other costumes that aren't. But you know what? They sell *really* well. And it's not guys buying them. If you're bothered by what a woman is wearing, that might be a problem with you and not with the women that enjoy wearing them, with the companies making the costumes, or with the society that gets a laugh out of it. There's plenty of well-made, non-sexualized costumes available in lots of stores. Even non-sexualized versions of sexy costumes. So please. Do yourself (and the rest of us) a favour and go buy one of them, go out to a Halloween party with some friends, and enjoy your evening. I'd love to say that's what I'll be doing, but I'll be at work. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Gunday: Erin gets irritated and shoots things

Last week, my annoying aunt (old Jewish woman, dad's sister) come visit. How annoying was she?

So annoying that I posted this on Facebook the first day she was here:
Number of people I've killed today: Zero
That the number isn't higher is a testament to my willpower. 
But I could tell I was getting stressed out and I needed an excuse to get out dinner with Old Annoying Jewish Aunt, so I took the ammo I got from Ammunition to Go's "Ammo Ambassadors" program and schlepped down to the range to burn off tension by making things go bang.
Shooting the 9mm Magtech 115gr. FMJ Ammo
First, I need to inform you of two things:
  1. For reasons that were unclear but were probably related to caffeine mixing the various allergy medications I take, I had a terrible case of shaky hands when I got to the range. I decided to shoot anyway, because I figured that in a real-world self defense situation, I would likely be shaking from fear and/or adrenaline, so that this would be a more realistic test of my shooting ability. However, this means that a lot of my shots were all over the place. 
  2. My first few magazines were from some leftover ammo I got on my birthday -- I'm pretty sure they were 115gr aluminum-cased Blazer rounds -- and they all functioned flawlessly. 
So other than shaky hands, everything was fine for the first 50 or so rounds... until I got to the Magtech. 

Now, I've shot Magtech before and not had any problems with it, but that was their Guardian Gold 115gr +P JHP, not regular pressure FMJ. So you can imagine my surprise when over the course of 100 rounds, I had 12 failures to fire due to light strikes/non-igniting primers and somewhere over 20 (honestly, I lost count) failures to feed or failures to properly eject.
Three failures in the first box, NINE in the second. 
Ah, well. As disappointed as I was in the performance of the ammunition, I figured it was good practice for clearing misfeeds.

After I finished the Magtech, I decided I needed to shoot more because I was still uptight, and so I used some Freedom Arms that I'd bought earlier in the year. And because my shots were kind of all over the place (although still on paper, and usually within the 8 ring) and I was finally beginning to settle down, I figured I'd see if I could shoot the white out of the target for fun.

So the good news is that I did, indeed, chew an impressive hole in the target. This is what ~250 rounds of 9mm does to paper:
Quantity has a quality of its own.
However, the more I shot, the more I noticed that my Freedom Ammo was acting up: plenty of failures to feed, failures to fire, stovepipes from failures to eject, a few doublefeeds and about a dozen instances of the slide not properly returning to battery. In all, it was a VERY frustrating experience as my semi-auto Glock 26 essentially became a pump-action pistol. (But hey: it was lots of good malfunction training!)

My initial fear was that the main spring and/or ejector were screwed, but the general consensus among gunnies like Tamara was that both Magtech and Freedom have a reputation for being under-powered at times, and perhaps I got a bad batch. Low-power loads would prevent my slide from going all the way back, and this could account for all the problems I experienced.

Conventional wisdom is to return to the range with known good ammo and see how my pistol cycles after that. If it's fine, then it was indeed the ammo; if I still have problems, then something is broken. I am obviously hoping it's the former.

As a closing shot (pardon the pun), I discovered I had one round of ammo left after I had brought the target back. Since I had always wondered what would happen with a point-blank shot, I capped Mister Target right in the head.

For non-gunnies:  don't be too impressed. Most of that is from the pressure wave and burning powder ripping through fragile paper. It wouldn't look quite so dramatic against something more durable. Still, it made me laugh like a psycho, and that made the range trip a lot better.

As it happened, I timed it just right: I came home in the middle of dinner and everyone looked up when I walked in. By the way, humming SS Deathstar Supergalactik while carrying a shot-to-pieces target makes for a delightfully awkward silence, especially if (like mine) your Old Annoying Jewish Aunt is from New Jersey and therefore anti-gun.

So, y'know, use that knowledge well. Mazel Tov.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Doctor Who: Stand and Deliver

That's the scariest 800-year-old-teenage girl I've ever seen.

Things are going to get very awkward, very fast, if I continue to gush over Maisie Williams the way I did last week. That said, her performance did save last week's episode, and this week's episode serves her performance much moreso than the previous one.

The Woman Who Lived explores human immortality in a way unique to most science fiction: the issue of what immortality would do to a human mind is rarely addressed in such a personal way, and Maisie's voice and facial expressions portray that perfectly. She flows from cocky arrogance to thousand-yard stare in a moment's notice, all the compassion and kindness worn away, only to be replaced with superb self-confidence and self-interest.

And anger. A great deal of long-brewing anger. Ashildr isn't aging like Captain Jack Harkness (name-checked in this episode as well) did due to the repair tech powering her, but her mind still grows and changes. Compare this to Captain Jack, another near-human granted immortality, who lived so long that his body gradually changed to a giant head in a jar and his mind grew so far beyond regular human comprehension that his identity had long been lost. 
She's allegedly 5'1. I don't believe it for a second.
As for the story, it stands in stark contrast to the previous Ashildr episode. Where The Girl Who Died was full of flash and noise and farce, The Woman Who Lived has tons of quiet, introspective moments that I cannot imagine being carried more effectively than with Maisie and Peter Capaldi. Her stony demeanor as all of five-foot-nothing of her advances on his lanky scarecrow, making him back away; 12's uncertainty of just what he's created with last episode's gift of immortality; their back-and-forth of his gentleness and her hostility in the quiet moments, and their bickering with each other as equals in the more tense moments, are fantastic. For a a guest star. Williams and Capaldi have incredible chemistry.

The Chekhov's Gun motif makes a return yet again, as the series continues to set a firearm on the table in part 1 and effectively use it in part 2. Back in the Davies years, this sort of resolution wouldn't have been telegraphed from so early in the story; it would have been some manifestation of Clarke's Law as the Doctor pulled a piece of advanced tech or energy reversal out of his second ass (Time Lord – two hearts, two assholes, right?) to save the day. Instead, we get a small-scale finale of Marvel's Avengers with a rift opening in the sky pouring out hostile aliens and resolved with something set up in the previous episode, which feels much more satisfying than something introduced minutes earlier.
Immortals Assemble!
It wasn't perfect, though, for no episode is.
  • The musical score was curiously light on my favourite piece, “A Good Man?” and the score that was used was a little too whimsical for the grim and serious dialogue. 
  • Those sunglasses. I'm starting to get the Moffat hate that Tumblr constantly and uncontrollably spews. I swear, if those sunglasses aren't retired permanently and soon, I'll start a hashtag campaign claiming that sunglasses are misogynistic. I'll see if I can get Jezebel in on it, too. 
  • The bumbling guards that came to arrest the Knightmare in Lady Me's house annoyed me.
  • I was on the fence about Sam Swift's trial, but I think they pulled it off, if only barely, because of the performances of Capaldi and Rufus Hound – probably one of the few times a comedian guest stars in an episode of Doctor Who and doesn't fall flat on his face. I suspect it's because he's not playing against type, as Swift is a comedian as well as a highwayman. Contrast with Peter Kay as one of New Who's most reviled characters, the Abzorbaloff.
  • The implications of Ashildr's warning to the Doctor at the end, about how she'll be there to clean up his messes, makes me suspect that she'll be the previously hinted Minister of War. She's immortal, so she's got a great deal of knowledge and experience and has fought in wars throughout history. Her ominous photobombing of Clara's selfie (bordering dangerously close to duckface there, Clara) all but guarantees she'll return. And much like Torchwood, there are no shortage of people left bitter and broken in the Doctor's wake. No shortage of people recruited to oppose him, if it should become necessary.
Although it had its problems, I was much more satisfied with this episode than I was the last. It looks like next week we'll get the answer to a very, very important question. Was that Osgood or Zygon-Osgood that Missy vaporized last year?  

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #62
Adam and Sean bring you another excellent episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette talks... Zombies? Seriously? (Yes, seriously.)
  • Nicki Kenyon thinks the U.S. and Russia are headed towards a new Cold War.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Brandon Combs, the President of Firearms Policy Coalition. He tells us about Gavin Newsom's anti-gun ballot initiative in California
  • Do you use Kickstarter? Then Barron B would like you to beware the sucker play.
  • And finally, Weer'd puts Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer in the hot seat with another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
A special thanks to our sponsor Law of Self Defense. If you haven't taken a legal self defense class from attorney Andrew Branca, sign up now. Andrew will teach you the law of self defense in your state. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

We also want to thank Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Friday, October 23, 2015

SHTFriday: Universal Edibility Test

I had relatives visiting this week and I'm currently in allergy hell, so hopefully folks won't mind a written version of the podcast segment I did last week.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The TMS Chronicles: Taking the Bait. Hard.

Don't feed the trolls, don't feed the trolls, don't feed the trolls... dammit.

So this week, you may have seen... oh, who am I kidding. Of course you saw. It was everywhere: Variety; Salon; The Daily Show (Trevor Noah, I am so disappointed in you); and of course The Mary Sue, leading the charge as always. 

I wrote about their previous misrepresentation and overreaction to the alleged MRA boycott of Mad Max: Fury Road. In that instance, it was one guy on a RedPill site (not even an MRA – someone who looks down on that crowd) who was calling for a boycott because the movie was feminist propaganda. It wasn't.

Between the pregnant woman getting creamed by a monster truck, the completely nude lookout (in the desert? Come on – protective clothing!), the fat women being milked like human cows, and the fact that the much-vaunted female protagonist had a poorly-thought-out plan that had to be corrected and overridden by the male protagonist, that movie fails the critical theory test at every step, despite how much its been embraced. But that's the entire point. It wasn't feminist propaganda, and there was no “MRA Boycott” of it. 

Fast forward a few months, and the internet at large (and The Mary Sue in particular) has learned absolutely nothing. Yet another hashtag was started recently, and the narrative this time is that there's a massive group of white nerds that are boycotting Star Wars Episode VII because three major leading roles are being cast by minorities.

(Granted, there was a bit of scuffle earlier in the year when John Boyega pulled off a Stormtrooper helmet, but that was mostly, if you looked into the actual complaints, confusion over *why* there was a black Stormtrooper when the original Stormtroopers were clones of a character depicted by a Maori actor.)

Of course, all this was just another great excuse to label the nerd community racist when it was really people forgetting the 20 year gap between trilogies. Half the original trilogy Stormtroopers could have been black by that time, as the clones were dying off and other human-type species were recruited or conscripted into the Imperial army. The narrative, as usual, differs greatly from reality.

I counted and there are 10, maybe 12 accounts, all with similar profiles, that started the hashtag. At that point, notorious admitted child groomer and paragon of the social justice crowd Sarah Nyberg used the hashtag, which was followed by a flood of people loudly denouncing it. After that point, there were so many people using it to show what good people they are that you can barely find any of the original tweets .

Which was the point the entire time. There was no group of racist white nerds that were boycotting Star Wars. The mere idea of nerds boycotting Star Wars, after how thirsty they've been for it since the prequel trilogy shat upon the franchise from a very great height, is absurd to begin with. Star Wars is like a religion to some of these people: they don't care about the details, they just want more of it.

But The Mary Sue and a few other sites didn't care. There was a story, another chance to bash nerds, so they took it and ran and not only didn't check to see if it was legit, they didn't even care. They wanted to #ListenAndBelieve so badly that they didn't dare consider it was a troll. They even doubled down after further information came to light.

In fact, the rhetoric being spouted now is that it doesn't matter if it was a troll. A thing was said, an awful, terrible thing, and we must combat the terrible, awful thing as if it were real, because it doesn't matter if it's a windmill, it could have been a giant and we must stop the giants whether they exist or not because they might exist!

Then something strange happened. Esquire reported on the narrative itself. Rather well, giving a breakdown of what happened. Even Mashable (which really came as a shock to me, because every time I see something being shared from Mashable it's the same typical clickbait BS) spoke up. Mashable became a voice of reason, calmly explaining what happened from the timeline of the tweets down to 4chan's involvement and celebration of the attention they gained. I was simultaneously shocked and inspired to see a site that I had little to no respect for actually speaking out against knee-jerk outrage bait.
Thing is, if no one had taken the bait, the topic would've died in its tracks. - Mashable
It kinda gives you a sense of hope, in a way. A New Hope, if you'll forgive me. Hope that maybe people are getting tired of outrage. I know I got tired of outrage years ago. Outrage, and the narratives that cruelly cynical people use to make themselves look like shining paragons of virtue, while behaving like complete and utter tosspots.

I'm hoping to see more voices like this in the future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wednesday Night WTF?

Every so often I run into something that just makes me go

Watching this video is one of those times.

I'm just... well... bless their little hearts! They sure are trying their best, you know?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Meson Comms

My most recent game session of Traveller involved a Meson Communication to the PC ship, and the comms monkey asked if his ship could reply back. I said no, because they had a receiver but not a transmitter (see below for justification). Then I got to thinking: Mongoose Traveller talks about meson communications, but does it have any actual rules for them?

It turns out that the answer is "no."

Obviously, this post is going to fix that.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Per the Tech Level chart in the MegaTraveller Referee's Companion (and replicated here),  meson communication is experimental at TL 14 and widely available at TL 15. This is interesting as meson guns are available as early as TL 11, which suggests that the difficulty lies in adjusting the intensity of the beam so that it delivers a modulated message rather than exploding its target. (A good analogy for this is a comparison between using atomic weapons in the 1940s vs.  modern day radiosurgery.) From this we can infer that the technological hurdle lies with the transmitter and its yield, and that receiving meson communications is rather simple and can be built at a lower TL.

Therefore I have house-ruled that there are two types of Meson Communicators (hereafter MesComs): those capable of sending and receiving, and those capable of only receiving.

Reception Only
A receiver-only mescom (MesRep) is simply an antenna capable of receiving meson messages and a computer able to translate those messages. As the size requirements for this are very low, any ship with military-grade electronics (TL 10, 2 dtons, 1 MCr.) or higher automatically has meson reception ability. This allows Navy ships to send encrypted communiques to any military asset so equipped, which is useful in battle.

(Naturally, any ship running a meson damper will be unable to receive these messages.)

The price and tonnage for meson transmitters (MesTrans) is taken from the MegaTraveller Referee's Manual p.67:
Since no price is given for TL 14 mescom, even though it is technically available, this indicates that it is experimental and therefore the price is exorbitant.

Converting this from MT to MgT, these options become available at TL 15:
  • Short range: 0.5 dtons, 1 MCr. 
  • Medium range: 2 dtons, 4 MCr.
  • Very Long range: 30 dtons, 10 MCr.
  • Distant range: 150 dtons, 20 MCr.
  • 1000 AU* range: 500 dtons, 80 MCr.
*1000 AU is roughly 150 BILLION km, which (if measured from the sun) reaches past the Kuiper Belt and halfway to the Oort Cloud.

Mounting on Ships
From there, it's a simple deduction:
  • All military craft can receive mescoms. 
  • Small craft and fighters can mount short range mestrans for half a dton. This is used by wing commanders or CAGs to issue orders to their fighters during battle.
  • Dedicated sensor platforms (like the Traveller equivalent of the EF-111A "Spark-Vark") carry the medium range mestrans for 2 dtons, likely at the cost of a hardpoint. 
  • Larger ships, like 100+ dton scout craft, can mount the 30 dton very long range mestrans, but this would be rare as that is a significant percentage of cargo space. A 400 dton Aegis-class scout, however, would make a good platform for this if one of the drone bays were removed. 
  • Escort-class ships (1000 dtons) and up undoubtedly mount either medium or v.long mestrans. Some might carry a distant range transmitter in lieu of several bays. 
  • Capital ships carry a very long rang mestran at the minimum. and flagships undoubtedly carry the 500 dton version for interplanetary ranges. 
  • Tonnage on planets is a non-issue (Luna is roughly 1.6275E+18 dtons, or 3.255 trillion Tigress-class Dreadnoughts, so... biggish) which means that having multiple 500 dton installations is easy (and likely linked to deep meson gun defense sites).
Communication Protocol
Any starship computer capable of tracking targets through relative vectors can easily make the calculations necessary for effective meson communication. The difficulty lies in having the ship respond, as it is difficult to pinpoint a source when there is no beam and the particles that make the transmission are bypassing the hull and decaying within the transmitter. (This is, however, a good way to create an ominous "We are watching you" message...)

Two-way communication is as follows:
  1. The transmitting ship gets the range of its target. Usually this is done via a comm laser, but any active sensor ping will do. 
  2. Transmitting ship then sends the mescom, and within the message are the coordinates so that the receiving ship may reply. 
  3. Assuming the recipient can transmit back, it does so. 

Special thanks to Donovan Lambertus for calculating the volume of Luna and to J. Michael Looney, a former sparky, for helping me work out the details of meson comms. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #61
Wow, so many great segments this episode that Adam and Sean had to keep their segments snappy!
  • Erin Palette, suffering from seasonal allergies, tells us how to determine if that promising food source you're hoping to save you from starvation in the woods is safe to eat or if you'll end up allergic to it.
  • It was the week of the first Democrat debate and Nicki Kenyon has a few things to say about their foreign policy pronouncements.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Benjamin Turner of the Personal Defense Talk podcast. Ben tells us about the ALICE program of school safety
  • Barron B reprises his segment on password managers. He talked about it back in the first few episodes, but with the hack of LastPass, we thought he should talk about them again.
  • And if you've paid any attention to gun news this week, you know that the contestants in the Democrat Debate played a game of "who can hate on peaceable gun owners the most." You know that we couldn't pass that up. It's time for another patented Weer'd Audio Fisk!

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.
A special thanks to our sponsor Law of Self Defense. If you haven't taken a legal self defense class from attorney Andrew Branca, sign up now. Andrew will teach you the law of self defense in your state. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Doctor Who: Guest Starring Monty Python's God and Arya Stark

Spoilers: RIP Sonic Shades; ye won't be missed.

Five episodes in and we finally get an episode that, while still technically a two-parter, can stand on its own as a complete episode. This feels very much like Part 2 will be a sequel instead of a direct continuation of the story. And while it wasn't a bad episode by any means, it falls into a recent pattern of the historical episodes being really quite silly and I'm just not enjoying that.

For comparison, look at the early relaunch historical episodes like The Unquiet Dead, Tooth and Claw, or Girl in the Fireplace -- dark tone, serious characters, and an almost somber mood, but with an appreciation for adventure. Conversely, last season's Robot of Sherwood was easily my least favourite episode, and The Girl Who Died may be joining it. Surprisingly, I can often pick out which episodes I enjoy by the writers, but Mark Gatiss wrote Robot of Sherwood and I normally enjoy his episodes, while Jamie Mathieson wrote this one, and he wrote my favourite episodes of the previous year: Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express.

The things I enjoyed in this episode are fewer than things I didn't, so we'll start there:
  • Clara's grandstanding bluff to “Odin” really shows how much she's grown since she became a character instead of a plot device. To stand eye-to-eye with a powerful alien masquerading as a god requires a strength of will and wit that Colonel Jack O'Neill over on Stargate would appreciate. 
  • Maisie Williams. Oh, Maisie Williams. I weep that she was used on this episode and hope that her talents are more at home in the next episode. This girl's face is obscenely expressive, to the point where she could probably play a major role in which she never said a single word and still bring a crowd to tears.
  • The ending scene, after the Doctor realizes what he's done to her, representing the world aging, continuing around her, separate from her, as her face goes from joy and happiness to sorrow to finally cold detachment is amazing. 
  • The variations on the excellent theme of “A Good Man.” That still remains my favourite piece of Who-related music. 
  • Thwarting an alien race with shaming them on social media.
Maisie Williams will bite your head off. (Image courtesy BBC)
The things I didn't like:
  • Comedy vikings.
  • Inept villagers who wield tools for farming and construction, but smash cut to the moment they pick up a real weapon, and they've set the entire village on fire.
  • The viking who passes out at the mere mention of blood. 
  • The fact that the farce of the comedy vikings drags on for soo long.
  • The Doctor's defeatist attitude and the fact that Clara had to remind him what he's good at: winning. 
  • The Playskool battle armour of the aliens, like even sillier Judoon. 
  • The fact that Odin's first appearance is functionally identical to Monty Python's God
  • Beating the aliens with electric eels was... clever, but I'm not really sure they put out that much electrical current. I'm no marine biologist or electrician, but that just strikes me as unlikely. 
  • And they just had to sneak in a poop joke. 
  • The revelation of the choice of his face. It was a real “Wait... that's it?” moment, and I felt it served to undermine his strict insistence on working within the Rules of Time emphasized in the previous episode
  • Thwarting an alien race with shaming them on social media. I'm quite torn on that one.

I wasn't fond of this episode overall. I didn't quite dislike it as much as Sherwood, but I'm hoping it serves as, at the very least, a good introduction to a character that will get a better story. We'll find out next week with more Maisie Williams.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 7: I Do Actually Stand With Mustafa

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman
Part 6: The SPJ Airplay Bomb Threat

In Which I Say "Mustafa" a Lot
“Ooohh.. say it again!”
“Bahar Mustafa!”

It's been said that tools designed with the purpose of silencing people, any people, will eventually be turned against and used to silence marginalized people. It's for this reason that I am a strong believer in the concept -- not just the law or the amendment to the US Constitution, but the very idea -- of free speech. No matter how offensive or inane an idea, I still think you should have a right to say that idea, and nothing rustles my very jimmies more than people who take it lightly, dismiss it as a dangerous concept, or make jokes about 'freeze peach.'

Long ago, the Left won the public opinion PR battle by debate. They brought ideas that had not been challenged into the open, and debated them publicly to let the people decide which ideas could stand on merit. Now, the loudest voices in the Left are silencing not only those on the opposite end of the political spectrum ,but also those not as far Left as themselves, so that they can avoid having their ideologies dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light for an evaluation of merit.

Several months ago a 'diversity officer' for a rather upscale British university, one Bahar Mustafa (I love that name), made a bit of a row by publicly stating that white people were not allowed to a meeting with an emphasis on black and ethnic minority students, regardless of whether they were there for debate or for support. I'm sure that she did so in a mature and reasonable manner, too, given her position of responsibility as an employee of the school as opposed a radicalized student. This didn't go over well in the public eye, coupled with her frequent use of the #KillAllMen and #KillAllWhiteMen hashtags.

Come on now, you saw this coming
Either way, it all blew over, she wasn't removed from her position, and she got media attention for the incident both positive and otherwise, and got a chance to make a very public statement.

Unsurprisingly, it was not one that was in the form of a debate where those ideas could be challenged.

Fast forward several months, and the UN Broadband Commission, along with UN Women, held a summit with the focus on “Cyberviolence against Women and Girls.” The highlights of this summit included a 70-page report that covered, among other things, video games and sex work (not just sex-trafficking, but prostitution). The report was... less than comprehensive, and had lots of issues. Citations that pointed towards debunked reports that claimed Pokemon was satanic, that consumer video games were used to train military personnel, a citation that cited the report itself, several blank citations, and the much-derided citation that let to somebody's C:\ drive. The report was ripped to shreds on social media to the point that the UN retracted it, putting in its place a bare-bones version that's a mere 7 pages. It was so bad that even one of the speakers invited publicly denounced it.

Also making an appearance were Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, who I believe you'll remember from Gamergate notoriety. You know, that terrorist organization that led hate campaigns that drove every woman from gaming... or something like that. They were there to argue that harassment isn't just, as I'm paraphrasing, what's legal or illegal, it's “you suck” or “you're wrong” or disagreement. Granted, not everything they said was without merit, but it's the equivalent of a pork spending bill where you pack in one giant scummy thing with a ton of really helpful things in the hopes of passing them all at once.

I take every so slight issue with the argument that "If you're not allowed to disagree with someone because they're a certain race, gender, or some other factor that's arbitrary to their argument, you slowly erode the concept of freedom of speech," because you end up with Gregory Elliot facing charges for disagreeing vehemently and vocally with someone on Twitter who wanted to dox and harass the guy who did the 'Beat Up Anita' game. Not that anyone did the same for the guy who did the 'Beat Up Jack Thompson' game.

Or did they? Because Ben Spurr, the guy who made the Anita game, is the same person who made the Jack Thompson game, and everyone had a good laugh at that one and never bothers to acknowledge the same person made both games.

Back on track, let's fast forward another month or so: Bahar Mustafa is now facing charges for sending 'threatening communications.' Which is absolute, utter, contemptible bullshit. Yes, it's karmic justice given her air of invincibility surrounding the incidents that caused this, and it's the seeds sown by the UN meeting, but it's also complete horse shit:
She's got a right to tweet dumb shit. People have a right to tell her she's tweeting dumb shit. If they're assholes about it, other people have a right to call them out for being assholes, and bob's your uncle, turtles all the way down.
Just like when the aforementioned cultural media critic makes a poorly researched and flawed observation, people have a right to criticize her. And if they're assholes about it, people have a right to tell them they're being assholes about it. Nothing is immune to criticism -- not even criticism. Criticism of criticism may sound silly on the face, but there's nothing more harmful to a flourishing idea than poorly thought-out or delivered feedback.

The response has been overwhelmingly similar, too. Everyone that's been painted as a villain for the past few years has pretty much stated “Yeah, she said dumb shit, but that's not a crime.” 

Because it's not. It's not a crime. And if you make it a crime to say dumb shit, who decides what shit is sufficiently dumb to outlaw? How do we grow if we're not allowed to drag ill-formed ideas and opinions into the public eye and either refine or discard them? Down that path lies madness, where we outlaw one form of speech after another, until we're all too terrified to say what's on our minds, whether it be productive or offensive.

In conclusion, I think Bahar Mustafa is a spoiled brat who lives in an entirely too large mansion and went to an entirely too expensive school with no real concept of how the real world works or what 'oppression' actually means... but I stand with her right to spew whatever idiocy she wants to so that we can all point and laugh. Never get in the way of someone making themselves look like an idiot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

WNW: Unicorns

So this video made the rounds last week, and seeing how it known that I have both a fondness for unicorns and toilet humor, it was pretty much inevitable that I'd post this here. Especially since it also has a favorite of mine, a Briton with a posh accent talking about poop.

And now for the point of this post... actually, wait, I don't need a point. This is my blog, and I can post hilarious unicorn pooping humor if I want.

But I do have a point, and that is this:  I'm one of the 2,000 people who five-starred the Squatty Potty on Amazon. It is, as they say, the shit. Because not only does it work like they say it will, but also -- and this is the big selling point for me -- it keeps your legs from going numb if you, like me, enjoy reading while on the toilet.

I dunno about you, but I think that's awesome.

And now I want ice cream.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday Gunday: Erin Shoots Her AR

Yesterday I took Francisco N. Stein to the range and fed him a bunch of ammo. My goals were:
  1. Function check the rifle to make sure the upper played nicely with the lower;
  2. Test the magazines for feed issues;
  3. See if there were ammo types he liked or hated;
  4. Zero my red/green dot and iron sights. 
I am pleased to report that everything went very well. 
What? I like Magpul. 
 All told, I fired 130 rounds of ammunition from Frank. Because I am a cheapskate, I bought 55gr .223 because it was the most affordable which meant more (literal) bang for my buck. 80 rounds were acquired from Lucky Gunner via a gift certificate I acquired last Christmas; the last 50 were bought from Walmart on the way to the range.
Frank ate every single one of these without issue. I'm not sure of one of them is "more accurate" than the others, but the Perfecta were the ones I used last and they were the finishing zero on my optics. Considering that they were the best deal and most convenient to buy, I'm going to be using them from now one (unless I find something better). 

I also tested all five of my magazines:
  • Magpul 40-round
  • ProMag 30-round
  • three aluminum STANAG magazines
All of them worked flawlessly at max capacity (yes, even the ProMag). While I am aware that this is not a conclusive test and that some may fail sooner than other, I'm still happy to see that none of them were immediate junk.

Here is the final target after I got the sights more or less zeroed at 25 yards. I'm going to have to beg forgiveness for some of the stray shots in the 8 and 9 rings; once I was satisfied I was chewing through the bullseye I went a bit happy with the remainder of my shots.

The next time I have more ammo I'm going to take Frank out to 50 yards and see how well he does there. I have a magnifier for the red/green dot that I'd like to test.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Doctor Who: A Passion for Beethoven.

Spoilers throughout, as usual. Especially that “Minister of War business.”

Okay, I can almost forgive the Sonic Sunglasses if they keep letting Twelve play with that guitar. Especially if they keep letting him break the fourth wall and play his own theme music after giving us a lecture on temporal mechanics. It's definitely giving Twelve a sense of old-school punk-rock cool that even Tennant on his best days would have had trouble matching.

This episode is the second part of the second two-part episode of the year (so far), and unlike the first two-parter, this episode gels extremely well with its first part. Apprentice and Familiar had very different tones, with the first part being much less focused than the second part, but here the pacing remains similarly frantic and the stakes escalate well with the first episode.

Between the magnificently gruesome-looking inside-out face of the Fisher King to the cloudy nothingness in the empty eyesockets of the Doctor's ghost to the rushing water from the broken dam violently flooding the coldly lit air of the Cold War dummy town, the visuals in this episode are far and away the best we've gotten this year  (so far).

Speaking of whom, the Fisher King is probably one of the best monsters I've seen since the relaunch of the show, despite his painfully short screen time. I really hope we get to see him again, as that's the sort of monster design that makes you pine for an action figure. (Well, it makes me pine for an action figure.) The animation was excellent as well, which was surprising for a large practical effect like that. I haven't seen a practical monster that big move that well since Farscape, and the confrontation between Twelve and the Fisher King was fantastic. I haven't seen the Doctor stand up that defiantly to a being that obviously powerful since Seven.
Seriously, Henson company would be proud of this.
Twelve seems to be remembering the lessons he learned as Ten, as his plan here was suitably intricate so as not to break the laws of time, and his insistence that you can't “cut tragedy out at the root” definitely hearkens back to "The Time Lord Triumphant" story beats where Ten was laid low when someone whom he changed history to save killed herself shortly afterward. Capaldi's performance as the Doctor ghost, coupled with the smoky effects and empty eyes, was chilling -- especially when mimicking the call of the Fisher King at the climax. 
This is what despair looks like. 
Clara's previous smugness seems to have evaporated rather quickly after seeing the Doctor ghost. Cass's question about if traveling with the Doctor changed Clara and made her willing to put people's lives at risk really hit home with her, too. If she keeps this up, I may have to take back the “Series 2 Rose” comment I made last week.

I really enjoyed the Daredevil moment with Cass, despite my comment about disabled superpowers last week. Showing the ghost stalking her from her perspective, with complete silence while focused on her, then hearing the axe dragging was effective, and her last-second dodge after checking the floor plating for vibrations was well executed.

So far, this is the stronger of the two-part stories this year, even managing to use the accursed Sonic Sunglasses in an effective manner. The bootstrap paradox used in the episode was well addressed, too, and it's been a few years since we saw one, not since Five and Ten crashed into each other and nearly punched a hole in the universe the size of Belgium.  I'm only disappointed that we didn't get a reason that Cass never let Lun look at the writing in the shuttle beyond having to extrapolate "intuition." 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #60
Adam and Sean are back for Episode 60.
  • Erin Palette tells us about the many uses of hand sanitizer.
  • Since Nicki Kenyon thinks that Russia and the US aren't in a proxy war in Russia, I ask her if the US should cooperate with them. 
  • Barron B tells us how secure RFID credit cards aren't.
  • And Weer'd, in an epic length Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™, dissects our president's post Oregon shooting campaign speech.
  • It pains Sean to say it, but he thinks that Michael Bane is wrong about post-Oregon gun control. Stick around after the Audio Fisk and he'll tell you why.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Don't forget to share with a friend. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.

Show notes may be found here.
A special thanks to our sponsor Law of Self Defense. If you haven't taken a legal self defense class from attorney Andrew Branca, sign up now. Andrew will teach you the law of self defense in your state. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout for 10% off.

Friday, October 9, 2015

SHTFriday: the Active Shooter Scenario

Drat! I forgot to post a link to my Blue Collar Prepping post on Friday, so I'm posting a link now. (And also back-dating it so it won't interfere with the flow of the blog. Yet I'm telling you about it now, which completely ruins the illusion.)

But that doesn't matter, because all of you sexy intelligent well-read people are subscribed to my other blog anyway, am I right?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Seeing if I can start a trend

I gave Salem the night off because he's dealing with more dental problems. Also, he's promised me a real barn-burner of a post next week, and when he gets his ire up he does good work, so I'm giving him a week to recuperate and fully get his dudgeon on.

So yesterday, my friend Sean Sorrentino posted this image on Der Lederhosen:
As someone who attended the 2015 NRA Convention, I can tell you a few things with absolute certainty:
  1. That is indeed the press room at NRACon, where bloggers (like me) got their media badges. 
  2. I open carried the entire time I was there (last year, too) and no one -- not con staff, not security, not even the police I would occasionally see walking the floor -- said anything about the pistol on my hip. Lots of folks complimented me on my holster, though. 
  3. The middle person is Dennis Badurina of Dragon Leatherworks. He has a distinctive holster. 

In less than an hour, we had positively identified all three men: 
  1. The man on the right is Uncle from SaysUncle. (Identified by Sean, confirmed by self)
  2. The man in the middle is indeed Dennis. (Identified by lots of us, confirmed by self)
  3. The man on the left, and the last identified, is Adam of Guns, Cars, and Tech. This is funny because he's Sean's co-host on the Gun Blog Variety Cast, but Sean didn't recognize him -- someone else had to point out to Sean that it was his co-host!
The point of all of this is that the gunblog community can identify some of its members just based on their carry pieces and holsters, and I find that amusing.

To continue this trend, I'm going to post a picture of my carry rig for easy identification, and hope that other gunnies will do the same.

Fellow gunnies, post your pics!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

And then, this happened

It's kind of turning into a gun week. Which is cool, I like having theme weeks.

So my friend Jeff pointed me to this, and my reaction was "Wait... what?"

Don't get me wrong, I love seeing things in full auto, and guns are fun. But the idea of a belt-fed 9mm subgun just strikes me as really, really weird. I mean, why would I want to put 9mm into links when there are perfectly good subguns that feed from mags and drums? Seems like a lot of tedium to me.

The quick-change barrel is pretty spiffy, though.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ammo Ambassadors

Ammunition To Go (a company from whom I've bought ammo before) is running an excellent campaign known as Ammo Ambassadors:
We're giving away 100,000 rounds - that's 2,000 boxes of 9mm ammo just for bringing a new shooter to the range! So, be sure to start planning today as quantities are limited!

Here's how this works:
    Free ammo
  1. Find a buddy or family member that's new to firearms. 
  2. Print off this target and take it to the range with you. 
  3. Introduce your new shooter to firearms and snap a photo of them with their target. 
  4. Send us a copy of the photo with the submission form below. 
  5. We'll send you two boxes of 9mm ammo for free as a thank you for your time and energy helping grow the number of firearms-friendly folks in the United States.

This is what we call a Win-Win, folks:  You take a new shooter to the range. You both have fun. You educate them on firearms and hopefully get them voting for gun rights and gun freedom, And in return, you get free ammunition -- that's completely free, with no shipping or handling (I know this because I've already gotten some with that code) -- to help defray the expenses incurred in letting someone else use your ammo.

What's not to love?  Go become an Ammo Ambassador today!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Gunday: Demand Knowledge

A terrible thing happened in Oregon last week, as I'm sure you've all heard by now. The day it happened, I said "I can't wait to be told how this is somehow my fault."

I didn't have to wait long.

But I'm not going to be talking about the shooting, or about how of course I would have stopped it if I could have, or how despite all the media frenzy we're still on track for the lowest murder rate in 100 years (and if you think I'm picking from biased, right-wing sources, kindly look at this article from Slate, a magazine whose readers describe as having a "generally left-of-center" viewpoint. The actual data may be found in this PDF), or how it's this constant mediabation that glamorizes mass murderers and creates more of them.

All of these are excellent topics, and have already been covered, likely in a better manner than I could. Just today my friend Nicki Kenyon talked about how background checks didn't prevent this crime because all of the Oregon shooter's guns were purchased legally, and her facts come from this New York Times article (another source that is noted for not being kind to gun owners.)

So what are you going to talk about? I hear you ask. Well, it's simple:  I'm going to talk about how nice it is that the mask has slipped and gun control people are finally letting us know what they think about us, and how proud they are that they don't even read the laws they're clamoring for.

For example:

This is exactly what I'm talking about:
Meme: Anyone who hates background checks is someone who shouldn't own guns.
Eric Wenthe:  Here is an example, based on how things actually are under current Washington State law, which shows how background check laws can be used to punish certain people.
Commenter: Oh look, here's someone who loves guns and hates background checks, so obviously he's another nutjob not to be taken seriously.
Wenthe: So I assume you haven't bothered to read the actual legislation for this thing you want so badly?
Commenter: No, and you're the embodiment of evil for even suggesting I do such a thing. 
This is what my friend Salem calls "No reals, only feels." We've seen it a lot lately: it isn't important to understand a thing you hate. In fact, knowledge of evil taints you in some way. No, it's far more virtuous to stay blessedly ignorant, because feelings are what matter.

This is actually a big help for us, because not only does it make it plain what they want and how they think (no more of this "Let's have a discussion" business when they really only want to make demands; at least now they've decided that pretending to have a discussion is useless). it also demonstrates how they reach their conclusions and what they refuse to think about.

In other words, the people who are demanding change have no idea how to go about getting what they want, because they are starting from a position if ignorance.

I've been trying to think of a way to express the notion that we the people ought to expect the people who are demanding passage of laws actually know a thing or two about those laws. And then it hit me:

It's not my best work, I admit -- I rather suck at graphic design -- but you can clearly see both logic and sentiment there.

If anyone can improve upon this, please do so, with my blessing.

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