Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #76
Adam and Sean return for another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast, this time with voices that actually work!
  • Erin Palette tells us about taking Andrew Branca's Law of Self Defense class. 
  • Did you hear that John Kerry thinks we might lift sanctions on Russia? Well Nicki Kenyon gives us her opinion on that idea.
  • Barron B tells us some more about how people can use Customer Service to hack your password.
  • And continuing on his multi-week effort, Weer'd fisks more of President Obama's disastrous CNN Town Hall. This week, the anti-gun questions.
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 both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, January 29, 2016

SHTFriday: the Zika Virus

Are you worried because the media is suddenly talking about a virus you never heard about until now? Don't panic. I break it down for you and explain why Zika isn't that big of a deal.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Privilege We Don't Talk About

These days, everyone likes to talk about race, gender, sexuality, and sometimes religion, if it's the right religion. Entire worldviews and ideologies exist around these factors, and people build their entire identities around the circumstances of their birth. Circumstances that are built entirely on chance and often do play a part in the way your life plays out, but these very self-same people generally tend to ignore the elephant in the room.

The very well-off, well dressed, upper-class elephant.

The elephant with multiple degrees, a trust fund, and paid speaking positions.

The elephant that makes daily stops at Starbucks to micro-blog on their Macbook Air about injustice.

Maybe it's just the reformed Marxist in me, but nothing irritates me more than seeing someone who genuinely, in their heart of hearts, feels that they're a victim of the world lecturing someone in a rougher place than they are. I can't help but feel that regardless of race, gender, whatever factor, that someone who has just stepped off the stage of the Sydney Opera House from a lecture where they earned enough to buy one or two reliable used cars shouldn't be lecturing someone in rural Appalachia regarding their place of power in the socioeconomic structure of systems.

So let's talk about Roxanne Gay. Who, according to her twitter feed 24 hours ago, will be lecturing at Missouri State University. Who, according to her twitter feed 15 hours ago, complained about a $400 suitcase that can charge her iPhone and weigh itself, just doesn't work. For comparison, last time I flew anywhere, my company paid for it, and I had just my carry-on in a $20 bag I bought from Target. But I don't want to weigh myself, who debated going to the doctor last week for a stomach ache that I thought might be my appendix (it wasn't - don't eat gluten-free pizza) against someone who has had her own TED talk. I want to talk about perspective.

Fight.. the.. system? 
Screencap for convenience. Link for veracity. The person behind the counter at McDonalds is making, in about six months, what you make for a speaking appearance, I'd wager. If not less. This person who asked you "boy or girl" might have a boy or girl of their own, who they're worried they won't be able to feed, and are just hoping the glint in your eye doesn't mean you're about to ask for the manager. This person that you're explaining how damaging enforcing the gender binary to doesn't even have an ounce of power or privilege that you have, where you can go on a national speaking stage and explain your ideas to modest crowds of people. She can't even take the words that you've spoken to her, verbatim, to her manager and have him pass it up the chain. because it won't matter. "Girl or boy" isn't something that the counter employees at McDonalds have any influence at all over. At best, all you've done is waste her time. At worst, you've impacted her productivity and inconvenienced the people behind you in line, and that's not going to cost you anything. 

Fortunately, there's a little bit of a silver lining to this story. After publicly and proudly tweeting (again, on a public platform), she was quite handily told how completely out of touch and lacking perspective she was, and did her best at apologizing. Of course, between the initial tweet and the 'apology' were quite vitriolic statements thrown at people who were being everything from supportive but critical to straight-up assholes, but progress is progress.

But this is the crux of what bothers me about identity ideologies: They're mainly made up of people who make a living out of them. I'm not paid to write these posts; I write them because these are things that I enjoy or things that I feel. I don't have a trust fund; I have a real life job somewhere that I don't mention that takes up entirely too many hours of my week to pay my bills so that I can keep myself distracted with video games or action figures, and I'm thankful that I have a job. Some people don't.

And some people have a job they hate, that pays them sweet fuck-all, and still have to deal with people who have no sense of perspective or empathy for someone that's struggling because they don't look like them or think like them. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Missiles

Ah, missiles. Possibly the greatest fly in my particular Traveller ointment, missiles have always given me trouble: they're expensive, they're easy to shoot down, and they take a long time to get to their targets. Why would anyone use them?

Thankfully, 2e has addressed that somewhat by doubling the damage of basic (now called "standard") missiles to 4d6, and making nukes truly scary at 6d6. This answers the above question with "Because they have more bang than energy weapons; the payoff for the wait is increased damage."

Of course, the missiles still need to GET there first, which is still a problem with the current system. This is a problem I hope to fix.

As of this post, I am adhering to neither 1e nor 2e; instead, I am cherry-picking the best from each. You may consider this "1.5e" or, if you're feeling puckish, "Pe" (for Palette edition).

*Cue chainsaw noises*
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
From a game standpoint, missiles have three guidance types:
  • Internal - These missiles home in on targets via onboard sensors. The actual type of sensors doesn't really matter; what matters is that, once launched, they can independently seek and destroy their target without further guidance from the mothership. These are typically known as "Smart" missiles. 
  • External -  These missiles follow directions given after launch. Usually this is in the form of a laser or other form of EM radiation painting the target craft, but others (such as torpedoes) can be controlled by a comm laser in a high-tech version of "wire guided". These missiles can be given new directions after launch. 
  • Ballistic - These are classic "dumbfire" rockets which travel along a set trajectory until they either hit something and explode, or run out of fuel and explode. Unlike the others, they cannot be jammed because there is no guidance system to jam. 
It is worth noting that missiles built to military specifications can fulfill any of these roles. Before launch, the gunner chooses which targeting system the missile will use, if any. Missiles which are launched "dumb" cannot be affected by electronic warfare.

Chaff, as detailed in last week's post on Sand, affects internally guided missiles. Externally guided missiles are also affected, but can be redirected if the gunner shifts the painting laser to an unblocked target (or directs the torpedoes to divert around the sand)*. Chaff has no effect on ballistic guidance. 

* There ought to be rules regarding when it's too late to shift targets, and how far away the new target can be. Sadly, I don't have a good answer for that now. At this time I am relying upon GM discretion to decide what is fair and what is not; hopefully this can be codified in the future.  

To-Hit Mechanics
  • Ballistic: The gunner rolls Turret or Capital Weapons. 8+ means the missiles hit, but if the target spends thrust to evade then the missiles will miss. This can be used as a great way to bleed off thrust from a fleeing ship that doesn't have the ability to shoot down multiple inbound missiles. 
  • Externally Guided: Do not roll for to-hit at launch. Instead, wait until the turn the missiles will impact, and then consult this chart from first edition:

    Note that any ship with a reflec coating will reflect a painting laser with more intensity, and so missiles will more easily home in on it. A reflec coating gives +2 to hit with external guidance missiles. 
  • Internally Guided: The gunner does not need to make a to-hit roll. Instead, on the turn of impact the missile makes its own to-hit roll. This is a base 8+, modified by the difference between the TL of the missile (or its launcher, if higher) and the TL of the target (use sensor TL if uncertain). This means that lower TL missiles will have a penalty to hit higher TL targets, and vice versa. 
Electronic Warfare
Smart missiles are exactly that. If they have been spoofed off their target as a result of EW, a roll of 8+ means they have re-acquired their target and may make another attack roll so long as they have sufficient thrust. The TL modifiers above also apply to this roll.

Externally Guided missiles are vulnerable to being thrown off-course. It is plausible to assume that some facets of EW involve blinding missile receptors with comm lasers and/or fooling a missile into thinking that another missile is its target via painting laser.

Dumb missiles are immune to EW and must be shot down or evaded.

Universal To-Hit Modifiers
  • Missiles launched at Adjacent range are effectively dumbfire and only do 2d6 impact damage, as their warheads have not reached the minimum safe distance (1 km) to arm. 
  • Close range launches are +4 to hit. 
  • Short range launches are +2 to hit. 
  • Medium range launches are considered default (+0).
  • Long range launches are -2 to hit.
  • Very Long range launches are -4 to hit. 
  • Distant range launches are -6 to hit.  
  • For every missile in the salvo that is not stopped by EW or Point Defense, +1 to hit.
Variable Thrust
All milspec missiles and torpedoes have the "variable thrust" feature. What this means is that they do not have to go at their full speed when launched-- they can be programmed to fly at a slower rate, or to delay full thrust for a period after launch.

This is a useful tool for navies because it allows a ship to create larger barrages. For example, a 10G missile will reach a stationary target at Long range in 4 turns, and a 12G missile will reach a stationary target at Long range in 3 turns. A military vessel with a missile bay could launch its first salvo at 10G and its second at 12, with both salvos reaching the target at approximately the same time. This turns 2 salvos of 12 into a single salvo of 24 -- much harder to shoot down, and more dangerous when it hits!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Gunday Product Reviews: Laserlyte Red Center Mass Laser vs. LaserMax Micro II G

Once again I have a head-to-head pistol laser comparison, this time between LaserLyte and LaserMax. These lasers were tested on my mother's Kel-Tec PMR-30. This is because 1) she's wanted a pistol laser for a long time now, and 2) it's the only pistol in the house with an accessory rail.

Disclaimer 1: I have a friendly relationship with the various LaserMax representatives. I try to review things objectively, but it's possible bias might creep in, so please consider my review with that in mind.

Disclaimer 2: I have favorably reviewed products from both companies in the past. I genuinely like both companies and the products they make.

Disclaimer 3: People are inevitably going to ask "Erin, why didn't you review a non-Center Mass laser from LaserLyte, or the red Micro 2? Isn't that like comparing apples to oranges" and my response is "I reviewed what I was given. They send a green, I review green; I get a CML, I review a CML." I have tried to review them both on their merits as pistol lasers, while pointing out that each have less expensive alternatives.

The LaserLyte Red Center Mass Laser retails for $164.95, but is available at Amazon for $99.95.

However, if you don't want the Center Mass effect and just want a single laser, you can get the LaserLyte SCV4 from Amazon for $64.99. They both have central dots for point of impact; the more expensive CML has a ring of 8 other lasers around it.

The LaserMax Micro II G retails for $199, but is available at Amazon for $167.23. The LaserLyte comes out looking better in this regard, but notice that I'm comparing a red laser to a green laser.

LaserMax also makes a red version of the Micro 2, which is exactly the same other than beam color. It sells for its MSRP of $119 at Amazon.

Winner: LaserLyte, but not by much
(see below). 

The Red CML takes three 357 silver oxide batteries, with a life of 2.5 hours constant-on and 5 hours of life on pulse. The Micro II G needs only one lithium battery, with a life of "over an hour" for green and "4+ hours" for red. 

Given that the Micro 2 Red uses the exact same battery as the green, you get nearly twice as much life as the red center mass laser for a difference of $20 -- and that's constant-on time, not pulse time. (You can make the Micro 2 pulse as well by turning it on and then pressing and holding the switch for 5 seconds. Pulse life for green is still "over an hour", although I would think it would last somewhat longer than on constant; red on pulse extends its life to 4.5 hours.)

The Micro 2's battery is easier to replace, as well: the cover is a spring-loaded lid that just pops open and snaps closed, as opposed to a circular plug that must be unscrewed with a coin or screwdriver (but don't use too large a coin, or you'll hit the mounting rail). 

Both lasers come with auto-off features: the CML after 6 minutes, the Micro 2 (both versions) after 10. This helps to prevent battery drain after accidental activation. 

It's worth noting that both lasers come with batteries included, which is a nice touch. 

Winner: LaserMax, but also not by much.

At this point we have "cheaper price and annoying battery installation" vs. "more expensive but easier to replace, and if you use the red Micro 2 you get better battery life."

Both slip onto an accessory rail and install quickly. The Micro 2 uses a flathead screw, while the Center Mass Laser uses a hex wrench (which is included in the package). The instructions for mounting and using both are clear.
Winner: a tie.

Both come with a tiny hex key for adjustment, which is a good thing because the CML key is so tiny I don't have one in any of sets. The Micro 2 uses a 0.05" key which I happen to have in my set of Stanley hex wrenches.

Both sets of adjustment screws suffer from what I call "gummy screw syndrome", where the screws just move the laser without giving you any feedback like MOA clicks. I realize this is standard among laser sights, but it's still annoying to me. However, the Micro 2's screws are just slightly tighter than that of the CML, meaning I felt like I had more precision when dialing it in.

Winner: Lasermax, but just barely. 

This is because their screws were slightly better and because they used a wrench size I own. That's important, because we all know how easy it is to lose teeny-tiny hex keys. 

Both lasers have ambidextrous controls, which is great as I'm a rightie and my mom (whose gun the lasers were on) is a leftie. I preferred the controls of the Micro 2, as they are switches on either side of the casing; mom preferred the rear pushbutton controls of the CML. I believe that makes control placement a matter of personal preference. 

Winner: another tie. 

This is the part you've all been waiting for.

Micro 2

After I dialed the sight in as best I could, this is what I achieved at 25 feet, unsupported. The first three are in a nice stitch across the X, and the other 17 are kind sloppy because I'm not an experienced shooter and my hand gets tired. You'll note that all but two are 9-ring or better.

[It is worth noting that time passed between these two shooting situations, as .22 WMR became hard to come by for a while. This explains the differences in targets, and possibly an improvement in my shooting. Ammunition was the same, however.]

Red Center Mass Laser

I had significant problems sighting this laser in at 25 feet; all of my shots were dropping about 3 inches low, no matter how I adjusted the laser. (I didn't photograph the original target that's full of low holes, but if you want to see it let me know.)

I am willing to state for the record that the problem in zeroing it may have been me, since the procedure for both is the same. I'm not sure why it gave me trouble; it simply did.

After about 50 rounds of this I gave up and moved the target to 10 feet, the minimum distance the range allowed. I figured this would probably be the range that my mother would be engaging a bad guy in a self-defense situation*.

*Yes, I know all about the Tueller drill. Mom is old, carries in a purse, and doesn't practice her draw stroke. I can't change any of these factors. 

The first five shots in the head are me using the fiber-optic sights. This was to prove that the gun itself was accurate and that I could shoot worth a damn. (Why add a laser, then? I hear you ask. Well, just because I can shoot better with the iron sights doesn't mean my mother can, and I was doing this for her carry piece. She has trouble with sights in general.)

The three shots in the chest are from me zeroing the sight. The high one is before laser adjustment; the middle one is after. The bottom one is from when I went "Okay, I have this zeroed, let's move it back some" and I moved it to about 18 feet out. Those extra eight feet caused a drop of one inch.

Now, I'm not saying it's the laser's fault; it might be my fault as I don't claim to be anything more than an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to shooting guns. But that was the point where I went "Clearly my shots are dropping for some reason, so let's just go back to mom's likely engagement distance and try it out."  That resulted in the cluster of shots around the thorax.

Why the thorax? Because 1) it was a place I hadn't yet shot, and 2) I was thinking of the "White Triangle of Death". You see, if shots are going to fall 1-3 inches at 25 feet, then let's aim at the thorax; if they hit there it's good, but if they drop then they're still within the center of mass.

I do think it's weird that I shot better without the laser than with it, though.

Winner: Depends on who you ask.

Mom really, really likes the big red Center Mass ring that the LaserLyte puts out. She has terrible vision -- has astigmatism, wears trifocals, and had cataract surgery recently -- and so the big pattern of the CML is a draw for her, despite the fact that for me it yielded less precise results.

I prefer the LaserMax Micro 2, because I found it easier to turn on, easier to adjust, and had better accuracy with it.

But Erin! If this laser is for your mother's pistol, 
why hasn't she shot with it?
That's an excellent question, and it deserves an equally good answer. Sadly, I can't give you one. Mom is full of good intentions but can never quite find the time to go shooting with me; first she had neck surgery, and then cataract surgery, and then it was the holidays, and then it was cleaning up after the holidays. At this point, I frankly don't know if she's just reluctant to go because she's afraid to find out she's lost a lot of progress, or if she just can't find the time to go, or if it's something else entirely.

But I'm a dutiful daughter, so if she wants me to install the laser she wants, I install it. I can't physically drag her to the range to get her to practice with it.

Which One Should You Get?
Again, it depends. If you asked me this question in conversation I'd answer with questions of my own: Who is it for? What is their skill level? Is this for target practice or self-defense?

These are both fine lasers, and if you get the red versions the prices are comparable once you factor in battery life. If you like the one dot, get the Micro 2; if you like the big Center Mass Ring, then by all means get the one from LaserLyte. I prefer the one I'm more accurate with (obviously), but if you have poor vision then the CML is clearly a better choice.

The biggest difference is the red vs. green. The green Micro 2 is $30 more expensive than the red, and you get increased daytime visibility in exchange for a greatly reduced battery life. There was no real way for me to compare the red Center Mass Laser against the green, because the green CML (see my earlier review here) is far too large to mount on a pistol. For a long gun, size won't matter much, but again the price issue comes up:  $99.95 for red vs the now-current $147.48 Amazon price.

TL;DR version:  Unless you absolutely need the green, get the red version of whichever model suits you best.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer:  I genuinely like both products. Both were given to me for free for reviewing purposes. I was not paid to give a good review. Go away and fight some real crime. 

Possibly the Tightest Group I Have Ever Shot

I took my mom's PMR-30 to the range to test out the red Center Mass Laser on her pistol. I don't have time to write a full post tonight, so this is basically a teaser until I can write tomorrow. 

Shot with iron (well, fiber-optic) sights at 10-12 feet. I actually shot better with them than with the laser. Weird, right?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #75
Despite having almost no voice left after a week of coughing, Sean has dragged himself to the computer and done the podcast with Adam. Just because he can't talk doesn't mean he won't talk.
  • Erin Palette, having talked last week about barter, this week talks trade goods.
  • By taking US Navy hostages, Iran seems to want to complete the comparison between President Obama and President Carter. But this time Iran let them go. I ask Nicki Kenyon if that's a Win or a Fail for our foreign policy.
  • Barron B give us his thoughts on New York's attempt to ban smart phone encryption
  • And in his extended series on Obama's disastrous CNN Town Hall, Weer'd enters the second week with "The Lies, Part 2."
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 both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, January 22, 2016

SHTFriday: Law of Self Defense Seminar

Over at Blue Collar Prepping, I review a seminar that I took last weekend. If you carry a gun, you need to attend one for your state.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Indistinguishable from Reality

Poe's Law, coined back in 2005, indicates that parodies of extreme views, without a clear indicator of satire, will be mistaken easily for actual extreme views. Several sites, from Landover Baptist Church to The Onion and its gloriously relevant sister site Clickhole, have made a name for themselves in posting news stories that others have taken and run with as absolute proof for whatever argument they've wanted to push. It's become a cottage industry for giving people enough rope to hang themselves, as well as countless hours of entertainment.

In the inverse of the law, extreme views can easily become indistinguishable from satire or parody.

For example
It is with this, today, that I bring you a glorious piece of... I honestly can't tell. It might be satire. It might not be. Given that MTV's YouTube channel also houses the Problematic Laci Green's Braless series, it's more than likely that they're being quite sincere about this. Just see it for yourselves.

I really have nothing else to add to this discussion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WNW: This is a Triumph

The starter on my increasingly raggedy coup is failing, so I need to spend money I don't really have to get a new one -- fortunately, my buddy Chaplain Tim found me one for less than $100, and I have another friend who says he's willing to help me install it.

So what was looking like a shitty situation has been resolved into merely bad. Thank God I have friends.

And now, let's enjoy the lighter side of the automotive industry with this Triumph Motorcycle advert done in the style of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I particularly like how the motorcycle was watching Blackadder Goes Forth. An excellent comedy, that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Sand

The past two game sessions in my Traveller campaign were a playtest of aspects of the new 2e space combat system, crossed with some house rules. And like what always happens when I meet a rules system, I found that some things didn't make sense, so I've decided to change them -- either for verisimilitude or for game balance.

This is probably going to part of a series on Space Combat.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
The very first thing that I did was to change the range and range modifiers to sandcasters. Instead of having a maximum range of Short (up to 1250 km, which just seems really excessive for what is essentially a "space depth charge"), their maximum range is now Close. However, the no longer have a range penalty for being used at Adjacent range, which is helpful when using Pebble rounds to shoot at boarders or missiles that got past point defense.

The rules-as-written way to use sand is as a reaction -- your sensors indicate the enemy is powering up a beam weapon and you fire sand to intercept. And this is fine if there's a specific attack you really, REALLY want to block.

But I also think you ought to be able to put up sand as a preemptive barrier between you and your enemy. If that's the case, then your Gunner (Turrets) skill roll becomes the number to hit your ship; otherwise they hit your sand cloud instead. I've been running it this way for a while, but I figured it ought to be written down.

Sand clouds last for one turn. If they are hit, they ablate/vaporize; it they are not hit, they drift apart from the initial canister detonation that causes their spread.

There has been much discussion about whether or not sand should block plasma, fusion, and particle beams. After going back and forth on it, and talking about what I want from it vs. how the various beams work, I have come to the following conclusion:
  • Sand reduces laser beams at full strength (1d6)
  • Plasma and fusion beams are reduced at half strength (1d3)
  • Particle beams are reduced at one-quarter strength (1d2)
A hit by any of these weapons that penetrates it will clear a hole through the cloud, effectively dispersing it. This qualification is necessary, because a triple sandcaster throws out what is essentially a 3d6 cloud, so a cloud with maximum effectiveness (18) will not be cleared away by a strike from a minimum-strength (3) particle beam.

I also feel that sand is more than just "sand". Given the way sandcutter rounds work (using electromagnets to disperse sand clouds), it's obvious that sand is metallic and magnetic in some manner, which means it ought to have a radar cross-section. This sounds an awful lot like chaff, which is under-represented in the game anyway.

I like the notion that defensive sand, in addition to acting as a light absorber, also works to block sensors -- most of which are light-based -- and to confuse the sensors (also light-based) of smart missiles.
  • Sensor Baffling: A sand cloud which has not dispersed acts as a diffuse shield against EM sensors. The effect of the Gunner (Turret) roll acts as a DM against all sensor checks across the cloud. Sand can be used in this manner to break sensor locks. However, this works in both directions -- a cloud your enemy can't see through is one you can't see through, either, unless you have better sensors. 
  • Missile Blocking:  A non-dispersed sand cloud affects the sensors of all missiles. "Dumb" missiles shot on a straight ballistic course are not affected. (More on those missiles in a follow-up post.)
Shooting Down Missiles
Hiding on p.50 of Mongoose High Guard is the note that sand canisters can be used to shoot down missiles, if said missile has been launched from at least medium range. I interpret that to mean "If the missile will hit in the same turn that it's launched you can't shoot it down with sand, but if there's a delay of a least one round, you can intercept it."

And since most of us have seen what a paint flake traveling at orbital velocity did to a space shuttle window, you can imagine what a shotgun-like spread of metallic sand will do to a missile -- especially when you add the velocity of the missile and the intercepting sand particles.

Your Objections Anticipated
Some of you are no doubt saying, "But Erin! Haven't you just combined Sand, Pebble and Chaff into a single canister?"

Indeed I have. Sand is neat stuff.

And I'm pretty sure I've shown how I reached that conclusion: chaff is metallic, and sand is metallic or else it wouldn't be affected by sandcutters; ergo, it likely has offensive uses. And since I've shortened the rage of sand cannisters to Close and the difference between sand and pebble is 1 point vs 1-3 points of damage, I feel this is not unbalancing.

You are, of course, free to argue.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gunnies Helping Gunnies: Mark Alger

The Smallest Minority has the details, but the short version is that fellow gunnie and friend of the blog Mark Alger was laid off two weeks before Christmas and needs an emergency cash infusion that can tide him over until the royalties from his second novel come in.

He's a good guy. Slip him some dosh. Or buy his first novel, The High T Shebang, on Kindle for just $2.99!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #74
Adam is getting better from his extended illness while Sean is getting sicker.
  • Erin Palette tells us about bartering.
  • Nicki Kenyon explains how the Cologne, Germany open air rape attacks will affect the future of European refugees.
  • Barron B gives us some tips on how to avoid pop ups, adware, and malware.
  • And Weer'd starts a multi-week series on President Obama's very bad, no good time at CNN's Town Hall.
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 both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor,Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What a Week, Am I Right?

I'm turning off the nerd reviews and social criticism criticism for a few minutes here, everyone. I had a piece that I was going to do on class and money privilege being the overriding factor in most situations, and had a great example of it, but that's... that's not happening this week. This week we reflect and remember.

They say death visits us in threes, and it's always three beloved figures of pop culture that are taken from us at a time. Granted, that's merely a superstition at best, and I try my hardest to stay away from superstition, but this week it feels more real than ever. Within the space of a little over two weeks, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, and Alan Rickman were taken from us by cancer, and it hardly feels real to write that.
To say that these men had a good run is an understantement. Lemmy and Bowie were both legends in their fields and easily identifiable outside. Rickman has been in at least one film that everyone's seen, whether it's Harry Potter, Dogma, or Die Hard, and is the face of several memes including the legendary table flip.

Lemmy: I really wasn't a fan of Motorhead, but Ace of Spades was a good song, and your influence on the rest of rock music has been invaluable. You've made a huge mark on any form of music that uses a guitar, and I hope you knew that before you passed. You were a stubborn old bastard, one that we thought would probably never die given what you put yourself through and survived, but I hope you feel like you didn't die with work left undone.

Bowie: I was first introduced to you, like many people, through your appearance in Labyrinth. It may have been my first real exposure (not having seen Rocky Horror until years later) to something so subversive as the Goblin King. You were beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Powerful and charismatic and cruel and something I was unable to look away from, the Goblin King was in many ways an aspect of the faces you showed to the rest of the world. I'm rewatching BBC's Life on Mars this week in tribute to you and the era that you grew in, and Little Wonder is probably one of my favourite all-time songs. Your influence was felt, and will be felt, everywhere.

Rickman: Despite your trademark sneer and singularly distinctive voice, you were truly a comedian. There are, surprisingly, a lot of people that will say "Who?" if you mention your name, but that's not because they haven't seen you; it's because you were so good at your craft. I have to admit that I honestly don't know if I've ever seen Die Hard all the way through (never a fan of Christmas, I prefer New Years and Ghostbusters II to Christmas and Die Hard) but I'll make sure to give it a watch now. Instead, my first exposure was probably the spoon scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and that sticks with someone. I hadn't seen a Harry Potter film until the series was done, but I knew something was off with Snape, that he wasn't *just* a badguy. And no one played the world-weary, heavily annoyed angel better than your Metatron in Dogma. But above all else, we science fiction fans will always remember and love you for Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Gentlemen, you'll be missed, but on the off-chance that you can still hear what's going on here, please know that you made a mark. A huge, indelible mark. I salute all three of you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Erin Palette: the Quest for a Social Life

I'm trying to convince myself I should do something, but I'm dragging my heels -- probably due to insecurity. That heel-dragging is why I haven't posted anything the last two Mondays; I've been working myself up to write this. Then last night, I hit a low point and just spewed out a lot of angst to a select group of Facebook friends.

These friends, bless them, encourage and uplift me, and have convinced me I need to say "Fuck this noise" to my anxieties and embarrassment and just put it all out there.

I don't know if I'll be able to get it all out in one post. I am a rather complex individual, and I have a lot of history and a lot of baggage, so this might take several post to get myself fully explained. I'm going to try, though, as understanding who I am and why I do things is critical for the goal I have set for myself in 2016.

Background Info
So, first things first, let me link back to some of my previous soul-baring posts, because if you haven't read them you're really going to be confused.
All those ought to give you a basic understanding of me and my situation.

My Problem
It has been years since I had a date. It's been far longer since I've had sex. I am really, REALLY lonely, and I don't know how to fix that situation.

Part of it is because I don't know how to "sell" myself. I suck at writing resumes for the same reason I suck at writing dating profiles: all I see are my flaws and deficiencies and I don't know how to gloss over them and emphasize the good parts. (I.E. "I wouldn't fuck me, so why would anyone else want to?")

Another part of it is because of my physical condition. I can't pass for female without a LOT of work, and conditions here don't allow for that. So I'm locked into looking male for the foreseeable future. Which isn't too terrible in and of itself because I am biologically male and am looking for women who like that sort of thing. But the problem lies in how to address the elephant in the room: if I am honest about it early on then I scare them away, and if I wait until we are solid then I'm accused of lying to them or worse. And dating sites don't really have a category for "Boygirl seeks bisexual* woman."

* Why bi? Because I have a woman's brain with a man's plumbing. I figure a gal who likes both is more likely to accept me than a straight woman will.

Finally, my home life is an issue. I'm not independent, and that SHAMES me. I am so embarrassed about it that all I can see is "I am a loser" instead of all the good things that I can bring to a relationship. And I do know that I can bring excellent and amazing things to a relationship:
  • I am kind, loving, attentive, and thoughtful.
  • I communicate well. 
  • I think like a woman. Seriously, this is of benefit here: how many women have said "Why doesn't my boyfriend/husband get it?" I guarantee you that I am far more likely to understand your point of view than the average man will, if for no other reason than because I endlessly analyze things. 
  • I don't do stupid machismo bullshit. 
  • I am sensitive to the feelings of others. 
  • I like to cuddle. 
  • I am extremely protective of my loved ones (and if you've seen the guns I own and the targets I've shot, you know I'm not a slouch with using them).
  • I am exceptionally family-oriented (see my current living situation), which means I will be incredibly loyal. I don't cheat, EVER, and I put great stock in fidelity. 
  • I'm great with animals. I don't know how I am around kids because I don't normally hang out with them, but if they're anything like puppies then I can handle them. 
  • This probably isn't a selling point, but it's true: I have such a shitty self-image that I will literally be grateful that someone actually manages to find me attractive. 
But despite all those qualities (and however many more I have forgotten to list), the one thing that bugs me above all others is that I don't have a full-time job (despite the fact that I'm trying to become a published author, and that my familial duties would preclude such a thing anyway) and that I don't live by myself (despite ample evidence that living alone isn't good for me). It keeps chipping away at my self-confidence with a constant "Why would anyone want to date someone who still lives with her parents at her age?"

Fortunately, some of my online friends have offered their opinions, god bless them:
You're not independent but you're interdependent, which is better. Independent people don't need anything from anyone else, so other people don't get to feel needed by them, and personally I'm not terribly attracted to people whose lives wouldn't be substantially different if I weren't there. Interdependence is about giving and taking, paying your debts, and sharing the load. Interdependence is what holds society together, not independence.

OK, so you don't have your own place - you're taking care of your aged parents even though they drive you crazy. I reckon there's an air of nobility in that.
As much as I like these perspectives and want to agree with them, the bullshit voice in my head that keeps calling me a loser usually drowns them out. I'm trying, though.

Here's How You Can Help 
As my readers are kind, insightful, empathic and intelligent, you have no doubt deduced that I am asking you to help me get a date in 2016. I hate admitting that I need help (see "sign of weakness"), but I'm tired of struggling by myself. 

Let me first head you off at the pass by anticipating some of your comments:
  1. "Try an internet dating site."  Thank you, I've tried them. I even have a better response rate than is usual because I am able to write and put effort into my contact letter. However, these have all been busts because of the following:
    • Not once, not twice, but multiple times I have gotten to the "Hey, let's go out for dinner" stage of online dating, only for my date to mysteriously never show up. I'm just blown off and never contacted again.

      Let me rephrase that: Someone actually decided to give up FREE FOOD rather than have a meal with me.
    • I am quite honestly disgusted with the whole "I am a perfect and rare flower, and if you don't like what you see then you are shallow. Now, you must be at least 6 feet tall, with a full head of hair, not be overweight at all and have a salary in the high five figures before I will give you the time of day" pose that most women on dating sites adopt.
    • As mentioned, I have no idea how to honestly advertise myself. Claiming to be either a gay woman or a straight man seems like a lie of some form, and last I checked most sites don't allow for "Genderqueer lesbian biomale" as one of their options.
  2. "Try Fet Life." Thank you, I've tried that too. FetLife isn't a dating site, it's... some kind of weird sex-themed Facebook kinda thing that requires way too much effort to get past all the people offering me things I don't want.

    What kind of things, Erin? Well, mostly BDSM things. BDSM makes me highly uncomfortable. Like, "I would rather go to the dentist" uncomfortable.

    Put another way, have you ever met a pushy fundie? Or a pushy pagan, for that matter? Where even if they are in your space and making you uncomfortable they still won't fuck off? That is what BDSM is, to me. Everyone is talking about ALL THE GODDAMN TIME and I'm tired of it. I'm to the point where it actively turns me OFF. So please, no more FetLife.
  3. Some variation of "Get over yourself."  Yes, thank you, I am trying to do this. This is, in fact, what I am trying to accomplish with this post and my actions. But just telling me to "Stop sabotaging yourself" is rather like telling a depressed person "Just stop being depressed." Sorry, no, it doesn't work like that. 
Now that's over with, let's get to the final salient points of me begging for help with my social life so my shame will be complete. 

My Type
Smart, sweet and sassy with just a touch of badass. She doesn't need to be a geek or a nerd, although that will definitely help (and give us things to do and talk about); simply being okay with me being a nerdy geeky type is fine. 

We need to have compatible politics. I didn't use to think this was necessary, but as I get older a compatible philosophy becomes increasingly important. (For the record, I am a pro-gun, pro-gay rights, end the drug war and legalize prostitution kind of little-l libertarian). 

Appearance? I'd be lying if I said that a pretty face and stunning body weren't desirable. But I'm far more concerned with mental and social compatibility than I am with sheer physical attraction. So long as there's some form of chemistry, I'm happy... but I know that a lot of folks won't accept that answer as satisfactory, so let me just say this: I've dated plus-sized ladies and I've dated ultra-petite ladies. I've dated within my race and outside it. So long as everything is proportional and works well as an ensemble, I will likely find her attractive.

Oh, yeah... religion. I'm not too picky about this either, but I definitely have some preferences:
  1. Anyone who has a problem with my heritage or ethnicity is definitely right out, as are "All fags go to hell" types. 
  2. I'm also going to eat meat, dammit, so anyone who makes their diet into a religion is also out. 
  3. I generally prefer people who believe in something to people who don't believe in anything
  4. Agnostics are preferable to atheists. 
  5. Atheists need to be not-assholes about it. 
That's about all I can think of at the moment, although I am sure I've forgotten something. So let me turn the conversation over to you , dear reader -- what do you need to know about me to help me find someone willing to date me?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Tech Level Spectra

"Tech Level Spectra" is me trying to use fewer words to say "Just because meson technology is TL 11, it doesn't mean that ALL meson guns ought to be TL 11. TL should go up as size goes down."
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Reference last week's post about meson barbettes. In Mongoose Traveller, ALL meson guns are TL 11, which is just silly. Yes, there are ways to increase performance or reduce the tonnage as TL goes up, but per rules as written all you're doing is making a destructive weapon slightly more destructive, or turning a 50 dton bay into a 30 dton bay. There are no rules for when miniaturization kicks in enough that your bay can be turned into a barbette and your barbette into a turret weapon.

To be fair, I don't have rules for this either. I do however have some guidelines, and perhaps rules can be derived from them with some work.

My process can be summarized as "Establish the baseline, and then work from there." Example:

Meson technology is established in Classic Traveller High Guard as TL 11 for Spinal Mounts, TL 13 for 100 dton bays and TL 15 for 50 dton bays. Let's use these as rough guidelines.
TL 10: Prototype meson weapons.
TL 11: Meson spinal mounts.
TL 12: 100 dton meson bays.
TL 13: 50 dton meson bays.
TL 14: Meson barbettes.
TL 15: Vehicle mounts, making the barbettes portable. This gives us the Meson Sled of Striker fame. Fun fact: the Terrapin meson sled in GURPS Traveller: Ground Forces is GURPS TL, which corresponds to Traveller TL of 15. 
Each of these weapons can still gain improvements to performance and/or reduction in tonnage per the "Advanced Technology" chapter.

After this, things get a bit speculative:
TL 16: One meson gun per triple turret. (Oh, hi there, Darrians!)
TL 17: One meson gun per double turret.
TL 18: One meson gun per single turret
TL 19: Crew-served meson weapons. Think an energy version of the Ma Deuce.
TL 20: Meson Gun Man Portable (MGMP) with Battledress.
All of this seems reasonable to me, so let's try it with Particle Accelerators. Weirdly, both 100 dton bays and spinal mounts are listed in CT: HG as TL 8. This just goes to show that odd decisions about TLs have lasted as long as the game.
TL 7: Prototype particle beam weapons.
TL 8: Particle spinal mounts.
TL 9: 100 dton bays.
TL 10: 50 dton bays.
TL 11: Particle barbettes.
TL 12: Vehicle weapons (particle sleds).
TL 13: One per triple turret. Notice how this lines up with the current 1e Mongoose diktat regarding PAs.
TL 14: One per double turret.
TL 15: One per single turret. Now the Imperial Navy can truly kick ass and you don't need to edit the stats from your Fighting Ships supplement. 
I think that looks pretty good, actually.

Will I use this system in my game? I'm not sure, as I've introduced particle quad turrets into my game and I'm not ready to give them up. But I will say that this spectrum is a sight more logical and fair than the arbitrary "No triple particle turrets EVAR" and 1e High Guard gave us.

If you use this, please let me know.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #73
Adam and Sean bring you another fine episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette decided that she didn't want to spend New Year's Day with the amateur drinkers, so she took her Bug-Out Bag camping. Today she tells you what she learned.
  • Nicki Kenyon tells you why the US is seeking the extradition of the former VP of Honduras on drug kingpin charges.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Beth Alcazar of Pacifiers and Peacemakers. Beth reminds us men that we should buy a gun WITH the ladies, not FOR the ladies. This is a great segment, don't miss it.
  • Barron B gives us a quick primer on what to do if we dump our drink into our laptop. Plus how to avoid doing that in the first place. 
  • And while we're trying to figure out what kind of a soup sandwich the President's "Executive Actions" are, Weer'd does a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™ on some of the news coverage out of Minnesota.
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.
Next weekend, the 16th of January, our sponsor Law of Self Defense will be holding one of their in-person legal seminars in Orlando, Florida. As a special bonus, in addition to the legal expertise of Attorney Andrew Branca, there will be a presentation by Attorney Don West, the co-counsel for George Zimmerman. There is NO EXTRA COST for this. If you can get to Orlando to take this Florida specific class, it is $150. But if you use discount code "Variety" at checkout, you get 10% off.

I (Erin) will be attending... will you?

Friday, January 8, 2016

SHTFriday: Shaking Out my Bug-Out Bag

Every prepper needs to take their gear camping at least once a year to test it out. Here are some of the lessons I learned from a trip I took over New Year's.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Salem Reviews Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Who cares about decent? The spoilers are ON!

And so, a full 20 years (or so it feels) after we learned that Moriarty had somehow returned, Sherlock's plane has finally turned around and landed, and with it the first Christmas Special of BBC's Sherlock. It is a testament to how well Moffat and Gatiss have translated the show into the modern day that when they translate it back to its original time period, the story beats and characterizations are easily recognizable both as as modern and vintage Holmes: Sherlock is still an erratic and abrasive asshole, Watson still served in Afghanistan, and Mycroft... well, poor Mycroft.

The costumes are different, the language more formal, but this is unmistakably still Moffat and Gatiss's modern Sherlock, just double-translated back into its original vintage veneer. Some things are different, such as Mary's character (at least at first, until she's revealed to still be a spy, working for no less than Mycroft himself – I'm particularly glad that survived. I like Mary as part of the team, and Amanda Abbingdon is fun to watch). Lestrade's hair... is a riot.

The Abominable Bride takes full advantage of its setting, too, with little in-jokes and references to goings-on at the time, such as Mary mentioning to Lestrade that she's part of the campaign for votes for women, and Lestrade replies with “For or against?” as many people forget that there actually was a Women's National Anti-Suffrage League that campaigned against women voting in parliamentary elections.

Also of note: Molly Hooper, in male drag, running the morgue. This is a classic character trope in Victorian-era storytelling, a woman doing a 'man's job' in a period of history where that wouldn't have otherwise been possible (or at least looked down on). Amusingly, Watson notices this when Sherlock does not. 
Jeremy Brett could not have been recast better. 
Mycroft, while traditionally overweight, crosses the line from overweight here to comically fat, even having a running joke with his little brother about the time of his death constantly shifting due to what (and what massive amount) he eats for his breakfast. 

I did like the “It's the 19th Century” joke, though. I mean, it's 2015, right? ...right?
Sometimes I hate being me. 
Not everything works in the cross-time translation, though, as Modern Moriarty is hilariously out of place. So much so that I couldn't help but think that the previous episode's villain, the blackmailer Magnusson, would have been right at home as a vintage Moriarty. Modern Moriarty benefits so much from the modern setting, much like Elementary's Adler/Moriarty dynamic benefits from its setting as well.

Then the story twists with an earthquake during a showdown between Holmes and Moriarty in Holmes's drawing room and, as we flash forward to the plane, we realize that three series and a special into the show, Holmes does actually have a substance abuse problem. It's been hinted at, with his “on assignment' heroin usage and the nicotine patches and occasional cigarette, but this is finally him coming clean. And the aforementioned earthquake, coupled with the faithful recreation of the Victorian era, calls into question whether Vintage Holmes is a memory exercise for Modern Holmes or Modern Holmes is a delusion of Vintage Holmes.

The resolution of the episode, involving a conspiracy of female murderers coupled with the suffrage reference earlier, explains why Vox hates this episode so badly. Last week, I spoke about how holiday specials work in the great world of British television, and I think Vox spectacularly missed the point: this episode is packed to the brim with completely bonkers, not-necessarily canon moments, but only the broad strokes matter.
  • Holmes was called back, and in the time it took his plane to turn around and land, he ran a simulation of a similar death in his mind to try and find out what Moriarty did. 
  • Vox misses the point that it wasn't really the solution, and these women weren't really murderers; it was simply a representation of women that Sherlock and company may have overlooked over the years, as well as a throwback to Vintage Holmes, who genuinely did have a low opinion of women for the most part, typical of the time. 
  • In other words, Vox literally mistook an overdose-fueled fever dream for a propaganda piece, and I can't imagine why they did that. 
    • Not at all. 
      • They certainly weren't projecting. 
Anyway: A great deal of fluff, but fun fluff. I look forward to the story actually continuing when Sherlock returns for series 4, in approximately 17 years.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

About those resolutions...

Don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time getting back into the swing of blogging after my Christmas vacation. Perhaps it's because I didn't make any resolutions for this year.

Speaking of resolutions, have you broken yours yet? Thinking about breaking them? Just having trouble keeping them?  If so, do not fret; John Oliver is here with some wisdom for you.

And speaking of going to the gym, here's "What if Sir David Attenborough narrated a film about gym rats?"

Hang in there, folks! The week is half over!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Meson Barbettes

One of the interesting things about 2e Mongoose High Guard is that they've made barbettes interesting again by giving them several new flavors. Torpedoes and missiles have gotten a much-needed upgrade, and so torp barbs are no longer useless; missile barbs can shoot 5 missiles at once, making them much more dangerous. Particle beams have been removed from turrets and relegated to barbettes, which is annoying, but fusion and plasma barbs have been added to the mix as well.

Then there are the exotics, Ion Cannons and Gravimetric Distorters, which I don't care for because the former feels too much like Star Wars and the latter is just silly (make it a Schlock Mercenary-style gravy gun and I'll consider it).

And then there's the Tachyon Cannon. Put simply, meson guns in 2e HG are spinal-mount only (boo! hiss!), and so as a replacement we've been given tachyon guns which are sorta-kinda like meson guns only not as useful -- it does less damage, but is armor-piercing. What's funny, though, is that while meson guns were bay-only weapons, tachyon guns also come in a barbette flavor.

You know where this is going.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Meson Barbette
TL 11
Range Long
Power 12
Damage 6D*
Cost 15 MCr
Traits AP special, Radiation

* In the Alternate/High Tech chapter of 2e HG, 50 ton meson bays have had their damage increased to 8d6 (from 1e's 5d6). Since tachyon guns start at 2D for barbs and increase by 2 for small/medium/large bays, and 2e's meson bays are 8D/10D/20D, I just continued the progression.
What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Look, in 2e everything that can be a bay weapon can also be a barbette, and there are rules for meson bays for those of us who don't want to give them up. I'd say it's perfectly logical, and well within the rules, to derive a meson barbette.

If anything, I think that the Tech Level of meson guns is too low, but they've been TL 11 since Classic Traveller. 

That sound you're hearing? Those are the Close Escort ships becoming a hell of a lot more useful.

(System Defense Boats are also scarier with this mod, but let's be honest: they were scary anyway.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #72
Come ring in the New Year with the crew of The GunBlog VarietyCast Episode 72!
  • Erin Palette gives us some strategies on managing chronic pain during a disaster.
  • In our Foreign Policy for Grownups segment, Nicki Kenyon tells us why she thinks that Russia is becoming more like the old Soviet Union.
  • Our Special Guest, Benjamin Turner of the Personal Defense Talk podcast, explains to us how to avoid a fight in the first place.
  • In his triumphant return, Barron B explains how $100 worth of dash camera can make the difference when a bad driver claims an accident is all your fault.
  • And in another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™, Weer'd watches the Democrat debate so that you don't have to.
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 both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

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