Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Dreaded Posting This

As of the time of writing, this video has over 2.5 million views.

2.5 million. Even taking into account repeated viewings, this means that likely over one and a half million people have seen it. It's things like this which bust a narrative wide open.

"Why are you filming this?"

 If you're unclear what's happening here, this is a white guy with (honestly some rather unflattering) dreadlocks. What's obvious from the rest of his appearance, dress, and manner is that he's pretty committed to this look and lifestyle, and not just some random frat boy that's decided to make his hair 'ethnic' for the day. He's being harassed by the woman in the video, unaware that she's being recorded. He tries to leave three times before she grabs him and shouts at him to take his hands off of her after a quick glance at the camera.

The story's been making the usual rounds. Some are trying to spin it, mentioning that the guy is 'using it to promote his music' and that she 'was raised in foster care.' Apologia. Under the legal definition, she assaulted him for the way he was wearing his hair. Maybe it was cultural appropriation, if you buy into the narrative that only dark-skinned people can wear dreadlocks (despite the evidence that numerous cultures throughout history have worn their hair like that). If that's the case, then maybe the old adage "You might not be wrong, but you're still an asshole" rings true.

Next week I'm technically on vacation, but I'll post you all a picture from the top of a mountain. And I'm not sorry for that title pun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Off Grid for the Week

Hey all!  I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm going to scarce around here for a few days.

From tonight through Friday, I get to experience the exquisite joy of shooting other people's guns and using up other people's ammo at the Big 3 East Spring Media Event.

So today is being spent in a frenzy of packing, and yesterday was spent trying to get various BCP blog posts edited and prepared for future publishing.

I'm going to try  to have a SHTFriday post, but I kinda doubt I'll have the time to write it.

Anyway... all is well even though I'm going to be suddenly quiet for the week.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #84 - The Alchemist and the Monkeysphere
It's time for another exciting episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Palette explains the Monkeysphere and how it affects you and the people around you.
  • She's mocked everyone else in the race, so now Nicki Kenyon tells us what she thinks about Hillary's foreign policy. Can you say "schizophrenic?" I knew you could.
  • Beth Alcazar tells us about some strange goings on around her local Target store and how you can keep yourself a little safer.
  • Still holding down the Tech Tips chair while Barron B is "On Assignment," Silicon Graybeard tells us about all the interesting things we can use those fancy new radios to listen to.
  • And The Alchemist, Colin Goddard gets his chance to get run through the Weer'd Audio Fisk-a-tron. Yeouch!

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Friday, March 25, 2016

SHTFriday: Ionizing Radiation for Dummies

Friday was a loss for me because I had a terrible headache, so I wrote this on Saturday -- and then promptly forgot to mirror it here. Now it's Sunday, and since posting this after my GunBlog VarietyCast post wouldn't make much sense, I'm just going to backdate this post, because I have that kind of power here.

Anyway, if my previous post about radioactivity didn't fully answer your question about Why Ionizing Radiation is Bad, this post ought to do that for you. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's a Slobberknocker, Jim Ross!

By now I'm sure you all have heard the news (and more importantly, if anyone's following my social media feed you'll have seen the memes): Bollea vs. Gawker has gone through the legal system, and a jury has ruled in favour of Bollea. Heavily in favour of Bollea.

I'm not a fan of Hulk Hogan. Even back when I used to watch professional wrestling, I wasn't a fan; in fact, I couldn't stand him. I've never been fond of the squeaky-clean, all-American image. Maybe it comes from growing up overseas and not really identifying internally as American; maybe it's my misanthropic nature; maybe it's the fact that I know, deep down, no one is truly innocent and no one's really one hundred percent good guy. In my experience, the harder you project that image the more untrue it is, and in his heyday nobody projected that image harder than Hulk Hogan. When I transitioned from mark to smark (literally “smart mark,” or a wrestling fan that knows what's staged) I found myself disliking him even more.

When I was a teenager, I went to a local WCW show where Hogan was scheduled to appear. Maybe he was off doing some humanitarian work, or maybe (more likely) it's because it was in Shitheel, Alabama, but he didn't show. He was on the card to be Dave Sullivan's tag partner against his “evil” brother Kevin Sullivan and... I don't even remember now. Typhoon, maybe?... some incredibly large man in a spandex onesie. Their music played, and the heels came to the ring. The face music played and... Dave Sullivan wandered out by himself, looking very scared and confused. (The thing you have to know about Dave Sullivan is that he was 'special.' That was his gimmick. According to Wikipedia, he was apparently dyslexic, but his character acted as if he had a severe developmental disorder.) Dave fumbled his way into the ring and proceeded to have seven shades of hell beaten out of him by his evil brother and the aforementioned very large man in a spandex onesie.

This went on for about two or three minutes before music once again began playing over the decrepit speaker system of the farm center's makeshift arena, and who else but Sting charged down to the ring and cleaned house on the badguys. Sting, who wasn't even on the card for the evening, didn't even have a match, but nonetheless came out in full ring gear to save the day when Hulk Hogan couldn't be bothered to show. That's my memory of Hulk Hogan: the man who didn't bother to show up, and the man who saved the day in his place. That's why I've always liked Sting over Hogan, and why, when he went full Crow vigilante mode, I was right there backing him.

But when greater evil rears its head, the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy's enemy, and you can find it in yourself to cheer them on. I have no hesitation in openly stating that Gawker and all it's affiliate blog sites are utter trash.

A tabloid that would make the Weekly World News proud to call itself a newspaper.

A figurative, if not literal, cancer on the internet and journalism itself.

I have a great deal of respect for the tradition and responsibility of investigative journalism, and to have those words associated with digital toilet paper like Gawker is shameful. Some people question the First Amendment when it comes to this court case. Ironically, those same like to trot out the whole “freeze peach” nonsense whenever anyone else mentions Freedom of Speech or the First Amendment. But showing an old man's genitals isn't why the Freedom of the Press is important here. It's not meant to protect Gawker when they try to ruin people.

So I really don't care that Hogan boned his best friend's wife. I don't care what he called who or what his opinions are on what. I don't even care that he let down Dave Sullivan and didn't bother to show up for an untelevised match in the middle of nowhere. When the day came that the jury handed down a decision that will likely bankrupt Gawker and hit Nick Denton in the only place where he still has any feeling left, that was a good day. So good a day that I'll treat it as a national holiday.

As for Hulk Hogan: I salute you. Now consider this your retirement match so I won't have to be reminded of you anymore. This is the most interesting you've been since you turned heel and joined the nWo back in the day. Too bad that I was always Wolfpac nWo as opposed to Hollywood nWo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Supergirl, Why You Do This?

First of all, I actually enjoy CBS' Supergirl TV series.

Sure, the plots are lame (I'm not sure if they're more lame than the Flash and Arrow plots on CW, or if they only seem that way because Supergirl has a bigger budget on a bigger network) -- I mean, they took Alan Moore's amazing Black Mercy story and turned what should have been a 'Wow!' episode into 'Meh, was alright I guess' -- but I like it because the actors are convincing and overall the mood of the series is bright and cheerful and not the "oh god everything sucks i shall cut myself while listening to Nine Inch Nails" thing we have going on in the other two shows.

In other words, it's fun and it's cheerful even if it's a bit campy, and Melissa Benoist is very easy on my eyes.

But oh god, the writing. It baffles me how a series can have such good characterization and dialog between characters, but suck so badly at everything else. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

Monday's episode, "Manhunter", dealt with how J'onn J'onzz became Hank Henshaw.  And during a few flashbacks, we found out the following:

  • Henshaw calls the alien he is tracking through the South American jungle "the Manhunter" and "the Martian". Okay, how does he know this? It's not like J'onn was a prisoner on Fort Rozz...
  • Later, he says "This alien is over 300 years old!"  Again, how does he know this?
  • He also says something like "Superman says this Martian is one of the most powerful beings on the planet!"
I... I just...

Okay, let me break this down. 
  1. If Superman says J'onn is powerful, it's likely because they had an encounter. Either they fought each other, and they fought alongside each other. 
  2. If Henshaw knows J'onn is Martian it has to be because J'onn told Superman he's Martian. It's not like Krypton had diplomatic relations with Mars (because if so I'm pretty sure Kara would have heard about them during her education on Krypton). 
  3. From what we know of J'onn, it's really doubtful that he'd tell a total stranger that he's a Martian. So it's likely that Superman gained his trust or respect. 
  4. So of course it makes total sense for a government agency to track down someone that Superman respects instead of other threats. 
But let's assume that Henshaw is a total xenophobe nutcase  (BTW, I don't buy that he's dead -- I totally expect him to come back as either a certain cyborg or something else) and thinks "I hate aliens, and Superman is an alien, so if he likes another alien I'm gonna kill him."
  1. He still calls J'onn "the Manhunter". 
  2. Meaning that, logically, J'onn must have been hunting someone when Superman encountered him. This is probably how they met, fought, gained respect, etc.
  3. So if J'onn is hunting men (bad guys, we assume), then he isn't keeping a very low profile, is he? And didn't he want to keep a low profile to blend in and not let White Martians find him and etc?
  4. Furthermore, if he's hunting men, why is he hiding in a South American jungle?
I mean, you'd think that a shapeshifter who wanted to stay hidden could hide pretty damn easily in the Amazon. Of course, that would mean he's not out hunting men. And if he IS out hunting men, then why is he hiding in the Amazon?

None of this makes sense, because it's terrible exposition. The writers wanted us to know that J'onn J'onzz is from Mars -- but we already knew this when he told Kara several episodes ago. The writers wanted us to know that J'onn is Kryptonian-level powerful -- but we already knew this from how he took down Supergirl when she was under the effects of red kryptonite that made her evil. And the writers wanted us to know that J'onn is a manhunter -- but we already knew this because that's precisely what he does for the DEO in his guise as Hank Henshaw.

In other words, they really wanted us to know stuff we already knew. Except for the 300 years old part; that doesn't make any sense at all, unless you go comic book fan deep paranoid on it (see below). 

Now there are ways around this, of course. The easiest way is to simply say that the flashback was from J'onn's perspective and not what actually happened. He could have been lying about what was said, or otherwise be an unreliable narrator. 

The more interesting way to resolve this conundrum is to address these seeming contradictions head-on -- why yes, Hank Henshaw DID know these things, and he IS a raging xenophobe, and this all makes perfect sense because he is actually the Eradicator. Of course, this doesn't address the second set of problems (manhunter, jungle, etc) but that could be handled with option 1, above, or just ignored altogether if the dramatic reveal is good enough. 

The problem, though, is that I don't think either of these things are going to happen. I think everything's going to be as straightforward as it seems, because that's how Supergirl seems to roll. 

Sigh. Ah well. At least we're getting that sweet crossover with Flash next week, right?
By the way, this has always been my favorite Supergirl costume. The belly tee makes her look young (because she is), the white shirt makes her visually distinct from her cousin instead of "Superman with boobs and a skirt), and it's similar to alternate-universe Power Girl that you get the symbolism but without the needless boob window. 

I would love it if the TV show adopted this costume, but I'm so not holding my breath. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: KOYNZ!

I our latest game session I thought I was going to freak out my players with a description of a biotech room (complete with furniture that was gently breathing) but no, the thing that disturbed them most was this brightly colored "Saturday morning" commercial featuring loud music, computer animation, and photogenic Zhodani children looking at the screen and shouting "THEY'RE KOYNZZZZZ!"
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
The Commercial
[Italics: Commercial Spokesman/Narrator with a Toy Commercial Voice]
[Bold: Photogenic Prole Moppets who look at the camera and shout with enthusiasm]

Hey kids! They're the newest rage in the Consulate!

That's right! Now you, too, can command the secrets of the Droyne oracle!

Collect them, chase them, trade them with your friends!

Fun for all ages! Roll them, stack them, flip them, caste them!

Want to know if you'll do well on tomorrow's test? Dying to find out if your crush is crushing on you too? Just consult the Koynz!

Buy the 36-piece deluxe set, get a blank 37th koyn free! Put a picture on it -- your pet, your best friend, even yourself!

Available in 6 hot colors, including pink sparkle!

Expansions coming soon!

The Product
Koyns are, quite simply, mass-produced koynisin that are sold one at a time -- think capsule toys from vending machines -- for roughly 1 Abradlnad each. The only distinction between Koynz and koynis, other than a shocking lack of respect for cultural tradition, is that they are mass-produced from stamped plastic instead of being handmade. Otherwise, the dimensions are accurate. (Weights of traditional koynisin have always varied, as materials range from wood to osmium.)

Koynz colors are gray (the natural color of the undyed plastic), metallic gold, metallic silver, white, light blue, and of course shockingly bright pink with glitter. Colors and faces are randomized within capsules, with gray being most common and pink and the metals being rarest.

The complete sets are rather expensive (over 50 Ab) and come with extras:
  • An instruction manual, bound with an impressive-looking leatherette cover (capsule koynz have a sheet that points you to a website for instructions)
  • A "build it yourself" display case, also made from plastic
  • A bag for holding the koynz (little more than a Chivas Crown Royal bag)
  • The hi-tech Zhodani version of a DVD which includes games which can be played with Koynz -- games like Pogs, and Tiddlywinks, and Checkers, and of course the obligatory fortune-telling oracle. 
But Why?
Currently unknown. It could be as simple as "A Consulate megacorp decided to capitalize on the Zhodani's love of all things Droyne to make a profit" or "Cultural assimilation is the sincerest form of flattery" to something as complex as "A subtle attempt to encourage psionics at a young age" or the obligatory "Sinister forces at work."

How Do Consular Droyne Feel About This?
Bemused, for the most part; a cross between "Bless them, they're trying so hard" and what parents feel when they see their children dressing up in their clothes and pretending to be grown-ups. After all, Droyne children often get into their parents' koynisin and play with them, so this is about as offensive as a Catholic would find an infant teething on a rosary.

This attitude may change, however, if more Koynz are added to the collection.
  • Putting a temporary picture on a blank Koyn ("Oh look," think the Droyne, "the humans paid for a second Void koynis to use as a specific determiner -- well, that's all right I guess") is acceptable;
  • Adding new Koynz which are relevant for the Zhodani -- such as one that represents the Addaxur client race -- will be tolerated as a necessary cultural adaptation;
  • But new Koynz that represent local sports teams, or celebrities, or other ephemeral things, may result in the Droyne taking insult... or they might choose to ignore the whole thing entirely as another silly human fad. 
As of this moment, there are no Koynz expansions, but that may change.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carry-On Vocal Booth Pro: a Thank You and Review

March 11 was my birthday, and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who wished me well. I had a fantastic 3-day weekend, and I understand that National Erin Palette Day has gone both international and inter-continental, with celebratory rumpuses (rumpi?) being performed in Canada, the UK, and Australia/New Zealand.

While I got some very nice things, including this nifty scope and mount for my AR-15, the main thing I want to talk about (and issue a formal "Thank You" for) is my lovely new portable recording studio!

On March 3, Sean Sorrentino (head honcho of the GunBlog VarietyCast) sent me an email saying "We need to figure out how to afford one of these for you."

"$200 and you've got a sweet on-the-go audio booth. No more Blanket Fort." Apparently Sean was tired of dealing with the hard echo and other sound artifacts that were the result of me recording in my church's office, despite crawling under my Blanket Fort of Preppitude for each session, and decided that a fundraiser to get me a portable studio was the way to go.

I looked at the price, gave a low whistle, and then threw a Hail Mary by saying "Post it to my wall. Someone might feel generous and buy me one."  He did, with a link to the GBVC's Paypal and saying "If you want to contribute, earmark this for Erin and we'll get her one." I thought that maybe we'd raise the money in time for Christmas.

As it turns out, we got half of our goal within the day (Thank You, Anonymous Donor!) and over the course of the week more donations continued to flow in ( Thank you, John and Ian! Thank You, donors whose names I don't know!) such that Sean was even able to upgrade me to the Pro version with extra goodies.

And so it came to pass that entire vocal booth was funded in a week, and it reached me the Wednesday before my birthday. Let me tell you, I was thrilled at this! Not so much because "Swanky new recording studio", but because this is a physical representation of the fact that enough people think highly of me and the work that I'm doing with my GBVC Blue Collar Prepping segment that they though buying this for me was a worthwhile investment of their money. Thank you so, so very much!

For the record, Sean likes it too. The first time I talked to him from inside the Vocal Booth To Go, he said that my voice sounded like it was "wrapped in a soft, velvety cloud." If you've listened to the last two GBVC installments, you've heard the difference it makes.

This is the "You Are Here" view of my new workspace, the Carry-On Vocal Booth Pro. It's basically a folding tent made of sound-absorbing blankets, and it comes with customizable features like a mic holder, script/tablet holder, a pop filter on an adjustable arm, and a no-noise LED light (not seen, it's at the very top).

The cables run between the velcro closures to the laptop on the left which records my side of the Blue Collar Prepping Gunblog Varietycast segment. As you can see, there's plenty of room inside the studio "tent" for things like a drink to prevent drymouth and a mouse to control the laptop.
Here's what it looks like from the outside. This picture is from the Vocal Booth to Go website and is of their 2.0 model, but it looks almost exactly like the 1.0 model I received.
It folds down into a convenient 23"x 23" x 5" travel form which, while somewhat bulky, is ergonomic enough that carrying it isn't a hassle, and at 12 pounds it's light enough to easily carry between my car and the church office.
Setting up the Vocal Booth is very easy (see video, below). Just put on a stable surface (it comes with an adapter for mounting to a music stand, which is a big plus for singers), unzip it, lift up the hood, and swing the support arms from the back to the front. After that, set up the microphone/ light/ pop filter/ etc according to your personal preference and you're ready to go!

When I first got the Booth it took me a while to get everything configured the way I wanted ("Hmm... do I want the microphone here in the center, or offset?") but now that I have everything the way I like it I can get set up in under 2 minutes. Teardown is similarly quick.

This one is very simple to demonstrate:  listen to a segment recorded with the booth, and then listen to the one just prior. There's a noticeable improvement in audio clarity.

There are two things I do not like about this booth, and they're quite minor.

The first is that mine did not come with instructions on how to set it up. Forunately, there was an instructional video on the product website, but I would have liked instructions. At the very least, a link to the video ought to be included!

The second minor complaint is that after a few minutes, it gets rather hot in the booth. Which makes sense, given that it's made from blankets and I'm projecting a lot of hot air into an enclosed space!

Fortunately for me, I don't need to have my head under the hood; in fact, that's too close to the microphone. Instead, I sit with my face just at the edge of the booth and talk into it. This allows me to back off to get some cooler air if necessary.

Would I recommend this to others? Bearing in mind that I have no experience with vocal booths other than this one, I absolutely would. It might not be up to the needs of a professional voice actor, but if you're a podcaster or a YouTuber then this is a simple, effective, low-cost solution to eliminating background noise.

Really, the best thing I can say about the Vocal Booth To Go is something that I didn't say at all: Sean liked the improvement in my vocal performance so much that he bought one for himself. 

Vocal Booth Pro to Go: A+
I really ought to knock it down to 'A' for not having the instruction manual.. but I can't bring myself to do that. It's not like it was hugely difficult putting the thing together, and there was a video that I easily found by Googling "Vocal Booth to Go setup video" that answered all my questions. 

Okay, okay. A and half a plus. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #83: Steve McQueen Peels Oranges in Safetyland
Adam, Sean and the gang bring you Episode 83 of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Palette discusses "Safetyland," and why it's not a good place to be.
  • We all know that Nicki Kenyon doesn't think much of Donald Trump. So you'd think she'd like John Kasich a bit more. Not so much, really.
  • Last week Adam and I talked about the Florida woman accidentally shot by her 4-year-old. Now we get a mother's perspective from Beth Reoch Alcazar 
  • He gave us some basics on radio receivers last week. This week Silicon Graybeard is back to name names. What radios should you consider buying?
  • And you know those Aurora shooting victim parents who sued Lucky Gunner and lost? The ones who now owe legal fees for filing a frivolous lawsuit? Weer'd found a video interview of them and it's Audio Fisking Time!
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!

Please consider donating or subscribing at the PayPal link in the show notes. Our podcast runs on your donations.

Listen to the podcast here.
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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, March 18, 2016

SHTFriday: The Passport Card

The Passcard is one of the prepping community's best-kept secrets, and it shouldn't be a secret at all. Get one!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Speaking of Ludicrousness...

... Happy St. Paddock's, everypony!

Buzzfeed Ludicrously Misses The Point

Let's talk politics for a second. As some of you may be aware (or not... or are painfully aware), I'm a Liberal. I'm still a Liberal, despite the last few years making it very difficult at times. A long time ago I gave up on any chance of debating gender politics rationally, so I no longer use the term feminist, and more recently I gave up the title of Progressive due to the antics of those flying that flag. I think that, if pressed, I would now call myself a “Problematic Liberal.” 

Speaking of problematic, Buzzfeed has just published a wonderful piece which discusses the term “Regressive Left” and its alleged origins, its definition, and who uses it. I'm going to link to the article, without archive, not because I think you should read the article (although you probably should), but because you should read the comments. The article is rubbish -- which the comments make plain -- and it misses the point so badly that it can only be called “Not Even Wrong.”

So, what is the Regressive Left anyway?
(Quotation marks officially retired because it is a thing, despite what Buzzfeed wants to believe.)

As Buzzfeed correctly explains, the term was coined by former Islamic extremist Maajid Nawaz. But as much as Buzzfeed wants to attribute its primary usage to the “alt-right” (whoever that is), it's mainly used by people like me: Liberals who realize that the Left/Right divide is rapidly becoming less important than the Libertarian/Authoritarian divide. People like me on the political Left who aren't afraid of having their opinions challenged, and in turn challenging the opinions of people they disagree with, without resorting to mud-slinging, name-calling, and silencing tactics. People who hesitate before throwing around words like bigot, racist, or misogynist.

The term's since gained popularity from people like Dave Rubin and David Pakman, formerly of The Young Turks, who aren't afraid to debate and interview people with wildly different views of their own. And yes, some people on the Right use the term: Milo Yiannoupoulos and Steven Crowder, for example, use the term quite liberally (no pun intended – and while I certainly don't agree with these gentlemen on... well, a lot... they are quite funny and say some very true things from time to time).

[The term Regressive Left] is mainly used by people like me: Liberals who realize that the Left/ Right divide is rapidly becoming less important than the Libertarian/ Authoritarian divide. 

As Buzzfeed notes, Regressive Left is used quite often these days in regards to college protesters who often try to bring about a strange, side-eyed sort of segregation, or who try to silence the press and no-platform speakers who don't align 100% with their own ridiculously far-Left beliefs. And it's not just conservatives or right-wing speakers: prominent feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have been hit with this, as has gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell. And it has been used in reference to people that compare Trump to Hitler, but not because anyone's concerned with Trump's feelings, but because we're tired of seeing Hitler comparisons. We're tired of seeing people shouted down because you don't agree with them. We're tired of strawman arguments and ad hominem attacks. Of Identity Politics and people using excuses to turn other people into acceptable targets so they can act like assholes with a clean conscience. We want to treat people like people, not like monolothic entities with identical experiences and opinions. 

The best part of the article
It's not the article itself; it's the comments. With very little exception, they are nothing but people calling them out for being wrong, for being disingenuous, and for a complete lack of self-awareness, given that Buzzfeed has been one of the mouthpieces of the Regressive Left. It's really a beautiful thing to see, and I've no doubt that the author (or one of the usual other suspects) has already created some kind of "law" similar to that one about articles concerning feminism being justified by the comments on them.
Pictured: Buzzfeed
Since I know I have more than a couple of conservative audience members (hello! You're very nice people, and I'm quite fond of you even if we don't agree on everything), I want you to know that there's a lot of us on the Left side of the fence who aren't all that bad, and we're getting pretty sick of the extremists on our side. The good news is that I think there's a lot of us, on both the Left and the Right side of the fence, that are on the southern end (Libertarian) as opposed to the northern end (Authoritarian), and I think if we can remember that, we can work together and get some stuff done.

At the very least, our fence will be shorter. And have gates. And maybe a nice water feature and some potted plants. You can defend them with your guns, and we can grow some weed for you.

And to those of you that feel I'm talking about you here, I've got one thing to say: Just because you're not a Conservative, it doesn't mean you're a Liberal. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Alespron Subsector

Alespron Subsector, the Traveller sourcebook product I helped write (and talked about last month), is now available for purchase!
  • What caused the fall of the Torres Monarchy?
  • Are the Zhodani truly there to restore order, as they claim -- or is it all an excuse to expand their territory?
  • How much money can be made smuggling weapons in Majesty, and is it worth the risk?
  • People go to Valhalla and never leave. What is its sinister secret?
  • Are the reports of impending genocide upon Prince Varenz truth? or just media hyperbole?
  • And what caused the Droyne of Othyabis to declare all humans unwelcome in their system, turning away refugees at gunpoint?
All these questions, and more, are answered in Foreven Worlds: Alespron Subsector, available at at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

Buying through those links gets me a little something back through the affiliate program, and of course if it sells well it increases the odds that I will be hired to write more gaming stuff.

Once again, I invoke Hot Goth-Girl Beseeching Action with a +5 Vinyl Straitjacket of Beseechment as I ask you, my dear readers, to please buy what I have written.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Boosting the Signal

I shall leave it to Oleg to get into the specifics, but here is the short version:

Alexis Nicole is an 8 year old competitive shooter.

On Friday, 11 March, her grandfather Tryce (and the male role model in her life -- no father is present) was driving her to practice when there was an accident. He was killed at the scene, but Alexis suffered only minor cuts and bruises.

There is a donation page to help this family. All money will go to Alexis' family (via her mother, Stephanie), and will help with the burial, memorial services, medical expenses and whatever else they need to get through this harrowing time.

I have donated. Please find it in your heart to donate as well, if you can.

That day arrived far too soon. 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #82
It's another great episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast!
  • Erin Palette asks you an important question. Do you have a Vacation State of Mind?
  • We had Reaganomics. But what about Trumpanomics? Nicki Kenyon tells us what Trump's economic policy means for America's Foreign Policy.
  • What's it like to be a mom with a gun? Beth Reoch Alcazar tells us what it's like for her.
  • Sitting in for a few weeks while Barron B is "On Assignment," Silicon Graybeard gets us started on that wonderful, underappreciated world of ham radios.
  • And Weer'd finds a video of the leader of Oregon Ceasefire, Penny Okamoto, hectoring the Portland PD Gang Unit about gun control. You know what that means. It's time for another Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk!™
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How I Would Fix "Legends of Tomorrow"

I realize it's poor form to complain about a show without suggesting how to fix it, and since I've been a very vocal critic about Legends of Tomorrow, I figure I ought to do that. In fact, I can fix not just the show, but most of the dumbness of the season, with just two little words.

No, not "The End" or "We're Sorry." I could tell you those words, but that would spoil the surprise. Let me show you instead.

1st Arc Episode: Solivore
The Waverider receives a distress call from the Vanishing Point that echoes across all of space and time. The Council of Time Masters is under attack! All past, current and future Time Masters are called to help, and if Rip Hunter shows up, all is forgiven.

Heartened by the prospects of a pardon, the Waverider returns to the Vanishing Point to help the other ships fight off some cosmic-level Big Bad -- I'm thinking something very impressive like a Sun Eater (yes, the thing that Ferro Lad died defeating in Legion of Super Heroes, and if you get that reference you've already twigged to where I'm going with this) -- and after a suitably dramatic battle where many timeships are damaged or destroyed, and all of the Legends use their powers to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Hunter is granted amnesty and the Waverider docks in order to make repairs, take on provisions, and get updates from HQ's computer on Vandal Savage's next location.

2nd Arc Episode: Para Bellum
This episode is a bit of a downtime, now-we-can-relax show, with the characters getting to engage in character development without an urgent plot bearing down on them: Ray and Kendra work out how they feel about each other, Snart and Rory come to terms (I will bet money that Snart didn't have the guts to kill him last episode -- he's just frozen), and Jax and Canary get up to... something, I dunno what. And Dr. Stein, being the nerd, decides that he'd be a fool if he didn't take advantage of what is basically The Library At The End Of The Universe and starts reading.

We also get an idea about how the Time Masters work by seeing them interact with the characters, especially Hunter -- who, by the way, is acting very worried. He believes that the Sun Eater wasn't just a random attack, that someone set it upon the Time Masters, and that they should be preparing for war. The Council doesn't really buy it, saying that his private war against Vandal Savage has made him paranoid, but his valiant deeds have earned him the right to address the council and make his point.

Meanwhile, Stein makes a troubling discovery: if both Hunter and his wife were Time Masters -- who know how history is supposed to shake out -- why did he send her to live in 2166? Didn't he foresee the rise of Vandal Savage? It seems like he deliberately put her in danger. Either that, or the rise of Savage took everyone, including the Council, unaware... but that would have to mean that Savage's rise to power was engineered by someone outside the time stream!

As he makes this discovery -- the shots of Stein's realization are intercut with Hunter making his "We must prepare for war" speech -- something does indeed attack the Vanishing Point, and the Council of Time Masters is hit HARD. The only one left alive in the Council Room is Rip Hunter... who, just as the episode ends, smiles knowingly... perhaps even wickedly.

3rd Arc Episode: Oubliette
The Vanishing Point is in ruins, and the Council of Time Masters is destroyed. There's lots of screaming and crying and bleeding and dying, and those few timeships which can leave are fleeing with the survivors.

Rip Hunter blames this on Vandal Savage -- although he is unable to explain how Savage did it -- and as the Vanishing Point crumbles around them, Hunter orders his crew and the few surviving Time Master rank & file to load up the Waverider with supplies and weapons, as he intends to bring the war to Savage.

Meanwhile, as Professor Stein makes his way back from the library, he discovers... Rip Hunter? Only this Hunter is disheveled and emaciated, like he's been in a dark hole for years. As it turns out, that explanation is correct: this new Rip explains that after the Time Council turned down his request to go after Savage, he was attacked and imprisoned in an oubliette at the Vanishing Point. But who would do such a thing, and why? And who is the Rip Hunter commanding the Waverider? Clearly there is an imposter here, but who?

A good chunk of the episode is survival-themed, as Hunter & co. try to repair the Waverider so it can leave the Vanishing Point, and Stein and Other Rip try to make their way back to the docks.

Finally, everyone meets back up in the last few minutes of the show just as the base begins to fall apart. There is a dramatic reveal -- "You!!" -- as Prison Rip meets Captain Hunter, and the rest of the crew goes "Wait, what??"

Prison Rip attacks Captain Hunter and damages his disguise (since this is science fiction, it's likely some form of hologram) to reveal another actor. In proper villain monologue fashion, this Fake Rip -- the Captain we've known since episode one -- indicates that he (or she, I'm not picky) surprised the Legends figured it out now, since they were obviously too dim to have noticed any of the other clues. He brags about how he manipulated them all into helping him engineer Vandal Savage's rise to power, and that he couldn't have done it without their help.

But now that the legwork has been done, and the Time Council has been destroyed (along with most of the time ships), he doesn't need them anymore. He thanks them for their service, and just before disappearing -- apparently he can travel in time without needing a ship -- he says that for their pains, he won't kill them. He'll just leave them trapped there, in time, forever.

Yes, the arc words are in fact "Time Trapper". 

The Rest of the Season
The Real Rip Hunter and crew miraculously repair the Waverider using their special powers -- Heatwave welds stuff, Atom shrinks, and now would be a great time for Firestorm to learn he has transmutation powers -- get off the Vanishing Point, and have to figure out why the Time Trapper needed to engineer the rise of Vandal Savage.

They soon find that certain eras of history are blocked off by what is described as an "Iron Curtain of Time", which makes fighting the both Savage and the Trapper much harder.

I'm not really sure where the season ends, but the short version is that it's eventually discovered that the Time Trapper did all this because the actions of the Time Masters prevented his creation, and so he had to engineer the rise of Vandal Savage in order to safeguard his own creation. And that's why the death of Rip Hunter's wife and child was a surprise -- the year 2166 was SUPPOSED to be one of the safest in history, but due to the meddling of Time Trapper and the Legends, they're all actually responsible for genocide. Yay, darkness! CW loves dark edgy stuff, right?

Cue more cross-time vengeance and ass-kicking as things go really nuts -- dinosaurs in 1930s New York City! All of Congress replaced by cavemen! -- as the Legends try to clean up the timeline while still battling their foe the Time Trapper.

Bonus Fun
It's revealed that the Time Trapper is actually the child of one of Carter and Kendra Hall's incarnations. And given they've had LOTS of incarnations, and probably had lots of kids over those lifespans, that doesn't really narrow it down. But the fact that both their souls are "untethered in time" explains to some extent why the Time Trapper is immortal and  has time powers, and makes it far harder to defeat him.

There: the series is much less dumb now. You'd watch this, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SHT... Tuesday? Hard vs. Soft Radiation

Lokidude, the fellow who normally writes for Blue Collar Prepping on Tuesdays, didn't have an article ready because of work -- I think he pulled a double shift -- so I switched days with him. I did today, and he's going to do Friday, which is great because Friday is my birthday and I want to be able to do what I want that day. Maybe I'll write about Traveller, maybe I'll go shooting, maybe I'll just lie around in my underwear and binge on Netflix.

So since this trade of days was kind of a last-minute thing, the article isn't up to what I feel are my usual infodump standards of completeness. If it helps, consider this a "disambiguation page" for when we get to ionizing radiation.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Gunday: A Small Setback

I'm just now getting around to talking about it, but a while back I noticed some pretty severe bullet setback on some PMC Bronze 115gr. JHP cartridges. What's odd is that these rounds were NOT being constantly chambered!

For my readers who don't know what I'm talking about:  setback is what occurs when a cartridge is chambered so many times that the bullet actually backs into the casing. (See video below for how this happens.)

Setback is a bad thing because ammunition is (ideally) a finely calibrated explosion, and so by pushing the bullet back into the casing you are reducing the volume in which the propellant ignition occurs. This results in a greater overall pressure in the remaining space and could result in the cartridge walls rupturing, and in a worst-case scenario could result in damage to your gun or even to your hand.

As a point of interest, when I load my pistol I always insert the round into the barrel and then release the slide. I'm not sure if this actually reduces setback (although it should, because it avoids that whole "nose hitting the feed ramp" problem entirely), but I tell myself that it does and that makes me feel better.

How It Happened
This is the curious part: these rounds weren't chambered. Instead, I had put them in my SGM 50-round Drum for use as home defense ammo in my Sub-2000, because A) I had 50 rounds, 2) my Subbie can't handle +P ammo like put in my Glock 26, and III) it seemed like a good place to put them.

However, when I decided to take the drum to the range and unloaded it, I noticed that several of the bullets were severely set back into their casings. Here's an example:

Left: some 115gr. round nose I bought at Wal-Mart, probably Winchester.
Center: Speer Gold Dot +P 115gr JHP that I use in my carry pistol.
Right: PMC Bronze 115 JHP.
And so, because I was anal, I took my calipers and measured the entire lot of 50. Here's what I discovered:
  • The average overall length was 27.4x millimeters. I figured anything above 27.00mm was fine. 
  • Of the acceptable cartridges, the longest was 27.45 mm and the shortest was 27.30 mm.
  • 10 of the 50 were lower than my limit. They were, from highest to lowest, 26.56 mm and 24.24 mm.
  • I couldn't eyeball the 26 mm ones, but the 25 and 24 were definitely noticeable. 
So the big question was, "How did 20% of these rounds suffer setback despite not being chambered? Did the drum have anything to do with it?" I didn't have an answer for that. And then, when I was reviewing the ammo and my notes for this post, I noticed something. Instead of telling you, I'll show you.

Let me state for the record that this ammunition was not exposed to moisture or excessive temperature change. It was kept in my bedroom, where the temperature ranges from 69° F in the evening to at most 75° F in the daytime.

I'm not sure if this is just a freak occurrence in manufacturing, or if this is indicative of low quality assurance at PMC, but I will tell you that I'm not certain I can trust this ammunition any more.

The next time I'm at the range, I'm dumping these in the misfire bin.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #81
Adam and Sean bring you a packed show with a full cast AND a Special Guest!!
  • Erin Palette continues her "Thinking About the Way We Think" series with a segment on Mental Models.
  • What's up with Greece? Nicki Kenyon gives us her take on the European Union's threat to kick Greece out of the Schengen Zone.
  • Joining the podcast for her first show as a permanent contributor, Beth Reoch Alcazar talks about that Texas gun experiment where they hid a gun in a playroom and tossed in 8 unsuspecting children, just to see what would happen.
  • In his last show before an extended time away "On Assignment," Barron B sings the Song of his (Network Security) People, "Why Didn't You Disable That Stupid Old Busted Security Protocol Years Ago?" This time it's The Drown Attack that's getting him down.
  • Our Special Guest, Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave, returns to tell us how VCDL and Virginia gun owners defeated Bloomberg puppet Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's attack on Concealed Handgun Permit reciprocity. Philip tells us of the amazing things that happen when gun owners stand up to be counted. You DO NOT want to miss this!
  • And did you know that the online magazine Vox is a bastion of honest journalism and champion of individual liberty, right? (Stop laughing!) Weer'd takes their anti gun video and their cherry picked data to task 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!

Please consider donating or subscribing at the PayPal link in the show notes. Our podcast runs on your donations.

Listen to the podcast here.
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Friday, March 4, 2016

SHTFriday: Radioactivity for Dummies

Today's Blue Collar Prepping blog post is brought to you by a combination of "I was watching very good hard sci-fi last night" and "Hey, Chaplain Tim has already done a lot of the heavy lifting by talking about atoms."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Something Strange, And It Don't Look Good

Cards on the table time: When I first heard "Ghostbusters reboot" I cringed. Very hard.

The original movie (and even its sequel) are fond childhood memories: I remember the first movie playing on television when I was very, very small, and hiding my face behind my Ultra Magnus figure. Given the results of reboots of various other 80s-90s properties such as Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and the like, its chances were not good. Transformers is remembered more for Megan Fox, amateur gynecological exams with cinema cameras, humping dogs, and making me hate Shia Lebouf. Ninja Turtles is remembered for those nightmarish faces, a Shredder wearing a cutlery set, and more Megan Fox. Given that history, Ghostbusters couldn't possibly be good.

I cringed again when I heard "all female cast." Not because (it should go without saying) I didn't think an all female cast was capable of carrying a film, but because I can smell stunt-casting a mile away. Then they announced who was in it and I stopped listening at Melissa McCarthy. I have nothing against her personally, and again (it should go without saying) I don't hold her gender against her. Her style of comedy just seems nigh-identical to that of Kevin James (lol fat jokes) and I can't stand him, either. In fact, I'd go on record right now saying that I'd be looking forward to this Ghostbusters "reboot" just as much as I am now were Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Kevin James, and Adam Sandler doing it. In fact, I'd probably hate the idea more, to the point where I'd have been disappointed if there wasn't a tragic on-set accident that involved the Ecto-whatever-number-they're-using running them all over.

Now I've seen the trailer. This trailer:

And I don't hate it. There are some things that annoy me, and some that I actually liked. But overall, it's an overwhelming sense of... nothing. I feel nothing for this. Not even a feeling of nostalgia.

I do like Kate McKinnon's character of Holtzmann, who seems to be the analogue of Egon Spengler of the original cast. She's got an interesting visual style, and seems to deliver her lines in a way that is far less grating than at least half the cast, and looks completely at home with the tinted safety glasses and insane gadgets in her lab. I do like the design of the ghosts, with a heavy emphasis on 1920s flapper style and vintage carnival design, and I'm interested in how well they hold up on-screen compared to the dated special effects the original movies used. There's been about 30ish years of on-screen movie ghosts between then and now, and I'd like to see what direction they take monster design in this one. I don't hate the Cadillac as much as I thought I would, but it's certainly no vintage Ecto-1.

The movie's already catching heat, though, from the same crowd that previously defended it by accusing its detractors of misogyny. Patty, the only black character, isn't a scientist. She's a regular schlub, a city transit worker who is only there because she has street smarts and, from what the trailer tells us,  a car. Which, predictably, is garnering the movie accusations of racism.

When the original film did it, it fit with the times: it was much more common to see a black man as a construction worker instead of a scientist in the 80s, and I loved Ernie Hudson's take on Winston as a regular dude who didn't even believe in the supernatural but was there for the paycheck. His character's evolution was probably my favourite part of the series. But now, while I debate the accusation of racism, it is incredibly lazy just to rehash Winston as a woman.

I'm not looking forward to Melissa McCarthy's character, primarily for reasons I've outlined above. And I don't have an opinion either way on Kristen Wiig's character, despite her being the most accomplished comedic actress out of the entire group (which doesn't bode well. She should be the Bill Murray of the group, but I'm getting nothing out of her at this point).

I'm not loving Chris Hemsworth's part in this, either; he's Captain Kirk's dad and Thor, and he's playing what seems to be a joke role at this point. Compare that to Janine, who was a very layered character who contrasted a sharp, grating vocal style with an 80s 'sexy librarian' look, while Hemsworth seems to be... just a sexy fireman? Janine was a subversion of femininity, whereas Hemsworth just seems to be a pin-up.

So in short: I don't hate it. I don't love it. I'm not feeling much either way, aside from this sick feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that a franchise as beloved by so many people as Ghostbusters has just put out a trailer that looks like the sequel to Pixels.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a true sequel, head on over to Steam and check out the Ghostbusters video game.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Intrepid Gadfly

Another NPC (sans stats -- my players don't have that information yet) from my game.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

"BootsBootsBoots" is an immensely popular blog within the Spinward Marches that analyzes the politics between the Zhodani Consulate and the Third Imperium. Hosted on Esalin (and taking advantage of that world's balkanized state by maintaining mirrored servers on both Imperial and Zhodani side to avoid censorship), it offers insight into the affairs of the day served with a biting, darkly satirical wit.
"The everybody get along, hug you until you die Zhodani say that their goal is for everyone to live in happy harmony and equality and right-think, and so naturally their right-thinking psionic overlords decided the best way to do that was to valiantly colonize a planet already colonized by the Vexx and put them in a reservation. Harmony!"
Named after the Rudyard Kipling poem, BootsBootsBoots was started in 1092, on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Fourth Frontier War, with the title "Ten Years Later: Humans Still Massively Stupid". Its contents is best described as "What you'd get if Perez Hilton worked for Wonkette but wrote like it was for Manolo's Shoe Blog" -- in other words, a very bizarre first-person account of dirty politics and political gossip (but I repeat myself) from a superfantastic raconteur and muckraker.

Despite being an opinion blog, BootsBootsBoots doesn't take sides; it takes the position that both the Imperium and the Consulate are full of idiots. This is to be expected because the writer of BootsBootsBoots, Intrepid Gadfly, is a Hiver and they believe all non-Hivers are idiots. They just normally aren't so blunt as the Gadfly.
"Of course the boohoo boomboom Vexx cry a lot about it. How dare these humans with supertechnology take over our planet and increase our standard of living and healthcare and feed us and give us amazingly comfortable homes. We only managed to destroy our homecradle by being too buffoonish to properly maintain our nuclear reactors! And then we came here and had our newhomecradle taken from us by a people who actually know how to run things!"
Why a Hiver has chosen to journalize (and sensationalize, and on more than one occasion antagonize) border politics is unknown. It's widely assumed that this is a manipulation of some sort -- after all, a Hiver is doing something, clearly there's manipulation afoot -- but most manipulations involve the improvement of a culture on some level, and it's not clear how raking muck, throwing verbal tomatoes and calling someone and/or their politics stupid is an improvement, let alone a subtle manipulation.
"Dateline: Occupied Chwistyoch/Non-Radioactive Chachtinch -- Goodwill Ambassador Baron I'mADroyneWhyAmIEvenANoble of Jewell admits that Imperial decisions cannot be made without the advice of at least one psychosociopathological fruitbasket. A question is put before the committee, and whatever Amoral Mixed Fruits suggests is noted as being the insane selfish murderous option, and (usually, it is hoped) avoided. 
Such forthrightness of admitting is a refreshing smell of clean air in the usual fetid miasma of inter-humaniti politicking."
Despite the name-calling, Intrepid Gadfly is loved for the same reasons it is hated: despite the mockery, it brings up genuinely good points about how the border conflict between the two polities is stupid, and both sides are to blame for it. Having grown up with the IronicallyBloodthirstyForVegetarians K'kree polity coreward, it understand how easy it is for one species to hate another. But Zhodani and Vilani and Solomani -- they're all humans. Killing each other over differences in government, Gadfly likes to point out, is akin to shooting your brother because he can't agree with you over what to have for lunch.
"Readers have said that The Gadfly finds nothing redeeming in culture of humaniti, but this is not true. The Gadfly is immensely impressed with social commentary of such works as the Blackadder and the Monty Python. Humaniti mocks itself better than Intrepid Gadfly ever could... but foolishbipeds think it comedy and not constructive criticism."

NPC Notes
It is widely believed that Intrepid Gadfly is linked to a third party in the intelligence business, because otherwise it would have been neutralized or turned by either NavInt or the Tozjabr long before it became this popular. The most believable theory is that it's funded by the Hive Federation Development Agency, but there is a plausible paper trail connecting some of its funding to SolSec, and the Confederation does enjoy seeing both of its ideological opponents mocked. There are also rumors that the Idyll Hands is involved in some manner; perhaps Gadfly is an asset of True Thomas, or perhaps the broker just enjoys the pot-stirring and all the secrets it churns up, but either way there is someone who transmits email copies of BootsBootsBoots posts across the Imperium in defiance of censorship requests. Of course, all of these could be true at the same time. 

In person, Intrepid Gadfly is a typically unremarkable Hiver save for the ancient Terran-style fedora with press credential it carries on its dorsal dome. Its artificial speech is modulated to be precisely artificial, and its vocoder has the ability to override many forms of speakers via wifi so that its provocative questions are always heard (and are often too outrageous to leave unanswered -- think the political equivalent of "Have you stopped cheating on your wife?") Other than asking terribly inappropriate questions at inopportune times, its social behavior is unassuming and inoffensive; think "Oh god, not this pest again" and not "Guards, take this fool outside and shoot it," because 1) its behavior isn't that bad and 2) no one wants to find out the hard way who its backers are. If it truly is an intelligence asset for another polity, it may well have bodyguards and/or other forms of 'insurance' against violence.
A few other interesting points:
  • Its press credentials are always valid. Even when they get revoked, they somehow become un-revoked later. It's become conventional wisdom to let the little pest in and have it ask its question rather than try to keep it out, because once it gets back in it finds something worse to say. "Take your medicine by mouth now, rather than by suppository later."
  • It doesn't specifically have access to top-secret material (or if it does, it doesn't seem to care about that); it's far more interested in dirty politics than state secrets. 
  • It has no interest in blackmail, either. If it wants you to squirm, it will do it publicly. 
  • It has a sense of adventure (that's the Intrepid part) and likes to jaunt across the Imperial-Zhodani border in pursuit of a story. 
  • It sometimes shows up  in systems without warning, as if it has hitched a ride without buying a ticket. This lends credence to the Idyll Hands rumor, especially since a similar Aquemna-class ship known as the Serene Gadabout is often seen in the area. Either Gadfly has the money to purchase and maintain a capital-ship sized oiler, or this is one of the Hands' disguises. 
Essentially, the Gadfly lives up to its name: a goading annoyance that is impossible to swat.

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