Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sailing Down the Canal of Root

It's 10:30 pm Monday night as I write this. I'm writing Tuesday's post on Monday because I don't know how much I'll want to write tomorrow after I get my first ever root canal.

To be completely honest here, I'm fucking terrified.

I have always had sensitive teeth. When I see people eating ice, or biting into ice cream, my reaction is always My God, HOW are you doing that? For me to do such things is agony. Heck, it's painful for me when the dental hygienist sprays cold air on my teeth, so you can imagine what a massive weenie I am when it comes to having them drilled.

How big a weenie am I? I require topical anesthetic on my gums before I'll allow the dentist to come near me with that massive needle full of Novocain. I white-knuckle pretty much every dental procedure, which means that by the time I'm done I'm worn out.

I could seriously not be a spy, y'all. Come at my teeth with a drill and I will spill every secret I know.

So there's that tension in general. Add to that the fact that my mother (who's had terrible dental health for as long as I've known her -- with all the crowns and bridges she has, I'm surprised she doesn't have dentures by now) did a number on me in childhood by describing to me in lurid detail how a root canal in the 1980s was done.

Yes, I'm certain that techniques and technologies have improved in the past 30 years. Yes, I'm certain that anaesthetic is better and tools are more refined. Yes, I'm certain that private sector doctors are more accommodating of my comfort than the Army dentists I had growing up.

All of these facts do nothing in the face of all this baggage which is probably a neurosis. So my only real choice is to brace for the worst and hope that the situation won't suck quite as hard as I'm afraid it will.

I'm pleased to report that the situation did not, in fact, suck quite as hard as I was afraid it would. In fact, I've had regular fillings which were more uncomfortable.

First, the endodontist's assistant was a petite, perky brunette with a bright sparkly attitude that immediately put me at ease. (The fact that she was easy on the eyes didn't hurt, either.) I also found out she's a nerdette who enjoys superheros, so we had a nice conversation about Flash, Arrow etc while waiting for the endo.

(In fact, ALL of the assistants were perky cute little brunettes. The doctor doesn't have a type, no not at all...)

Then it came time for the numbing agent, and I told the doctor that I was an utter weenie. He understood, and then proceeded to give me the best Novocaine injection EVER. I mean that sincerely; I didn't even feel the needle going in, and he slowly spread the yumyum around in order to make sure everything got numbed. This also had the pleasant side effect of not having the discomfort of "Ow, something cold is being injected into me quickly!"

Then there was the drilling and scooping and cleaning and filling, which I deliberately didn't pay any attention to because I was trying to be in my happy place. As I said, it never went above a 1 on the discomfort scale -- I've had papercuts that hurt worse -- and the entire procedure took about an hour.

Heck, I'd have this guy be my regular dentist if I could. Sadly, there are laws against specialists doing general practice.

When he was done, I asked the assistant "Is that it? Can I go?"  and she said "Sure!... unless you'd like to hang out with us. We're having sushi for lunch!" I honestly wasn't sure if that was meant sincerely or if it was just a joke. I might have said yes if I didn't have a family member waiting to drive me home, because sushi with a bevy of adorkable girls while discussing nerdy interests is absolutely something I enjoy.

So... 10/10, would root canal again (although I hope I never have to).

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Handy Chart

I don't like "phoning in a post" by just posting an infographic, but what else can be said about an extremely handy one-page sheet showing the morse code, semaphore, and maritime flag symbols for the alphabet?

Print this out, laminate it, and put it with your other prepping gear.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #128 - L'audace de Non

Audacity, audacity, always audacity; we even record our segments with Audacity.
  • Surprise! Men and women ARE different. Beth gives us her thoughts on why that's a good thing.
  • It's another police chase, but this time it's also interstate kidnapping. Sean tells us who they caught.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about how we are programming people to feel bad about defending themselves.
  • Tiffany is also on assignment and will return next week.
  • How do you say no to hungry people? It's hard, but Erin will tell you how and why.
  • There's another episode of the anti-gun "Loaded Conversations" podcast! Weer'd puts her guest, David Hemenway, through a Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our plug of the week is Covington Vodka. 
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
The Audacity of Nope
Throughout the course of doing these Blue Collar Prepping segments, I have constantly preached that preppers need to maintain secrecy about the extent of their preps -- and perhaps even hiding the fact that they are preppers at all. 

The reason for this is simple: If it is known that you prep, and your friends and neighbors do not, then those people will likely show up on your doorstep wanting some of your supplies after a disaster.
And I have said, multiple times, that it is between you and your conscience whether or not you send them away. My point has always been that it needs to be YOUR choice to share with others. If an entire neighborhood of hungry people shows up on your front yard demanding food, the only choice you have boils down to “Do I let them break in and take the food my family needs, or do I have to threaten to shoot them to make them go away?” 
However you choose, your secret is out and you have to deal with the consequences. I say that it’s far better to stay deep within the Prepping Pantry because if people don’t know, they can’t threaten you with violence if you don’t give up the resources you’ve carefully stored. 

But this approach is invariably met with the question “But if I see someone in need, and I can help them, shouldn’t I?” And while I cannot answer for you, my response is almost always “No.”

Preppers need to learn to say “no”, because that can be a potentially lifesaving skill. I call this “The Audacity of Nope.” And it does take audacity, because the natural human response is to help someone in need.

Now let me ble clear about this: I absolutely encourage preppers helping other people when possible. That’s just common decency. However, if you’ve ever taken a first aid class, or a rescue swimming class, or anything else like that, recall that you are always taught that you should never, ever endanger yourself to help another, because if you put yourself in danger and fail, there are now TWO people who need rescue and you’ve just made the situation worse.

Prepping is like that, only with potentially higher stakes. If you have a family, it is your duty to protect them before you protect other people, and if you allow other people to partake of your supplies then you are in fact depriving your family of those supplies which might be needed later.

Worse, imagine if you give food to someone who needs it, and they tell other people where they go it. What’s to keep them from walking up and asking for the same thing?

It is not your responsibility to feed the neighborhood. 

This is why I believe that preppers need to learn to say “no”. Internalize this lesson now, because you do not need to be learning it when it’s life or death.

So here are the steps I recommend prepper take to learn how to “nope” out of situations:

First, learn to live the phrase “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In other words, if something doesn’t immediately affect you, stay out of it! This is desirable on several levels:
  • It breaks you of a habit of getting involved in other people’s business and cleaning up other people’s messes.
  • It prevents you from looking like a busybody.
  • It gives you more time and energy to devote to more important tasks.

Next, embrace the notion that it isn’t your job to save everyone. In fact, it is physically impossible to save everyone! Your only job in this world is to take care of yourself and those who you love or who depend on you. Everything after that is of secondary concern. Some may call that being selfish; I call it self-love. You don’t want your family homeless or starving because you decided feeling better about yourself for doing something nice was more important than security. To me, THAT is the height of selfishness.

Finally, take the time NOW to teach other people how to prep. This will not only ease your conscience later on -- “They had every opportunity to look after themselves, and I tried to show them how. It is not my fault if they didn’t listen.” -- but this also looking after yourself in the long term.

If everyone around you is prepared, then not only do you not need to worry about them using your supplies or equipment, but you have taken the first step in forming a prepping community that can depend on each other.

Do these three things now, so that if you ever need to harden your heart and say “No” later, it won’t hurt as much.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

For the Left: A Joke, An Open Letter, and a Warning.

A woman, a gay Jew, and an atheist walk into a bar. Progressives completely lose their shit.

That's the joke. Take a look near the bottom of that image; there's a word I want you to remember for later.

My dear Left,

You've gotten complacent. After W, you managed a groundswell that got a black man elected president, and despite identity politics telling you otherwise, the next 8 years you had the lead and took the establishment. It would seem that, after losing the House, Senate, and Presidency, we no longer have that establishment. But in the 8 years that we did, make no mistake: we were The Man, and so the Right went underground and became punk rock. They got to be the rebels. They got to be dissident and fun while we put on our best show of being adults.

Now Trump has the big chair and the Right's got the majority in everything else. We lost. The upside? Here's your excuse to be punk rock again. But I have a few requests this time around:
  • Be mature about it. The link I posted above? Stop trying to disrupt, de-platform, or de-legitimize people that are more or less on your side but who have views that dissent slightly from yours. You can't be inclusive if you subject people to the idea of wrong-think. 
  • Keep the violence to a minimum, please. Don't blow anything up. Stop setting things on fire. Starbucks donated to Hillary, there's no reason to break their windows. They gave you those nice "inclusivity cups" last year. Remember those? The green ones with all the little people on them? I know you saw them. You were gloating how they didn't have snowflakes or Santa Claus on them. 
  • If you tell someone to check their privilege, make sure you're checking your own. No more lecturing McDonald's workers on the gender binary if you have a book deal with a major publishing house or other such nonsense. 
  • Pick your targets better, and check your tactics. Stop being awful people just because you think someone's an awful person. If you want to claim the moral high ground, if you want to think you're the good guys, start bloody well acting like it. 
Next, a warning: That word up there I wanted you to pay attention to was Antifa. Antifa is the very definition of "We think we're the good guys." Antifa ostensibly means "Anti-Fascism", which on the whole sounds rather nice. Given Fascism's track record, who in their right mind wouldn't be against it? I mean... Nazis, right?

Wrong. Please, please, please, don't let Antifa speak for you. That guy who punched Richard Spencer? Antifa*. I see you all there, cheering the hero that punched the Nazi. Call Spencer a Nazi if you want to, it makes no difference to me, but anyone associated with Antifa is not a hero. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you have a mutual enemy that you're friends. Antifa are the ones in black masks and hoodies that you see at otherwise peaceful protests smashing things and attacking people, which in turn puts the media attention on the rest of you, making you all look bad. They're the ones that will also attack you the moment you step out of line with their line of thinking.

I leave with a final thought: Trump has broken the Right, and the Sanders/Clinton Schism has broken the Left. All the rest of you, please pick up the pieces and make something new, something better with what's left over. Bring better ideas to the table. Bring more ideas to the table, and talk to each other. I don't want two sides dominating the elections again. There's no good reason for it anymore.

Good luck, Left. Do something productive with this time. 


* Editor's note: there is an online source that doxed him  as Antifa, but the author preferred not to provide the link due to content of a questionable nature. "Let that lack of evidence be on my head," says Salem. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feng Shui: Dodging

This past Saturday was the end of our Feng Shui adventure arc, and while this isn't my last foray into the realms of Hong Kong-style action RPGing, I'm ready to get back to Traveller for a while.

That said, I'm not done talking about Feng Shui.
During the last fight of the story arc, the players were fighting a big bad boss supported by many mooks in a defensive posture. The players spent a lot of time dodging incoming gunfire by said mooks, and I'm not certain if I handled it the best way.

In Feng Shui's rules as written, you declare a dodge after the GM says someone is attacking you but before the roll is made and the result announced. Now maybe I'm a big ol' softie, but I thought it was cinematic to allow the PCs to go "Oh crap!" and abort to a dodge after the roll is made but before the result is announced. I figured that losing shots (and potentially burning Fortune) was penalty enough in an action game -- after all, if you're dodging you're not fighting, and Fortune is a limited resource.

The problem with this approach is that it slows the game down. It's one thing when the PCs are fighting an equal number of Named characters, but if they're fighting 30 or so mooks with automatic rifles, it can turn into... well...
GM: Two of the mooks hit. A simple dodge will work for one, but you'll need to dodge and spend Fortune to avoid the other. Will you?
Player: Huh? Sorry, I wasn't listening.
GM: Will you dodge?
Player: Oh, sure.
[awkward silence ensues]
GM: Will you please spend Fortune on that?
Player: Oh, right...
With 6 players and 30 or so mooks, this can happen many times in a game session.

I'm not yet ready to do away with the "abort to a dodge" house rule, because I understand that bosses hit hard and players don't want their characters hit -- but I'm currently giving it the gimlet eye and sizing up its neck while I sharpen the butcher knife.

But what I think I will do is remove the ability to abort to a dodge against mooks. I realize that they are designed to be speedbumps, but they need to be some kind of a threat and they seem to work best in groups. So perhaps I will rule that when fighting mooks, you either take your lumps if they hit or you just do a blanket "I dodge" and... hmm. That still ends up with having to roll fortune and a game slowdown.

Okay, how about this: Mooks are designed primarily to be distractions and resource drainers for  PCs, so just the act of spending Fortune against one of their attacks ought to be an automatic dodge. So if, say, you happened to be a single hero running heroically down a gauntlet as a squad of mooks empties automatic weapons at you, you just tell the GM "I'm dodging" and the GM starts debiting your dodge account:
GM: The mooks shoot at you as you run through their killzone, automatic rifles blazing.
Player: I dodge.
GM: [consults pre-rolled Mook AV chart] Okay, you're down five shots and three Fortune.
Player: Um, I only have two Fortune.
GM: No, what you mean to say is that you have zero fortune and a gunshot wound. 
Yes, I like this concept. Let's see how it plays out the next time I break out the Feng Shui rules.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Palette's Product Review: Bondic Liquid Plastic Welder

(This is an expansion of the Plug of the Week from yesterday's podcast)

I'm fond of pointing out that preparedness isn't always about being ready for disaster; it's also about being able to handle the small emergencies of day-to-day life.

As an example of a tiny crisis, have you ever had to repair something tiny and fragile and precious to you or someone you care about? If so, you know how difficult that is to do, because you ultimately end up with having to affix a tiny little contact surface that doesn’t hold much glue to another tiny contact surface. You basically need three hands to fix it: one to hold the base unit steady, one to keep the broken part in place long enough for the glue to bond, and one to wipe away the excess glue that always seeps out between the cracks. Use too much glue and you get a mess; don't use enough glue and the object falls off.

My solution to this dilemma is Bondic, the liquid plastic welder.

If you’ve ever gone to the dentist and they’ve used UV light to cure a resin filling, you already know how Bondic works -- it's a pen-sized applicator that squeezes out drops of resin on one side and has a little UV light on the other. Apply what you need (up to a millimeter in thickness), then cure the liquid into a solid with a quick application of ultraviolet light from the lamp on the other end. The plastic bond is transparent even after curing, although it can be sanded and painted if necessary.

This works great for repairing tiny fragile things, because I no longer have to worry about using too much glue or having to hold the items in place. Instead, I just apply a small amount of glue, then secure the pieces with Bondic. The plastic weld holds the pieces together while the glue sets, and it serves as additional reinforcement as well.

Bondic has other uses, too:
  • You can fill holes with it (this is where the sanding and painting becomes useful)
  • You can create parts out of plastic (if you're patient -- the UV light can only penetrate 1mm in depth, so if you're building something large you have to do it layer by layer)
  • You can even use it on electronics as non-conductive solder, or to insulate exposed pieces. 
About the worst thing I can say about it is that its base layer doesn't have much tensile strength. If you use Bondic to repair something that gets a lot of flex (like frames for glasses), you need to use a lot of it, or else the thin plastic will snap.

I apologize if I sound like an infomercial for Bondic. I just really love mine because it's made my life so much easier when it comes to fixing my mother's damages collectibles -- which also means this helps repair upset feelings and maintains family harmony, too. If you're the "Mr. Fixit" in your family, I encourage you to add this to your toolbox.

You can get the Starter Kit from Amazon for $18 plus Prime shipping, and with that you get two tubes of liquid plastic and a UV light. The 12-piece DIY Kit has all that plus a variety of sanding blocks, sticks, and needles for just $25 and Prime shipping.

FTC disclaimer: I bought this item with my own money. I wasn't paid for this review, despite the fact that I gushed over it. Don't you have better things to do than read blogs looking for infractions?

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #127 - Nice SHOT, Man

That's why I say man, nice SHOT
What a good SHOT, man
  • The SHOT Show is over and Beth has some thoughts about the Good, the Bad, and possibly the Ugly aspects of it.
  • Who steals a golf cart and punches a cop? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about the recent gun rights court victory, Ezell II.
  • Tiffany also spent the week at SHOT Show. She asks "Why are we so divided?"
  • Do you like wool clothes? They're great for the cold and wet that preppers might have to face. But how do you clean them when you don't have all your modern conveniences? Erin tells you how.
  • Josh Horwitz, the Oompa Loompa of Gun Control, was on the Tucker Carlson show. And you just KNOW that Weer'd is going to take a crack at him.
  • And our plug of the week is Bondic, the Liquid Plastic Welder. If you need to fix it, Bondic might just be the ticket.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Cleaning your Winter Wool
It’s wintertime for most of the country -- I say “most” because here in Florida, it’s still 73 degrees outside -- and when preppers put on their winter clothes, they’re usually made of wool. 

Wool is favored by preppers because it retains its insulating properties even when wet. This makes it a great material for clothes that could get immersed -- like socks -- or become damp from sweat. 
But the problem with wool is that it doesn’t clean easily. While this isn’t much of a problem for your favorite sweater that you take to the dry cleaners once a year, stinky clothes -- especially socks -- can be a hygiene and morale problem. 

So how do you clean your woolies? First of all, don’t wash them like regular clothes. There’s a link in the show notes to a video explaining why, but the short version is that wool, unlike cotton or synthetic fibers, is made out of protein -- which is exactly what most stains are made of, and most cleaning agents are optimized to destroy protein stains. So putting your wool clothes in with regular soap is about as effective as washing them in acid. 

In a non-emergency, the best way to clean your wool unmentionables is to use cold water and a soap that is listed as being wool-safe in the gentle (non-agitating) cycle, and then dry them without heat. 
But what do you do if you don’t have access to cold water and soap? Fortunately, there are other cleaning methods available to the intrepid prepper. 

The easiest method is to use snow. It’s free and it requires very little effort, but you need need snow -- not the easiest thing to find in places like Florida -- and it should be fresh, dry, powdery snow. Using wet snow will make your clothes soggy and you’ll have to carefully let it dry without heat, which is difficult to do in the winter. Assuming you can find this kind of snow, here is what you do:
  1. Shake your clothing out to get rid of any loose dirt or dust. 
  2. Hang your clothes outside for at least 30 minutes to allow them to reach air temperature. 
  3. Using a clean broom if available -- and if not, use your hands -- sweep enough snow across the clothes to cover them but not bury them. 
  4. Compress the snow onto the material using your palms or the flat of the broom. 
  5. Let the snow sit for 15-20 minutes. Snow contains trace amounts of ammonia, and it will react with the cold air to cause stains to solidify and be expelled from the material. 
  6. When time is up, flip the clothing over and repeat the above process. For garments like socks and underwear, you may need to turn them inside out and repeat the process again.
  7. After you’ve done this to all the soiled sides, shake as much snow off the item and then hang it up to dry in the sunlight. If you’ve done it properly, the snow will evaporate without even getting your garment wet. 
If you don’t have access to snow, there’s still another option open to you, but it’s riskier. According to BCP author OkieRhio, who is a fiber arts enthusiast, you can clean soiled wool with plain white vinegar, so long as it’s no more than half cooking strength, and provided you don't have a delicate nose which is overly sensitive to the smell of vinegar on your clothes. 

However,  there is a problem with cleaning clothes with vinegar, because you have to make VERY certain that you get the material rinsed out EXTREMELY well, so that there is no trace of the vinegar remaining! This is because vinegar is something called a mordanting agent - a chemical used to make fibers more porous and prone to accepting color. What this means is that if you have this great wool sweater that you really like and you rinse it in cold vinegar water but don’t rinse all of the vinegar water out -- the next time you spill anything colored on your sweater, such as tea, your sweater will now be almost permanently stained by the tea. 

So here’s the takeaway from all this: Wool clothes are great to have for preps, but odds are good that if you need to clean them in an emergency, they are likely going to end up with odd colors or smells. That’s fine if they’re socks, gloves, or underwear -- function over form -- but keep in mind the drawbacks of cleaning your nicer wool clothes this way. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

An Open Letter to Rockstar Games

Dear Rockstar Games,

Some six years ago now, we parted ways on the Grand Theft Auto series. It broke my heart to do so, as I'd immensely enjoyed Vice City and San Andreas, but Grand Theft Auto IV was just so grim, annoying, and not fun that it put me off of sandbox crime games for a long time.

Don't get me wrong, it was a well-realized world with a lot to do and lots of depth to it. It's just that grim-faced Slavic protagonist and his annoying, omnipresent cousin, combined with the terrible vehicle handling, resulted in me not even completing the main story, let alone getting 100% like I did with Vice City and San Andreas. The fun characters and dark humour of those two games kept me coming back, and the tighter controls made driving more enjoyable.

In GTA IV, driving half an hour to a location in a vehicle that felt like it had a 500 pound cat on the hood... then failing that mission because of the poor controls... then having to drive half an hour back from the police station or hospital because there were no checkpoints... was just plain annoying. Making it to the final mission, and failing repeatedly because of terrible driving controls, was the last straw.

I even have the two expansions, The Lost and The Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, and I've not played more than 5 minutes of them because I can't bring myself to go back to the world of GTA IV. So I abstained from further GTA games.

Eventually, I found alternatives. Sleeping Dogs turned out to be really fantastic. Saints Row 2 was a dodgy port for PC, but still fun and had a great story, and it kept me coming back for 3 more installments in the series. I felt a great deal of vindication playing around in these sandbox worlds again and actually having the fun that I didn't have in GTA IV. Enough fun that when GTA V came out, I was smugly asking "Yeah but Saints Row IV is coming out. Who needs GTA?" while my PC brethren were waiting impatiently for the long-delayed PC port.

A month or so back, around Christmas, someone near and dear to me gifted me GTA V on Steam. It was on sale for 50% off, and I glanced at it, considered, and got a chill as I remembered that final GTA IV mission which, to this day, remains unfinished. When it showed up as a gift, I accepted it and installed it with a great deal of trepidation. The timing couldn't have been better, having recently rebuilt my computer with a new CPU, RAM, and motherboard, as well as a new video card that was barely a week installed. I started the game up, cranked up the settings, and ran the benchmarks, getting a solid 60 frames per second. I started playing the campaign and...
Okay, all right, it was fun. After a brief introduction that featured criminals yelling at each other and shooting at cops, I was greeted by characters that had depth, flaws, issues, and a sense of humour. I got a storyline that was actually really good, gripping, and fun. And unlike GTA IV, the entire world seems to radiate a sense of warmth and fun that I dearly missed from titles like Vice City and San Andreas. So that problem's solved. I finished the campaign the other night, doing most of the side missions, and I can say I'm satisfied.
Trevor Phillips, everybody. The most entertaining sociopath in the GTA series so far.
But you're not off the hook, Rockstar. We still have to talk about something. Maybe I've been spoiled by other games, but why are your controls so terrible?

I'm using a gamepad, which is what your game was designed around. Why do you click the left stick to "stealth walk" when most games use that to run? Why do I press A to jog and tap A repeatedly to sprint, when most games have you click the left stick? Why am I pressing X to jump when A has been the standard for jump since Super Mario Bros? Why do your characters drunkenly wobble around the screen when Saints Row has them leaping and sprinting effortlessly? Why do they swing blindly when attacking when Sleeping Dogs has an entirely fleshed out hand-to-hand combat system based around real-world martial arts?
It's the little things..
Truly, my only complaint about GTA V is the on-foot controls. They're terrible, atrocious, and they've not only been that way since GTA III but they've progressively gotten worse. How long are we going to let you get away with this, Rockstar? You can do better than this.

Please, fix this. If your next game controls better on-foot, I'll consider putting in a pre-order. Until then, Rockstar...


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Where has Erin been the past week?

Hey, everyone. I'm fine, thanks for asking. I've just been really busy doing a bunch of other things, and the blog has suffered.

Which is a shame, because this blog was my first love, and I really need to prioritize feeding the piggy bank over other things, but these days I need about three hands to juggle all the balls I have in the air.

However,  it looks like I might have a little more time to do more writing (at least for the moment), because I have gotten one of my many eggs hatched and ready to leave the nest.

Ladies and Gentlemen and those Undecided, I present to you the official Operation Blazing Sword website!
I admit it's pretty rudimentary right now, but that's because we've only just taken our first steps as an actual charitable entity. We don't have much to talk about, so basic website is basic -- but it's a good start, and we have a lot of room into which we can grow.

I look forward to seeing what great things Operation Blazing Sword can accomplish in 2017 with your help.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #126 - Panthers, Po-Po, and the Pew-Pew Life

It's the pew-pew life for us!
Guns are civil rights for us!
Steada resting, we fight back!
Nearly all our guns are black!
It's the pew-pew life!
  • Beth is going to the SHOT Show. Since she started attending in 2000, some things have changed... and some have not.
  • We all love a story with a happy ending, and this one will not disappoint you. But what sort of person ties up a woman in her own bedroom during a home invasion? Sean tells you what he's found.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin read and explain the newly introduced National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill.
  • What are the dark, secret parts of Gun Control? Tiffany gets her Black Panther Party on and tells us what she's found.
  • Does the idea of flushing the toilet during an emergency by pouring good clean drinking water into it feel like sacrificing your baby? Erin tells us how the Blue-Grey-Black water cycle can help.
  • There's a new "threat" to our gun rights. Are they dangerous, or just a paper tiger? Weer'd takes a recent NPR interview with their spokesman and puts it all in context.
  • And our plug of the week is for "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Netflix. It's got guns, action, and adventure for the guys, and costumes, relationships, and not a small amount of wish fulfillment for the ladies. It's a date night TV show for everyone.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle
Last week, Sean and I talked about the preparations he’d made for the Snowpocalypse that was slated to hit North Carolina, and later on Facebook he posted a picture of his bathtub full of water jugs.  He captioned it it “This is about 40 gallons, or three flushes of the toilet” and then in the comments explained “During the power outage from the hurricane I had to pour water into the toilet to make it flush the poo. The Wife insisted. Each flush was 2.5 gallons. It was like sacrificing a baby watching all that water I'd driven to Walmart to get going down the toilet.”

And I agree, using 2 and a half gallons of fresh drinking water to flush the toilet is wasteful. So let’s talk about making the most out of our drinking water by utilizing the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle.
  • Blue water -- also sometimes called white water, but that makes me think of rapids -- is water fit for human consumption. The technical term for this is “potable”, and it’s what you drink and cook with and bathe in and usually what you wash your clothes in. 
  • Gray water is what goes down the drain. It’s not drinkable, because it’s soiled with things like dirt, soap, bits of food, hair, shampoo, skin cells, and so forth, but it’s not harmful to a human being. You could bathe in gray water without ill effects. 
  • Black water is what leaves your toilet, and it’s decidedly NOT safe to be exposed to, because it’s full of pathogens that are just waiting to infect you if they get past your skin. 

So the general thought behind this cycle is that you can use water more than once, going from levels of highest potability to lowest, if you are in a situation like Sean where your water resources are limited.

Here’s an example of how that would work in a limited-water emergency:
  1. When preparing food or washing yourself or your clothes, do not pour the water down the sink. Instead, catch it in a container of some kind. The blue water has become gray. 
    • If you REALLY want to ration water, wash your clothes and your dirty dishes in the gray water. I would caution you that the grease and other food elements might not be the best for your clothes, but it’s possible. Washing dishes and utensils in gray water isn’t as bad, since metals and ceramic aren’t going to absorb odors, but make sure that 1) you use lots of soap and 2) you rinse them with blue water before putting them away for reuse.
    • Depending on the soap and other elements in the gray water, you might be able to use it for watering plants. In fact, graywater irrigation is a rabbit hole that is outside the scope of this article, so I’m going to suggest that anyone who is interested should check out the article titled “How Gray Water Reclamation Works” in the show notes. 
    • For our example here, though, we’re just going to assume that you aren’t going to do that. Instead, you save that graywater for flushing the toilet.
  2. Now it must said that when it comes to conserving water, the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule must be in effect. Otherwise, you’re going to be flushing a lot more often, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
  3. When it comes time to “flush it down, because it’s brown”, you take your bucket or tub or whatever container of gray water you have and you pour about a gallon of it, quickly, from about two feet. You don’t want it so high that you get splashed, but you want it high enough that the water gets a gravity assist.
  4. Past a certain point, the pressure of water in the bowl will be greater than the air pressure in the pipes beyond, and the force will induce a flush. There’s a YouTube video in the show notes if you need a demonstration.
  5. After you pour the gray water into the toilet, it becomes black water -- and because you’ve caused it to flush, that black water is no longer your concern.
Now before you decide to start saving your gray water for flushing, you need to know that gray water becomes black water within about 24 hours due to the bacteria in the water eating the food and giving off their own waste. So don’t let it become a health hazard and flush it away.

But with that in mind, Sean and everyone else can be a lot happier if the water goes out during a winter storm, because 1 gallon of gray water is a lot less heartwrenching to flush than 2.5 gallons of blue water.

And if you’d like to read more about getting by on limited water, check out the linked article of the same name on Blue Collar prepping, linked in the show notes.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Calm Request: Please Quit Posting Piss Jokes

I tried for hours yesterday and today to put together some intelligible article out of this current mess.

I can't do it.

A few months ago, there was Pizzagate, which originated from the Podesta emails and was based on Podesta being one weird son of a bitch when it came to his emails. It was allegedly a conspiracy that there was an underground child trafficking ring being run out of a pizza parlor in DC -- and only hardcore conspiracy theorists believed it. It was immediately debunked and dismissed outright by the media and the public at large, if they even heard about it at all.

Now there's a conspiracy theory that Trump paid prostitutes to pee on a bed that the Obamas slept in at a hotel in Russia... the source of which is an intelligence report that 4chan claims to have fed through dummy accounts to the GOP, but who knows how legit that claim is. Buzzfeed picked it up and ran with it, while other outlets are looking at them funny. And yet...
And yet my social media feed is full of people making piss jokes. Look, you can post whatever you want, and you can call me kink-shaming if you want, but when my entire feed is full of people making golden shower jokes, I'm a little grossed out. And if you cling to this conspiracy when even MSNBC is telling Buzzfeed to their face that they're wrong for publishing it, you've gotta think twice about it. Or, you know, don't, and just keep making disgusting piss jokes. For people who hate Donald Trump so much, you sure seem intent on flooding my feed with his face.

This is doubly disappointing when you consider that a few months ago Buzzfeed News actually put out a few stories that were proper journalism. Guess it was too hard for them.

Am I saying for sure that either of these did or didn't happen? No. They could have. I don't know. I know for sure that child trafficking rings exist amongst the rich and powerful, and I know for sure that rich and powerful people can be into some kinky stuff. But that's not what's important here.

What's important is not talking about pee on my news feed. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Highlander Theory

This came up in a post on someone else's wall, and I figured it belonged here on my blog alongside my equally-cool "Crowlander" post.

I have a theory that Highlander-style immortals are outcast angels. Allow me explain:
According to the Bible, when Lucifer rebelled a third of the Host came with him -- but 1/3 against 2/3 is not a winnable fight. However, in some tellings of the story (and I wish I could remember where I read this. It might be a Neil Gaiman thing, it sounds like something he'd say), 1/3 of the Host couldn't decide who to support, or were persuaded by Lucifer to stay neutral, and so stayed out of the fight. This made the rebellion an even match for the loyalists, and thus far more winnable.

Well, we know how that story goes: Lucifer lost, and he and his minions were cast into hell. But what about the third who did nothing?

According to my theory, they were punished for not choosing to stand with God, but since they didn't actively rebel against God, their punishment needed to be less than everlasting damnation. Since they did not choose a side -- and since the one of the biggest themes in the Bible is "Free will, even if you choose to do the wrong thing" -- this undecided third would be made to choose good or evil, Heaven or Hell. 

To this end, they were stripped of most of their angelic powers, cast out of Heaven and sent to Earth in mortal bodies (remember, all immortals are foundlings) with no memories of ever being angels. The various ages of immortals, and their appearance throughout the ages,  can be explained by "Time is different in Heaven so it took some of them a while to arrive and in fact are still arriving" and/or "God didn't want to dump a third of the Host onto Earth all at once, so he spread them out."

So now, those angels who once stood by and passively watched are now watched by others (ironically called "The Watchers"),  and are compelled by their natures to fight and kill until There Is Only One.

The Prize, of course, is the entire fate of the outcast third. After winning the Prize, the last living immortal is judged by his character, and thereby redeems or damns the entire lot of them. It is effectively an eons-long Trial By Combat. If a good immortal like Connor or Duncan wins, they are accepted back into heaven. If someone like the Kurgan wins, they're damned to hell for all eternity.

When you think about it, this explains so much about Highlander mythology.
  • Why can't they fight on Holy Ground?  Because God said so. 
  • Why do 99% of them use swords? Because angels have traditionally been depicted as using swords. 
  • Why does the Quickening manifest as lightning and other celestial effects? Because sky = Heaven. 
  • Heck, this even explains Dark Quickenings: the entire Game is "Choose good or evil", and a Quickening is the absorption of all the angelic souls into one big over-soul. If you kill a lot of bad immortals, you absorb sin-tainted souls and become tainted yourself. 
The best part about this theory is that if you play supernatural RPGs like In Nomine or Vampire, you have a way to add immortals to the game without breaking the flavor of the setting. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #125 - Forbidden Thoughts, Lack of Sleep, and Voicemails

It sounds sinister when we put it like that, but anything can seem threatening if it's written tersely. Example: "The last gun owner on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door..."
  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens have nothing on the Glock 43 and Springfield XD-S for Beth and her husband. What else are their favorite things? Listen to her segment to find out. 
  • What kind of idiot robs his neighbor who is sure to recognize him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin get a voicemail from Joshua in Arizona challenging our listeners to set their goals for 2017. What are YOUR goals? Send us your voicemails and we'll play them.
  • Tiffany  is on assignment and will return next wee, but in the meantime check out her guest appearance on Ballistic Radio. 
  • Fatigued? Erin has some tips for you.... when she wakes up.
  • "Loaded Conversations" is back and they've let the hate come out to play. Weer'd is ready with his Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our plug of the week is for the ebook "Forbidden Thoughts". 

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms
Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
Like I mentioned at the top of the show, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and right now I feel like a member of the Walking Dead. However, in a disaster or emergency situation, you may not be able to sleep well either, and odds are good that you’ll have to be functional the next day. 

These are the tips and tricks I’ve learned regarding how to get to sleep at night in strange or uncomfortable environments, and how to compensate the next day for not being able to sleep the night before. 

In order to get a good night’s sleep, you need to have as few distractions as possible -- but post SHTF you might not have the luxury of a quiet bedroom. Provided it’s safe for you to do so, soft plugs in your ears -- the squishy kind, like you see at shooting ranges -- will mute most noises, and a bandana or shemagh across your eyes will cut out most bright lights. I slept like this in college for many years. 

Eating right before going to bed may be terrible for your weight, but it’s a great way to fall asleep. The sensation of being full is a great tranquilizer, as we can all attest from eating Thanksgiving dinner, and the heat from your body digesting the food also helps to warm your sleeping bag. 
If cold weather is keeping you from sleeping, a nalgene or metal bottle filled with hot water and brought into your sleeping bag can also serve to keep you warm at night. 

But if you still couldn’t sleep and have to be up and working like a normal human being the next day, there are still preps that will help with this. I of course am a big fan of coffee as my caffeine delivery system of choice, and I talked about this in episode 31. Other people prefer tea, which is actually easier to carry in a bug out bag and easier to make. But if you aren’t able to make a hot, caffeinated drink at breakfast -- you don’t have the time, or it isn’t prudent to make a fire, then caffeine pills are your friend. 

I think most of us flirted with No-Doz in college or the military, but I discovered a similar product  on Amazon called “Jet Alert”. I haven’t tried it -- yet -- but a box of them costs around $6. That’s half the price of No-Doz, and you get a great quantity for your money: a box of 100 mg regular strength pills has a count of 120, and the double strength box has a count of 90, compared to No-Doz’s count of 60 per box. Those are good savings, and the brand has a good reputation on Amazon, so look into getting some for your bug-out bags. 

Also, using checklists -- discussed in episode 65 -- are a great way to get work done even if my brain isn’t fully engaged. Following a list reduces the amount of horrible thinking that I have to do when I’m tired, but it keeps me productive. If you’re in a disaster situation and you expect to be fatigued the next day, before you go to bed write down a list of all the things you’ll need to do in the morning. Just the simple act of making a list can help people sleep better because it’s one less thing to worry about, and then the following day you can just read the instructions to yourself instead of having to go “Now, what was I supposed to do today?”

Finally, it’s been my experience that fatigue from lack of sleep mirrors a hangover in a lot of ways, so I treat it similarly. I drink a lot of water when I wake up, then I force myself to do some mild exercise -- walking, stretches, etc -- in the sunlight. My body hates it and wants to crawl into a dark place and sleep more, but the sunlight helps wake me up and the exercise releases some endorphins that make me feel somewhat better. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Because I don't like leaving good material on Facebook

"Racist, Bush's fault" has been replaced with "Racist, Trump's fault." Please update your self-flagellexicon accordingly.

(Yes, I coined the term "flagellexicon". You may use it in your personal dealings; just credit me if asked.)

This is just a friendly reminder that it's not politically correct to misgender people while insulting them. The proper terms of deploring are:
  • Shitlord (male)
  • Shitlady (female)
  • Shitperson (gender neutral)
If you wish to indicate a teenager/young adult, you may use
  • Shitlad (male)
  • Shitlass (female)
  • Shitteen & Shittwenty (neutral)

Thank you for your cooperation.

Shitlady Erin Palette

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Disappointing Decision, and a Further Disappointing Development

I love a good documentary. Documentaries are great things to me, taking a subject that might otherwise be dull reading, spicing it up with a little drama and cinematography that helps you stay focused on learning about a subject you might otherwise not find interesting, and giving you a little thrill on subjects that you do. YouTube is chock full of them, with a lot of documentary filmmakers or license-holders not being very strident with copyright enforcement, perhaps due to laziness or a desire for the subject matter to be discussed rather than the work protected legally. This works out in my favour, as I've seen some rather interesting ones on the creator of Reddit, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, Christopher Hitchens' flaying of Mother Theresa, and Louis Theroux's series on the Westboro Baptist Church.

This is why I reacted with great trepidation when I read an announcement that A&E would be funding a documentary about the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK is a controversial subject, as it's always been. Personally I see no reason for them to exist, and plenty of reasons for them not, especially in [current_year+1], but then I'm a Lefty and I do believe there are things such as harmful speech -- although where I draw that line is probably much, much further away than a lot of modern Lefties.

I also believe that bad ideas should not be silenced or legislated away. You don't get rid of bad ideas that way; you just drive them underground where they can spread without being seen. There's truth in the adage, "Sunlight is the best antiseptic":  expose bad ideas, study them, and ridicule them if necessary.  Otherwise, you'll never have a defense against those ideas if you drive them into hiding and leave yourself ignorant to their nuances. This is why the modern Left has lost all political power, and all the branches of government are held by the Right. The modern Left has spent a lot of time in the past decade attempting to silence wrong-think.

This is why there are a lot of us now on the Left who spend so much time ridiculing the modern Left. I'm sorry, but the anti-social-justice movement was not started by the vaunted boogeymen of the Alt-Right. It started with the Left, and it's still strongest in the Left.

I had a 'discussion' on social media with a progressive friend regarding the KKK documentary. She found the idea of exploring the topic disgusting, while I was excited at the prospect. I argued that a documentary series regarding the modern KKK was a good thing, because we'd learn more about the way they think, their viewpoints, and the reasoning behind why they're a part of the organization --all of which are absolutely vital things if you want to be able to put together a defense that's more than just REEEEEEE RACIST. You can't dismantle an argument if you don't understand that argument, and you won't understand the argument by placing it in a little box and hiding it from sight.

Then the documentary was cancelled. I was genuinely disappointed, because I want so-called 'bad ideas' explored. I want things dragged out into the light, exposed, examined, with any good things acknowledged and saved, and any harmful things to be treated appropriately and with caution.

And then I found out why it was cancelled: the production company that was making the documentary was allegedly bribing people on the show to create conflict for dramatic effect (and not just bribing; the documentary subjects were given, or at least offered, cash bribes large enough that the recipients were advised not to pay taxes on them), given instruction on things to say while the cameras were on them, and told to use racial slurs in conversation where they wouldn't naturally happen.

The producers allegedly went so far as to even stage a cross burning with This Is Just A Test, the production company behind a potentially educational documentary series, dummying up one for dramatic effect. As a result, instead of exploring some potentially (and historically) harmful ideas, we come away with the idea that maybe the KKK isn't as bad as we thought it was, or at least not as bad as it used to be, because the production company wanted to fake the bad stuff instead of showing what was really going on. And we'll never fully know what's really going on, because drama and incitement were more important to the producers than the truth.

Is the KKK truly so harmless that we can't focus on their actual flaws and historical atrocities and have to fabricate new ones to justify continued fear? Whether or not that take-away is true, it's going to be there, bubbling just under the surface, because of irresponsible propagandists. This makes me genuinely mad -- mad at This Is Just A Test, mad at A&E, and mad at anyone who gave an enormous knee-jerk fear response to the sheer prospect of giving airtime an organization that's barely a shadow of its once-powerful status.

Love may very well trump hate, but fear trumps knowledge every single time. You can't be afraid to look at what you disagree with. You won't necessarily turn into a monster if you study them, but you'll definitely be able to give a stronger rebuttal to their ideas if you do, and that's what we've lost because of social backlash and a dishonest production company, and I can't forgive that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Palette's Pull-up Progress

I mentioned on Sunday's podcast that one of my New Year's Resolutions was to be able to do a single pull-up. To that end, I purchased the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar.

Of course, just having the bar won't magically enable me to do a pull-up: I still need to work at it, and right now I can barely lift myself off the ground. I was referred to this YouTube video which shows an easy way to build up to doing a pull-up via what is basically a reverse pull-up: climb on a chair, grab the bar, walk off the chair, and lower myself down. This resistance should build up my muscles until I can do one the proper way.

My pull-up bar arrived on Sunday, so I started my regimen on Monday. Here's what happened:
  • My first set of 8 reps was okay, although I was coming down faster than I would have liked. 
  • The second set hurt, because I'm weak. 
  • The third set HURT. As in, "I feel like I am actually tearing something because I am coming down too quickly," and so I stopped after doing only 4 reps. 
I was glad that I stopped when I did, because Tuesday I was stiff, but not actually sore -- just kind of "uncomfortable swollen feelings in the muscles and reduced range of motion." I rested, did a lot of stretching (Protip: reaching up,  grabbing the bar, and just hanging from it is an awesome way to stretch out your upper body muscles), and by the end of the day I was feeling better. 

Today is Wednesday. I climbed up on the chair, grabbed the bar, tensed to walk the plank.. and my arms said "Nope." They were weak and sore, and basically offered no resistance against gravity. 

I didn't see any gain in climbing a chair and basically falling off it and jerking my arms, so I tried a modified version:
  • I put a stool between me and the pull up bar. 
  • I grabbed the bar and, while lifting as much as I could, I stepped onto the stool. 
  • I went to my tiptoes, still lifting with my arms. 
  • Then I slowly stepped off the stool, keeping the tension in my arms to give some resistance against gravity. 
So if Scooby's version is a "reverse pull-up", then I don't know what to call this -- a subverted lame-ass pull-up? -- but the fact of the matter is that the burning in my arms tells me I'm actually exercising, but I'm doing it at a pace which is healthy and safe for my body. Maybe by Friday my arms will feel good enough to try another few sets of reverse pull-ups. If so, great; if not, I'll continue with the subversions. 

It's gonna be a long, tough road to that first pull-up. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Feng Shui: House Rules for Combat

Since I try to run Feng Shui with the attitude of "Screw it, why not?", I've allowed some variations from rules-as-written. Some of these make the game go faster; many make the game feel fairer to the PCs, which encourages them to be more heroic and therefore entertaining, and also gives me freer reign to try to kill them all horribly.
Spending Fortune After the Roll
This is probably a legacy of playing other games with similar boost mechanics, but I like the notion of PCs saving their limited resources until they really need them. Therefore, I allow the PCs to see their roll and then spend a Fortune to boost it if desired.

Dodging When Out of Shots
According to my reading of the rules, dodging is an interrupt action -- but if you've used all your shots for the sequence, then you have no actions left and therefore cannot perform any interrupts. This strikes me as somewhat unfair, as it puts faster-moving people at the mercy of slower-moving people (although I suppose it could be interpreted as "This is deliberate game balance as it allows the slower-moving characters to get their licks in.")

I have therefore ruled that, even if you are out of shots, you may still dodge -- but doing so reduces your initiative roll for the next sequence by a cumulative -1 per dodge.

Marks of Death and Healing
This is less of a house rule and more a clarification in writing of a question asked by a player: "Since the rulebook says on page 107 that 'If a character is healed before he makes a Death Check, he doesn’t need to make the check', does this mean that healing removes Marks of Death?"

My interpretation of this is Yes. This ruling is partially based on the logic of "If you don't need to make a Death Check, then however many Marks of Death you have is irrelevant as MoDs only affect Death Checks and nothing else", and partly based on the cinematic notion that "If another PC is taking time out during combat to heal a character rather than kick butt, Cinematic Conservation of Action Awesome indicates that healing during combat is far more effective than healing outside of combat."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #124 - Happy New Year!

It's pronounced TWENTY SEVENTEEN. Are you really telling me that when it hits 2020 you're going to call it "two thousand and twenty"?

  • How can piano lessons make you a better shooter? Beth tells us why it's not actually that far-fetched.
  • In a crime that strikes close to home, Sean tells us about three suspects arrested in connection with the murder of a clerk in the convenience store closest to his house.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin discuss Charles C.W. Cooke's article "Phantoms of Gun Control" as published in the NRA's magazine "America's First Freedom".
  • Tiffany saw two videos of women using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to fight off attackers. She wanted a second opinion, so she contacted Craig Douglas of ShivWorks for his thoughts.
  • Do you have prepping resolutions? Erin does. What does she plan to do in 2017? She'll tell you.
  • The Brady Campaign had a live Facebook Chat talking about their “Runaway Hit” Miss Sloane. Weer’d was listening in...
  • And our plug of the week is for the Surefire CombatLight.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

The Fine Print

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