Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Perhaps the Bounciest Goosestepping EVER

I must admit that I'm enamored of the green coat and black skirt ensemble. Normally military skirts are right at knee length or below, but careful, dutiful study over frequent rewatchings has proven to my satisfaction that these skirts are 1-2 inches above the knee. Combined with such... bouncy... goosestepping, this is an audacious fashion choice.

And yet, somehow, it works. It's almost ridiculous, but not quite. Neither is it "sexy" or "slutty". It has an endering teenage quality to it, like you might get if you crossed cheerleaders with ROTC cadets.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

(Sunday) Schooling People

If you're going to cherry-pick Bible passages at me, you'd better bring your A-game, because not only am I going to read the entire chapter for context if you do, I'm also going to research your position using various concordances and commentaries. And if you're wrong, I will absolutely beat you over the head with it, and the icing on top will be Jesus's words against your position.

For context, last week a friend of mine made this Facebook post:

The comments are about what you'd expect. Most of them were from people who either moaned about how far we as a people have fallen from the light, or how Paul was deeply mistaken and that he'd be paying for this mistake in the afterlife.

Now when it comes to personal opinion, that's all well and good; you can believe whatever you like as far as I'm concerned. But when someone quotes the Bible in order to justify a belief which is completely in opposition to what Jesus preached, I go all Rarity on them.

The Old Testament
So when Christians try to condemn homosexuality using the Bible, the first place they usually go to is Leviticus, because it states twice (Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13) that homosexuality is an abomination. In fact, Lev. 20:13 goes so far as to state that a man who has sex with another man must be put to death.

Now, setting aside for a moment the irony that the people who are making this quotation won't go out and execute homosexuals -- meaning they are violating the exact same Law which they claim to uphold -- there's the fact that they are cherry-picking the Law to suit their own ends.

No, no, no, sweetheart; you don't get to do that. You either follow ALL of Leviticus, or you follow NONE of it. And if you decide to follow all of it, that requires a radical change in lifestyle, because the Law bans a whole lot of things, including but not limited to:
  • Eating Fat or Blood (Lev. 3:17) - Sorry, no marbled rare ribeye for you!
  • Drinking alcohol in holy places (Lev. 10:9) - Sucks to be you if you're Catholic. 
  • Eating an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (Lev. 11:4-7) - This is the basis for the whole "no pork" part of Judaism. No bacon for you!
  • Eating seafood without fins or scales (Lev 11:10-12) - This basically amounts to "Fish and only fish." No shrimp, no crabs, no lobster, no calamari. I expect a LOT of people in Louisiana and Maryland would be upset by this. 
  • Mixing fabrics in clothing (Lev. 19:19) - No blends for you! All your clothes must be 100% cotton or wool or whatever. Go on, check your underwear; I bet it's a blend. 
  • Trimming or shaving your beard and/or sideburns (Lev. 19:27) - I guarantee you that every single American male has broken this law countless times throughout their loves. Fortunately for them, there's no penalty given. 
  • Getting a tattoo (Lev. 19:28) - Yes, even the cute little one on your ankle. 
  • And finally, my favorite:  (Lev. 20:9) "Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head." This pretty much dooms anyone who was ever a teenager. 

What's that, I hear you say? You don't want to do all these things? You want to shave and wear blended clothing and drink sacramental wine and eat bacon?

Sure, you can do all those things. Mark 7:14-23 is your escape clause.
Of course, if you use this, then you can't condemn homosexuals, either.

But wait! I hear you cry. Jesus specifically said 'sexual immorality'! Doesn't that include homosexuality?

Perhaps it does and perhaps it doesn't; I'll address that in a moment. Let me point out, though, that Jesus intervened to save the life of a woman caught in adultery -- the penalty for which was death of both parties, although the male adulterer is nowhere to be found -- so is it truly that difficult to believe that He would also challenge the death penalty for those who are homosexual?

But Erin! I again hear you cry. Jesus told the woman to 'Go and sin no more.' If He tells her to stop being an adulteress, then wouldn't He also tell a homosexual to stop being gay?

That is a topic for another discussion, because it assumes homosexuality is a choice.  I've met enough gay people who have fervently wished they could be heterosexual just to feel "normal" to cast that particular assumption into very strong doubt for me. Furthermore, there is a debate that homosexuality may be the result of genetics or environmental factors such as birth order.

If you want to have the debate that homosexuality is an illness or genetic defect, then I suppose we could argue that Jesus might cure a gay person of his gayness the same way He cured lame people of their lameness. But that's categorically not the same thing as telling a sinner to stop sinning.

The New Testament
Speaking of sinners and the New Testament, let's talk about the other favorite passage which is brought out. While there are several references to homosexuality in the Epistles (1 Corinthians 6:9-101 Timothy 1:9-10, and Jude 1:7 -- although with that last one, I'd argue that the "sin of Sodom" wasn't so much homosexuality as it was the roving rape gangs), the one I see most often is Romans 1:26-27.
Taken by itself, this passage seems pretty damning... except one should never take a Bible passage by itself; one should always read it in context with the passages before it and after it. In this case, start at the beginning of the paragraph -- which is Romans 1:18 and titled "God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity" -- and read to verse 32, the end of the chapter.

The very first verse of the chapter says "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people". Verse 21 says "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him ." In other words, God's wrath is directed not specifically at homosexual people, but rather at the people who are neither worshiping God nor thanking Him. In fact, verse 24 specifically states that it's only after they failed to honor God that God abandoned them to their sinful natures.

Then there's the verse which follows the quote:
You can see where it quite plainly states that those people who didn't worship God had depraved minds and were deceitful, malicious, envious murderers. Now since the Apostle Paul didn't differentiate between the people in verse 27 and verses 28-31, it's fair to say that he's talking about the same people. But not all all murderers are homosexual, and not all homosexuals are murderers. So the Apostle Paul is speaking categorically, i.e. all who fail to worship God give themselves over to some form of depravity (sin).

Now here comes the best part! The very next line -- which is Romans 2:1 - says "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."
In other words, Paul is saying "Hey, reader! YOU'RE A SINNER TOO. So stop passing judgement on other people, because you will be judged for that as well."

According to Christian doctrine, we are all sinners -- man and woman, gay and straight -- and the wages of sin are death , but those wages have been paid through the blood sacrifice of the lamb, Jesus Christ. All we must do is accept His forgiveness, believe, and we shall be saved (1 John 1:7, Acts 3:19).

As far as I'm concerned, this addresses all of the objections which may be found in the New Testament. If you aren't convinced, though, let me leave you with the words of our Savior, as recorded in the Book of Matthew, chapter 7:
Go, and do thou likewise

Monday, August 28, 2017

On Hurricanes and Weather

As I write this, it's a comfortable 73 degrees at 11 PM Saturday in the Mountain time zone, with a cool breeze blowing down from the Sandia Mountain range and an unusually high humidity of 48%.

Just a few years back, though, I lived in the city of Port Arthur, TX: birthplace of Janis Joplin and hometown of economic depression, abandoned downtown buildings of Southeast Texas, the center of an inflated cost of living due to oil refineries. Too far East to truly be Texas and too far West to truly be Louisiana, it's the home of fumes, mold, and swamps, and the subject of an Al Jazeera docu-piece on air quality.

I lived there for close to 10 years. When I say close, I mean close; I moved there in June of 2003 and left on the last day of April 2013. In that time, I evacuated for three hurricanes and slept through several more. My apartment was completely destroyed once, the roof ripped off of the second-floor two-bedroom I shared with my ex-wife, soaking everything that wasn't packed into the tiny car we owned after my Monte Carlo had given up the ghost on its second transmission. I was more fortunate the next two times I evacuated, as my one-bedroom post-divorce apartment was untouched.

I don't like hurricanes. They're a huge inconvenience at best, and a life-altering pain in the ass at worst (assuming you get out of their path). I have a few friends still in that part of Texas right now, and I hope you and they both have the good sense of being not there if you're otherwise in the path of Hurricane Fuck This Shit.

When I was presented with the option of moving away from Texas some 4-ish years ago,  I took that opportunity and have yet to regret it. The constant high humidity in the swamps where I lived was wrecking my sinuses, leaving me short of breath and giving me constant headaches due to the mold and fumes in the area. In the first two weeks I was in New Mexico, the thin, dry, clean mountain air forced its way into my head and I could feel my sinuses changing shape, opening for the first time in years. I have breathed easily since then.

But  I've found that the true advantage to living here is the weather. The dry desert air is truly an amazing thing. While living in Texas, I once walked a quarter mile on the coldest day of the year to the Walgreen's on the corner. It was about 38 degrees outside... with 100% humidity. The cold cut through the jacket, hoodie, jeans, and pajama pants I was wearing, and I wanted to fall against the wall of the building I was at and die halfway through the walk. In stark contrast, I went to see a Rifftrax Live show here in New Mexico in late October. As I was walking to the theater in a leather jacket and thin t-shirt, I thought to myself, "It's a little chilly out here." I later checked the temperature at the time and it was 27 degrees, but with only 13% humidity. In the summer it can reach as high as 110 outside, but with the low humidity it feels vastly more comfortable than the 85 degrees at 100% humidity that a Southeast Texas Spring or Fall would bring.

And that's not getting into the four distinct seasons and snow in Winter that I now see.

What am I getting at right now? Nothing in particular, honestly. Just that I hope my friends are okay and that one day they'll see the light and move inland. I genuinely do not ever think I could bring myself to live within a hundred miles of a coastline again. It's just not healthy.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #158 - Nashville is Nice, So I'll Say It Twice

Sean continues his love affair with the City of Nashville.
  • What does a #1 New York Times bestseller have to do with range etiquette? Beth talks to us about Range Rules & Expectations.
  • When is a dispute not a dispute? When it's an armed robbery. Sean finds out about our deceased suspect.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • This week, Miguel discusses that oft-repeated maxim of the Tactical Shooter: Competitions will get you killed in the streets!
  • Our Main Topic is the Eclipse. Sean spent the weekend with Co-host Emeritus Adam in Nashville and watched the Eclipse in Gallatin, Tennessee.
  • Tiffany is headed up north for the very first NRA Carry Guard Expo. She tells us what NRA Carry Guard is, and what is she hoping to learn at the Expo.
  • It's hot and you've got to walk to safety. What things should you bring? Erin explains hot weather survival gear.
  • Weer’d sends us a message from a dark future. It's like "12 Monkeys" up in here.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the City of Nashville.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and 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 -
Hot Weather Survival Gear
For the past two weeks I’ve talked about what to wear in hot weather and what gear to have if your car is stranded. But what if you need to self-rescue, or otherwise need to walk long distances in that hot weather? That’s the topic of this third and final installment. 

First of all, you’re going to need the right clothing, so be sure to check last week’s segment on hot weather clothing. Pay special attention to your feet, especially if you’re wearing impermeable boots or you’re walking through a lot of water. The very last thing you want is something that makes it painful or uncomfortable to walk, so make sure you listen to my segment on preventing fungal infections from episode 143. 

Check your feet regularly to prevent blistering. If you find yourself developing hot spots, then either cushion them with moleskin from Dr. Scholls or use something called HikeGoo,which is a cream that both moisturizes your skin and lubricates the hot spot to prevent more friction. 

Change your socks as often as possible, even if you have only two pairs. Get a mesh stuff bag, put a carabiner clip on the drawstring, and hang the used pair from your belt loop or backpack strap to dry in the sunlight and fresh air. (This will take longer in humid climates, unfortunately.)

Regardless of whether it’s during the day or at night, walking in hot weather is thirsty business because you’re going to be sweating our water to keep cool. This means you absolutely need a way to keep water with you at all times. I recommend a hydration bladder in the largest size possible; most brands like CamelBak top out at 3 liters, but the MSR DromLite comes in 2, 4, and 6 Liter versions.
You’re also going to need a way to carry that bladder, because water is heavy. Most backpacks these days are hydration bladder compatible - but check, because they may only go up to 2 liters - although a lot of bladder manufacturers also sell carriers for their products. Whichever way you go, make sure you get the lightest color possible. Your all-black MOLLE-festooned CamelBak carrier may look tactical, but the dark color will absorb the sunlight and heat up your water. About the only thing worse than drinking hot water when you’re thirsty is drinking no water at all. 

And you’re going to be drinking a lot of that water. A LOT. We’re supposed to drink 2 liters, or half a gallon, of water a day just as part of our regular activities, so if you’re having to do hard work in the blazing sun and humidity, you’re going to be sweating a lot more and becoming dehydrated that much faster. This means you need a way to refill your water reservoir. 

There are various types of pumps and filters out there, but I swear by the Sawyer Mini. It’s inexpensive without being cheap, it’s lightweight, it’s good for 100 thousand gallons, and - best of all - you can put it right on the tubing of your hydration bladder between the bite valve and the reservoir itself. This means you won’t have to take the time to pump clean water in before you can drink it.
Instead, just take a bit of cloth, like a bandana or a t-shirt, and put it over the reservoir’s opening to filter out any large contaminants like dirt, bugs, leaves, etc. Then fill up and drink through the filter. 

If you do this, keep two things in mind:
  1. You must remember that the water in the reservoir is unsafe until it passes through the filter, so don’t use that water for bathing or cooking by just pouring it back out. Send it through the filter first. 
  2. Second, understand that filters aren’t perfect and there’s still a chance you might get a parasite from drinking unboiled water. This is a risk you’ll need to take, because you will die from dehydration and overheating long before the parasites can even make you sick. Get to safety, and then you can worry about what you drank. 
Finally, here’s a hot-weather ProTip for you: Keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose as much as possible. In fact, if you can find something clean, smooth, and inedible - such as a guitar pick, or a metal washer, or even a clean pebble - put in your mouth. Not only will it remind you to keep your mouth closed, but the presence of it in your mouth will cause you to salivate. This will keep your mouth moist and help you feel less parched and thirsty.

SHTWeekend: Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief

I know that I rarely have the time to write prepping articles any more (this is a huge regret of mine), but this afternoon I had the time and the inspiration to make one.

Go over to Blue Collar Prepping and check out the ways you can help the survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Youthy Drift-By"

Seen on Der Lederhosen:

For those who aren't familiar with familia sermo, it means "household word" -- the specific bits of jargon created by a family based in shared experience, in-jokes, and the like.

Who knew the DoD had a sense of humor?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #157 - Protests, Pepin & Plasma

"Pepin & Plasma" sounds like a roleplaying game involving podcasting in the grim future.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return soon.
  • A Charlotte man who led police on chase is charged in Valentine’s Day homicide. Why did he run? Sean looks a little closer.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Miguel puts together a grab bag of thoughts from his Flea Market of Ideas. He talks a little about cops getting denied service because they are armed, about Moms Demand blaming the NRA for car deaths, and about a liberal mugged by the reality of gun control.
  • Our Special Guest this week is competitive shooter and Pro-Arms Podcast hostess Gail Pepin.
  • Tiffany brings her unique perspective to the controversy surrounding the events in Charlottesville, VA.
  • It's just like a woman for Erin to be focused on what people should and shouldn't be wearing in the summer. Her position on white clothing after Labor Day is unclear, but she has some definite thoughts on cotton.
  • NPR held a Round-Table on gun control. Weer’d is here to take on the lies.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the Sparkr Mini by Power Practical.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and 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 -
Clothing for Hot Weather Survival
There’s a saying among campers, hikers and other survival buffs: “Cotton Kills”. This is because cotton loves to absorb moisture but hates to let go of it. In cold weather, if you get your cotton clothes sweaty, or you fall into water, you will likely become hypothermic if you keep them on because they will stay wet and cold -- but if you take them off to dry them out, you will also likely become hypothermic because you won’t have the insulation of clothes on your skin. 

This is why, if you watch a lot of survival TV, you’ll see people like Bear Grylls stripping naked before swimming through cold water. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not like having wet clothing on while swimming would make it any more comfortable. And once on the other side, Bear will dry off with a towel and then put his still dry clothes back on. 

In fact, this is good advice regardless of whether or not you’re wearing cotton, so remember that trick. 

But if cotton kills in cold weather because it absorbs moisture and doesn’t let go of it easily, what about in hot weather? Specifically, what clothing should someone wear in a hot environment if they have to walk to safety?

As I mentioned last week when I answered Amy’s letter, hot weather survival is based on variables. In this case, the biggest factors are humidity and terrain.  If you’re in a dry environment, your biggest danger is from direct sunlight. Keep as much as your skin covered as you can, and cover the rest in sunscreen. Cotton is actually an acceptable choice of fabric for this situation during the daytime, because it will absorb your sweat and the low humidity and high heat will help it dry out. But that’s during the day. At night, it’s a different story. 

You see, hot-but-dry environments are usually deserts, and deserts have a distressing habit of becoming cold at night because there isn’t much in the environment to retain that heat. So the sweaty cotton clothing that’s fine to wear during the day can still result in you becoming hypothermic at night. Your options, then, are either to carry spare clothes that you change into at night, or to wear clothing made from synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex or microfiber. 

These materials are great because they wick moisture away from the skin and dry much faster than cotton does. Not only does this prevent chafing rash, which is why so many exercise fabrics (like Under Armor, are synthetic), but it also makes them excellent choices for hot and humid environments as well. 

Here are the materials you should avoid for hot weather survival:
  • All forms of cotton, including denim. 
  • Rayon, Lyocell, Tencel, and Viscose. 
    • While they are synthetic, these fabrics actually absorb moisture as fast or faster than cotton, and lose all insulation when they become wet. 
These are materials which are good to wear for hot weather survival:
  • Pertex
  • Supplex
  • Gore-Tex
  • Under Armor Heatgear
  • Cool Max
You will unfortunately pay more for these fabrics than you will with cotton. On the other hand, they will protect your skin from the heat of the sun and absorb your sweat without chafing or sticking. 

Regardless of whether your shirt and pants are cotton or synthetic, here are the four pieces of clothing you MUST have for comfortable hot weather survival:
  1. A wide-brimmed hat to keep your face and neck in the shade. Check last week’s show notes for a boonie hat I recommended. 
  2. Shoes which breathe but still protect your feet. There’s no perfect answer here; good protection (like boots) will make your feet hot, and feet which breathe aren’t going to be well-protected (think sandals). Take the terrain into account along with your personal preferences and find what’s right for you. 
  3. Spare socks. Unless you’re wearing sandals, your feet are going to get hot and sweaty. Take it from someone who has suffered Athlete’s Foot: the last thing you want for your feet in hot weather is for them to be wet as well. Change your socks often. 
  4. Spare underwear. This is for exactly the same reason as the socks, only moreso. Trust me, you really don’t want heat rash anywhere near your sensitive bits.
To answer the question on everyone’s mind: yes, companies do indeed make socks and undies in synthetic materials. I suggest everyone who is concerned about hot weather survival buy at least one pair of each.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Regressive Progressivism: A Case of Friendly Fire

Embedded journalist on the front
lines of the secret culture war.
Oh boy, do I get to talk about Anita Sarkeesian this week? I think I doOOoo!

I need to change my byline to "embedded journalist on the frontlines of the secret culture war." That would, of course, require having a byline to begin with, but considering the crazy things I find happening and the points of view that I find on them, it'd be worth it. Plus it sounds unbelievably cool.

(Editor's Note: Done.)

My Regressive Progressivism series has highlighted cases of hypocrisy, cultural cannibalism, and some spectacular own-goals in its time, but this one has to take the cake.

It's a special time of year, apparently. It's been so long that I actually forgot, despite being one of the few that witnessed and told the tale of, the original incident. That's right, it was recently the anniversary of Gamergate, specifically the "hate screed of the jilted ex-boyfriend" which was, in reality, an airing of grievances on a personal blog by a victim of domestic abuse. That'll be relevant shortly, I promise.

Kotaku UK recently interviewed prominent gaming YouTuber TotalBiscuit, host of possibly the biggest gaming podcast, professional Starcraft announcer, and all-around consumer advocate, on the topic of 'haters', which I assume means trolls and harassers. The discussion was around moderation tools and how to use them to guide discussion in the community. Overall, this was fairly tame stuff.

However, from the progressive side of the gaming eliterati, there were two problems with this. Firstly, Totalbiscuit was allegedly "pro-Gamergate" and the article was published on the anniversary of Gamergate. To a normal, sane, uninvolved person, this wouldn't have been an issue. However...
How many times have I said Twitter is a bad idea? 

Now, in isolation this isn't a big deal. Feminist Frequency (Anita Sarkeesian's project) disproves of an article. No big deal, right?

Wrong! Big deal. The article's author, a trans-woman named Laura Kate Dale, was met with a deluge of disapproval due to TotalBiscuit's support of  the ethics side (He disavowed any and all harassment while promoting the idea that there was a problem with videogame reporting) of the Gamergate debacle.

So, in a nutshell, what happened? A progressive trans-woman interviewed an internet personality with a solid take on moderating a community, which displeased a progressive cultural icon, which in turn resulted in harassment, threats, and (allegedly) doxing, resulting in Laura Kate Dale being chased off of Twitter. Granted, she said she wasn't leaving because of the deluge of negative attention, but that to me reads just like Joss Whedon's "I fell down some stairs" moment after Age of Ultron. 

You don't even get to explain yourself.
Kotaku all but retracted the original article. I'm surprised they even mentioned that Dale received threats. That's dangerously close to breaking the narrative. 
See the replies? It will never be good enough, no matter what. 

When even fervently progressive voices like Jim Sterling and Rhianna Pratchett call out how irresponsible and wrong it is to attack someone like this, you have to take notice. A group of people harassed a trans-woman off of twitter for talking about video game stuff, and yet this isn't about "evol right-wing gamers" or Brianna Wu; this is a progressive hate mob that attacked someone on their own side for talking to the "wrong" person about a relevant topic, and it's rather sickening.

You have to take this in perspective, and by the rules that have been laid forth:
  • Anita Sarkeesian is a cis-woman with over 700,000 followers who has spoken to the UN and appeared on Stephen Colbert's show. 
  • Laura Kate Dale is a trans-woman with less than 50 thousand followers who runs a podcast and writes for a site that's a bit of a joke. 
By nearly any definition, there's a clear power imbalance there, and I genuinely feel, no matter how much I disagree with Dale, that Anita acted irresponsibly and fanned some pretty hefty flames in her direction.

Oh, and anyone wondering why I haven't mentioned Charlottesville? Nazis and Communists are both bad. The ground could open up and swallow both the Alt-Right and Antifa and I wouldn't shed a tear. There, that's my community service for the week. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Templar & the Cloistered Cleric

Last month (before the entire country went mad), I complained that I thought clerics in pathfinder were too powerful and that they should be split up into two separate classes:
  1. The Templar, which is basically the traditional cleric except that it has reduced spell progression (like the Warpriest) and who casts spontaneously.
  2. The Cloistered Cleric, which is essentially a "divine wizard", giving up arms and armor in exchange for more knowledge and nine levels of spell progression. 
Well, it's taken me a while, but I've finally created Hero Lab .user files of both of these classes. I couldn't figure out how to force the Templar to start play knowing the various Cure spells like like Oracle does, so if you want to go that route you'll have to manually add them via the Adjustment tab.

If you use Hero Lab to play Pathfinder, please give these a look and tell me what you think. I've probably missed something important (the Hero Lab editor is very un-intuitive so I think it's likely I've overlooked something or made an error.)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The LGBTQ Sandwich

When I plugged yesterday's post on Google+ and Facebook, I introduced it with "I swear, I'm about ready to call us all 'sandwiches' because obviously we're some kind of BLT with Queso and Guacamole."

While that comment was made it jest, it sounded damn tasty. And many other people thought so as well. Therefore, I am Proud to present to you this recipe.

The LGBTQ Sandwich
(aka "the Queer")
(also aka "The Stonewall" if you want to sound classy)

  • toasted bread
  • Lettuce 
  • Guacamole
  • Bacon (1/4 pound minimum)
  • Tomato
  • 2.5 ounces Queso dip, spiced to your taste (go here for recipe suggestions)
  • mayo, mustard, or other condiments to your taste

  1. Cook bacon until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
  2. Toast the bread.
  3. Spread condiments on bread as desired. 
  4. Add lettuce. 
  5. Add 2 slices of tomato on top of lettuce.
  6. Arrange 3 slices of bacon evenly on top of tomato. 
  7. Spread guacamole over bacon. 
  8. Add more bacon so that the guacamole is layered between bacon slices. 
  9. Add top piece of bread. 
  10. Heat queso dip until it is nearly molten and serve in a ramekin
Dip the sandwich into the queso, fondue-style.
Enjoy the delicious flavor of gender and sexual diversity!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Scrabble Bag of Inclusion

For the past year I have been wracking my brain in an attempt to come up with a better term than LGBTQ. We need a better term because the current one is a mouthful and there's a creeping tendency for new letters to be added to it; the last time I checked, the "full and proper" version is LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual).

Look, I don't care how politically correct you are, you aren't going to say that name more than once a conversation, if that. LGBTQ is practically a full name by itself -- I once made a joke that you pronounce it like a Star Wars character, "Elgee Beeteeque" -- and so trying to pronounce Elgee Beeteecue Cueaiayaypee in standard conversation just isn't going to happen.

(This, by the by, is why I love the word "queer". It's short, it's easy to say, it encompasses everyone, and it's us reclaiming a word that was once offensive. Sadly, not everyone sees things my way.)

So I've been trying to brainstorm a new word for all us non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender folks. It's more difficult than you'd think, because the  ideal replacement word is inclusive, evocative, memorable, easy to pronounce, and - most importantly - NOT SILLY.

I present to you as means of illustration two counter-examples that weren't made by me:
  • QUILTBAG: Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer.  
    • Inclusive - yes. This word salad includes everyone. 
    • Evocative - kind of, but not in a good way. 
    • Memorable - sadly, yes. 
    • Easy to pronounce - absolutely. 
    • Not silly - OH HELL NO.
  • SAGA: Sexual And Gender Acceptance
    • Inclusive - no. Mainly because "acceptance" is an action and not a demographic. SAGA would be a great name for an initiative, but not a group. 
    • Evocative - absolutely. 
    • Memorable - sort of. I expect some humorous confusion where someone would mis-remember the name and try to make an acronym out of EPIC. 
    • Easy to pronounce - enviously so. 
    • Not silly - well, it's a bit camp in its pretension, but the word itself isn't silly. 
Not easy, is it? 

The best I've managed to come up with -- and I give you all blanket permission to laugh at it, because I know full well how silly it sounds -- is LABGASM (Law Abiding Gender and Sexual Minorities). 
  • Inclusive? Yes. Its strength is that instead of trying to pin everyone down, it just spreads an umbrella. 
  • Evocative? Yes. Unfortunately so. As a friend of mine remarked, "Sounds sterile, but with mice running in wheels running vibrators or something."
  • Memorable? Yes, but again, not in a good way. 
  • Easy to pronounce? I'm pretty sure people would be laughing too much to get past the "LAB" part. 
  • Not Silly?  Silly, campy, and straight-up ridiculous. 
Now one of you smart cookies will no doubt ask "Why not just use GSM, Gender and Sexual Minorities?" And that's a damn good question. The unfortunate answer is that, taken on its face, "sexual minority" could also be interpreted as encompassing illegal (non-consenting) sexual attractions. This is something to be avoided with extreme prejudice, because there are already people in the world who equate homosexuality with perversion and moral turpitude, and already one step away from bestiality, pedophilia and necrophilia. Why should I make it easy for them to say "Look! By their own words, they include such perversion! (point, hiss, shudder)"

I'm not really sure what to do at this point. We desperately need a new, abstractly inclusive, non-silly word, and I'm not sure if such a thing can be created. 

But damn, do I love the word "queer". 

Special Thanks to my friend Erin Smith, who coined the term "Scrabble Bag" to describe the collection of letters you get when you try to explicitly include everyone. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Gender As Social Construct" Revisited

I apologize for not getting to that RAND report in a timely manner. It's coming, I promise. 

In the meantime, here's a fine discussion I had with reader Paul Koning in the comments section of Words Have Meaning, So Use the Right Ones about "Gender as a Social Construct." Since you may not have read the comments, I'm posting this here. 

If you haven't read the aforementioned post, please do so; it's essential for the following conversation that you understand we are discussing the concept of gender and not sex

This is great stuff. But I have to pick on a few details.
"Since gender is not biological, it must be sociological" -- not necessarily. I agree it's not biological in the sense of genetic. It might be biological in the sense of brain operation. A more conventional way of saying that is "it's psychological". Part of the reason I'm reacting that way is: I would think that gender is a personal attribute, not dependent on what society you're in. Am I wrong there?

I take "gender expression" to be "the way a person chooses to use the gender symbols of the culture". A particular item of clothing is a female gender symbol in some societies but a male one, or an either one, in others. Take the skirt you mentioned: a female symbol in most of the west, but either a male or an either symbol in Scotland and Indonesia. My thinking is that gender expression means looking for items that have gender symbolism in the culture you live in, and choosing those that mark your gender identity. Or the identity you want people to see (Klinger effect, that's a nice term). A sarong wouldn't do much for Klinger, certainly not in Indonesia; he'd have to find a different marker there.

Here's my take on things, you are of course free to disagree.

A more conventional way of saying that is "it's psychological".
It is and it isn't. It isn't, because there are very few "inherently female" behaviors seen in nature. Those that are typically involve reproduction: nesting, caring for children, accepting or rejecting mates, that kind of thing. Sure, you can argue that women are more verbal and men are more visual/tactile, but I have yet to see anyone say "You like working with your hands? How unfeminine" or "You're such a good speaker, how unusual for a man."

Instead, I argue that a lot of these behaviors are deeply ingrained from childhood. Put simply, it's a case of "Society says that women act this way. I've been taught this all my life. Now that I'm entering puberty and becoming a woman, I need to start acting this way." A lot of it isn't even conscious, but it's there. Example: Think of a bad habit or dysfunctional behavior you learned from your parents. You may not even be aware that you learned it, but while growing up a part of your brain went "These are my role models. I should learn to act like them. How they react is how I should react." This is why children from abusive homes often end becoming abusers themselves.

That's what I mean when I say it's cultural or sociological. It's learned behavior, not biologically determined.

I see what you mean now, and I agree with that.

I think what happened is that I thought you were talking about "wears a skirt" as a gender expression, which would have a different meaning in different societies. I got that backwards. Instead, a person, given the gender, adopts gender expressions that go with that (as you said "I need to start acting that way) -- and what those gender symbols might be is a social construct.

So I guess my conclusion is: the gender a person wants to express is a personal (psychological) question; the symbols used to make that expression are taken from the social environment that person lives in.

The social environment also shapes the psychology. It's a self-reinforcing system (this is neither a good or bad thing, it just is.)

Example: even if a typical Western man knows that gender expression is not associated with sexuality, he still does not want to dress as a woman because it makes him feel less manly and he does not want to be mocked.

Put another way, if high school is a microcosm of our society, then our society is high school writ large. Put that way, a LOT of social and cultural BS starts to make sense. 

...does not want to dress as a women because ...
... or because he doesn't want to send a misleading signal.

Yes, I see what you're getting at. It all makes sense.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #156 - Will Shooting Gun Games Lead Sean to be Slain Upon the Public Thoroughfare?

"Despise not the racketeer. Instead, despise his sport."
  • USCCA held its first ever PolymerPalooza, a unique and fun shooting event! Beth talks about some of their sponsors and products, and what she did there.
  • A man bit and partially severed another man’s nipple. How does that happen? Sean digs in to discover what sort of person would act like this.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We’ve all had that neighbor who’s not quite there. In fact, we’ve seen whole movies that revolve around the 'crazy neighbor' dynamic. But how do you deal with them? Miguel gives us some practical tips borne from 20 years experience with the crazy lady next door.
  • Our Special Guest this week is author and firearms instructor Grant Cunningham. Grant answers the important question: Will competition shooting get you killed on the streets?
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Friend of the show Amy asks, "I drive long distances in hot weather in an older car. What preps should I include for hot weather vehicle survival?" Erin's answer involves cold packs. 
  • NPR interviews the President of the Women’s March to talk about the NRA and its Dana Loesch video, and their bias is showing.  Weer’d takes them on.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the MAG-20  Armed Citizen's Rules of Engagement class in Matthews, NC.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and 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 -
Hot Weather Car Survival
Listener Amy writes in with these timely questions: How should I modify my car prep kit for hot weather? What's the best/safest way to store water in that scenario? I drive 45 miles each way to work, in a fairly unreliable car, so getting stuck is more of a "when" and not an "if."

This is a great topic, because while I’ve addressed cold weather survival in a car back way in episode 15, I haven’t done anything specific on car-based heat survival - which is odd, considering that I live in Florida.

The problem with giving advice on heat survival is that in my experience, it has a lot more “Well, it depends” factors than cold weather. For example, regardless of if it’s 30 degrees or 30 below, snowing or not, blowing or not, you know that you need to have an outer waterproof shell, an inner insulating layer, avoid sweating, and stay out of the wind; everything else is just a matter of degree.

But hot weather forces you to ask questions like:
  • Is it a humid heat or a dry heat? 
  • How hot does it get?
  • Do you get a lot of reflected light due to terrain (like glare off a desert or water), or is it absorbed by vegetation or dark soil?
  • Are you going to be surviving in the shade, or out in the sunlight?
Plus there are the general questions of “Are you planning on waiting for rescue, or is this an "Ah crap, I gotta hike out of here" kind of situation?” and “Have you any health problems?” that I ask of anyone who comes to me for advice.

Here are Amy’s answers:
  • Humid. Gawd-awful humid. My poor curly hair...well, I just HATE summer.
  • Highs in the upper 80s/low 90s usually, late July we can see higher with sickening heat indexes. 
  • Not much reflected light...most is absorbed by the crops. Which is pretty much all the terrain in my area. 
  • It depends on where in my route I'm stuck. I probably wouldn't even call it stuck if my car died in town at either end, so we'll go with wait.
  • I'm that person who brings a separate list of medications to doctor appts and writes, "see attached." Soooo....asthma, insulin resistance, some random but serious allergies, chronic migraines, ADHD, social anxiety, OCD...blah, blah, blah. So, a mixture of some physical illnesses that could go downhill quickly in the heat with some mental illnesses that, while controlled well with medication, could make an emergency situation feel or appear (and, therefore, become) more desperate or crippling than necessary. I wear a medical ID bracelet, carry necessary meds with me, and keep extra epi-pens in my car.
So, first off: Good job on being prepared with medication and epi-pens! Now my advice is going to come with a few assumptions:
  • I assume you already have things like a first aid kit, battery backup for your cell phone, tools for basic car repair, etc.
  • I assume you have a reliable way to call for help and you don’t travel through dead zones. 
With those in mind, here’s what I would suggest you add to your car:

A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. The one I’ve linked in the show notes is a khaki boonie hat with detachable flaps for your face and neck to prevent sunburn.

Speaking of sunburn, carry the highest SPF sunblock you have.

At least one gallon of water, preferably more.
 The human body needs half a gallon of water a day, but that doesn’t take strenuous activity or dehydration into account. I’d buy plastic gallon jugs at the store and remove them at the beginning of winter (you don’t want them to freeze, burst the plastic, then thaw and leak everywhere). Make sure you keep them covered, or in the trunk, because water exposed to sunlight can start to grow algae. 

If the water does start to go bad, you can still use it for things like wiping your body down or pouring on an overheated engine. A thick washcloth will help with all of that.

Wiping sweat off your body with a wet washcloth is a good way to feel cool for a little bit, but it doesn’t last. For a longer-term solution, get some chemical cold-packs and keep them with your first-aid supplies. Not only can you use them to prevent swelling, but a cold pack on your neck, between your thighs or under your armpits can make you feel a lot better. You can get a 24-pack of them from Amazon with Prime shipping for $14.50.

Just in case you don’t have a space blanket in your preps, get one. Yes, most people use them to stay warm, but a reflective surface can help keep you cool by reflecting the heat away from you.

If you have to stay in the car for shelter -- and if you do, I assume you’ve rolled down the windows -- the windshield can be covered with a commercial sunshade, which usually costs between 8 and 15 dollars.

I also suggest the longest shovel you can fit in the car and can comfortably use. Don’t use a folding shovel unless you have no other choice; you can get plenty of nice 27-inch shovels at the hardware store if space is an issue, but get a longer one if you can. You can use this shovel for a variety of tasks, but the two that I’m thinking of are “digging your tires out if they get stuck” and “Digging a trench to lie down in because that will be cooler than inside your car.”

waterproof tarp with a reflective side will also be useful; not only can you use it as a sun shade, if you do decide to dig a shelter it can be used (reflective side down) to keep the dirt and bugs and yuck off you.

And, of course, ways to tie all this down. A 100-foot hank of paracord and a roll or two of duct tape will help immensely!

Finally, have a map of the area, the more detailed the better. If you know how far it is to the nearest aid station, that will do a lot for your peace of mind, and it will help you give navigation assistance to whomever is coming to help you.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Recommended View from Salem

I have a hard time keeping up with television. Maybe it's an attention deficit problem; maybe it's the fact that most stories I experience are in games, and are more interactive. All I know is that, with a few exceptions, I struggle to keep up with more than one or two television shows,and don't watch very many movies. As a result, most of my "entertainment" comes from adding random interesting videos to my YouTube "Watch Later" list and letting them play on a second monitor while I play a game.

About a week ago, someone at Google with more conservative viewpoints than the average "Googler" (seriously, they actually call themselves that) posted on the company's internal social network a memo that cited scientific sources to explain why Google is struggling with its internal 'diversity', suggestions on how to address it more effectively, and noting that thinking outside of the accepted norm is discouraged and feels like it could possibly lead to being fired... so Google fired him for thinking outside of the accepted norm. The press jumped on this quickly, labeling it an "Anti-PC, Anti-Diversity Screed" and running the author's name through the mud.

What do these things have in common? Well, I really don't have much to contribute this week. My mind is elsewhere, and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by life at the moment. I'll put it simply:

  • YouTube is run by Google. 
  • My Watch Later list is made up of videos from all over the political spectrum. Far Left, Far Right, In-Between, and completely unaffiliated. 
  • Google has recently announced they'll be setting loose an algorithm to police "extremist" content on YouTube which has the aims of moving "controversial" content into a sort of limbo where they won't be recommended, can't be voted or commented on, and will get no exposure. 
I worry that Google has, in pursuit of being "good", has lost sight of it's old motto of "Don't Be Evil." I worry that they might be planning to infringe upon my right to listen, and I say that knowing full well they aren't a government organization. It seems that as soon as people started trying to protect their First Amendment rights, crazy people started trying to get corporations to enforce censorship when they realized government couldn't.

Simply put, I want to make the decision about what thoughts I listen to. I don't want Google deciding for me. If this turns south, for all the good it will do, I'm jumping ship from Android and getting an iThing of some sort.

I'll let someone who is much more experienced in the YouTube world than I am explain it to you better than I could. Yes, this video is roughly 30 minutes long. That's no big thing for me; I regularly listen to lectures and debates that are 2+ hours, but it explains my concerns well. Put aside any nationalistic or idealistic differences you may have with the speaker and listen for me.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The DM's Lament

I need 6 more hours in my day in order to get stuff done. Can anyone tell me where I can go to get a 30 hour day? Maybe start a petition at or

At any rate, this has been another typical week of being tired and working hard with little to show for my efforts. I'm even late in posting a silly little video that I should have done on Wednesday night.

Not only is this funny and fits within my experience as a DM, but the tone of tired frustration nicely matches how I feel in Real Life.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Big GRPC 2017 News

If you're one of my Facebook friends, you saw this last Monday.

If you listen to GunBlog VarietyCast Radio, you heard my announcement in this week's podcast.

But just in case you've been living under a rock, yet somehow can still read blog posts, here is the formal announcement:
I'm going to be speaking at this year's Gun Rights Policy Conference in Dallas, Texas.

I don't yet know what day or time I'll be speaking; I'm going to guess Sunday afternoon, because I'm just not that important.

I also don't know which panel I'll be on, or how much time I'll have to talk (but probably not very long), or what I'll be speaking on (although the smart bet is on "Something related to Operation Blazing Sword and/or LGBTQ and Guns".)

People keep telling me I shouldn't be so down on myself, so I'm pleased to announce that while this invitation caused me to freak out, not once did I think inviting me was a horrible mistake.

If you'll be in the area, come by and say hi!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #155 - RINO Hunting

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." - Groucho Marx
  • Beth and her husband went to Shootrite Academy in Alabama. They discuss what it’s like to train as a married couple, and Beth learned an important lesson about defensive pistol use in 101 degree heat.
  • Sean has a doozy of a Felons Behaving Badly segment featuring five, count 'em, FIVE suspects involved in a kidnapping. You're going to need a score card to figure out who is related to whom!
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We're all supposed to grow up, not just grow older, but some people miss the maturity bus. Miguel tells us what to do when you run into an alleged adult who throws a childish temper tantrum in public.
  • Sean went RINO hunting with the pro-gun group Grass Roots North Carolina. There were people dressed in Rhino pajamas, a rhino mask, and more Sergeants-at-Arms than you can shake a pro-gun banner at.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Erin finishes up her series on Surviving Survival with a double-length segment on successful coping strategies.
  • The One and Only Anti-Gun Podcast brings on a researcher to talk about research and the anti-gun agenda. Weer’d listens so that you don't have to!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Holder
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and 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 -
Surviving Survival
For the past two months, I’ve been talking about what trauma is and why our brains respond it the way that they do, and giving suggestions on how to manage anger, fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. This week I conclude this series by giving general strategies for getting past the traumatic event and getting on with your life. In other words, how to survive the rest of your life once you’ve survived the emergency, tragedy, disaster or trauma. 

There are six strategies that lead to successful outcomes. Of these, the most effective strategy -- contrary to all expectations -- is Suppression. In other words, Put it out of your mind. Just don’t think about it. Think about other things instead.

In the paper titled Study Of Adult Development, psychiatrist George Vaillant found that simply suppressing a traumatic experience and getting on with life is, quote, "the defensive style most closely associated with successful adaptation". Suppression is straightforward, practical, and best of all, it works. "Of all the coping mechanisms," Vaillant writes, "suppression alters the world the least and best accepts the terms life offers." 

However, not everyone can simply stop thinking about things that trouble them. This is a problem which I have; when something bothers me, I end up chewing on it over and over, like a cow with its cud. For those of you who end up ruminating on your problems like I do, here are other successful strategies:

Sublimation - Do something to channel anger, energy and anxiety into something productive. This is engaging the seeking pathway, and I went into this in detail in episode 148. Sublimation is another form of suppression, because seeking pathway overrides the rage pathway of rumination. 

Altruism - Do something kind for someone else. This helps you twice: first by occupying your mind with the task, and the second with the chemical reward that comes with positive emotions when your gift makes its recipient happy. 

Anticipation - See the future and prepare for it. Like studying for a test so hard that you score a 100% on it, if you over-prepare then the actual event is a nonissue. This is an excellent strategy for things which have a definite end goal, such as a diagnosis of cancer. If you’re a prepper, you are constantly using this technique. 

And finally Humor - Being able to laugh at yourself is healing. It has been said that you “Can’t be laughing and worrying at the same time,” and I’ve found this to be true, which is why I always try to make a joke to lighten the mood when things seem horrible. 

The best coping mechanism of all, if you can manage it, is to combine suppression with laughter. Laugh about the good things in life and don’t think about the terrible things -- or laugh AT the terrible things, to rob them of their power. A thing you mocking is not a thing to be feared. 

There are 12 steps for successful survival, whether you are in the middle of a disaster or you are dealing with the aftermath. 
  1. Perceive & Believe - Recognize the reality of the situation. Don’t deny it is happening; accept it and deal with it. 
  2. Remain Calm - acknowledge whatever fear, rage, or sadness you have, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, use that energy to be productive by engaging the seeking pathway. 
  3. Think, Analyze, Plan - Know what you have and what you want. Once you have a realistic assessment of your resources and predicament, set achievable goals. Tell yourself “OK, this bad thing has happened. Now what?” Look to future instead of ruminating on the past or what could have been. 
  4. Act on that plan - This is sublimation, and it effectively directs negative emotions outward into productive effect. Do something other than dwelling on pain and trauma. 
  5. Celebrate success once action is taken - This creates a dopamine reward within your brain, which makes you feel better and causes you to want to keep progressing forward. This is a “virtuous circle”. 
  6. Count your blessings - This results in gratitude, which calms negative emotions. 
  7. Play - Have fun, which is part of living a healthy happy life. Without joy, you aren’t living, you’re merely existing. 
  8. See the Beauty - Focus on positive, ignore the negative. This binds you to the world so you want to keep living. 
  9. Believe you can influence events - Believing that you will succeed is the attitude of the survivor, not the victim. Do not wait for rescue; rescue yourself. 
  10. Surrender - Don’t let your fears hold you back; let go of them and move forward.
  11. Do whatever is necessary to make that move happen - By this point, you should know, deep within yourself, that you have the will and skill to accomplish what is needed for healing or rescue. Do not let obstacles keep you from your goal. 
  12. Never give up - You’re still alive. That means you can always improve your situation. 
Finally, there is happiness, which is what everyone wants in life. I’m going to conclude this series with three key thoughts on happiness and the pursuit thereof:

“It’s possible to lead a healthy happy life even in the aftermath of trauma. Perhaps more importantly, happiness is not a matter of avoiding trouble; it’s a matter of how you deal with it.”

“Happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster. Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing.”

To make your live more complete, and therefore help you achieve happiness:
  1. Do something you love.
  2. Do something for someone who needs you.
  3. Be with people who care about you.
I can’t stress that last one enough: Be with people who care about you.

Take care of yourself, folks.

    Saturday, August 5, 2017

    'Comic Fans' Don't Have To Be Your Audience. 'Comic Fans' Are Over.

    Wow, that title sounds familiar. I wonder where I've heard something like that before? 

    When I spoke previously about the Exponential Outrage Theorem, I had no idea it would become relevant again so quickly, and in such a ludicrous manner. Several years ago, I commented that Marvel was playing a long game in diversity, and it was working for them; they were introducing new characters while promoting legacy characters to keep them around, which respected both new and legacy characters, and DC was making some very public and messy mis-steps.

    Since DC's Rebirth event, they've become wildly popular amongst comic fans, and the diehard Marvel purists (as well as more casual fans) are starting to turn away from Marvel due to creative decisions such as the disrespect shown the character of Thor, turning the ev0l cis-het white male Captain America into a 'Nazi', and the introduction of a black girl who got her start by stealing things from MIT as the new Iron Man lead. Sales have slumped a bit in comparison to DC, who is not only overtaking them in comics sales and popularity, but also just had their first broadly-accepted cinematic universe movie in the fantastic Wonder Woman (which despite having a female lead and a female director, was devoid of any out-of-place identity politics).

    Last week, an innocent Marvel editor took some of her co-workers to Ben & Jerrys, and posted a selfie getting milkshakes. This innocent act earned her a deluge of abuse, harassment, and threats, which were detailed on such sites as Bleeding CoolUpworthyThe Mary Sue, and, who went so far as to label this the "new Gamergate." OH! That explains the title. I was wondering where I got that from. So these articles went on, as they always do, to display the requisite six nasty tweets the editor...

    ...what? Oh, I'm sorry. I'm being informed that they did not display the six requisite tweets from literal nobodies. Bleeding Cool supplied 5 mild tweets from literal nobodies, Upworthy only 3, and both sites showcased a literal deluge of support from industry insiders, fellow co-workers, and assorted random people. The Mary Sue supplied no negative tweets at all. No screenshots were provided of the alleged DMs from anyone. Most of the coverage consisted of this same pattern: a small example of mildly rude tweets, then easily 3-4 times as many pictures of random people with milkshakes supporting the editor and her friends. This hardly paints a picture of hostility. In fact, The Mary Sue even went so far as to respond to the criticism of their coverage with what can only be described as plugging their ears and shouting "I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I??" This is quite possibly the most juvenile piece I think I've ever seen on their site, and that speaks volumes.

    With all due respect (that being very little) to, the only way in which this seems to be a 'new Gamergate' is in that an enthusiast press is attacking its audience for what seems to be a minor slight at most, all the while celebrating what good people they are. I've seen far too many overblown outrages over the last few years to take anything at face value anymore, and the evidence is getting flimsier and flimsier each time it happens. This is, by far, the most exaggerating instance I've seen. It's so exaggerated that someone did some preliminary math over in Reddit's r/comicbooks and, basing the number of Marvel readers (conservatively) on the number of issues of their biggest book sold (roughly 225,000) against the 7 negative tweets they found (reminder that Redditors, at least most of them, are not paid to do the work that journalists don't bother to do), they came up with the fact that three-thousandths of one percent of Marvel readers objected to the milkshake picture in any form.

    I am tired. I am very tired. This tires me. But I will not stop pointing out the sheer BS that happens every time something even remotely controversial gets drummed up in entertainment press. This is by far the worst offender so far, as it's provided the least actual coverage of the alleged wrong-doings and wasn't even based on an announcement or change or anything like that, but just a selfie.

    Stop trying to paint your readership as monsters. Stop trying to fit your customers into a little 'basket of deplorables' and expecting them to thank you for being good people when you do. It doesn't work like that.

    Friday, August 4, 2017

    Arcane Recovery

    I need a break from talking about gender dysphoria and the military, so here's a little thing that I took from 5th edition D&D and turned into a Pathfinder Feat.

    For those who don't know, 5e grants the Arcane Recovery ability to wizards at first level:

    Arcane Recovery

    You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your Spellbook. Once per day when you finish a Short Rest, you can choose expended Spell Slots to recover. The Spell Slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up), and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher.

    For example, if you’re a 4th-level wizard, you can recover up to two levels worth of Spell Slots. You can recover either a 2nd-level spell slot or two 1st-level Spell Slots.

    In 5e, a Short Rest is defined as "a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds."

    Since my 2nd level PCs were still struggling with resource management, and because the wizard had never used his Scribe Scroll feat, I gave him the opportunity to replace scribe scroll with the new Arcane Recovery feat.

    He took it, saying "Given at 2nd level I've only got 3 first level spells per day, that one extra spell is like 33% extra. And that round up makes it neater at level 3."

    I'm not even sure why 1st level wizards even get Scribe Scroll. It takes 250 gold to create a 1st level spell scroll, and starting gold for wizards is at most 120 gp. By the time they have the gold to create scrolls, they're likely 2nd or 3rd level.

    Coincidentally, 3rd level is a feat level, so my PC still wants Scribe Scroll, he can take it then.

    Anyway, if you like to use Hero Lab, here is Arcane Recovery.user for your downloading pleasure.

    Tuesday, August 1, 2017

    Words Have Meaning, So Use the Right Ones

    Erin, is this post about yourself, or is it more about the 'Transgender Military Ban"?

    Both, actually. I've realized that a lot of the confusion stems from people not using the proper terminology (either due to ignorance, or confusion, or conversational shorthand) and making certain assumptions based on those terms. So I'm going to explain things as best I can so that we can all get on the same page and then have constructive discussions rather than destructive arguments about the situation.

    First, I'm going to talk about me and my transgender journey, where I explain why I use a different term for myself now than I did when I first came out. Not only will it clear up some confusion, it's also a handy reminder to old readers and an important notification to new ones that when I talk about the difficulties involved in being transgender, I'm not pulling "facts" out of my nether regions but rather talking about life experiences (either mine, or those of a friend. I have more than a few transgender friends).

    Then I will give some useful definitions regarding gender and sexuality. You might not think this is important, but it is; someone actually got upset at me on Facebook for telling them the word for "non-transgender", as if I'd created the term wholecloth. If we all use the same words and we all know what they mean, we won't have that level of confusion muddying the issue.

    Once that's done and we're all on the same page, I will be able to talk about hat much-touted RAND report and everyone will be able to understand me. I'll have to do that in a follow-up post because this one has become too long.

    Genderqueer vs. Transgender
    When I first came out, I told everyone that I was genderqueer. I picked this word for a few reasons:
    1. I was under the impression that unless I was planning to get sexual reassignment surgery, I could not consider myself a proper male-to-female transgender. 
    2. Because my plumbing was one of the few body parts I was okay with, I felt that saying I was transgender was inappropriate because it gave the wrong impression.
    3. I also didn't live full-time as a female, due to living with family (for financial reasons) to whom I was not "out".
    I went with genderqueer, even though it wasn't a perfect fit,  because it seemed more honest, more "I'm not as female as I'd like to be but please don't gender me as male, thank you kindly." than transgender. And there are times, -- a lot of them -- when I want to be treated as female, but for whatever reason I can't look that way. For example, it's an involved, 3-hour process to hide my stubble and look female, and I have to repeat it every morning, and by the afternoon the stubble is still growing back in and starting to texture my face, and I just feel like "FML", to use the vernacular.

    So I called myself genderqueer, and I ended up explaining what it meant again, and again, and again, and I just got sick of it because it always brought conversations to a screeching halt because I had to keep explaining how it was different from being transgender. Eventually I just started calling myself transgender because at least people knew what that word meant. I figured that technical inaccuracy that served to get a conversation moving to the important teachable moments was acceptable.

    Funny enough, it was only years later, when I became more active in the LGBTQ because I was outspoken about who I am,  that I discovered that I could be a transwoman without having my penis removed. My reaction was a mixture of incredulity and relief: "Wait, I can DO that? That's actually a thing I can do in this community and I won't be denounced for it? Really?"  It felt like a weight had been lifted from me, because I realized I could legitimately refer to myself as trans without feeling like a filthy liar or tourist. I still feel like a proper transwoman would do things like presenting as female 24/7, up to and including dressing in femme-but-range-appropriate-attire for MAG40 class, but I am me and I do the best I can, and no one but me gets to dictate how I live my life.

    Now that you've seen how even I could get hung up on what "transgender" actually means, it's no surprise that a lot of other people do. So let's cure that.

    Let's start with the ones we all think we know. 
    Sex: either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their inherent biological & chromosomal characteristics and reproductive functions. 

    Gender: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with a particular sex. This is sometimes called "gender identity". 
    So your biological identity is determined by your sex but your emotional and psychological identity is determined by your gender. For most people their gender matches their sex, and life is good. Other people don't have it so good, and they suffer from Gender Dysphoria.
    Gender Dysphoria: the condition of having one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex. As this is an actual psychological diagnosis per the DSM-5, one needs to be diagnosed as gender dysphoric by a professional before one can get assistance with transition. 
    However, this doesn't mean that if you're a man who wears dresses (aka "The Klinger Argument") that you're gender dysphoric. You can be perfectly happy with your biology and still enjoy dressing as the opposite sex.
    Transvestite: a person (usually a man, usually heterosexual) who derives comfort and/or sexual satisfaction from wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. Also called cross-dresser; not to be confused with drag queen (q.v.). 
    Drag Queen: a man (female version: "drag king") who dresses as the opposite sex as part of a performance or public persona. Usually homosexual, but not always. 
    Since how one dresses is not biologically linked to one's sex or sexual preference, we have a special term for this:
    Gender Expression: the way in which a person expresses gender identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behavior. It does not have to match a person's sex, although it usually does. 
    A woman with a masculine gender expression might have short hair, wear t-shirts and jeans, and not use makeup or perfume. A man with a feminine gender expression might wear makeup or crossdress. It doesn't make them gay or straight or gender dysphoric.
    "Gender Is a Social Construct": While I can't speak for everyone who uses this phrase, what most people mean by it is "Sex is a measurable biological quality whereas gender is not. You cannot determine the gender expression of a person through a medical test and therefore you cannot tell which gender (not the same thing as sex, see above) that person is."
    Since gender is not biological, it must be sociological. Our society determines what behavior is masculine and what is feminine. Example: in Western cultures, men wear trousers, and wearing clothing which does not separate the legs is seen as effeminate (unless kilts are involved. I don't understand how or why kilts get the exception, but they do and it's glorious). However, in many Eastern cultures, what we would consider a skirt is perfectly normal male attire:
    From Wikipedia:
    "Javanese men often wear sarongs during religious
    or casual occasions. Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia."
    Are these Javanese men considered effeminate for wearing skirts? In Indonesia, no. In America or other Western countries, they likely would be. 
    With that said, we can now get to the actual definition of transgender and explain why it doesn't mean what some people assume it means.
    Trans: across; beyond; on the other side of. From the Latin word for "across." Example: Trans-Siberian Railroad, Transatlantic. 

    Transgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. This term has become a blanket term to describe anyone who is not cisgender (q.v.).

    Transsexual: a person who has undergone or is undergoing treatment in order to acquire the physical characteristics of the opposite sex, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). Read this Wikipedia article for a more in-depth explanation. 

    Cis: on this side. Contextually, on the side nearest to the speaker. From the Latin word for "on this side of." Example: cislunar, cisalpine

    Cisgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

    Cissexual: someone who is biologically male or female. 
    So using me as an example, Erin Palette is technically a transgender cissexual male (or cismale) with a feminine gender expression. Clear as mud, right?

    So Here's the Problem
    It's quite simple, actually: when folks hear or read "transgender people in the military" they think is means "transsexual people" - possibly having SRS, almost certainly on HRT - when I have a suspicion that what most of the military means by transgender is "gender dysphoric".

    Gender dysphoria used to be a disqualifying condition in the military, just as homosexuality was. But so long as someone who is gender dysphoric does not begin taking hormones, they still maintain operational readiness.

    I'll go into greater detail on this in my next post, when I discuss that RAND report everyone's talking about.

    The Fine Print

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