Thursday, November 30, 2017

Salem Watches A Movie: Justice League

Let's have a little chat about DC and their films, shall we?
  • Man of Steel: When this movie first came out, I wasn't going to go see movies in the theatres regularly (and in fact wasn't until about Winter Soldier or so). If I'm completely honest, I found it boring. It was very dull. I fell asleep the first time I watched it, and that may just be me not being a big fan of Superman, as the same thing happened watching Superman Returns and I have no nostalgia for the Christopher Reeves movies. 
  • Batman vs Superman: Look, don't watch this. Just don't. It's a disjointed mess. In fact, skip the one before it, and look for a fan film called Man of Tomorrow. It splices Man of Steel into Batman vs Superman and does so in a way fixes all the pacing and tonal issues of this movie, while keeping the great Wonder Woman and Batman/Alfred scenes. Affleck is great. Irons is great. Gadot is great. Eisenberg's Luthor is a crime against cinema. 
  • Suicide Squad: Shut up, I like this one. I know it's bad. I love it anyway. It had some really great performances, great new takes on old characters, some great action, a cameo from Batfleck or two, and introduced me to the dreamy Cara Delevigne. 
  • Wonder Woman: aka 'the good one.' I honestly have no criticism of this movie, aside from maybe they played it a little too safe on the story side. The performances were good, the action was good, the story was good. It stands alongside the better MCU films. 
So, DC is 1 out of 4 so far going into Justice League. How did it fare?

Well... surprisingly well. Maybe it was Whedon taking over from Snyder. Maybe it was them learning lessons of what worked and what didn't from previous movies. Whatever it was, Justice League is actually a decent movie. It's no classic of the genre, like Winter Soldier, but it's at least as good as, say, Age of Ultron, just without that familiarity with the characters that we had there that allowed us to overlook some otherwise glaring problems.

That's not to say that it doesn't have problems. It does.
  • Flash is annoying. Like seriously annoying. Maybe I'm biased, watching him on television being portrayed masterfully by Grant Gustin, but Ezra Miller's Flash is just hard to watch. He's not funny and goofy, he's awkward and cringe-worthy. Maybe in theory that's a realistic portrayal of some kind of condition that's brave to show on film or something, but it's hard to watch in practice. 
  • The movie's villain, Steppenwolf, looks terrible. It's embarrassing looking at him, then seeing Thanos in the Infinity War trailer.
  • Likewise, Cyborg suffers from the poor CGI that Steppenwolf does, but in a much less organic way. Cyborg ends up looking like one of Michael Bay's Transformers until an ending sequence that shows him sheathing himself in much better armour. 
  • The story is a bit light, too, nearly scraping the depths to which the aforementioned Transformers series regularly descended: Big Bad wants to steal Magic McGuffins to take over the world and destroy stuff, good guys must band together to stop Big Bad with explosion that could possibly kill them.
On the good side, there's more of Batfleck and Gadot's Wonder Woman, and a very touching scene in which Diana helps Bruce with some of his injuries while Bruce muses on his own mortality while contrasting that with why the world needs Superman instead of him, owing to Superman's humanity. And speaking of which, I'm sorry if this is a spoiler (and if it is, congratulations on staying in the dark despite everyone's best efforts), but this is the movie that finally got Superman right. After Batman's plan is completed, the cavalry flies in to save the day with an upbeat, witty remark and a cataclysmic haymaker. Cyborg turns out to be a very good character as well, and Aquaman is a much better character than the hokey joke the trailers make him out to be. I'd like to shake the hand of Jason Mamoa's acting coach as well, as he's finally learned to emote on-screen.

There's a stand-out scene where the first battle against Steppenwolf is shown, being recounted as a legend, where the armies of man, Atlantis, and the Amazons drive him off-world with the help of certain familiar aliens and gods, and even a Green Lantern showing up.

All in all, this is definitely a movie worth watching, and it worries me a little that DC is rumoured to be giving up on the interconnected universe idea after this one, as this feels like the franchise finally getting up on its feet. It's by no means a perfect movie, but it's got potential. It's got life. Now they just need to do it again. And again. And keep doing it until they find the right balance of warmth, humour, action, and danger.

And I hope they do. I just hope it doesn't involve a Joss Whedon Batgirl. Stay away from my Barbara, Joss. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Guest Appearance on Geeks Gadgets and Guns

It took them a while to post the darn thing, but my guest appearance on episode 174 of the Geeks Gadgets and Guns podcast has finally been published!

Smile as I ramble on nerdily about Dungeons & Dragons/Pathfinder!

Thrill as I verbally trample people who try to interrupt me!

Titter salaciously as I compare a role-playing game to a consensual BDSM scenario!

Strap in, gang. It's nearly two hours of hard-core nerding.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Tuesday

(I'm getting caught up on posts missed due to family obligations. This was actually written Thursday night.)

This past Tuesday was "Giving Tuesday", which is something I'd never heard of until this year but has apparently been a thing since 2012, so you can imagine my surprise when I got up Tuesday morning to read on Facebook that the Gates Foundation was matching donations to charities and nonprofits.

After I recovered from my surprise (and after a good chortle over the irony of it all), I started a Giving Tuesday fundraiser for Operation Blazing Sword with a modest goal of $1,000. I honestly didn't think we would meet that goal, since I started it well after people were at work.

As it turns out, we not only hit the $1,000 mark, we surpassed it. And it wasn't even a close thing, either; I believe we hit our goal around suppertime.

So how much money are we going to get? Good question. The honest answer is "I don't know."

I can tell you that OBS is going to get at least $1,125, because Facebook waived its processessing fees for both Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm not sure if we're going to get that matched simply because there were a LOT of donations made that day, and apparently the Gates Foundation earmarked only $2 million for fund-matching.

But regardless of whether Operation Blazing Sword receives $1,125 or $2,250, I want you to all to know this:
  1. None of this could have happened without you. 
  2. You blew me away with your generosity. 
  3. I'm going to apply this money towards making the "One Aim: Safety First!"
    seminar happen. 
Thank you all very much! Take a bow and be proud of what you've accomplished!

Monday, November 27, 2017


(I'm getting caught up on my writing from the past week. This was actually written Thursday night.)

One of the nice things about Pathfinder is if there's a specific vision you have for a player character, you can probably make it happen. Sure, it may take some compromising and some tweaking, and maybe even some hammering, but you can make it happen. And I don't know about you, but I find it immensely satisfying when that happens.

For example, what I really wanted was a Cleric/Rogue hybrid class for an NPC that my players rescued from a dungeon. Poor ol' Erky Timbers, first-level cleric of the goddess of luck and travel, just happened to get unlucky while walking around and got captured by a tribe of goblins. Fortunately for him, the PCs (by then second level) killed all the goblins and set him free, and so as a thank-you he hung around to help keep them alive (and to get some much-needed money, because he was down to rags). 

Later on in the adventure, Erky leveled up and I decided to have him take a level of rogue, as it suited his deity and his fighting style (by this time he'd picked up a spear and some leather armor, so he'd wait until the PCs has grabbed aggro to run in and poke someone in the flank with his spear in between handing out Blessings and Curing Light Wounds). 

By the time the adventure was done, the PCs had hit third level and decided that not only had Erky earned a full share of profits, they wanted him to join their party and come along with them on more adventures. 

The problem is that I just wasn't happy with how Erky was shaping up mechanically. I had no problem with him being a level behind the PCs, but alternating Cleric and Rogue would put him so far behind that he would be less useful. And while that might not be a problem as these things go (he is after all an NPC hireling), it bothered me on some level. So, like any proper GM, I decided I'd tinker with things to see if I could get what I wanted. 

I tried making Erky a gestalt, but that was an over-correction; instead of being forever one level behind the players, he'd be effectively earning 1.5 levels for each one of theirs. Worse, the NPC would commit the unforgiveable sin of stealing player character thunder by being better at their jobs than they were. 

I tried making my own class in Hero Lab based on the Divine Agent, but there's a steep learning curve to the Hero Lab editor, and I was having a hell of a time getting the Sneak Attack to play nicely with the Channel Energy (classes with special abilities have all sorts of complicated coding interdependencies). 

Then I thought, "Well, let's just look at the Vigilante from Ultimate Intrigue. It's a wacky class that does all sorts of weird stuff depending on which choices you take*. Maybe one of them will work."

And to my surprise, it did, and not even in a "hammer the square peg into the round hold until it fits" kind of way, but more like a "round off the edges of the hexagon until it's roughly circular" way. Sure, I picked an archetype that replaced an ability I wanted to keep, but I'm the GM so I can make the call of not replacing that ability. Muahahahahah!

(In fairness, to maintain balance I also disabled the ability which disabled the ability I wanted to keep.) 

So yes, I am pleased to report that a Zealot archetype Vigilante with the Stalker specialization (along with the proper selection of feats and traits) does everything I need it to and gives me what I want: an energy-channeling divine spellcaster with a sneak attack. Sure, I had some trouble finding an Inquisition that was similar to the Luck Doman (Zealots cast spells like Inquisitors), but it's close enough that I'm happy with how it turned out, and it's nearly legal too!

And because we're talking about a gnome vigilante, and because I have a bad habit of making puns involving gnomes yet I didn't do one for Erky Timbers, I give you xkcd's The Legend of Gnome Ann.

* And it's true. Want to play a Sailor Moon-like Magical Girl in Pathfinder? Play a Vigilante. Want to make a fantasy version of Wolverine, Spider-Man or Aquaman? Play a Vigilante. (Heck, the base Vigilante is practically Batman.) Want to be a split-personality serial killer? Play a Vigilante.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #171 - Talking Turkey

We recorded this on Thanksgiving, between Erin's lunch and Sean's dinner. We apologize if listening makes you hungry.
  • Beth is on assignment.
  • A burglar is shot and captured. But what did he do just before that? And who were they, really? Sean takes a look.
  • Risk vs. Reward is as important a consideration in the Tech world as in real life. Barron is back to talk about doing a proper risk assessment.
  • Miguel is still on assignment.
  • In this week's Main Topic, Sean and Erin the tackles the "Giffords! Courage to Fight Gun Violence!" new position paper "Legal and Lethal: 9 Products That Could be the Next Bump Stock."
  • Tiffany recently appeared on the Polite Society Podcast with fellow Rangemaster-certified instructor Aqil Qadir. She was so intrigued by his story that she asked if he would sit for an interview.
  • Erin spent the week shooting a gun in her back yard. Don't worry, it was an air gun. She's going to tell you about it and the heavy duty bullet trap she needed to make sure everything was safe.
  • Anti-Gun Researcher Tom Gabor is back, and he's not any more factual than last week. Weer'd issues the appropriate corrective.
  • And our Plug of the Week is Silver Spoon, a really awesome Russian cop drama on Netflix.
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: 
Air Guns
As I mentioned in the introduction, I received an air rifle, a Gamo Wildcat Whisper, from my friend Charles Lee Scudder. While not strictly necessary, an air rifle is something very nice to have in your preps for a variety of reasons.
  • They are inexpensive. A decent air rifle costs between $100 and $150, depending on what options you choose. 
  • So is the ammunition. The most common caliber for air rifles is .177 -- from now on, I’ll just call this .17, okay? -- and this stuff is ridiculously cheap. 500 rounds of .17 cost about $6. 
  • Because of this, you can practice a perishable skill economically. Air guns are better than .22 rifles in that regard. 
  • It’s a good training platform for children. The rifles are light, there’s no recoil, and there’s no “bang”, which means there’s no startle reflex to overcome.
  • They’re quiet. When I used mine in the backyard, the only sound I could hear was the PING! from the bullet hitting the trap. My mother, who was about 20 feet away inside the house, couldn’t hear it at all. This means you don’t have to go to a range to practice; you can practice in your yard or inside your home, so long as you have a good backstop. 
  • It’s not a legal firearm. This means that you can buy it online, have it delivered to your home, and there’s no paperwork to fill out. 
When considering an air rifle for purchase, there are two big choices to make: caliber and action.

While there are actually four popular airgun calibers - 17, 20, 22 and 25 - to my mind there are only two worth considering due to availability and effectiveness: 17 and 22.
  • .17 caliber is cheaper, more readily available in stores, and comes in variety of ammo types: greater penetration, greater impact, greater expansion, and match grade for practice and competition. It is also a flatter-shooting round.
  • .22 caliber pellets are slightly harder to find in stores and cost twice as much, but have MUCH more impact when used for hunting.
Ultimately, caliber choice comes down to what you want your rifle to do.
  • If you want to hunt with it, you should get a .22, because a .17 is likely to pass through an animal without killing it, allowing it to run away and die later.
  • If you want it for practice or training, get a .17.
  • If you plan to use it for vermin control, either caliber will do, although .17 is probably more cost-effective.
When it comes to what kind of action to use, your choices are CO2 cartridge vs Pump.
  • CO2 rifles are easier to use and faster to shoot, because you won’t have to pump the rifle up after each shot, but add another consumable to your preps and extra layer of complication.
  • Pumps are slower to load, and it can be a pain in the rear to un-shoulder the rifle, put the buttstock on the ground, break the barrel open, load the pellet, close the barrel, re-shoulder, and fire, but they also have fewer complicated parts and all you need are pellets.
  • For this reason, I recommend pump action rifles for preppers.
When it comes to pump actions, there are different choices, but that risks getting into the weeds of break-barrel versus pneumatics. For those who are interested in learning more about air rifles, please check the show notes for a link to a Blue Collar Prepping article on air rifles. Give it a read!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nobody Expects the Hollywood Inquisition!

Well. Almost nobody. It was bound to happen eventually. 

Well, it's been an interesting few weeks for me. After being in isolation for so long, my immune system was woefully unprepared for exposure to the outside world and I promptly caught a cold. I'm getting over it, slowly but surely.

I was pleasantly surprised by both Thor: Ragnarok and Assassin's Creed: Origins, both coming from franchises with shaky previous entries. The former was a refreshingly fun entry that may as well have been another Guardians of the Galaxy film, but I can't help but feel that humans have been a bad influence on Thor. The latter came after a break from the yearly release cycle of the series and cribs shamelessly from other great games in what ends up being an actually really good game. And on Black Friday, I picked up Subject Delta from Bioshock 2 from my local shop. He'd been sitting there for probably 2 years, tantalizingly out of my price range, until the big sale came and he was 60% off, putting him back at his original retail price, if not less.

Forget your flat screens and 200 dollar laptops, I got Mr Bubbles!

I suppose I can only stall talking about this for so long, so let's go.

Following the aftermath of the #MeToo campaign, it feels like one in every three or four famous men in Hollywood has been accused of some form of sexual misconduct, starting with Harvey Weinstein (Clinton campaign donor, once referred to by Michelle Obama as 'a wonderful human being') and sucking in anyone in its path and spitting them out all over the headlines of progressive websites everywhere.

I've thought long and hard about whether or not I should say this, but I'm going to: Look, we all know how left-leaning Hollywood is. So left-leaning it's fallen off the table and made a mess all over the floor that no one wants to clean up. The current state of the allegation game leads me to no other conclusion than that it's little wonder that progressives believe there is a rape culture in America, because just look at the type of men they surround themselves with.

See, you can be an asshole. I'm an asshole. But when you strut around in your coastal elite circles condemning anyone who thinks differently or even lives in a zip code too far away from New York or Los Angeles, I'm no longer surprised when you're outed as a sexual predator. I'm watching my progressive friends fall apart, like they've got that scene from Revenge of the Sith playing on loop shouting "You were the chosen one!" every time another Joss Whedon or Vice writer gets outed as a complete scumbag. I'm just sitting here doing a half-hearted imitation of Paul Joseph Watson saying "Imagine My Shock" and  remembering all the entertainment sex scandal rumours and fundamentalist hypocrites I spent the first half of my life paying attention to and bringing up to the discomfort of the masses that idolized them.

See, I like assholes.

Stop that, that's not what I meant and you know it. 

But I do like assholes. Assholes are rude, sarcastic, sometimes aggressive, but by god they're honest. If you meet an asshole, you have nowhere to go but up: they might genuinely be an asshole and you know what you can expect; or they might have been hurt too many times and are deep down a good person but react poorly because of what they've lived through. But if you meet a saint, you're gambling that they are what they appear to be, and history and experience has taught me that the better someone appears, the more potential for disappointment they provide you.

Think I'm wrong? The crown jewel in the Good People's Club of modern social media, George Takei has had his name run through the muck. What's even better was his reaction-- not only did he break the cardinal rule of denying allegations, he also went on to blame Russia for inflating the claims. I swear he could run for DNC Candidate for President at this point.

Then, with Al Franken's allegations, some people seemed to lose all semblance of self-awareness, afraid that they'd target too many of their own tame white men that the evil white men would be left in charge. The Gamergate Where Are They Now List got a few more new entries. Cognitive dissonance flew wild when one of Lena Dunham's friends was accused, and she tried to defend him.

Life comes at you fast, eh Lena?

Anyway, where am I going with all this? It's simple: be you. Whether you're a bleeding heart liberal or staunchly conservative, whether you call it being self-righteous or virtue-signalling, stop. Just be you. Don't try and portray yourself as a saint because I wasn't buying it to begin with, and fewer and fewer people are buying it every day. I never trusted a saint to begin with, and it seems a lot of people are starting to feel my way.

That said, I've got 50 to 1 odds that Chris Evans, sterling paragon of Goodness and Captain America himself, is up for an allegation inside of the month. Contact me if you want to place bets. After all, if Wonder Woman isn't safe, who is?

A Troubling Epiphany

A strange thing happened on Thursday and it's taken me a while to figure out what was so strange about it.

This is the beginning of what I call The Crazy Times when mom tries to do too much at once, overextends herself, and the stress levels go through the roof. It starts at Thanksgiving because mom is the only person in the house who can cook worth a damn, and so the stress begins early because she's up early cooking the turkey and making all the dishes.

Why does she get up early? Because for as long as I've been alive, she's needed a four-hour afternoon nap to get her through the day, and if she's cooking she can't take a nap, so we eat our big Thanksgiving meal at lunch.

Even though I can't cook, I help in other ways: I open the can of compressed biscuits that goes pop and scares mom silly; I help get the turkey ready for cooking and then later I take it out of the oven and move it to the counter without spilling hot grease all over everywhere; I get out the nice dishes to set the table; I hand-wash the dishes afterwards (mom dries them); and of course I clean the clutter off the dining room table because we don't eat at the table except for special occasions -- we eat on TV trays and our table is basically one large, low shelf for stuff.

Come, I will conceal nothing from you: a good chunk of that clutter is mine, and I really shouldn't let it get like that, and cleaning off the table a few times a year is a minor responsibility, all told.

Of course, literally HALF the stuff on the table is dad's, because he uses the table as a desk. He has piles of paper that are nearing a foot high and several feet deep. I am not kidding when I say that his stuff takes up half the table.

So Tuesday night I ask mom, "When do you want me to clear off the table?" because I want to do is before she's annoyed but I also have stuff I want to do in the meantime.

She tells me, "Don't. It's too much trouble with the clearing and the dishes and the washing after."

Surprised but pleased at this, I inquire "So we're going to eat Thanksgiving dinner on TV trays? What about all the dishes?"

"I'll put them on the counter like we do for supper. You can load up your plate and then come sit down."

Now I am all for this, because anything that spares me labor and doesn't stress mom out is peachy-keen in my book. I think it's kind of weird that we'll be eating Thanksgiving dinner while watching some canned show from Discovery Channel or Animal Planet, but whatever, I'm keen to see how this works out.

Lo and behold, the appointed day comes, and as the matriarch decreed, we did indeed laden our plates in the style of the buffet, and thence did sit upon our recliners to watch Tanked. And it was the most boring, most artificial, most "This is not Thanksgiving, this is just a turkey dinner" thing I've ever experienced. The family was there, but we weren't there as a family, you dig?

And the whole thing was weird and disappointing, but that's not what bothered me. I was instead bothered by a feeling that there was an important realization that I hadn't quite grasped, and it took me a while to grasp it.

What I finally grasped was this: This Thanksgiving dinner wasn't different from the others. It only looked like it was. 

You see, my immediate family really doesn't do bonding. Hell, we don't do activities. The last time my siblings visited was in 2012, and that was... special... in a screaming kind of way. So we really don't enjoy each other's company, we just sort of tolerate it like we're roommates.

My realization was We could be sitting at the table, eating off the fine china, and we still wouldn't be here as a family. We'd just be three people eating in silence. The only difference between then and now is that we have a television program on to distract us from the silence. 

This explains why Christmases have been miserable for me for so long. The holidays are a time of being with family and I'm living in a house with two people who don't enjoy being with each other.

Well, no wonder things are fucked up. No wonder my brother is a serial man-slut, my sister is a virgin spinster in her mid-50s, and all of my relationships have failed horribly.

No wonder I'm so miserable from now until New Year's: It's a constant reminder that everyone has a loving family and I... don't.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

D&D Alignments Seen Through a Pseudo-Nolan Matrix

If you've ever played D&D or Pathfinder, you know that sometimes alignments are difficult to wrap one's head around. If you're a Game Master, you've likely had to explain them to a new player, which can be difficult as the explanations are rather longwinded.

Given today's political climate, I thought it would be interesting to define the alignments along David Nolan's political spectrum chart.

Evil: Selfish.
Good: Selfless.
Neutral: I do whatever I need to do.

Chaotic: Individualist.
Lawful: Statist.
Neutral: Stop bothering me.

So put them together and this is what you get:

Lawful Good: The state is more important than any one person, including me. I'll give my life to defend it.
Lawful Neutral: The state IS. It needs no reason to exist other than its existence.
Lawful Evil: The state is more important than anyone except me. I'll use its power to get what I want.

Neutral Good: I'll use whatever means necessary to accomplish the most good.
Neutral: I do whatever I need to do. Stop bothering me.
Neutral Evil: I'll use whatever means necessary to accomplish whatever I want.

Chaotic Good: The individual is more important than the state. If necessary, the state should die to protect the rights of the individual.
Chaotic Neutral: Smash the state! Stasis kills, be dynamic!
Chaotic Evil: State or no state, I am more important than you. You should die to make me happy.

I know that this glosses over lots of fine points and fiddly bits that grognards love, but I really like this simplification for a "root level" of alignment. Everything else is just derived from this.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Night My Face Was Ruined

(Continued from The Day My Dog Bit Me)

There are a few things you ought to know about me.
  • I'm good in emergencies because I don't freeze and I'm pretty good at solving problems on the fly. 
  • But if I don't have any problems to solve or tasks to complete, I become a bundle of anxious energy. 
  • When I am anxious or scared (or angry), I talk -- loudly and in great quantity. It's my main stress relief, probably because if I'm thinking about talking I'm not thinking about how bad things are and/or what else could go wrong. 
  • I absolutely HATE waiting. 
As you have probably figured out, I had nothing to do BUT wait as mom drove me to the hospital. I was sitting there, full of adrenaline and with no problems to solve and nothing to focus on but my shredded, bleeding face. Which meant I talked the entire time to the ER. 

I'm not gonna lie, I threw myself one heck of a pity party. Here were some popular refrains:
  • Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?
  • This is my own damn fault. I talked about how I was happy. I called attention to my happiness and so the universe balanced things out, because when I talk about good things they go away. 
  • Why did he bite me? I didn't do anything wrong. 
  • He is NOT my dog any more. MY dog wouldn't have bitten me. 
  • I'm not going to demand he be put down. That's a decision you (mom) will have to make. But he's not my dog and I don't want him around me anymore. 
  • I'm a public speaker. Will I even be able to talk again? And if so, will anyone still want to look at me?
  • Oh god. I'm going to be permanently disfigured, aren't I? I didn't think it was possible to be uglier than I am, but now I'm hideous. 
  • How am I ever going to afford any of this? Not just the ER bills, but what if I need surgical reconstruction of my face?
Put those on loop for about 20 minutes and that's what it was like in the car. Mom was trying to reassure me, but another thing you should know about me is that when I am deep in the shit I am completely immune to being reassured:
  • It's fine.  My FACE is in TATTERS! This is the exact opposite of 'fine'!
  • All right then, you will be fine!  I'm in pain, I lost my dog, and I don't know if I'm missing parts of my face. 
  • Everything will work out. You don't know that! You're not a doctor!
  • We'll be there soon. Well, drive faster!
I'm basically a "mean drunk without the booze" when I'm like this, because everything is awful and you're bullshitting me like all first responders do and I don't believe your filthy lies so someone please tell me how truly fucked I am right now because I am imagining some really awful things that positive words just aren't banishing. 

It's kind of a wonder that my family still speaks to me, if I'm being honest. 

Mom dropped me off at the ER and went to park the car. I walked in, the front desk nurse said "Can I help you?" and I lowered the washcloth from my face just enough to give her the full effect and said "A dog ate my face and I'm bleeding all over."

The good news is that I didn't have to fill out any paperwork first (although she did ask for my name and telephone number. Given that my last name isn't English and I was talking through bloody shreds, this was frustrating, and for the first time out of many I wished I had my phone with me, because it held my ID and I could just hand that to her). The bad news is that she still had to take my blood pressure and pulse before I could get back to see the doctors, and I'm reasonably sure that if I hadn't had a mouth injury she'd have tried to take my temperature too. You just can't escape some bureaucracy...

Fortunately we got through the foreplay pretty quickly and I was ushered back to a room. I had no fewer than two nurses there, and the first thing they did was to take my red washcloth from me and throw it away in the biohazard bag. I was upset by this, but apparently not upset enough to make a scene about it. Mainly I was thinking  "But I can clean that! The blood won't even show!... ah, fuck it, it's not that important and I want them concentrating on me. But dammit, what a waste."

They replaced my red washcloth with something that was thinner than a washcloth but thicker than a gauze pad (and white, of course. My brain seized on that as being important. "You can see all the blood!" Although seeing the blood was probably deliberate, and it was disposable anyway, my brain didn't think of that) and then had me hold my lip-shred as low as I could without letting them dangle -- they didn't need to tell me, but it was pretty obvious that they were concerned the pieces might finish tearing and fall off if I let them dangle -- and then used two or three big syringes of saline to irrigate my lips. 

I kept asking them how it looked, and if I had any pieces missing, and their replies were "We've seen worse" -- which didn't trip my BS meter, because this was an ER and so of course they'd seen worse, and it wasn't a trite reassurance -- and "We aren't doctors, but it looks like you're in one piece." Once they'd finished irrigating my wounds, they told me to keep the now-wet cloth up to my face, because they didn't want anything to dry out. 

Then the main nurse (I don't know how these work, but to use military parlance, this guy was clearly a sergeant or higher while the other two were corporals at best) came in, hooked me up to various stuff, asked how I was doing, etc. 

"Well, I'm in pain, and I'm scared shitless, and my face is torn up and bleeding." So naturally he bled me some more by taking several vials of blood for testing. Then he asked how long ago I'd had a tetanus shot, and I answered "Seven years ago," and I was told I'd get another one. 

Around about this time the nurse-receptionist came in, because Papierkram, bitte, and I politely snarled that I was in no condition to fill it out, but my mother had driven me here and was probably in the waiting room, so please send her back and she'll fill out the forms. 

It's kind of amazing what kind of behavior you can get away with when you're bleeding. 

So mom came back, and did all the paperwork BS, and the doctor finally came in to take a look at me. He announced that the damage was too extensive for him to suture and that it would take a plastic surgeon. However, none of the plastics who worked at that hospital were there that night, or even on-call, and he'd have to find another hospital with a plastic surgeon who would see me that night. 

He did however prescribe both a painkiller (dilaudid) and an anti-anxiety medication (ativan), both intravenously. 
  • Dilaudid is like the most glorious nausea ever. I felt like I was on the urge of throwing up, but I knew I wouldn't because my stomach wasn't spasming; and I felt dizzy and disoriented and headachey. What was odd was that I knew I felt these awful things -- I wasn't numb -- I simply didn't care. It was like my body said "Yeah, I feel like I'm going to puke and pass out, but who gives a shit?"
  • Ativan, though, is some good stuff. I never asked for more dilaudid, but I asked for more ativan later. It's too bad it can be habit-forming, because I'd like a prescription for that when I'm stressing out about life and wanting to scream and throw things. I don't know if I can describe its effects other than "I started to chill out and stop thinking such negative thoughts. I was calm enough to be bored."
Then came a lot of waiting. I remember wishing I had my phone again, because I had nothing to do except wait to hear which hospital would take me, and if I had a phone I could talk to people on Facebook about what I was going through. 

Oh, and probably take the grossest selfie ever, because I was chilled enough that I had accepted the fact I was in professional hands and they'd take care of me. After all, they were getting me a plastic surgeon to stitch me up!

Then something happened which was almost, but not quite, wonderful. Thanks to the ativan, and thanks to mom being there and being concerned about me, I figured "You know, if I'm ever going to come out to her, now might be the time. She's probably not going to freak out too terribly because she's still concerned about me, and if she does there are doctors here." Also, if things go weird and I need to abort the conversation, I can blame them on the drugs later. 

But of course I just can't tell her straight out "Mom, I was born in the wrong body. I'm transgender. I wish I had been born a girl," I have to work my way up to it. I started off by saying "Mom, if I end up staying in the hospital for days, please don't go into my room to get me clothes or anything."

Mom knows I value my privacy, so instead of asking me why, she just nodded and said "Okay" in the same way she'd say "Well, if you WANT to be uncomfortable, that's on you."


"You're not going to ask me why? You aren't curious?"

"Of course I'm curious, but I figured if you wanted me to know, you'd have told me."

Now,  I remember saying "It's because if you go in there, it will change how you feel about me," but Mom has since told me that she remembers me saying "If you go in there, you won't love me any more." I think my version is more accurate, but she got the gist of it. 

I was working my way up to explaining that if she went into my room, she'd find wigs and makeup and women's clothing, and for once it seemed like she was really listening to me, not just hearing but truly listening and processing, and maybe it was because I was injured but there seemed to be a lot of tenderness and love at the moment. 

...and right when I thought maybe I could tell her, the doctor walks in to tell me that there's a plastic surgeon in a hospital 90 minutes away, but that I need to get there via ambulance, and the soonest one of them could transport me would be 2 am. 

It was 11:30 pm when we were told this.

I asked if mom could just drive me herself, and was told no, because I might pass out or have a bad drug reaction or et cetera, and I needed to wait to be taken. I went along with this mainly because mom is terrible with directions, especially at night, and I couldn't use GPS because I didn't have my phone. Besides, I knew mom would want to get to bed, so when the ambulance came she headed home.

By this time the dilaudid had worn off, and I felt that the connection we had was gone and I didn't want to try again and be interrupted again by nurses checking on me, taking my blood, etc.

It was a very long wait, because the ambulance didn't arrive at 2 am; it arrived at 2:45 am and we didn't leave the hospital until 3 am.

My next post will be about getting stitched up by the plastic surgeon in Jacksonville. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #170 - Weer'd Underpants

Erin wanted to call this the "Zombie Miguel Episode" but figured that would just confuse people.
  • Beth feels that  RSO's (Range Safety Officers) are basically the black belts of the gun world. She and her husband explain why.
  • Homeless guy beats another man to death in a trailer. Sean looks at his permanent record.
  • Barron is on assignment.
  • Miguel is not so much on assignment as "wandering about Southern Florida, looking for his brain." His words, not ours.
  • In this week's Main Topic, Sean and Erin discuss the dumbest GQ article ever: "Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns".
  • Pro-gun votes are good, but integrity is better. Tiffany weighs in with her opinion on the matter of Roy Moore.
  • Erin finally noticed that in 169 episodes, she's never once talked about sharpening your knives. 
  • Anti-Gun Researcher Tom Gabor speaks out against Stand Your Ground and whatever else comes to mind. Weer'd brings the facts.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the "Captain Underpants" series of books. Weer'd's daughter LaWeer'da tells us more.
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:
Keep Your Knife Sharp
I have been doing this segment for three years and I only just now realized that while I’ve talked a lot about knives, I haven’t talked about sharpening them. This is an oversight I intend to correct immediately. 

A sharp knife is essential for safe knife use. Not only does a sharp edge cut more efficiently, but it prevents operator injury; a sharp blade produces a smooth cut, while a dull blade can twist in your hand while cutting or come to an unexpected stop.  

However, sharpening a knife is more art than science. It’s very, very easy to do it wrong and damage your knife and maybe even yourself in the process. Fortunately for us, there are some handy and affordable sharpeners out there which are pretty much idiot-proof. 

My current favorite is the Lansky Quadsharp. Like the name suggest, it has four sharpening angles for different applications:
  • a 17 degree angle, which gives an incredibly sharp edge suitable for filleting and fine slicing, but which is also easily dulled or damaged through hard work;
  • A 20 degree angle, which is less of a razor but is better suited for repetitive or difficult work, such as skinning or kitchen tasks;
  • A 25 degree angle, which is far more robust and is a good all-around edge for outdoor knives;
  • And a 30 degree angle, which is for heavy-duty cutting and chopping blades, like axes, hatches and machetes. 
The use is very simple: Select an angle; put the blade in the slot, and gently -- DO NOT PRESS DOWN -- pull the blade through the carbide cutters. 
There’s no set number of times you should do this; just keep going until it's as sharp as you like or it isn't getting sharper. You can usually hear the sound of the knife change, and the pull will feel different, when the majority of the work is done.

Sometimes a pull-through sharpener will build up a burr line on one side of the blade. This is not unusual; variations in stroke or carbide surface can do that, and I fix this by alternating the direction of sharpening strokes. Just turn the knife around so that you’re pulling away from yourself rather than toward yourself, and a few strokes ought to clean that burr right up. 

However, there are times when you can’t use a pull-through sharpener. Maybe it’s an axe and the blade won’t fit, or maybe there’s a ding or other damage to the edge that needs to be repaired before it can be sharpened. When that happens, you need more aggressive tools. My go-to tool in situations like this is a two-grit puck sharpener. This is less easy than the pull-through sharpeners, so you’ll want to watch the video linked in the show notes, but it’s pretty forgiving for beginners. 

A sharpening puck will put an edge on practically anything; I use it to sharpen my mother’s hedge trimmers, but it will put a working edge -- i.e. not terribly sharp, but sharp enough -- on practically anything. This is fine for tools which do most of their cutting with weight and impact, like an axe; if you want a finer edge, you’ll need go to something different. 

Diamond sharpeners are great for sharpening troublesome knives, but you need to be careful with them. Not only do they require more skill because you are essentially eyeballing the angle and freehanding the sharpener, but they also have a tendency to scratch the heck out of the knife. If you have a knife with an attractive finish or patina along the surface, be advised that diamond work will leave track marks! However, with some practice you’ll soon discover you can quickly fix most knife problems and sharpen them in the field, so don’t be afraid to practice on a cheap knife!

When you become comfortable with estimating angles by eye and sharpening without a guide, you should consider carrying sharpening tools with you as part of your every day carry. After all, if you carry a knife as part of your EDC, you should carry a means to sharpen that knife as well. I carry the EZE-Lap Pen Style Diamond Sharpener and the Speedy Sharp carbide tool. Both of them are small enough to be carried in a pocket, and between the two of them you ought to be able to repair, sharpen and hone any blade. 

Speaking of honing, did you know that you can touch up any blade using just a coffee cup? It’s true. Take a ceramic coffee cup, turn it upside-down, and hone the blade on the unglazed portion of the cup using small, circular strokes. There’s a link in the show notes with plenty of illustrations on how to do this. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

WNW: SNL Grows a Backbone

For the first time in what, this century? SNL has decided to take a swing at the Democrats.

When Donna Brazile first threw Hillary under the bus, I wondered when she would commit suicide by shooting herself in the back of the head multiple times. Now I wonder if the rest of the country smells weakness in the Clinton political machines and is jumping on that.

Alternately, I wonder when Lorne Michaels will be found dead under mysterious circumstances...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Day My Dog Bit Me

Today marks 5 weeks to the night that my mother's dog attacked me. 

I've tried to write about this before, but it was painful because I kept crying. In fact, that's one of the reasons I didn't post anything last week: I tried to write about this at the one month mark, but it coincided with my monthly depression, and I felt I needed to take a mental health break from writing in order to clear my head.

I acknowledge that no one is forcing me to talk about. Heck, no one has even asked me what happened, and that's a credit to them. I just feel like I need to get this off my chest. I don't know why I feel this way, but I do. Perhaps it's a kind of closure.

It was Tuesday, Oct 10, 10pm. I know what time it was because mom always turns off the TV and starts her bedtime preparations around 10, but it takes her between 30 and 45 minutes to actually get to bed. During that period, our dog Heath always became restless, and so I would play with him until it was time for him to get his teeth brushed and go to bed.
Yes, we brush our dogs' teeth. It does wonders for their breath and oral health. 
And yes, I would play with him right before bedtime. Dogs have this amazing ability to go from zero to 60, and 60 to zero, in seconds. 
So this night, like every night, Heath came to get me to play with him. He'd always do this cute little awroo-roo sound that wasn't a quite a howl and it was his universal code for "Play with me!" Some nights I'd find it annoying, especially if I was trying to get work done, or if I was tired and wasn't in the mood, but most nights I'd do it even if I didn't want to because I know too well how short a dog's life is and that I'd regret not playing with him while he was alive more than I'd regret the time lost, and that I'd miss playing with him while he was gone.

And now I'm crying again. Shit.

So he came to get me, and we played the usual games. Heath was an unusual dog in that he always needed to be the center of attention, always needed all the toys, hated to share.. but still loved to play. His ideal form of play was for him to get a toy, and for me to act like I wanted it and try to get it, but never actually take it from him. We played for a bit, and when he got a bit too stimulated I stopped with the hijinks and moved to generalized attention like petting, scritches and kind words.

He was sitting behind my chair in the family room, with a plush toy in his mouth. He was always a nice sitter and he looked very cute holding the toy like that, so I did something that both I and my mother have done literally countless times since we first got him back in 2009: I leaned forward to give him a kiss on the nose.

I had no idea that a dog could move that quickly, especially one with a plush toy in its mouth.

I'm actually not sure if I ever kissed him or not. All I'm aware of is moving up to his nose, while saying my usual "What a sweet boy", and the rest is a blur and a flash of pain before I'm holding my shredded lips in my hands and bleeding all over the carpet.

Here's what I have been able to reconstruct, based upon where the wounds were and where I found things later:
  1. He bites me in the upper lip on the center-left side. Although this split my lip in two places, this was a relatively minor wound as it only needed external stitches. This is probably because it was his incisors that caught me. 
  2. My head instinctively jerks up and to the left. This was unfortunate because it presented the dog with my lower right lip, and this was where the damage was most severe, likely due to a combination of one of his canines getting a grip on my cheek and my head continuing to move. 
  3. My head jerks to a stop because I have a 90 pound dog attached to my face. My glasses go flying, although I don't realize this at the time. 
  4. He lets go. 
  5. I realize I am in pain. To be clear, my body registered the pain when he first bit me, but all of this occurred in what felt like less than a second. If you've ever cut yourself, sometimes you see the cut and have enough time to think "Oh shit, this is going to hurt" before the pain hits, and this was similar; I felt the pain before my brain could process any of it. What's strange is that it didn't feel like a bite; it felt hot, like I was being burned. I also want to associate bright light with the event, but that's probably just my brain trying to integrate the blurry motion of the attack with the heat of the pain. 
  6. I realize the dog has bitten me.
  7. I see the blood on the floor. 
  8. I bring my hands up to my mouth and feel strips of bloody flesh hanging from my mouth.
  9. I see the blood pooling in my hands. 
  10. I realize "Oh, shit, this is serious."
This is the moment when time catches up to me and I have full memories and can act. I literally don't know how much time passed, because in my memories it happens all at once, like information coming in parallel. I don't see how it could have taken longer than two seconds, although I suppose it could have. On the other hand, if you told me it took a second or less, I wouldn't be at all surprised. 

I ran to the bathroom where mom was brushing her teeth, saying (shouting?) "I need to go to the Emergency Room!"  

Mom asked "What happened?", so apparently I didn't make a sound while I was getting bitten, which is something I find odd. 

"Heath bit the shit out of me!" I said, coming into the bathroom to look for something to stop the bleeding. "I'm going to need stitches." I noticed how much blood was dripping from my hands onto the bathroom floor and make some strange split-second decisions:
  • I'm bleeding like crazy. 
  • Fortunately, it's not spurting like an arterial wound. 
  • Head wounds always bleed like crazy, so since it's not spurting, I'm not going to bleed to death any time soon. 
  • I probably don't want to use a traditional gauze pad because it'll soak through instantly and I really don't want to put direct pressure on my shredded mouth. 
  • However, I need something to catch all this mess. 
  • I can't get to the blood-stopper gauze in the trauma kit because my hands are busy holding my face in place (at this point, I don't know how extensive the damage is, I just know that it's BAD) and I don't want to talk mom through getting it out because 1) she's terrible at taking directions under pressure and 2) I want her to concentrate on getting me to the ER. 
  • I look over to the hamper and see a clean red washcloth. I very clearly think "Oh good, it's red, that means it won't stain as badly". In retrospect, this is a very odd thing to be concerned about, but at the time I felt like this was a mission-critical piece of information. 
I told mom to hand me the washcloth and then did a sort of juggling act with my hands so that one of them was always holding the strips of flesh as I got the blood-catcher underneath them. 

This is the exact moment when I realized "Oh, shit, I might have pieces of my face missing." I don't know if I said this out loud or not, but I remember asking mom to take a quick look to see if she sees any parts of my face out in the room. I sent her to look because I didn't know if the dog would attack me again or not. I'm embarrassed to admit that it never once crossed my mind to wonder "What if the dog attacks her?" My only defense is that I was in survival mode, and that induced a form of selfishness; had I thought the dog was a danger to her I wouldn't have asked her, but it literally never crossed my mind because I was thinking only of myself at that moment. It's probably a survival instinct and therefore completely understandable, but it still bothers me.

At this point, mom was either getting dressed to drive me to the ER or was waking dad up, I'm not sure. There's a long story here regarding why dad can't just drive me, but the short version is:
  • Mom and dad sleep in separate bedrooms;
  • Dad went to sleep 2 hours prior;
  • Dad has Parkinson's and so doesn't react well to sudden changes, like being woken from a sound sleep;
  • My car isn't driveable due to electrical problems;
  • Dad's car is parked behind mom's;
  • I can't drive his car because I'm holding my face together;
  • Therefore, dad needs to move his care before we can go to the ER. 
I went looking for my shoes, my glasses, and my phone which had my ID in the case. I found two out of the three; the shoes were where I'd left them, but I couldn't find my phone because I didn't know where my glasses were. I eventually found them lying on the ground, ten feet away from where I'd been standing when I was bitten.

By the time I'd found my glasses and given up looking for my ID, dad had staggered out of his bedroom wearing only a pair of sweatpants. (He sleeps nude, so thanks for small favors there.) For whatever reason -- Parkinson's, groggy from sleep, both -- he couldn't figure out how to unlock the front door. Our front door has a deadbolt, you see, but the deadbolt is key-operated because for some dumb reason, there’s a window right next to the door. Since a burglar could easily smash that window and then open the lock, we keep the key out of arm’s reach.

Dad either couldn't figure out the lock, or was moving too slowly to make me happy -- I was scared and in pain and bleeding all over the place, and a grown-ass man couldn't open a lock in a timely manner, so I feel somewhat justified in that attitude -- so I took the key from him to unlock the door my own damn self.

Unfortunately, I had rather a lot of adrenaline in my body at the time, and "putting a key into a lock" requires more fine motor control than you'd think. I remember, quite vividly, missing the key hole and hitting the plate around it several times. I don't know how many times this happened; for all I know, it could have been only 2-3 times, but it felt like a dozen or more.

Again, this is where my brain gets weird, because I actually seriously considered breaking the window in order to facilitate getting the door open. I don't know why I thought this, because it's not like it would be easier to open on the other side; I think I was just scared and frustrated and willing to destroy anything which thwarted me. (It's probably a good thing I didn't have a crowbar nearby.)

In hindsight, what I should have done was have my father go out through the garage. That's where mom keeps her car, so we were going to open it anyway. But I wasn't thinking about that at all; I had tunnel vision and could only think of one way of getting outside.

I did eventually get the key in the lock by taking a deep breath and forcing myself to calm down before I finally got it inserted and the door opened. I turned around to do... something, I'm not sure what... and Heath was coming up to me to investigate the commotion. He wasn't aggressive any more, he just seemed curious about the noise and the door opening and all the humans scurrying around. This was weird, and is part of the reason I think that him biting me was some kind of psychotic break, because 1) while I know dogs don't have much in the way of long-term memory, this was recent enough that it shouldn't have passed out of short term memory and 2) in my 40+ years of owning dogs, every single time of them has accidentally hurt us, it either runs away to hide or acts submissive. Either way, the dog knows it has messed up. But he wasn't acting like he even knew what had happened.

Meanwhile, I was having none of it. "Get away from me! You're not my dog anymore!" I shouted, and he ran off. Then I heard a sound behind me and saw my father lying on the ground just outside the front door. He has fallen and broken his hip once before, and I figured because it was a fall onto concrete and because it would be just my luck, that he'd broken his hip again. I believe my exact words were "Fuck this, I’m calling an ambulance." as I stomped my way to the house phone. The only reason I didn't make the call is because I heard my mother coming around from the garage and helping him up; apparently she'd gotten the garage door open and her car started, and wanted to see what was causing the delay.

Incredibly, dad didn’t break anything when he fell, so he managed to get to his car and back it up. I made one final pass to look for my phone, and then I went out and got into mom's car.

All told, the entire thing probably took about five minutes, but it felt like it took about 30. The entire thing with dad probably would have been rather funny in a "Benny Hill total clusterfuck" kind of way if I hadn't been bleeding and scared at the time. 

This post is already pushing 2500 words and I haven't even gotten to the hospital yet, so let's save that part for my next post. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #169 - The Personification of the Firearm

“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.” ― Col. Jeff Cooper, Art of the Rifle
  • Beth detests the phrase “gun violence”. She’s talked about that before, so if she brings it up again, it must mean it's important! She has more examples and details.
  • A cop walks into a gas station just in time to interrupt an armed robbery. Sean tells us how this story ends.
  • Barron is on assignment.
  • In this week's Mental Flea Market, Miguel reminds us that some SOB won't try to murder you just because you're worshiping God.
  • David Yamane, sociologist and new member of the Gun Culture, has been saying it for a while now, but it bears repeating: the laser focus of gun control advocates on the criminal use of firearms ignores the REAL gun culture, which is the average gun-owning citizen.
  • Tiffany is on assignment.
  • Avoid that sedative! Erin explains how sleeping too soon after trauma can negatively affect your ability to recover from it.
  • A lone anti-gun crusader has proposed a "national gun buyback day".  Weer’d looks at the lies and delusions of grandeur as this nut promotes his little pipe dream.
  • And our Plug of the Week is MAG-20 / Classroom – Armed Citizen’s Rules of Engagement.
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:
Trauma and Sleep Disorder
It will come as no surprise to anyone that ever since I was attacked, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I should clarify this, though: to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been having nightmares or reliving the experience. I just feel tired all the time, like I’m sleeping but not getting enough rest, if that makes any sense.

So as a result of this I started looking into how traumatic experiences affect sleep patterns, and I discovered some interesting information. The biggest surprise was learning that sleep after a trauma actually helps to cement the trauma within your mind!

In a 2012 study, two groups of rodents were exposed to a predator's scent, which was a traumatic event for them. One group was prevented from sleeping for six hours afterward, and one group was not. Interestingly, the sleep-deprived group displayed fewer physiological signs of stress and less PTSD-like behavior, such as freezing and a heightened startle response, than the group which was allowed to sleep. This was later confirmed with human experiments in 2015.

When you stop to think about it, this makes sense. It’s widely believed that while we sleep, our brain attempts to make sense of of the events of the day, filing them away into memories and running “what-if” scenarios. So it stands to reason that if you avoid sleep while the traumatic event is still fresh in your mind, there will be more “stuff” for your brain to process when you do sleep, and the likelihood of those events being turned into traumatic memories is reduced.

Fortunately for me, I suffered sleep deprivation after my attack: it happened at 10 pm and I didn’t get to bed until 11 am the next day, and I was only under local anesthesia instead of general when the plastic surgeon was sewing me up. This may explain why I don’t seem to be exhibiting PTSD characteristics.

I also asked for an anti-anxiety medication while I was in the ER, because I was quite understandably upset at my face being in tatters and was worried that I might have pieces missing. They gave me ativan, which did indeed help me calm down without making me want to sleep. I don’t know if this is causation or just correlation, but keep it in mind for future use, especially if the doctors want to prescribe a sedative.

If something like this happens to you, and you decide to delay sleep, you may have difficulty getting back on your normal sleep schedule. Here are a few tips and tricks for that:
  • Realize that there’s no such thing as a “sleep bank.” If you miss 8 hours of sleep, you don’t then need to sleep for 16 hours the next night. Just try to sleep your regular amount, going to bed and getting up at your usual time. 
  • Exercise before sleep is a bad idea, because it is more likely to energize your body and keep you awake longer. However, gentle stretching is a good idea as it should release tension in your muscles. 
  • Take a hot shower before bedtime. The body cools off as it sleeps, and so after a hot shower your body will start to cool off and that will send a message to your brain that it’s time for sleep. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol before bed. While it is a depressant and will indeed help you fall asleep, it will depress everything in your body including your REM sleep. Alcoholics claim they don’t dream when they sleep, and dreaming is essential to your health. 
  • Finally, if you’ve been lying in bed for an hour and still can’t sleep, don’t force yourself to stay there, Instead, get up and do something relaxing. Avoid watching TV or getting on the computer, because the light from the screen will stimulate your brain and make it think it’s time to get up. Instead, do something low-stress and relatively boring, like dusting the furniture or doing laundry. 
So to summarize:Avoid sleep for at least 6 hours after a traumatic experience, but after that, you should get back to your regular sleep schedule.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Memento Mori Corolla Cari

Well, it finally, more-or-less, kinda-sorta happened.

The little red deathtrap I'd previously written about has just about bit the dust. Kicked the bucket. Bought the proverbial farm. It is pining for the fjords, shuffling off of that mortal coil, running down the curtain and joining the choir invisible.

In short, the Corolla's had it. It likely wasn't even the stress of actually driving it the meager 14 miles a day, 5 days a week to the new job. Not a week before my interview, it refused to start. I called one of the only people in Albuquerque that I know and got a jump-start. It died again halfway to the Firestone a mile away, at which point we jumped it again. $500 and 2 days later, I had a new battery and starter, and it felt fine again. A month later, and here we are again.

I was leaving work about 10 days ago, and it was a normal evening. The temperature was a hair under 70, which feels quite nice here in Albuquerque, and the setting sun was painting the sky with smears of all manner of reds and purples. Heading east and uphill, I noticed the lights on the dashboard didn't look right. The brake and battery warning lights were both on.

Breaking all etiquette of the road, I pulled out my phone and googled "brake and battery light on" and was dismayed that the likely culprit was a failing alternator, especially as Firestone had tested the alternator when I brought in the car a month prior. I called them back, and ended up dropping off the car for them to look at first thing in the morning.

Turns out, the alternator might not have been the culprit, but to even test it properly, it would have to be replaced. A fuse had blown in the small fuse box attached to the positive battery terminal and melted the entire assembly. Which they don't sell and can't seem to find anywhere.

Frankly, the Corolla just isn't worth repairing anymore. There's too much wrong with it. But it did come along when I needed it most (just after my divorce, and getting back on my feet), saw me through a few relationships (especially interesting was the sex fiend who loved the way the car vibrated when idling) and evacuated me from at least two hurricanes. It's time to put it to rest.

Ladies, gentlemen, and multiforms, with all that said I present you my new ride:
Free Candy!
Yep. That's a 99 Ford Econoline. It started life as a Budweiser delivery truck. As I'm told, Budweiser took the van to a mechanic one day, said "Fix everything" and the mechanic said "OK, done, here's the bill." Budweiser didn't want to pay the bill, so he kept it. No rims, tinted windows in the front, no windows in the back. There's a cage behind the front seats. It's packing a Triton V8 and sits higher than a short bus. It's also entirely anonymous, as nearly everywhere you go, you'll see one just like it. It was originally intended as a stop-gap between the Corolla dying and whatever new car I can finance with the new job, but it's really started to grow on me over the past week.

I think I'm going to keep Free Candy, the Great Beast of Black Mesa for now.

I'm not sure Erin has convinced me to actually paint the words "FREE CANDY" on the side yet, though.

Editor's Note: Actually, I want him to paint it to look like this:

Monday, November 6, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #168 - The "I Can't Think of a Good Title" Episode

Erin is back, Miguel hurts, Tiffany pops bubbles and Beth loves socks.
  • What do flashlights, tourniquets, and socks have in common? Beth answers that question as she tells us about attending a class taught by The Complete Combatant.
  • The suspect in a Halifax quadruple murder was out on bond at the time of the killings. What had he been charged with? Sean looks a little deeper
  • Barron is on assignment.
  • The past is catching up with Miguel. The bills from his past misdeeds are coming due, and it’s all because he lived by the mantra "No Pain, No Gain".
  • The anti-gun podcast Loaded Conversations had what they billed as a “Constitutional Scholar" on episode 16 who made all sorts of untrue statements about guns, the law, and the Constitution. We asked noted gun law expert Alan Korwin to weigh in on what this 3rd Year law student had to say.
  • What can Second Amendment advocates learn from lefty liberal lifelong democrat and former NPR CEO, Ken Stern? Tiffany explains in this week’s episode of The Bridge.
  • After every emergency, good preppers evaluate what they did wrong and what needs to change so things go right next time. Erin lists the lessons learned from her dog attack.
  • To bring light to the misinformation on the 2nd Amendment Debate, a Progressive host invites a bunch of Bloomberg stooges to spout their propaganda in response to softball straw-man questions!  Weer’d brings the voice of reason they intentionally excluded in.
  • And out Plug of the Week is the Dirty John podcast.

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:
Prepping Lessons Learned From Erin's Injury
We preppers always strive to be ready for anything and everything. However, despite this goal, we can never truly be prepared for EVERY thing that happens. It’s just not physically possible; you can be ready for 99.9% of all things, and you’ll still get blindsided by that one time in a thousand. What you do in those cases is use your prepping experience to adapt to the situation, and then figure out what you can do to prevent it from happening again.

So let’s use as a case study what happened to me when I was attacked by my mother’s dog. The first question people ask me is “Why didn’t you just shoot the dog?” and the answer to that is very simple -  First, I was in my house behind locked doors and getting ready to go to bed, so my firearms were not within easy reach. Second, the attack was -- fortunately for me -- not sustained; he bit twice and then stopped. Shooting him in the house would have made an unnecessary mess.

I concede the point that if he had continued to attack I would have needed a weapon to defend myself, and not having one could have resulted in a worse maiming or death.

The obvious answer to this is “Always have a gun on your body unless you’re bathing or sleeping”. This is troublesome because it is based on the premise that anyone in my family could attack me at any time, and that’s not a healthy level of distrust to sustain in a home. A much better answer is “If a person or an animal is dangerous, don’t allow them inside your home.” And we didn’t. Up to that point, the dog had shown no signs of aggressive behavior toward us, so it came as a surprise, but after that we removed the animal from our home.

One thing we did do properly is that we immediately got the bleeding under control. Getting out of the house wasn’t so smooth, however, because
  • My father’s car was parked behind my mother’s car, 
  • My father had gone to bed several hours earlier, 
  • My mother doesn’t know how to drive my father’s car, and
  • I couldn’t have driven even if I’d wanted to, because I was using both hands to hold my face together. 
This resulted in a Charlie Foxtrot that would have been funny if it hadn’t been happening to me:

First, mom woke dad up out of a dead sleep by pounding on the bedroom door, telling him to move his car. While she went to put on clothes to drive me to the ER, he stumbled out of bed, still incoherent with sleep. He was then unable to open the front door to get to his car, probably due to a combination of grogginess and being unable to adapt to new situations because of his Parkinson’s Disease, so I took the key from him to open the door.

Our front door has a deadbolt, but the deadbolt is key-operated because for some dumb reason, there’s a window right next to the door. Because a burglar could easily smash that window and then open the lock, we keep the key out of arm’s reach. Unfortunately, “putting a key into a lock” requires fine motor control, and when the adrenaline dumps a lot of fine motor control goes out the window. I remember, quite vividly, the key bouncing off the lock plate several times before I finally got it inserted and the door opened.

In hindsight, what I should have done was just have my father go out the garage. I can’t recall if the door was already open or not, but we had to open it anyway to get mom’s car out. At the time, though, I had a bit of tunnel vision and could only think of one way of getting outside. So the protip here is “Always think of other ways to get outside.”

After we got the door open, my father took a step outside… and fell on his hip onto concrete. At this point, I figured he’d broken it because he’s 81, so I believe my exact words were “F**k this, I’m calling an ambulance.” and I went for the house phone to dial 911. Somehow, however, my mother ended up by the front door and helped him up. Incredibly, he didn’t break anything in the fall, so he got in his car and moved it so mom could get hers out of the garage and take me to the hospital.

The lesson to be learned from this is “The person who goes to bed first shouldn’t box in the people who go to bed last.” After this, dad started parking behind my car in the driveway instead next to me, behind mom’s car in the garage.

Those are all the lessons I can think we learned from that night, although I will tell you this: Walking into an ER with a bloody face is a great way to bypass all the waiting and administrative BS and get seen by a doctor immediately.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Medical Bills Update

A huge THANK YOU!!! with hugs to everyone who donated to my GoFundMe. As of today, I have paid off the first two bills (for the initial ER visit and for the  doctor there who treated me -- why the doctor's services weren't bundled with the ER bill is a mystery to me) in full and  managed to get a discount on both due to being able to pay them immediately, in full, and in cash.

I talked them down to $643.80
I'm still waiting to get the bill from the ambulance drive from initial ER up to the hospital in Jacksonville, that ER's bill, and the plastic surgeons's bill) but I am confident I'll have enough money to pay those off as well.

The big question is "How much will it cost to get my face back to normal?" and that's not something which can be answered now, because as explained earlier, that has to wait until 2018.

Regardless of what procedures are required and what they will cost, I am confident that you lovely people will help me get through this difficult situation. While I know I cannot repay you (some of you donated anonymously, and some wouldn't accept payment from me anyway), I hope that one day I can pay you back with entertaining words, commitment to rights, and of course my friendship.

Thank you all!

The Fine Print

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