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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Exponential Outrage Theorem


I'd like to propose a thought experiment. (Bear with me here, I've always been rubbish at maths.)

Something big, something monumental is announced. This thing that is announced is a change. Let's say, just for the example, the casting choices in a major science fiction franchise.

One hundred idiots get mad about this change and over-react. From the reaction of these one hundred idiots, a far Left or far Right blog whips up an article containing six tweets from people who are literal nobodies with an insignificant amount of followers (I don't use my Twitter, so let's say 24. 24 sounds like a nice insignificant number.)

Ladies, gentlemen, and multi-forms, your Twitter nobody.
One thousand people read this article, and become outraged by the "huge backlash" of the one hundred over-reacting idiots. They, in turn, overreact. Ten more extreme-end blogs write articles, including the six tweets and six more attacking the original. Ten thousand people read these articles and are now annoyed. They start a hashtag movement which catches the attention of a few mainstream news sites, which write about the massive outrage over the initial decision, more than likely using words like "manbabies", "piss babies", or "garbage humans." One hundred thousand people read this article and are now annoyed. The reaction is no longer the story -- the outrage is -- and it continues well into the millions.

So, then. On a completely unrelated note. What do I think?
Nice coat.
I think she's not Peter Capaldi. But then, as much as I adore Peter Capaldi's Doctor, I knew it wouldn't be forever. Like the man himself said, nothing is sad until it's over, then everything is. Everything ends, and it's always sad, but everything begins again and that's always happy. So I'll let the Doctor handle everything else. To me, he's been the best thing about the show since it came back, and I pity anyone who has to follow in his footsteps.

Capaldi's final episode hasn't even aired yet (spoilers!) so we're a little premature on pronouncing judgement on her ability. Do I like the choice? I have no idea yet. But she shows promise, and I maintain there has never been a bad actor in the role. Strange choices, maybe, but never bad ones. Here's what I think:
  • I remember her from Attack the Block and Broadchurch, and looked up a series she'd starred in on Netflix called The Assets
  • I think she's a talented actor. Does a surprisingly good American accent. 
  • I think she's very distinctive-looking, which is far more important than attractive for the role. Prominent nose, high cheekbones, slightly strange-looking (Erin's informed me that saying someone "looks a bit like a ferret" isn't a flattering thing that normal people do, even after I assured her that I think ferrets are adorable), I think she looks distinctive enough for the role. Smith and Tennant both looked a bit weird, with Tennant being very thin and goofy but exuding confidence, and Smith looking like a literal alien with vaguely unformed facial features and an enormous chin. 
  • I think she has enough intensity and range to play the role, and the outfit they chose for her looks decent, if a bit unremarkable, but no Doctor keeps the same outfit forever - even Eccleston changed his jumper periodically. 
  • I was hoping for Emma Thompson if we were going female Doctor, but then I doubt the BBC could afford her.
So as far as Jodie Whittaker goes, I'm definitely going to give her a shot. This isn't the first time I've lost a beloved Doctor and I'm not about to quit watching because I'm not 100% sure on the 'new guy.' If I were type to do that, I'd never have seen Paul McGann be tremendously let down by his TV movie or Eccleston shine for a year. But as I said, there's never been a "bad Doctor."

There has, however, been bad writing. One thing we need to keep in mind is that all the groundwork that's been laid for this change to happen is due to the allegedly EVOL MISOGYNERD that is Stephan Moffat. The Corsair, the General's regeneration, Missy, River changing from white to black and back to white, and even Eleven's throw-away line wondering if he was a girl because of his hair all happened under his watch. Now Moffat's leaving the show, and the incoming show-runner, Chris Chibnall, wrote one very good and several very bad episodes of Torchwood, and was the show-runner for the two series it was on BBC.  He wrote several episodes of Doctor Who that... varied in quality. And while it's true that Broadchurch was his show, it was equal parts good and very, very slow and grim.

Moreover, Chibnall is a fan. As a friend and I recently discussed, fans should be kept well away from the reigns of the show, and Chibnall once appeared on the BBC in his capacity as a fan bemoaning the state of the writing during Colin Baker's tenure. While he wasn't wrong, this would be like a modern fan (say myself or my friend) publicly decrying the state of the writing under Stephen Moffat, then decades later running the show ourselves, and that would be very, very bad. I'm more worried that, in a year or two, we'll be begging Moffat to come back than we will be wishing Jodie hadn't come on board.

I have a final thought here: If you're celebrating something based on the negative reaction that you feel a demographic will have, then you're celebrating it for the wrong reason. The legions of "screaming manbabies" have not manifested. The outrage against Jodie Whittaker is as overblown as "black stormtrooper" or the "Fury Road boycott.' In fact, the demographics of the outrage are so wrong that even The Mary Sue has had to address it (albeit in their condescending and short-sighted way), admitting that there are a substantial number of women that aren't satisfied with the decision (the words "internalized misogyny" were thrown around).

Don't mistake this for me saying you're not a "real fan" or a "fake nerd." I'm saying that if you're salivating at the thought of "evil white men", you might be valuing message over entertainment. You may be a fan for the wrong reasons. And it's supremely annoying to someone who considered the Doctor a role model not because he was a man, but because he was clever and cared and helped people while trying not to resort to violence. As Twelve would really like to hear, he was, all in all, a good man. And I hope he can be a good woman, too.

I just hope it doesn't get lost in causes and messages.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes


This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
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 -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Save Oro

https://www.gofundme.com/saveoro
Oro is a gay Muslim who has fled persecution in Tunisia. He is now in Egypt and hopes to move to a western country that will accept him instead of trying to kill him for his sexuality. The funds contributed to his GoFundMe account will be sent to him as soon as he is able to find an apartment, and will be used to help him get started living on his own or possibly to go to school elsewhere - he wants to attend the New England Culinary Institute and become a chef.

If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, please donate so that he can begin a new, productive life. Under Sharia law, being gay carries the death penalty.

If you're concerned about his religion, don't be. I've talked to Oro. He's friendly to Jews and Christians. He loves Western culture and shares our values. By helping him, you are supporting love and inclusion and fighting hatred.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preacher: Adaptation Blues

When I was 18 years old, I shared a flat with a couple. Odd pair, a slightly plump bisexual girl and her effeminate, slightly hippy, slightly techno boyfriend. One of the defining moments of this period of my life was discovering Garth Ennis's Preacher comic series. I remember clearly one night finishing one of the volumes and racing over to Books-A-Million (forgive my plebian tendencies, we didn't have a Barnes & Nobles in the roughly-six-horse town I lived in at the time) and begging them to open the doors a minute before their closing time to pick up the next volume.

When I initially heard Preacher was being adapted for television I had very mixed feelings. I felt that television was the best medium for the series, as the story was far too broad to tell within the limitations of a roughly two hour film, but I was wary at the involvement of Seth Rogen. Rogen has made his name in awkward/pothead humour films, which are some of my least favourite genres in existence, with Pineapple Express, Neighbors, Superbad, Knocked Up, and the unfortunate This Is The End, which had to stand up against Edgar Wright's finale of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End and really didn't fare well in my eyes. Seth Rogen is not somebody who I trusted to understand Preacher properly.
Picture courtesy Business Insider
As a young Atheist, banished from a church a year prior (for reasons maybe I'll go into later), Preacher was a story that struck a chord with me. A man of God, given a great gift with a terrible knowledge, sets out to hold God accountable. The anger against organized religion that was boiling inside the 18-year-old me resonated with that message at the time. Now, an undisclosed-but-significant amount of time later, I've calmed somewhat, and despite how juvenile and (ironically) preachy Ennis could be at times, now I just want to see the story done justice.

Preacher premiered on AMC last spring. When it first came out, I missed the premiere, so about a month later I watched the first four episodes... and it was rough going. I have to admit, over the years, I've read the series multiple times, and own a trade paperback release of every volume, including the cover collection and the side stories with Cassidy and the Saint. The series had a very high bar for me, and in those first four episode, it did not meet that bar. Annville was there, but it seemed like every single story element in 7 volumes of the comic series had been packed into a single town, and somehow the series still moved at a snail's pace. Aside from a decent joke about Tom Cruise being vaporized by Genesis, nothing really appealed to me. The Reverend Jesse Custer seemed to be a good translation from comic to screen, only losing his wilder hair and white jeans in the process, I was confused by Tulip being black (until I realized that I'd lived 10 years in the armpit of Texas and the demographics actually justified that entirely) and I absolutely hated Cassidy. I was confused why Arseface lived in Annville and why his dad actually spoke to him. I was confused why DeBlanc and Fiore dressed like business-casual cowboys and were in Annville. I was confused why Odin Quincannon's meat-packing plant was located in Annville. And I was confused why it felt like, in the first four episodes, absolutely nothing happened.

This week, I've sat down and watched the remaining six episodes of the first season as well as the first four (that have aired so far) of season 2. I've softened a little, as starting near the end of season 1 the pace has picked up considerably and the "road trip" tone of the comic series is starting to manifest, and I've even gone so far as to purchase the Jesse Custer figure that NECA released (but not the Cassidy figure). Some of the more drastic changes they've made to the series (why is the Saint immune to Genesis? Why did they nerf his guns? Every shot kills and no shot misses. That's the Saint's Colt Walkers. Why was he just in Hell and not a replacement for... well that's getting a little too much into the lore. Read it for yourself, trust me) are bothering me.
Taking his place on the DC Screen Shelf. Anyone tired of my toys yet? 
I have to wonder if Seth Rogen and friends read the books or just a summary of them. Irish vampire? Check. Girlfriend named Tulip that's good with guns? Check. Texas preacher with the Voice of God? Check. But the details, almost every single one, have been changed, and I can't say for the better. I always give a series the first season as a trial ground and assume it's going to suck, and I grant it that the second season, so far, is better than the first, but I have yet to have any confidence in this adaptation. We'll see how it goes from here on out, and I'll check out the episodes as they come, but I'm still wary.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Extending the 15-Minute Adventuring Day

There are two concepts I need to explain to blog readers who aren't familiar with games like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons before I get on with the meat of this article.
The 15-Minute Adventuring Day: What you get when a group of player characters, after 2 or 3 encounters, decides they need to stop adventuring because they're low on spells and/or hitpoints and/or "X times per day" abilities like Bardic Song or Rage and want to recover them before continuing further into the dungeon. This is because these games are essentially exercises in resource management. 
Resource Management: The mini-game of strategy within the overall roleplaying game that requires decisions such as "Should I use my last healing spell on the fighter now to top him off, or should I wait to see if someone gets injured?" Spells, potions, class abilities, even hit points are all resources to be carefully managed within these games and poor resource management can lead to defeat and death of player characters. 
At low levels, the 15-Minute Adventuring Day is understandable, as player characters have only a dozen or so hitpoints and a handful of spells.At higher levels, this learned behavior becomes an annoying habit of "Well, the spellcasters have used their highest spells, and the melee types are looking a bit peaked, so let's all rest so we can be at full power for whatever is around the corner."

Depending on the GM, such reservation to advance beyond one's safety margin might be warranted, but it can prove to be irritating to move at such a snail's pace - especially if the GM is the kind of person to say "All right, now the dungeon inhabitants know you're coming, so they're on a war footing and spent the day arranging a welcoming committee for you with traps and ambushes."

There have been many solutions on how to solve the 15MAD. Most of them involve what I call "adventure pressure", which is another way of saying that there is a condition of the adventure that makes time a factor, such as a deadline to complete a quest or having to beat other adventurers to a goal. However, I feel that these are external solutions for an internal problem. Put another way, they're using setting to solve a non-setting problem. I feel that the problem is a combination of mechanics and player psychology, so the solution to the 15MAD must come from the same source.

Here's my simple solution: Let an 8-hour rest count as "a day" for purposes of regaining abilities. When you stop to think about this, it makes perfect sense:
  • All arcane casters need 8 hours of rest to recover spells. Why this number? There are a variety of explanations available, but I like the notion that the brain of a caster needs a period of rest from the task of maintaining a spell in preparation. Think of it like rebooting a computer to free up resources and clear out temp files. 
  • If arcane casters only need 8 hours of sleep, then saying they can gain their spells only once per 24 hour period raises questions such as "Is the universe keeping track of how many times they prepare? Is there a fixed pool of magic and only so much to go around? If not, then why an arbitrary 24 hour limit when the rules say 8 hours of rest?"
  • Furthermore, look at the Cleric. The Rules as Written say that a cleric chooses a time of day at which to regain spells, with the implication being that if it isn't that time of day then the cleric receives no spells. I call bollocks on this, for the following reasons:
    1. It presumes that the deity the cleric worships doesn't listen to prayers except at specific times of the day, and
    2. It is contradicted by this passage in the Core Rulebook:  When preparing spells for the day, a divine spellcaster can leave some of her spell slots open. Later during that day, she can repeat the preparation process as often as she likes. During these extra sessions of preparation, she can fill these unused spell slots. If a deity only granted spells during a set part of the day, then this ability wouldn't exist. 
  • Finally, an 8-hour rest restores 1 hit point per character level
I say, standardize everything based on the 8 hour rest. A good night's sleep heals the body and refreshes the brain, allowing the player characters to adventure without having to wait 24 hours -- and 8 hours is definitely enough time for dungeon denizens to compose and execute a proper response to invaders, be it increased watchfulness and patrols, ambushes and traps, or just a counter-attack while they sleep. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Luke Cage: An Executive Summary

More away game material that ought to be showcased here:



If you want an explanation of why I feel this way: The boss fight in the final episode is okay at best, and had a little too much of "All you need to win is the power of love" to make me happy, but it was an acceptable 20 minutes to wrap up the series.

Unfortunately, there was 30 more minutes to go, and the denouement was similar to a souffle slowly collapsing.

If they had just stopped with him defeating Diamondback and Misty doing the whole "It'll be cool, I've got your back," that would have been great. All of the other stuff could have been folded into the second season.


That said, though, it's an amazingly good show and worth the time to watch. The casting is spot-on, the acting is excellent, the dialog flirts with Tarantino without actually trying to be Tarantino,  the music is great (I can't stand rap, but I can grove to funk), and it's just basically a 21st century retelling of a 1970s blaxploitation movie.

It just deserved a better, perhaps tighter, ending.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #151 - The Bacardi Episode


I drink a rum in the mornin' (yeah)
I drink a rum at night (gonna drink a rum at night)
I drink a rum in the afternoon (why?)
It makes me feel alright
I drink a rum in times of peace
and two in times of war (make love not war)
I drink a rum before I drink a rum
and then I drink some more (hey hey hey)
-- The Pyrates Royale, "Drink a Rum", 1999

  • After her recent visit to Washington D.C. with the D.C. Project, Beth reached out to offer firearms training to the representatives in her home state of Alabama. Will anyone take her up on the offer?
  • For Felons Behaving Badly,  Sean takes a closer look at a man arrested for a November shooting.
  • Barron’s back again, this time with a segment about ransomware that isn’t and friends who remind you why you don’t click on unsolicited attachments.
  • For those who have gotten the vapors about Dana Loesch’s nearly three-month-old video about fighting the violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth, Miguel has a simple question for you: Where have you been?
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the first of a three-part interview series, we talk about the church massacre and its aftermath.
  • Tiffany is still on assignment.
  • What is "proprioception?" Erin not only explains it, she pronounces it!
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part two of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for Aiming for Zero.
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 -
Proprioception and Phantom Limbs
I hope that you’ve all been enjoying my segue into into physiological and psychological effects of survival. I realize that this is more abstract than what I usually do for Blue Collar Prepping, but I feel -- and I hope you do as well -- that understanding why we do things will help us prepare for, and ultimately cope with, our reactions when terrible things happen. This segment is really going to dive deeply into those waters, and I hope you’ll stick with me through all the science because there is absolutely a payoff at the end.

Today’s five dollar word is “Proprioception”, and it means “The sense of the position of parts of the body, relative to other neighbouring parts of the body.” If you want a demonstration of this, close your eyes and stick one of your hands out at a random angle. Then, with your eyes still closed, bring your other hand to it.

You didn’t have any trouble finding your hand without seeing it, did you? You knew where your hand was in space and found it immediately. That’s proprioception.

Fun fact: The principle is of “hand finds hand” is why the UZI was designed with a magazine that feeds through the pistol grip. This is why it’s so much more intuitive to load your pistol than it is to load your rifle -- unless, of course, your hand is gripping the magazine well.

This principle of your brain having a map of your body also explains the concept known as “phantom limb”, which is when a missing body part, such as an amputated hand, still feel present. This sensation is often uncomfortable -- sometimes it feels like there’s an itch which needs scratching, or the muscles are cramping -- but the end result is that brain insists the limb is still there and it requires stimulation of sort. Yes, this is another example of “All pain is in our brain” which I detailed last week.

But our brains can also be fooled, and this is the cure for phantom limb pain as well as other symptoms of loss. In 1998, V.S. Ramachandran - a neuroscientist at UC San Diego - conducted a series of experiments where people suffering phantom limb pain from missing hands or arms placed their functioning limb upon a table and then looked at a mirror reflection of that limb. By moving their healthy limb while looking at the mirror image, an illusion of moving the missing limb was created.

6 out of 10 patients said they could actually feel the movement coming from the missing limb! 4 of those could then use that visual feedback to relieve phantom limb pain by stretching, unclenching or otherwise doing whatever action the missing limb craved.

What’s more, you don’t even need to have a missing limb to experience this effect. There’s a trick called The Rubber Hand Illusion whereby participants have their real hand hidden from view and a rubber hand poised in nearly the same position. Both hands, real and rubber, are stroked in exactly the same way at the same time. Eventually the participants began to feel that the rubber hand was their own hand, so that when they were asked to touch their “missing” hand with the working hand, many of them indicated the rubber hand.

In effect, their nervous systems “grew” into the rubber hand, adopting it as their own. This adoption was so strong that when the rubber hand was struck with a hammer, threatened with a burning cigarette, or stabbed with a needle, the subjects actually reacted with fear and pain!

This neatly explains why frequently used objects - be they tools or weapons or even vehicles like cars and aircraft - can feel like part of the user’s body. This is because, to a certain extent, they are. Through constant use and identification of the item as an extension of the user’s will, the nervous system integrates them into its own proprioceptive “body map”.

This raises an interesting question: if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being? And in fact, this is exactly what happens with people we are physically close with. That loss, and coping with it, will be addressed in next week’s segment.

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