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Sunday, August 20, 2017

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

"Pepin & Plasma" sounds like a roleplaying game involving podcasting in the grim future.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return soon.
  • A Charlotte man who led police on chase is charged in Valentine’s Day homicide. Why did he run? Sean looks a little closer.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Miguel puts together a grab bag of thoughts from his Flea Market of Ideas. He talks a little about cops getting denied service because they are armed, about Moms Demand blaming the NRA for car deaths, and about a liberal mugged by the reality of gun control.
  • Our Special Guest this week is competitive shooter and Pro-Arms Podcast hostess Gail Pepin.
  • Tiffany brings her unique perspective to the controversy surrounding the events in Charlottesville, VA.
  • It's just like a woman for Erin to be focused on what people should and shouldn't be wearing in the summer. Her position on white clothing after Labor Day is unclear, but she has some definite thoughts on cotton.
  • NPR held a Round-Table on gun control. Weer’d is here to take on the lies.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the Sparkr Mini by Power Practical.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Clothing for Hot Weather Survival
There’s a saying among campers, hikers and other survival buffs: “Cotton Kills”. This is because cotton loves to absorb moisture but hates to let go of it. In cold weather, if you get your cotton clothes sweaty, or you fall into water, you will likely become hypothermic if you keep them on because they will stay wet and cold -- but if you take them off to dry them out, you will also likely become hypothermic because you won’t have the insulation of clothes on your skin. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Regressive Progressivism: A Case of Friendly Fire

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

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

(Editor's Note: Done.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Templar & the Cloistered Cleric

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

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


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The LGBTQ Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Scrabble Bag of Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Gender As Social Construct" Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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

"Despise not the racketeer. Instead, despise his sport."
  • USCCA held its first ever PolymerPalooza, a unique and fun shooting event! Beth talks about some of their sponsors and products, and what she did there.
  • A man bit and partially severed another man’s nipple. How does that happen? Sean digs in to discover what sort of person would act like this.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We’ve all had that neighbor who’s not quite there. In fact, we’ve seen whole movies that revolve around the 'crazy neighbor' dynamic. But how do you deal with them? Miguel gives us some practical tips borne from 20 years experience with the crazy lady next door.
  • Our Special Guest this week is author and firearms instructor Grant Cunningham. Grant answers the important question: Will competition shooting get you killed on the streets?
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Friend of the show Amy asks, "I drive long distances in hot weather in an older car. What preps should I include for hot weather vehicle survival?" Erin's answer involves cold packs. 
  • NPR interviews the President of the Women’s March to talk about the NRA and its Dana Loesch video, and their bias is showing.  Weer’d takes them on.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the MAG-20  Armed Citizen's Rules of Engagement class in Matthews, NC.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Hot Weather Car Survival
Listener Amy writes in with these timely questions: How should I modify my car prep kit for hot weather? What's the best/safest way to store water in that scenario? I drive 45 miles each way to work, in a fairly unreliable car, so getting stuck is more of a "when" and not an "if."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Recommended View from Salem

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The DM's Lament

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Big GRPC 2017 News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #155 - RINO Hunting

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." - Groucho Marx
  • Beth and her husband went to Shootrite Academy in Alabama. They discuss what it’s like to train as a married couple, and Beth learned an important lesson about defensive pistol use in 101 degree heat.
  • Sean has a doozy of a Felons Behaving Badly segment featuring five, count 'em, FIVE suspects involved in a kidnapping. You're going to need a score card to figure out who is related to whom!
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We're all supposed to grow up, not just grow older, but some people miss the maturity bus. Miguel tells us what to do when you run into an alleged adult who throws a childish temper tantrum in public.
  • Sean went RINO hunting with the pro-gun group Grass Roots North Carolina. There were people dressed in Rhino pajamas, a rhino mask, and more Sergeants-at-Arms than you can shake a pro-gun banner at.
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Erin finishes up her series on Surviving Survival with a double-length segment on successful coping strategies.
  • The One and Only Anti-Gun Podcast brings on a researcher to talk about research and the anti-gun agenda. Weer’d listens so that you don't have to!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Holder
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Surviving Survival
For the past two months, I’ve been talking about what trauma is and why our brains respond it the way that they do, and giving suggestions on how to manage anger, fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. This week I conclude this series by giving general strategies for getting past the traumatic event and getting on with your life. In other words, how to survive the rest of your life once you’ve survived the emergency, tragedy, disaster or trauma. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of yourself, folks.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Arcane Recovery

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

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

Arcane Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Words Have Meaning, So Use the Right Ones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #154 - The Legal Episode

This week we discuss the exciting legal cases Norman vs. Florida, Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, and Kat Von D vs. Dita Von Teese*.

* Sean says I couldn't talk about Dita Von Teese in the intro because we didn't talk about her in the actual podcast, but I showed him!
  • Gun violence!  Beth hates that term. She's going to tell us what's wrong with it, and what we should call it instead.
  • A woman is arrested after robbing a Charlotte bank. Who was she? Sean checks her permanent record.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Miguel talks about Kat Von D, Contract Law, and why letting your politics interfere with doing the right thing is unacceptable.
  • Florida Carry is assisting with one of the next possible Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment, Norman vs. Florida. Here to talk about that case is the lead counsel, Special Guest Eric Friday, of the law firm Kingry & Friday.
  • Tiffany is a busy lady who’s on the move! But even though she’s in an airport about to board her flight, she still takes the time to talk to us about the momentous Wrenn vs District of Columbia decision.
  • Did you know that you can rewrite your brain's conditioned responses to stress? Erin tells us how to hack your brain.
  • When interviewed about Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts piles it high. Weer’d takes on the lies in part two of her interview on the Hellbent Podcast.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the GBVC Radio Group on Facebook. Join us! and subscribe to this podcast on your smartphone!
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 -
Extinguishing Conditioned Responses
Back in June, I talked about PTSD and conditioned responses and I said that the reason so many people have flashbacks after a trauma is because nerve clusters in the brain fired during the event, permanently associating a specific sensory stimulation with the trauma. This week, I’m going to talk about how you can break that pairing.

This first thing you need to understand is that these conditioned responses are perfectly normal, and are in fact deeply rooted in prehistoric survival traits. For example, let’s say that you were attacked by a crocodile while swimming in a lake, and although you managed to survive, your brain now associates the sound of splashing water with a crocodile attack.

This is your brain trying to protect you. It believes that if you stay away from splashing water, then you won’t be attacked by a crocodile again. This makes a fair amount of sense, but unfortunately, not all conditioned responses make such sense. In one instance, a victim of child abuse associated the sound of rattling keys with impending sexual assault, because the keys announced that her father was home.

What is important to keep in mind, though, is that you are not broken or crazy for associating events or having flashbacks; this is your brain trying to warn you of danger to keep you safe. “Learn this to save your life,” your brain is saying.

The next important thing to know is that talking therapy doesn’t help for severe anxiety disorders like PTSD, and can in fact make things worse. In the early days of the Vietnam War, psychologists encouraged veterans to tell their stories, to “get it all out”, in the belief that this would unburden them. The results were catastrophic and resulted in suicides as the veterans were forced to relive the horror over and over. So don’t ever let anyone make you talk about it unless you are 100% ready.

The next step is to realize that if your brain can be programmed, then it can be un-programmed in the same way. Micki Glenn, the victim of a devastating shark attack, was quite understandably terrified of pictures of sharks. To combat this, Micki’s husband put a close-up image of that very shark -- he photographed it before it attacked her  -- on her computer as the screensaver. Every time Micki walked into the room, she had to confront the face of her attacker. This resulted in an anxiety response, but through breathing exercises she would calm herself and then force herself to look at the picture.

Over the course of several weeks, Micki was gradually de-sensitized to images of sharks. She systematically re-wrote a new memory over the traumatic one. This new memory said “Seeing a shark does NOT feel like pain and terror; it feels like walking into my office.” This process is called “extinguishing a conditioned response.”

At Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, there is a sophisticated virtual reality system called CAREN Dome. CAREN stands for Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment, and it helps veterans overcome PTSD from ambushes and IED by replicating a lifelike Iraqi village.

At first, the street is completely clean, with nothing on it that can set off a panic attack. Then the technician starts to add gradual details like people or trash until, eventually, the soldier can comfortably walk down a chaotic street. This process often takes years, but it does work.

Next week, I’ll bring this series to a close as I detail other ways people successfully cope with trauma and learn how to survive their survival.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Grievance of the Clergy

You may recall me saying a few weeks ago that I'm giving AMC's Preacher another shot. I'm current with the series now, and I have been re-reading the comic series over the last few weeks, and I've come to a couple of conclusions and what I certainly hope isn't a breaking point in the series.

As of this past episode, one glaring thing has become startlingly clear as of this last episode, a thing which explains why I dislike Cassidy's character in the television adaptation. Spoilers commence now, so if you're going to catch up on the show, bow out if you mind that sort of thing.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Follow-Up to Yesterday's Post

There has been a LOT of discussion about yesterday's post regarding the "Transgender Military Ban" and some great questions have been asked of me. I've also realized that there are some cases where I either made an assumption for ease of discussion and didn't tell anyone I was assuming, or I didn't go into enough detail on a particular topic. I'll address those points here.

"Comparing being Transgender to a disease or disability is just wrong."

Take it up with the military. If eczema is enough to keep someone out of the military, then it's not difficult to see how the armed forces would view gender dysphoria as a rejectable condition.

Keep in mind that the military has been rejecting people based on physical characteristics for over 200 years. It's going to be extremely difficult to change this, and it won't happen overnight. First you have to change their minds; then you have to get them to change their regulations; then they have to change their way of doing things (that includes logistical chains).

Think the government is slow to do things? Compared to the military, the government is practically mercurial. It's very conservative, and I mean that in both the political sense and the "reluctant to change" sense.

"It seems you are acknowledging that transgendered people are permanently non-deployable. If that is true, than there is no place for them in the military, no matter if we're talking 10 years, 20, or a hundred."

I apologize for being unclear. Perhaps this will clarify things:people who are on hormone replacement therapy are permanently non-deployable given current technology. Advances in medicine, such as an implanted patch which releases hormones for several months, may make the logistical problem a non-issue in the future. 

"Why would trans people be permanently non-deployable? The only reason I could think of would be a hormone requirement, but even if that were the case not all trans people take hormones. It seems like you've conflated 'being transgender' with 'medical transitioning' in terms of assessing deployability."

Again, my apologies for being unclear. The short answer to your question is that the issue isn't being on hormones; the issue is hormone supply and its concurrent logistical hurdles. 

The (much) longer version :
If you've transitioned, you need the hormones for life. Going off them causes the body to start reverting to its prior balance (which can be difficult if you've had your gonads removed) and at the very least this causes such discomfort that the person is rendered combat-ineffective. I am not a doctor, but from discussions with trans friends and from reading on the subject this is somewhere between a bad hangover and a case of the flu. One friend says that after missing her dosage for a week she has low energy, migraines, and brain fog. 

"But Erin, soldiers get sick all the time!" That's true, but 1) they get better or they're medically DQ'd and 2) military infirmaries have a hard enough time keeping proper stocks of basic supplies. One military friend commented "I've been to remote military sites where there is no provision for hot food, toothpaste or toilet paper. Military supplies are prioritized: food, ammo, water (most of the time) and spare parts, if available. Anything extra for just one trooper/Marine means less pallet space for critical items for the entire company, platoon, or fire team." So if they can't keep morphine and anti-malarials in stock, do you think they'll be able to keep hormones that only one person needs? That's an inefficient use of money, space, shipping, etc. 

And all of this assume their hormones are in pill form. If they're injecting their hormones, now you're talking syringes and needles, their safe disposal to prevent biohazard, commander worrying that the syringes can be used for drugs, and so on. 

"But Erin! Not all transgender people go on Hormone Replacement Therapy, let alone have Sexual Reassignment Surgery!" This is also true. But think of this from the perspective of the military, which thrives on paperwork. Which is easier:
  1. Blanket-ban all transgender people
  2. Carve out exceptions which say "OK, you can be trans, but under no circumstances are you allowed to start taking hormones, let alone have surgery, or you'll be medically discharged"
I'm going to go with "blanket ban", because not only are the armed forces are already drowning in paperwork and don't want the added hassle, but also because individual exceptions are pretty much completely the opposite of how the military operates with its "These sizes must fit all" principle.

Furthermore, any organization having that much control over a soldier's body is a lawsuit/pubic relations nightmare just waiting to happen, because it's at the same level as "We'll allow you to to be the first female SEAL, but only if you sign this statement that under no circumstances will you become pregnant." The last time I checked, the military cannot FORCE women to have abortions in order to stay deployable, so neither could they forcibly prevent someone from going on HRT. 

And if they can't prevent that, then that person's career is pretty much going to be a dead-end. To quote another friend, "They'll be competing with their deployable peers for school slots, plum assignments, and promotions - so either 1) you'll have a system where transpeople will be eternally "second class soldiers" because they are prioritized lower (why send someone to Air Assault School or the War College if they are never going to be able to perform the jobs they are being trained for in those assignments?), or 2) other, not permanently non-deployable soldiers will (reasonably) resent losing out on school slots, career-enhancing assignments, and promotions for the sake of advancing the career of someone who can NEVER fully replace those they've stepped over.

If you'd like even more reading material on why this isn't hatred but is rather a logistics and combat-effectiveness concern, click through to Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 for some essays by a Marine and an Army officer who have actual experience with this. 

"Friction was the argument against gay people in the military. But it turned out that service members overwhelmingly didn't care. It looks like that's the trend with the trans people currently serving."

In all of the reading I've done, and all of my personal experience with the subject of Gays In The Military back when it was an issue in the 90s, was that the objections were overwhelmingly of the majority being afraid of the minority. From the mild "I dunno if I feel comfortable sharing a barracks/ shower/ foxhole with them" to the insulting "How can we trust them in combat?" (because, apparently, sexual preference and bravery are somehow intrinsically tied together for men) to the outright scandalous accusations that a gay serviceman would somehow rape, assault or otherwise molest his poor unsuspecting straight brothers in arms, they all came down to "Gay people will misbehave."

The argument I made yesterday about friction is the exact opposite, because I'm worried that transgender troops (the minority) will be harmed by cisgender elements (the majority). I'm not using friction as an argument to keep transgender people out; I'm saying "Let's make sure our military is a safe place for them, because if they're going to risk their lives to protect our country then the least we can do is make sure they aren't going to be harassed, beaten and killed by others in their unit."

Again, if we as a culture are still freaking out over which bathrooms transgender people can use, then we as a culture aren't ready for them on the battlefield. We have to change our culture first, and that won't happen in a year or even a few years. If it takes five, we are extremely lucky. 10 years is far more likely, and 20 years is practically a certainty.

Appendix 1: Logistics from a Marine's POV

I did not write this. It was given to me by a friend of mine, Marine Corporal LaForce. - Erin Palette

In this, I am trying to answer a series of common questions and problems presented by the current standing order of our Commander-in-Chief. By way of introduction, I am a former Marine Veteran who served as a Field Artillery Cannoneer in 1st Battalion, 12th Marines (henceforth 1/12) from 2009 to 2013. They were the most eye-opening and enriching years of my life. In many ways they defined the man I finally have become and set the bar for what I try to be. Currently, I’m a student in my junior year of college seeking an English degree. I am also an amateur historian and somebody who loves to find answers. After watching several arguments unfold yesterday in the wake of the White House’s announcement, I started looking for answers and trying to formulate a statement on how and why this all makes sense. After 3 hours and 27 minutes of writing, here it is.

I am going to begin with budget. Some have said “But it’s only 1% of the budget!” Each year’s budget is decided on in advance, and once funds are distributed they can not be reassigned or apportioned without high-level signing off along the way. A Marine's unit operates on such funds. If he is to be deployed, funds would have to be specifically set aside for not only that, but all terrain-specific and mission specific gear. I checked with my buddies in supply about that one and per man, that comes to roughly $5,000. As an example, Master Sergeant Coca made sure to request and obtain nearly 600 pairs of steel-toe capped Danners, enough for every 0811 in 1/12th Marines to have one pair. That’s $350 on one pair of boots. I wore them every day for 7 months. By the time we came home they were separating from the sole and had to be thrown away. $350 high quality boots used and discarded like a stolen mule. This gear is sent out with the expectation that it’s not coming back.

Take a standard size battalion of 800 Marines and sailors. Multiply by 5,000. That’s $4,000,000 in gear out the gate, and you’re expecting it to all get used past the point of being recoverable for another unit to use.

Next comes training: bullets for live-fire training, fuel for vehicles to maneuver. Marine Corps Reference Publication (MCRP) 5-12D, dated 13 October 1998, gives us these figures for weapons loadout of an infantry battalion.

Weapons for Three Rifle Companies
  • M9 9mm pistol, 245
  • M16A2 rifle, 645
  • M249 SAW, 81
  • M240G machine gun, 29
  • M2 .50-cal machine gun, 6
Now let me break this down in terms of cost for each of the cartridge-fed weapon systems, to wit the M16, the M9, the M249, the M240 and the M2.

  • 1 Case of 1,600 rounds 5.56x45 Federal M855 from Lake City on costs $715. That accounts for everybody with an M16. Each man in the battalion could easily shoot a quarter of that in 45 days of maneuvers without real difficulty. That’s $115,293.75 just for the M16s.
  • Lake City Belted 5.56x45 is used for the M249 SAW. My last field op where I carried a SAW, I was given 4 belts, or 800 rounds. That’s $456 for 4 belts of SAW ammo on 1 man. $36,936
  • 9mm Parabellum by Federal in FMJ is $280 per case of 1,000 and figure 3 magazine per M9. Go with 12 cases of ammo. That’s $3,360.
  • .50 BMG loadout is typically 400 rounds per system, and those run $250 per 100-round belt. $6,000.
  • 7.61x51mm for the 240s is 600 rounds per system. They come in cans of 200 at $165 per can. Total for that is $14,355.

Are we starting to see how this adds up? Just training stocks is expensive. Bulk fuel runs $3.73 a gallon. A line infantry unit under the previous specifications would’ve had 41 Humvees, which are 25 gallons capacity apiece. 1025 gallons per vehicle, maneuvering for 30 days (they need to be topped off every other day) means 15 refuelings for $57,349, and that’s without trying to get real crazy. And if you think that’s bad, go check an artillery battalion further along in the manual - they have 58 5-ton trucks!

All of this adds up very quickly. It's just under $4,250,000 and the battalion hasn’t even left for Afghanistan yet. How many infantry battalions does the USMC have? 32 active and reserve battalions. By the time I went to Afghanistan, they tried to keep the deployment schedule such that only 3 battalions of infantry from a single division were forward deployed at one time.

What means is that every 5 months, a battalion was being readied to go from each regiment. 1/1, 1/5, 1/7 go to Twentynine Palms for Mojave Viper in February. 1 April they deploy to Afghanistan. They will be home approximately 10 November. By 1 August 2/1, 2/5 and 2/7 will all be at Mojave Viper. 15 October they will deploy to Afghanistan. Assuming nothing crazy occurs (for the sake of the model), they will be home by 30 March. That is $25,500,000 spent on training and gear, in a single calendar year. And you cannot expect that any of the gear which the first 3 battalions bring back from downrange is going to be serviceable or usable. You must expect that 12 million investment is all used up. So when the 3rd battalions from each regiment start their preparations in January of the following year, they will also need to buy entirely new gear, with no hand-me downs.

Now multiply this by 2 divisions - 25.5 million to 1st Marines, 25.5 million to 2nd Marines and 17 Million to 3rd Marines (which has only 2 infantry regiments). You’ve now spent 68 million dollars in gear, ammunition, and fuel to get a unit it’s final workups for deployment. Meanwhile, you will do more than one field op in a 6-month workup, especially if you’re at Pendleton or Twentynine Palms. That $250,000 for one battalion in the field at a time? That can be spent 4 times on 30-day ops, over a 6-month period without any trouble. $1,000,000, multiplied by 8 active duty battalions all out in the field doing that grunt thing at once, is 8 million dollars in 6 months, which drives the price tag some more.

What haven’t we included in this? Toilet paper, spare parts, replacement parts, medical needs, all the little stuff that makes a battalion of Marines function and work like it is supposed to. How about chow? Marines need to eat, and in the field, it is not unreasonable to need to consume in excess of 2500 calories per day. $300 (roughly) per man, per month in the field. 8 battalions out at once puts that at $1,920,000. Multiply by 4 (30-day field ops) and you get $7,680,000.

How about pay for those guys? Pay is important, because when the grunts come in from the field, they’re going to want real food, real drinks, and probably go find attractive company to enjoy the weekend with. Should they lack pay for some reason, expect problems. Armed problems. Clement VII can tell you how well things go when your very capable troops don’t get paid.

All of these numbers continue to add up, and suddenly we’re talking very real money. This is where we come to a hard fact of life: there is never enough money. We do not live in a perfect world. There is never enough money to spend on fuel, bullets, food, and all those thousands of items so necessary to properly train professional soldiers to wage war upon the enemies of this nation. I served 1 ½ years in a National Guard unit in Northern Utah. It was an artillery battery which was so low on funds they could only afford to operate 4 of their 6 Paladin tracks at a single time. They were hard on gear accountability because they simply could not afford to lose any of it if at all possible. Short of extreme circumstances, if your gear became unserviceable, you were paying for it, and that can really hurt.

Try losing just the stupid parts to the flak vest and see how much that hurts. Supply will make you purchase a whole new system to replace that one measly stupid part. How do I know? PFC LaForce learned the hard way on account of a throat protector. $2,000 is a lot of money to charge a PFC in 2010 for a whole brand new flak jacket he’ll never even get to wear because the manufacturer was so backed up that ordering single pieces of gear was impossible when the production line had a 3-year backlog to fill!

As part of the battalion Administration section post-deployment, I got to see this play out as 1/12 Marines returning to America were told that they had missing gear to account for. They’d been hit with IEDs, and that gear had quite literally gone missing between an IED blast and their trip via helicopter to a hospital where medical personnel worked to save their life. You’d think that signing their gear as “lost in combat” would have happened right? Not under that battalion commander. Here’s your purple heart, you owe $500 for a gas mask.

So that’s the material, supply side of things, but it’s not the logistical. Everything which gets shipped downrange, from beans to toilet paper, has to be accounted for. It has to fit inside conex shipping containers, helicopters, and on the back of trucks. How many rolls of toilet paper we can carry is weighed against the number of pallets of 5.56 ammo versus new socks for the grunts versus mail, versus grenades, versus howitzer shells, versus tents, versus generators, versus bulk fuel bladders, versus everything.

Everything has a price and a cost affixed in terms of "Can it be carried and brought along this time." Everything has a priority. If medicine is coming along, we have to make sure it stays properly stored (for certain items) because if they’re supposed to be refrigerated and the fridge breaks mid transit between Ramstein Air Base and Camp Leatherneck, we just wasted several thousand dollars and a whole lot of time moving it. Diabetics who need insulin cannot be deployed because of exactly this logistic constraint. After checking with a trans woman, I now know that the hormone therapy has to continue for the rest of her life. Please tell me how those items are going to be stored and moved and what will have to be displaced to make room for them?
On the personnel side, we must consider the standard enlistment contract: 4 years active duty, 4 years Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). If Reassignment surgery takes place 18 months into an enlistment and they’re going to be undergoing intensive hormone therapy which makes them non-deployable for the next several months, what has the US Taxpayer gotten from their investment into that person becoming a US Marine? Nothing. They will instead have to be removed from their unit in order to make room for somebody who can deploy. And personnel are a premium. When I left 1/12, many of our 18 guns were down to 5 Marines including the chief, which is the bare minimum allowable to fire under combat conditions. Regulations allow for up to 10 plus the chief. Think about what this does for morale and good order and discipline, because the same workload exists in total, whether you’ve got 10 guys or 4.

Some have suggested this is exactly the same as women in the military, or colored folks (like me) coming into the service. They would be wrong. All jokes aside, there is nothing physiologically different between a white man and a black man. One could make an argument about the skinny Asian stereotype, but Sergeant Yan was one stocky man. (Ain’t nobody who could accuse him of being weak. I darn sure didn’t.) A black man in good shape can perform the same duties as a white man, same with Latinos, Asians, Polynesians, et cetera.
If we wish to discuss gender though, there are physiological differences between genders, which is why women have a different PT test scoring matrix. Will a trans woman be able to pass a female PT Test? Yes. If we flip that around ,though, I very seriously doubt a trans man would pass the Male PT test because they lack the benefit of 18+ years of male hormones and musculo-skeletal development which create the male body.

That’s just the PT test though. What about daily duties? In an infantry unit, this involves marching with heavy loads and fighting when you get there. In the artillery, this involves an extreme of upper body strength, as 155mm shells weigh 100 pounds or more and our towed tubes are in excess of 9,000 pounds. Capable of 6 rounds a minute rapid fire, 4 rounds a minute sustained. In a single Final Protective Fires mission, we did 25 rounds before the Fire Direction Center called for "cease loading". Our platoon sergeant was walking the gun line and had arrived on Gun 6 just minutes before the mission came down, and Staff Sergeant Boughton jumped in alongside the ammo team humping rounds from the ammo truck to the gun. By the time we finished he was soaked with sweat.. in January... at Twentynine Palms, Californa. He looked like he’d taken a bath in his utilities.

“Israel has a coed unit! The US Navy has coed ships!” Yes they do. They also have different circumstances, wherein we run up against a different problem. Israel’s Caracal unit is 70% female. In an 800-person unit, this accounts for 560 women, 240 men. They are an infantry unit, therefore they go out and do infantry things. Of that 560, how many are unfit for full duty at any given time?

35%, which is 196 personnel. Nearly an entire company's worth of personnel are non-deployable at any given time. It only takes 15% losses before a unit is combat ineffective. The Caracal battalion is entirely unusable before it even leaves a staging area. That is not a slight against those women, it is not to say that they are less patriotic or less deserving of respect. But those physiological differences are huge.

 A study conducted by an army physical therapist determined that women are evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq at better than 2:1 compared to men. And these are men out on patrols, on route clearance, performing fire missions and kicking in doors! That’s the toll that military service takes on a body. Men handle it better... but only for a time. Grunt units have low reenlistment rates for this very reason as bad knees, bad feet, bad back and inches of spinal compression are not uncommon.

In the US Navy, carriers fluctuate between 40% to 50% of their female personnel leaving the boat before the cruise is over due to pregnancy. Not injury, pregnancy. They are removed from the ship and returned to a stateside naval base. The cost of this last year came to a grand total of $173 million dollars, which is the equivalent of sending every single active duty infantry battalion in the USMC to Afghanistan with full equipment after proper training, spent just on bringing pregnant female personnel off the carrier. And no, replacement sailors are not sent out. Current policy does not allow for that, which is how you can go from 6 sailors in a ship’s division manning the guns aboard an Arleigh Burke Destroyer to 2 in a matter of 3 months at sea, and their workload steadily increasing every week. That’s a problem for which there are no good win-win answers, and it is every bit as problematic for all involved as the questions about trans personnel.

Notice what was never brought up in all this? Any slander against trans folks, colored folks like me, or women. Why? Because it’s unnecessary. Trans folks aren’t awful or bad anymore than I’m awful or bad for being Hawaiian.

I keep seeing reports of atrocities taking place against the LGBT community in various countries and frankly, it irks me. As a practicing Mormon, I believe all people, regardless of their choices, to be children of God. I’ve never seen anywhere in the religious text which my church uses any language which suggest that there is justification for an imam-inspired mob throwing a man off a roof simply because he’s gay. There is no reason why Chechen police should be rounding up gays, lesbians and transsexuals into concentration camps or Russia imprisoning a band who supports gay rights. Such behavior is anathema to what we profess and believe as Americans. At times we may trip, we may stumble (Lord knows Mormon history is replete with examples of how badly we got screwed over by government - thanks, Lilburn Boggs and Martin Van Buren), but as Americans we have a will to try and be great.

What we are faced with is a problem which can only be overcome through science and the continued pursuit of knowledge. But until that day comes, we can not in good conscience do other than what our Commander-in-Chief has stated is now the official position of the United States Government. Because if our martial forces cannot win wars, we will cease to exist as a country, and the rights we enjoy right now disappear.

If we wish to have a military capable of protecting us at all times, and in all places, we must be willing to have one which is full of the best trained, best equipped, best led professional soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the planet. It cannot be done any other way.

The Fine Print

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