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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Devil is in the Details

Since people are asking me for details regarding the abrupt cancellation of the "One Aim: Safety for Everyone!" seminar by the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, I might as well make a post about it so I don't have to keep re-typing the information.

I first contacted the First Congregational Church of Winter Park (hereafter FCCWP) on Friday, May 12 with the following message:
Subject: May we hold a seminar at your church?

Hello! I found you listed on prosuzy.com as an LGBTQ-friendly church.

My name is Erin Palette, and I run Operation Blazing Sword, a 501c3 charity founded in the wake of the Pulse massacre and whose purpose is to teach safety to the LGBTQ community and prevent similar tragedies.

With the 1 year anniversary of Pulse coming up, my organization wants to hold a seminar called "ONE AIM - Safety For Everyone!" and we need a venue in which to host it. Would you be willing to donate the use of your sanctuary or fellowship hall for such an event?

The seminar will begin with First Responders explaining what they can offer to the community that may help to prevent a future tragedy (for example, the Fire Dept offers free CPR training, the Police Dept offers a confidential hotline to report "see something, say something" , etc). Then our key speaker, Mr. Rommell Scalf, will do a 90 minute presentation on what to do in a situation similar to Pulse: using cover & concealment in event of attack; fight or flight options; using available items as barriers/weapons; how the Police & SWAT are being trained and how to behave when they arrive; basic & trauma first aid to wounded; and similar. The seminar will be given for free (again, we are a nonprofit) but there will be a jar for charitable donations.

We would like to hold the seminar on Saturday, June 17, sometime in the afternoon. All we need is the use of a sanctuary or fellowship hall for approximately 2 hours, and access to your kitchen (if any) to prepare coffee and snacks. We will of course buy all the food items ourselves and will clean up afterwards.

Will you help us?

FCCWP replied on Monday, May 15th:
Erin,

We would love to host this event!

I will need to know the times on Saturday, June 17, so I can block out the time.

Will this be open to everyone? (i.e., can we put it in our bulletin and let our congregation know?)

Will you need technical stuff?!

How many people would you expect? That will depend on the Sanctuary or FH?

Mary Joe Searl
Administrator
First Congregational Church of Winter Park
United Church of Christ

Then there followed some emails where we hashed out the requirements, how long it would take, etc. When it was all worked out, FCCWP responded with:
Everything is doable.

Our next email blast - for the month of June goes out around May 30. So timing is perfect.

I will make sure it is in the bulletin.

So far, so good. I handed off the specifics of the seminar to Jo Martin, head of Pink Pistols of Central Florida, who drove out to FCCWP on Monday, May 22nd (a week later) to meet with Mary Joe face to face and to inspect the facilities. Everything went well, and Jo was happy with what she saw.

As soon as I knew she was happy, I created flyers for the seminar and made a public announcement.

Yesterday, Tuesday May 30th, I received the email from FCCWP where they rescinded permission for us to use their faculties. For those keeping track, that was two weeks after we had been given permission to use their faculties, and one week after we'd had a face-to-face meeting. To reiterate what I said yesterday, while I acknowledge that the First Congregational Church of Winter Park has the right to rescind their invitation, I was hurt and taken by surprise by their sudden announcement. It would not have been an issue if they had rejected us on the 15th; however, changing their minds two weeks after they said yes (and two weeks before the event was scheduled) strikes me as deeply unprofessional.

Now, there are two ways this could have happened. The first is that Mary Joe did not do her due diligence in inspecting who we are, gave her permission, and then noticed (or someone else noticed) that both Operation Blazing Sword and Pink Pistols held political beliefs that FCCWP felt were antithetical to its mission.*

The other option is that someone on the church council noticed what was going on (probably while composing their monthly email blast), looked us up, and quickly brought it before the church council to vote on whether or not our political positions tainted what we did. I personally think it was the latter, because you will note that the rejection letter was not penned by Mary Joe, Church Administrator, but by Philip O. Toal, Moderator, Church Council.

The final kick in the ribs is the email message which accompanied the PDF of the rejection letter:


Do you see an email address for the Moderator in that email? I don't. Nor do I see one in the rejection letter, reprinted here for your convenience:


So any questions must be directed to a Moderator, whose contact information is not given. This sounds like a very distinct "Go away and do not contact us ever again" to me.

Now I am scrambling to find a new venue that
  1. has the facilities for a presentation;
  2. does not cost an outrageous amount;
  3. and is welcoming to both LGBTQ and straight/cis members of the community.
And I need to get ALL THIS DONE before I can make new flyers, and those flyers have to be out and in the community before June 17th -- if indeed we can still make that date work. A new venue might require a different day, or time, or both. 


We currently have some leads, but so far there is nothing solid. And we need to get a new venue ASAP, because I truly doubt that FCCWP will refer reservations to us; I rather expect they will tell people "I'm sorry, we aren't hosting that event" and hang up.

And that's all the info that I have right now.



*This is despite the fact that both Jo Martin and myself went to extreme lengths to avoid even SAYING the word "gun". If you read my initial letter, you will note that the seminar is based upon the "Hide, Run, Fight" model and NOT firearms training.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Heart Is Broken

I received this email today:

While I acknowledge that the First Congregational Church of Winter Park has the right to rescind their invitation, I am heartbroken that they have chosen to break faith with us in such a sudden and unexpected manner. (They gave us permission to use their facilities on May 15th; our announcements went out on May 24th.)

I am heartbroken that a church believes that a seminar on Active Shooter Survival Techniques must be canceled because the entities sponsoring it have stances that the church finds distasteful.

I am heartbroken that a church can somehow find armed self-defense distasteful, when Jesus Himself told His disciples in the Gospel of Luke "and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."

I am heartbroken because now, unless a miracle occurs, the community is deprived of a free seminar on safety that could potentially save lives.

I am heartbroken because politics has gotten in the way of something good.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Spontaneous Casters in Pathfinder

I have a weird relationship with spontaneous casters in Pathfinder: on the one hand, I think they're nifty; on the other hand, I think making spontaneous magic dependent upon the Charisma stat of the caster is one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

I mean, I get that Bards are charisma casters...
... I'm not arguing that they shouldn't be. I am in fact totally on board with having Bards and Skalds use Charisma as their spellcasting attribute, because being charismatic is what those classes are all about. They've essentially learned how to weaponize "being charming".

I'm just saying that I don't see why Sorcerers use charisma when Wizards who have the same damn spell list use intelligence. Furthermore, Sorcerers are intuitive casters; they just use inherent talent to will magic into existence rather than learned knowledge or skill. Which attribute handles intuition? It's certainly not Charisma! No, it's Wisdom, which is also the basis for Will Saves and therefore directly measures willpower. 

Honestly, if I had my way, Sorcerers would use Wisdom -- but that's the stat which Divine casters use. Does that mean Divine casters ought to be spontaneous casters, too? If someone wanted to play a regular cleric who prepares spells in the morning, should that mean they use Intelligence? And it goes around and around my skull like this for a while until I can't take it anymore, and I just give up.


I don't know why I can't just accept things as they are. This just BUGS me, and I can't let it go, but I can't figure out a way to fix things.

At this point, the only way I can think to make this work without inventing and entirely new stat whole cloth would be to make a spontaneous caster's class level the spellcasting attribute, as character level = character growth and the increased puissance that comes from practice. However, this would horribly hose those classes, because other classes use their key attribute to get bonus spells, set the level for resisting effect, overcoming spell resistance, etc.

The easiest solution would be to just eliminate Sorcerers and Oracles altogether, but I don't like that option either.

ARRGH. Help, please.



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #145 - Crossing State Lines


Despite the great time they had in Atlanta, neither Beth nor Erin violated the Mann Act in the creation of this podcast.

(Fun fact: there is a Mann Act, there is an Elkins Act, and there is a Mann-Elkins Act. They all have to do with interstate shipping, but only one deals with debauchery.)

  • Beth and Erin attended the First Annual Meet and Mingle for Women in the Firearms Industry last weekend. What did they do, who did they meet, and what's it all about? They'll tell you in a joint Blue Collar Prepping/Pacifiers & Peacemakers segment. 
  • He was in jail awaiting federal firearms charges and needed bail. So what did he do? He talked his wife and his mother into pimping out underage girls across state lines, that's what. Sean takes a closer look at this prince among men.
  • Miguel digs into his pile of books to pull out the one he thinks is the most important for anyone who carries a gun for self defense.
  • Barron takes a few minutes while on break at work to record a quick segment about the need for offline backups in an era of ransomware.
  • In the Main Topic, we welcome Special Guest Tony Simon of The Second is For Everyone Diversity Shoot.
  • Tiffany is still recovering from her surgery, so she records us a short segment to tell us why she can't record a segment.
  • You saw the photos from the Moms Demand protest at the NRA Annual Meeting. You had to know that Weer'd would be doing an Audio Fisk of the participants, right?
  • And our plug of the week is for Operation Blazing Sword's first public event, "One Aim: Safety for Everyone!"
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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

When Should It Have Ended?

People who follow me on der Lederhosen are no doubt aware that I have been critical of the past few seasons of Arrow.  (Having finished this season, my thoughts are "I'm actually insulted by the season finale. I'm only sticking around long enough to see who lived in but bullshit cliffhanger -- probably everyone -- and then unless I'm given a damn good reason, I'm out.")

With that in mind, let's play a little game called When Should They Have Ended The Series?

Series I Have Watched
Arrow: At the end of season 3, when -- for the first and only time -- Oliver and Felicity are happy, driving off into the sunset. Not only is it a happy ending, but there are NO dangling plot threads to be resolved!

Babylon 5:  Season 4, with the season 5 season finale as the series finale. Admittedly, there is lots of good stuff in s5, but the season was slow to start (what with having tied up all the plot threads at the end of s4, thinking they wouldn't get renewed) and did we really need Byron the angsty telepath?

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3, episode 4. This is right after the fleet has escaped from Cylon captivity on New Caprica, but before the start of "Starbuck kills herself, then inexplicably comes back" and "Part of the crew are secretly Cylon". Yes, plots are never resolved this way, but to be honest, some of them (Starbuck) were never resolved anyway. 

Blindspot: 10-15 minutes before the end of the s2 finale, when they've wrapped everything up but before they introduce the "2 years later" lead-in to next season. (I am aware this is a bit presumptuous as s3 hasn't even aired yet, but the lead-in to next season just screams "Bullshit relationship drama between Jane and Kurt."  And the magical DNA box & glowing tattoos just peg my WTF meter.)

CSI: Season 8 episode 7, with Sarah leaving the show. She joined the show in the first episode, so her leaving the show is a natural end point. 

Chuck: At the end of season 4. Again, loose ends are tied up and everyone is happy. 

Flash: I really want to like this show, but honestly I don't think I can take more grimdark. I loved the first season but I don't think I can take more gloom and doom.

Heroes: The end of season 1. I don't think anyone will dispute this. 

Highlander: I never finished this series because when it aired in the 90s it was syndicated, and the channel it was on decided to move its schedule around and air it in the middle of the night. That said, either the end of season 3 (resolving the Kalas plotline) or the first episode of season 4 (where Duncan returns home to Scotland) make a good end for the series. 

Lost: Considering the hot mess that this series became and how damn near every plot line was entangled with every other plot, I'm not sure there was ever a good place to end it short of "Never start watching in the first place".

Mythbusters: Whenever the build team left (end of season 11, I think?), because their departure seemed to suck all the joy from the show. 

Sleepy Hollow: Season 2, epsiode 11, "Akeda", aka the midseason finale. It wraps up the entire Moloch storyline and neatly avoids all the Katrina crap. 

Warehouse 13: Certainly no later than s5e1, which wraps up the previous season's cliffhanger without delving into the ridiculous "Myka and Pete are suddenly in love, just to make the shippers happy) and quite possibly sooner.


Series I Haven't Watched, But Have Been Told Went On Too Long
These suggestions aren't from me. 

24: Season 1. 

Gargoyles: Season 3. 

Millennium: The second season ended very apocalyptically. It should have ended with "Did the world end or not?"

Prison Break: The end of season 2. 

Sons of Anarchy: Season 3. They should have dumped the ridiculous Oirish side-quest and moved the major plot points from seasons 4-7 (which we all saw coming about three episodes into the show) up instead.

Supernatural: Season 5. They stopped Lucifer and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Heroic self-sacrifice. Natural conclusion. Cut the scene of Sam watching Dean and you have a wonderful 5 season arc.

The X-Files: Season 7. 


What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gotham Rain: Chapter 3

Interlude - 

The Titan formula is metabolizing in the Joker's bloodstream, and he's back down to his normal lithe figure. The medical teams called in by the GCPD have been stabilizing him, but haven't bothered to give him anything for the pain caused by the stress of his body gaining and losing significant mass in such a short period of time. Batman has left the island after picking up an emergency call about Two-Face robbing a bank, leaving Commissioner Gordon in charge of the clean-up. Joker is strapped to a stretcher, with a portable monitor reading his vitals. He's twitching every now and then and making strangled groaning sounds, and his eyes are darting about the place. 

- End Interlude
     Harley Quinn is stronger than she looks, and Poison Ivy is heavier than she looks. That being said, it's taken Harley almost an hour to haul Ivy out of Arkham's penitentiary building. Picking her way the rubble on her own would have been easy given her acrobatic skill, but with Ivy barely conscious at best it's slow going. Ivy has been unresponsive for the last 20 minutes, and Harley has struggled to climb over the wreckage with her in a fireman's carry.

     "Jeez, Pammy, you'd think someone that's half plant would be a little lighter. Lay off the tree trunk why don'tcha?" Harley muttered to herself as she cleared the last of the rubble and entered the main lobby. She poked her head around the corner, spotting two police officers near the exit. She gently set Ivy down against the wall and considered her options. Better play this one quiet, she thought, after all, it's not just my butt on the line here. 

     Harley spotted a chunk of plaster that had fallen from the wall, and scooped it up. She edged her way to the very corner of the hallway, eyeballing the cops. Winding up, she flung the plaster over their heads in an arc that landed it noisily in the opposite hallway. The two GCPD officers jumped and drew their weapons, nervously peering into the darkness of the hallway. One of them started to move towards it, and Harley slipped out of the shadows. She measured up the one still standing closest the exit before moving in and catching him in a sleeper hold with her hand over his mouth. "Shhhh," she whispered, lowering him to the ground as her sharp forearm cut off the blood to his brain. She couldn't help but emit a little giggle as he went slack in her arms.


     "You say something, Pete?" the other officer asked, afraid to take his eyes off the hallway, his imagination racing at what manner of lunatic might come barreling out of it at him. He never saw Harley taking the gun from the fallen officer. She crept up behind him and pistol whipped him hard, dropping him to his knees, before hitting him again and again. When he stopped moving, she took his gun as well, slipping them into the belt in the nurse's costume she'd appropriated for Joker. Leaving the officers, she returned to Ivy, who was just opening her eyes again.

     "Harley? Where are we?" Ivy rasped. Harley didn't answer, grabbing Ivy by the shoulders and slipping under one. They staggered through the lobby and out the front door of the penitentiary. The Arkham penitentiary is close to the docks, on the Southwest side of the island, where the docks are located. Harley took a hard right once through the main doors and headed for the stairs that led down to the docks when something caught her eye.


     She nearly dropped Ivy as she ran to the railings and clutched them desperately. "No... Mister J..." she whispered as she saw him strapped to the gurney and being loaded onto a GCPD boat. The last GCPD boat. Harley hadn't been there when Joker had pumped himself full of the mutated venom that Bane had used, so she didn't see the monstrous form that he'd faced Batman with and still lost. All she saw was a husk of the man that she loved, strapped down in restraints and being loaded onto a boat with medical personnel and equipment. "What'd Batsy do to you, puddin?" she whispered, as she sank down next to Ivy.

     Ivy turned her head with some effort and spoke lucidly for the first time since rescuing Harley. "Harley, we've got to go. This island isn't safe, and there's nothing here for us now," she said, looking at Harley intently.

     Harley answered back, "There's no boats. There's no... no point. They've got him."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One Aim: Safety For Everyone!

Operation Blazing Sword, in cooperation with the Central Florida Chapter of the Pink Pistols, is pleased to announce a FREE community seminar called "One Aim: Safety For Everyone!"

The seminar will begin with First Responders explaining what skills and training they can offer the community, such as First Aid and CPR classes, that will be helpful in any emergency situation. Keynote speakers Mr. Rommel Scalf and Mr. Steve Burnette will then give a 90 minute presentation titled “Active Shooter Survival Techniques”.

The seminar will be held on Saturday, June 17th, at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, FL and begins at 1 pm.

We expect seats to fill up rapidly, so email fccwp@fccwp.org and make your reservation today!


Update

Apparently we are now at the time of year in Florida when we have thunderstorms every afternoon.

This is relevant because due to my allergies I have constant sinus congestion, which means that every time the atmospheric pressure changes (such as, y'know, when a storm front moves in or out) the pressure inside my skull tries to equalize but can't, which results in painful headaches.

This ought to offer an explanation for my lack of posting over the last few days. Also, ow.

I'm going to try to write some catch-up posts while I'm feeling well enough to think. The first one is a pretty big Operation Blazing Sword announcement that deserves its own entry.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #144 - The Gross






"A dozen, a gross, and a score,
Plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Is nine squared and not a bit more."

-- Leigh Mercer, wordplay master and recreational mathematician (1948)
  • Do you get Holster Funk? Beth tells you how to avoid it while carrying in the hot, humid South.
  • Sell stolen guns and hold people at gunpoint? Momma might have something to say about that. Who got shot? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment this week.
  • They say “Choose your friends well, for your enemies will choose you.” Miguel shines a bright light on those who have chosen us, and what he sees will shock you.
  • In the Main Topic we welcome Special Guest Gail Pepin of the Massad Ayoob Group and the Pro Arms Podcast.
  • How do you answer when people ask you "Just how many guns do you really need?" Two-Gun Tiffany gives us her answer.
  • After last week's fungal infection segment, Erin follows up with some creams and ointments that every prepper should have.
  • A State legislator opens a stand to sell lemonade, cookies... and an AK-47, because he objects to citizens selling their property without government permission. Weer'd points and laughs.
  • And our plug of the week is for Carolina Ceramic Coatings.
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:

Useful Creams and Ointments
Last week’s segment about athlete’s foot was unexpectedly popular! I received many replies about it, specifically in terms of home remedies. More than one listener reported that urinating on their feet in the shower cured their athlete’s foot. Other popular suggestions were soaking the feet in vinegar, or a 50/50 solution of tea tree oil and water, or my personal favorite because it didn’t require expensive components, "one tablespoon bleach to a half gallon of warm water for 15 minutes. Then rubbing the feet with olive oil after drying." I’m going to have to try that last one.

Also, I want to give a shout-out to listener Steven Bonaparte, who asked me if I meant Gold Bond medicated body powder, or if there was a special non-medicated version I was talking about. The answer of course is “I screwed up; I meant medicated. There is however an extra-strength version if you want that -- although not in handy travel size -- but there is no non-medicated version. Sorry! I derped!”

So on to today’s topic. I’ve already talked about how necessary it is to have body powder and antifungal cream in a bug out or get home bag, but there are other creams and ointments and deserve a place in your kit. Since we’re already talking about itchy feet, the logical place to begin is with an anti-itch cream. I like Cortisone-10 Maximum Strength, because it tames the itch of my athlete’s foot when the antifungal isn’t enough, but any 1% hydrocortisone cream will do. You can find it in any supermarket or drug store for around $5.

Itching isn’t the only kind of pain out there, and you really don’t want wounds to get infected in an emergency, so you’ll also want a combination pain relief and antibiotic ointment. I really like Neosporin with pain relief, which you can get for around $7 at any supermarket, but the words you’re looking for are “triple antibiotic” and “pain relief.” I know from personal experience that this works on things like rashes and sun burns.

But what if you have pain in the mouth? Not to worry, any 20% Benzocaine oral pain reliever will work. Not only will it soothe cold sores and fever blisters, but it will also help if you have a pain in your tooth and you can’t make it to the dentist immediately. A half ounce tube costs around $6, and you can get it from any supermarket. Sensing a pattern here?

Speaking of cold sores - soothing the pain is great, but when you get an outbreak, those little bastards will just NOT go away. I’ve found that the best way to get rid of them is to use Herpecin L, which not only removes the discomfort but also speeds the healing. It also serves as 30 SPF sunblock. A tube costs around $4 and you can get it in the medicine aisle.

All right, you’re all set for skin pain, but what about deep muscle and joint pain? Get your cheap jokes ready because I’m about to recommend BEN GAY. Yes, it’s stinky, and yes, it has a silly name, but when you’ve got an ache deep inside you, nothing hits the spot like Ultra Strength Ben Gay and the pleasant burn that hurts so good. There are probably other good pain relievers out there, but I just like saying BEN GAY. A 4-ounce tube costs $6 and, again, can be found at the supermarket.

Finally, keep an eye on your medications, especially if you keep them in the car where it’s hot. When they reach their expiration date, don’t throw them away; just cycle them out of your bug out or get home bag and put them in the medicine cabinet where they will be used soon. Medicines within a year or two of their expiration date aren’t bad; they’re just less effective. So keep the effective stuff in your kit for an emergency!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Doctor Who: Down The Rabbit Hole

There is seriously no way I can discuss this episode without going into spoiler territory. This is the only warning you get. Anything past here and you risk spoilers. If you want the non-spoiler version, here it is: This episode is good. Very good. And you should go watch it, right now.

Elon Musk has posited before that there's a very good chance that we're all living in a highly sophisticated simulation during a talk. I've included an embedded link to a relevant video below, as the themes of this episode tie very closely into that theory. The misdirection and slight visual cues this episode uses to link that theory and give us clues begin with the opening title and continue at strategic points throughout the episode, until the moment where (with some great deal of satisfaction on my part) Narwhal is literally removed from existence. I suppose you could say that this is the first episode in which he doesn't appear at all, technically speaking. Which also explains why he was so much less annoying than usual.



Also, a tip of the hat to Stephen Moffat, who has finally justified the Sonic Sunglasses in my mind. In the Doctor's current blind state, the sunglasses provide him some form of mobility and sense, not quite on par with, say, Daredevil, but definitely in the same vein, as well as the perfect Chekhov's gun in the form of an electronic recording to send to himself. Well, his real self. Which we see happen in the beginning, but the interruption of the title sequence acts as a misdirection to pull our attention away from the giant EXTREMIS display.

Being a gamer myself, I was fascinated by this episode, and the usage of Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario Bros as analogy to explain to Bill what's going on was quite apt. Subroutines advanced enough to realize that they are in fact subroutines and not flesh and blood rebel against the simulation and "glitch." Having played quite a few games in my lifetime, I've seen a number of instances where an artificial intelligence for an non-player character will act in a manner seemingly outside of its programming. One can't help but wonder if it's some crude version of this happening. As for the Veritas itself, can this be the explanation of game-breaking bugs? An NPC realizing during the coding process that it's not real and sabotaging the code to the point that the game cannot be completed?

Harry Potter is blasphemy. Twelve said so.
This episode was very clever. It's full of little callbacks, references, visual cues, red herrings, and other such things that are meant to lead you to the conclusion while at the same time leading you away from it. It was the first time this year I wasn't just watching and was actively trying to figure out what was going on. There's occasionally digital artifacting that happens after the Doctor activates the Extremis file. The Pope traveling in person, which the Doctor remarks upon. Bill's outfit, as seen above, actually being modern and tasteful. Someone in the wardrobe department really hates her, as she's back in an ugly sweater by the end of the episode. The "portals" which are not unlike the windows Madame Kovarian uses to spy on Amy's flesh avatar. CERN somehow having a stockpile of Looney Toons dynamite on hand. The resolution also was quite satisfying, as even a copy of the Doctor ends up being clever enough to overcome his programming and sabotage the simulation enough to send a warning to his real-world counterpart, even if it's more evidence of how stultifyingly arrogant and confident in himself that he is.

Additionally, the monsters revealed in this episode may be alien, but they look like proper zombies, which is refreshing after the disappointment of the zombies in space of last week's episode, and they're promising as a series arc villain. Anyone else noticing that Bill is making quite the habit of dying, though? She's going to give Rory a run for his money if she keeps this up.

The vault's secret has been revealed. Missy, under guard for one thousand years, as per the Doctor's oath to the executioners, as shown in the flashbacks. How long has he been guarding it? That's what we're unsure of at this point. We know who is in the vault, and why she's there. What we don't know is how much longer she'll be there, and what will happen when she's out. The appearance of John Simm's Master will surely tie into that.

We all have that one friend we can't help but forgive. 
This one is a definite must-watch. The first definite must-watch of the season. I am outright impressed, and I urge you to watch this episode, and if you already have, watch it again with a more critical eye and foreknowledge. You'll see the clues that are leading you both on and off the path and just how well-crafted this one was.

Also, for the record, Penny is most certainly *not* out of Bill's league. If anything, it's the other way around.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gotham Rain: Chapter 2

     Harley Quinn sits alone in a cell in the Extreme Incarceration wing of Arkham Asylum, sobbing quietly to herself, as she has for the past several hours.

Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I got here. Well, there's a good story behind it. I had the perfect plan: Draw the Bat into the nuttiest part of the nut hatch and wear him down with the adorably violent uncontrollable psychopaths before treating him to a nice dose of the electric floor. Quite rudely, he managed to make it through all the thugs I had with me without so much of a singe on his bat-patootie. Banged my head against a railing while he was at it, and tricked me into telling him where Mister J was, too. And... and, uh. Mister J... well, he wasn't too happy I let him down. I'm off the guest list. It's okay, though. I know he still cares. 


*record scratch* *freeze frame*
     There's a bruise on Harley's head and her wrist is strained from when Batman captured her and stuck her in the cell, but she's otherwise in one piece. With the Asylum under Joker's control, no one's been in Extreme Incarceration since the Bat left her in the cell. No one awake, at any point. She's pretty sure at least one of those guys that got stuck on the electric floor when she turned off the safeties is dead. She's not sure whether she's more upset that one of her mooks hasn't woken up or at how the Bat was so dismissive of her.

     Contrary to appearance, Harley is a very smart woman, smart enough to have earned a doctorate and an internship at Arkham Asylum. It's where she met him, where she found the new direction of her life, and what she thinks is true love. And it infuriates her to no end that even despite having met him then, lab coat and glasses and all, the Bat still underestimates her. Here, though, Harley sees no way out. Extreme Incarceration is where they put people they really don't want getting out.

     There have been noises since she was locked up. A few pretty significant explosions, and she's heard something rumbling in the walls. Something's going on outside, and she can only hope that means Joker's taken out the Bat. This is different, though; Harley's head perks up as she hears a door hiss open and a wet thump as something hits the floor. She presses her face to the bars of the cell and catches a glimpse of red and green near the doors.

    "Ivy? Ivy, is that you? Wow, babe, you don't look so good," Harley calls out, straining between the bars to get a better look.

     Ivy's voice is weak, raspy, the sound you make when you rub two dry pieces of wood together when she responds, "Quinn. Hold still. We have to get out of here. Batman's taken down the Joker and the police are swarming the island." She strains visibly, making it to her knees. She grasps one of the bars of the cell, and vines protrude from her arm, wrapping around the gap where the bars meet. Tiny strands of plant material force their way into the gap, and the bars slowly open, the hydraulics whining against the strain. Harley slips through the tiny gap Ivy created, and Ivy collapses in exhaustion.

Returning the favour
     "Pammy, baby, what'd he do to you? That awful Bat. He banged me up pretty bad, too," Harley says, as she catches Ivy before she hits the floor. She slips under one of Ivy's arms and lifts her, and the two begin to stagger towards the exit.

     "Not... not Batman. Joker... Joker pumped me full of that Titan trash. I don't feel so good, Harl..." Ivy manages before passing out. Harley clutches the vines on her arms and lifts her over her shoulder, feeling a swell of conflict passing through her. Mister J wouldn't hurt Ivy, she thinks to herself. Ivy's been one of the only people that's been nice to her, nicer even than... her mind won't let her finish that thought. He wouldn't hurt Ivy, and he only hurt me because I let him down. I didn't finish off the Bat, so I had it coming.

     She'll make it right, though. She has to. She'll make it right and he'll take her back and everything will be fine. She's just gotta get out of the Asylum first and back to the City.

     Then back to Mister J, so I can make this right. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Update on the Onstotts

Sabra has written about her experience here.

Big thanks to everyone who has donated to their fundraiser!



Here's an updated needs list:
  • curtains
  • flatware
  • pots & pans (pref. stainless steel, but they aren't going to be picky)
  • school supplies (not much, but Sabra does homeschool Marie year-round pretty much)
  • books; a fire hose went in through the window where the book case was, and there was heavy smoke damage there as well (Sabra & the kids read mostly sci-fi/fantasy; anything used is great -- adult level or stuff along the lines of Dork Diaries for Esther and super simple beginner books for Marie)
  • stuffed puppies, kitties, and bunnies (just a few)
  • yarn 
  • cloth diapers (probably definitely a need at this point)

They've had several offers of clothes and they think everyone but Lewis and maybe Erik are taken care of.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Onstott's home just burned down

If it weren't for bad luck, I think that the Onstott family wouldn't have any luck at all.

From Sabra's Facebook page:
Do you ever say to yourself "The only way shit could be worse would be if it was literally on fire?"

I'm gonna have to find a new one.

WE ARE ALL JUST FINE. Not even stinky.
Paraphrasing from Sabra's various FB status updates:
Yesterday, the stove caught fire - AGAIN - to the point where we could not smother it as we had in the past. We GTFO and called 911. (For the record, when the house is on fire, I get the kids out and then grab the computers and Psalm's ashes.)
The good news is that everyone is fine and we saved the 100% irreplaceable stuff. The bad news is that the trailer is uninhabitable and that the firefighters told us we shouldn't take our clothes because the carbon from the smoke won't wash out. We're currently staying at a hotel provided by the Red Cross, and we're going to move into the trailer next door as soon as the power gets turned on.
Sabra's husband Erik even gave in to my constant nagging and blogged about it:
I wouldn’t normally do this, but…

Gonna make this quick & dirty.

I got a text from Sabra yesterday afternoon saying a fire had started in the kitchen. The fire was contained to there, and everyone’s OK. We were able to secure another place from our landlord, and Sabra got all our electronics out and items of sentimental value…

…but there was a lot of smoke damage and the house is uninhabitable right now. Because of the smoke damage, all of our clothes are lost, as are all of the kids’ stuffed toys and other things, as well as all our furniture — beds, everything. The lovely and gracious Erin Palette has set up a fundraiser for us. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.
Like the man said, I started a YouCaring page for them. Please donate what you can; feeding and clothing six kids and two adults is a major undertaking when you're starting from scratch.


If you can't donate money but you have spare clothes or housewares, here is what they need:
  • queen sized bedding 
  • twin sized bedding 
    • (we'll need beds too, but I am going to contact Catholic charities for help there) 
  • curtains 
  • flatware 
  • plates 
  • pots & pans (pref. stainless steel, but I'm not going to be picky) 
  • school supplies (not much, but I do homeschool Marie year-round pretty much) 
  • French press or percolator 
  • slow cooker 
  • baking stuff -- cookie sheets, baking dishes, etc -- I'm not confident enough to take anything from the kitchen since that was exactly where the fire was 
  • books (a fire hose went in through the window where the book case was, and there was heavy smoke damage there as well) 
  • stuffed puppies, kitties, and bunnies (just a few)
They might need:
  • yarn 
  • cloth diapers (flats, prefolds, covers, pockets, whatever you might have) 
  • random baby toys (most of his stuff was in my room, which took the brunt of things)
    Clothing sizes:
    • Erik: bottoms are size 36; tops size L 
    • Sabra: size 22/3X bottoms, 3X tops (I don't wanna be picky, but please no button downs as they don't close properly over my chest); bra is 42K/HH (HH is British) 
    • Bobbie: bottoms anywhere from a 4 to an 8; mostly small tops, but she can wear a few mediums too; she's femme (bra size is 34D) 
    • Lewis: men's M in loose shorts and tops; juniors women's 13 pants 
    • Esther: girls' 10/12 bottoms, 8/10/12 tops, kids' L; she would really like dresses 
    • Marie: girls' 6 NOT slim fit (because she's got a booty), girls' 4/6 tops, girls' S dresses 
    • Doug: boys' 3T bottoms; girls' 4 bottoms (these actually fit him better); boys' 4 bottoms ONLY if they have adjustable waistband; 3T to 5T tops work fine 
    • Duncan: 18 or 24 months; 12M tops if they're big
      Goodwill gift cards would be welcome since there is one very close to them.

      If you want to mail something, their mailing address is 6725 Walzem #34, San Antonio, TX 78239.

      Play us out, Sabra?
      Thanks for the well wishes and offers of help. Love all of you.
      Couldn't have said it better myself. 

      Monday, May 15, 2017

      Operation Blazing Sword featured in Haaretz

      Last month I was interviewed by a reporter from Haaretz, which I'm told is "Israel's New York Times".

      The article was published this past weekend - in Hebrew. If you don't speak Hebrew and/or you don't want to subscribe to read the article in Haaretz, an English translation is here.

      Here's a bit of funny based on Google's translation of the Hebrew before it was hidden behind the paywall:
      My reaction was "Well of COURSE I kissed my concealed weapon permit when I received it in the mail - didn't we all? - but it's not like I make a HABIT of it or anything."

      Fortunately, the writer of the article saw my post and emailed me with this explanation:
      I saw that you posted it on Facebook, and people Google translated it in hilarious ways (e.g. since Hebrew has no vowels, the words "to kiss" and "for a gun" are written identically but pronounced differently, and a Hebrew speaker derives the meaning from the context). 
      I seem to be collecting odd titled. "Trans Woman Kissing a License" is one of my favorites, probably because it sounds like the title of a French impressionist painting.

      Sunday, May 14, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #143 - Fungi Aren't Fun, Guys

      Soothe that itching and burning for knowledge with the cool, creamy salve of GunBlog VarietyCast Radio.
      • Following up on last week's "Career Day" segment, Beth brings her son on the show to talk about the unfairness of the school letting a police officer talk about guns, but not his mommy.
      • A father of three was shot and killed in Raleigh. Why? Sean looks to see if there's more to this story.
      • Barron is on assignment this week.
      • Miguel looks at the vast difference in the size of pro-gun and anti-gun organizations, which prompts him to ask his legislators "Why are you so afraid of Mom's Demand?"
      • In the Main Topic we welcome Special Guest Keith Pantaleon, who also got to be a special guest of the State of New Jersey for the high crime of possessing a firearm while black.
      • Tiffany ran into Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter at the NRA Annual Meeting. Thinking quickly, she whipped out her cell phone and interviewed him on the spot.
      • Of all the fun things you can do in ROTC, no one ever told Erin that fungal infections were on the agenda. Luckily for us, she uses this terrible experience to bring you some practical strategies for getting rid of them.
      • What happens when Protect Minnesota’s Joan Peterson stands up and gives her anti-gun talking points at a town hall meeting? Weer'd will let you listen in.
      • And our plug of the week is for the NSSF-AFSP Suicide Prevention Lifeline

      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:
      Fungal Infections
      When I was in college years ago, I was active in ROTC. In my sophomore year of the military science program, I was chosen to be the “swimmer” for a rope bridge team in a demonstration we were putting on for the freshman cadets. My role, as you might have guessed, involved me crossing a waist-deep river with a rope tied around my waist, which I then tied to a tree. I did this multiple times a day. 

      Now this river wasn’t particularly deep or fast, but it did run through the subtropical forest of Florida. The next day, I discovered the river had given me two gifts: a 103 degree fever and a raging case of athlete’s foot. The fever, probably caused by bacteria in the water that reached my lips and nostrils, went away after antibiotics and lots of fluids. But the fungal infection has been a recurring pain in my foot for decades.

      Fungal infections are not life threatening, but they can sure make your life miserable. Constant itching, inflammation and even blistering are bad enough, but it’s worse if it’s on your feet because, you know, you need them to walk and it’s rather difficult to walk if your feet are in pain.

      And that’s just athlete’s foot. Other kinds of fungal infection run from the relatively mild ringworm to the horror of jock itch, but despite the different names, they’re all the same thing, and that means they can be treated identically.

      Preppers need to be ready for such fungal infections, because as common as they are right now, they’re only going to get worse in a bug-out or post-disaster scenario.

      The best way to treat fungal infection, of course, is never getting it in the first place. Fungi thrive in dark, warm, and moist environments - which is why they so commonly infect the feet and groin - and while you can’t do much about the warm part, and society frowns on exposing those parts of your body, you can do something about moisture in those areas.
      1. First, stay out of water as much as possible. If you do get those areas wet, take the time to dry your skin off and change into clean, dry socks and underwear. Dry your shoes out whenever possible - if you have a campfire, make sure your footwear is close to the heat and smoke. 
      2. Second, use a powder to absorb moisture from sweat. I’m a big fan of travel size Gold Bond powder - the one-ounce bottles can go anywhere from bug out bags to purses - and not only does it help keep feet, groin and armpits dry, it also acts as a “dry lubricant” for when body parts are rubbing against each other. If you’ve ever gotten a blister between your thighs, you know what I’m talking about. 
      But let’s say that despite all your precautions, you’ve still contracted a fungal infection. Fortunately for us, medical science keeps inventing increasingly awesome ways to get rid of it.
      • The best cure is a chemical known as Butenafine Hydrochloride, which is the active ingredient in Lotrimin Ultra and can be bought at places like Walgreen’s or CVS. If you can find a store brand or generic version, get that, as antifungal creams can run between $15 and $20, and generics cost about half that.
      • The next best cure is Terbinafine Hydrochloride, which is the active ingredient in Lamasil. I was prescribed this about 15 years ago when my athlete’s foot kept recurring, but it’s now available in the pharmacy aisle of pretty much any supermarket or big box store. Again, buy generic when possible. 
      • The cheapest stuff is called Clotrimazole, which is the active ingredient in regular Lotrimin. It’s better than nothing, but it’s about 20% less effective than terbinafine. 
      • If you see anything labeled “Tolnaftate”, take a pass unless it’s the only thing you can find. It’s the active ingredient in Tinactin, and it takes a looong time to take effect - probably because it’s a 20 year old formula that didn’t work great to begin with. 
      But what if you run out of antifungal medicine? Well, there is an old home remedy for that. I have no experience with it, and I know that anecdotes do not make data, but -- ALLEGEDLY -- the uric acid in urine will kill fungi on your skin.

      I’m told that the best kind of urine to use is the dark urine from when you first get up in the morning, because the uric acid is more concentrated after 8 hours of sleep rather than the paler urine of the daytime. Collect this urine first thing in the morning - this is why I recommend preppers carry an extra water bottle that you don’t drink from - and then soak your toes in the fresh urine for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash your feet in clean water and put on warm socks.

      For ringworm or jock itch, if you can’t immerse the body part, just soak a washcloth in the urine and use it as a wet compress. Be sure to wring out and rinse the cloth afterward, and then either put it in a plastic bag to keep in the smell, or in a mesh bag on your backpack to air out. If it helps any, remind yourself that your kidneys are incredibly efficient filters, and that fresh urine - fresh being the word here - is sterile when it comes out, despite the smell.

      Just pretend you’re a dog: pee on it, and move on with your life!

      Saturday, May 13, 2017

      Doctor Who: Zombies! In! SPAAAACE!

      Hearing Peter Capaldi saying "Space: The Final Frontier" was magnificent, as was his opening speech, but that doesn't take away from the issues I have with this episode.

      I love a good bit of science fiction. I love a good bit of outer space. I even love me some zombies. So why didn't I love this one? That's what I'll try and find out.

      Let's start with what I did like.
      • I did like his Space monologue, both in the cold open and in the class. 
      • I did like his antagonizing of Naggle. 
      • I did like the line "You only see the true face of the universe when it's asking for help." 
      • I liked how, when Twelve told Bill she was in artificial gravity, the first thing she did was hop. 
      • And finally, I did like the throwback to the very first appearance of the Daleks, where the First Doctor claims the TARDIS is disabled because of a "fluid link."
      • I did like how Bill got called a racist for her reaction to a blue person and her insistence that she's not, immediately following her fascination with how Dahh'ren's name was pronounced. 
                 

      Things I most certainly did not like include:
      • Naggle's prominence in the episode 
      • The damage done to the Screwdriver (those damn glasses are back, aren't they?) 
      • Bill is still 30 years out of date with her fashion (crop top and denim jacket with ripped jeans?). 
      • The twist ending that has implications that I certainly hope aren't going to last the rest of the season. 
      • Seriously, what kind of deal with a crossroads demon did Matt Lucas make to get Naggle as a recurring character? He's not funny. He's just snide and whiny. 
      • Trying to convince us that they'd killed Bill off. Twice. In 15 minutes' time. 
      Pictured: Doctor, Companion, Waste of Oxygen, in reverse order.
      I'm very conflicted about the other elements of the episode. In the current political climate, there are extremists that genuinely believe that capitalism in its current state is exactly the same as what is portrayed here. I'm trying to believe, given the way certain themes have been portrayed in other episodes recently, that it's only coincidence. Humanity has, in canon and in reality, had its ups and downs, and expansion into space would only make oversight more difficult. It's not hard to believe that a corporation would become greedy enough that it would consider its workers expendable, but the entire setup of oxygen being supplied by the 'company store' instead of actually being in the station like any regular setup (say, with primary and redundant filters, vents and pumps, and CO2 scrubbers) seems wildly inefficient (or purposefully malevolent). I'm trying not to think that this is a 'message' story; the writer, Jamie Matheson, is responsible for two surprisingly outstanding episodes, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, as well as the introduction of the character of Me, formerly Ashildr, so 'message fiction' isn't really his track record with the series so far.  

      Since the first series with the Ninth Doctor, there's always been at least one episode per season that I don't go back and rewatch later. From the Slitheen episodes to eye-booger monsters, the possessed television monster to the Robin Hood episode, there's usually an episode each season that just falls short, and I really feel like Oxygen is going to be the one I pass over this time around. If, by the time you read this, you haven't seen it, you needn't make it a priority. It was rarely good, a bit of a let-down at times, and mostly forgettable.

      Vault update: Naggle nags at Twelve and is reassured that Twelve is, indeed, still guarding the vault. At the end of the episode, we learn that the door may open on its own, and that Naggle refers to its occupant as Twelve's "friend." Couple that with the brief flash of Missy at the very end of the 'next time' trailer, and the signs are certainly pointing in a specific direction... but is that a misdirection itself?

      [shameless self-shilling here - still looking for work. Contributions welcome at Paypal, reverendsalem@gmail.com]

      Thursday, May 11, 2017

      Gotham Rain: Chapter 1

      [I haven't written fiction in a while, so I'm giving it a shot. On an unrelated note, I really hate to ask, but as I've recently been laid off, if you're feeling generous, I have a paypal at reverendsalem@gmail.com]

      The following occurs between the events of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.


           It's been raining for 3 days now. Not a pause and no end in sight. Here, in this sprawling concrete rainforest that is Gotham City, very few plants grow. My babies take refuge here, in one of Miagani Island's abandoned botanical gardens, at the southernmost coast of the city. The people, and their polluting vehicles, are fewer, and no one notices the patch of beautiful green high atop this vacant building. Since the Asylum incident, I've kept to myself, tending my babies and spreading my roots again through the city. The Bat and I leave each other alone. I imagine he's busy, he and his kind, scouring the streets for any of the degenerate maniacs that fled the island during the riots.

           She's been sitting on the balcony now for a whole day. She hasn't eaten. Hasn't spoken. I can hear her crying occasionally as I stroke the petals of my Alchymist rose, its peach blossoms growing strong and healthy. She's sitting out there in the rain because she thinks it's hiding the tears. She and I share something. Our skin is no longer the color it once was when we were human. When I was enlightened, I became a shade of green, but when he did what he did to her, her skin turned as pale as an orchid. But I can tell, when the nourishing water hits her face, what's her and what she's caked on as ornamental. The black streaks from her eyes trailing down her Hyacinth cheeks awaken in me something... human.


          Since my growth, I've felt less and less what these 'people' feel. Plants are much simpler, much less complex. I can feel their pain when they are cut down. I can feel their warmth when the sun hits them. But I can't feel hatred or jealousy or love or compassion like a person would anymore. But Harley, for some reason, brings that back to me. I've always felt some sort of kinship with her, and I'm not entirely sure why. That lack of certainty pricks at me like a thorn. The simplicity of a slowly growing plant is much easier to understand, and I hate that I feel this way. I wish I could leave her to her own devices, but I just can't.

          In the wake of the Asylum incident there was sheer chaos. While the GCPD was trying to clean up the mess that the clown left behind, I shook off the influence of the Titan formula and staggered through the rubble of Arkham Asylum's botanical gardens. The things he made me do were abhorrent. I create life and yet he made me destroy. I found Harley locked in a cell and summoned what was left of my strength to grow vines between the cracks of the cell's door until it burst from its hinges. Harley helped me to the shore, and again I summoned enough within myself to grow us a pod that would safely carry us North across the harbor to the shorelines of Miagani Island. Too weak to walk, let alone summon anything that would carry us to a safe haven, Harley stole a car and raided one of her stashes, abandoning the garish nurse outfit she'd worn to please him, while I cocooned myself and regained strength. I soaked in the brackish water that leaked into the basement of Harley's storeroom, and while she thought I was asleep, she ranted in anger about how he abandoned her.

           As soon as I was able, we left for the arboretum. Harley disappeared for a couple of days, intent on finding the Joker, but when she returned, she was different. She tried to play it off, but something had happened between them. I returned to tending my plants, bringing the abandoned arboretum back to life, but she sat on the balcony outside the glass walls of the greenhouse motionless.

           I can't stand to see her like this. I don't understand fully why. Why do I have this connection, this human connection with her? And what is this feeling I have, this feeling that, if I were still human, I would consider rage? Am I feeling this on her behalf, or do I selfishly want to make it go away just so that I can stop feeling it?


           I don't know. All I know is that I can't see her like this anymore. Every time he hurts her, she goes back. Every time he's almost captured, she takes the fall for it because he abandons her to the police or the Bat or one of his kind. I can't see it happen anymore. I won't see it happen anymore. And there's only one way that can be.

          The clown has to die.

      Wednesday, May 10, 2017

      Something Inspirational

      My post on Bob Owen's suicide prompted this gem of a reply by Timothy Callahan on Facebook, and I'm reposting it here because the world needs to see it.

      "Sometimes, when you are standing on a mountain, and all the world is dark before your feet as you ponder the cliff, you may chance to look up, and see the rest of us, guiding stars, twinkling as best we can in the night. Then, you fix your sight on whatever constellation you can, and let it guide your steps until the sun rises again.

      "None of us can truly light up that darkness. But we CAN shine for all we are worth, and hope that someone looks up." 

      — Timothy Callahan

      Tuesday, May 9, 2017

      On Suicide

      If you read gun blogs at all, you've no doubt heard that yesterday (Monday) morning, Bob Owens died, apparently by his own hand. I haven't yet heard it officially confirmed that it was suicide, but the circumstances of Bob's death and his final post to Facebook sure point to it.

      I have a complicated relationship with suicide. When I was younger, I actively considered killing myself because I was in a lot of emotional turmoil. I'll spare you the details of it, but the gist of the matter is that I felt like a hideous failure because I wasn't comfortable inside my own skin and no one wanted to be around me. (These feelings diminished once I stopped fighting who I was and, for lack for a better phrase, "gave myself permission" to be transgender.) I never actually attempted it, though. Perhaps I had too much survival instinct to give in to the destructive impulse, but let me tell you this: if you are feeling shitty enough to think that killing yourself is the answer to your problems, then not being able to go through with doesn't feel like a victory; it feels like "I'm such a failure I can't even kill myself properly."

      What I'm saying is that I get it. I understand the desire to eject from pain and suffering and hopelessness, and even now I feel that every adult on the planet has to right to choose to check out if that's what they truly want. The only thing we really have in this world is our life, and for me to demand that you live in accordance with my wishes seems the height of arrogance and selfishness.

      However, having the right to do it doesn't mean that I agree with it. Oh, in certain circumstances I can totally understand the reasoning — like someone in Stage 4 cancer deciding to go out before the agony starts — but in cases like Bob's, I can only fall back on the same belief that I have regarding freedom of speech: I may disagree with what you say (or in this case, do), but I will defend to the death your right to do it. 

      Of course, this is all in the philosophical abstract for me, not having known Bob Owens. I fully expect that if a friend of mine should kill himself, I will quite selfishly wish that it didn't happen because I would be grieving.

      That's the true cost of suicide right there. I don't remember where I saw or heard it, or when, but I recall vividly the quote "You've just killed yourself. Congratulations, you've just hurt everyone who ever gave a damn about you." It's one thing to kill yourself when you're going to die anyway, because (to me, at least) that's just a matter of rescheduling the grief. It's another thing — arguably, a very selfish thing — to kill yourself when your death could have been prevented by seeking help.

      I wasn't privy to Bob's thoughts, so I don't know what agony he was suffering that made him choose suicide. I can't judge him or his actions. What I can do, though — about the only thing that I can do — is to point out that if you choose to kill yourself, you're going to hurt the people you love in a terrible, intimate way. And because you love them, I don't believe, I cannot believe, that you'd want to do that to them.

      If you're looking for a reason to live, I'd say that "Not hurting those that I love" is a pretty damn good one.

      Sunday, May 7, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #142 - Cameron Diaz Meets Chocolate Godzilla at NRAAM 2017

      That's a movie I'd go see!

      Join Sean, Erin, Beth, Tiffany, Weer'd,  and Co-host Emeritus Adam as we record LIVE in the Media Room at the NRA Annual Meeting 2017. Subjects of discussion include:
      • SIG pistols
      • Grayguns
      • Airforce Airguns
      • Bribery Vodka from Covington
      • C-Products Magazines
      • Next Level Training's SIRT Pistol
      • Infiltrating the Mom's Demand Action protest
      • The derpiest holster EVAR!
      • Mike Seeklander
      • The NRA Women's Luncheon
      • Safer Faster Defense's SFD Responder
      • Second Amendment Foundation
      • 10K for 2A
      • Korth Revolvers
      • Cabot Guns
      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.

      Saturday, May 6, 2017

      Knock Knock, Doctor Who's There?

      OoooOOOohh. Haven't had a haunted house story in a while.

      Bill's wardrobe never ceases to confuse me. Horizontal pastel stripes and overalls? The more I see of it, the more I'm convinced she's out of her own time stream, and she's supposed to be from the Eighties. Her soundtrack motif is growing on me, though; it's cute and simple.

      The Doctor brought up Regeneration, and I think he's getting her ready for his. The next Doctor has already been cast, in case you haven't heard: it's the gobby one from Love, Actually. The 'bo'ol' one that picks up Americans with his accent. I'm not sure about that choice.

      The basic premise of the episode starts off simply enough: a group of students, Bill included, are looking for a cheap house and find a giant old mansion at a suspiciously cheap rate.  In the stinger, one student is... affected by the house, and more follow shortly. After helping Bill move in, the Doctor notices something off about the house and stays to investigate. Upon meeting the landlord, the Doctor noticeably interposes himself between the landlord and the students, perhaps telegraphing the climax of the episode.
      There's a draft.
      Bill continues to shine. I really like the way they're writing her character; she's not smug or overly clever, but she thinks very logically, and they show it off in her actions, instead of her words or by having other people tell us how good she is. This is very important, as one of the reasons a lot of people were unfortunately turned off to Clara (pre-timeline crisis) was that she was quite smug, and everyone around her was telling us how important she was, as opposed to her just showing it.

      I would ask Bill not to sit on the TARDIS console anymore, though. Butt-dialing a TARDIS sounds incredibly dangerous.

      The guest cast is serviceable, even if (in the immortal words of Supergirl's Cat Grant) they "look like the attractive yet non-threatening, racially diverse cast of a CW show." with two varieties of Asian (one of them a woman) and a Russian. No one else really stands out, aside from the sinister Landlord.

      The "monster" of the week is quite well done, also. Excellent make-up work, if not the first time we've seen someone made of her... materials.

      Finally, it doubles as a torch. 
      Nazghul Nardole makes a brief appearance near the end of the episode. It seems his only real function is to say a few snarky lines, chastise the Doctor, and walk off-screen, as it's all he's been doing recently. He could have been removed entirely from the scene and it would have suffered none for it. Capaldi has proven previously that he can carry an entire episode on his own, let alone one scene per episode. Nardole just feels unnecessary so far.

      So, the vault in the university basement. We know there's someone in there now, someone who can play the piano and likes scary stories, if not Mexican food. Someone who considers themselves a prisoner. I have two theories on this:
      • Theory one is that Twelve is making good on Ten's promise, and has caught Missy and is holding her. 
      • Theory two is that, pursuant to the rumours of John Simm's Master returning, that he's holding him as a contingency plan against her return.

      This wasn't a bad episode, overall, but neither was it a stand-out. The pacing is weird; my timer says the episode is 44 minutes, but it feels like it hits its peak very quickly and is maybe half that in length. Ironically, for a show about time travel, it feels much shorter than it really is. While there's a few key elements in the over-arching mystery of the vault in the University basement, there's not much that happens during this episode, and if you had to skip one so far, this would be the one. Expect my opinion on this to change next week, as the trailer shows that the annoying bald one goes with them on their next adventure and will likely have more screen time.

      Friday, May 5, 2017

      Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Guardian Harder


      [Author's note: I offered Erin to opt out of editing this, as to avoid spoilers. She accepted. Any and all errors and/or typos are on me]

      Otherwise knows as "Drax Has An Astoundingly Awesome Day." 

      I've just left the theater about 30 minutes ago now. It's still fresh in my mind.

      If Marvel rolled the dice and went big on Guardians of the Galaxy, they went hard and went bigger for Volume 2. Seemingly able to have solved the problem of 'the origin movie' always being the boring one, Guardians 2 brings together the established cast and thrusts them straight into an even bigger story than before, with a galactic (possible universal) level extinction event, and a story that puts an enormous emphasis on the theme of what it means to be family, on whether blood is thicker than water, and mending broken bridges, and manages to tie those two themes together astoundingly well.

      Having accomplished seemingly the impossible first by taking the B-Team of The Avengers and turning it into a monster franchise, then taking the D-listers of the Guardians and making them just as beloved, they've thrown all caution to the wind here. Guardians 2 has some of the most breathtaking visuals I've ever seen in science fiction. Yes, it's a big mass market appeal, but there are some amazing risks being taken here that simply wouldn't have worked without the world-building that the MCU has dedicated itself to.


      Spoilers from here on in...

      The story starts with a seemingly unrelated cold-open, much like a Bond film, with a great action sequence that reminded me heavily of Deadpool's opening: a pitched, high-speed battle with a focus on a humorous character set to the soundtrack of a very retro song. Sometime between the first movie and this one, Nebula is captured and in return for the opening sequence's actions, she is handed over to the Guardians to be returned to the Nova Corp for imprisonment, but due to Rocket's incredibly short-sighted (and later fortuitous actions) things go terribly wrong, and Peter Quill is reunited with his father, who turns out to be a living planet with less than benevolent intentions for the galaxy. A new character is introduced, some of the previous film's side characters have much more expanded roles, and there's even a surprise cameo (or two) that I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about. How they got him is no surprise, but how they got *him*? I swear Marvel has a time machine. Even the Stan Lee cameo (which if it's his last, is fitting) manages to explain how he keeps showing up in every movie.

      This is possibly the most colourful Marvel film to date, which is relevant considering how often Marvel Studios has been criticized for its limited colour palette. Ego's World alone rivals Dr Strange's trippy visuals, and his little pods showing Peter his history have a fascinating artistic flair of their own, very evocative of someone who can perfectly replicate life, but has no real understanding of what it means to be human (or any of the other species). There are even moments of absurdity that stretch your suspension of disbelief to the point where they'd be at home in Spaceballs, but still stay within the boundaries set by the film.

      No one in the entire cast was a slouch, either. The main cast delivered two-fold on the first movie's performances, and Yondu and Nebula's expanded presences were very strong as well, fleshing them both out and breathing much more life into their otherwise limited characters. The Sovereign managed to make the Nova Corps look downright humble and friendly. Kurt Russel's Ego was seductively charming and totally believable as space-rogue Star Lord's father, and disturbingly menacing once the big plot twist was revealed. The change in dynamic from Groot being a heavy to being a comedic and lovable character worked well. The stand-out performance, though, goes surprisingly to Dave Bautista's Drax, who was having a blast throughout the entire film. His unrelenting optimism coupled with a tempered naivete gave some of the most memorable moments throughout the film.

      You great big goof. Don't ever change. 
      The one thing that sealed the love letter to the old series, though, was Yondu's fin. Once it appears, Yondu has the most badass moment of the entire film, walking calmly through the carnage he's causing, with the ridiculous red head-fin of the comics proudly on display.

      Spoilers ending here: You should definitely see this. Guardians, as a franchise, is less connected to the MCU as a whole, and it has a lot more humour than the rest of the MCU, Ant-Man aside, and is much more easily relatable on its own, but it is hands down the best space opera I've seen in years, surpassing The Force Awakens, Rogue One, Star Trek Beyond, and even its predecessor.

      One thing I'd like to point out, unrelated to the movie itself, was that during the trailers, Thor: Ragnarok got a bigger audience pop than Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Maybe it was a better trailer. Maybe it was audience bias for premiere night of the newest Marvel Studios film. All I know is that a few people cheered for Jedi, but there was widespread applause for Ragnarok.

      The Fine Print


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