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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Erin, make up a title for me

It's Thursday, so I'm supposed to be writing something.

Well, it's actually Wednesday night, and I'm in an incredibly foul mood still, so as far as Gotham Rain goes, that's on hold for now. At least until something shallow in my real world life inspires me to continue it.

Approximately two months ago, I was laid off. I got some severance pay, so I'm still safe for the time being, but the last four months or so had been so stressful that I have not made a serious attempt at finding another job in that time.

I did start drinking again. Not to the degree that I did the last time it became a problem, and not to the point where I can't hit 5:00 PM without trembling. And seeing the world all sort of fuzzy for a little while at a time is pleasant again. But I've been moving back down from that again as well.

I was in a relationship, of sorts, and now I'm not. I don't really have anything going on. Been finishing up a few games I've been meaning to, and have caught up on Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Agents of SHIELD, in that order. Shaved my head again. Will probably start claiming unemployment next week.

I sincerely cannot think of anything I feel strongly enough to write about, and I apologize for that. I feel like I'm letting Erin, and all of you that click on my face each week, down. I'll try and do better. I'm not linking my paypal again, as I didn't get any donations, but Erin knows the address for it if she feels differently.

In the meantime, please accept this as an apology.
na na NA NA na na NA NA na na NA NA na na NA NA BAT DICK

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I have been doing nothing but putting out fires all week

Or at least that's how it seems right now. There was a... let's say "controversial"... post on the Operation Blazing Sword Facebook page, and some people took offense at what they perceived was us taking a political position, so I've been dealing with that and it's worn me out.

Since I'm talking about it, let me go on the record right now and state the following:
Operation Blazing Sword is non-partisan and non-political. We simply happen to speak about things which are wrapped up in current politics, because (unfortunately) both gun rights and LGBTQ rights are political issues right now. We wish this were not the case, because rights are inherent and should not be politicized.

Talking about political issues is not the same as being political. Operation Blazing Sword neither endorses nor condemns politicians, candidates, political parties, or legislation.

Our purpose is, always has been, and always will be outreach and education. Some of that education is teaching firearms operation and safety to people. Other aspects of the education are bridging the cultural divide between cisgender and transgender, homosexual and heterosexual, liberal and conservative, so that each can learn about the lives and values of the other. You cannot teach someone without learning a little about them; education flows both ways. This is the mission of Operation Blazing Sword: to teach, to bridge the divide, to break the belief that "If you aren't one of us, you're against us."
I'm discouraged that making this statement is even necessary.

Speaking of discouragement, let me just say that the hardest part of running a corporation isn't the amount of work involved. It's that I can work for hours and hours on really important stuff, and only a handful of people can see the progress that I've made. To everyone else, it looks like nothing has gotten done. That is incredibly discouraging, especially since the brain rewards tangible progress with dopamine, and since no visible, let alone tangible, progress was made, there's no dopamine reward for Erin.

In better-if-vague news, one of these unseen projects is nearing completion. I am not yet in a position to talk about it, but when it pays off it's going to vastly improve both the reach and capabilities of Operation Blazing Sword. I look forward to being able to tell you all about it with breathless enthusiasm when the time is right.

But this is something that I can talk about:
Operation Blazing Sword is now transoceanic and intercontinental! Special thanks to Steve Smith of Wondai, Queensland for being our first Australian instructor!

Finally, if you have a job that matches your charitable donations, please sign up for that with Operation Blazing Sword the recipient. Our tax ID is 81-4230880, and we're already registered with Benevity. If your employer uses a different method for charitable giving, please let me know what that platform is and I'll get OBS registered there as well. Remember, not only are you funding a good cause, but also every dollar you give to us is a dollar you can deduct from your taxes!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #148 - Welcome to the Suck

People are the reason we can't have nice things.
  • Beth is on assignment this week.
  • A Gastonia grandmother is tied up and robbed at gunpoint. Who would do such a thing? Sean checks him out.
  • Barron explains how setting up a dedicated firewall will protect your network from WannaCry 2.0 ransomware.
  • Florida just enacted Enhanced Self Defense Immunity. Miguel tells us why this is a very welcome development.
  • For our Main Topic we have Special Guest Lucas Apps from Triangle Tactical Podcast. Luke explains what he thinks the biggest problem is with advancing our gun rights.
  • You may have survived your ordeal, but how do you survive being a survivor? Erin talks about ways to cope with anger, guilt, and PTSD.
  • Tiffany is still on medical leave.
  • It's now the final week of Weer'd's audio fisk of the Demanding Mommies' protest at the NRAAM!
  • And our plug of the week is a call to action. Get in touch with us! Like us on Facebook, send us emails, and donate or subscribe to the podcast!

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Coping with PTSD
This week is the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Massacre. Many people were traumatized by this; not just those who were injured, but also the friends and family of the victims. A loved one being injured or killed is itself a form of victimization.

Anger, grief, survivor’s guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder: all of these are the brain’s way of trying to cope with the loss of something cherished, be it a person or a body part or your sense of self. Any or all of these can be taken away through accident or violence.

Last year, I did a series of segments on Lawrence Gonzales’s books Deep Survival and Everyday Survival. This year, I’m going to do a series on his book Surviving Survival, which deals with what happens to people after they’ve made it through their ordeal - being lost at sea, the death of a child, having a spouse try to murder them - and the difficulties they face as they try to integrate the new person they needed to become in order to survive into their old life.

Flashbacks are very common with people who have PTSD. This is due to what is known as a conditioned response, and it’s exactly the same thing as when Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell.

In neurobiology, when two nerve cells fire at the same time, even if by accident, they will fire together in the future. The phrase is “Fire together, wire together.” They become linked into what is known as a cell assembly, and so when one fires, they all fire. And if they are assembled during a moment of high emotion, then it becomes difficult to keep them from firing - to effectively un-wire them - even if the things which are linked are completely separate.

This is how and why flashbacks occur. If you hear a particular sound or smell a specific scent when something traumatic happens, the event will become paired with that sound or smell in mind. So if you were listening to a particular song on the radio right before you were injured in an automobile accident, your brain will associate that song with pain and fear and auto accidents, and listening to it will cause a fear or pain response.

It is this association which explains why we become attached to people. Their presence causes nerve cells to fire, and at the same time the cells for us being happy because of something they do or say fire, and so we associate their presence with that emotional state. The longer we are around them, the more those cells fire and the stronger the response is.

There are also nerves in our brain which are called “seeking pathways”, and they allow us acquire what we need to survive. If we are thirsty, a seeking pathway helps us find water. If we are tired, a seeking pathway encourages us to find a safe place to sleep, and so on. But if you are thirsty and cannot drink - if you are tired and cannot sleep - your seeking pathways cannot complete their task and this results in frustration, which is another form of anxiety. It’s one thing to just be hungry or thirsty, especially if you know (even subconsciously) that you can easily remedy the situation. It’s another to know that you are unable to fix it, because the human mind has trouble soothing a frustrated pathway.

If left unchecked, this anxiety activates another form of path, the rage pathway, which is an essential survival mechanism among mammals. It’s why your initial desire is to lash out when you’re hurt, because instinct tells us that whatever is hurting us is a predator and we have to kill it before it kills us. And so, if your brain is telling you that you NEED something and you cannot have it, that anxiety registers as fear, and your body believes it’s being attacked, and so attacks back. Suddenly, toddler temper-tantrums make a lot more sense, now don’t they?

When you want something that was taken from you - a loved one, a limb, that sense of innocence or feeling of not having been violated you had before you were attacked - and you cannot get at it, the rage pathway activates. Sometimes it’s violent and destructive; sometimes it’s focused inward, and manifests at grief. But in all cases, the underpinning desire is the same: Something bad is happening to me and I don’t want it to happen. Go away, bad thing!

The brain is essentially dominated by just these two systems, the seeking and rage pathways. We are either trying to draw something toward us - even if it’s something abstract, like the pleasure of a job well done - or we are trying to push things away from us.

What’s interesting about this - and relevant to people who are angry, grieving, or suffering from flashbacks - is that these two systems cannot activate at the same time. If you want to destroy, you cannot create; and if you are creating, you have no desire to destroy.Just be aware of how quickly one can shift to the other!

But it’s this rapid shift that can actually be of benefit to people suffering from loss, because it enables you to overwrite feelings of rage, grief and anxiety by engaging the seeking pathway. A simple, repetitive, constructive activity - like knitting, or weeding the garden, or physical activity, or hunting or fishing or shooting - activates the seeking pathway and deactivates the rage pathway.

Perhaps this is because humans are predators: if we are hungry we need to eat, and so our focus on getting the meal precludes our fear of being eaten by something larger. And perhaps this is how humans became tool users: the seeking pathway rewards our brain with dopamine when we accomplish something (like acquiring food) and so the act of creating tools similarly engaged our seeking pathways and rewarded our actions with dopamine.

If you take nothing else from my segment today, take this:  if you are angry, if you are grieving, if you are anxious, then engage in a simple, repetitive task that rewards you for completing it. You will find that not only will it soothe the pain you feel, but you will also have something to show for your efforts

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Doctor Who: Death By Scotland

Well, that episode certainly happened, didn't it?

In all seriousness, The Eaters of Light isn't a bad episode. It's just a very small episode in which nothing of any great importance happens in the main story. There's a cave, a house, a field, a dodgy CGI monster that we barely see, and about a dozen young actors, one of whom screams very loudly, and half of whom are painfully Scottish.

Oh, and Bill falls down a hole again. I can't help but feel there's some sort of symbolism there, with Bill continuing to fall into holes.

But getting back on track: while this was a decently written episode, and well-filmed (especially the spacious open field shots), the lack of scale and obvious low budget makes it clearly apparent this is a filler episode where they saved money for the upcoming finale episodes. The trade-off for any actual content, unfortunately, means that this episode has enough Noggin scenes to make up for the entire series. He's on-screen probably as much in this episode as he is in every previous episode combined.

There were some good parts:
  • The Doctor mentioning being a vestal virgin (second class) in Roman Britain (that's almost certainly the Eighth Doctor. Or maybe the Fifth. One of the pretty ones). 
  • The conversation about humans no longer having intelligent conversations with crows, so they're all in a huff and no longer speaking to us. 
  • The Doctor's brilliant popcorn maneuver. 
  • Kudos to Bill for not only figuring out the TARDIS translation circuit on her own, but also being the first person to notice that it tricks your brain into seeing lip-synching as well. 
  • The guest cast is serviceable enough for what they are: two groups of inexperienced kids. 
  • The monster is an interesting design, but I'm not sure the CGI really does it any favours.

What else can I say about this episode, though? It's an obvious budget-saver episode, either because the BBC isn't giving the show as much money as it used to, or because they're saving up for a huge finale. There's exactly one thing memorable about this episode: the ending.
What will you do, how will you feel, when your sins catch up to you?
Missy's out of the vault and waiting for them in the TARDIS. The Doctor is extending a measure of trust to her, possibly hoping that trust will rehabilitate her. Surprisingly, the most poignant part isn't where she actually cries after taking his advice; it's when he isn't sure whether it's an act or not, and which might be worse. The implication here is that if someone who has done the things that she's done - committed the most vile and evil acts that she has - actually grows a conscience, she will be utterly crushed by the weight of all of that catching up to her.
"It's hard to resist."
"That's the trouble with hope. It's hard to resist." That's a line that'll stay with me for a very long time, given certain directions my life has taken recently.

Next week: The most retro-classic Cybermen in decades, and Missy gets her own adventure, with the last frames being the startling and terrifying appearance of John Simm with the one Master-esque thing he was missing from his previous appearances: the trademark evil goatee.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Correcting the Record: Anger Post

I am in an absolute rotten mood. I've been that way for a while now. Anyone that was looking forward to more Gotham Rain, I apologize. My mind's not in that place at the moment.

A few things over the last few weeks have caught my attention, though, and I have a few very simple messages before I go back to laying in bed watching Supergirl on Netflix.

A few weeks ago there was a petition on change.org to change the settings of the upcoming Far Cry 5, which is set to take place in rural Montana, with the antagonists apparently being some sort of religious cult. The Petition is written with such ham-handed, overt usage of the language of social justice activism inverted into a strawman of gamers the level of which hasn't been seen since Gamergate that anyone that took it seriously and reported on it as such should turn in any journalistic credentials they think they still have the right to hold. In the words of Vreenak from the best episode of Deep Space 9, "It's a FAAAAAAAKE."

Mario got called racist and culturally approprating because of a sombrero outfit in the new game. Mexican gamers promptly fired back en masse with responses ranging from "we're cool with this" to "this is pretty neat" to "you assholes are why we lost Speedy Gonzales." Stop looking for reasons to be outraged. It's getting old. To everyone.

Some genius decided she'd take her activism to retail by moving tank tops for boys into the girls section because they had the NASA logo on them. At this point I'm sure that the perpetrator has never been in a Target before now, as retail staff are going to have to move those back, and I've never seen a man working in the clothing section of a Target. So congratulations for inconveniencing low-paid women! Also, Target fired back with a link to their selection of girls clothing with NASA logos on them. I haven't seen a burn that bad since Wendy's still had good social media.

Apparently, everything else can now take a back seat. Clean energy, crime, homelessness, wars; they're all unimportant. Our top priority now is legislating social media.

Oh, and I've been waiting to use this one. MUH FREEZE PEACH. So now free speech matters to you?

A congressman or senator or someone was shot, and another shot at, or something. All I know is that everyone further Left than me is scrambling right now, #NotAllLiberal'ing the shit out of it because the shooter was fervently Anti-Trump and Pro-Bernie.

Battle of Berkely. Evergreen College. Cheering on Antifa. Punch a Nazi. Kathy Griffin beheading the president in effigy and Madonna contemplating blowing up the White House. You've lost the moral high ground Lefties. Even Vice and the Anti-Defamation League know it.

You're no longer the "Politicks of Peace." You've got an extremist problem. There's blood in the water, and if you don't do something about, 2020 isn't going to matter, let alone 2018.

Erin's going to bullet point that paragraph, I just know it. 
I guess I showed you! - Erin

I'm going back to bed before this day gets any worse. Thank you, Erin, for the LEGO Batgirl. It made me smile for the only time this week that didn't involve alcohol and Doctor Who reruns.

You're welcome. Salem. [hugs]

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pulse: One Year Later


Gun Blog Variety Podcast #147 - The Stupid Episode

Listener Violet (age 4) tells us not to use the word "stupid" because it's a bad word.
  • Special Guest Noelle, age 3 and a half, talks with her mom Beth about gun safety.
  • Barron is on assignment.
  • NC "teen" rapes and robs a couple in Charlotte. Sean takes a look at this "teen's" history while Erin explains that she's not an awful person. 
  • Miguel explains to listener Violet that there are stupid people who do stupid things in stupid places, and you should never be stupid enough to join in.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin discuss the Pat McNamara video on Comedy Central.
  • A young child can still help out during an emergency. Erin gives you suggestions on what they can do and how you can reassure them. 
  • Tiffany is on medical leave. Wouldn't you like to send her a message of support using the GBVC Radio contact page?
  • How long can it go on? Weer'd is now in his third week of the Demanding Mommies' protest at the NRAAM!
  • And our plug of the week is the Czech Etched Glass Nail File Set. Sean recommended cooking gear last week, so Erin decided that nail files were a perfectly acceptable recommendation.
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 -
How Children Can Help in an Emergency
In response to Violet’s letter to the show, Sean asked us if we could aim our segments at children. Some of us, like Beth, were able to do that; and some, like Weerd, weren’t. I’m going to compromise here: I’m not going to aim my prepping segment AT children, but I will talk about how children can participate in prepping and how they can help in a disaster scenario.

Now first we need some definitions. When I say “child”, I mean “Any youngster who is in elementary school.” Any younger than that, and I categorize them alongside babies and toddlers in that they need constant adult supervision. Any older than that - definitely anyone of high school age, and possibly some mature middle schoolers - can be considered young adults, which means we can grant them a fair amount of independence and responsibility. In other words, if you trust them to be responsible and make sensible decisions while driving a car, you can trust them to be responsible and make sensible decisions to help the family out during an emergency.

So we’re specifically talking about young children who are able to do things, but perhaps not have the mental or emotional development to be considered responsible. They’re right at that sweet spot where they’re old enough to understand that something scary is going on, but not old enough to manage their feelings.

Disclaimer: I am not a parent. I do however have extensive experience being a child on a military base in Europe during the cold war, where we practiced evacuation drills, and so that forms the baseline for my segment.

The first thing to keep in mind is that children panic easily. However, they’re usually smart enough to know when things are going wrong, if for no other reason than the fact that the adults are acting strangely. Remember, children look to parents for guidance and reassurance, and have been doing that all of their lives, so they are essentially OPTIMIZED for detecting when Things Aren’t All Right With Mommy And Daddy.

So in my admittedly inexpert opinion, not telling them anything when the adults are worried is just going to make them panic more, because -- to their minds -- whatever is going on is SO AWFUL that their parents won’t tell them! Fear of the unknown is FAR more terrible than fear of the known. 

My advice, then, is to give them a very abbreviated version of what is going on, like “Some bad men hurt some innocent people nearby, and we don’t want them to hurt us, so we’re making ourselves safe.”
Immediately follow this with a reassurance that you, the adult, have this under control. “But don’t worry. Mommy and Daddy know what to do in situations like this, and we’re going to do them. It’s just like when you have a fire drill in school: it’s a bit scary at first, but when we all know what to do, we all end up fine.”

Kids will interpret this as “The grown-ups are doing grown-up stuff that I don’t understand because I’m not a grown-up.” This is fine, because - at least in my experience - that’s how kids process most grown-up activities. When you were a child, did you really understand what your father did for a living? Or did you just assume he left the house, did boring stuff, and then came back for dinner?

After you have addressed their curiosity and reassured them that the adults are On The Case, your next step is to give them a job. Children are restless and get bored easily, so you don’t want them wandering off in an emergency, but neither do you want them to get underfoot, so give them a task which is within their capability to perform but is rather minor or otherwise a pain for the adults to do.

If you have pets, this is very easy: put the kids in charge of the pets. Like kids, pets such as dogs tend to get underfoot when the adults are running around, and they can pick up on emotions of panic as well. Having your child pet or play with them keeps them calm, out of the way, and prevents them from running off. Cats are less likely to panic, but are far more likely to run off, so have them put into travel crates immediately. Smaller dogs can be crated, and larger dogs leashed.

Then, tell the child that what they are doing is important. Now maybe I was just a precocious kid, but even at age 6 or 7 I could tell when an adult’s “very important task” of sitting quietly was a bunch of B.S. So when you give this job, explain in simple terms WHY it’s important, such as “Mommy and Daddy need to pack, so your job is to keep Fluffy and Whiskers safe. We don’t want them getting stepped on, or being left behind! So you stay with them and keep them company so they aren’t scared or lonely.”

If you don’t have pets, other tasks can be filling water bottles, or getting everyone’s coats and putting them by the bags, or -- if they’re old enough, and you trust them -- having them load magazines.

Finally, keep checking in with your kids. Not only does this reassure them that they haven’t been forgotten -- which is a real worry for kids -- but it also allows you to make sure that things haven’t gone disastrously wrong, like your dog getting off the leash, or the water suddenly running brown, or your child loading your 9mm magazines with .40 cal instead.

And of course, if you are a prepper parent, make sure your child knows where his or her bug-out bag is, and have periodic drills for evacuating, or bunkering down, or whatever it is you do in an emergency. The more you practice, the less frightening it will be, and the smoother things will go for everyone involved.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

One Aim Seminar Rescheduled


I've been dreading having to do this, but I can't put it off any longer.

"Rescheduled" may not be the proper word to use -- I feel that without a firm date date it's not a rescheduling, it's a postponement -- but saying rescheduled instead of postponed or canceled is more positive.

Come hell or high water, we will have this event. It's just been decided that we'd rather do it right than do it right now. 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Doctor Who: Space 1889!

The Doctor breaking into NASA is starting to become a habit. He really does play the best pranks on them.

You may be wondering about the title of the review, given that the episode's name is actually Empress of Mars. Or you may not, given the audience. Space: 1889 was a tabletop RPG that had a Victorian Era English Empire exploring and colonizing various planets, but since I'm really not one for tabletop RPGs, I found it through an audio drama series produced by Noise Monster (run by an associate of Big Finish, who do the officially licensed Doctor Who audio dramas). So when I saw, in last week's preview, Victorian Era British uniforms and Ice Warriors, I was pumped. Does the episode live up to my hype?

I approached it with some trepidation, as the writer Mark Gatiss wrote one of the best episodes of the first season, the worst of the second, one of the better of season 5 and the lesser of season 6, two good ones in season 7, and two bad ones in seasons 8 and 9 (including one of my absolute worst, the eye-booger monster episode).
NASA really should have seen this coming by now.
So after using the same baggy orange spacesuits for the last 8 seasons, the Doctor has finally raided the wardrobe for some flattering sleek black suits for he and Bill, which I must say accentuate his trim figure while still being functional and giving a much more imposing presence. (They don't look so bad on Bill, either.)

I have very few problems with this episode -- chief among them being Bill surviving a fall early on that looks as if it really should have shattered her face -- but I can forgive that given it forces Nibble to exit the episode around this point in order to fetch Missy for a rescue, thus ensuring Michelle Gomez gets precious more screen-time. It's also odd that the TARDIS exited when it did; the last time the HADS went off was in Cold War, also in the proximity of an Ice Warrior. You'd think that the Doctor would have remembered to turn it off at some point.

There are already websites reviewing this episode as "Socially Conscious" (which I guess is a fancy way of saying "woke" now that "woke" is quickly falling out of favour amongst their crowd). I will rebut this: It is no more "woke" than any other episode.

  • The British Empire was very imperialistic, thus statements like "We're British, Mars is part of the Empire now" wouldn't have been out of place had this happened. 
  • Bill's response to the Colonel's disbelief that a woman would serve in the police is the exact opposite that a "woke" episode would have had. A "woke" episode would have had her give a lecture on woman power and equity and privilege imbalances etc, etc, but Bill simply says "I'll make allowances for your Victorian attitude... well, because you are Victorian" and leaves it at that. 
  • Couple that with Twelve's poetic words about how vicious and yet how sensitive the Ice Warriors are, and Bill's comparison to Vikings, and you simply have an episode that is recognizing the differences and similarities between different people,  allwhile portraying historically-based characters accurately.

Finally! After 5000 years I'm free! It's time to conquer Earth!
Speaking of the Ice Warriors, it's good to see them again. They frequently top the "best classic bad guys" lists, despite not actually being that adversarial to the Doctor. The last time we met them was just a single soldier (albeit a very dangerous one). This time we see much more, even if they do their best to trick us visually by rarely if ever showing more than three on-screen at a time (a classic series budget-saving technique).

The exception to this, of course, being Empress Iraxxa, the titular Empress of Mars, who has a very striking visual design and a very imposing presence. When she first spoke, I could swear I'd heard her voice before, but the IMDB page for the actress, Adele Lynch, shows only this and a few episodes of The Bill. Quite an impressive performance on her part for someone with such a short CV! I have a feeling she's done her time on stage prior to this.

I would also like to mention that Ice Warrior weaponry, despite being completely bloodless, is horrifyingly brutal. That looks like an extremely unpleasant way to die.

If you know your Who history, and are paying attention, this episode loops back to a Third Doctor episode, with the Ice Warriors making contact with a familiar face... or eye, at least. Alpha Centauri of the Galactic Federation appears in two classic serials alongside the Ice Warriors (presumably taking place after this episode) and is voiced by none other than the original voice actor, Ysanne Churchman (who is now 92 years old!).

All in all, a very good episode. Not quite as good as Extremis, but as good as The Lie of the Land, I would say, and the second best this year. This season seems to be providing a lot of historical episodes: The Frost Fair, The British Empire, and next week we seem to be visiting the Romans and possibly dabbling in explaining some mythology (with aliens, I hope). But don't miss Empress of Mars. It's definitely worth a watch.

Friday, June 9, 2017

My Interview with OTTAR Magazine

Back in April, I was interviewed by Carl Åkerlund of OTTAR magazine. While the interview was conducted in English, the article (which can be read here) is in Swedish.

Fortunately for my non-Sweding speaking readers (whom I assume are "most of them"), Google Translate is here to help!... sorta.

Unfortunately, some of the translations are a bit... sketchy... at times.

But fortunately again, some of those sketchy translations can be hilarious!  For example, check this out:
Apparently I'm a badass Marvel villain!  I would have preferred to be a hero, but this is better than Google's translation of my Haaretz interview where it said I kissed my concealed carry license.

For those who can't puzzle out the context, here is a more accurate (albeit less entertaining) translation:
As the the rest of the article? I'm pleased because it presents a balanced depiction of both sides, and I'm thrilled that I received top billing over GAG.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hipster Canadians Shooting Guns

Aww, aren't they cute? I'm amused by the proto-ponytail on the guy. It's like a man bun, only smaller!

This video amply demonstrates a few things:
  1. Why safety gear is important
  2. Why dressing for the range is important
  3. Why some guns are best suited for experienced shooters (.50 AE is probably Too Much Gun for newbies; I'd have had them shoot .45 ACP instead)
I'll give them credit, though: unless the video is heavily edited (which it might be), they observed Col. Cooper's Four Rules, even while clowning around, and they hit their targets.

I'm glad they gave shooting a try, even though they decided that guns aren't for them. That's an informed choice, not one dictated by fear.




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Attracting a Slightly Better Class of Troll

We've gone from the bog-standard "You guys are stupid/dumb/evil/make me sick" responses to a slightly more nuanced, if blithering, kind of troll.

Just for fun, let's keep track of how many entries on the Internet Arguing Checklist are used:
  1. Skim until Offended
  2. Disqualify that Opinion
  3. Attack, Attack, Attack
  4. Disregard Inconvenient facts
  5. Make Shit Up
  6. Resort to Moral Equivalency
  7. Concern Trolling
  8. When all else fails, Racism!


This is clearly "Skim Until Offended" (1/8) and "Racism!" (2/8).


"You sound angry" is part of Disqualify That Opinion. (3/8)


I'm not sure if being faux-upset at my use of "drive-by" is Concern Trolling or Moral Equivalency (drive-by shootings are bad, see, and I used the phrase "drive-by" in conversation and not about a literal drive-by, so that makes me a Bad Person because I'm somehow making light of murder), but it's something.  (4/8)


This is one I've seen a bunch of times in online arguments: "I don't have to do research, but you have to do it for me" i.e. "Prove my satisfaction that you aren't what I say you are", and we all know how well proving a negative goes.

Also, I don't owe this jerk anything.

But since we've given him the link and he refuses to use it, I'm going to file this under "Disregard Inconvenient Facts." (5/8)


If we weren't before, we're definitely deep into Make Shit Up territory. (6/8)


Another repetition of "You sure are angry", along with another tactic I've seen online: "Oh, I'm not talking to you, person who is making good points; I'm only talking to this person right here."  Which is a valid technique if someone is trying to distract and pull you off-topic; not so much when the person is addressing the question you asked.


Let me just say how inordinately pleased I am with that phrase. You'll notice that I didn't insult him -- I said he charged in LIKE a syphilitic rhino, not that he WAS one. Plus, the imagery is delightful.


More "Disqualify That Opinion," this time by suggesting that anything said by Operation Blazing Sword is suspect.


This is "Attack, Attack, Attack." Basically, "I'm convinced you're forming a taxpayer funded queer militia to overthrow the government, and because you haven't specifically refuted my idiotic claims" -- and why would I, when they're patently ridiculous? Besides, as said earlier, I owe him no explanations -- "I'm going to phrase my statement in such a way that you look bad by implied association and/or refusing to denounce people." (7/8)


And he doesn't learn (or has poor reading comprehension). I gave him three chances, and he persisted which means he received a ban for his trouble. I really only let him stick around this long because his idiocy amused me, but the moment he strayed into defamation the fun was over

So that's 7 out of 8 on the checklist, and that's only because I'm not sure if an argument was Concern Trolling, Moral Equivalency, or maybe even both.

Also, being able to say "All further communication must through our lawyer" sure makes my nipples all tingly.



Monday, June 5, 2017

The UK Understanding American Values Project

As I mentioned on the most recent podcast episode, this past weekend I had the honor of  giving a presentation to a delegation of 10 young social media professionals from the UK who were touring America as part of an international exchange program focused on understanding and exploring American culture and values. I was asked to talk to them about what it's like to be both pro-gun and LGBTQ.

I expected a fair amount of pushback about gun ownership, mainly because the UK has very heavy gun control, but also because their only other pro-gun speaker was someone from NRA Headquartes from when they visited Washington, DC, and I think we all know how well the "Because the Second Amendment" argument works. However, they had also met with several anti-gun groups, including Gays Against Guns and Black Lives Matter. Needless to say, I felt that the odds were pretty heavily stacked against me, but it was important that I show the delegates how and why a trans woman can be heavily pro-gun.

I had a last-minute idea to create a visual aid of some common cartridges, so I took the ones that I had (hence why no .45) and taped them to a shoe box lid. It would have been much nicer if I'd thought to make this any time earlier than the night before, but as field-expedient props go I'd say it's not bad. If I end up doing this again, I'm going to take more time to make a much nicer display, including more cartridges.

To answer a few questions:
  • The metric is there because the participants are from the UK. Yes, I know that the British still use inches, but I wanted to make things easy for our guests. 
  • The .22LR is deliberately included twice. Not only because it's both a pistol and rifle round, but to serve as comparison between a .223/5.56 round in case the matter of "high powered rifles" came up. 
  • That's also why the x39 and x54 are there ; the x39 to serve as another example of an intermediate round, and the 54R to represent the typical .30 hunting rifle round.

How'd I do?

To be perfectly honest, this was not my best work, because the format was unusual. It wasn't a presentation where I could give a talk and show slides, with questions afterward, nor was it an interview where someone would ask a question and I'd answer in a back-and-forth. Instead, it was a strange version of the two, where I would be talking and then someone would raise their hand to ask a question, and that threw me off my rhythm for a while. Eventually I figured out that I needed to run it like a role-playing game, with me as the Game Master and the delegates as the participants. Once I figured that out, I started talking in bite-sized chunks, then picking a raised hand. Knowing what I know now, I'll do better next time.

Still, I feel that I didn't do terribly, because I'm fairly sure that while I may not have convinced them of the rightness of my position, I was at least able to get them to understand why I held those beliefs. I feel this is an important first step, because once you understand your opponent's position, you can actually engage in productive dialogue rather than just bludgeoning each other with your respective "Thou Shalts" and "Thou Shalt Nots". Indeed, one fellow of Pakistani origin (his parents were immigrants, but he was born in the UK)  declared that while he hasn't changed his mind about guns in the UK, he'd own and carry a gun if he lived here in America. I'll take that as a win, thanks.

What I found amusing is that, while I probably didn't make more converts, every one of the delegates who made it to the end of my session* jumped at the opportunity to hold and dry-fire my Glock 26 and AR-15.**  Maybe it was the sheer novelty of the situation, but they all appeared to enjoy it, and at least one wished we were at a gun range so they could actually fire the gun. I'll take that as a win, too.

A post shared by Jazza John (@jazzajohn) on
Yes, I know he wrote #AK47. I've no idea why. I left a comment correcting his nomenclature. 

* They were running late, and the woman making the presentation before me was also running late due to having car trouble on her way, so my 3:30 presentation was pushed back to 4:30 and the delegates were exhausted. Sadly, only 5 of them stuck around to hear me speak, and even some of those had to bail before it was finished.
** Yes, yes, before someone breathlessly asks about safety:  the AR had a UTM RBT training bolt inside it that would not fire a live round, and the Glock had a Train Safe Chamber Block. I taught them the Four Rules of Firearm Safety, showed them how to hold, cock and dry-fire each firearm, and then had them aim at the corner of the room before pulling the trigger.

After the presentation, I went out to dinner with two of them. We didn't talk about gun, but we talked about each other; of the delegates was trans and the other was gay, and so we had some common ground over which to bond. This is important, because one of those people was also one of the three who raised their hands when I asked if me being armed made them nervous. I'm glad that I was able to go from "Armed stranger who makes me nervous" to "Someone I feel safe going to dinner with." I'd say that's another win.

Finally, this is what the event organizer said to me after I thank her for the opportunity to talk to the young people:
Your talk and demonstration was wonderful. The participants really got a lot out of it and I think you opened their minds in new ways. I know you were nervous but you did a great job. I think some of the participants were also nervous in the beginning to be around your guns, but once you all got to know each other everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. Thank you again for driving over and sharing your viewpoints and your time with us. I will definitely let you know if I have any other delegations that would be a good match for your interests. 
So not my best work, but it seems like I did all right. And I'll do a much better job next time.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #146 - The Jesus Number

Three contributors are on assignment this week. You'd think that would make for a short podcast, right? Not to worry, Erin fills the time with an Epic Rant.
  • Beth, Barron, and Tiffany are all on assignment this week.
  • A shooting somehow *leads to* violence on I-40. Sean helps you figure out how that's possible.
  • It’s getting hot out there. Miguel uses his vast personal knowledge of heat injuries to tell you how to avoid suffering in the summer heat.
  • In the Main Topic, Erin talks about Christianity, Pacifism, and "The Jesus Number".
  • Last week was so much fun, and the Demanding Mommies' protest at the NRAAM was so long, that Weer'd gives us Week Two of his Protest Audio Fisk.
  • And our plug of the week is Anova Culinary Bluetooth Sous Vide Precision Cooker. Yes, Sean is plugging cooking equipment. But in his defense, A) John Doughty recommended it to him, and B) Sean's wife really likes it.
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:
Event Preparation for Leaders

I don’t really have much to say on this topic, since I’ve been scrambling to find a new venue for the Free Community Seminar, but I’ve certainly learned a few things from what happened to me and I’ll implement these the next time I try to run something:

One: Thoroughly investigate ANY venue where Operation Blazing Sword plans to hold an event, to determine if they might find our politics objectionable.

Two: EXPLICITLY STATE that we are both pro-gun and pro-LGBTQ to the venue owners, because we can’t trust them to figure it out on their own in a timely fashion, or to keep their word if they find us objectionable.

Three: Do not advertise the event unless points One and Two have been checked off.

Four: Don’t have the venue be the sole point of contact for people making reservations. I don’t know how many people have tried to reserve a spot after FCCWP decided not to host, but I rather expect they won’t refer those people to me, but will instead say “We aren’t hosting the event” and hang up.

Five: Consider having our corporate lawyer draw up a quick contract, so that if the venue backs out on little to no notice, there is a penalty. I don’t know how well this will work, as suing a church rarely ends well, but just having a written penalty clause might reduce the chances of broken promises.

Six: Always, always, ALWAYS have a backup venue ready to go on short notice. I’m scrambling right now because, to be honest, I don’t trust churches any more; any LGBTQ-friendly church is likely to be politically anti-gun. At this point I’m going to find a secular venue.

And that’s all I have for this week. If it’s any consolation, I wrote about three pages of notes for the Main Topic.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Doctor Who: History Is Written By The Victors

You may have noticed there was no review last week. This was because I felt that episode was on the uneventful side and was spending too much time setting up to something much bigger. This week, we'll be looking at both episodes, The Pyramid At The End Of The World and The Lie Of The Land, as they're both tightly interconnected with each other, and Pyramid works much better as the first half of the episode than it does as a stand-alone.

That said, for any sci-fi junkies out there, this is for you.

Dr Daniel Jackson is furious that he's not allowed in Turmezistan.
Pyramid is an interesting little mystery story with a very large threat looming in the background. We're privy to the events that are foretold by the Monks as they unfold while the Doctor, Bill, and the rapidly dwindling leaders of the world try to figure out what kind of threat would be so great as to make the Monks appear, offering to save us.

There's essentially two stories going on here, side by side, completely unconnected until the end of the episode. The A-story is serviceable: Nardy is tolerable, having toned down his more annoying tendencies; Bill is still dressed in 1990's finest; The Doctor is still pretending not to be blind, and has apparently been fumbling around the wardrobe, now wearing quite a flattering loose-fitting red shirt under his coat; and the Monks finally get some proper screen time, and they are superbly creepy. Like telepathic zombies wearing fine silk robes, they create a great visual dissonance between pristine and rotten. Even the Doomsday clock has a relevance, being something that most people are aware of already and having only recently been set again in our world.
The real star of the episode: this amazing outfit.
The B-story is a very Michael Crichton-esque outbreak story which, while also serviceable, suffers from one very, very glaring flaw: a super bacteria is created which could wipe out all life on Earth by misplacing a decimal point without a single automated alert that would either stop the process or notify the scientists. (Editor's Note: I was quite put off by the WTFery of a bio lab which automatically and irreversibly vented to the outdoors even during quarantine lockdown.)

I quite liked Erica, though. Although we're never quite sure what happened to her, I think we can be pretty sure she's dead. Single-episode companions that the Doctor likes, asks their name, and makes an offer to usually end up dead. See Kylie Minogue's character, Lynda with a Y, and several other examples.
Between that laugh and this smile? Capaldi can be terrifying.
Moving into Lie of the Land: this episode was much better, but suffered in a few places as well. It's a well-constructed episode, but it's a little too evocative of previous episodes, almost as if they took concepts that worked well enough as individual episodes and mashed them into a single episode:

  • The Doctor losing and the bad guys using him (or his technology) to rule the world hearkens back to The Sound Of Drums/Last Of The Time Lords where The Master held The Doctor prisoner and used his TARDIS to hold back a paradox, while his (coincidentally, I'm sure) black, female companion was one of a few that knew the truth and participated in a resistance. 
  • The resolution of the episode - using Bill's emotional connection to her mother to overcome the Monk's signal - was a "power of love" resolution like Closing Time's, where Eleven convinced a father to overcome a Cyberconversion to save his son. 
Still, despite the copied elements, there were a lot of themes at work in this episode that were really great, and I feel it's objectively better if only for Peter Capaldi's presence. Twelve played a long game with Bill that would have made Seven proud, giving her the photographs of her mother (that he took after she told him she didn't have any), as well as de-converting his own guards and giving Bill a test that rivaled Seven forcing Ace to question her faith in him in Ghost Light. His speech to her, touching on fascism and fundamentalism, free will and peace and order, was harsh, cold, and very, very believable, given how alien and detached Twelve gets at times.
The Doctor's place: Between Humanity and danger.
Episode Eight of the season takes us inside the vault (after a raucous scene of the Doctor crashing his prison ship into the coast with such maniacal laughter that, Erin and I agree, suggest Capaldi could play an excellent Joker), and we get an extended sequence with Missy. She's allegedly, in her words, going "cold turkey" from being evil, and Michelle Gomez does what she does best: doing her damnedest to steal every scene from Peter Capaldi. It's a huge credit to her that she's capable of playing so well against his intensity. I feel like they both get progressively more Scottish in every scene they share together, as Gomez's emphatic pronunciations of certain words ("gud") would be completely over the top coming from anyone else.

Twelve pays Bill an amazing compliment with "In amongst 7 billion, there's someone like you. That's why I put up with the rest of them." After her determination and bravery, I really feel she deserved it, too.

I would normally say Pyramid  wouldn't be a required watch, but it sets up Lie of the Land in such a way that you'd really be missing out a lot by skipping it. Lie, on the other hand, does not have the strongest story, and there are so many questionable moments of science that I can only recommend it on the performances of the cast alone, as well as another of the now-infamous trademark Capaldi monologues. If you enjoyed his scene-stealing moments in the Zygon two-parter or the masterpiece that was Heaven Sent, you'll enjoy several parts of this episode.

NEXT WEEK: SPACE 1899 AND I AM HYPED

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Gotham Rain: Chapter 4

     Harley slumped against the balcony of the penitentiary, all the fight having gone out of her. It had been so long since she'd been separated from Joker that she'd forgotten how to act on her own initiative. As she listened to the motor of the GCPD boat pulling away from the asylum docks, her head sank between her knees and she sobbed softly to herself. At that moment, nothing made sense. Nothing mattered to her. Her heart was gone, torn from her chest and strapped to a stretcher on its way to a maximum security hospital somewhere. Nothing mattered. Nothing at all, except... Harley opened her eyes and tilted her head slightly, catching a bit of green shifting. Ivy was stirring.

     Harley uncurled herself from the balcony wall and cradled Ivy for a moment, sensing something shift in her. All the chaos was falling away, and a moment of clarity struck her: she couldn't leave Ivy here alone. The Titan formula had poisoned her connection to the plant life, and Ivy would wither and grow weak, maybe even die... if she was even capable of dying. Harley wasn't sure anymore. Ivy hadn't exactly been classifiable as human for a while now.

     "C'mon, Pammy, up you go," Harley grunted as she threw Ivy's arm over her shoulder and lifted. "We're bustin outta here. Or what's left'a here, anyway. Mistah J didn't really leave much of it standing, did he? He was always thorough like that."

     The two stumbled down the stairs towards the water. All of the GCPD officers were off the pier, so it was a clear path from the penitentiary to the water's edge. The women stepped over the bodies of inmates and patients along the way, carefully picking their way through bits of building that had been blown clear from the structure. They stopped at the water's edge, Harley unsure of what to do and Ivy still groggy.

    "Nutso. No boats. No helicopters. Not even a moped with floaties superglued to it," Harley muttered.

     "Stand... back, Harley. Stand back," Ivy managed. Her eyes rolled back into her head as she summoned the last of her strength. Vines started creeping towards them from the water, off of the nearby fountain, from around the pillars holding up the docks. They began to interlace, carrying bits of branch and wood with them. A shape began to take form, a little pod of plant matter, with the harder materials fusing together and the softer vines near the back of it. "It won't be dry, but it will take our weight," Ivy said, her voice growing weak. As the pod took its final shape, she collapsed, Harley barely managing her catch her.

     "Alright, Pammy! Now that's what I call traveling in style!" Harley sounded almost happy for a moment, her sense of loss momentarily forgotten in her care for her friend. She hauled Ivy's unconscious form onto the pod as its petal-like structure closed over them. Then the vines at the end began to twitch, and the pod slowly moved away from the shore. The momentum of the waves pushed its along the shoreline North towards Miagami Island and Gotham City's southern coast.

Harley peered through a crack in the canopy, back at the Asylum, and sighed sadly. She looked at Ivy, barely breathing and completely motionless. She'd never seen Ivy so weak. Considering how far behind she'd left being human, she wasn't even sure what kind of condition Ivy was in.

     Now that they'd made it off the island, her mind started running at full speed. There were only so many maximum security hospitals, and they'd never take Joker to anything less. She'd hit a safe house, then she'd hit the hospital and get him back. They'd be safe, they'd be together, and he'd forgive her for letting him down.

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