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Friday, March 27, 2015

SHTFriday: the Spool Tool

Wow, two product reviews in one week!

Today, on Blue Collar Prepping, I review a nifty little gadget called a Spool Tool, and it not only holds your paracord, it gives you the tools you need to use it (a cutter, a rope holder for tying knots and melting the ends, and a place for a mini lighter).

Go to BCP and read the review!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the Matter of Mister Clarkson

So, as I'm writing this, I'm skimming through the BBC article announcing Jeremy Clarkson officially being sacked from Top Gear (and listening to a university lecture on Postmodernism, but that's unrelated... maybe). It's sad news, and I'm sure people are expecting me to rage against the dying of the light of a program that I've watched (and re-watched) for several years.

Thing is... they're not wrong. Sure, there were millions that signed the petition to keep Clarkson at the BBC on Top Gear. There were tons of people on the hashtag on twitter. Unspeakable amounts of support for him. But the thing is, the BBC was right to terminate him.

Clarkson had an altercation with a producer. There was a long day of filming, and there was no meal waiting for him when he was done, something that presumably his producer was responsible for. Clarkson is, by all accounts, a complete asshole, and didn't respond well to this. He went off on a tirade against the producer and then physically assaulted him. He even went so far as to turn himself in to his employers to report it. Clarkson did something wrong.

If this were just him saying something stupid again and another neo-puritanical moralistic outrage campaign, I'd be on his side. But it's not. He's still on his “final” warning from the BBC, or was until yesterday. And the thing is, I want the BBC to take responsibility for its talent. It has a terrible history of covering up internal problems. There are literally hundreds of potential cases of child abusethat the BBC covered up for decades in the wake of Jimmy Savile's death. To see them taking appropriate action in a clear case of wrong-doing, even though it may hurt to lose Clarkson, is a good thing.

Thing is, I can't say I didn't see it coming. And I can't say I believe it's not a coincidence that a year earlier, Clarkson sold his share in Top Gear for a frankly ludicrous amount of money. It's also heartening that apparently Hammond and May are refusing to go on without him. I have a sneaking suspicion that within a year or so, at least by the time that Hammond and May's contracts are up, we'll see them socking their own producers and taking off to join Clarkson on some Top Gear-esque production of their own.

This will not be the last time Clarkson's face terrifies us.
In fact, I'm calling it now: some sort of online-only digital streaming network, in the style of Top Gear, with Clarkson, Hammond, and May, putting out regular content, on-demand, for maybe $5 a month or so, with access to behind the scenes footage, specials, and probably 10-12 full episodes per year. With a model like that, the boys are likely to rake in much more than they'd be making on the BBC and have much more creative control over the end product.

In the short-term, it's heart-breaking to lose Clarkson, but I can only see this is a good thing, as it gives us an opportunity to let Top Gear grow beyond the constrains of the BBC. It's one of the biggest shows in the world, and it's not the BBC that made it that.

Top Gear can survive without the BBC. But it can't survive without Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Star Wars Anime

The Star Wars franchise has basically been dead to me since George Lucas' runaway goiter* took control of his mind and directed him to make the fractally execrable** prequel trilogy

But this?  This is cool. The Empire always did have the coolest uniforms and equipment.

Like Andew Eldritch said: "I think the great lesson of the 20th century is that you have to separate the ethics from the aesthetics. The Nazis did have the best uniforms, there's no denying it."

More information about the characters can be found in this PDF by the creator. Example: the Star Destroyer captain "is a big fan of fruit, and always offers fruit to underlings during briefings."  I find this oddly hilarious.

* Look, judge for yourself:

** Not merely execrable, but execrable on every scale, with pockets of small execrableness concealed within larger execrable masses; execrable from any analytical viewpoint, self-similarly execrable.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Kami-Kasi

This fellow was originally just a pilot sent up from the Ducal household to fly a ship down when one of the PCs requested a "combat drop". I chortled wickedly, and thus an NPC was born...
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Kasimir Jeannot Rothbauer was born on Jewell in 1060. He nurtured a passion for flying, and on a high-tech world where speeders and air/rafts were as common as ground cars, he was soon flying by the time most kids knew how to drive. He tried to join the Naval flight college, but his grades weren't good enough. Undeterred, he enlisted in the Navy in 1078 and was assigned to the Baumlaibair, a Ghalalk-class Heavy Cruiser.
In 1082 the Fourth Frontier War broke out, and a surprise attack by the Zhodani on the Jewell system destroyed the Baumlaibair and left many of the crew unable to escape its rapidly disintegrating hulk. Using his rudimentary flight skills, Spacehand Rothbauer was able to pilot a troop transport laden with survivors to safety, and then coordinated the rescue of others that were floating in vacc suits or survival balls. For his actions he was promoted to Ensign and awarded the Combat Command Ribbon and Meritorious Conduct Under Fire. 
Having demonstrated initiative and pilot skills, Ens. Rothbauer was tapped for Special Operations where he flew marine dropships under enemy fire. Due to his fearless nature and the speed at which he piloted his landing craft, he was awarded the call sign "Kamikaze" (a play on "Kasi," the diminutive of Kasimir). 

During a combat landing on Farreach, Rothbauer's dropship was hit by enemy fire and was forced to crash land. There were no fatalities due to Rothbauer's piloting, but he and others were seriously wounded. He was extensively rebuilt by the Navy, which did not wish to lose a war hero, However, the war was over by the time he returned to active duty, and so his squadron was put into reserve duty for the post-war drawdown. 
Now a Lieutenant, Rothbauer pushed to have his unit reactivated by engaging in aerobatics with transport craft. While his officers did not approve, the public delighted in the spectacle of large dropships moving in intricate choreography. Rothbauer was given command of his own squadron, the Flying Diamonds, which performed in airshows across the Jewell Cluster. This brought him much public acclaim -- he was the subject of multiple TV shows -- but it also earned him the enmity of his commanding officer. 

Promoted to O5, Cmdr. Rothbauer was given command of the entire group. As a result of daring decisions, jettisoning deadweight, and a "lead from the front" attitude, the 86th Jewell Combat Transport Group achieved its highest levels of efficiency and was returned to active status. Unfortunately, his commanding officer has been promoted ahead of him, and was able to steal credit for the reorganization. Disgusted by the politicking inherent in the higher levels of the officer corps, Rothbauer mustered out for the private sector after 24 years of service.

He was immediately approached by agents of the Ducal household, who were eager to recruit a photogenic war hero to be the Duke's private pilot. Promised the ability to fly expensive craft at the best of his ability for ridiculous wages, luxurious accommodations and -- best of all -- no politics, Kasimir Rothbauer became the chief pilot for the Duke and Duchess of Jewell. 

Kasimir Jeannot Rothbauer (Commander, Jewell Sector Fleet [ret.], MCUF) 7D888A

Notable skills: Pilot/6 (Small Craft), Pilot/6 (Starships), Pilot/4 (Capital Ships), Admin/2, Leadership/2, Tactics/2 (Naval), Battle Dress/1, all other relevant skills at 1

Equipment: Officer's sword (Monofilament), Advanced laser carbine with power pack, scout battledress optimized for vacuum operations (extended life support and grav belt).

Personal Augments: [Classified under Ducal seal]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Palette's Monday Gunday Product Reviews: LaserMax Centerfire for Colt Mustang Pocketlite

As I mentioned last Monday, the Colt Mustang my father owns (and I shoot) had some issues with accuracy until I was able to add a laser to it. This is the review of that laser, the Centerfire by LaserMax ($139).

Installation and Fit
I am pleased to report that, unlike the Guide Rod Laser I reviewed in 2013, the Centerfire is a breeze to mount on the pistol: you just snap the pieces around the trigger guard and secure it with a single screwdriver. It fits snugly against the frame when installed.

The button to activate the laser sticks out a bit more than I expected it would -- 1/8th inch on both sides -- but it can depress at least half that before it turns on. I haven't had any problems with it catching on clothing, but there is the possibility that it might happen to someone else.

Other than that, there is nothing that might snag or catch when drawing the pistol.

I can easily reach the ambidextrous controls with my index finger. However, I have small hands and this is a small gun, so that's to be expected. I do not see how folks with larger hands might have difficulty with using it, other than the expected "Everything is small and my fingers are bumping into things unexpectedly." If that's a dealbreaker, then perhaps a pocket pistol is not for those folks, in the same way that large double-stack guns are not for folks with small hands.

This is where I began to have some minor problems with the product. Minor, yes, but this is a review and I'm nitpicky.

First, the laser is supposed to come "factory aligned at 10 yards," and in my experience it was off -- way, way off.  However, I had that exact same issue when I shot the Crimson Trace Laser Grip on my mom's Ruger LCR. I don't know if it's just my quirky luck or something else entirely, but every adjustable laser I have ever used has always needed to be adjusted, regardless of what distance they are supposed to be sighted in for.

Second, and tied inextricably to the first, is the fact that the laser is adjusted by set screws. What this means is that there is no immediate feedback regarding how much I have moved the point of aim; there is no "one click means one-quarter inch at X yards" like one has with scopes.

While this is understandable -- this is a small form factor we are dealing with, after all -- it does make sighting in the laser an exercise in patience and precision:
  1. Shoot gun.
  2. Observe that sight needs to be adjusted in X or Y direction. 
  3. Use tiny Allen wrench to adjust the laser the exact smidge needed to get it on target without going past. 
  4. Shoot gun again. 
  5. Readjust sights based upon new performance until it is sighted in or you say "that's good enough" and leave it. 

That said, even with the Centerfire's flaws, it gave me a huge improvement over iron sights at the same distance:
Still at 10 yards.
All shots  were made using a bench rest to eliminate variation due to shaky hands. 
Top: The holes in the middle of the picture are where the bullets hit before using the laser. Further holes in the top target are from me "walking in" the windage and elevation
Right: It was getting difficult to see where I was hitting, so I shifted here. You can see the groupings getting tighter as I tune things up. 
Left: This is where I go "Yes, that's good enough,"  as this pistol is meant for self-defense at close ranges and not for precision shooting. I then took it off the bench and shot a new target using my usual (unsupported) stance. 

This picture is my final target. Windage appears pretty much straight on (I figure anything an inch or less from zero is from poor technique on my part), but the elevation is still about three inches low, as you can see from the grouping below:
6" target at 10 yards. 

(The shots above the bullseye are from deliberately aiming higher. )

I decided this was good enough for two reasons:
  1. I'd already played the "up... up... dang, too high! Lower.... crud, I'm too low again!" game too many times and I was fed up with it. 
  2. If I'm going to be off in any direction in a self-defense scenario, low is the best direction to go. Too high, and I might shoot over my assailant's head; too far left or right, and I might miss. But if the sights say I'm aimed at his heart, and I actually hit him in the lungs or abdomen, I'll take that*. A non-fatal hit is better than a miss, and given the length of the human body I've got a nice big margin for error. 

Of Note
One thing to keep in mind is that the battery is a 1/3 N Lithium -- not exactly common, but neither is it nonstandard. This isn't an issue for me, so it doesn't affect my rating, but it might bother others.

My Rating: A
It does what says it does, and its ease of installation and use cancel out my nitpicks regarding having to sight it in. 

In my opinion, the LaserMax Centerfire redeems the Colt Mustang Pocketlite. 

* I think this the point where I'm supposed to use the term "acceptable combat accuracy".

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: LaserMax sent me this laser for review. They didn't ask for anything in return, not even a good review. Go away. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #31

It's time for Episode 31 of the Gun Blog Variety Cast .
  • A very caffeinated Erin Palette talks to us about "Springing Forward", prepper-style.
  • Nicki Kenyon discusses our President's recent imposition of sanctions on Venezuela.
  • Speaking of Venezuela, Miguel Gonzalez reports on the incredible rate of "Express Kidnappings" in that country.
  • Barron B. wants us to know that bits rot, which can cause backups to fail.
  • and Weer'd gives that "Funny or Die" video a good audio fisking.
  • As always, Adam and Sean tie it all together.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And don't forget to share it with a friend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

SHTFriday: Normalizing Prepping

In today's installment my my prepper column, I field some questions from a non-prepper in an attempt to explain why prepping isn't weird and paranoid, but normal and healthy.

People wear seatbelts when they drive cars and have smoke detectors in their homes. Preps are just an extension of that mindset.

Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.