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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Traveller Tuesday: Legally Dead in Low Passage

In my Traveller game, anyone who is cryogenically frozen is considered legally dead under Imperial law for the duration of their freeze. There are several good reasons for this, mainly to to preserve financial institutions and help enforce criminal law.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Finances
Let us assume that you are a member of the Imperial Navy or Scouts, and your ship is critcally damaged. You send out a distress signal, set the power plant to run as long as possible while using as little fuel as possible, and crawl into a low berth to await rescue. Unfortunately, due to the vastness of the Imperium and the speed of light, you aren't rescued for a century. When you are rescued, you petition for 100 years of back pay, along with everyone else on your ship who survives. After all, you were in the service when you went into cryostasis, and you're still in the service when you wake up. It wasn't your fault that your century of service was spent in suspended animation, but the fact remains that you've lost time that could have been spent with family and friends, so you're due compensation. And with a century of back pay, you can retire from the service and never have to work again. Or perhaps you'll go into politics, funded by this handy war chest.

Well, no. The Imperium is a conservative society, and the entrenched nobility really doesn't like the idea of ships full of fresh, eager bodies becoming instantly rich through an accident. They also don't like the idea of someone with just enough income to rent a cold berth for a few decades to make some investments and then go to sleep, hopefully waking up with millions in stock options. (This would be akin to buying stock in Apple, Microsoft and Nike in the 1980s and then waking up today.)

No, when you are in cryostasis you are effectively dead, and so all forms of income revert to your next of kin and/or stop paying out (in the case of salaries and pensions). There is a bit of legal "wiggle room" built into the concept of low passage, in that such passage usually only takes between a week and a month, and the amount of paperwork to declare a passenger dead, only to then declare them alive again after they've arrived, is considerable and annoying. Therefore, most corporations have a 30 day "grace period" before they begin the paperwork. This can lead to inventive investors doing things like entering cold sleep for 3 weeks before being thawed out for one week in an attempt to extend their lives cheaply. However, this is known as financial fraud and is frowned upon by the authorities.
Sidebar: Financial Trusts
Someone will inevitably ask "Why don't people just create a trust to receive the finances, with the person in coldsleep being the beneficiary of the trust? This is a good question, and while there are probably loopholes to be exploited here due to my ignorance regarding finance law, there are two broad provisions which make this a less than ideal solution for the miserly

First, if it's a familial trust, then other people will have access to those funds while you are asleep. How much do you trust your kin? Because this is a great way to wake up suddenly poor.

Second, if it's just you in the trust, then someone needs to be managing it while you're legally dead. Someone like a financial adviser. Someone who knows how your money works, and for how long you're going to be asleep, and how to embezzle and hide funds.. or, alternately, someone who controls the payment to the people who are keeping you in cold sleep.

Remember, if you're obsessed with money, you're obsessed with keeping it and you're obsessed with making sure people don't take it away from you, so distrust (if not outright paranoia) is part of the package.
Criminal Law
When crimes are too severe for a fine, but not so severe that the demand death, the traditional punishment is either imprisonment or involuntary servitude. In effect, these sentences are saying "We are taking years away from you as punishment for what you took away from others." Invariably, some felons with rich friends or political connections would seek to do their time in cold sleep, thereby evading the actual physical punishment of the sentence. However, you cannot make a corpse do time, so under this rule the timer on the prison sentence is put on pause until such time as the prisoner comes out of stasis.

Interestingly enough, though. time spent in cold sleep does count towards the statute of limitations on crimes. This is because the statute of limitation applies to the crime, not to the person, and it's generally believed that if you were willing to lose that portion of the lives of your loved ones to avoid doing time, you've already paid your sentence. It's also worth pointing out that the most heinous crimes (rape, murder, slavery, genocide, treason, etc) have no statute of limitations to them.

Passage Between Star Systems
This is where the law sees the most use, and the reasoning for that is fairly straightforward.

Revivification Liability: If you're legally dead in low passage, then the ship's doctor who fails to revive you is not legally liable for any medical negligence. In fact, part of the act of purchasing a low passage ticket is signing a waiver saying "I acknowledge that I will be dead for the duration of my low passage."

Effectively Cargo: There are specific laws against treating sapient beings like cargo, most of which are anti-slavery in nature. If low passengers are dead, then they are legally cargo, and as such can be (and often are) stacked like cordwood, don't require as many crew to look after them, etc.

Abandoning Ship: There are also Imperial regulations for live passengers in the event of an emergency, such as "There must be enough escape pods or rescue balls for all of them" and "All passengers must be taken off the ship before the crew can abandon it." It would be ridiculous to demand escape pods for people already frozen, and lethal to everyone if they had to be defrosted before abandoning ship. Since they are considered cargo, they may be abandoned with impunity.

This is not quite as monstrous as it sounds, however; remember that emergency low berths exist as a method for crew members to await rescue. This means that a low passage berth is, effectively, its own non-mobile escape pod and requires only a trickle of power. Therefore, unless the ship was catastrophically lost (exploded, crashed, fell into a gas giant, etc), both the Imperium and any corporate entity under which the ship the flying will make good-faith efforts to locate and revive passengers and crew in cold sleep.

But what about the Frozen Watch?
Good question. I have three possible solutions:
  1. The Frozen Watch is a form of non-judicial punishment that is assigned to crewmembers. This is especially useful if the ship doesn't have room for a brig. Loss of pay is also a time-honored form of NJP which dovetails nicely with not drawing a salary while being legally dead.
  2. Crewmembers can also volunteer for the Frozen Watch, usually as a means of earning extra points towards promotion, or as a way of being RIFed out, or to avoid a worse assignment while waiting for a vacancy in a school or aboard a desired ship. In this case, the volunteer is presented with what is essentially a "signing bonus" that is equal or greater than the pay he'd miss. Given that most volunteers for the Watch are either junior officers or non-senior NCOs, the long-term effects of being declared legally dead for up to a year are minimal. 
  3. In the absence of personnel from 1 and 2, time in the watch can be considered just part of regular service. It's a crap assignment that no one wants (and again, no one with seniority has to spend time in "the cold barrel"), but everyone has to perform  as part of paying their dues. In this case, time in the watch is probably around a week, and the Navy just never files the legally dead paperwork because of the aforementioned administrative hassle -- essentially, "What happens aboard ship, stays aboard ship."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thank You For Not Squeezing the Toothpaste

One thing I've noticed about myself is that whenever I talk about being transgender in situations where the topic is not specifically on the table (such as when I was a guest speaker for MSI), I reflexively apologize for bringing it up.

My thinking goes something like this: The topic of transgenderism makes people uncomfortable and I don't want to make them uncomfortable, especially when they didn't bring the subject up... but I have a really important and relevant point to address regarding the subject, so I'm going to preemptively apologize for making them feel uncomfortable.

I'm not sure that this is a socially healthy thing for me to do because 1) it makes it seem like being trans is something rude or socially unacceptable or otherwise not subject matter for polite conversation, and 2) it reinforces a feeling, however unconsciously, that I need to apologize for being who I am.

I don't want to constantly apologize for being me. I don't need to apologize for being me, because I am neither picking their pocket nor breaking their leg, and like I said the other day I have every right to be me and don't need to beg permission for it. However, neither do I want to be obnoxious about my trans nature, waving it people's face and bringing it up in every conversation like the stereotypical vegan crossfitter who announces it to everyone.

In fact, this whole "I am trans" is basically a necessary evil to me. I'd prefer just to drop the "trans" thing entirely and just be "woman", but before that can happen society has to stop seeing gender transition as something shocking, salacious and scandalous. While transition will never achieve the same level of non-event as changing your hairstyle or wardrobe (at least not within my lifetime), I'd be happy if it was regarded with the same lack of fuss as, say giving birth: a routine procedure that is a joyous event for family members and regarded as perfectly mundane by the rest of the world. 

Sadly, the world is not at that state right now, as shown by the recent "OMG we cannot let trans people pee in the same restroom as regular people, because who knows what kind of deviance they might perpetrate, so let's institute genital checks at the door" nonsense and other legislation that singles us out as freaks. 

So I bring it up in conversation when it's relevant in order to educate people. It's not a "Hey, I'm trans, applaud me!" thing, it's a "This is a teachable moment, let's see if I can help people understand" thing. And yet, I still end up apologizing, because I don't want to be that person. I've been told that the way around this is to thank people in advance for their understanding rather than to apologize, because that sets a positive tone which makes people more inclined to listen. 

With that in mind, then, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make a point about LGBTQ rights and how they can be used to help the cause of lawful concealed carry. 

You may have heard about how Gays Against Guns (GAG -- isn't that precious?) has spoken against the National Reciprocity bill by saying “Federal reciprocity is a direct violation of an individual state’s rights to constitutionally protect its citizens." They then followed it up with a video (which I won't link but can be seen at this Guns.com article) unironically titled "Reciprocity Is An Atrocity."
Refresh my memory: didn't some churches also not want to perform same-sex marriages?
I find this is a curious position for any LGBTQ group to adopt, because do you know what else certain states banned but were forced to accept through the route of national reciprocity? Why, that would be same-sex marriage licenses. I imagine if that was up for referendum again, suddenly -- magically! -- GAG would be completely against state's rights and completely for federal reciprocity. 

So the next time you see GAG or George Takei or anyone else saying reciprocity should be abolished, tell them that they're campaigning for a law that will set a precedent for their marriages not to be recognized nationwide, and ask them if they really want to squeeze that metaphorical tube of toothpaste. 

Thank you for allowing me this teachable moment!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #135 - The Spotlight Effect

I love the thrill
In the white light
  • What's it like to be a woman in the firearms industry? Beth tells us about how she has to prove herself every day. 
  • A fire, a fire extinguisher, and a knife are the what; Sean takes a closer look at the who. 
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon. 
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about getting over that feeling that EVERYONE is watching you as you learn to carry concealed. 
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return next week. 
  • We know there's no reason to read them, but Erin says that newspapers actually still have uses. 
  • He's half of the "Armed with Reason" duo, and as Weer'd will show, he's not any more intelligent or reasonable in audio form than he is in print. 
  • And our plug of the week is the Striker Control Device, aka the Glock Gadget. 
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:
The Many Uses of Newspaper
Newspapers just aren’t taken as seriously as they once were. Between lack of readers, cost of production, and the 24/7 news cycle which is better suited to online reporting, actual newsprint is going the way of the dodo. But that doesn’t mean newspapers aren’t of use to preppers -- quite the opposite! The prepping value of a newspaper, though, is in its material and not what the rag says. 

There’s an old joke from the middle of last century which says that certain papers are only good for lining birdcages, wrapping fish, and toilet-training dogs -- and these are all good uses for the material. Newspaper is made from wood pulp, which is very absorbent, so depending on the cleanliness of the paper you can use it as an impromptu towel for drying off, or for wiping up spills, or even as field-expedient toilet paper.

But one of the best uses for old newspaper is for drying out wet shoes. Stuff them with crumpled up newspaper and leave them overnight, and in the morning the moisture will have moved from your shoes to the paper. This is a great trick to know if you’ve gotten wet and can’t start a fire.

Speaking of starting a fire, it ought to be obvious to everyone that newspapers make great firestarters. Finely-shredded bits of newspaper can serve as tinder; thin strips can serve as kindling; and rolled-up papers can even serve as fuel, if you have enough of them. Just be aware that newspaper doesn’t have much in the way of energy density; it burns quickly, unlike a log.

But newspaper can keep you warm in other ways. If you crumple it up and stick it under your clothes, it can act as insulation by trapping warm air next to your body. If you’re settling down for the night, you can further protect yourself against the elements by putting a layer underneath you to insulate you against the cold ground and absorb any moisture, and then a layer on top of you like a blanket to trap more heat and protect you from the wind, rain, and snow.  (Side note: If you’re out in the woods, you can achieve the same effect with dry leaves). You can also use newspaper to keep your home warm by wadding it into nooks and crannies and creating insulation, or taping it over windows to prevent drafts.

And finally, you can use newspaper to create a weapon. I know this sounds crazy, but apparently soccer hooligans in the UK were bringing newspapers to games and using them to create improvised clubs called “Millwall Bricks”. Watch the video in the show notes, and you’ll see that with some rolled and folded newspaper, a rock, and some taper, you can transform trash into a tomahawk that is capable of splitting a gallon milk container and denting a 55 gallon drum.

There are many things you can do with newspaper once you realize that it is, essentially, a very thin sheet of wood. While newspapers themselves may soon become obsolete, for as long as newsprint exists, there will be many uses for the material.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Being a Concealed Carrier Made Me a Better Transwoman

aka "How I Stopped Worrying That Everyone Was Staring At Me"

In this week's upcoming episode of the GunBlog VarietyCast, Sean and I talk about the Spotlight Effect and how it effects everyone the first time they carry a concealed weapon... except that it didn't happen to me at all. This is a longer version of my side of the story.

Many years ago in the early 00s, I was living the Washington D.C. metro area and I would frequently attend a goth club called Midnight. [1] Being in my 20s, going to a goth club included not only putting on the requisite black clothing, but also involved other things such as pseudo-occult symbols drawn on my skin in magic marker and sticking bits of chrome-plastic to my face with spirit gum (sort of a poor man's facial piercing that could be removed the next day, which is important if, like me, you worked in a conservative banking environment). [2]

If you've lived or worked in D.C. for any amount of time, you realize two things very quickly: The streets of D.C. are not driver friendly [3], and that the Metro system, for all its faults, is very very good at moving people into and out of D.C. Combine that with the fact that unless you have a job in the area you will pay out the ass for parking (either at meters or at private garages), and that if you're going clubbing you might at some point decide to enjoy an adult beverage or two or twelve, and it becomes pretty clear that if you're going clubbing in the capital that it's better to use public transportation than private.

I did mention that I was all dressed up in black with markings on my arms and fake piercings on my face, yes? [4] In case it wasn't obvious, dressing like this tends to attract rather a lot of attention from fellow Metro passengers. Some of it was disgust, some of it was judgement, some was just regular I've never seen anything like this before startlement and some was genuine people-watching, but all of it made me feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. 

But here's the thing: despite all the staring, only once did I ever have anyone try to start shit with me (and in that case, I was with friends so it didn't turn physical because we didn't engage with him). And I learned a few things from this experience:
  1. People may stop and stare, but most won't say or do anything. 
  2. There is a powerful strength in realizing "Yes, I'm dressed unusually, but I'm not doing anything illegal. If anyone tries to stop me, they are the ones in the wrong."
  3. You'd be amazed at what you can do if your attitude isn't "Please allow me to do this" but rather "I'm doing this thing because it's my right."
Now if you're a concealed carrier, I suspect those three points are also lessons you learned during your first month or so of carry. I didn't have to, because being a goth made me a better concealed carrier. Yes, I know, I am weird.

Want to know what's weirder? Being a concealed carrier made me a better transwoman. Carrying concealed -- not having a pistol, mind you, but the act of carrying itself -- made me more confident, and that confidence has carried over so that I feel it even when I'm not carrying. For example, when I visited Maryland earlier this month, I went to brunch with friends of mine while dressed in a skirt and blouse, and according my friend Cathy, the server called me "ma'am" without blinking. While some of you might say that's just professionalism on the server's part, the difference is the "without blinking" part: If she was taken aback but still called me ma'am, that would be professionalism; doing it without blinking, i.e. without even noticing I was passing, means I "leveled up" in my How To Be A Woman In Public skill. And the biggest reason for that is what I learned as a concealed carrier.

After carrying concealed for any length of time, most of us realize that the average person is so self-absorbed that they won't look for concealed weapons (and probably wouldn't even notice if your pistol was exposed) and that the only people who really look for concealed weapons are other concealed carriers and police officers. [5]

The fears that trans and crossdressing people have --
  • "Will that man in line behind me notice the bra strap under my shirt?" 
  • "Will that woman notice I'm not as adept in heels as she is?" 
  • "Will people notice my beard shadow/adam's apple/deep voice?" [6]
  • "What do I do if a stranger asks me if I'm really a man?"
  • "What happens if a police officer pulls me over and asks for my ID while I'm en femme?" 
-- are nearly identical to the fears that newly-minted concealed carriers have:
  • "Will that person notice I'm carrying?"
  • "I keep adjusting my holster, did anyone notice?"
  • "Am I printing?"
  • "What do I do if a stranger asks me if I'm carrying?"
  • "What happens if a police officer pulls me over while I'm carrying?"

And the answers to both sets of questions are pretty universal:
  • Who cares? You're not breaking the law. 
  • Probably not, but keep practicing; you'll get better. 
  • Probably not, but unless you're in a no-printing state like Texas, who cares?
  • You smile sweetly and tell them that it's none of their business. 
  • You smile at the officer and hand over your ID (in duty to inform states, hand over your CWP as well), because -- aside from whatever you did that got you pulled over -- you aren't doing anything wrong. 
I just think it's odd and funny that concealed carriers and transgenders/crossdressers, who we have been exist at far different ends of the spectrum, have the same damn fears when they start out and learn essentially the same damn lesson: So long as you've put some work into passing and don't draw attention to it, no one is going to notice or care. 

So my advice for anyone who wants to get over their fear of carrying in public is "Try crossdressing. You'll be surprised at few people notice, and how few care if they do notice because most of those who notice are doing the same thing you are."


Footnotes
[1]1707 L Street NW, in case it's still there, but I don't think it is. I talked about my experiences at Midnight in this blog post.

[2] I was in my late 20s and it seemed the thing to do. I'm not apologizing or making excuses, because I'm not ashamed by this. I'm just explaining what was going through my mind at the time.

[3] D.C. was built on a malarial swamp by a Frenchman. I have also been told that L'enfant designed the streets so that an invading army could not easily reach the capital, and my driving experience bears this out. Then there's the fact that when I was there, the street signs were so poorly lit that (in the days before cell phone GPS) you couldn't easily tell if the next street was where you needed to turn until you were practically right on top of it, meaning that if you were going at the speed of traffic you'd need to pull a VERY hard right turn or risk having the car behind you crawl up your ass. Combine ALL THAT with the fact that D.C. is simply rotten with one-way streets and "no right/left turns" and you get a city where, if you miss your turn or make a wrong one, you're screwed for at least 15 minutes.

[4] There may somewhere be pictures of me all gothed up. No, you will not be seeing them. Again, not because I am ashamed, but because this was before I realized I was trans.

[5] When I was attending MAG40, my roommate and I were in the hotel breakfast area playing "Spot the concealed carrier." We scored 100%.

[6] Yes, these questions are male-to-female centric, because honestly no one in our culture gives a damn if a woman dresses as a man.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Have Important Information That I Will Be Releasing

... or so that's what she said. Currently, there are two narratives going on regarding Rachel Maddow and the tax returns.

For whoever may have missed it, Rachel Maddow tweeted this:

This tweet got 85 thousand retweets and over 165 thousand likes. Less than an hour later, she tweeted this:

17 thousands retweets. 36 thousand likes. The point that I'm making here is that Rachel Maddow worded a tweet as if it were an atomic bomb she was about to drop on the President, only to later clarify to a much smaller audience that was already dedicated to tuning into her show that it was something completely irrelevant from over a decade ago that had absolutely zero detail.

As to the media narratives I mentioned earlier: Right-leaning media is having a laugh over it, as evidenced by The Daily Mail and The Daily Caller, while Left-leaning media is gamergating their own audiences, attacking them for getting hyped over being promised that they were getting a smoking gun, seen here at The Huffington Post and The Mary Sue. More reasonable, less extremist outlets are trying to dissect and report on what's happened, and I have to hand them some respect for that.

I'd still like to point out that The Hill's piece on Maddow, getting 4.1 million viewers for the biggest television version of clickbait that I've seen since Geraldo Rivera's underground adventure, garnered them less views than an average PewDiePie video.

I think, though, that the best coverage of this has to go to Stephen Colbert. I miss Stephen from his days pretending to be the Right-wing version of John Oliver (I'm still disappointed that John Oliver isn't a character like Colbert was). Enjoy below!


That's it for me this week. I spent most of it off-schedule for undisclosed reasons, so I hurt all over. I'm going to go take a nap. I'll probably sleep better than Rachel Maddow is right now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

WNW: Alas, Poor Alexa?

What do you get when you combine Amazon's Alexa with a three-axis talking skull? This:



I feel like it needs more atmospherics to become truly disturbing. Perhaps an enclosure to give the illusion that the skull is floating; perhaps an artificial flame effect to evoke the appearance of a bound, damned soul.

The creator (artificer?) lists the specifications here, if you want to build one of your own.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Operation Blazing Sword Patches

I believe there was a desire for Blazing Sword patches?

This is a prototype of a 4" tall printed canvas OBS patch:
If you would like one, please contact William Hilton at baca.strings@gmail.com. Orders will be accepted through the weekend -- he's placing the production order on March 20 -- so get yours now!

Each patch costs $9 each and includes shipping. Any overages will be donated to Operation Blazing Sword. 

EDIT: the deadline has been extended until April 3. 

The Fine Print


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

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