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Friday, January 20, 2017

An Open Letter to Rockstar Games

Dear Rockstar Games,

Some six years ago now, we parted ways on the Grand Theft Auto series. It broke my heart to do so, as I'd immensely enjoyed Vice City and San Andreas, but Grand Theft Auto IV was just so grim, annoying, and not fun that it put me off of sandbox crime games for a long time.

Don't get me wrong, it was a well-realized world with a lot to do and lots of depth to it. It's just that grim-faced Slavic protagonist and his annoying, omnipresent cousin, combined with the terrible vehicle handling, resulted in me not even completing the main story, let alone getting 100% like I did with Vice City and San Andreas. The fun characters and dark humour of those two games kept me coming back, and the tighter controls made driving more enjoyable.

In GTA IV, driving half an hour to a location in a vehicle that felt like it had a 500 pound cat on the hood... then failing that mission because of the poor controls... then having to drive half an hour back from the police station or hospital because there were no checkpoints... was just plain annoying. Making it to the final mission, and failing repeatedly because of terrible driving controls, was the last straw.



I even have the two expansions, The Lost and The Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, and I've not played more than 5 minutes of them because I can't bring myself to go back to the world of GTA IV. So I abstained from further GTA games.

Eventually, I found alternatives. Sleeping Dogs turned out to be really fantastic. Saints Row 2 was a dodgy port for PC, but still fun and had a great story, and it kept me coming back for 3 more installments in the series. I felt a great deal of vindication playing around in these sandbox worlds again and actually having the fun that I didn't have in GTA IV. Enough fun that when GTA V came out, I was smugly asking "Yeah but Saints Row IV is coming out. Who needs GTA?" while my PC brethren were waiting impatiently for the long-delayed PC port.

A month or so back, around Christmas, someone near and dear to me gifted me GTA V on Steam. It was on sale for 50% off, and I glanced at it, considered, and got a chill as I remembered that final GTA IV mission which, to this day, remains unfinished. When it showed up as a gift, I accepted it and installed it with a great deal of trepidation. The timing couldn't have been better, having recently rebuilt my computer with a new CPU, RAM, and motherboard, as well as a new video card that was barely a week installed. I started the game up, cranked up the settings, and ran the benchmarks, getting a solid 60 frames per second. I started playing the campaign and...
Okay, all right, it was fun. After a brief introduction that featured criminals yelling at each other and shooting at cops, I was greeted by characters that had depth, flaws, issues, and a sense of humour. I got a storyline that was actually really good, gripping, and fun. And unlike GTA IV, the entire world seems to radiate a sense of warmth and fun that I dearly missed from titles like Vice City and San Andreas. So that problem's solved. I finished the campaign the other night, doing most of the side missions, and I can say I'm satisfied.
Trevor Phillips, everybody. The most entertaining sociopath in the GTA series so far.
But you're not off the hook, Rockstar. We still have to talk about something. Maybe I've been spoiled by other games, but why are your controls so terrible?

I'm using a gamepad, which is what your game was designed around. Why do you click the left stick to "stealth walk" when most games use that to run? Why do I press A to jog and tap A repeatedly to sprint, when most games have you click the left stick? Why am I pressing X to jump when A has been the standard for jump since Super Mario Bros? Why do your characters drunkenly wobble around the screen when Saints Row has them leaping and sprinting effortlessly? Why do they swing blindly when attacking when Sleeping Dogs has an entirely fleshed out hand-to-hand combat system based around real-world martial arts?
It's the little things..
Truly, my only complaint about GTA V is the on-foot controls. They're terrible, atrocious, and they've not only been that way since GTA III but they've progressively gotten worse. How long are we going to let you get away with this, Rockstar? You can do better than this.

Please, fix this. If your next game controls better on-foot, I'll consider putting in a pre-order. Until then, Rockstar...

Ta,
Salem.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Where has Erin been the past week?

Hey, everyone. I'm fine, thanks for asking. I've just been really busy doing a bunch of other things, and the blog has suffered.

Which is a shame, because this blog was my first love, and I really need to prioritize feeding the piggy bank over other things, but these days I need about three hands to juggle all the balls I have in the air.

However,  it looks like I might have a little more time to do more writing (at least for the moment), because I have gotten one of my many eggs hatched and ready to leave the nest.

Ladies and Gentlemen and those Undecided, I present to you the official Operation Blazing Sword website!
I admit it's pretty rudimentary right now, but that's because we've only just taken our first steps as an actual charitable entity. We don't have much to talk about, so basic website is basic -- but it's a good start, and we have a lot of room into which we can grow.

I look forward to seeing what great things Operation Blazing Sword can accomplish in 2017 with your help.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #126 - Panthers, Po-Po, and the Pew-Pew Life


It's the pew-pew life for us!
Guns are civil rights for us!
Steada resting, we fight back!
Nearly all our guns are black!
It's the pew-pew life!
  • Beth is going to the SHOT Show. Since she started attending in 2000, some things have changed... and some have not.
  • We all love a story with a happy ending, and this one will not disappoint you. But what sort of person ties up a woman in her own bedroom during a home invasion? Sean tells you what he's found.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin read and explain the newly introduced National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill.
  • What are the dark, secret parts of Gun Control? Tiffany gets her Black Panther Party on and tells us what she's found.
  • Does the idea of flushing the toilet during an emergency by pouring good clean drinking water into it feel like sacrificing your baby? Erin tells us how the Blue-Grey-Black water cycle can help.
  • There's a new "threat" to our gun rights. Are they dangerous, or just a paper tiger? Weer'd takes a recent NPR interview with their spokesman and puts it all in context.
  • And our plug of the week is for "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Netflix. It's got guns, action, and adventure for the guys, and costumes, relationships, and not a small amount of wish fulfillment for the ladies. It's a date night TV show for everyone.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on 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 Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle
Last week, Sean and I talked about the preparations he’d made for the Snowpocalypse that was slated to hit North Carolina, and later on Facebook he posted a picture of his bathtub full of water jugs.  He captioned it it “This is about 40 gallons, or three flushes of the toilet” and then in the comments explained “During the power outage from the hurricane I had to pour water into the toilet to make it flush the poo. The Wife insisted. Each flush was 2.5 gallons. It was like sacrificing a baby watching all that water I'd driven to Walmart to get going down the toilet.”

And I agree, using 2 and a half gallons of fresh drinking water to flush the toilet is wasteful. So let’s talk about making the most out of our drinking water by utilizing the Blue - Gray - Black Water Cycle.
  • Blue water -- also sometimes called white water, but that makes me think of rapids -- is water fit for human consumption. The technical term for this is “potable”, and it’s what you drink and cook with and bathe in and usually what you wash your clothes in. 
  • Gray water is what goes down the drain. It’s not drinkable, because it’s soiled with things like dirt, soap, bits of food, hair, shampoo, skin cells, and so forth, but it’s not harmful to a human being. You could bathe in gray water without ill effects. 
  • Black water is what leaves your toilet, and it’s decidedly NOT safe to be exposed to, because it’s full of pathogens that are just waiting to infect you if they get past your skin. 

So the general thought behind this cycle is that you can use water more than once, going from levels of highest potability to lowest, if you are in a situation like Sean where your water resources are limited.

Here’s an example of how that would work in a limited-water emergency:
  1. When preparing food or washing yourself or your clothes, do not pour the water down the sink. Instead, catch it in a container of some kind. The blue water has become gray. 
    • If you REALLY want to ration water, wash your clothes and your dirty dishes in the gray water. I would caution you that the grease and other food elements might not be the best for your clothes, but it’s possible. Washing dishes and utensils in gray water isn’t as bad, since metals and ceramic aren’t going to absorb odors, but make sure that 1) you use lots of soap and 2) you rinse them with blue water before putting them away for reuse.
    • Depending on the soap and other elements in the gray water, you might be able to use it for watering plants. In fact, graywater irrigation is a rabbit hole that is outside the scope of this article, so I’m going to suggest that anyone who is interested should check out the article titled “How Gray Water Reclamation Works” in the show notes. 
    • For our example here, though, we’re just going to assume that you aren’t going to do that. Instead, you save that graywater for flushing the toilet.
  2. Now it must said that when it comes to conserving water, the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule must be in effect. Otherwise, you’re going to be flushing a lot more often, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
  3. When it comes time to “flush it down, because it’s brown”, you take your bucket or tub or whatever container of gray water you have and you pour about a gallon of it, quickly, from about two feet. You don’t want it so high that you get splashed, but you want it high enough that the water gets a gravity assist.
  4. Past a certain point, the pressure of water in the bowl will be greater than the air pressure in the pipes beyond, and the force will induce a flush. There’s a YouTube video in the show notes if you need a demonstration.
  5. After you pour the gray water into the toilet, it becomes black water -- and because you’ve caused it to flush, that black water is no longer your concern.
Now before you decide to start saving your gray water for flushing, you need to know that gray water becomes black water within about 24 hours due to the bacteria in the water eating the food and giving off their own waste. So don’t let it become a health hazard and flush it away.

But with that in mind, Sean and everyone else can be a lot happier if the water goes out during a winter storm, because 1 gallon of gray water is a lot less heartwrenching to flush than 2.5 gallons of blue water.

And if you’d like to read more about getting by on limited water, check out the linked article of the same name on Blue Collar prepping, linked in the show notes.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Calm Request: Please Quit Posting Piss Jokes


I tried for hours yesterday and today to put together some intelligible article out of this current mess.

I can't do it.

A few months ago, there was Pizzagate, which originated from the Podesta emails and was based on Podesta being one weird son of a bitch when it came to his emails. It was allegedly a conspiracy that there was an underground child trafficking ring being run out of a pizza parlor in DC -- and only hardcore conspiracy theorists believed it. It was immediately debunked and dismissed outright by the media and the public at large, if they even heard about it at all.

Now there's a conspiracy theory that Trump paid prostitutes to pee on a bed that the Obamas slept in at a hotel in Russia... the source of which is an intelligence report that 4chan claims to have fed through dummy accounts to the GOP, but who knows how legit that claim is. Buzzfeed picked it up and ran with it, while other outlets are looking at them funny. And yet...
And yet my social media feed is full of people making piss jokes. Look, you can post whatever you want, and you can call me kink-shaming if you want, but when my entire feed is full of people making golden shower jokes, I'm a little grossed out. And if you cling to this conspiracy when even MSNBC is telling Buzzfeed to their face that they're wrong for publishing it, you've gotta think twice about it. Or, you know, don't, and just keep making disgusting piss jokes. For people who hate Donald Trump so much, you sure seem intent on flooding my feed with his face.



This is doubly disappointing when you consider that a few months ago Buzzfeed News actually put out a few stories that were proper journalism. Guess it was too hard for them.

Am I saying for sure that either of these did or didn't happen? No. They could have. I don't know. I know for sure that child trafficking rings exist amongst the rich and powerful, and I know for sure that rich and powerful people can be into some kinky stuff. But that's not what's important here.

What's important is not talking about pee on my news feed. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Highlander Theory

This came up in a post on someone else's wall, and I figured it belonged here on my blog alongside my equally-cool "Crowlander" post.

I have a theory that Highlander-style immortals are outcast angels. Allow me explain:
http://arazand.deviantart.com/art/Dreus76-Photo-manipulation-104799996
According to the Bible, when Lucifer rebelled a third of the Host came with him -- but 1/3 against 2/3 is not a winnable fight. However, in some tellings of the story (and I wish I could remember where I read this. It might be a Neil Gaiman thing, it sounds like something he'd say), 1/3 of the Host couldn't decide who to support, or were persuaded by Lucifer to stay neutral, and so stayed out of the fight. This made the rebellion an even match for the loyalists, and thus far more winnable.

Well, we know how that story goes: Lucifer lost, and he and his minions were cast into hell. But what about the third who did nothing?

According to my theory, they were punished for not choosing to stand with God, but since they didn't actively rebel against God, their punishment needed to be less than everlasting damnation. Since they did not choose a side -- and since the one of the biggest themes in the Bible is "Free will, even if you choose to do the wrong thing" -- this undecided third would be made to choose good or evil, Heaven or Hell. 

To this end, they were stripped of most of their angelic powers, cast out of Heaven and sent to Earth in mortal bodies (remember, all immortals are foundlings) with no memories of ever being angels. The various ages of immortals, and their appearance throughout the ages,  can be explained by "Time is different in Heaven so it took some of them a while to arrive and in fact are still arriving" and/or "God didn't want to dump a third of the Host onto Earth all at once, so he spread them out."

So now, those angels who once stood by and passively watched are now watched by others (ironically called "The Watchers"),  and are compelled by their natures to fight and kill until There Is Only One.

The Prize, of course, is the entire fate of the outcast third. After winning the Prize, the last living immortal is judged by his character, and thereby redeems or damns the entire lot of them. It is effectively an eons-long Trial By Combat. If a good immortal like Connor or Duncan wins, they are accepted back into heaven. If someone like the Kurgan wins, they're damned to hell for all eternity.

When you think about it, this explains so much about Highlander mythology.
  • Why can't they fight on Holy Ground?  Because God said so. 
  • Why do 99% of them use swords? Because angels have traditionally been depicted as using swords. 
  • Why does the Quickening manifest as lightning and other celestial effects? Because sky = Heaven. 
  • Heck, this even explains Dark Quickenings: the entire Game is "Choose good or evil", and a Quickening is the absorption of all the angelic souls into one big over-soul. If you kill a lot of bad immortals, you absorb sin-tainted souls and become tainted yourself. 
The best part about this theory is that if you play supernatural RPGs like In Nomine or Vampire, you have a way to add immortals to the game without breaking the flavor of the setting. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #125 - Forbidden Thoughts, Lack of Sleep, and Voicemails

It sounds sinister when we put it like that, but anything can seem threatening if it's written tersely. Example: "The last gun owner on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door..."
  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens have nothing on the Glock 43 and Springfield XD-S for Beth and her husband. What else are their favorite things? Listen to her segment to find out. 
  • What kind of idiot robs his neighbor who is sure to recognize him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin get a voicemail from Joshua in Arizona challenging our listeners to set their goals for 2017. What are YOUR goals? Send us your voicemails and we'll play them.
  • Tiffany  is on assignment and will return next wee, but in the meantime check out her guest appearance on Ballistic Radio. 
  • Fatigued? Erin has some tips for you.... when she wakes up.
  • "Loaded Conversations" is back and they've let the hate come out to play. Weer'd is ready with his Patented Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • And our plug of the week is for the ebook "Forbidden Thoughts". 

Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on 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:
Fatigue
Like I mentioned at the top of the show, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and right now I feel like a member of the Walking Dead. However, in a disaster or emergency situation, you may not be able to sleep well either, and odds are good that you’ll have to be functional the next day. 

These are the tips and tricks I’ve learned regarding how to get to sleep at night in strange or uncomfortable environments, and how to compensate the next day for not being able to sleep the night before. 

In order to get a good night’s sleep, you need to have as few distractions as possible -- but post SHTF you might not have the luxury of a quiet bedroom. Provided it’s safe for you to do so, soft plugs in your ears -- the squishy kind, like you see at shooting ranges -- will mute most noises, and a bandana or shemagh across your eyes will cut out most bright lights. I slept like this in college for many years. 

Eating right before going to bed may be terrible for your weight, but it’s a great way to fall asleep. The sensation of being full is a great tranquilizer, as we can all attest from eating Thanksgiving dinner, and the heat from your body digesting the food also helps to warm your sleeping bag. 
If cold weather is keeping you from sleeping, a nalgene or metal bottle filled with hot water and brought into your sleeping bag can also serve to keep you warm at night. 

But if you still couldn’t sleep and have to be up and working like a normal human being the next day, there are still preps that will help with this. I of course am a big fan of coffee as my caffeine delivery system of choice, and I talked about this in episode 31. Other people prefer tea, which is actually easier to carry in a bug out bag and easier to make. But if you aren’t able to make a hot, caffeinated drink at breakfast -- you don’t have the time, or it isn’t prudent to make a fire, then caffeine pills are your friend. 

I think most of us flirted with No-Doz in college or the military, but I discovered a similar product  on Amazon called “Jet Alert”. I haven’t tried it -- yet -- but a box of them costs around $6. That’s half the price of No-Doz, and you get a great quantity for your money: a box of 100 mg regular strength pills has a count of 120, and the double strength box has a count of 90, compared to No-Doz’s count of 60 per box. Those are good savings, and the brand has a good reputation on Amazon, so look into getting some for your bug-out bags. 

Also, using checklists -- discussed in episode 65 -- are a great way to get work done even if my brain isn’t fully engaged. Following a list reduces the amount of horrible thinking that I have to do when I’m tired, but it keeps me productive. If you’re in a disaster situation and you expect to be fatigued the next day, before you go to bed write down a list of all the things you’ll need to do in the morning. Just the simple act of making a list can help people sleep better because it’s one less thing to worry about, and then the following day you can just read the instructions to yourself instead of having to go “Now, what was I supposed to do today?”

Finally, it’s been my experience that fatigue from lack of sleep mirrors a hangover in a lot of ways, so I treat it similarly. I drink a lot of water when I wake up, then I force myself to do some mild exercise -- walking, stretches, etc -- in the sunlight. My body hates it and wants to crawl into a dark place and sleep more, but the sunlight helps wake me up and the exercise releases some endorphins that make me feel somewhat better. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Because I don't like leaving good material on Facebook

"Racist, Bush's fault" has been replaced with "Racist, Trump's fault." Please update your self-flagellexicon accordingly.

(Yes, I coined the term "flagellexicon". You may use it in your personal dealings; just credit me if asked.)

This is just a friendly reminder that it's not politically correct to misgender people while insulting them. The proper terms of deploring are:
  • Shitlord (male)
  • Shitlady (female)
  • Shitperson (gender neutral)
If you wish to indicate a teenager/young adult, you may use
  • Shitlad (male)
  • Shitlass (female)
  • Shitteen & Shittwenty (neutral)

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,
Shitlady Erin Palette

The Fine Print


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