Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spiderchat

So, is chatroulette still at thing?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Folks Wanna Remove Historic Confederate Statues Now

Good.

A little background
On June 17th of this year, a domestic terrorist walked into an evening church service in Charleston, South Carolina. After an hour of listening to Americans discuss their devotion to God, he opened fire on the room. Nine people died.

He chose one victim to spare and tell others of his motivation (five others survived). The white, 21-year-old man explicitly stated that he was killing black Americans to start a race war. Photos later surfaced of him bearing the flags of apartheid states, citing quotes from the founder of The American Nazi Party, burning the American flag, and--of course--waving a Confederate flag.

It's that flag that's become this tragedy's Easy Way to Preventing the Next One (TM). We always find something to blame and kick weakly in the shins after a white guy kills a handful of folks, but for once the target is a reasonable one. Making the Confederate flag a less common sight won't change the pervasive racism and cultural cowardice that filled this shitbag with the idea that murdering people would make him vaguely fuckable to women.

And some of that has spread further, to a desire to take down statues of Confederate generals which we apparently have aplenty down here. As a Southerner and a veteran of the US armed forces, screw The Confederacy. Screw their flag. Screw their generals. Screw each and every article of Confederate iconography.


But not the horses they rode in on; I don't think Traveller was racist.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Basket Run: Part 2

This is the first of seven videos that have poor sound quality. 

The video quality is unique to this one. Do not adjust your set.


It'll be better in a month or so.

If you know of any way to crop videos, let me know and I'll start lookin' at it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

17 to 01: The Alternative Factor


Jesus fried chicken, this fuckin' episode.

I'm mad, bro.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Battletech Heaps: Improved Rocket Launchers

Whether it's for nostalgia or novelty, Wednesdays are the days that I put up old Battletech house rules I created nigh on 10 years ago. For those of you who aren't familiar with the (in)famous, addictive board game of armored combat, I'll add some context, but know that you should abandon all non-courier fonts, ye who enter here.

Improved Rocket Launchers (I-RLs)
What is up with Rocket Launchers? A RL/10 has great range, great damage per ton, and great critical slot efficiency. The RL/15 and 20 both deal less damage per unit weight, have worse range, and take up two to three times as many critical spaces. There is no reason not to take an equivalent number of RL/10's in place of an RL/15 or 20. The heavier platforms save a little heat, but you're only firing them once so who cares?

Name                    Dmg  Heat Min SR MR LR Tons Crits Ammo TH
I-Rocket Launcher 10  10, 5C  3    -   5 11 18 0.5   1    lol! +1
I-Rocket Launcher 20  20, 5C  5    -   5 11 18 1.0   2    lol! +1
I-Rocket Launcher 30  30, 5C  7    -   5 11 18 1.5   3    lol! +1


Why would you not this? Taking big RL pods is now at least as foolish as taking larger LRM racks. At least with a RL/30 if you're wagering everything on one hit, you can go all-in on a target number of "3" or "4" and know they're all going to hit instead of letting fly with a battery of RL/10's and hugging the probability curve. Or it can cut the other way. But it's a choice now, y'know?

And Clan rocket launchers, because why not shoot finely manufactured garbage at someone? Top-tier garbage. Garbage that shines.

Name                     Dmg  Heat Min SR MR LR Tons Crits Ammo TH
CUI-Rocket Launcher 13 13, 5C 3(2)  -   5 11 18 0.5   1    lol! +1
CUI-Rocket Launcher 26 26, 5C 5(3)  -   5 11 18 1.0   2    lol! +1
CUI-Rocket Launcher 40 40, 5C 7(4)  -   5 11 18 1.5   3    lol! +1

Clan RLs can fire any number of rockets when they use the rocket launcher. Used shots are marked off like ammo. When firing half of the RL's total rating or less, the heat generated is equal to half of the launcher's total heat, rounded up (noted in parenthesis, above).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mass Effect 4

It's true. Mass Effect has the worst fans. Read the comments if you have any doubt about that.

I have some disdain for the intro that it seems weapon heavy, with the emphasis on the gun and the hard light sword. Is that just me? Mass Effect's gameplay is largely built around combat, but no one's buying Mass Effect for the gameplay; they buy it for the story and universe.

If they bottle up a couple of guys and put them on an experimental mission to Andromeda before all of the Reaper shit goes down, that seems to undercut the universe angle a bit while sidestepping the story issue.

I mean that in a good way. How do you resolve an ending that players themselves decided individually. Not doing it seems the wisest option until you're wise enough to find a way to do it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Basket Run: Part 1

You know I love Skryim.

It's getting old though. My final sendoff is a game that finishes everything in Skryim. Everything.

The high elf Dovahkiin Kate McKinnon is traveling every population center in Skryim and killing everything that ain't already killed with nothing more than an inventory full of baskets. She is a vampire to facilitate lethal encounters.

Derek is accompanying me on most of this trek.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

17 to 01: The Arena


Kirk is allowed to have flaws, and Derek better get on this fuckin' train before we hit the movies.

And of course, take a shot as we have the military/not-military discussion again.

Somehow, Batman Begins actually was 10 years ago. Lucky guess.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Battletech Heaps: Inner Sphere Streak LRMs

Whether it's for nostalgia or novelty, Wednesdays are the days that I put up old Battletech house rules I created nigh on 10 years ago. For those of you who aren't familiar with the (in)famous, addictive board game of armored combat, I'll add some context, but know that you should abandon all non-courier fonts, ye who enter here.

Inner Sphere Streak LRMs
For some reason, the Clans have Inner Sphere-sized streak LRM launchers, but the Inner Sphere doesn't have obnoxiously-sized streak launchers of their own. Inner Sphere versus Clan streak systems are strange. Clan units are twice the size of their non-streak counterparts while Inner Sphere systems are only 50% larger.

For those of you not familiar with any of this, streak systems never fire unless they hit and when they hit, all of their missiles hit. This is in sharp contract to standard systems which always fire and even when they hit, they only hit with an average of 66% of their payload.

Name   Dmg   Heat Min SR MR LR Tons   Crits Ammo
LRM 5   5/5C  2    6   7 14 21   3.5   2     24
LRM 10 10/5C  4    6   7 14 21   7.5   3     12
LRM 15 15/5C  5    6   7 14 21  11.0   4      8
LRM 20 20/5C  6    6   7 14 21  15.0   6      6

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jaquen H'ghar


Context: You can either skip to 2:55 or watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

17 to 01: Shore Leave

So this episode is bad, but it's not bad-bad, y'know? We...this fight scene is really good. Better than modern fight scenes.

I don't care what Derek says; I love Sulu's omnidirectional enthusiasm.

Also, more messed-up sex stuff with women. Y'know, from now on I'll just tell you when there isn't any an an episode.

TW: Copious jokes about how stupid it was to throw a rapist into the middle of this story which do ultimately come across as rape jokes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Battletech Heaps: ATM Munitions

Whether it's for nostalgia or novelty, Wednesdays are the days that I put up old Battletech house rules I created nigh on 10 years ago. For those of you who aren't familiar with the (in)famous, addictive board game of armored combat, I'll add some context, but know that you should abandon all non-courier fonts, ye who enter here.

ATM systems are a favorite of mine. Despite being a versatile platform with myriad tactical possibilities, the three flavors of ammo for it are disappointing.

Multiple Target Approach
MTA missiles are designed to by pass anti-missile systems by avoiding a straight-line path to their target. Instead, the munitions take flight at a preset angle from their target. As they close on it, a secondary, high-powered guidance system activates and turns the missile back towards the unit. This spreads the missiles and fools anti-missile systems designed to confront only head-on approaches. Unfortunately, the addition of the secondary guidance package and new aerodynamic qualities of the missile require that the firepower of the warhead be drastically diminished. MTA munitions are available in two types: Standard and HE.

Rules
Std MTA munitions   Damage: 1/Msl, C2  Range: (4)5/10/15
HE MTA munitions    Damage: 2/Msl, C3  Range: 3/6/9

The effect of enemy anti-missile systems on MTA munitions is reduced by 2(Giving a -2 penalty on the missile hits table instead of a -4. The effect of AMS may not be reduced above 0.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Age of Ultron Supplemental: Black Widow

Let's talk about that shitty Black Widow controversy!

I once said you could cut Avengers down and call it “Black Widow & the Wise-Cracking Dudes with Stupid Clothes.” I maintain that is true. Black Widow could have easily been the main character of that movie. That's the highest praise I can give that film or her.

There's no way to talk about how Avengers: Age of Ultron handled her character that is at once polite and accurate. I don't know if Joss Whedon was trying to piss off people who liked her character or if someone hit him in the head with a brick and the resulting concussion did...this.

Let's start with the good stuff. When she refuses to try and lift Mjolnir, it's a boss-ass move. It clearly shows she has nothing to prove. She has the supreme confidence afforded by knowing herself and her place in the universe.

When she makes a move on Banner, that's good stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm tired of the incredibly hot woman making a move on the unassuming nerd bullshit storyline--

The most egregious example that springs to mind.

--because it's wish-fulfillment nerd bullshit that deserves a whole blog of its own, granted. But it's undeniable they have an emotional history. Every other member of The Avengers has a relationship.

Yes, asexual and aromatic characters have a right to be represented, but my point is that they aren't foisting a relationship on Black Widow because she's a female; they're forcing it on her because of a giant heteronormativity hammer and a the need for a plot involving her and Banner that can advance independently of the plot and explain Banner's absence at the end.

They're both emotionally closed-off. Neither one of them is getting a standalone movie any time soon. It's a relationship that works. Here are a few things that shouldn't happen to a global super-spy after she expresses her romantic interest in someone:

1. They do that thing where they fall together and he lands in her boobs.
2. She's captured by the villain and he has to rescue her.
3. He carries her in his arms when she's not even hurt.
4. They do that thing that anime does where they fall on each other and he lands on her breasts.
5. Black Widow says she's a monster because she can't have kids.
6. The thing where Banner and Romanoff and tits because clumsy.
7. Basically, those last two, repeated forever because what the fuck.

The “monster” bit retroactively takes her calm, confident refusal of the hammer and turns into an almost despair-laden resignation that she's not good enough. And that is bullshit.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Age of Ultron, Part 2

Continued from Monday.

Theme
At one point, Ultron says, “you want to save the world, but you don't want it to change,” a succinct statement of the underlying contradiction of not just super hero stories, not just of the comics industry in general, but of the first world itself. Most folks realize the glaring injustices of their world, but deny or ignore them because changing them is too daunting a project as both an concerted effort and a massive change to the status quo that leaves their future in question.

Cap says, “a-yup” and throws his shield at Ultron.

Let's face it; for these films optics come first, franchising second, character is a distant third, and way down in fourth is theme. I mentioned scattered thematic elements in Avengers that were apparently abandoned and AoU feels like it's got even fewer bones under all of the meat.

There's something about trust and secrets, which was so facile that it could've been pulled from any saturday morning cartoon. If you took a shot every time someone said “team” in this movie, you'd die from alcohol poisoning about half way through the Ninja Turtles Farmhouse scenes. But then everything turns out for the best when the fight over Vision is resolved successfully by two characters acting completely without consulting the others and Barton's secret family farmhouse turned out to be a really good thing after all so the lesson on that is...?

There's something about progeny and mortality and failure, but I can't for the life of me unravel it. Vision kind of touches on it in that final scene with Ultron, but I was distracted because it kinda felt like he was just jerking the audience off with the adulation of the humanity for it's own sake.

Whoa, Vision. I didn't say to stop...

He also mentions grace and if anyone took note about the minor kerfluffle regarding Captain America being a Christian who believes there's only one god(!?) in Avengers, it only seemed to motivate them to cram more religious themes into this one. There's lots of talk of Ultron's nearly-divine judgment of and Vision's love for and confusion over humanity.

In fact, I'd be interested in a viewing of Age of Ultron colored by Old and New Testament readings of it. Ultron is the first (Christian) God we made, designed by fear for the ostensible and ultimately dubious benefit of all. So obsessed with control and willing to smite all of Creation for defying him. He lives in a church, is omnipresent, and doesn't like being compared to Tony Stark[1]. That's a spot-on description of Yahweh if I ever heard it.

Vision is Jesus and The New Testament rolled into one, forged from hindsight and cooperation, albeit halting cooperation. He walks among us and is the path to his father, Ultron. The Christian view is that ultimately, the New Testament replaces the old. Jesus doesn't then join the Avengers, but there are a few parallels.

Still though, I'd be the first to suggest I'm engaging in some incredibly creative reaching. The only reason the scattered religious references are here are because I secretly suspect Joss Whedon made this thing as a hate letter to Man of Steel.

Context
My hate of Man of Steel is well documented at this point. It's possible I'm projecting.

But where Man of Steel was cynical mess with a slightly more coherent religious theme than Age of Ultron. Lest this become the third bitch-in for Man of Steel. It featured a solitary, messianic hero we were supposed to like because we like him, a dark pallete and themes for their own sake, and a superhero movie so obsessed with staying grounded that it has to excuse, obscure, and ignore every part of the genre its central character started.

Age of Ultron stars heroes that we don't always like, but do understand and feel sympathetic for. Because those characters are actual people--all characterized as part of a cast starring six to twelve individuals--the film is already grounded (well, except Segovia[2]). It doesn't have to be “dark” to convince us it's real. Age of Ultron takes a break at its climax to say, “Yeah, this is insane, but you want to a part of it, don't you?”

And you do. The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't a perfect place, but one of its strengths is that it never forgets that the people our heroes are fighting for are worth saving. Flawed? Yes. Imperfect? Yes. Just like our heroes. No one wants a god looking down on them; we want gods in the trenches with us.

As in real life, amongst all this chaos and destruction, the life on this little blue ball is all we have. We are all we have and it's incumbent upon us to rise as high above it as we can not so we can save it but because one day whereever we're standing this garbage heap, we're gonna have someone--a kid, a friend, a mentee--and we're gonna wanna lift them over our heads and put them as high up above where we are as we can. We want them where there's just less garbage and hopefully, one day, they can climb or whoever they lift will climb to a place where there isn't any garbage at all.

So maybe Age of Ultron had some kind of theme after all.

Continuity
Wow, so...Infinity Stones seem pretty small compared to life on Earth.

Avengers took some heat for not mentioning War Machine and not really covering the partners of the central team members. Age of Ultron fixes all that. Well, not “adding Jane Foster” fixing it. In fact, Pepper Potts isn't in this one either. But there is a conversation where Stark and Thor compete with each other to see who has the more accomplished girlfriends. Feminism?

Probably not. But as the Avengers scatter to the winds, we meet the New Avengers. The literal New Avengers made up of the sidekicks of the previous movies and some new characters introduced in this one. Because women and people of color have only been support characters in previous movies[3], the removal of the A-list means that the New Avengers are now 33% non-white[4] and 33% women. The woman thing needs some work, but until Pepper Potts stops running Stark Industries and becomes Rescue, it's a marked improvement.

Also, they set up for Infinity War, though I'm not 100% on where Civil War comes from because Cap and Iron Man seem cool at the end of this one. As someone who hasn't seen Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, it plugs into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without any encumbrance.

Again, these movies focus on spectacle, continuity, character, and ideas in that order and they get the fuck away with it every time by remembering their priorities and giving each part the exact weight it needs. In fact, Age of Ultron is a lot like Mjolnir; it's perfectly balanced and built with the knowledge that being too heavy can rob it of its power.


---
[1] It's in Deuteronomy. I swear.
[2] Too soon?
[3] Technically, I think Pepper Potts stops the villain in each Iron Man, but whatever.
[4] I dare not even debate the ethnicity of Scarlet Witch.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

17 to 01: The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2

I'm not cruel enough to leave you with a cliffhanger. Part I above and Part II below.
This episode is one-half retrospective as we return to "The Cage." 

The other half is stubborn disbelief.

We also cover the editorial abilities of Starfleet security cameras, William Shatner's brooding abilities, and moonlighting ensigns.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Battletech Heaps: A Heavier Gauss Rifle

Whether it's for nostalgia or novelty, Wednesdays are the days that I put up old Battletech house rules I created nigh on 10 years ago. For those of you who aren't familiar with the (in)famous, addictive board game of armored combat, I'll add some context, but know that you should abandon all non-courier fonts, ye who enter here.

A Heavier Gauss Rifle
There is a Heavy Gauss Rifle. It deals less damage as it shoots further. It's got a lot of rules attached. Some folks like it and I'm sure it's great, but it has got a lot of baggage.

I just want a simple, heavy gauss rifle. Just something like the Light Gauss Rifle that has a simple set of stats, even if they aren't really that remarkable or useful. The math right now seems to favor something like:

Monday, June 01, 2015

Evening News: Josh Duggar

TW: This article contains mention of sexual abuse against minors.

If you're reading this, you have probably never heard of Josh Duggar. He's the eldest of 19 kids, all of whom are the stars of TLC's reality series “19 and Counting.” In light of an InTouch article, Duggar admitted that when he was 14 and 15 he molested five girls, including his own sisters. His public admission included an apology and an admission of the harm he'd done. Time Magazine's timeline is essential.

So another celebrity openly and honestly admitted their mistake after it became public and undeniable. Who cares? Josh Duggar has made a career of proselytizing. The faith of the Duggar family has been central to their lives and for Josh, that's included an opposition to LGBT individuals. The man who as a teenager molested girls and publicly admitted the harm he has done has for years accused homosexuality of being inherently harmful to children.

And it's not limited to him. The friendly cop his dad eventually reported the abuse to? Serving time for child pornography. That cop's report? Destroyed days after these revelations. While running for state representative, his dad claimed that rape and incest should be punishable by death, but took over a year to report that his daughters were being molested by his son. Bill Gothard, friend to the Duggars and head of their homeschooling program? Accused of molestation and covering up child abuse.


A single article pulled on the thread named Josh Duggar, and with his actions made public, an ugly sweater is coming unraveled. These men protected by faith reveal the hypocrisy of holy rollers whose religious fandom and numbers give them the temerity to encircle and mercilessly call out the openly deviant few, but leaves them blind to the monsters behind them, and begging for mercy when they stumble.

Age of Ultron, Part 1

So...Age of Ultron. If you've heard anything about Age of Ultron, I'd like to tell you it's true. I'll get into spoilers after the cut, but it was a fun time and I'm looking forward to Civil War and Infinity War.


In case you didn't know, Age of Ultron, also known as Avengers 2, is a sequel to 2012's Avengers directed and written by Joss Whedon and based on characters created by--at the very least--Jack Kirby, Stan Lee.

Spectacle
Age of Ultron is epic and feels epic. It establishes the build from the start and the tension is kept tight, even when they introduce the New Thing Which Will Definitely Be Plot-Critical in an Hour or So. A handful of plot threads are cut short, keeping you from being certain about what's happening next. At the same time, they're so surgically cauterized that you don't feel as though your time has been wasted.

It's a fun ride. While the second part of a trilogy is traditionally the darkest one with the most downbeats, AoU is a celebration of The Avengers at the peak of their form. They fought off the Chitauri last time and you know that Thanos is going to be kind of a big deal in the future...


This isn't a spoiler, right? Thanos is coming.

...so this is more like the last of the good times before things go bad. Age of Ultron never forgets that the world is at stake, but nor does it let that get in the way of the sheer joy of being The Avengers, from James Spader almost channeling Gul Dukat as the smarmy, insane Ultron, to The Avengers themselves energetically circling their villain like a wolf pack bringing down a mammoth.

The setpieces feel more like setpieces in this one, but everything is still bright and vibrant. Hits land, stories arc, and there's few moments where someone's story stalls. I'd fuckin' kill to have one classic Star Trek movie created with this level of detail and energy for each player.

Also, in case I have to say it...