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Friday, February 5, 2016

SHTFriday: Zika Watch, Week 2

Despite all the hysteria you're hearing from the media, not a lot has changed between last week and this. This week, I talk about the new developments and why they aren't the big deal that the panic-mongers want you to think they are.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

This Wire Goes Where?

It is with heavy heart that I retire the last internal component of my original gaming computer, first built some 5 years ago now.

It is with fond memory that I recall making the decision to first build it. When playing Assassin's Creed: Revelation, I was put off by the framerate dipping into the low twenties, rendering the game virtually a slideshow and thus unplayable. I began putting together an order for parts with money set back each month, and made the order late 2011: an Nvidia GTX 560 graphics card, Intel i5-2500 processor, and 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. When finally completed, it was capable of an average of 37 frames per second on the maxed-out benchmark of Batman: Arkham City, and blazed through the aforementioned Revelation with all the settings topped out.

In the intervening years, a new video card, the XLR8 Nvidia GTX 770, was acquired, along with a new power supply as the old one physically didn't have the capability to run it. Not that it wasn't powerful enough, but that it simply didn't have the required plugs. Some additional RAM was added, but my poor system was finally reaching a moderate level of obsolescence. New games couldn't be maxed out anymore, and like history repeating itself, Assassin's Creed: Unity and Syndicate were barely playable. I was lowering the resolution from the standard 1080p (still far higher than the average gaming console can achieve) and turning settings down to low, and still getting mixed results. Well optimized games - Mad Max, Witcher 3, Shadow of Mordor, were running fine, but Arkham Knight and the aforementioned Assassin games, which were already a mess, were a nightmarish mess of stuttering and blurred textures.

Come Christmas Bonus, I put in an order. The new Skylake generation i5-6600, DDR4 RAM, and a motherboard named after an explosive, the B150M Mortar.

Upgrade day is always stressful to me. It's a damn good thing I never went into medicine, as nothing works the first time I close up the case and start it up. In this case, it was quite literal, as the whole thing failed to power on. After cracking the case back open I noticed I'd neglected to attach the mains power to the motherboard... and the front LEDs... and the power switch. I'd forgotten to plug the power switch into the motherboard.

This rectified, I set about reinstalling Windows 10, which went successfully until, at the insistence of an otherwise brilliant techie friend, I manually reinstalled the drivers for the motherboard. The activity on my solid state hard drive went to, and stayed at, 100% until the computer crashed.

After a fresh reinstallation, and trusting Windows to handle the drivers, I'm back on my feet and happy to report that I'm now getting the same performance at 1080p on Ultra settings for games that were previously at 720p and Low settings.

All that said, it's set back the review I was going to write for X-Files, which is probably a good thing. That first episode was... well, someone linked me to the gif I'll provide here, which promises that the subsequent episodes have a little more to provide than the frenetically-paced mess that was the first episode.

And remember, it's never a successful rebuild unless you have screws left over!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Traveller Missile Addendum

I forgot to mention this.

Disclaimer: At this point I have fully embraced my heresy and now cherry pick willy-nilly from both 1e and 2e Mongoose Traveller. I denounce myself.  
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Missile Speed
As I said last week, missiles in Traveller are slow -- probably too slow to make them effective in combat.  (Well, maybe not; perhaps you have different space combat scenarios then I do. All of mine have started at Very Long or Distant range, and it takes for-freaking-ever for missiles to reach their targets.)

To that end, I have been experimenting with increasing missile speeds. I am sure this will come as a source of consternation to at least one of my players, who said "Missiles are not beams." And this is true. But consider this post about AMRAAM G-load from, a forum filled with war otaku if I've ever seen one:
AMRAAM like any missile will likely be able to achieve maximum G forces when their rocket motor is still burning but are able to achieve quite high G forces mid-flight. For example VT-1 missile in Crotale NG SAM system can go up to 50 Gs but can still go 35 Gs 8 km away from launcher several seconds after the rocket motor has burned out. Speed then is something like 750 m/s when top speed is 1250 m/s. I think AMRAAM will be similar and can do max G turns when rocket motor is still burning or just burned out. 
There are no citations, so I can't check the claims being made (and believe me, I've been looking for sources of hard data on missile G load, but they're passionate and I generally trust war nerds to get their data right), but they're saying that modern (TL 7) missiles can pull G loads between 30 and 50 G's, albeit briefly and usually at launch.

If that's possible at TL 7, then it sounds plausible to me that TL 12 (average Traveller tech level) missiles ought to be much faster, and Imperial maximum TL 15 missiles faster still. As tech level advances, both upper speed and duration of G-burn increase. 

So here's something one of my fellow Evil Traveller GMs came up with: the top speed of any missile is twice its tech level.  This means that TL 7 missiles have a max thrust of 14 G's... which actually fits as another of the Evil GM Cadre gave me these numbers:
The WPU-8/B engine of the AIM-120A-1 has 2,128 kg of thrust for 10 seconds then 182 for another 110 seconds. That's 14 G's. And that 14G is the average over the entire burn, it's slower at the beginning and faster at booster burnout because it's getting lighter from fuel consumption.
 Of course, the drawback to having really fast missiles is that you can't use the missile flight time chart in the core rules; you need to track its position like a craft and subtracting its thrust from that of a fleeing target in order to find relative velocity. (Not that it matters to me, I've been doing it this way for years now.)

To that  end, I present you with this very nifty spreadsheet that my friend The_Jack made. Just input the missile's thrust and endurance (and if it's launching from a craft, how fast that craft was going and for how long) and it will do the rest.

Since speed is dependent upon Tech Level, and TL is variable, we need a formula. For simplicity's sake, let's just use the base cost of the missiles as printed in the book as the baseline and then multiply them by tech level as well.
  • Basic (ballistic guidance) missiles (which are  cost 15,000 x TL 7 = 105,000 Cr for 14G or 225,000 Cr. for 30G. 
  • TL 12 Smart (internal guidance) missiles (which is what most PCs will get) cost 30,000 x 12 = 360K for a pack of 12 at 24G's. 
  • Nukes cost 45,000 x 7 = 315,000 Cr for a dozen, which is still pretty cheap. TL 15 cost 675K for 12. If anything, I think I'm undercharging for these. 
  • Missiles which are neither smart nor basic default to external guidance. See last week's post for more explanation on this. 
  • Long Range missiles... kind of cease to be relevant at this point. 
You get the idea. Yes, they're much more expensive than the 1e versions (but actually get surprisingly close to 2e prices), but they're also much faster, which means they are less likely to be shot down, and that makes them far more effective. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday Gunday: 3 Ways to Sling Carry

I had originally planned to write an article about the use of the sling and the different ways you can sling your rifle... and then I found this infographic which says everything I planned to say, but better and with more clarity.

So look at the picture and be informed. I'm going to run my antivirus to see if I can figure out what is causing my internet connection to drop intermittently and then I'm going to bed.

By the way, my sling of choice for my AR-15 and SKS is the Echo Sling. I've reviewed it and I recommend it highly.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #76
Adam and Sean return for another episode of The GunBlog VarietyCast, this time with voices that actually work!
  • Erin Palette tells us about taking Andrew Branca's Law of Self Defense class. 
  • Did you hear that John Kerry thinks we might lift sanctions on Russia? Well Nicki Kenyon gives us her opinion on that idea.
  • Barron B tells us some more about how people can use Customer Service to hack your password.
  • And continuing on his multi-week effort, Weer'd fisks more of President Obama's disastrous CNN Town Hall. This week, the anti-gun questions.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Friday, January 29, 2016

SHTFriday: the Zika Virus

Are you worried because the media is suddenly talking about a virus you never heard about until now? Don't panic. I break it down for you and explain why Zika isn't that big of a deal.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Privilege We Don't Talk About

These days, everyone likes to talk about race, gender, sexuality, and sometimes religion, if it's the right religion. Entire worldviews and ideologies exist around these factors, and people build their entire identities around the circumstances of their birth. Circumstances that are built entirely on chance and often do play a part in the way your life plays out, but these very self-same people generally tend to ignore the elephant in the room.

The very well-off, well dressed, upper-class elephant.

The elephant with multiple degrees, a trust fund, and paid speaking positions.

The elephant that makes daily stops at Starbucks to micro-blog on their Macbook Air about injustice.

Maybe it's just the reformed Marxist in me, but nothing irritates me more than seeing someone who genuinely, in their heart of hearts, feels that they're a victim of the world lecturing someone in a rougher place than they are. I can't help but feel that regardless of race, gender, whatever factor, that someone who has just stepped off the stage of the Sydney Opera House from a lecture where they earned enough to buy one or two reliable used cars shouldn't be lecturing someone in rural Appalachia regarding their place of power in the socioeconomic structure of systems.

So let's talk about Roxanne Gay. Who, according to her twitter feed 24 hours ago, will be lecturing at Missouri State University. Who, according to her twitter feed 15 hours ago, complained about a $400 suitcase that can charge her iPhone and weigh itself, just doesn't work. For comparison, last time I flew anywhere, my company paid for it, and I had just my carry-on in a $20 bag I bought from Target. But I don't want to weigh myself, who debated going to the doctor last week for a stomach ache that I thought might be my appendix (it wasn't - don't eat gluten-free pizza) against someone who has had her own TED talk. I want to talk about perspective.

Fight.. the.. system? 
Screencap for convenience. Link for veracity. The person behind the counter at McDonalds is making, in about six months, what you make for a speaking appearance, I'd wager. If not less. This person who asked you "boy or girl" might have a boy or girl of their own, who they're worried they won't be able to feed, and are just hoping the glint in your eye doesn't mean you're about to ask for the manager. This person that you're explaining how damaging enforcing the gender binary to doesn't even have an ounce of power or privilege that you have, where you can go on a national speaking stage and explain your ideas to modest crowds of people. She can't even take the words that you've spoken to her, verbatim, to her manager and have him pass it up the chain. because it won't matter. "Girl or boy" isn't something that the counter employees at McDonalds have any influence at all over. At best, all you've done is waste her time. At worst, you've impacted her productivity and inconvenienced the people behind you in line, and that's not going to cost you anything. 

Fortunately, there's a little bit of a silver lining to this story. After publicly and proudly tweeting (again, on a public platform), she was quite handily told how completely out of touch and lacking perspective she was, and did her best at apologizing. Of course, between the initial tweet and the 'apology' were quite vitriolic statements thrown at people who were being everything from supportive but critical to straight-up assholes, but progress is progress.

But this is the crux of what bothers me about identity ideologies: They're mainly made up of people who make a living out of them. I'm not paid to write these posts; I write them because these are things that I enjoy or things that I feel. I don't have a trust fund; I have a real life job somewhere that I don't mention that takes up entirely too many hours of my week to pay my bills so that I can keep myself distracted with video games or action figures, and I'm thankful that I have a job. Some people don't.

And some people have a job they hate, that pays them sweet fuck-all, and still have to deal with people who have no sense of perspective or empathy for someone that's struggling because they don't look like them or think like them. 

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