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Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Post: Corruption of the Innocent (aka "Erin Teaches a Californian to Shoot")

Sometimes, how you are introduced to a thing makes all the difference.

Hi, I'm Ian. I've shot guns twice before in my life, both at very touristy ranges in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It was loud. It was expensive. I want to say that it was fun, but that uneasy feeling of being in danger and being a danger to others nullified it.

And then came my shooting sherpa: Erin Palette.

Let's not mince words: I'm a Canadian living in California. I'm up to my ears in liberals. I might even be one. I think guns are cool the same way I look at hot actresses and wonder what it'd be like to date one.

Erin's one of my few pro-gun friends and has always been playful about corrupting me over to the Dark Side. Um, I mean, introduce me to shooting... properly.

Erin scored big points right away. Before we got started, I was given a reading assignment: Jeff Cooper's Rules of Firearm Safety.

I couldn't stress how much this made a difference for me. I studied these rules. I memorized them. I rattled them off to Erin when we finally met, and you know what? I was no gun safety expert, but I sure as hell felt like I'd at least not shoot someone's face off out of pure ignorance.

We met at the Robert Strickland Shooting Range on May 22, 2014. The weather was great and at midday, there weren't that many people there.

She starts me off easy with a Gatorade. It was starting to get pretty hot and she doesn't want me passing out. I usually don't even think about stuff like this, but that Gatorade never tasted better.

After throwing up some reactive targets, I get my first hands-on lesson, starting with a Ruger Bearcat. It's a .22LR single action revolver. As far as I know, that means you have to cock the hammer between shots, the bullets are small, and you load them into a cylinder. The gun feels a little small, but it's easy to shoot and I'm rewarded right away with some nice little holes!

Did I say bullets? I meant cartridges. Looks like I'm going to be learning terminology all day.

We move up to a Kel-Tec PMR-30, a .22 Magnum semi-automatic pistol. Biggest difference here, of course, is moving from the cylinder to a magazine. Okay, got that. .22 Magnum means it's like the .22LR, right? Wrong. Very different. I don't quite remember exactly what was different, but I know enough that you don't want to be mixing them up.

I'm not a small guy. (Editor's note: He's at least 6 feet tall.) These two have been pretty good. We move on.

Next is the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard, a .380 semi-automatic pistol. I don't like it. I lie a little and say it's okay, but I really don't like the way it jumps in my hand. Erin tells me it's because it's a tiny pistol and we are now using a larger round than before, so I'm going to have to soak up a lot more energy with my body, since the gun won't do it for me. Fortunately, we don't linger on the Bodyguard for long.
Check it out! The Glock 26. It's a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It's also really tiny. I guess Black Widow has small hands. It's a shame we don't have two of them, but I have a feeling the range masters wouldn't have allowed us to dual-wield.

I make do with the one and the first problem is immediately clear. My mitt is way too big for this gun and my pinky keeps curling underneath the bottom of the grip. I end up having to shoot it pinky out like I'm some bourgeois shooter having tea. The gun's fun to shoot, though, and Erin's got this ring sight on it that makes it really easy to just bring up and shoot.

Lastly, I try the Ruger LCR. Having been a fan of the City Hunter anime growing up, I thought a .357 Magnum revolver would be awesome. It's no Colt Python, but how different could it be?
Simply, it's very different from a Glock 26. The hand angle, the power of the cartridge, my inexperience... it's interesting to shoot, and maybe in time I might get used to revolvers, but I finish off the cylinder and stop.

I had a really great time, and I definitely don't feel like I'd be an accidental liability anymore if you put me on the range with guns. I learned how to operate them deliberately, not haphazardly.

Of all of them, the Glock was the most fun to shoot. It was also the one that gave me the best results on target. With some coaching from Erin and even a few words from the normally-surly range master, I had, in Erin's words,  an "excellent showing". I got nearly all of my shots inside the 9 ring!

I definitely liked the way the 9mm felt the best, though I think I'm going to need to find something bigger. The Glock 26 felt tiny in my hand. Question is... what else should I try? Another Glock? [But they're fugly!] Maybe a Beretta, or Mulder's gun, the Sig Sauer P226?

I guess what I'm trying to say is, let's call this:

Day 0: The Frenzy Begins

Editor's Note:  Ian has since gone on to purchase several handguns and participate in shooting matches. He has recently bought a shotgun and is contemplating his first rifle purchase. 

I've created a monster, and I couldn't be happier or prouder. 

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #36

Sean had the show half edited on Friday night, and when he woke up Saturday morning the external USB hard drive had bitten the dust. He and Adam had to re-record the main show, but luckily the contributor segments were saved on Google Drive.
  • So how are you going to make sure you have a good fire starter when you need one? Erin Palette tells us how to make Char Cloth, which is great for getting a fire started.
  • Nicki Kenyon reminds us that you can't deal with a deadbeat country the same way you deal with your deadbeat cousin.
  • Have you noticed that the anti-gun groups are getting less and less truthful? Miguel Gonzalez has, and he thinks this represents a shift in their tactics.
  • It was probably a great way to bring attention to the desperate need to increase electronic security on aircraft, but Barron B. points out that maybe it's not a good idea to tweet to the world you're about to hack the plane you're flying on.
  • And Weer'd gives us another of his patented Audio Fisks, this time of NC's home grown far left think tank, getting it all wrong about guns.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. And make sure to share it with a friend!
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Erin

"Hey Erin, come over here a minute, I need your opinion on something."

"Yeah, Sal? What's up?"

"This smell like chloroform to you?"


"She'll be ok in a few hours.."

Sorry to hijack the blog, but I've got a very important message.

Constantine, the entire first (and possibly only) series is available for streaming for free on NBC's website.

There's been a bit of back and forth on whether or not the series will be renewed, but allegedly if NBC gets good numbers on streaming between their website, Hulu, and some other service I can't be arsed to remember at the moment, they'll take that into consideration when it comes time to make a decision on renewing the series. This is your chance to do your part if you want to see a good adaptation continue. Yeah, it got off to a rocky start, but the first season always sucks (unless you're The Flash, apparently), and Matt Ryan deserves to keep playing Constantine so damned well.

If you've already seen it, put it on in the background while you clean house or have dirty sex or summon otherwordly entities or something. If you haven't seen it, you really should.

Friday, April 24, 2015

SHTFriday: Apocabox Unboxing #5

... yeah, I've got nothing clever here.  Have a video.

My Taurus Experience

(Remember Monday, when I said I had a post that became a letter to a corporation? This is the result of that letter. Never let anyone tell you that blogging is dead.)

I am going to tell you about a negative experience I had in the Taurus booth at the NRA Annual Meeting in Nashville, and then I am going to tell you how that experience was turned into a positive one by Timothy Brandt, the Director of Marketing for Taurus USA.

In order to tell you what happened at NRAAM, I am going to share (with his permission) the email conversation I had with Mr. Brandt.
Dear Taurus USA,

I would like to bring to your attention a stunning display of unprofessionalism by one of your sales reps during the NRA Annual Meeting in Nashville. So stunning, in fact, that a blogger who was contemplating purchasing a Taurus PT-22 has instead decided to spend $100 more and buy a Beretta Bobcat instead.

The incident happened on Friday, the first real day of the convention, and I was hanging out with my fellow bloggers Oddball, The_Jack, and Awelowynt when one of us decided to check out the your booth.

I would like to state now, for the record, that both Oddball and I were wearing versions of "SERIOUS GUNBLOGGER" t-shirts. This was his, only in black:

And this was mine: 
Add that to the fact that all four of us were wearing Media Badges, and it should have been pretty obvious that: 
  1. We were press.
  2. We were bloggers.
  3. We liked guns.
In short, it should have been patently obvious that we were on the same side as the vendors on the convention floor. Please keep this in mind, as it will become relevant soon enough.

As I was saying, the four of us had walked up to the Taurus booth and were looking at its wares when a Taurus employee (who looked a surprising amount like Titus Welliver) walked up to us. I know he was part of the Taurus delegation because 1) he was wearing a sports coat, and no one on the convention floor wears business clothes unless they are working a booth, and 2) his vendor tag had "Taurus USA" on it.

The sales rep's name was Kim Kyle. I'm going to say his name as many times as possible, so that it makes as much of an impression in your mind as his actions did in ours. [Author's note: at the request of Taurus USA, I have reduced the number of times I mention Kim Kyle by name. All further references will be replaced with [Sales Rep] to indicate where his name was in the original letter.]

[Sales Rep] walked up to me and looked right at my shirt, tilting his head to read what it says because my badge -- my MEDIA BADGE, mind you -- is in the way. I obligingly lifted the badge up so he could have an unobstructed view. 

When he got to the bottom of the shirt, which has my blog URL listed on it, he murmured "Lurking Rhythmically?"  I helpfully explained that "Yeah, it's a bit of a private joke." At that point [Sales Rep] then looked at me and, in a sneering tone, said"Well, it should have stayed private."

And that, as the saying goes, is where things took a turn. Taurus USA, [Sales Rep] truly covered himself in glory that day, for not only did he start a conversation by insulting someone with a media badge, he then continued to dig a deeper hole by launching into a tirade about bloggers in general and how awful and stupid we are. 

I cannot recall exactly what he said then as I write this article now, because I was getting hot under the collar at the time and anger tends to cloud my memory. Therefore I will postulate two approximations of what he said, with the explicit understanding that what I am saying here is not a direct quote. 
Conversation approximation #1: "This one time I really needed to make myself vomit, so I went online and read what bloggers said about guns."
Conversation approximation #2: "There was this one time I was really sick, I mean puking my guts out, and that still pales in comparison to how I sick to my stomach I felt when I read a gun blog."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how [Sales Rep] introduced himself to four gunbloggers with media passes. Remember, as a sales rep, he needs to make people like him so that they will buy his client's product. In other words, his entire job hinges on making a good impression, and his disdain for online media was such that he deliberately made a bad impression not just for himself, but for Taurus USA as well. After all, he was in the Taurus booth and wearing a Taurus badge.

I happen to get upset easily, and so when [Sales Rep] started spewing his bile, I decided I had better things to do than listen to him and so I wandered off to take a look at the Curve. However, another of my blogger friends stuck around to hear him out; you can read Oddball's side of the story here but I'm going to quote him directly:
He [Kim Kyle] almost instantly started on a 5-10 minute rant about how evil and mean gun bloggers were, and how we only spew lies. I tried to give him a couple outs, since I know that there are many out there that bash Taurus because that’s what all the cool kids do, and not because they’ve had bad experiences/done research/etc. They’re not the only company that has that issue. Some deserve it, and some don’t, and I have been giving them the benefit of the doubt. He failed to act like I might be different. Thanks to Taurus’ sales rep, I have learned that they do not wish to have the benefit of the doubt, nor would they like my good will, business, or recommendations to others.
Oh, and I very much was considering buying one of their products in the near future (the PT-22), but it looks like I will be spending about $100 more on a Beretta Bobcat instead because I’m not a fan of giving money to companies whose representative talk shit about me to my face. I will also no longer even consider telling people to consider buying a Taurus… something that I’m asked on a regular basis.
Later the four of us reconvened on the far side of the booth (well away from [Sales Rep]), and we were all shaking our heads and going "Can you believe that guy? Jeez." Right before we left, I asked my friends if anyone had gotten his card, and they all said no. I decided I would go back and ask him for his card.

Why did I ask him for his card?  A few reasons. First, I wanted his name in writing for accountability, purposes. Second, I though that perhaps he might have realized he'd made a mistake (especially since I was asking for his card) and possibly apologize. I was, in fact, giving him a second chance to make a first impression. 

"No, I don't have a business card," said [Sales Rep], "but can I have yours?"
Pardon me while I interrupt my own letter here, but I do not for one second believe that someone who works in sales doesn't have business cards with him while he's working one of the biggest industry conventions of the year. I just don't, full stop. I think he simply didn't want to give one of his cards away to someone he regarded as a dumb blogger.
The only other option here is that he's so incompetent that he doesn't actually have business cards with him for one of the biggest industry conventions of the year, and if he were truly that incompetent he wouldn't be working the booth at all.
Of course, his behavior has basically demonstrated he makes poor interpersonal decisions anyway, so perhaps he truly is that incompetent. 
"Can I have your card?" he asked, and I said "Oh, you wouldn't want mine. I'm a blogger." I turned and walked away, and again [Sales Rep] made no move to apologize.

Ladies and gentlemen of Taurus USA, some of you may be wondering, "Are hurt feelings truly worth someone losing their job?"  And that's a valid question. It's a decision I grappled with over the following days. 

What it ultimately came down to were these conclusions:
  1. Jobs are tight, and [Sales Rep] is a jerk and possibly incompetent. He's taking a job away from someone who deserves it more. 
  2. Taurus USA's public image is taking a beating lately, what with the poor reception of the Curve and its partial recall, and your Brazil-based parent company recalling all 98,000 pistols issued to the state police because their pistols discharged after being shaken, even with the safety on. And then there are the multiple videos showing various Taurus pistols going full-auto
  3. What I feel Taurus really needs to do to fix both #1 and #2 above is to jettison the incompetent people in order to get the company back on track, because right now I'd rather own a Hi-Point than a Taurus. 
  4. As far as I'm concerned, this is not "My feelings are hurt and I must get revenge". Rather. this is "I detect a definite pattern within Taurus' corporate culture, and the only way it will likely get fixed is by hitting the company in the bottom line."
  5. Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this strongly, as Oddball (who doesn't blog very often) was moved enough to complain about it. And then Miguel of gunfreezone.net responded by saying that the Latino business model is "Shut up and buy it as is."

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of Taurus USA, you have a PR problem when the actions of one of your employees ([Sales Rep]) spurs the creation of two blog posts, the promise of a third, and this letter. I was going to turn it into blog post, but I was persuaded by Oleg Volk to send it to you first so that you could take appropriate action. 

I look forward to hearing from you in this matter, and am more than happy to answer any questions about what happened that day. 


Erin Palette

Mr. Brandt immediately replied with the following:
Good Morning Erin,

First and foremost, I want to apologize for the experience you had in our booth in Nashville. I appreciate you sending this note our way, and wanted to respond and let you know that we have received it, and are taking it very seriously. I have plenty more on this topic, but would like to speak to you in person.

On that front, I am tied up most of today, unless you are free in the next hour or so. I do have some time tomorrow morning--and into the early afternoon. Is there a chance your schedule allows a conversation during this timeframe? If not, I have a pretty flexible schedule next week, and want to make it a priority to speak with you on this matter.

Please know that your experience was outside (an understatement) the norm of what we strive to deliver at our shows, and in general day-to-day contact with those interested in our brand and products. There is no excuse for the behavior exhibited, and it is being addressed immediately. We hold our employees and representatives of our company to very high standards, and clearly they were not met here. I look forward to providing more insight on this topic, and a few others you mention in your email, but think it is best to discuss when we're able to set up a time for a call.

Please let me know when you're available to discuss. I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Tim Brandt
Director of Marketing
Taurus Holdings, Inc.

The "tomorrow morning" Mr. Brandt mentioned was today (Friday), and I had a nice long conversation (more than 30 minutes) with him. During that conversation he again apologized for the conduct of Kim Kyle and reassured me that my concerns did not fall upon deaf ears. He also mentioned the following, which I shall bullet point so that they do not get lost in the text:
  • He acknowledged that the culture within Taurus needs to change, and that he and others in management had been brought in to effect that change. 
  • He acknowledged that change does not come overnight, but things are changing, and for the better. 
  • He thanked me for bringing all of these points to his attention -- not just the actions of Kim Kyle, but Taurus' public image in the eyes of the general public -- and reassured me that they were being addressed. 
  • He specifically addressed Miguel's point and mentioned that Taurus USA is in the process of becoming more than a sales and advertising branch of its parent company. Not only is it building research and manufacturing capabilities in its own right, it is also developing new products specifically for American customers that will be manufactured within the United States.
  • He encouraged gun owners to give Taurus guns a chance, as (again) the company is working hard to correct the problems I mentioned in the video links above. 

Overall I would rate this as very good customer service by Mr. Brandt on behalf of Taurus USA. It heartens me to know that a corporation cares about what bloggers think, and I appreciate that he went out of his way to turn a negative experience into a positive one. I also appreciate the fact that instead of closing ranks the way a lot of companies do, Mr. Brandt acknowledged that there was room for improvement and he outlined ways that Taurus was looking to improve.

Mr. Brandt's remarks might not change Oddball's mind; that's up to him to decide. Speaking for myself, however, I will say that the next time I am looking to buy a gun, I will not dismiss a Taurus.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Two possible events happened this last weekend.

In one instance, a group of terrifying misogynists infiltrated a convention, harassed con-goers, and disrupted panels. The convention organizers responded quickly, and brought swift justice down, having them removed from the premises by security and taking steps to ensure that their related events would not be disrupted again.

Alternately, a group of women including cosplayers and comics creators participated in a panel discussion and were later asked to leave by the convention organizers without providing a sufficient reason, but citing that they misrepresented themselves as part of geek culture.

What really happened depends on what side of the media narrative you're on, but it's an interesting case. The podcasting group collectively known as the Honey Badger Brigade raised funds to attend Calgary Expo with a booth to promote founding member Allison Tieman's Xenospora comic. The existence of the comic, as well as a cursory glance at their YouTube channel's uploads, shows that these women have a history of discussing geek culture topics, albeit from a perspective not normally covered. Unfortunately, when pitching their fundraiser, they decided to use some tongue-in-cheek language that, in a clear case of intellectual dishonesty, The Mary Sue used as proof that the Badgers were... well, I'll let you read it for yourself:
“We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own. Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way. “
How hideously villainous.

So someone spotted, at their booth, a poster with a GamerGate logo on it (unsurprising, considering that they seem not to be the Listen-And-Believe types that bought the narrative about GamerGate being the most spectacularly unsuccessful cabal of cis-het white males bent on driving women out of gaming) and tweeted the Expo. I'm unsure of the exact timing, but around then Allison and another group member were attending a panel discussion that involved bringing women into comics. I've listened to the audio of the entire panel, and the panelists discussion veered towards feminism and the MRA reaction to it, expressing a lack of understanding of the rift between the two ideologies. Allison spoke up, volunteering to explain her viewpoint as an MRA, and the panelists readily agreed. They spoke for a several minutes in a polite exchange where they even agreed on a few points. The panelist even sounded grateful for bringing a viewpoint she hadn't considered.

The following hours, Twitter was ablaze with outraged people, apparently upset that someone with a different ideology was allowed to set foot on convention ground, let alone have a booth that they paid for with (a lot) of actual, proper money.

The next morning, as they were setting up their booth for the day, the Badgers were approached by Expo staff and advised there were numerous reports of harassment that they'd received regarding Allison's interaction during the panel. They were asked to leave, and additionally that comic creator Allison Tieman was banned from further events planned by the Expo throughout Canada.
Oh, and allegedly Expo staff called the police on the Badgers two days later when they were meeting with fans at a park. Well, the alleged part is the Expo staff calling the cops. The police verifiably showed up:

Yes, I'm aware the timestamp says August 2012. Cosplayer and adult entertainer Anna Cherry is present, though, and she's a recent addition to the group, Weather Channel says it was mid-60s that week, which matches with the mix of light coats and t-shirts, and those are Canadian spring trees, not in mid-summer bloom. Someone in the Badgers apparently doesn't know how to work their damn camera.

If my take of events seems slanted, that's because one side has been far more forthcoming with details than the other. The Expo released a canned statement that serves more to reinforce how good and great they are than to address the events that transpired.

I also can't help but notice that certain outlets (looking at you, Breitbart) have been more than willing to cover this, having interviewed member Karen Straughan, while certain others (stand up, Kotaku) apparently emailed her and offered to interview her a week later. In a 24 hour, on-demand, internet world news cycle, a week may as well be next year.

Now I'm neither an MRA (there but for the grace of etc, etc) nor a feminist (at least, not anymore. I got the message loud and clear that my ilk wasn't welcome), but looking at this from a neutral standpoint, I can't help but boil it down to this:

Calgary Expo accused a group of women of being fake geek girls and told them GO HOME GAMER GIRL because they were guilty of wrongthink, and wrongthink is ungood. 

Picture: Calgary Expo telling women to go home, courtesy NBC's modern Reefer Madness.
For fuck's sake, Liberal Left, we're supposed to be better than this. You don't get to call yourself inclusive when you kick out people that express polite dissent. I have a real problem with people that say out of one side of their mouth "We love and support women and minorities" while saying out of the other "unless you disagree with us.  Then you don't get an opinion and we will do everything to silence you." 

WNW: "F**K This Court"

I apologize for not posting anything of wit or substance last night.

However, please accept this by way of apology:  a nine(!) page legal document titled "Fuck This Court and Everything that it Stands For," actually filed in a county clerk's office on April 20 of this year.

Did you ever wonder what a legal document would look like if it were filed by the type of person who leaves YouTube comments?  Wonder no longer.

I have to say, though:  as phenomenally a bad idea as this is, I have to say I admire this woman's courage and commitment to her course of action by filing this as an actual legal document.

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.