Tactical

I have a strong disdain for anything marketed as “tactical”.  Here’s why:  tactical = meant for harming people = not meant for anything reasonably practical that you might actually use the item for.  Are you really prepping for the inevitable murder, or just making too much money that drugs and hookers aren’t doing it for you anymore?  Here’s some tactical examples:

Tactical firearm = AR-15.  Not practical because you can’t hunt with it (and you sure as hell shouldn’t).  A .223 is good for shooting people and some varmints, and if you hunt the latter, be a little more sporting and get a bolt action rifle.

Tactical knife = anything with serrations or an aptly-named tactical point.  Good for stabbing people and opening field rations.  Not effective at skinning animals or carving wood.

Tactical flashlight = overpowered and strobe function.  Too bright to maintain night vision and extraneous modes not useful for anything beyond blinding people.  And my favorite–the hard nub on the butt meant for bashing skulls.  I can’t even stretch my imagination on that one.

So, is there any reason to actually buy something tactical, if you’re not military/police?  I will tell you: probably not.  To do so is to believe that a weapon’s primary function should be to shoot people, presumably under the belief that doing so will become necessary under a societal collapse, and that roving bands of raiders will come to take your food.  I argue, however, that you’d be much better off buying a weapon whose primary function is to shoot animals (you know, to acquire food), with the understanding that it can still be effective for defense situations (are you really going to get off 12 shotgun rounds?), and can even be modified for that purpose were the need to arise (swap barrels/magazines).  See?  Survival first requires you to feed yourself, and a tactical weapon therefore will be of much less value.  If you don’t have any food to steal in the first place, no one’s going to come gunning for you.  And if they do and you shoot them, you still don’t have any fresh meat (cannibalism aside).  Sure, you might now point out that all your prepping supplies preclude the need to hunt, and you might be right, at least for the short-term.  But thinking long-term, you still need to hunt.  And thinking short-term, you’re not going to be able to defend yourself against a band of much younger men with more guns just because you bought the tactical variant.

Although, if you plan to be one of the roving raiders yourself, tactical weapons make more sense.  Then by all means, buy tactical, you sociopath.

I’m guessing we have video games to thank for the tactical obsession, because for a lot of people that’s their first encounter with a gun, albeit virtual, and so don’t know otherwise; and the fact that most shooting in games is of the people variety; and modding guns in games with tactical loadouts is just plain fun, too.

Google “tacticool” for more examples.  Yes, there’s an internet community of people laughing at you and your gun.

Okay, I had to get that out of the way.  Thanks for listening.  Now for the real post: I bought a gun.

Specifically, I bought a Remington 870 Express Ultramag.  12 gauge, wooden stock (no tacticool synthetic).

They grow up so fast

Why did I buy this?  Well, because I hunt.  The old single shot break action 20 ga. that dad bought me when I was 16 has certainly bagged its share of woodland creatures, but it did have some limitations.  Range was one of the bigger ones (I’ve been know to sprint across open clearings to make a shot).  Using anything smaller than #6 was pretty ineffective beyond 10 yards, and steel shot was nigh impossible.  #7 1/2 works for skeet, but squirrels don’t shatter if you accidentally drop them.  I also considered trying some waterfowl this year too.  So in order to be effective as well as humane, I wanted something more powerful.

I also wanted Remington over Mossberg.  Personal reasons there.  I won’t get into that flame war (I don’t care if the US military uses Mossbergs.  I’m not shooting people, remember?  Also, the military’s decision to use a particular weapon design doesn’t necessarily equate to reliability.  See the early deployments of M-16s in Vietnam, for instance.)

But I admit, I did mod it.  I didn’t tacticalize it, but I did make some additions.  Hunting-related additions, not tactical additions, to be clear.

Buttstock shell holder
Rifle glow sights
.715 vented choke

And tacticality aside, I keep it stored with 00 buck, so I can still shoot roving raiders if needed.

–Simon

Femme Credibilius

In these contemporary times it often feels as though I’m being force-fed feminism.  It is, understandably, a product of modern social/economic/technological circumstances coming into conflict with our stubbornness to change, and is, within reason, a required means to achieve true egalitarianism.  To this there is little argument.  But why then do I find it frequently so off-putting?  I am a modern man, a Millennial in fact, with rather liberal views.

To resolve the internal conflict, I decided to meditate heavily on the subject, and I believe that the anxiety is not a result of the goals themselves, but rather the execution.  I will explain via corollary, specifically through the means by which one of my generation explores our present culture: TV and video games.

Firstly though, I’ll cite the Bechdel Test, as it’s both appropriate for this topic as well as a very straightforward method by which to analyze the relevance of female characters in media.

In summary, a movie doesn’t represent women in any meaningful way unless [paraphrasing mine]:

  • The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  • who talk to each other,
  • about something other than a man.

I’ll use this as the foundation to my own test (Moorhead Test?), because in response to a sudden desire to pass the Bechdel, women are being cast at an exponential rate, many times inappropriately, with the results often patronizing if not downright jarring and unbelievable.  So I will attempt to assist the entertainment industry with their shortcomings.  Here’s my test:

A female character isn’t believable unless:

  • Her behavior is in line with the authority that the position she occupies would normally require of a man,
  • who also is in an age-appropriate position,
  • who realistically possesses the skills required for said position,
  • and whose dialog is not intentionally condescending to male characters and male viewers.

I will elaborate on these points, then provide a good and bad example for each, to show where we have succeeded and where we have horribly failed (with the assumption that you, the reader, have similar media tastes and are familiar with the referenced characters):

  • If a female character doesn’t behave in a manner that the position she occupies would require of a male counterpoint, then the question is: why is she in that position?  If we wouldn’t believe a man in that same position would act similarly, then the female casting hints at motives other than including a qualified female candidate.
  • If a female character is too young for the position she’s playing, then the casting indicates sexual motives.
  • Drawing from the first two criteria, if a female character does not or could not possess the skills normally required for the casted position, then the casting is patronizing.
  • Regarding condescending dialog–this appears, like, a lot.  I assume it’s there to stroke female viewers’ egos, they way they loved to do in 90s sitcoms.  Or, again, it’s just downright patronizing, the way we used to use the term “homemaker” to imply being a stay-at-home wife was just as rewarding as having a career and women didn’t need to pursue the latter.

Hopefully you’re following me and not looking for reasons to be angry.  The point is that properly casted female characters don’t generally even raise an eyebrow amongst the intelligentsia, but too often they are indeed miscast for what I’m assuming is simply an attempt to increase female audience size or show how “progressive” the creators are trying to be.

Here’s my examples:

Category: TV

Good

Show: The Expanse
Character: Chrisjen Avasarala
Actor: Shohreh Aghdashloo
Role: UN Deputy Undersecretary, later UN Secretary General

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Bad

Show: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Character: Diana Troy
Actor: Marina Sirtis
Role: Counselor

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Failure reason: Acts annoyingly flirtatious and dresses inappropriately for a professional (despite what the above image might indicate, she spent most of the series not in a Starfleet uniform!).  Makes several amused comments about the silliness of male honor codes.

Category: Movie

Good

Movie: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Character: Sarah Connor
Actor: Linda Hamilton
Role: Mother of John Connor/Terminator Survivor/Cyberdyne Destroyer

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Bad

Move: X-Men
Character: Storm
Actor: Halle Berry
Role: X-man/teacher

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Failure reason: Acts juvenile with her short temper, and what is she teaching at that school exactly?  Why did Xavier leave her in charge?  Also: bad delivery of poorly-written dialog.

Category: Video Game

Good

Game: Halo Series
Character: Dr. Halsey
Actor: Jennifer Taylor
Role: Forerunner Tech Scientist, ONI (creator of Cortana and SPARTAN program)

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Bad

Game: Mass Effect
Character: Ashley Williams
Actor: Kimberly Brooks
Role: Gunnery Chief

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Failure reason: Lengthy banal backstory with no value, a clear insert for a love interest, tells stories of her sister’s bad experiences with men and her beating them up.  Alien racist, but no clear interest as to why.

I ask you then, oh content creators, can we not please consistently create believable female characters?  Ones that are professionals in their fields, and not just walking curves/love interests/man haters?  Give us a reason to believe their existence is justified in the roles they’ve been cast, and then work on their personalities and backstories?

Perhaps your problem is that you lack women on your writing staff?  Maybe hire some, but make sure they pass the Moorhead Test first.

–Simon

Cantankerous…ness…ocity

I admit that I have indeed been feeling cantankerous.  In fact, my new boss, who I speak with for all of 27-29 minutes each week, recently asked me if I had considered scheduling some of my vacation time.  Maybe that was a hint?  I dunno.  My employer is doing this weird thing now where they actively concern themselves with the mental health of their employees.  I guess at some point employers realized that screaming, twitching, anxiety disorder-ridden staff on the verge of violent self-harm wasn’t good for business.  I missed that memo.  I’m not sure when the collective transition took place.  I wish I knew how to emotionally handle groups of other people concerned with my wellbeing.

So obviously, I started causing some trouble.

But first, some background.

At our townhouse, the prior resident most definitely had a cat.  And you know that bullshit apartment complexes do in times of high demand where they let you tour the model but you don’t actually see your specific (and much less appealing) unit until after signing the lease?  Oh sure, you could demand to see it first.  But the prior tenant hasn’t left yet, so you get the next available unit, and if you choose to wait, someone else will the sign the lease and you’re stuck apartment-hunting again.  As a consequence, we moved into a townhouse with cat pee smell and battled it for 5 years.  Carpet shampooing and bowls of activated carbon in the closets mostly solved the problem inside, but every time it rained, the back patio enclosure reeked so bad we couldn’t go out there until it dried.

Now, comfortably relocated to our home in the suburbs, those days are behind us.  Except cat people seem to exist everywhere.  And many cat people, as you are probably well aware, through whatever misguided concept of how cats should be treated or perhaps due to sheer laziness, decide to simply send their pets outside to pee on their neighbor’s property.  It baffles me greatly why these people think this is acceptable, and to which there’s no parallel.  Sure, there’s a certain degree of acceptance that people walking their dogs may end up with those dogs peeing in your lawn at the end of the road, but that’s a far cry from leading their dog through your gardens to pee on your house, or letting it run over and dig holes in your yard.  There’s an understanding that unchecked dog behavior is offensive to others.  But apparently, not so with cats’.

So it was when I found a black cat frequenting my shade garden that I had flashbacks to the townhouse days.  No way in hell I’m going to let my cozy retreat be forever rendered unusable.  Liz contacted the neighbors we knew had cats, and both claimed ignorance of the cat in question, stating that theirs were inside at the time.  Fair enough.  Due diligence completed.  It was time for a more direct approach.

I took to social media (yes I know–shudder), and frankly announced that whoever’s cat was loose had the chance to reclaim it or…there would be a loud bang.  The immediate public reaction was, as you might expect…what you would expect.

Not certain why she deduced I didn’t have a hose. When people attempt sarcasm and fail, it’s kind of sad.

One person told me to spray it with a hose.  She then asked me if I had a hose and, before I could respond, say that if I didn’t have one she would be happy to take up a collection.  I found the attempted condescension amusing.  Proper condescension would have also questioned if I possessed the skill set required to operate a hose, but she was an obvious amateur at this.  Years of customer service has made me an expert at such banter (amazing how many computer scientists and programmers there are suddenly once you tell them that there must have been a glitch in the system somewhere) and has armed me with a variety of ironclad responses to the typical snark.  Had she questioned my ability to use a hose and I rebutted with the assurance that I did know how to use a hose, she would have no doubt escalated to her credentials in hose-usage; how she was a professional hose manufacturer and performed testing on hoses for 30 years, in the process receiving a Ph.D. in Hose Theory from MIT, and that I truly didn’t know how to properly use a hose.

Another gentleman chose to inform me that it was illegal to shoot a cat, apparently ignoring the more fundamental laws against discharging firearms in city limits, but okay.  I assured the man that I wasn’t really going to shoot any cats, as he seemed of the more sound minded and had correctly assumed I wasn’t serious.

Another woman, jumping into the conversation late and an obvious troll, snapped at my suggestion that I would be shooting down the street.  Choosing the ignore her comment as I had already addressed the fact that I wasn’t really going to be doing any shooting, I chose to call out her obvious pseudonym–complimenting it in fact as it was “Karen Manager”.  It genuinely made me laugh and deserved praise.  I was rewarded for my levity by her then calling my wife fat.  I admitted that we do have a weakness for foie gras, caviar, and bourbon; but her posts and profile were shortly deleted.  I think someone (not me) reported it and had it removed.

Again with the hose bit? Was that really the only thing she was getting out of the conversation?

Eventually the trolls and those filled with righteous indignation lost their interest and lessened their comments (except hose lady, who again asked me why I didn’t own a hose).

But the best part was the people coming to my defense, proving that I was not alone in this sentiment, but so far the only one willing to call it out.  In fact, their comments were quicker than mine, giving the feed its own life and no longer requiring my input to keep it going (except to occasionally poke at the bible lady who was convinced of my sociopathy).

But ultimately I had to end it before the conversation devolved into a Reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy.  I truthfully admitted my post was intentionally inflammatory, having used a little social engineering to bring out people’s true feelings on the topic (or apparently their true feelings about animals, killing, and the bible, in some cases), on a topic that might otherwise have gone completely ignored, to instead result in a lengthy discussion and prove that there are many people in this world that don’t appreciate your fucking cat peeing on and damaging their property.  And with that admission also exposing to the commentators how easily they had been manipulated, the conversation instantly died.

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftse1.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP.IAHP6iuRAxBnN-vH7U6IEwHaKK%26pid%3DApi&f=1
This. If you responded angrily with irrelevancy, this is you.

Yes, if you jump into a discussion with angry comments only vaguely related to the topic, you’re stupid (or a child).  And if you think no one cares that your cat is running around their property unsupervised, you’re stupid (or just really naive?).  Or, if you don’t care that your cat is damaging other people’s property, perhaps you’re just an asshole (you’re an asshole).

(Also, I have a garden hose.)

–Simon

Double-Standards?

I present to you a mental image:

I’m wearing a Speedo.

This. This is exactly what I look like.

…Don’t get caught up in the details there.  Just conceptualize it.

I’m wearing a Speedo in my backyard and tanning, within obvious full view of the neighbor’s large living room window.  Is your reaction to do a double take, snicker, and maybe snap a photo and share it?

Now instead, envision a young woman in a bikini sunning herself in the nextdoor yard, within full view of your own living room window.

Implications on the obvious forfeiture of the reasonable expectation of privacy guidelines aside, is it wrong?

Or is it merely a yet another double-standard?  Is it another scenario in which an action perceived to be unfair by a woman is sexist, yet its inverse is “just the way it is”?  And any attempt to argue to the contrary results in the privilege discussion, thereby invalidating by contemporary social conventions the entire argument?

A few years back I attempted to find an answer to this broader question (in short, I didn’t):

Reddit: Sexism

But the criticism I received from my sister reminded me of this old dialog.  In fact, the criticism I received actually made it a sexism issue–something that really wasn’t at the forefront of my mind at the time.  I just thought it was funny.  But my sister seems to have a giant chip on her shoulder in these matters, and all too easily either takes something out of context or re-interprets it for a different discussion.  I’m usually pretty good at determining that ahead of time.  Guess I was just feeling cantankerous myself.  Must run in the family.

The original post probably isn’t worth the effort to revisit, but it’s good to know how very little progress we’ve made as a society in this field since then.

Also, I do snicker (every time–it’s a routine occurrence).

–Simon