n Blog(n)


Kingdom of Loathing Code

posted Sep 14, 2014, 1:17 PM by Christopher Ellison

My wife was playing Kingdom of Loathing earlier today and was trying to figure out one of the side puzzles - specifically, which of the dusty animal bones she needed to finish her familiar.  I whipped up a sloppy Java class to figure that out for her (based on copying the list of bones from her inventory and pasting them in a text file).  This is all pretty sloppy and untested, but I'm posting it here and linking it from the KOL Coldfront wiki discussion page in case it might help anyone else out in completing their familiar.

So You Want to Be A Sellout

posted Aug 13, 2014, 7:55 PM by Christopher Ellison

I was driven to write this blog post yesterday when I was at dinner with my wife.  One Direction's... cover... of "One Way Or Another" came on the restaurant's speakers.  I'll be kind and leave out my first few thoughts, but once I'd purged myself of mental swearing, I started thinking about how much that particular song didn't need to be covered.  It's... let's be nice and call it "played out."  It's dead.  Let it lie.  And that got me thinking of some other songs that have been covered one or two or thirty-seven too many times.

This is the internet and I'm writing about music opinion, so let's get the pleasantries out of the way.  I have read and acknowledge the Terms of Service stating that:
  1. I am a talentless hack.
  2. Who wouldn't know good music if it bit him on the assface.
  3. I should just shut my dumb face.
  4. While I'm at it, I should violate myself in physically-implausible or impossible ways.
  5. Also, I am a member of various racial, ethnic, or sexual groups regularly horribly derided by adolescent males.
All right, does that cover everything?  Good.  On with the post.

Ground rules first:  I haven't codified these into laws or anything yet.  Give me time; I just started thinking about this yesterday.  For now, let's call it a set of heuristics.  If you cover these any of these songs, you too can be an official Artistically-Bankrupt Band.  And to be clear, I'm not talking about live shows or tribute albums here; I'm talking about bands grunting out covers as new singles.

In general, it doesn't help if you're covering music that you already covered.  That's just starting out in the red.  We don't need another thousand bubblegum-pop versions of 1980s bubblegum-pop songs.  If you can't put your own spin on it, it shouldn't make the album.  It also doesn't help if the song in question was soulless tripe in the first place, unless you're either so awesome you can fix it or self-aware enough to successfully mock or satirize it somehow.

Also, there is a whole list of songs that are just... they're done.  They're either iconic to a band that popularized them, have been covered by every single garage band ever, or just were no goddamn good to begin with.  You can probably think of a dozen or so off the top of your head; the first six (or seven, depending on how you count Queen's) that came to my mind are:
  • "Money" by The Beatles
  • "One Way Or Another" by Blondie
  • "Imagine" by John Lennon
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears
  • "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Jackson Browne
  • "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" by Queen

When I brought this up to my wife, whose opinions on the matter are rather stronger than mine, she wanted me to add a few of hers.
  • Anything by Queen.
  • Anything that was a "piece of shit to begin with."
  • "Basically all of Motown."

I'll acknowledge that I probably wasn't going to be a One Direction fan regardless of whether or not I heard their holy-shit-they-let-that-air? cover of an already-terrible song.  After hearing it, though, I think they're making my case for me.

During dinner, my wife and I also talked about songs that shouldn't be included in movies any more.  There's certainly some overlap between those and songs that don't deserve any more covers.  I'll be writing that up in a later post.

Wrecked, Part 2

posted Aug 6, 2014, 8:56 PM by Christopher Ellison

This is continued from a previous post - same time-box as before.  I'm hoping to finish it up tonight.

For a breath, there was nothing but silence.  Then, in the flickering of the emergency lights, Dana saw first one, then two shapes roll, groaning painfully.  Forgetting her leg for the moment, she hobbled as quickly as she could into the back and threw herself against the wall, leaning down as best she could to check on the team.

Right below here lay Timo.  He was down, clearly down; some of the shrapnel had caught him.  She suppressed a shudder at the half-glimpsed glint of metal protruding from his skull, so blatantly out of place among the shaman's otherwise-wholly-natural gear.  Movement caught the corner of Dana's eye, and she tore her gaze from poor Timo's battered body.  The other three members of her team were cautiously extracting themselves from their harnesses, visibly favoring injured arms and legs.  Pauley had obviously snapped her forearm, but thankfully her left; she could still carry her sidearm.  Jenssen, half-titanium that he was, looked fine if just a little dazed.  He was the first free and was helping Case, clutching at her right side, to her feet.  

We're up, those of us who can be.  But how long were we down?  How long to we have?  Quickly, Dana swiped at her left ear, remembering her comms dangling precariously there.  She re-seated the link in her ear and quickly tapped her AR feed for Fly and Soary.  Fly was just returning static - he must be alive but disabled.  Soary, however, was still active and had auto-triggered his "guard-dog" expert routines.  He was keeping the infantry busy for the moment, but Dana could see the harsh, pulsing red of his stores counter; he was dry on rockets and down to 37 rounds of 5.56.  

"All right, everybody up, and out!  We've got 90 seconds to clear this bird and get ourselves lost.  Grab what gear you can and move!"  Dana threw herself across the bay to the rear door override.  "Rifles, sidearms, and frags first.  We've got mechanized infantry incoming, and they'll punch through Lydia long before evac gets here.  Best chance is that valley a klick or so east of here, so we've gotta move.  Jenssen, stims for everybody, now."

As the team half-hustled, half-crawled into the jungle, Dana called up Lydia's AR menu one last time.  Last step... goodbye, Lydia.  We'll miss you, girl, she thought to herself as she primed the three anti-armor missiles still hanging from Lydia's pylons.  Say hello to those jackasses, Lyd.  With that, Dana pulled herself into the undergrowth, dragging herself after Jenssen to the rattle of distant but approaching gunfire.

Wrecked, Part 1

posted Jul 30, 2014, 6:51 PM by Christopher Ellison

This is the first draft of a short story I wanted to write up purely as a writing exercise.  I'm doing this mainly to work just starting to write and actually getting something on paper.  I allocated 30 minutes to write this and plan to throw another 30 at it later to finish the story, which I'm deliberately keeping very short.  The timebox is mostly to keep me focused while I work on it and to give me some kind of gauge for how much I can write in a set time period.

Already? Fuck this, I need 10 more minutes.  Dana grumbled internally.  Reflexively, her left arm shot out to slap the snooze button on her nightstand.  As soon she moved her arm, though, pain lanced through her entire back.  The jolt of electric agony shot her fully awake.  Her eyes snapped open, but as the jagged daggers of light pierced her throbbing brain, she squeezed them immediately shut again.

She wasn't in her bed, and that wasn't her alarm clock.  It was all coming back to her now.  The jukes, the twists, the panicked maneuvers as 2, then 4, then 6 SAMs flared to life below her.  The shuddering jerk of impact that nearly slammed her face into the yoke as first one, then two of the antiarmor missiles found the starboard engine.  The struggle to flare, even a little, before the nose of the t-bird plowed into the mucky jungle floor.  Then blackness.

How long was I out? Dana wondered as she tentatively reached forward to shut off the master alarms.  Her arms were okay, but her left leg was definitely broken; her milspec bioware must be doing its job or she was certain she'd be screaming in agony.  She was too wedged in to the wrecked center seat to turn and face the cabin, but she could hear soft groans and scrapings over the complaining creak of the bird's frame.  At least some of the team must have survived the crash.

All right.  Calm down.  Assess.  Build your checklist, then execute.  She forced herself to clear her mind and take 5 deep breaths before moving.  Step 1:  Get out of this chair.  I'm gonna need a splint....

Five minutes later, Dana finally pulled herself out of her seat.  Seems to be holding, she thought, delicately testing her weight on her inexpertly-applied spraycast.  She limp-shuffled to the cabin door and peered into the darkness, waiting for her eyes to adjust.  "Pauley?  Timo?  Jenssen?  Case?  You all right?"

To be continued...

Relinquishing the Preciousss.....

posted Jul 21, 2014, 6:42 PM by Christopher Ellison

I've always had a problem with holding onto things long past the point where it makes sense to do so.  I'd have trouble busting into a pack of Crayons or using up stickers even as a little kid because I was always worried about using them all up and not having them.  To this day, I can't start collecting a thing without careful consideration because I'll have to try to find all of it.  I even have this problem in RPGs; I know that if I start one, I'm going to lose endless hours of my life to completing all the sidequests and scrounging the damn game world for pointless collectible trinkets.

One of my unstated goals for this year has been to work on this aspect of my personality.  I've been forcing myself to repeat the mantra "they'll make more" for small things - like, for example, the aforementioned Crayons that I still sometimes use.  It's fine.  I'm a grown-ass adult with a job and everything.  I can buy more sticks of dyed wax whenever I want.  I started taking baby steps into holding stuff less precious a couple of years ago, actually, by buying and forcing myself to use a crappy pocket notebook from Target.  This is how crazy I was about using things up; buying and using up a $6 notebook was actually something of an achievement for me.

This year, I took another super-weird step on that pathetic journey:  I signed up for some online subscription services.  Specifically, I signed up for Bill Nye's Quarterly, Loot Crate, and Nerd Block.  Sounds like nonsense, I know, but hear me out.  I subscribed to these with the express intent of putting together gift packages for friends and family from some, perhaps most, of the contents.  The Quarterly box gets set aside for friends with young children.  Loot Crate and Nerd Block get picked apart straightaway and divided up into gift boxes for friends who would appreciate the subject material.  Now, I'm not saying I don't keep a lot of things, but I'm getting better at pulling out things I like that others would like more and putting those into their birthday and Christmas gifts.  Hey, not only am I trying to work my way out of my hording habit, I'm also making myself remember people's birthdays!

July 2014 Loot Crate Breakdown

Thus far, I've had a lot of fun with this approach.  I've been pretty lucky in that all of the subscriptions I've chosen have been, in my opinion, very good value for money.  I've been able to pull out some little gifts and hand them out to friends pretty much every box, and those items are often pretty well received since all my friends are also giant nerds.  And I'm learning to look at things and go, "You know what, I'm not gonna use this; let's get it to someone who will."  I don't claim this is the most efficient way to learn this lesson, but at least I get behavioral reinforcement in the form of kick-ass toys!

Ditching Minor Annoyances

posted Jul 9, 2014, 5:42 PM by Christopher Ellison

One of my over-arching goals this year has been to eliminate as many minor annoyances from my life as possible.  I'm talking about things that just waste my time and annoy me but can be eliminated fairly readily with five bucks and five minutes' work.  I got started on this track when, at the end of last year, I was listening to a few podcasts at work.  Hopefully I'm remembering this all correctly, as it was more than six months ago, but I remember sitting at work and registering Jimmy Pardo mentioning how he would get rid of his entire collection of socks periodically and just buy new ones, saving time matching and sorting through pairs.  The very next podcast that came on my playlist was Adam Carolla's, where he was exhorting his listeners to just buy a ton of nail clippers and sprinkle them liberally through the house, as it's not worth wasting time searching forever for something that costs two bucks.

I'd kind of registered both of these comments as interesting, and when I was looking over my notes for the day, I connected the two ideas.  Both comedians were really just talking about simple cost-benefit problems, something I have to deal with just about every day.  More importantly, both were smart enough to include the annoyance cost on the negative side of the ledger.  I let that bounce around in the back of my head a little bit as I started making my list of goals for the new year.

When I'd compiled that list, I'd identified a few of my own minor annoyances that I just didn't want to deal with any longer.  A little background helps here:  I live in a relatively new three-story condo.  Since it's fairly new and built fairly well, it rarely requires significant work, but there are always little things to deal with - clearing a clogged drain, tightening drawer handles and toilet seats, and even just basic housecleaning.  I'd often find myself needing some really basic tools and a flashlight, but I'd have to run down into the garage to get them.  Of course the flashlight batteries would be dead half the time, meaning I'd need to find another set and throw the spent ones in the charger (or the recycling bin, if they were shot).  I decided that I'd start with those little problems and slowly work my way through other little annoyance I identified during the year, but the major goal was to deal with this stuff right away and not let it sit.

I started by buying a bunch of Command hooks and 3M heavy-duty velcro strips.  I wasn't hanging anything particularly heavy, and everything was going to be out of sight, so I didn't need to worry too much about aesthetics.  I then found some pretty inexpensive crank flashlights and bought a bunch of them.  A little velcro and I now had flashlights mounted under all of the cabinets, right where I needed them 90% of the time.

Some are velcroed up like this; others are hung by their carabiners


While I was at it, I bought some cheap containers to hold basic bandages and gauze.  I stuffed one of those under a cabinet on each floor, too.  That put everyone at most a room away from a Band-Aid so I no longer had to worry groping for a wad of paper towels and running upstairs if I cut myself on a knife hiding in the dishwasher.  I stuck a cheap screwdriver and bit set next to each of the first aid kits.  No more running up and down two flights of stairs when I find a loose screw on a drawer handle.

The first aid kit was cheap and easy to hang, but I had to stuff an eye hook into the screwdriver case because of the recessed back that was too thick for the velcro


The last annoyance I patched up immediately involved flyswatters.  Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, most of the houses don't have air conditioning; mine is no exception.  In the summer, it gets hot enough for a few weeks that I need the windows open and fans going, but that means the occasional fly getting into the house.  There's not much that's more annoying than chasing a fly around the house for twenty minutes while you're wondering where the hell you put something, anything, that can kill that annoying bugger.  So I bought flyswatters and hung them up out of the way so that I always know where they are without having them in the way.

Like this one, by the refrigerator

I'm working on some other things like this during the year as well.  I've carefully labelled my tool chest, re-stacked and labelled fastener containers in the garage, and bought a big assortment of earthquake-safe picture hangers and furniture for the whole house.  I bought some museum putty and stuck all our standing pictures and other knickknacks to the bookshelves, partly so they don't fall over in a quake, but mostly so I can dust around them more easily without knocking everything all over the place.  As I see more little things like that, I do my best to fix it right away.  If I don't have a fix in mind, I write it down in the pocket notebook I carry with me everywhere and plan out how to fix it when I'm going over the day's notes every night.  So far, this strategy has really worked well for me, but it might not be for everyone.  The basic advice should hold, though.  Get those little annoyances fixed and behind you right away.  It's just not worth the time living your entire life annoyed.

Mid-Year Progress on Goals

posted Jul 2, 2014, 5:46 PM by Christopher Ellison

Since the year's half over, I decided to check up on how I'm doing toward the goals I'd set for myself back in January (somehow, calling them "goals" makes me shudder less than calling them "resolutions"....).  Throughout the year, I've been noting my weekly progress on all of my goals and have been trying to adjust every weekend to make sure I'm on track to hit them all by the end of the year.  So, how am I doing?

Hobbies
As far as my hobbies are going, I'm doing pretty well.  I've been running a D&D campaign on average every other weekend, something I'd previously not done for a little while.  I've always enjoyed both playing in and running RPGs, so I always look forward to the sessions (and even enjoy the prep work).  On the down side, I chose to run a very ambitious campaign involving my own custom world, meaning I've spent quite a lot of time on that prep work.  

I've also already seen a couple of good live shows this year and have more planned in the latter half.  With those, I'll more than meet my goal for attending live theater and comedy shows.

Where I've fallen short is in my instrumental practice.  I'd set myself the goal of learning to play the guitar in a basic way by the end of the year and re-learning the bass as well.  Between the time I've been spending on the campaign and the occasional flare-ups of my tendinitis, I haven't spent nearly as much time practicing as I'd like.

Health
I've also not done as much on my health goals as I would have liked, though I've at least gotten started.  I've been eating healthier and exercising a bit more, but I still haven't set aside as much exercise time as I should.  I'll have to work on this more in the coming months.

Household
I've made the most progress on my household goals so far.  I deliberately set aside extra time in the beginning of the year to do the household maintenance and home improvements I'd planned for the year.  Since most everything went relatively smoothly, almost all of these projects are done.

I'm not planning on rewriting any of my goals for the year, but I have a general plan of attack for the next 6 months.  I'll be trying to wrap up the D&D campaign; hopefully one of the players will decide to pick up the reins next and will run something that I can play a character in.  I'm also turning up the heat on myself to get exercising more.  I've been hitting my lower step goal and baseline exercise goals, but I haven't been hitting my stretch goals with any regularity.  I'll be making a concerted effort to start hitting those stretch goals more often.

Kaede

posted Jun 25, 2014, 6:38 PM by Christopher Ellison

This is a short story set in the world of my current D&D/Pathfinder mashup campaign.  Like all the others, I abstain on whether or not it is canonical, though it does concern an NPC who is an active participant in the current campaign.  For anyone reading this who is not familiar with the campaign (who am I kidding - who's gonna read this?), the title references the NPC's home city, the elven city of Kaede.

--------

They were coming.  The tension up and down the line spoke of that certainty.  This would not be a drill, not a practice run using bag-tipped arrows or blunted spears.  This was real, and everyone on the wall thrummed with nervous, terrified excitement, their gazes firmly fixed on the forest dozens of yards away.

Their savior, their spy, stood atop the wall just two stations from her.  Yoshirou-Mura didn't know her name, barely knew anything about her; she only knew her as The Ghost.  She was small, though she carried herself as a much taller woman would; Youshirou-Mura, though tall, towered over her by more than a full head.  The Ghost wore her traditional brown-grey cloak pulled tight around her as always, and as always, she carried nothing but a bow, a quiver, and a simple pack of woodsman's gear.  She'd only come to the city a few times, always quietly and usually at night.  Always, Yoshirou-Mura would be gazing out into the night, seeing nothing of note, and then suddenly, The Ghost would be at the base of the wall.  She would call out the standard challenge, and The Ghost would respond in a soft, quiet voice.  The Ghost would patiently wait for the gate to open and would slip into the city, disappearing among the buildings not to be seen again for months.

This night had been different.  When Yoshirou-Mura had called out, The Ghost whistled back the highest-priority code Youshirou-Mura had been taught.  More importantly, The Ghost had seemed nervous.  Every time Yoshirou-Mura had seen her before, she'd been stoic, cool, collected.  Tonight she was obviously disturbed, harried.  She hid it quite well, but there was a slight tremor in her high, soft voice that gave away her fear.  The Ghost hadn't waited for the gate this time; she'd slipped through as soon as it cracked open, commanded that it immediately be closed and barred, and stormed up the stairs to see the captain.  Once there, The Ghost had whispered something to him, but Yoshirou-Mura had been just close enough to overhear:  "The Demon is coming."

The memory of the captain's near-panic was burned into Yoshirou-Mura's mind; she'd never seen him in anything less than full control.  As she'd been nearest, he'd told her "Hold the wall at all costs!" as he sprinted off toward the town sounding the alarms.  So she'd stood beside The Ghost, heart pounding, eyes hungrily scanning the forest for any sign of motion, until the captain had returned and stepped between them.  Had it been minutes?  Hours?  It was impossible for her to tell with her fight-or-flight response peaked as it was.

The wall next to her exploded into flame.  She barely registered the yell of her captain, the thump as he hit the ground ten feet below.  There was no time to think, no time to feel.  In a numb haze, she felt her bowstring snap against her arm again and again as her arrows flew at the ember-red demons boiling out of the forest.  Dimly, she became aware of motion, chanting, beside her as the shadows of the forest itself rose to smite the demons, but still more came.

Interminable seconds later, Yoshirou-Mura's fingers closed on air as she reached for her next arrow.  A screech just below her triggered more training.  Creatures she’d never seen before poured out of the shadows and streamed up the walls in a mad rush.  She barely had time to register what they were even fighting; their small, wiry, red-scaled bodies flooded the clearing as they hissed unintelligible curses at her and her fellow guards.  She realized she'd thrown her bow onto the wall and drawn her sword and dagger just in time to separate the head from the demon that leapt up the wall toward her face. 

Yoshirou-Mura's sword flicked back and forth, back and forth for an unknowable time as the demons, barely half her height but impossibly strong and fast, swarmed the walls.  Around her, she heard more explosions, more screeching, and screams coming from her fellow guards, but she could not process any of it; she could only focus on the scrambling demons whipping through the air at her face and arms.  When one would rake at her sword arm, she'd drive her dagger into it, all the while whipping her sword at any motion that caught her eye. 

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the attack was over.  Yoshirou-Mura was suddenly aware of other... things moving outside the walls, shadowy forms that were thankfully pursuing the remaining demons back into the forest.  She glimpsed a large, glowing bear-dog slipping into the forest ahead of the other monkey-demons just before her legs gave out under her.  As she crumpled against the exterior walls, she realized that she'd been injured, bitten and scratched dozens of times.  She glanced down and saw dozens of scales had been torn from her mail.  Under each rent in her armor, her lacerated skin oozed thick, dark blood.  Her head spinning, she struggled to regain her feet, seeing the fires burning around her and her injured comrades.  Her vision was fading; she couldn't seem to get her legs under her.  An arm caught her under her sword arm, and she heard the faint whisper of the voice of The Ghost in her ear.  "Drink this.  It will purge the poison.  Drink this, and rest."  The last thing she remembered before her world went to darkness was the harsh, fiery liquid coursing down her throat.

--------

I wrote this story yesterday and took a brief revision pass at it today to clarify some of the descriptions.  I still feel like I didn't really adequately portray the confusion, brutality, and tempo of the attack on the city; perhaps I need to revise the setup paragraphs and provide a little more detail and scene-setting to better contrast the pace of the setup and the wait with the pace of the actual battle.  I also feel like I need to work on Yoshirou-Mura's characterization in the story; she was intended to be early in her career as a guard (relatively speaking), when she was still untested (though very well trained).  A third and final observation just off the top of my head:  I didn't do a good job of describing The Ghost, probably, though Yoshirou-Mura knows little of her except for her physical appearance.

The Lazy Visionary

posted Jun 18, 2014, 6:33 PM by Christopher Ellison

Time for yet another D&D/Pathfinder campaign vision.  This one is from a while ago, having happened at the same time as this previous post.  I'm posting it because I've been busy writing a longer outline (trying to be ready for NaNoWriMo this year), preparing more stuff for the campaign, and trying to meet some of my New Year's Resolutions for exercising.  All that's left me less time than I'd like to prep blog posts or even think about what topic I might write about, so back into the bag we go for another out-of-context vignette!

Aida's Vision

As Aida settles into the throne, her vision fades to greyscale.  She's suddenly somewhere else, underground, standing.  A large, brawny, possibly dharven man stands next to her.  He is broad like the dharven, though not much shorter than she.  He wears bladed plate mail; she can see little of him through that.  He swings a large smith's hammer hard and fast onto some metal creation, willing it into place with a combination of muscle and determination.

Aida can feel that odd boredom-thrill, the feeling she has just before a battle, just after she's realized that something will happen but before it actually does.  She turns away from the possibly-dharven man and his damnable hammering.  She stares up at the too-low ceiling, irritated with the wait.  Suddenly, she hears the pounding at the gates, the sound she's been waiting for.  She pulls her massive warhammer to her and rushes the door.

As she reaches the entrance, the stone before her shatters open.  Quick, lithe, flashing figures blur past her, but she does not concern herself with these; the are not foes.  The foe is before her, a vast and unseeable void in her vision.  Closing her eyes, she gives over all trust to her instincts and begins to flash her hammer about as if it were made of balsa-wood.  There - contact!  And again, and again!  She twists and dodges the unseen tendrils of her masked foe, letting her eyes fall open again.  She can see the purple-black ichor spurting from the void as she mercilessly slams her hammer into the abomination before her.  Distracted, she falters; a tendril flies past her to her left.  Before she can react, she catches a golden glimpse beside her, and the tendril pulls back.  She has no time to thank her benefactor, though, as she redoubles her efforts to press her foe.

Despite the momentary slip, she and her allies have played to their plan.  Slowly, deliberately, they've turned the face of the battle nearly 180 degrees from where it started.  Elated, she calls out to her allies; in her battle-fury, she cannot remember what she called, only that it was the time to do so.  She hears the distant slamming of metal on metal, and with a final spray of purple-black fluid, the void before her clears, leaving her in a long daze.  As she comes back to herself, a glance around her shows that the ichor has hardened and turned yellow-orange.  She notices some on the head of her beautiful hammer, sunk into the lines and glyphs she'd so painstakingly woven into the metal; she is momentarily disgusted.  Before she can scrape it from her, though, she feels a restraining hand on her shoulder.  She begins to turn, but suddenly is overwhelmed with vertigo.

Moments later, when the world stops swimming around her, Aida can see nothing but a pale blue, a blue so pale as to border on white.  She can feel nothing, not the air, not the throne, not even her clothing.  She cannot see herself, only the blue-white.  There is no air, and she is freezing.  She fights back panic, thinking of her many swims, how she would force herself to hold her breath as long as should could under the cold, blue waters of the river.  "This is just another river" becomes her mantra.  As her burning lungs reach their limit, the blue suffusion fades to black.  For a moment, she thinks that she's been blinded, but the dim light of the cavern once again trickles into her eyes and she finds herself once more sitting on the cold throne, heaving great lungs-full of air into her chest.  She glances down to see her hands have turned ice blue and are only slowly regaining their color.

A Warning Shot

posted Jun 11, 2014, 6:44 PM by Christopher Ellison

I really hate how Hollywood and the media treat firearms.  I don't know which irritates me more:  the "news media" hype that accentuates the dangers of firearms over those of other, much more common dangers; or the Hollywood depictions that glorify exactly that the unsafe firearms use that the "news media" (and often the Hollywood elite) so often bemoan.


Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve spent my whole life around firearms.  I grew up in the Midwest; many of my neighbors and friends hunted or shot targets for fun.  I’m a gun owner myself, though I almost never hunt.  I put holes in paper or break up clay birds, and that’s really about it.  I’m also a huge proponent of firearms safety.  Growing up with firearms, I always had some basic rules drilled into me:

  1. "Every gun is loaded, even if it isn't."  Treat any gun as if it were loaded at all times.  Know where you’re pointing the muzzle at all times.  Keep your damn finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

  2. "Safeties aren't."  Safeties can fail.  Use them, but having the safety on is no excuse for letting your attention drift from where you’re pointing your gun.

  3. "Know your backstop."  Always know what is downrange of you.  Keep the gun pointed down and away from people when you’re not aiming at something downrange.


Most Hollywood gun tropes piss me off because they violate rule #3.  Let's look at "firing a warning shot," for example.  Whenever you fire warning shots into the air, you’re definitely not paying attention to your backstop.  That bullet could come down quite a distance away, and you don’t know what kind of damage it’s going to do when it does come down.  While we’re at it, drywall won’t stop bullets; floorboards won’t, either. This all comes back to knowing your backstop.  Don’t point a gun at anything you’re not prepared to shoot.


To be clear, I'm a pretty big fan of crazy-ass action movies, and I've got no problem with those going balls to the wall when they're clearly aiming to do just that.  I'm more irritated by movies that claim to be more realistic yet still depict people who should be trained and experienced with firearms using those firearms in amateurish, reckless ways.


I know this is a fairly specific thing I’m talking about, and I’m really just writing this to vent.  This all ties back to my upbringing and my personal feelings towards firearms.  I love being able to own guns, and I love being able to go to a safe range and shoot targets when I want to do so.  That doesn't mean I don’t respect the power that a gun represents.  They’re tools, but they’re powerful and dangerous tools.  This is brushing up against my feelings on gun ownership; maybe I’ll write about that more generally in a future post.  I think the real message I wanted to get across, though, is just this simple:  respect your firearms.  

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