Thursday, April 30, 2009

Moar Dakka.

"Yep, shotguns kill everything." - Traditional saying, Wasteland Half-Life forums. (I feel really old now.)

Since apparently buckshot in a full-choke barrel is apparently a-ok, I loaded up the '97 with some full-load 00 buck (now with 50% more bruising!) in cruiser ready. I had no idea how much mag this gun had. Six in the tube is definitely sufficient dakka for most social purposes. Insert evil grin here. I should probably pick up some #1 buck; even in reduced-recoil form, that'll be crazy lots of dakka.

Oh, and by six I mean *exactly* six, with not a single millimeter of wiggle room. Absent significant (or, for that matter, any) shotgun experience outside this gun, I consider this more proof that they don't make 'em like they used to.

Quote of the Moment: OS Wars Edition.

Quoth PDB:

Much like handgun calibers, operating systems all suck.

Just in different ways.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Forza 2 Ramblings, Part Deux.

The 'test track' uber-version (whatever the long and twisty one is) is pretty much 3 minutes and 54 seconds of cornering at various speeds. Which is damned fun, if completely unforgiving. Don't zone out and interface with a wall at 60 mph. And if you do, whack the handbrake before impact so you mess up your rear bumper rather than your engine. Forza doesn't do day/night, and no one's gonna pull you over for a busted tail-light.

Factory Spec races may be my favorite category, since everyone drives the same exact vehicle; it's a pure test of skill. Mind you, part of the reason I got hooked on this damned game to begin with was the endless gearhead mischief one could attend to, so I suppose that makes me a hypocrite. That said, trading in your Viper Competition Coupe for a Porsche 914/6 is like playing in slow motion. Non-instantaneous gear shifting? An engine that takes a second or two to hit 6k RPMs? What is this malarkey? If anything, it's a vacation. The Porsche's got some rear-end slip, being RWD and all (more so with TCS and STS turned off), so it feels a hell of a lot like the Comp Coupe, just more sluggish. Since everyone drives the same car, referencing the fastest runthroughs on the scoreboard is a great 'cheat sheet' if some turn is kicking your ass (end serpentine on Silverstone, I'm looking at you). The guy that holds the 914/6 record on Silverstone has a bad ass Mondrian paint job. Check it out.

Why didn't I take up Manual transmission earlier? If anything, it adds a whole new level to vehicle management - far from being 'same as automatic, but you have to press buttons', gear-shifting becomes highly tactical, and a reference point for turn tactics - "downshift from 4 to 3 and ride it here; slide through and follow the tach up there; enforce diminishing turn radii in serpentine by taking final turn at 2;" that sort of thing. Made of win, it is, and a great inoculation for 'straightaway hypnosis.'

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Everyone,

Why have you not played Psychonauts yet?

Seriously, it's only $10 or so, and instantaneous if you do take the XBox Live route.

You will thank me.*



* Only if you have a whimsical-yet-twisted sense of humor and would be unreasonably amused by blistering dialogue, brilliant art direction, re-appropriated psychobabble, and truly ecstatic luggage. One word: Lungfishopolis.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Flow (Psychology).

Zen (n.)

1. In Forza Motorsport 2, taking 26 test laps with the #23 Viper Competition Coupe, to the point that one is not consciously operating the controls but apparently has wired their optical response directly to their fingers.

Laguna Seca is a great track. Between the Andretti Hairpin and the Corkscrew you need to be paying attention. The hairpin needs to be taken conservatively - there's a strong temptation to power out of the first apex, but that'll fuck you up on the second apex. And the corkscrew is a 40mph turn at the end of a 150mph straight, so it's easy to get cocky and slam on the brakes too late, tossing you over the 'screw and into the dirt (if you're lucky) or the wall (if you're not).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tacticool Caffeine Consumption.

Because everything is better with rails. I suppose you have one shot of hot liquid, and then you can use the crenelated strike bezel to finish off any hajis that get within bad-breath distance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Because I Need More Expensive Hobbies.

I finally got my ass and the 1908-vintage Winchester 1897 (takedown model, 30", full choke) to the Skeet Trap range, and brought a co-worker. Between the two of us, 200 rounds of #7 1/2 birdshot disappeared in about five minutes (subjectively). Trap singles has the same 'one...more...round' appeal of, say, Strange Adventures In Infinite Space, except each new round totals $15.50 when range fees and shotshells are considered. (Bizarrely, the trap field has cheaper shotshells than Big 5's on-special stuff. So until I reload, I guess I know where my cash is going.)

For a centenarian, the old girl still gets it done, when the shooter steps up (ahem). 8 pounds even is a bit much to swing around, but ergonomically the gun is right on point - the elegant semi-pistol grip points intuitively. With a $20 Uncle Mike's recoil pad slipped over the stock I can shoot low-brass birdshot all day. (I keep hearing that fit is everything; my friend's shoulder doesn't get along as well with the gun as mine does, so perhaps that's what's going on.) The 4-5lb trigger is all sorts of manageable. Plus, 1897's just sound awesome, and all the moving parts popping out has a certain steampunk appeal to it. About the only bad thing about the design is that while taking down is easy, re-assembling is a bit fiddly - you have to feel around quite a bit to get the lugs lined up.

The fellow running the machinery recommended sighting down the barrel rather than following the bead, which works well, at least for deflection shots. Just park about a clay's width of daylight between the muzzle and the clay and good things seem to happen.

That said, with an average score of 10/25, I need to A) pay attention more and B) practice. Co-worker mopped up, with a high score of 20/25 on his first time out. Between pistol shooting and paintball, I don't know how much of that I can really justify these days. However, the co-worker and I are hopefully splitting on the reloading setup, so once we can actually get some fucking primers practice will be a viable option.

If BAG Day Was A Competition

Roberta X would win it this year.

And now Road to Perdition slips from the DVD shelf to the 'to-watch' stack.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Targets.

Constraining one's 'acceptable hits' area on a target does wonders for one's concentration. (And by 'one' I mean 'yours truly.' YMMV and all that.)

ToddG of loves shooting 3x5 cards and 8" paper plates (or equivalents). When shooting a 3x5 card as part of a drill, only 100% hits are acceptable. These represent precision shooting. On the plates, 90% hits are acceptable, as long as you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone with speed. The FAST drill is both shurikens and lightning* and a good illustration of this philosophy.

What's crazy is that it goes both ways. Once one commits to getting 100% hits in a 3x5 card at distance X, one is more likely to get 100% hits in 3x5 card at distance X, while merely 'shooting a group' at distance X results in a 6" shotgun pattern. In my experience, at least. Similarly, I find that 'shooting the black' results in shots that all make their way into the black, but not a small group in the middle that should be more representative of a skill level I've demonstrated at said distance.

As a bonus, 3x5 cards and scotch tape are cheap. Plus, you can stick those 1" paster circles from Shoot-N-See packs (I never seem to use 'em otherwise) in the middle as a handy aim point. Thus configured, it looks an awful lot like The Black Spot, and what with shooting pirates *finally* being in vogue, that's pretty ninja.


* Adj. 1. Worthy of kudos; awesome. Origin: Zero Punctuation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bitch-Slap: Defined.

ErnestThing lays one down on Diane Sawyer.

(Also, Blogroll +1. Great stuff here - check out his greatest hits, among other things.)


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is deeply divisive, and not just along the love it/hate it line. Both games are a combination of brilliant concept, unrealized potential, and shaky execution. People either love the concept enough to overlook the manifest flaws, are disappointed by what's clearly a good start, or just outright frustrated by its quirky gameflow.

For those of you that like it, but are frustrated by the unrealized potential (raises hand), the good folks at GSC Gameworld have released a pre-alpha from the "Oblivion Lost" days (2004). I'll post my reactions when I get 'er downloaded.

Incidentally, if you own Shadow of Chernobyl, check out the Oblivion Lost mod. It re-implements a lot of disabled features that are still in the code (all Hot Coffee style), which results in a much richer experience, even if it's distinctly rougher around the edges. Recommended!

On Exercise and Motivation.

It's all about carrot and stick. In my personal week of experience, Samuel Jackson Adams Boston Lager makes for a wicked good stick. Creamy enough to fill, crisp enough to refresh, rich enough to satisfy. Hell yes. Enough to make me want to punch out some push-ups; more proof that anyone who uses the word 'impossible' hasn't pondered the situation long enough...

(Yeah, those dudes had something to do with it. Word up.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Imitates Art.

When Da Fed releases a press release ripped near-verbatim from Deus Fucking Ex, one might be a bit concerned.

H/T Alphecca.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Thought I Was Being Creative

Rarely is this actually the case. Witness Marko:

I believe that the desire to become President should automatically be a disqualifying factor.


Latin is Useful

And here's a useful Latin term: Abusus non tollit usum.

Latin for abuse does not take away use.

That is to say, just because something can be (or is) abused does not mean it should be banned, destroyed, denied. (That is abused while there also is prefectly legitimate use for it.)

Sound like anything you might know?

Thank you, Blunt Object.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Capsule Reviews.

The Professionals - Like The Wild Bunch, but less pessimistic. Good for fans of Lee Marvin, Vintage machineguns, or the Colt New Service. The action is brisk, the plot is twisted enough to be fun, and the characters have chemistry. What's not to like?

Duck, You Sucker - James Coburn as an IRA sapper and Rod Steiger as bandito make for a great odd couple. Slightly mislabelled as a Western, it veers hard and becomes a Mexican Revolution war movie. Pretty roundly awesome. Sergio Leone owns the epic, expansive Spaghetti Western. The action reminds me of no one so much as John Woo - it's easy to see the roots of the balletic 'heroic bloodshed' style. Hell, this movie has a very Blood Opera feel - strong friendships, intense emotions, massive body count...

Friday, April 10, 2009

On Chutzpah, Vietnam, and Zombies.

I was poking around my bloated e:\games directory the other day, and came across an old favorite: Heart of Evil. Actually, no. I was reminded of it when I read about Shellshock 2: Blood Trails on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Vietnam? Zombies? It seems random, but HoE's got enough chutzpah (and South Park-like racial sensitivity) to make it work like nuoc mam and rice.

For starters, Heart of Evil is possibly the only game to get the escort mission right, which is good because the ENTIRE GAME is an escort mission. You must drag Barney ("I'll be god-damned if I know what his last name is!") through all six episodes, both because your character lacks the basic mental processes needed to operate the motor vehicles that take you between hubs, and because you'll feel uncontrollable guilt and commit hara-kiri if he dies. This works where every single goddamned FPS/TPS has failed miserably before it. Since each episode is broadly hub-based, you can park Barney somewhere convienent, kill everything else at your leisure, retrieve Barn, and proceed. And Barney actually can handle himself in a fight. Sort of.

What really makes this series great is that it ladles the action on old-school, dropping HL's entire weapon line-up for a more Vietnam-flavored collection. While strictly speaking the balance is iffy, every weapon is fun enough that you'll want to use it, and not just because everything else is out of ammo (being a warzone, you're usually up to your solar plexus in all the common calibers, up to and including 40x46mm LV for your M79), but because it fills a niche. And speaking of niches...

The enemies neatly fall into three categories: human, zombie, and nuisance. The humans act much as they did in Half-Life, which is of course a good thing; for some reason, there's both good Americans (who fight alongside you with the standard "walk with me/park your ass" HL NPC control) and bad Americans (it's complicated) along with the 'Cong. Zombies soak *amazing* amounts of damage (try 3 full AK the head), so blast weapons aren't so great, but dumping hundreds of bullets works; humans go down easier, but actually hurt you at range, so you can't stand there with the trigger down and dish it out. Ferreting out shooters with explosives works satisfyingly well, especially when a black-pyjama'd corpse arcs lazily through the air from a hidey-hole. Satisfaction! The enemies are surprisingly balanced; both are equally threatening, but in totally different ways - you try to maintain distance from zeds while hosing them continuously, and you try to keep hard things between you and humans while putting accurate fire and/or explosives in their direction. Things get really fun when more than one is in a battle at one time - up to four-way battles. Do you hold back and let one side get wasted, or do you try to keep one side alive (and thus dealing damage) long enough to weaken the other, so both are easy pickings? Being sneaky is beneficial; since everyone hates you the most, having two sides on you simultaneously is a world of pain.

Being a blend of Half-Life, Apocalypse Now, and early Resident Evil, episodes C-F are chock-full of bizarre key puzzles and RPG-like flourishes. If you put your crosshair on a usable object, you get a subtitle ('door,' 'roast moose,' 'useless key'). Furthermore, there's expository text lying around (notes, diaries, etc.). This stuff is displayed using the scrolling-text function used for, among other things, the opening credits, so it scrolls past in real-time at a fixed speed (plenty slow enough to read), so you need to park your ass in a quiet corner for a while, but it's a huge boost to atmosphere. Plus, the writing's flat-out hilarious. The insane key puzzle mechanic falls flat when you have no idea whatsoever where the next quest item is, which is compounded by the labyrinthian quality of these maps. It's a lot more fun when you know where to look, truthfully; some mechanics are dead and buried for a reason. Still, there's a walkthrough if you need it.

So yeah, it's worth digging out your old copy of Half-Life for, or downloading a steamless version (I don't think it plays nice with Steam, and anyway the oldschool version's a lot less obnoxious).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

.221 Askins.

For all you folks that think 'gaming the rules' is a modern phenomenon:

"In 1937, while preparing for the National Matches, I developed the .221 Askins. This was a .22 caliber automatic which fired a .22 centerfire ctg. The NRA rules in '37 stipulated that "any centerfire caliber" could be fired in the Nationals. At that time the only useable centerfire cal was limited to the revolvers. You could fire the .32 S&W long which was the smallest caliber and one yet accurate enough to compete with. I concluded if I could develop a .22 centerfire I'd have the boys over a barrel."

"The .221 Askins was the 5.5 Velo-Dog ctg shortened in length to exactly the .22 long rifle casing; the bullet was the standard .22 long rifle leaden slug at 40 grains. The Velo-Dog was designed to be fired in a French revolver; it had a rimmed casing. My gunsmith and I ran every case through the lathe and reduced the diameter of the rim to the same specs as the .22 long rifle rimfire shell."

Whole thing here.

On Enfields.

It's an Enfield No.1 Mk.3 that shoots little tiny groups all day for dirt cheap.


Monday, April 6, 2009

On Handguns and Killing.

One of these days, I should make up some flashcards with the following handguns pictured, one on each:

1. Smith & Wesson Model 36
2. Glock 34 with a 2-pound trigger, Warren Tactical sights, and strategically-placed skateboard tape
3. SIG P226, West German, Bone Stock
4. T/C Contender rebuilt into an IHMSA open gun (metallic silhouette)
5. Remington XP-100
6. Hämmerli Model 208
7. Remington Rand M1911A1, circa 1943
8. Browning Buckmark with a C-More sight (hooray for Steel Challenge!)

Next, I should find one of those 'the only purpose of handguns is to kill', show the cards one by one, and ask if the design purpose of that firearm was, in fact, to deliver lethal force; and furthermore, if so, is the handgun suitable in present form for said task. The results may be instructive.

Quote of the Moment.

Just To Be Sure edition.

"If I saw that coming out of an alley in the middle of the night, I think it would be legal to keep firing until the autopsy started." - James R. Rummel

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Because I just finished Twin Peaks.

David Lynch's A Goofy Movie.

On Extractor Placement.

Wow, Carteach0's got a whole bunch of cool stuff on his YouTube channel.


Check out that extractor! Also, the nearly straight-in feed angle.

I Do Not Think You Know What That Word Means.

Wikinews serves up yet another Inigo Montoya moment.

IANAE*, but I'm going to have to question your organization's commitment to 'free market economics' if you blacklist tax havens.


* I just play one on the internet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Gordon Biersch Czech-Style Pilsner.

I'm liking the product produced by messrs. Gordon and Biersch more and more.

As pilsners go, this is definitely on the full-flavored side, with a heavier-than-normal body and a satisfying dose of bitter hops. It fills the gap between lawnmowing beer like Tsing Tao and heavy ales like ESB. As a bonus, unlike some lagers, the hop content is stout enough that it still refreshes after it's dropped closer to room temperature. (I drink slowly.) Plus, like their other products, they drop into the $1/bottle range in case form. As bang for the buck goes, this is a very good investment.

What He Said.

"Gun Control is not a Matter of Statistics"

OK, I'll add one more thing: combine his thesis with the principle of 'when in doubt, err in favor of liberty' and the proper course of action becomes obvious. For just about every gun-blogger, this is second nature, but it seems that many politicians (I would say 'most,' but the Blue Dogs have made me slightly less pessimistic as of late) find this concept alien. So do many of the voters who put them in power.*

The United States is a polyglot meta-culture with a drug and gang problem. We seem to do multiculturalism better than some, but there is still tension. The reason I'm hesitant to fully agree with the Libertarian ideal of legalizing drugs is that they are a social blight. The late 80's/early 90's violent crime spike is directly attributable to the crack cocaine epidemic. Gangs are universally bad news. Get rid of those two problems and the crime rate would plummet overnight.

(h/t Syd.)


* I don't mean the Evil Strawman Liberal, because I don't buy that any more than the Evil Strawman Conservative. Whole 'nuther rant, right there.