Locations of Cimmeria: Geyser of Talos

Geyser of Talos

The Geyser of Talos is a magical location in the far north of Cimmeria. The Geyser lies about a day’s journey west of the origin point of the Great Divide river which separates Cimmeria’s western and eastern halves.

When the Olympians moved to Cimmeria, Hephaestus was looking for a location to set up his new forge. Before finding his permanent home in Horror Peak he made a temporary work station for himself at the base of the Terror Mountains. Needing water to quench his red-hot iron, Hephaestus struck his hammer upon the ground and a geyser shot up. Since the smith god vacated the area, the Geyser has dwindled, only erupting every few months. The water still retains the magical qualities imbued into it by its progenitor, making it useful for all manner of things. Continue reading

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The Martian Movie Review

The-Martian-movie-poster

I tried to go see The Martian a week after it opened but it was sold out. I went home and watched Time Lapse instead.

I have since been able to see it. I was squished into the corner seats of a full theater, but I got to see it!

As you’ve probably already guessed, a movie that continues to sell out show times two weeks after they’ve opened are probably worth a look.

In The Martian, Mark Watney is trapped on Mars. He went there with five other astronauts to do astronaut stuff. Due to a storm the team needed to do an emergency evacuation while on the red planet. Mark was hit by some debris, blown away, and his biomonitor goes black. The team presumes he is dead and rockets off the planet, leaving Mark behind.

Mark awakes with a broken biomonitor and a suit leaking oxygen into Mars’ thin atmosphere.

The rest of the movie is two parallel storylines. On Mars, Mark struggles to survive on a planet that is essentially unihabitable. He deals with getting oxygen, water, food, and a radio up and running to contact Earth.

On Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is still alive and they come up with several plans to rescue him (one of which succeeds, surprise!).

The movie is all about how space exploration works and the dangers associated with it. Everything has to be just right to get to Mars. Everything has to be just right once you’re there. As Mark says, “Without the water reclaimer, I die of thirst. Without the oxygen reclaimer, I suffocate. Without food, I slowly starve to death. And without shelter from the atmosphere, I’d just sort of implode and die.”

The movie is all about how Mark prevents those things from happening; but, of course, things break over time. That’s why NASA has to rush to save him.

The movie contains many technical aspects about space and planetary eporation. I only felt lost when Mark described how to turn hydrazine fuel into water.

I think that’s a big part of why the movie is so successful. It’s able to describe how space travel to Mars would work in an easily understood manner.

A lot of people are focused on landing a human being on Mars as the next big space mission, with projects like Mars One in the works. That interest also contributed to the film’s success.

Plus, Matt Damon is just on point throughout the movie.

I picked up the novel written by Andy Weir that the movie is based off of. The writing style is technical and gets into Mark Watney’s flow of consciousness. The plot of getting a supplies and a rocket to Mark takes a backseat in the book which also leads to little character interaction. Just Mark against Mars.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far Weir’s writing has reminded me of CS Forester. If you liked the Hornblower series, The Martian might be the right book for you.

If you liked the movie… I think the movie is better so far. It removes very little from the book, but adds a lot of emotion and feeling that can’t be captured well in written prose. I am still enjoying reading the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else would like it as much as I am.

As for seeing the movie, I’d recommend that to everyone. I would’ve loved to see this as a kid imagining being an astronaut. And The Martian makes all the principles behind space travel simple enough that I think everyone, incuding five year-old GoCorral, can learn something.

-GoCorral

Mars’ Oasis

Mars' Oasis

Mars’ Oasis is a large settlement of 50,000 people in the Shacklack Desert. The city is built around two oases, a large one full of water, and another minute oasis full of a magical liquid called Dythalid. When objects are immersed in Dythalid for an entire month they acquire magical properties, while the Dythalid is consumed. Metals that go through this process become Dythalidium and have the same properties as Dragonsteel. Plant material that goes through the process becomes Dythalidare and has the same properties as ironwood, but can still be consumed for 1d8+3 healing for each serving eaten. Minerals that go through the process become Dythalidem, a crystal that radiates blue light as well as enough heat to protect against cold temperatures as low as 0˚ F. Other liquids that go through the process become Dythalidos, a liquid that explodes under pressure or when the smallest spark touches it. Dead animal products that go through the process become Dythalidon, a virtually weightless substance that still provides ample sustenance if consumed.

Naturally, the liquid is unbelievably valuable. An equal amount by weight is needed to change an object into a Dythalid substance. Dythalid is sold by the government of Mars’ Oasis for 1,600 GP an ounce to citizens of the desert. It is sold outside of the city for more, but this is illegal and carries a very severe punishment that is kept in vague secrecy. Civilians are terrified of this punishment but the fugitives who sell Dythalid to outsiders think the worst that can happen to them is starvation in a prison cell.

Dythalidium is used by the nobles of the city, but is too expensive to give to the soldiers who could easily desert and sell their armor and weaponry for a fortune. Select super soldiers, called the Dythalidee, are chosen to be guards of the Dythalid Oasis from birth. They are always extremely exceptional in every aspect, resistant to mental corruption, have psionic abilities, Dythaldium weapons, Dythalidare armor, and know all the secrets of Dythalid. No Dythalidee has ever fallen in combat.

The city needs food to survive. A little grain does grow around the oasis, but the people need water to drink as well as for irrigating crops. There isn’t enough water for livestock and people to drink, so few beasts are kept at Mars’ Oasis. A special fruit bearing cactus known as Sithica grows throughout the whole Shacklack desert. It is poisonous in its normal form, but if soaked in Dythalid one of the fruits can support someone for a week. The Sithica fruit is the only known substance that does not consume the Dythalid in its incubation period. These fruits are the staple crop of Mars’ Oasis.

The government of Mars’ Oasis is based around a caste system. The lowest caste is slaves, next servants and laborers, moving up to merchants, craftsmen, artisans, and specialists, then nobles and other people from rich or powerful families, the final caste is the royal family who has control over the Dythalid pool. Taxes go through the castes. King Mero III taxes the nobles, the nobles tax the merchants, the employers tax the servants, and the owners take everything they can from the slaves. King Mero decides where the money goes, usually into the army.

Mars’ Oasis needs a good army. It has a constant struggle with the desert environment as well as the other inhabitants of the desert. Bavastatner, the oldest of the blue dragons, lived in Shacklack and his progeny are one of the biggest problems for the people at the oasis. A dragon slayer’s guild has come into existence to deal with the problem. They provide free weapons to the public whenever the city is under attack and King Mero III himself is an accomplished member of the guild. Brass dragons also help against their worst enemies, but only when required.

An enormous formian hive has been set up in the desert. The hive has 25 queens and almost 10,000 workers in it. These outsiders are seeking to enslave the other humanoid species of the desert. To counter the ant encroachment Mar’s Oasis has welcomed a group of Dionysus missionaries. The chaotic clerics are able to keep the lawful Formians away from the city proper whenever they decide to attack.

Previously, undead were an even bigger problem than the blue dragons. In the east of the desert a powerful lich lived in an enormous stone monolith surrounded by legions of undead. The people of Mars’ Oasis, never knowing the lich’s true name, called it the Bane. The Bane sent huge armies of undead to attack the city every few years. The Bane didn’t seem to have any particular goal beyond getting more corpses to make more undead to attack the city to make corpses. It may have wanted control of the Dythalid pool, but the pattern of the attacks were never aimed at that area or any specific area of the city.  Recently the Bane was defeated by the exiled members of the Alliance. King Mero III planned to reward them, but ordered them to leave the city when he discovered that the exiles weclomed an undead in their midst.

Prior to the defeat of the Bane, the mages and clerics of Mars’ Oasis had been thinking of different tactics for driving the undead off for centuries. The most basic tactic is using lots and lots of clerics to turn and destroy the undead. The most effective tactic the mages have created so far is the Rot Reaver. It is a monster that eats and controls undead. It is a little on the black side of magic, but it was seen as necessary to fight the thousands of undead that attacked the city.  With the defeat of the Bane, the mages of Mars’ Oasis are now tweaking their Rot Reavers to prepare for a conflict with the Dragovinians.

Other dangers that threaten the city include lamias, manticores, dragonnes, basilisks, sphinxes, hyenas, giant insects, braxats, dune stalkers, sun giants, asabis, brown dragons, stingers, harssafs, witchknives, and all different kinds of lizards. These creatures never attack in large groups and are usually just one rogue monster that has got the suicidal idea that it can attack an extremely militaristic civilization on its own and survive.

Mars’ Oasis’s army has 3,500 people on active duty patrolling the city, making weapons and armor, and out in the desert killing any monsters they can find. The men are all able to turn undead due totheir clerical or paladin training. They all wear at least breastplate armor and carry masterwork bows and weapons. All of them are trained for killing undead and desert monsters. Their other equipment includes a bead of dryness to store water, cold weapons, potions of healing, holy water, and an oil of gentle repose to be applied immediately upon death to prevent being turned into a zombie or other undead monster.

The name of the city, Mars’ Oasis, comes half from the oasis and the other half from Mars, the Roman version of Ares. In 700 BCE he led a group of Roman soldiers to the dark side of the world and then back around. They fought many orcs, goblins, monsters, and demons on their journey. Ares gave the Romans peace at the end of the journey in his Oasis. Out of the fires of the desert a lake arose with many desert nymphs to become the legionnaires’ wives. From those Romans and nymphs the indigenous humanoid population of the desert has sprung.

With the war between the Alliance and Xoria, Mars’ Oasis is suffering under a constant barrage of diplomats requesting that they enter the war with the Aliiance.  This is due to Mars’ Oasis unique experience in defeating dragons and undead of which Dragovinians are a hybrid. Until now, Mars’ Oasis declined to join the war. The milieu of threats within the desert kept the Mars’ Oasis army busy enough without having to deal with threats outside their immediate region. The situation is about to change though. The Alliance exiles vanquished the Bane and recently slew Bavastatner. Additionally, they negotiated a peace treaty with the formians. Removing the three primary threats to Mars’ Oasis frees them up to join the war against Xoria.

-GoCorral

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 23

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 22

Most surprising part of this update is that I didn’t need to edit it much! The focus of this update is how people begin to try to circumvent the Great Blockade. Engrenildo goes eat. The Profiteers build a new port that bypasses the mouth of the Maw. The Hykmans do the same thing in the Lower Maw. And a little bit of politicking in the Upper Maw signals the return of the Black Prince!

712 NA: The Maw was shocked by the new tariff imposed by the Merfolk. Reasonable as the tax was, people will always balk at a tax that was never present before. Many merchants accepted the tax and continued to trade with the Dwarves. A few others, with help from private investors or governments, refused. Plans were enacted to bypass the blockade. One particular man named Engrenildo had crazy dreams filling his head of the world being round. Few believed his ridiculous story, but enough did that he outfitted a small flotilla of ships.

The Metal Dwarves accepted the blockade. They would survive with the reduced amount of trade. However, they could not accept taxes on supplies and passengers sent to Proaxium. A Dwarven transport ship filled with supplies, books, and scholars for Proaxium, met with a Mersian captain at the blockade and explained the Dwarven situation. If taxes were lifted solely on ships traveling to Proaxium with supplies for the island, then all is well and good. If they were not, then the Dwarves would appeal to the Human cities for help, the cities which were already pissed off about the blockade and just needed an excuse to end it.

713 NA: The Merfolk refused the Metal Dwarf delegation. The blockade would only be lifted if Proaxium was given over to the Merfolk people. The Metal Dwarves paid the tariff and passed into the Maw. The Dwarves sent boats out to the Sisters, Balkus, and the Hykman League asking for assistance in breaking the blockade. The pleas for assistance were denied. No Human city was foolish enough to risk naval war with the Merfolk.

Engrenildo secured funding for his expedition. He left in the middle of summer.

The Frugal Profiteers attempted to circumvent the blockade by organizing the Humans to the west of the Red Peaks. A new port city was built on the western coast, Tylaniria. Fearing a Grez attack, the Profiteers enticed many different clerics to set up temples in the city. An army of priests was formed should the Grez move against the city. The Profiteers planned to build a road across the Red Peaks, but the warfare between Syluk and Cynelle prevented construction.

The Hykman League decided to circumvent the blockade by utilizing the already existing Freedom Road. With Human funding, the Elves began construction on a Western Freedom Road.

714 NA: King Hrotomak of the Syluki Dwarves finally marshaled enough strength to siege Cynelle. He marched on the city with his forces, but received an unexpected welcome. We have enough, and more!” the Princes of Cynelle told the conquerors and showed them the splendors of the world. Surprised, but pleased, King Hrotomak accepted the surrender. None knew why Cynelle gave up so easily save for members of the Brotherhood of the Living Immolation.

715 NA: King Hrotomak forced Tylaniria to swear fealty to Syluk as well. He declared himself King of the Western Red Peaks. The Princes of Cynelle raised Syluki captains up into magnificent wealth and they showered King Hrotomak with resplendent gifts. Notable amongst these was the gift of Hrah-Sulesh, whose blood was that of the Holy City of Najar, who gave to King Hrotomak a suit of dark adamantine plate inlaid with glistening rubies that shown like a thousand, fiery eyes – terrifying, radiant, and volcanic…

716 NA: The Elves completed the Western Freedom Road in record time with Human funds and architectural ingenuity. Magical traps were placed upon it to keep the Hobgoblins out just as on the Eastern Freedom Road.

717 NA: The Elves cleared a site for the new League city on the edge of the Lower Maw. The Elves named the city Prestounasi and the Hykmans assisted with its construction. The Hykmans began construction on a new city at the eastern edge of the Homestone Bridge as well.

718 NA: The Hobgoblins were infuriated that their precious woods were cut in half. The Southern Hobgoblins could not reach their brethren in the mountains, the Northern Hobgoblins. They attempted to breach both Freedom Roads and Crodolan, but the magical traps turned them back. The Hobgoblin shamans sat and thought. An answer would come in time.

-GoCorral

Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 24

Foot Urinals

Sac State has a lot of things that are different than UC Davis.

Smoking is allowed at Sac State. More of the students drive to campus than bike or take the bus. The professors are encouraged to focus on being successful teachers instead of successful researchers.

The student body is a little more diverse as well. There is more minority representation and more LGBTQ people at Sac State than UC Davis.

One of the weirdest differences is in the Sac State bathrooms.

I’m talking of course, about the urinals.

Behold! Flush by foot!
Behold! Flush by foot!

Davis urinals are almost all automatic. You never need to touch anything. Some of them will even beep at you while you’re peeing prompting some funny bathroom graffiti, “Penis Detected!”

Sac State decided that hand flushing toilets were still too unsanitary, but that automatic ones were too expensive (I guess). Thus, we get the foot flushers.

This has been a little weird, but I managed to not shout out, “What the hell is this?” and thus avoided embarrassing myself in front of the janitor cleaning the bathroom at the time I first saw a foot flusher.

Otherwise the Sac State bathrooms are a dramatic improvement over the Davis bathrooms.

Some of the Davis bathrooms are without any ventilation, resulting in them smelling like a stable. Not surprising considering that its an agriculture school, but going into those bathrooms will always be a hideous experience and I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.

One of the bathrooms at Davis has three urinals in a small corner behind the sit-down stalls. This seems fine until you try to leave one of the back two urinals while someone else is using the front one. There is no polite way to push past someone who is peeing. And I can tell you that waiting for them to finish isn’t any better.

The final advantage that Sac State bathrooms have over Davis is the paper towel dispensers. The Davis dispensers have such a tight grip on their towels that you’ll rarely leave with a towel in one piece. Sac State’s dispensers are much better, dispensing one complete towel everytime I’ve used them. No more, no less.

Isn’t that funny. I go to a school for a Master’s of Science degree and I end up talking about bathrooms.

-Mister Ed

Arriving to and Leaving from the Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: Bois Blanc Island Dinners

Coming on the ferry to Bois Blanc Island has an unofficial ceremony to it.

A member of the Plaunt family that runs the ferry backs my rented car onboard and I walk on.

As the ferry pulls away from the dock I watch the bridge opening in front of us over the Cheboygan River.

The ferry pulls out past the icebreaker that keeps the Straits of Mackinac open during the winter.

This boat is named the USCGC Mackinaw.
This boat is named the USCGC Mackinaw.

I watch the approach of Bois Blanc Island in the distance for a bit before returning to the car to read, chat, or sleep.

Once the ferry gets closer everyone becomes antsy and crowds to the front.

The ferry was pretty busy because people were coming for a tour of all the neat cottages on the Island.
The ferry was pretty busy because people were coming for a tour of all the neat cottages on the Island.

My relatives wave from the sea wall protecting the ferry dock on Bois Blanc.

When we dock we shout, “Hello!” before driving the car off.

We park the car and exchange hugs and greetings with the relatives. Then we drive to the cottages to take out our groceries and luggage.

Leaving is pretty much the same thing.

The relatives come to wave goodbye. They hug, say what a good time they had, and promise to see us again.

The ferry pulls out and I walk down to the end of the sea wall to wave goodbye one more time.

Bye bye, Ferry!
Bye bye, Ferry!

Until next year!

-Mister Ed

This is the last of my posts about my trip to Bois Blanc Island this year. Hope you enjoyed them!

Round Island

Previous Post About Bois Blanc Island: The Three Cottages

Round Island as seen from the West End beach on Bois Blanc.
Round Island as seen from the West End beach on Bois Blanc.

Round Island is just offshore of the West End on Bois Blanc Island.

From my family’s cottages, the national park is only 0.6 miles away.

My wife and I like kayaking over there when we come to Bois Blanc.

Paddle left! Paddle right! Stormy weather starts tonight!
Paddle left! Paddle right! Stormy weather starts tonight!

There is a current towards the west that will sweep you away if you don’t constantly correct your course on the kayak.

My wife and I capsized our kayak halfway to Round Island once and almost got taken away by the current.

We couldn’t right the kayak, so we ended up kicking with our feet to push the kayak the rest of the way to Round Island.

My grandpa is always in an overwatch position with a telescope on the porch of the New Cottage.

When we capsized my grandpa was ready to call the Coast Guard to rescue us if we went past Round Island into the open part of Lake Huron.

We landed on the westernmost tip of Round Island and saved ourselves a lot of trouble.

Round Island itself is empty and there isn’t much to do there. You can’t go inland because the forest is too deep. There’s an old lighthouse, but it closed when radar became the standard method for preventing ships from running aground.

My family spends our time on Round Island looking for cool rocks, beach glass, or the occasional piece of coal that fell off a freighter and washed ashore.

We do all that stuff, but mostly my wife and I go to Round Island because there is no one else on it.

Bois Blanc is isolated, but there are still happy relatives all around you.

On Round Island there is literally no other person within half a mile of you.

And sometimes solitude is all you want.

-Mister Ed

We made it! No capsizing this time.
We made it! No capsizing this time.

Next Post About Bois Blanc Island: Mackinac Island