Me — My Dream About Columbus, Ohio

I know. The title doesn’t exactly scream “Hey, this has got to be interesting”, but I thought it would be fun to share a dream I had a few months ago. I don’t remember everything (obviously), but as my dreams go this one is pretty normal, with the only exception being the detail to which I remembered it upon waking up. The following is the final portion of a dream, pretty much exactly as it happened, with a few minor, forgotten details missing here and there. I also don’t remember the exact dialog, but I remember the jist of what was said. (I’d also be interested to hear what a dream analyst would have to say about this. I don’t subscribe to dream theory or anything like that, but I’d imagine the analysis would be pretty crazy.)

 

So, as per details earlier in the dream I don’t remember, there was this huge protest/march happening. Like hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and there were so many that the march was taking place on America’s freeways. Like, all of them. I participated, but I wasn’t accompanied by anyone. Unlike most of my dreams, I didn’t know a single person in this one. As I walked aimlessly down the freeway (which wasn’t actually that crowded), I found that I had walked all the way to Columbus, Ohio.

Now, some context. I’ve never been to Ohio. I’ve hardly even been outside of California. But something earlier in my dream had established Columbus practically as an independent city state, with technology decades/centuries ahead of the rest of America, and yet semi-autonomous. After finding myself here, I decided to explore.

Imagine your basic sci-fi city. Rows upon rows of interweaving freeways, giant skyscrapers, flying cars, you know the deal. That’s what this place was, and the roadways and trails were dead-stop traffic. Even the pedestrian lanes that were in conjunction with the freeways. It was nothing amazing. The skyscrapers weren’t like, miles high or anything. The occasional flying car was by far the most advanced thing about this place. Well, until… you’ll see. I decided not to go to where everybody else was, and instead went to the beach. You know how Columbus, Ohio is famous for its beaches. (For the record, the sand at this beach was so soft it was like heavy flour. It felt awesome.)

As I walked across this beach, I saw a giant screen on one of the skyscrapers showing a documentary? Advertisement? Of one of the two Columbus, Ohio spaceships. I don’t remember it’s name, but it was like the USS Copernicus or something. This thing was huge, and the video had a guy talking about the specs of the engines, the size of the crew, just basic information. After watching that short little video I turned to see that spaceship cruising overhead, passing over the horizon and blueshifting (is that the term) as it passed the curvature of the earth. It looked something like this, but imagine a spaceship instead of a giant banana… you’ll see what I mean. Also, the audio is unsettling, so just a heads up.

Next, I walked down a little trail and some minor stuff happened I don’t remember. I think at some point I saw an actual dinosaur walking around, but nobody paid it any mind, so I suppose hologram. Nobody ever explained this to me.

Along my lonely travels, I stumble across a Nintendo Switch just lying on the ground. I look about to see if it belonged to anyone, but nobody batted an eye when I picked it up. A group of three kids sneered at me as they passed, saying “What a piece of garbage technology,” and let me tell you I got so offended to hear these snooty kids trashing on our normal modern day tech I wanted to stab him. I didn’t, but I wanted to.

lightsaberInstead, I noticed a red, telescopic lightsaber toy on the ground. You know the ones that are like a dollar each that you swing and the blade extends. I picked it up and shook it at the kids (who were already walking away) “This is what I grew up on!” I yelled at him. Let it be known that I am not trying to preach anything here. I am well aware that I am very young, that’s just what I said, okay?

Anyways, as I held it out, another stranger approached me and extended a blue lightsaber. He started saying something like “I have searched long and hard for you, Sith. There is no running now…” yadda yadda yadda. He was obviously roleplaying and looking for a LARP fight I guess. Maybe he had planted the toy there for some stranger to pick up?

Well, I immediately moved to set it back down on the ground and said “Oh, no, this isn’t mine, you must be—”

At which he thrust his lightsaber towards me threateningly. Now, nobody has ever threatened me to roleplay with them, but this guy meant business, so I played along, and we dueled.

It was a normal, boring fight of two people hitting plastic lightsabers against each other. As we fought, though, a lion approached us. It was behind him, and he hadn’t noticed it yet. Remembering the dinosaur nobody reacted to before, I made no comment. For all I knew it was a hologram or something.

But as soon as it came into his peripheral vision, he flipped out and bolted. I think he cursed, too, but the guy was clearly terrified. So, not being from around here, I decided to follow the local wisdom and ran away as well.

At this point, I decided I should go home. I didn’t know how to get there exactly, but somehow I did know the exact direction home was to me, so I headed that way. There was no path I followed, I was just walking through grass until I came across a wall and floor that was colored in rainbow.

As soon as I stepped onto the floor, a gameshow announcer yelled “Let’s see if Kollin can get past the Tunnel of Snakes!” I didn’t want to get past the Tunnel of Snakes, but I didn’t want to turn around either, so I continued. Note: This was a wall, not a tunnel. There wasn’t even an opening. I don’t know how I just… walked through, but one moment I was on one side, the next I was on the other. And I didn’t die of snakes, so win-win.

I kept going, and there was another wall. I thought hey, I beat snakes, what’s the worst that could happen?

Spiders. The game announcer yelled “He got past the Tunnel of Snakes, let’s see how he handles Spiders this time!”

This time, I felt spiders fall all over my body, into my clothes, just everywhere. I bolted as fast as I could, but there were just so many. I didn’t feel any pain, but I knew they were just biting me all over, and while I got past the Tunnel of Spiders, I passed out.

Later, I woke up in a hospital bed, whether in Columbus or home I couldn’t say. On one side of me there was a piece of paper with a stick figure drawing on it. Behind the stick figure was a semicircle haphazardly colored halfway in red crayon. As I looked at it, I felt like… magic hospital healing juice pump into me, and I watched as the rest of the semicircle was colored in with red crayon, as if my health bar was being refilled.

Once it was full, a kid jumped onto the bed and said, “You’re good to go!”

And then I woke up.

Review — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I know, I know. There’s nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. Most people hate it, a few people love it. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any other movies recently, so this is what I’m going to talk about today. My perspective may have been a little different than most, so I’ll tell you what: regardless of what you may think about the movie, you’ll probably disagree with me. So, since it’s been several weeks, and nobody in the universe is going to read a review about a Star Wars movie at this point if they haven’t already seen it, there will be spoilers ahead.

Before I get into likes and dislikes, some background. My close family, (at least the people I spend the most time with) are all nerds. That said, I’m also the youngest of six, so sometimes I can be left out of the loop with things. Such was the case with the Star Wars franchise. The first Star Wars movie I watched in its entirety was Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in theaters. Before you bust out your pitchforks, though, know this: I was eight at the time, and while I knew vaguely about the characters and the premise, I didn’t really know anything. The literal eight year old I was liked the movie for the action, but since it was just one of many movies for me at the time, I all but forgot the entire thing within a year.

Fast forward to now. I’ve since seen every Star Wars film, and the first movie I got to really see and appreciate in theaters as a valid audience member was Rogue One. For as much as I liked it, I couldn’t give you more than two names of any of the characters in that movie. It was just too much, too fast for me. A solid war movie overall, and you can read my review of it here. (Plus if the entire movie was made just as an excuse to put the Vader scene in theaters, it would still be worth it).

Anyways, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, was the first time I really got to sit down and watch a new story unfold in this universe. I was ecstatic, and I’ll be honest, I loved it. I walked out of the movie theater thinking it was the best Skywalker film made yet. That isn’t to say it didn’t have flaws, but overall, the choices that were made in the movie worked really well for me. At the time.

I’ve since watched YouTube commentaries on the film, and have read up a bit on a lot of things, and it’s opened my eyes a bit to really see what the current trilogy is doing wrong. The Last Jedi is not a masterpiece. The side-plot with the planet only serves to further a love interest that I hated (which was my biggest gripe immediately after watching it) and narrative-wise makes things worse for our heroes, there were lots of silly character choices that were either meaningless or contradictory, and nobody in this movie ever learns anything.

But I did enjoy a lot of the scenes. The “silent scene” was astonishing to me, because everyone in the theater managed to be quiet, and it was a great moment. (It did make me wonder, though, why wasn’t that choice made half an hour ago? Or, heck, why aren’t spaceships used as missiles all the time? One cruiser for one flagship? Deal.) I actually really enjoyed Rey’s character arc, and the complexity of her character in contrast to Kylo Ren was pretty neat. It was an interesting new twist, and I liked it. I also didn’t mind things like Leia using the Force to save herself and the kid using the Force at the end. Sure, you can make the argument that nobody can use the Force until you’re trained to use it, but the Star Wars universe is a big place that encompasses a very long period of time. Lots of strange and unexpected things can happen. Besides, a character saying “This is impossible” in a story should not be taken as absolute, 100%, unavoidable truth. Things change.

As I said, the movie isn’t without it’s faults. There’s a lot of valid complaints about it, but I still think the movie is overall great, and certainly quite enjoyable. Maybe not for diehard fans that have trouble suspending disbelief for new content in familiar mediums, but still.

As for me, I’m just hoping that whatever trilogy what’s-his-name got approved to direct after Episode IX is an Old Republic trilogy. That would be sweet.

 

Spear Gate — Chapter Six, Pt. 1

Varra preferred this dining hall because it was on the first floor, and had no inner wall, which gave it a pleasant view of the inner courtyard in the center of the palace. As uneasy as the obelisk in the courtyard made her, it was easier to bear in the daylight, and it felt better to have it within line of sight. Besides, this hall was just as lavish as the one upstairs, but it was rarely used, especially in the morning, and she enjoyed the peace and quiet.

“Good morning, Exalted One,” an older man smiled at Varra as he approached her table. She knew his face well. Elodrus, the Hand of Ceremony. “Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all,” she lied, gesturing to the seat opposite her with a small cup of tea in her other hand. She wore no armor now, instead opting for a simple tunic and breeches that contrasted against the extravagant nature of everything around here. “Though I’m afraid I won’t be much good for conversation. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“So I heard,” he replied. “Rogue constructor running rampant in the Meadows, only to disappear when you go looking for it. I’m sure that’s given you no small amount of concern.”

“To be entirely honest, the constructor is the least of my worries at the moment.”

Elodrus tugged at his beard a little. “You’re referring to the boy you found?”

“He’s a piece of the puzzle, nothing more.”

“I’m curious as to the reason you decided to bring him to Xan,” he pondered. “Bandits sneaking into the city should hardly be granted free entry, don’t you agree?”

Her guards had been the only ones to see the boy’s staff erupt into flame, and she had sworn them to secrecy. They didn’t know about the rune hidden within it, nor would they know it’s purpose if they did. But Elodrus would, so it was best kept under wraps for now. “I wanted to question him about what happened. How he avoided the constructor for so long.”

“You won’t get anything out of him. A wounded and scared captive rarely says anything of use.”

A servant walked by, and upon Varra’s request, she refilled her tea. Elodrus sent for some water, and within moments it was retrieved for him.

“I’ll let the Hand of Justice handle that part,” Varra continued. “After he recuperates, that is. Xan says his condition is more related to illness than injury, in any case.”

“You’re being quite soft towards him. He’s a criminal, Varra. He’s committed sacrilege by venturing out at night, and he tried to gain access to Upper Terrace illegally. People have been hanged for much less than that.”

“There will be time to hang him after we learn his motives.”

“What motives?!” Elodrus was exasperated now. “He’s just a foolish boy!”

“No, he isn’t, Elodrus. None of it makes sense. There’s too much going on for this to have been a coincidence.”

The Hand of Ceremony sighed. “You think this is related to the Gate.”

Varra glanced out into the courtyard.

The bronze-colored obelisk reflected a soft, dull light towards the two of them as it loomed over the hedges and flowers around it. It was thin and tall, in the shape of a large spear that pointed directly up towards the heavens. Or, more accurately, towards the sister planet.

“Varra, won’t you let this go? This is nonsense.”

She shook her head. “I don’t intend to, no. When I became a Hand and was told what that obelisk really was, I lost my ability to sleep soundly. I wake up in the middle of the night with the curtains thrown back, when I know I closed them before I went to sleep. It’s constantly watching me, Elodrus. And if my worst fears come true, Terrace would be wiped out in the blink of an eye. The constructors would be powerless. You can’t tell me you’re not concerned, too.”

Elodrus frowned as he followed her gaze. “I suppose not,” he agreed. “But we can’t simply recall all of our forces.”

“We can. I’m the Hand of Defense. I don’t need the other Hands’ approval.”

“No, but historically it’s been safer for the city when we act in unison and cooperation.”

Varra set her cup down. “I’m going to bring it up in the meeting today.”

“The others won’t like that,” Elodrus said. “We have more important matters to discuss.”

“Somehow I doubt that. We’ll talk later.” And with that, she walked out of the dining hall, leaving Elodrus alone to ponder the circumstances and the Spear Gate in the courtyard.

Story — Warp Drift

The Starseeker lurched as it halted its warp. The view from the pilot’s chair shifted from streaming lines of stars to a huge red landscape–a new planet. Undocumented and, likely, uninhabited. Just like all the rest.

There was no time for rest, however. The malfunctioning warp drive brought the Starseeker into the planet’s atmosphere, and already it was plummeting. It’s momentum and aerodynamic hull made its descent little more comforting than a nose dive.

With a curse, the pilot thrust back the throttle, trying to slow its descent, but it was no use: the thrusters were already off. “This ship can’t take another hit like last time,” he thought. Where was the damn parachute button?

He found it, breathing a sigh of relief, and the last emergency chutes the ship were deployed. Immediately the Starseeker leveled out, and though the jagged slopes and fissures of the planet’s surface were still magnifying at an alarming rate, at least its descent was more tangential. A rough landing was better than a fatal one.

No time for anything else. He cursed his lack of knowledge of the controls. A true pilot could properly land this ship. But then, a true pilot would never be in this situation in the first place. He squeezed his eyes shut and braced for impact.

The Starseeker landed with a horrible crunch, followed by a screeching slide as the ground ate at the ship’s plating. She was durable, but every dent and scratch was one he couldn’t repair without the right materials. In fact, with his benightedness, that might not even matter. Every piece of the ship was an asset he couldn’t afford to waste.

This was the third uncharted planet he had warped to. With a damaged warp drive, the Starseeker would warp continuously without any input or any way to deactivate it. The particular malfunction was referred to as “warp drift”, if he recalled correctly. A common problem with this model. Often a fatal one for any pilot, eventually. Even experienced ones.

The ship was the only constant these days. He could leave it behind, of course. Grab his gear and set up a camp outside, trying to tame the wilds of whatever unknown world he was on now. But before long, the ship would go, whether he was on it or not. The broken and battered vestige of civilization was the only thing he had left. He would almost certainly die without it.

But he was short on time. He had to find food. Fire. Collect resources. Repair the ship, if he could. And in the off chance he found any free time, familiarizing himself with the ship’s controls would never be a bad option. Luckily the last planet he had been on had lots of fresh water. He was well stocked in that regard, but every other resource was woefully lacking.

But, fate willing, he could survive. Perhaps if he found how to tame the wilds and the ship he could find a way to fix the warp drive. If he did that, he could return home. That was wishful thinking, of course.

But it wasn’t impossible.

Learning! — How Stars Are Classified

So, there’s a lot of different kinds of stars out there. We have our normal Sun, but then we hear about the stars that are thousands of times larger, the white ones that are smaller, and the blue-ish ones that are really hot. You may not know this, but hundreds of thousands of stars have been cataloged and classified, and when we graphed them, we found this crazy pattern.

It’s called the HR diagram, and from all the data we’ve gathered, the vast majority of the stars fit on one cohesive line when you graph them based on surface temperature and brightness. Today I’m just going to talk about this one picture and explain it so that you understand what it means and how cool it is.

The simple explanation is this: Bright, hot stars are at the top left, and dim, cool stars are on the bottom right. (You can see our own sun in the middle with its yellow buddies.) You see, since pretty much every star functions the same way and holds the same fundamental properties, they show similar results. The diagonal lines going through the diagram describe the size of the star. “1 Solar Radius” means its the size of the sun. “10 Solar Radii” means it’s radius is ten times larger than our sun, and so on.

So this interesting pattern we see here is that most stars are (relatively speaking) pretty similar in size. But why are the brighter and hotter ones larger than their red, small counterparts? Well, it has to do with the amount of energy it emits, but there’s more.

Let me hit you with this equation:

 

What does it mean? Well, it’s simple, really. “Stellar lifetime is proportional to the mass over the luminosity of the star.” In other words, “fuel over the rate in which it is burned”. This equations mean that bright, massive stars burn out extremely quickly compared to red dwarfs, and it’s why there are so few examples in the HR diagram above: there is only one blue giant for every ten thousand stars you look at. It’s just because they die out within a few hundred million years.

But if you look at the other side of the spectrum, the dim stars are extremely efficient at burning their fuel. In fact, as far as we know, not a single red dwarf star has ever died. They are so efficient it takes trillions of years for them to burn out, and that amount of time simply hasn’t passed yet. Our own star, by comparison, is five billion years old, and is scheduled for a permanent departure in the next five billion years.

So, given a star’s luminosity and temperature (which we can discover through parallax and spectroscopic measurements, respectively, being an entire can of worms I won’t get into today), we can tell pretty much everything about a star: how large it is, what it’s mass is, how long it’s lifetime is, and based on the stars around it we can also guess how old it is, since nebulas tend to form stars in clusters.

So in the HR diagram, that nice, even line of stars is called “the Main Sequence”. Pretty much every star you know about will fir somewhere on that line. And as for the outliers, that’ll have to wait for another time.