The Divine Bell: The Horde Story

Note to the reader: this post is entirely about World of Warcraft lore.  If this doesn’t interest you, then there isn’t anything else for you to see here.

The recent patch (5.1) to World of Warcraft introduced a new faction in the form of the Dominance Offensive (for us Horde players; Operation: Shieldwall is the Alliance equivalent).  As you grind out reputation with them, you receive once-off quests that advance the plot and lore of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.  As Anne Stickney pointed out, it’s brilliantly done.

Not to be content with that alone, Sagara over on Maintankadin has written the Horde story out from the perspective of his role-playing paladin.  As this is even more brilliantly done, I’ve decided to reproduce it here for posterity (with just some minor spelling and grammar errors corrected).

This does contain spoilers for content that some folks may not have seen yet, so I’m putting it behind the break.

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Real life questing

With a public holiday yesterday, and with an old friend from Durban finally coming down to visit, I decided to take some people on a tour through the Winelands.  Also joining me were my two future housemates, and a new friend of mine: a visiting master’s student from Canada (being the only non-nerd in the group).

Of course, in true nerd style (much to our non-nerd’s bemusement), we did this in the style of a World of Warcraft quest chain:

  1. Assemble a party of fellow questers.  Your fellow party members may be found in Mowbray, Sunningdale and Gordon’s Bay.
  2. Journey to the Boschendal Wine Estate and acquire 1 Bottle of Fine Red Wine.  Completing this quest requires 50 gold.
  3. Journey to Fairview and acquire 2 Cheese Platters and 1 Loaf of Freshly-Baked Bread.  Completing this quest requires 100 gold.
  4. Prepare a Banquet of the Winelands to feed your party.  A Banquet of the Winelands may only be prepared at the Afrikaanse Taalmonument.  Party members that spend at least 10 minutes eating and drinking will be Well Fed and will receive the buff “Scribble Big Bang Theory Quotes on Ron’s Car” for 6 hours. (My fault for not washing it!)

I also took everyone to Nederburg and through the Huguenot Tunnel afterwards before the group disbanded.  Muchness of fun.

You are having a bad problem…

Earlier in the week, North Korea performed a missile test that successfully put a payload in orbit.  Just one problem: the orbit isn’t exactly stable.  Here’s why it’s bad news:

The most obvious bad news is that this is quite dangerous, as this object has now become a collision risk to other satellites.

The first collision between two satellites happened in 2009, when an American 1,235-pound Iridium communications satellite—launched in 1997—collided with a dead 1-ton Russian satellite launched in 1993. At the time, NASA blamed the Russians.

The collision wasn’t only bad for the functioning Iridium, but also to everyone else. Space is a big place, but it’s full of trash. And like that accident proved, collisions happen.

We can track small pieces of debris, but space crashes generate particles that we can’t monitor. The thousands of objects that may result from such an accident put other satellites, spaceships and the lives of astronauts at risk.

There’s probably several of you wondering how a small piece of space debris can be so deadly, and the answer is a simple one: the speeds involved.  Earth’s escape velocity is 11 km/s, so that’s kind of a minimum speed limit for anything wishing to escape the planet’s gravitational influence.  In practice, satellites will be moving slower than that, since they don’t need to escape Earth’s gravitational influence; they need only to obtain balance between Earth’s gravitational pull and the inertia of the satellite’s motion.

But that’s still fast.  The closer the object is to Earth, the faster it needs to be moving to obtain that balance, since the gravitational influence is stronger.  I spend a bit of time tinkering with NASA’s orbital velocity calculator, and discovered the following:

  • The International Space Station, which is maintained at an orbital altitude of between 330 km and 410 km (if Wikipedia is to be believed), has an average orbital velocity of 7.706 km/s.
  • Geosynchronous satellites, at an altitude of 35,786 km above the equator, requires an orbital velocity of 3.07 km/s.
  • The Moon, which is around 380,000 km away, has an average orbital velocity of 1.022 km/s.

For comparison, a bullet fired from an AK-47 assault rifle has a muzzle velocity of 0.715 km/s.  (Once again, if Wikipedia is to be believed.)  Imagine something the size of a bullet colliding with your spacecraft at 10 times that speed — the consequences of an almost-certain uncontrolled depressurization would not be pretty.

Then, when one considers the North Korean political situation, other concerns pop up:

The other bad news is that, while nobody really knows if this is a satellite or not, all countries are assuming it has been an attempt to disguise the test of a three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. One that can easily reach the United States or Russia. And it worked.

The only bit of good news is that the lack of precision that probably led to a spinning satellite is proof of North Koreans’ ineptitude when it comes to design and control these long-range weapons. Putting an ICBM in space is not all you need to, say, drop a couple of nuclear warheads over Los Angeles. You need precision guiding systems for that, something that Kim Jong-Un’s boffins don’t seem to have mastered quite yet.

But then again, a nuclear warhead falling anywhere will definitely be very bad news anyway, no matter how precise it is.

While the rest of the world worries about that, I’m more interested in where the satellite will potentially come down after an almost-certain uncontrolled re-entry.  The satellite’s position can be tracked here: rather disturbingly, it passed almost directly over Cape Town as I was typing this post up.

So, lesson of the day — if you’re going to put something in orbit, make sure you do it properly.  Otherwise, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

And, although I feel just fine (albeit rather buggered after Little Annoying Sister’s wedding last Saturday), some people are just a tad worried:

The Constitutional Court has received an “extremely urgent court application” for the creation of a “task team” to prepare for the end of the world.

This is according to a Beeld report on Wednesday. Robert Sefatsa (38), a Soweto resident, also stated in papers handed in at court that the government needed to form a new department to prepare for judgment day next Friday with an “investigative task team”.

He suggested that the new state department should be called the “department of paranormal and esoteric sciences”.

Sefatsa pointed out that according to the Mayan calendar, judgment day would be on December 21, and it was therefore a matter of extreme urgency that South Africa and other countries make their preparations for the apocalypse.

A commission of inquiry should include geologists, statisticians, astronomists, economists and extra-terrestrial technologists, and should be competent to cope with evacuation procedures, sea and air logistics, and resettlement, he said.

While Robert may have good and noble intentions, there’s just one problem: the predicted apocalypse is less than a week away, and government around here isn’t exactly known for doing anything particularly quickly.  By December 21st, one would expect the government to, at most, have set up an investigative team to determine whether another investigative team is needed to actually investigate whether the Mayan calendar is worth investigating in the first place.

Damn Vogon bureaucracy in this country.

Of course, Robert may be just be trolling the Constitutional Court, but that won’t stop the Constitutional Court from trolling him back.  As 6000.co.za so eloquently put it:

Of course, Mr Sebatsa, as a South African citizen and taxpayer, is completely within his rights to make this court application. Just as the Constitutional Court is completely within their rights to throw it out and then pop down to the Mystic Boer to laugh it off over a few brandies.

In the meantime, he can always head off for a holiday in the Drakensburg.  They’ll be the highest mountain range on the planet very shortly…

Ask the man in yellow

I stumbled across the safety video for the Cape Town Stadium — it was produced primarily for the 2010 FIFA World Cup games that were held there, although it’s apparently been used at every stadium event since.

Best safety video.  Ever.

Admittedly, I haven’t noticed any mutant sea life or extraterrestrial activity in my time here.  That being said, with December 21st fast approaching: if it turns out that popular opinion regarding the Mayan calendar is correct, I’ll be sure to ask the man in yellow what to do.  (Hopefully his advice will be along the lines of “avoid the N2 outbound”; it’s bad enough in the evening rush hour…)

And so, the madness begins…

With days remaining before Little Annoying Sister ties the knot, the intensity levels have gone up a few gears — the rest of my family arrived this evening from their two-day roadtrip from Durban.  So, from now until just after Christmas, there’ll be four people crammed into my two-bedroom flat.  In fact, at the moment it’s five, because one of my aunts from Australia is down for the Joyous and Special Occasion specifically.

I’ll just leave this image here to illustrate what my living quarters are like:

Yes, I’m feeling /that/ claustrophobic…

Thankfully, the dive-bombing kamikaze pilot has been evicted, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

That being said, so long as I’m left alone on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (when my raid team of Extremely Crazy People act as cannon fodder for the bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults and Heart of Fear), I should be able to survive.  In fact, we’re likely to be taking a break from raiding anyway (because of people going away on holiday) — which reminds me, I actually need to bring this up with the rest of my raid team tomorrow night…  (Yes, I’m a slacking raid leader, sue me.)