Monthly Archives: August 2013

Editorial | Seek the Geek!

Sitting here on the bunk in my “new” dorm room makes me feel very, very young.  It’s a very unusual thing to live on my own for so many years, only to find myself sharing a room with two other people in a self-contained ecosystem where the organism highest on the food chain usually wears shorts and a hoodie.

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Home sweet home?

From the moment I stepped foot on the campus of William & Mary, I knew this was the place for me.  That feeling was cemented even further in the few short days that I’ve been here, because everyone (and I do mean everyone) here is a geek like me!

My first encounter with my roommate involved a stack of graphic novels with vectoring interests.  She is a dance major, but likes Marvel and is interested in some of the smaller, creator-owned comics.

Next was a statuesque, blond transfer student who was talking about the girly things she was doing to prepare for her wedding.  She wore sundresses and high heels and sprinkled her conversations liberally with references to Game of Thrones.  We spent a fifteen minute walk to the Campus Center discussing the character development of Edrick Storm, and GRR Martin’s reasons for leaving him out of the HBO show.

Then was the ice-breaker game that my group of new students played to learn each other’s names and interests.  Students announced one fact about themselves and then everyone else who shared that quality or experience (such as breaking a bone, or loving cats) would trade places until someone was caught out and had to start the whole thing over.  “My name is Tracy, and I cosplay,” I announced and only one other person stepped into the center with me.  My crestfallen face lasted less than a second as instantly almost everyone in the circle began to ask what my characters were and which conventions I attend.  I received high fives all around.  When the hubbub died down, we asked the foreign exchange student who had switched places with me what he had cosplayed.  Without skipping a beat, he shrugged nonchalantly and said, “The green power ranger, of course.”

Apparently this is how they cosplay in the Netherlands.

Wherever I go on this campus, my geek status is welcomed with open arms.  Other students who look as though they would fit into categories that do not seem to jive with geekhood, such as prep or jock, still share my love of words, memes, video games, comics, or sci fi.

The moral of my short tale is twofold.  First, seek out the company of other geeks—the sense of acceptance is unbelievably warm and fuzzy.  Second, and please forgive my triteness, never judge a book by its cover.  I’m excited to be here and excited to share some of my experiences with all of you, our wonderful readers.  In the meantime, I’ve got an early morning registration appointment.

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Filed under Editorial, Tracy Gronewold

Around the Web August 23, 2013

Warner Bros. has announced that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. I’m not sure how I feel about this. We all remember Daredevil, which wasn’t entirely Affleck’s fault, but I’ve heard more than one person say that he wasn’t particularly believable in any superhero role.

I'm Batman?

I’m Batman?

If Affleck is Batman, can we get Damon to be Robin?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that he will be stepping down and Microsoft’s stock jumped 7%. Ballmer has had a mixed career, overseeing the amazing Xbox, but also the less than amazing Windows 7 and 8. Apparently he has a thing for developers, too.

I never thought I’d have a good use for that clip, but I was wrong.

I know a lot of people who live in studio apartments and they have some serious space issues. A Swiss designer has taken care of this problem for them (and apparently for himself). Not only does his Living Cube look good, but it is extremely practical.

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I don’t know what is going on, but European designers have been coming up with great looking stuff lately. Even more impressive is that IKEA isn’t involved at all.

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DC’s New 52: How we got there

Just about two years ago, DC Comics decided it was time to shake things up. This was no surprise. A revolution had been coming for a while, but this time DC was starting over from issue #1 on everything in their universe. When they said everything, they meant everything, including titles that had been around since the beginning, such as Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superman and Batman. Previously these books were untouchable, the holy relics of the comic book industry, and to do something this radical to them was a risky undertaking to say the least. As we approach the two year mark of this experiment, I think it’s worth taking some time to look back and evaluate how each of the New 52 titles is doing. So each Thursday in September (and the last in August. I’m looking at you, Justice League) we’ll take a short look at those books that came out two years earlier.

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Before we get into the books themselves, it’s probably a good idea to take a look even further back and see how DC got to the point of needing a completely clean slate. DC has a long and convoluted archive of continuity that has often been intimidating to new comic book readers trying to jump on. More than once DC has tried to pull off a universe-wide reboot, but it hasn’t always gone according to plan.

Back in 1985, DC came to the realization that fifty years of uncoordinated continuity had become too unwieldy. How could they explain to new readers that Golden Age Superman was old but alive and working with the Justice Society, while Silver Age Superman was young and a part of the Justice League? Were there two Supermans? The original attempt to explain things away was the Multiverse, an idea that many of these characters existed at the same time, but in parallel universes, each one with its own history. This worked for a while, but after time these different Earths began to cross over with an increasing frequency that once again made it difficult to keep things straight, and it was decided that something had to be done. Enter Crisis on Infinite Earths, a universe-spanning event comic that would radically alter the face of the DCU. By the end, whole swaths of characters had been removed from existence, the Multiverse was eliminated and a single Earth (with a single Superman) was left behind.

Though one of many characters killed during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Supergirl was probably the most popular character to meet her end.

Though one of many characters killed during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Supergirl was probably the most popular character to meet her end.

Because carving a Superman logo into your chest is completely normal

Because carving a Superman logo into your chest is completely normal

Soon, events and characters were referred to as Pre- and Post-Crisis and all was well. At least for a little while. Over the next several years, writers began to reintroduce characters and plot elements that had been wiped out in Crisis. What was originally a pretty clean restart slowly began to resemble the Pre-Crisis DCU with all of its twists and turns. Throughout all of this, though, the Multiverse stayed gone. With no Multiverse there was still a limit on how crazy plotlines could get because all the characters had to exist within the same universe. That all came crashing down when the Multiverse was brought back in Infinite Crisis. Following several lead-in mini-series, Infinite Crisis revealed that Golden Age Superman had not perished during Crisis on Infinite Earths, but had, in fact, gone into hiding with his wife Lois, Superboy Prime, and Alexander Luthor (Lex Luthor from a different Earth). When Lois’ health starts to fail, Superman determines that her health will improve if she is returned to her Earth, and they leave their hiding place and begin an attempt to replace the current Earth-1 with their Earth-2. Eventually Superboy Prime goes crazy and kills several heroes and villains, including his Earth-1 counterpart, Connor Kent. Superboy Prime is stopped, but not without causing both Supermans to be depowered and a considerable body count.

The fallout from Infinite Crisis was taken up by the breakthrough series 52. An ambitious concept, 52 released an issue a week for a full year. Even more shocking was that this series would not include DC’s holy trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. This decision allowed writers to use lesser known heroes, relying on character development rather than just big names. The year started out with a series of stories which are interesting but mostly unrelated, but as the weeks passed the stories became more intertwined until it culminated with the reveal of the existence of fifty-two new parallel universes, created at the end of Infinite Crisis.

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Now you may think “at least we’ve made it to the New 52”, but alas, you’d be wrong. Next, fans were made to suffer through Countdown to Final Crisis, a disasterous follow up to 52 which followed 52’s weekly release schedule, but lacked its overall appeal. The storytelling was questionable at best and it was populated by characters that most people didn’t really care about. Additionally, the plotlines became so skewed as the series progressed that by the time it ended they no longer lined up with Final Crisis. Subsequently most of the storylines were retroactively removed from continuity.

Thankfully Final Crisis turned out much better than its lead-in event. Written by DC’s powerhouse writers Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones, Final Crisis was a well written, if confusing story. Further tapping into lesser known characters, and adding more than a few of his own, Morrison made considerable use of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, most of whom had not seen much use in recent years. Additionally, the Multiverse played a major role in the Final Crisis with the inclusion of the Monitors, a whole race based on one of the key players from Crisis on Infinite Earths. While a great story, Final Crisis was anything but final and did little to help maintain the clean continuity that DC had attempted to setup all those years ago. And oh yeah, Batman died.

Are we starting to see a theme emerge?

Are we starting to see a theme emerge?

This being comics however, Batman came back (Turns out he was just trapped in the past. Happens to me all the time), just like many characters before him. While he was gone, however, readers were treated to Dick Grayson as Batman, as well as the DCU-spanning Green Lantern event, Blackest Night. As if things hadn’t been confusing enough, Blackest Night brought many dead heroes and their loved ones back to life as Black Lanterns (If your head wasn’t hurting before this, it should be right about now). While impressive for its cosmic scale, Blackest Night was a nightmare for those not intimately familiar with DC’s continuity.

I see dead people...a lot of them.

I see dead people…a lot of them.

The final stop on our journey to the New 52 is Flashpoint. The Flash (Barry Allen) wakes up in what he believes to be an alternate timeline in which Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war with one another and Batman is Thomas Wayne, whose son Bruce was killed in Crime Alley. Eventually Barry finds out that he is not in an alternate timeline, but in his own timeline that has changed after he attempted to travel back in time to save his mother from dying. Barry is eventually forced to undo what he has done and in the process the DC universe merges with those of its imprints, Vertigo and Wildstorm, and the timeline resets, leaving us with the New 52.

This controlled reboot of the DCU was twenty-six years in the making and took several failed attempts to get right. Through the next five weeks, Therefore I Geek will explore the things DC has gotten thing right and point out areas in which they took a misstep or two. Each week we will discuss the first wave books that were released that week two years ago and see where they’ve been, what’s going on now, and where they are headed. Lucky for you, Week One only consists of one book, Justice League. Stand by for Weeks Two through Five and join us for a look at the state of the DCU.

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Comic Reviews, Comics

Winning Science August 21, 2013

Lately I’ve been hearing and reading a number of stories about how scientists are now looking into what role various collections of microbes  play in maintaining our health. For some people suffering from Clostridium difficile infections, the required antibiotics can throw these microbes out of whack. There is hope now for these people, however, in the form of fecal transplants. That’s right, you can be saved by someone else’s poop. And this is no laughing matter, 14,000 people die from this infection every year.

poop

Seriously though, if you have to put someone else’s poop into my bowels via a tube in my nose, I’d seriously consider dying instead.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly known as DARPA is attempting to create a computer that will mimic the neocortex, or the part of the brain responsible for higher brain functions. I’m uncertain what the actual purpose of this computer would be other than just being really powerful new computer, but I’m sure DARPA has something in mind.

Have these guys honestly never seen Terminator?

Have these guys honestly never seen Terminator?

It’s either the birth of Skynet or the backup plan to several failed “brain in jar” experiments.

My desire for coffee made by robots will soon become reality, all thanks to the Briggo Coffee Haus. Leaps and bounds above the old school coffee vending machines that usually serve out coffee I wouldn’t give to my worst enemy, this new industrial robot will make a custom cup of coffee just the way you like it by means of a touch screen or an iPhone app. The company plans to market their robots to places that don’t have coffee houses such as airports, hotels, and office buildings.

Where have coffee robots been all my life?

Where have coffee robots been all my life?

I love the fact that they aren’t trying to compete with actual coffee houses, but I’m also hopeful that this thing can make coffee quickly so I don’t have to wait ten minutes for a cup.

There is a ranch out in Texas that is a bit unusual. Instead of raising cattle or sheep, they raise the dead, in a manner of speaking. This ranch is used by the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University in San Marcos to study how bodies decompose. All the bodies come from people who agreed to this before they died, which answers my long standing question of what happens to bodies donated to science. Every day students photograph the state of decay and note any insect activity present.

Look, just trust me when I tell you that this is way better than what comes up when you do a Google Image search for "body farm".

Look, just trust me when I tell you that this is WAY better than what comes up when you do a Google Image search for “body farm”.

This is admittedly a bit weird, but it also provides necessary scientific data to help in the investigation of how someone died. I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen something like this on an episode of Bones.

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