Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Death Watch Beetles: Preview of a Graphic Novel Concept in Development

Chief contributor rogbngp has shared a preview of his concept for a graphic novel in development named "The Death Watch Beetles." It seems unlikely to ever actually get published unless Hasbro agrees (and what are the odds of that), but it looks like an interesting read nevertheless. He says he'll likely be posting more about it at The Snyderverse Trilogy forum simply as fanfic. Anyway, here it is:




The Simulacrum

Doris Cho is an Asian American of Korean descent. She was born raised in the U.S. to parents that immigrated to America from Korea during the late 70s.

Doris got her powers at a new state-of-the-art university physics lab during the accidental triggering of an experiment.

Two years ago, against Doris' better judgment she grudgingly agreed to let one of her co-workers talk her into joining his Dungeons and Dragons for a D&D gaming session to give it a try. For the past year the gaming group had been playing in the lab in the evening while Doris’ colleague checked computations on his evening shift. 

The group had recently reached a momentous and exciting phase of the game. They were eager to continue the adventure, but one of the members of the group who played a wizard had just gotten married and was away on his honeymoon. This individual was also an acquaintance of Doris, and he trusted her to play his female wizard character. (He too had been encouraging her to join the gaming group.) Doris stoically agreed to stand in and play the character for this gaming session.

Doris had never played D&D before and was doubtful about how enjoyable the game would be for her. But to her surprise she actually found herself getting rather caught up with playing a wizard. The challenge of learning the rules and conventions of the game on the fly tweaked her competitive intellect and scientific spirit.

This game took place on the eve of an important new experiment that was to take place tomorrow morning. During the course of the game, a member of the group was temporarily out of commission after getting magically dazed for several rounds during combat. Because the player was temporarily unable to participate, he got up to stretch his legs and wandered around the lab. Unfortunately, he accidentally bumped into a switch that triggered the lab’s gigantic particle accelerator.  

When Doris and her fellow colleague at the lab heard the whir of the motor of the particle collider engage their hearts were in their throats. They raced and desperately tried to turn the massive collider off. But the code sequence for the experiment was programmed into the accelerator. Once activated they were helpless to stop it.

The experiment proceeded to smash two types of particles into one another and the collision created a never-before-seen subatomic particle that was charged with extraordinary and deeply mysterious properties.

It turns out that the particle is actually [i]required[/i] for the warping of space-time to create wormholes that make time travel possible within this universe, and also link this universe to parallel universes within the multiverse. The creation of this particle caused a momentary small singularity—but one that was much larger than expected. A black hole about the size of a tennis ball appeared for a brief instant. The singularity emitted a torus shaped electromagnetic field that passed through Doris. As either Fate or Providence would have it, the wave of energy hit only Doris. The others present at the lab during the incident were unaffected.

The singularity bends time and space. It therefore seems to have connected with a moment that occurred a few minutes before the singularity occurred. Another possibility is that it may have tapped into Doris’ unconscious as it was affected by the game moments earlier. But in either case, it seems to have captured a moment when Doris was completely immersed in playing a female wizard. She was at the time casting the (2nd edition AD&D) 8th level wizard spell Simulacrum. 

For that is the superpower that Doris acquired! Doris discovered this a few days later when she had a dream that she cast the Simacrulum spell from the game; only to realize the following day that the Simacrulum had in fact appeared in the physical world just as she had dreamed. She confirmed it with a security video for the lab.

Doris’ power is [i]precisely[/i] as defined by the spell description, exactly according to the D&D edition they were playing. Per the spell, the projected image Doris can generate at will has all the spells of her wizard alter-ego at the time but at 60% of her character's level at the time. Doris must rest in order to recast it after using it. Her projected version of herself is nevertheless still a rather powerful level 9 (generalist) wizard. The projected wizard image is actually an illusion and can be destroyed according to the D&D hit points system as physical damage is meted out in real life; or from metaphysical energy as administered by supervillain metahumans or their lackeys that possess superpowers.

Doris is bound in reality to the conventions of this fantasy game. As the spell does in D&D, it takes tremendous mental concentration for this character to project herself per the spell. Doris' real life self remains entirely vulnerable but can be protected by spells cast by her Simulacrum. However the more spells that Doris expends, the less she has at her disposal to fight enemies with, or rescue teammates, and so forth.

Shortly after this incident Doris found herself mysteriously transported to a round poker table at which sat three other individuals. It was simply a dark room with a ceiling lamp suspended over the table, but there were no playing cards or poker chips. The other members at the table were, like Doris, all individuals who had received superpowers in the same way from the properties of the brief singularity based on what they were doing at the time, and their personality. Two of them were transported from different time periods. They will each be described eventually.

Our group was unable to get out of their seats at the poker table until they eventually agreed that their fates must be bound together. Once they did that they were free to move around. They found a door that opened to pitch black darkness. Concluding there was no better alternative, they stepped through the door, and found themselves in Doris’ apartment.

This band of four is are still not sure what their ultimate purpose is for coming together. But since that time they have been getting routinely attacked by decidedly evil metahumans. This group is not out to ‘save the world’. Rather, at this point they are simply trying to survive with the skills that they have against immensely powerful foes. Their enemies perhaps see them as a potential obstacle to some grander design they have? Maybe there is some other reason. The group is still trying to figure it out.

The only clue this band of four strangers could identify for what might be going on was an insect that they could hear tapping on the floor under the poker table that Doris collected and was later identified as species known as the ‘death watch beetle’.  Therefore, for lack of a better name, the group has jokingly identified themselves as the Death Watch Beetles. 

This entire experience has challenged everything that Doris believes as a scientist. Doris is a professional scientist. And like most scientists she is pragmatic, realistic, and proudly grounds herself in scientific theory and methodology. But her transformation into a superhero, and being thrown together with the other members of the Death Watch Beetles, continually challenges the basis for her identity as such. There is indeed "more in heaven and hell than is dreamt of in our philosophy," as Doris is discovering firsthand. 

Notes:

Dungeons and Dragons is the property of Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast.

The owner of the above image is unknown, but if contacted by same we will credit or remove upon request.

© whizbang.info 2016 intent to copyright, all rights reserved

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Loss of Yahoo Pipes Is a Major Blow For Those of Us Who Enjoy Combining RSS Feeds

In my opinion, one the best things that the Internet has to offer is the use of RSS feeds to bring us articles and news items that are matched to our personal interests. (Well, that after the Internet providing a repository of instantly accessible knowledge and information for almost anything under the sun to begin with.) A Google News search was once fairly easy to make an RSS feed for, but for some reason Google stopped making it easy. Fortunately, Bing lets the user easily create RSS feeds for news search terms. The news searches are integral to the feeds that I design for my interests.

Bing news search RSS 

Yahoo Pipes has provided an excellent way for the casual Internet user to combine multiple feeds into a single feed.  It is a free service that uses a graphical user interface (GUI), and as such requires no coding skills. Yahoo Pipes provides an easy-to-use means to filter out duplicate items from different feeds, and to fetch items according to specified parameters. It can look more complicated and intimidating than it has to be for the most basic functions that most people need of it. Just by combining a few simple elements it was possible to combine feeds with it, and it is very stable. It works really well.

sample yahoo pipe 


What I would typically do is use the Yahoo Pipes RSS output as the source for a FeedBurner feed that provides a sleeker appearance.

sample feedburner feed 


However, most unfortunately, with Yahoo’s recent layoffs Pipes is being shut down and will come to an end September 30th. There is currently nothing comparable to the service that is a) free, and b) as easy to use.

There are currently some paid alternatives, but until a worthy successor comes along I will elect to make do with free alternatives. (There are IFTTT recipes that, best I can see, require a paid subscription to Feedly. The subscription rules out that option for me…)

The free version of Feedly allows you to combine various feeds into one, and probably has the most engaging GUI that I have seen in search of replacements for Yahoo Pipes. However one feature I find annoying about Feedly is that it continues to feature many of the same articles at the top of the feed order (which as far as I can see is based on most recent publication). These same articles are being republished on a daily basis then? Anyway, with the free version I don’t see a way to tweak this.
The Old Reader (TOR) lets you track up to 100 feeds for free. TOR’s GUI isn’t nearly as nice looking as Feedly’s but it does at least seem to fetch and display items in the order that they are published and avoids item duplications.

In comparing Yahoo Pipes (which, as mentioned, is ending in a couple months), the free version of Feedly, and the free version of TOR, what I’m seeing for some of the busier feeds I have created (e.g., one has 16 feed sources) is the following:
  • Yahoo Pipes (via Feedburner) brings me the most recently published items, basically instantly
  • TOR has some significant lag in how quickly it fetches results, but seems to do a respectable job
  • Feedly is the sleekest looking but least consistent of the three (as mentioned, it keeps putting the same apparently ‘republished daily’ (?) items towards the top of the order).
There are some other simple free services, including  FeedCombine, FeedRinse, and RSSMix. In some cases I have had success with these for very simple needs. But it seems that for the larger feed combinations they fail, likely due to parsing errors. They all seem to not accept Bing News searches, which rules them out for most of my needs.

Kimomo Labs provides a free service that works similar to Yahoo Pipes–and it is actually even more impressive in terms of fine-tuning search parameters and results. It is however over the head of most causal users. Intuitive and instantly user-friendly it is not, in my humble opinion. And for the most complicated feeds that I currently combine it actually failed. Kimono Labs does provide tech support, but that is more trouble than I want to go to for something like this. Especially when I can use something like Feedly or TOR to basically get the job done without the bother.

The other current options require coding skills. Huggin allows you to set up your own local server to do what Yahoo Pipes does. That’s great if you have the coding skills, or have the time, patience, and energy to learn it. Otherwise I should imagine that it’s not something most casual users will feel is worth the trouble.
None of this addresses how to share the feeds with others. Using Feedly and TOR you can only view them via a personal log in. The combined feed is exportable via .opml file, but thus far I’ve been encountering problems in getting them to display properly via various readers. I’m going to continue to work on finding a good way to accomplish that.

Incidentally, this is the sort of post I would normally make in my Whizbang! blog, but I figured I’d change things up and originate the post here first. I haven’t really been able to attend to the Whizbang! project since returning to graduate school, but there I explore ways of finding, organizing, and curating web content of interest to the individual user. Hopefully after I finish school I’ll be able to returned to that hobby and give it more attention.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Downside of Google Plus: No Control Over Who Follows You!

Well, I have encountered another negative to Google Plus: users have no control over who follows them. If I understand it correctly, unless you yourself join another user's circle (one that is already listed as including you?) you're not going to get their posts showing up in your stream--so thank goodness for that, at least. (Otherwise that would be intolerable.) But it is disconcerting that anyone who wishes to follow you will show up in your list of those following you. It's not always something you want, such as a marketer, or someone with a political or social agenda.

Best I can see, the same problem exists for Twitter. Not that that excuses it.

It's not really a deal-breaker for me re: using Google Plus. But it doesn't sit well not to have control over this feature.

Monday, January 5, 2015

WordPress Provides an Elegant Means to Cross-Post to Both Google + and Facebook

At this writing, it seems that WordPress.com provides the best way to cross-post to both Google + and Facebook. You can create a WordPress.com blog for free. WordPress provides plenty of attractive free templates. If the WordPress.com blog starts getting enough traffic you may get ads appearing on it. But ads can be removed for a fee of $99 per year. If you have a business then you'll want it ad-free, of course. But just for the sort of fun personal use that Whizbang! covers, I would imagine that most people won't mind an ad appearing now and then.

It's easy to set up posting to Google + and Facebook from the WordPress blog. The method that gives you the greatest control is to first enable your Google + and Facebook accounts under Settings > Sharing (see here); and then after you post something on your WordPress blog simply click the buttons to share it with your Google + and Facebook accounts that appear at the bottom of the post. There is another method by which to auto-post every WordPress post (see here). But with just a couple of clicks you can more easily pick and choose the posts you wish to send to your other connected social media pages (that's the option I prefer). Other accounts that you can enable as such include Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Linked-in, and Pocket.

You can also have a WordPress blog import posts from a Blogger blog. So for example, the posts that I make here I'll set up to auto-post to my WordPress blog. Then if I want for those posts to be forwarded to Google + or Facebook I can simply click on the buttons to do that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Using Blogger for More Elaborate Posting to Google + and Additional Cross-Posting

Google + isn't designed for elaborate blog-style posts. So I set up a Blogger account for that (here) that is set to auto-post to my Google + page.

I was hoping to create a sort of workaround of Blogger auto-posting to both Google + and Wordpress (here); and then Wordpress auto-posting to Facebook. But thus far I have not been able to get Wordpress to import the Blogger blog posts (well, the one post thus far). Then I'm using Blogger as my hub rather than Google +. But it will still allow me to use Google + well.

I'm going to continue noodling around to see if I can get Wordpress to import Blogger. If I can, that might be the ticket for what I'm trying to accomplish.

***

Addendum 1: Okay, well I've got Wordpress now importing the Blogger blog posts. Wordpress is set to share posts with Facebook. It may take a while to propagate, though. I'll check it again in about an hour.

***

Addendum 2: I realized this is not necessary. Rather, using Wordpress as the hub provides a much better solution. See the post above.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cross-posting from Google Plus Stream to Facebook Timeline

I have decided that I prefer Google Plus' social media platform to Facebook for a kind of blended approach to professional and personal interests. Facebook was designed for sharing of one's personal life, and best I can see it doesn't seem all that well fitted to a professional identity. Yes, one can create a professional page using Facebook. But in all honesty: is anyone out there actually going to show any genuine interest in it? To feature web content that anyone might truly care about, it is more effective to create website or a blog. Best I can see, Facebook professional pages exist mainly because folks have simply bought-in to the idea that they should have one.

What I like about Google Plus is that it seems quite well designed to post interesting things that reflect something about the person, in a way that is neatly integrated into a greater professional showcase. Just as with Facebook, what you share reflects upon you personally, so clearly one must exercise at least fair judgment about the impression one makes. But by the same token, if you're willing to humanize yourself and let your interests, ideas, and humor show it may be well worth that risk. Just how much of a nuanced human being to be in the professional context is an interesting question these days. But for example, for my profession I know that in imagining the customer's view I'd be much more inclined to seek counseling services* from a nuanced human being that I can relate with, versus... what?... a suit of armor?

Also, the interface of Google Plus is just a lot sleeker. The appearance of Google Plus is crisp and clean.

The problem I have found it that the vast majority of friends and colleagues (that might form links to their friends and colleagues, and beyond) are on Facebook and Linked-in--not Google Plus. Facebook I have discussed. Linked-in is for development of a professional profile and growing a network of professional contacts. It feels inappropriate to post too much about personal interests there (at least to me).

In any event, I have embarked on a kind of mission now to use Google Plus as a hub for my various forms of media (my book's website and blog, this blog, my Facebook (which I have rarely used yet, but now will; see below) and commentary on life in general.

Edit: I had posted here originally about trying to use a IFTTT recipe but that is not the best solution: rather, using WordPress is. See the post above.

* This in reference to completing the Master's degree and obtaining the clinical license, which I'm currently working on. But I have a book to promote in the meantime. And the same concept applies to that effort.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Whizbang! Twitter feed currently the repository of my likes; and plans to integrate Google + as a hub

I'm not able to do much right now by way of curation of content that I find, what with full time graduate studies and working full time as well. For the immediate future I just don't have the time to post the "best of" items to this blog. But I have things set up to share everything I "like" from my favorite sites to the whizbang.info Twitter feed though: https://twitter.com/whizbanginfo. So if you're interested in what fun things I come across you can follow on Twitter.

Addendum 1: Okay, actually I do now have the "all-in-one" feed working again: http://feeds.feedburner.com/WhizbanginfoAll-in-one. So one can subscribe to that feed as well.

What I want to work on next for this blog is to share how to set up a hopefully simple and stable method of making Google Plus a kind of home base, so that I can automatically forward liked content to there; and also that my Google + posts also get shared to Facebook. I like Google +'s interface and functionality so much better. I'm not particularly a fan of Facebook, and rarely use it. But Facebook is where people congregate--and hardly any people I know use Google +.

Addendum 2: I created another feed combining all the Feedburner versions of my various "likes" from Digg, StembleUpon, Tumblr, and Pinterest: http://feeds.feedburner.com/WhizbangAllSourcesFeed.

Addendum 3: Above I worked out that rather that creating everything in Google + and trying to cross-post, using a WordPress.com blog provides the best solution to send posts to both Google + and Facebook.