|It came down to the wire but we achieved our
corporate goal of exceeding half a million dollars in annual
income this year! This represents a major increase in our sales,
which have been flat for the past 3 years. Yay team! Yay Zombie Fluxx!
And thank you to everyone for buying Looney
|During the holidays Jeff and I went to see the
Edward Hopper show at the National Gallery of Art, and wow was
it great. If you're a fan of his work, this is a Can't-Miss...
I've been to several such retrospectives and never have I seen
one as good as this. It's got everything you could want in a
Hopper show, including his greatest, Nighthawks, which rarely
leaves Chicago. (Ending the same day (Jan 21) is an entertaining
exhibit of the works of David Macaulay, at the nearby National
|I've been having a lot of fun playing Starship
Captain with my nephew James. For Xmas I gave him a replica original-series
Tricorder to go with the Phaser
and Communicator I'd given him last year, and since he just happened
to have brought said equipment along with him during his holiday
travels, he suddenly became the perfect fully-equipped Starfleet
officer. (Gosh how I'd have loved a set of toys like those
when I was his age!) I also gave him a copy of 3HOUSE
and was very pleased at how well he did in his first game of
Homeworlds. Someday I'll bet he'll be able to beat me at
this, my favorite Icehouse game.
|As a big fan of His Dark Materials, I
was excited and nervous about seeing this trilogy turned into
movies. So we went right out and saw The Golden Compass
during opening week, and overall I was very pleased with it.
I hope they do as good a job on the other two books!
|"I remember. I covered the Vietnam War.
I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost
- and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former
Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was
a mistake all along. Today, our nation is fighting two wars:
one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines,
the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties
are the wasted lives of our own citizens. I am speaking of the
war on drugs. And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives,
and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert
McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs
is a failure." -- Walter Cronkite, "Why
I Support DPA, and So Should You"
|For as long as I can remember, sales tax in Maryland
has been an easy to calculate 5%. But alas, next month it's going
up to 6%!
|"It used to be that 'conservatives' were
in favor of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and tighter
constraints on the Man's ability to monitor you, arrest you,
and control your life." -- Zarf's
|We have a new corporate catchphrase: Smart
Games for Smart People. We've been trying it on for awhile
now and it's been getting very favorable responses, so this week
we decided to make it official, by registering it with the Patent
& Trademark Office.
second the motion to switch to using cold water when washing
clothes. It happens that I've been doing all the laundry for
our household of three for many years, and that I stopped using
hot water long ago. My clients and I have been quite satisfied
with the results you get from cold laundering, and apparently
90% of the energy used for washing clothes is spent on heating
up the water, so it really can make a big difference. (Of course,
the really dedicated thing to do is to line dry your clothes
like my mom always did, but that's pretty challenging.)
|"Five hundred top economists, including
three Nobel Prize winners, sent a letter to President George
W. Bush saying if legalized and regulated like tobacco
and alcohol, it could produce revenues of $6.2 billion a year.
So instead of losing $10 billion, the economy could make $6.2
billion and that money could be taxed. This does not include
the amount of revenue that a legalized, industrial hemp industry
could produce... Whether it is moral, economic or practical,
there is no good argument for continued prohibition. It is time
to hold these politicians and grand-standers who waste billions
on this fruitless venture accountable, and finally do the one
thing that makes sense: Legalize it." --
Andrew O'Connor, "Legalize
It," The Daily Egyptian, 29 Nov 2007
|"Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from
those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are
not clothed." -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
April 16, 1953 (seen quoted in Laurie Rich's email .sig)
| "The court, jail, police, probation
and legislative resources being used up to no good end in pursuit
and punishment of marijuana criminals are enormous. Those resources
could be and should be devoted to more significant criminals
whose activities do far more damage to society than those whose
crime is smoking (and, sometimes, baking) a weed. The toll on
the lives and productivity of people convicted of using a substance
that is less damaging, both personally and socially, than the
legal-to-use alcohol (or, for that matter, nicotine, which kills
even more people than alcohol) is beyond measure. It is the law,
not the drug, that takes the toll; and, as in the days of prohibition,
the law rewards a few, some of them very bad people, who get
enormously wealthy breaking that law, and damages the lives of
many others, most of them quite good people."
-- Dick Dorworth, "Kudos
to 'grass roots' movement," Idaho Mountain Express,
Nov 14th 2007
|"I do, however, want to take mild issue
with his suggestion that these games are neither heavy enough
nor long enough to be suitable as 'main courses' for an evening
of gaming. The implication seems to be that no healthy gamer
can subsist on a diet of nothing but Super Fillers. Well, I am
just such a gamer. I don't just love Super Fillers-they're the
only games I eat." -- Kory Heath, "The
years now we've been talking about moving
to another city. We've contemplated many options for where to
go, and we've changed our minds many times. We've strongly considered
New York, and various
in West Virginia... but at this point, our two strongest candidates
are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We're still too busy running
the company to focus much on the tasks involved in relocating,
so it will be at least another year yet before we go, and that's
plenty of time for us to change our minds again... but at this
point, I'm thinking it's gonna be Pittsburgh.
|I was fascinated to hear the results of a recent
study regarding chocolate addiction. As summarized in The Week,
"When researchers examined 11 men who craved chocolate daily
and 11 men who rarely ate chocolate, they found major differences
in what kinds of bacteria lived in their guts. Bacteria that
thrive on chocolate can be found in great abundance in chocoholics,
but aren't very common in people who are indifferent to chocolate.
Researchers aren't sure, though, whether cocoa-loving bacteria
cause the chocolate cravings, or whether they simply flourish
in a high-chocolate diet." I like to think it's the former,
meaning that when I'm feeding this addiction I'm caving in to
the demands of the fungi who live within me...
|"I've always played Fluxx as
though the play and draw rules were quotas to be met by the end
of the turn. I like it that way... If you can rig it so that
you're turn ends with just 'Trade Hands' in your hand, and you're
lucky enough to not have to draw cards before your next turn,
then I think it's great that you can Trade Hands before drawing.
Very clever; everybody else will be trying to do the same thing,
once they've seen the trick. IMO, that's much more fun than just
randomly playing cards and seeing what pops up... For that matter,
draw-anytime means that we don't have to keep reminding eager
players to draw their cards before they make that much-anticipated
tasty first play. It feels a little less tedious. So, yeah, please
keep our options open. If a particular card's text needs to be
tweaked, tweak it in the next version."
-- Comments from the
elusive bobsquatch on The
Question of Playing First
|I really enjoyed the first season of the AMC
series "Mad Men," about the inside world of a Madison
Avenue advertising agency in 1960. I'm pleased to see that it's
been picked up for a second season, and I hope it does really
well. I'd love to see them continue until at least 1964, since
they'd obviously have to include some references to the New
York World's Fair. I'm thinking the Fair would be a major
theme throughout the fourth and fith seasons. Maybe it'll even
hit the late sixties! That'd be fun.
|"Not taxing the $113 billion U.S. marijuana
industry, plus enforcing anti-marijuana laws, costs U.S. taxpayers
$41.8 billion a year, a George Mason University study found." -- Forbes, seen quoted in The Week, Oct 12, 20007
|It's interesting how you can live in the same
area for almost 44 years and still find new things to discover
in your own neighborhood. For example, last weekend we went to
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a charming place just around the
corner which I never even knew was there.
|I don't know why it's taken me so long to figure
this out, but I've finally come to realize that the Green Lantern
and the Green Hornet are different superheroes.
|We can now finally say "You can play hundreds
of games with these pyramids!" since the 200th
game milestone has been recorded at IcehouseGames.org. (Thanks
Artman for pointing that out, not to mention for moderating
Ice Games Design Contest!)
|"Good is the enemy of Great."
-- a quote from "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, which
makes a nice counter-quote to "Best
is the enemy of Good" (the latter is a mantra for perfectionists
who need to remember at times to settle for imperfections, while
the former is a reminder to not to settle for OK when you can
tiles fit perfectly into Icehouse Game Boards! We just got our
first look at the newly-published version of our
friend Kory Heath's new game. (Congrats Kory!) They made
the tiles exactly the same size as the ones in Kory's prototype,
which he'd made using surplus ELBS
(the little black squares they cut out when making Volcano
boards). As a result, the extra tiles included in the game
fit perfectly into the holes in our gameboards (as shown in this
photo uploaded to BoardGameGeek).
|I'm becoming increasingly hopeful that the 2008
election season will include serious discussions about ending
marijuana prohibition. Support for reform has finally moved
beyond the Third Parties and into the Second-Tier Candidates
of the two major parties, most loudly voiced by Ron Paul, Dennis
Kucinich, and Mike Gravel. ("We need to end the drug war,"
Gravel is quoted as saying in an article on his struggling candidacy
that appeared in the 9/9/7 issue of the Washington Post Magazine.)
Plus there's a possible showdown coming next summer, when the
Democratic National Convention is held in Denver, a city that
voted to legalize pot.
|Ice-Henge games are go! At first, it seemed
that Paizo's "Anthology Board Game Library Agreement"
(which provides their guidelines for designing new games for
system) would prevent their sanctioning of a Stonehenge game
which made use of Icehouse
pieces. But after careful deliberations, they've decided to extend
a singular exception to our pyramids! "For the purposes
of this agreement," Mike writes on their messageboard,
"Icehouse pieces are deemed 'generic and common,' even though
they most assuredly aren't in any other way." Yay! I look
forward to seeing what Ice-Henge games are created!
|"Since 1776, the United States has accumulated
a national debt of $9 Trillion, over HALF of which was incurred
when a Bush was on watch! WHAT a family legacy! If you throw
in Reagan, fully 70% of the National Debt was created under just
three Republican Presidents! What's more, they didn't even TRY
to restrain spending! Out of 19 submitted budgets, only TWO were
balanced! So here's my question, dude... Where did the myth of
GOP fiscal responsibility come from?" --
Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury, 9/2/7
|I've been having more troubles
with Apple's iMovie software. This week I discovered a really
nasty bug in the version I'm using: when you close your project
and it asks if you want to save changes, and you say yes, it
doesn't do it! Ack!
|After a very geeky discussion on the Icehouse
list started by with a question posed by a math-obsessed girl
named Diane, I've learned there are 204 ways you can arrange
your 3 pieces in a game of Treehouse. That's so cool! Now when
I'm teaching the game I can say "The House starts like this,
and your pieces start like this, and there are over 200 other
ways these pieces can be configured."
I got my author's copy of the just-released book Hobby
Games: The Best 100. I'm very happy and proud to be featured
in this big book of enthusiastic ramblings about the greatest
games ever, both as the creator of one of the featured games
(Fluxx, as reviewed by Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo) and as
a noted industry expert (I wrote a review of Cosmic Wimpout).
I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's essays!
|I almost never remember my dreams but a moment
from one dream I had this week has lingered. Aliens had conquered
the Earth and humanity had been virtually wiped out. I had survived,
and along with a group of other survivors we were being allowed
to tour a museum our conquerors had built, preserving mankind's
worthwhile achievements. Even though I knew we were going to
be killed too when the tour was done, it was a happy moment for
me because I saw a Treehouse set on display on one of the glass
cases. (After this some adventures occurred and we somehow escaped...)
|Here's a new topic for discussions on the Icehouse
list. Assuming we can only introduce one new product (since more
SKUs = more hassle), which would you rather see: a new monochrome
stash in a totally new color, or a new Treehouse set featuring
5 totally new colors? Given that this is a no-brainer, what colors
would you choose for the new Treehouse set? (If we do this, we're
planning to call this third color scheme "Loco", since
it's likely to be a pretty crazy combination of hues...)
|"Because the two other branches of the federal
government have failed to protect medical-marijuana patients,
their most plausible hope lies in electing a president who is
less intent on snatching their medicine. At this point, the Democrats
look decidedly more promising than the Republicans in this respect.
According to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, seven of
the eight declared candidates for the Democratic nomination have
promised to call off the DEA's medical marijuana raids if elected.
The eighth, Sen. Barack Obama, has said such raids 'probably
shouldn't be a high priority.' Three of the nine remaining Republican
candidates - Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Tom Tancredo and Gov. Tommy
Thompson - oppose the DEA raids. But the rest of the Republicans,
including the leading contenders, either have taken no position
( Mitt Romney ) or have said they would continue the current
policy." -- Jacob Sullum, "Slamming
The Sick, Stiffing The States"
|"Why are zombies so popular? Monster movies
reflect the fears of the era, like the 50's horror movies with
the communism and atomic power. In our culture we're subconsciously
terrified of consumption. We're mindlessly consuming our planet.
Zombies represent our fear of ourselves and our consumerism.
We're eating our planet, we know it, and it scares us." -- Too
Much Coffee Man, May 21, 2007
|Bob Barr has switched sides and joined the fight
against the drug war! Barr was once one of the most aggressive
supporters of drug prohibition; he was the author of the "Barr
Amendment," through which Congress suppressed Washington
DC's 1998 vote to legalize medical marijuana. However, Barr has
seen the error of his ways, and has signed on with the Marijuana
Policy Project as a lobbyist, urging passage of anti-prohibition
legislation such as the
Hinchey-Rohrbacher Amendment. For someone like Bob Barr to
totally switch sides like this really gives me hope. Even staunch
conservatives are finally admitting they've been wrong to support
drug prohibition... this is like a former Drug Czar taking a
job at NORML.
|I see that Subway restaurants are now running
a peel & win game like the Monopoly-themed ones McDonald's
does from time to time, in this case based on Scrabble. I guess
that's the greatest professional accomplishment someone in my
field can hope to achieve: seeing one of my
game designs used as part of a fast-food chain's instant-win
ad campaign. You'll know we've really made it if you ever see
Fluxx cards on the side of your beverage container. (Yeah, right....
that'll be the day!)
|"Just think about cake for a minute. Oh,
it's a miracle, it's so good! I will go anywhere if you say the
phrase 'There might be cake.' MIGHT! Not even definitely, there
might be cake!" -- Greg Behrendt,
heard on Comedy Central's Comic Remix, (from a session recorded
|Elevator buttons should toggle. That way, you
could avoid trips to accidentally-pressed floor numbers, and
could save yourself from the pain of stopping on each floor after
some prankster pushes all the buttons as they exit.
|Dairy Queen finally has chocolate soft serve!
Ever since I was a kid, chocolohics like me have had to get vanilla
ice cream with some sort of chocolate add on when visiting DQ.
(For all I know, this is either ancient news, or untrue beyond
the outlet we visited in Martinsburg, but it certainly stuck
in my mind.) Meanwhile, in a fascinating yin to the yang of this
first observation, I noticed this same week that Wendy's now
offers Frosties in original chocolate, plus new vanilla!
|Now I'm really hoping Gore jumps into the race
at the last minute: his son just got busted
for possession! Gore the Third got caught because he was speeding
(driving a Prius at 100 mph!) and once they'd pulled him over
the cops had probable cause for a search, during which they found
his stash. (Let this be a reminder to all the stoners out there
about the One Law at a Time rule).
|While on travel to Texas,
I read a great book by Audrey Niffenegger called The Time
Traveler's Wife. I loved it. I hear they're about to start
production on a movie... I hope they can capture the feeling
of the book. As I thought about these things, I wondered whatever
happened to plans for a movie based on Replay, another
excellent time travel romance. Sadly, nothing seems to have come
of those plans, and the real bummer is what I learned by looking
into it: Ken Grimwood died a couple of years ago, with his sequel
to Replay unfinished. (Ironically, he died of a heart
attack, just like the main character on the first page of Replay.)
|In general, I enjoy changes. It's always a mixed
bag... one can see good and bad aspects to every change, from
a person's opinion to a change in the weather. Sometimes it's
hard to find any positives in a particular change, while others
are almost totally great. In many cases, different people will
disagree on whether a given change is a good thing or a bad thing.
But no matter what, it's always interesting, so as one who hates
being bored, I love it when things change. Maybe that's why change
is basically the theme of my most successful card game.
|Our refrigerator died this week. We can't really
complain, since we've gotten plenty of life out of it, and it's
sure better to have happened now than during Origins,
but still... we sure didn't need that particular added expense
just now, and of course, a broken fridge isn't the sort of repair
you can put off until it's more convenient to pay for.
|"The telephone is an antiquity -- you never
know who is calling, there is no image, it is an outmoded product
[that] constantly disrupts work." -- Ralf
Hütter, seen quoted on the
Wikipedia page about Kraftwerk
|I really enjoyed Republican Presidential Candidate
Ron Paul's appearance on the Colbert Report last night. I've
been a fan of Congressman Paul since
1998 when I first heard him speak out against the Drug War.
He used to call himself a Libertarian, and now he's a Republican
who voted against the Iraq War and whom I'd be pleased to vote
for myself. Unfortunately, he's like the Dennis Kucinich of the
GOP: too radical, too honest, and not among the top few contenders
who get most of the press.
|The resolution on whether to allow table games
(including Texas Hold'em) at Charles Town Races and Slots was
turned down by the voters of Jefferson County, 44% to 56%. But
objections were apparently as much about greed as morals... many
who voted no say they did so because they wanted the county to
get a bigger piece of the action via taxes. So I think it'll
pass next time they try it, two years from now.
|We had a big debate on the Icehouse list this
week, about the color mapping for playing Homeworlds
with Xeno colors. The mapping I'd come up with has Cyan being
equivalent to Green, but a lot of people thought it should have
been Blue instead, since the Light Blue = Dark Blue correlation
is so strong. But we decided my original plan was the best way
to go. Alan Anderson's message said it the best: "Just look
at transparent Rainbow plastic pyramids. What is it that makes
each one unique? Red is the warmest. Green is the coolest. Yellow
is the lightest. Blue is the darkest. Don't think about colors
in the abstract. Look at the actual pieces. To my eyes, Yellow
is too unsaturated to challenge Red for the title of warmest,
and Blue is entirely too dark to push Green aside as the coolest.
Now look at the corresponding transparent Xeno pieces. Orange
is the warmest. Cyan is the coolest. Clear is the lightest. Purple
is the darkest."
|As I hear more and more about the honey
bee epidemic, I'm being reminded of the importance of bees
in nature. That said, I've also been noticing how important bees
are to the world of comedy. I was struck by this last Sunday
night, when wacky cartoon bees featured prominently on a couple
of Adult Swim shows on the Cartoon Network (The Venture Brothers
and Futurama were the main ones, but a talking bee on Family
Guy helped make the point). And just as I was thinking about
this, I read that day's Dilbert, which featured this line: "The
project is like a hundred drunken clowns with bees in their underpants."
Think of all the slapstick moments involving beehives and consider
what a loss it would be to world if there weren't any bees.
vs. Everybody stats from Marcon:
I played 21 games (of 10 unique types) in the session, and was
the winner 8 times. That means I had a 38% Victory Rate!
bummed about the new Fantastic Four movie. What I had been looking
forward with great anticipation has instead become a sadness-maker
which I now don't even want to see. I've been both excited and
worried about it ever since I first heard the title, "Rise
of the Silver Surfer." I thought it should have been called
"The Coming of Galactus," since Galactus
is the real star of the story and is my favorite character in
all the Marvel Universe. But alas, my worst fears have been confirmed.
page about Galactus reveals that he won't be in the movie
at all: he's been reduced from a god-like being to a cosmic vortex.
It's particularly disappointing to learn this after seeing the
image of Galactus currently featured on the Wikipedia page.
(It looks like a frame from the movie, but it actually comes
from a recent videogame.)
|Since my earliest days of designing Fluxx decks,
I've considered the Hand and Keeper Limits to be part of the
core set of standard New Rules you always had to include. But
although I still consider Hand Limits mandatory (without them
it becomes too easy to run the deck completely out of cards)
I now think of Keeper Limits as optional. (They just make it
harder to win, which may or may not be desirable depending on
how difficult the Goals are to accomplish.)
|"Quibblers claim that a demonstration offshore,
or even above Tokyo harbor, might have induced the Japanese to
surrender with less loss of life -- and that if not, another
bomb was ready. But the intent was to terrorize a nation to the
maximum extent, and there is nothing like nuking civilians to
achieve that effect." -- William Langewiesche,
from the book "The Atomic Bazaar" (seen quoted in The
Week magazine's June 1, 2007 issue, page 40)
|This weekend we invented a new treat! We call
squares and it's a square of chocolate chip cookie sans chocolate
chips, covered with a layer of that homemade
fudge I've been making for my whole life. We made them for
a party at TV Tom's and they were a big hit! They're elegant
and oh-so-yummy! We've been experimenting with different cookie
dough recipes, to determine the final formula we'll use when
we make them again...
|Nothing's been decided yet (and nothing will
happen for a long time regardless) but I'm getting the feeling
that the decision of where we should eventually move
to is narrowing down to something in the Charles Town / Shepherdstown
/ Martinsburg area of West Virginia. I found a lot to like about
the first two towns during my
recent visit with Robin, but my biggest concern with both
of those places is how small they are. Martinsburg is also very
small, but it's still a lot bigger and I really like how well
it's connected into the transportation network. Martinsburg is
convenient to Interstate 81 as well as rail lines that provide
for train access back to DC, not just on Amtrak but also on the
MARC commuter train. I'm looking forward to visiting this city
|I really hope Gore decides, at the last minute,
to run again for President. I'd love to see all those buttons
and bumper stickers that say "Re-Elect Al Gore."
back! He lived in our neighborhood for 6 years and we've
sure been missing him since he went back to California, a little
over a year ago. But he decided he liked living here better,
and this week, he moved right back to where he used to be!
|This evening I met a dude named Forrest and we
played Fluxx using his personally-customized Goth-themed Fluxx
deck. He has a ton of wacky new cards in there, but my favorite
was a New Rule called Photo Shoot: "On your turn, take a
picture." At first I thought this might be hard to do in
some cases, but then I remembered that cameras are built into
everything now! It's a fun rule, give it a try. (PS, sorry we're
still out of Fluxx Blanxx, we'll get it back into print as soon
as we can...)
|"Love many, trust few, do
wrong to none." -- personal credo expressed by Yau-Man
Chan (my favorite of the competitors on Survivor: Fiji)
2 was created but never released and can only be played at
the creator's house in a custom built arcade style machine."
-- text on the
wikipedia page about Icebreaker, which will need to be updated
soon (it'd be nice if they added my name while they were at it,
instead of just calling me "the creator")
|"Of course, when the Founders wrote the
constitution, they provided for a war czar, whom the called 'the
president' and designated as the commander-in-chief. Apparently,
by trying to create a new czar, the White House is finally admitting
that George W just isn't up to the job of coordinating his own
appointees, including the secretaries of defense, state, and
so on. However, the performance of our self-proclaimed 'war president'
has been so disastrous that the Bushites are having a hard time
finding anyone willing to take the czar job. Three retired four-star
generals have already turned down the offer. As one of them,
retired Marine General Jack Sheehan, said 'The very fundamental
issue is, they don't know where they hell they're going.'" -- Jim Hightower, from the "Wanted: War Czar"
sidebar to the cover story of the May 2007 issue of the Hightower
The War Goes On"
|A "sleep helmet" has been invented,
which somehow puts you to sleep instantly, and so fully that
you get all the benefits of full-night's sleep in just 3 hours.
Finally! That's the kind of Life-in-the-Future invention I've
been waiting for almost as long as my personal Jet-Pack! As someone
who already experiments quite a bit with how
I sleep, I can't wait to try Giulio
Tononi's Sleep Helmet!
Shepherdstown we also checked out nearby Charles Town, home
of Charles Town Races & Slots. It looks and seems just like
a Casino, but they don't call themselves that because they aren't
permitted to run "table games" and literally have nothing
other than Races and Slots. But man, they sure have a LOT of
slot machines! It's huge! They're clearly poised to become a
full-blown casino, and they may soon get to: on June 9th, there'll
be a vote to decide on this very issue. It'll be interesting
to see what happens if it passes...
|My Zombie advisors keep loaning me Zombie
movies to watch, so I saw my 4th one this week: Shock Waves.
It's a campy classic from 1976, featuring Peter Cushing and,
of all things, Nazi Zombies. The packaging features a quote describing
it as "the best of the Nazi Zombie movies," which makes
the mind reel: how many Nazi Zombie movies ARE there?
|Treehouse has been nominated
for an Origins Award!
|I'm riding on several bummers right now: 1)
The hard drive where I keep all my video
files stopped working (and I may have lost forever the high rez
versions of a few of my recent movies). 2) I've been anticipating
a free trip to Ireland for months, since I'd been invited to
be a guest speaker at game design conference in Dublin called
Ani-mates, but it's been canceled. 3.) One of our Mad
Lab Rabbits, Josh Reed, has died after being struck by lightning
(our deepest condolences to his next of kin).
|My zombie research continued this week with
my third zombie movie viewing: 28 Days Later. A friend of mine
who really digs that film was inspired by the "Zombie-Challenge"
I described 2
weeks ago, of editing out the really nasty gory parts of
a zombie movie so that a weak-stomached guy like me could see
it. He did a great job, too, replacing the realistic gore with
a flashcard, providing the viewer with a quick text summary of
the gruesome action being skipped (such as "Zombies 'Mailer'
& 'Hat Head' tear 'No Bullets' limb from limb"). Anyway,
I also really enjoyed the film, which is an intense and fascinating
tale, but the best part was getting to see it on my terms. (Thanks
|"While smoking marijuana is never good
for the lungs, the active ingredient in pot may help fight lung
cancer, new research shows. Harvard University researchers have
found that, in both laboratory and mouse studies, delta-tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) cuts tumor growth in half in common lung cancer while impeding
the cancer's ability to spread. The compound 'seems to have a
suppressive effect on certain lines of cancer cells,' explained
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital
in New York City. According to the researchers, THC fights lung
cancer by curbing epidermal growth factor (EGF), a molecule that
promotes the growth and spread of particularly aggressive non-small
cell lung cancers." -- Forbes article, "Marijuana
Compound May Fight Lung Cancer"
|"The second thing I noticed was that for
150 years, the length of time the drug as been available in the
West, many creative people, especially poets and musicians, have
strongly claimed that hashish or cannabis has enhanced their
creativity. This claim is wide-spread, and often comes
from those who have reached the top of their art; Louis Armstrong,
Bing Crosby, and Willy Nelson are among the musicians so claiming.
In some branches of music -- jazz and rock in particular, those
using seem to be a majority of the active performers. Interestingly
enough, no one seems to have tried to rebut these claims.
A few critics have scoffed, saying that the performers were stoned
and only thought they were playing better; but no one has ever
offered any evidence opposing the claim."
-- Buford C. Terrell, "What's
Right With Drugs"
|This weekend, I continued my Zombie
research by watching Shaun of the Dead, which just happened
to be on Comedy Central on Saturday afternoon. I'd heard a lot
of good things about this one, and I'd gotten a detailed report
on when it would be most important to look away from the screen,
so I decided to give it a try. It was pretty good. But I find
it to be a sad commentary on the values of our society that even
though all the curse words were carefully silenced, it would
seem (judging by the length of the ghastly sound effects) that
even the one really horrible scene I was warned about was apparently
broadcast intact. What message is conveyed when it seems more
important to censor naughty words than realistic depictions of
extremely brutal violence?
|Obviously, we're all bummed out this week about
the horrible acts of violence at Virginia Tech. But I find it
all the more depressing when I run a few comparison numbers...
32 dead is a lot, but we've lost 100 times that many young Americans
during the war in Iraq, where the numbers of our dead now exceed
the number of people we lost in the World Trade Center attacks.
|The Zombie movie I watched while designing
Zombie Fluxx was Night of the Living Dead, the original low-budget
George Romero film to which Dawn of the Dead was a sequel. Since
NotLD is the canonical work that spawned the genre, I decided
I really needed to see this one at least, and since it was made
in 1968 and was filmed in black & white, I figured the gore
factor would be tame enough by modern standards that I could
handle it (and indeed, it wasn't as bad as I feared).
|I enjoyed NotLD a lot more than I expected to...
it's quite riveting, actually. However, it sure didn't make sense
to me... why would there have been so many unburied, recently-deceased
people in the vicinity of the isolated farmhouse where all the
action takes place? Increasing numbers of zombies, up to a massive
horde, appear out of thin air in the middle of nowhere. (Somehow
this bothers me more than the whole question of how these corpses
could be coming back to life as zombies in the first place...)
|Having watched the first one, I now find myself
inevitably curious about some of the others, in particular the
original Dawn of the Dead. I wish I could get a copy of the film
with all the gory bits hacked out, blurred, or otherwise made
less horrible. The story is fascinating, like an extended Twilight
Zone episode... I just don't feel the need to actually see all
those decapitations. (One way to accomplish this is to get a
friend who's seen the movie before to watch it with you, fast-forwarding
and summarizing the nasty parts as needed. Alison
calls this "Robocopping," after memorably "watching"
Robocop this way with her mother.)
|I've been posting little movies on YouTube for
several months now (I've got 21 videos on their site at this
point) and throughout that time, the very first one I did ("Hand Limit
Question") has continued to be my most popular one (judging
by number of views). But suddenly, we have a new chart-topper:
with the Emperor: Pop Tarts" has as of today been viewed
1120 times, pushing the Hand Limit video, with 1098 views, into
2nd place. So, what does this mean? What exactly do people like
so much about this particular video? Is it cooking shows in general?
personality ? Or simply the fact that people love Pop-Tarts?
|I got my first real Royal Flush last week! Obviously
I won the hand, though looking back on it now I think I could
have played it better. I should have just called him when John
raised me on the turn, rather than re-raising all-in...he didn't
think I'd gotten the Royal Flush, but he realized I had him beat,
and he folded. I think I'd have gotten more of his money if I'd
played it cooler and just called his raise. But I can't really
complain... I got a Royal Flush!
|"The rampant corruption of the criminal justice system
spawned by the $400 billion-a-year black market could be ended
with the stroke of a pen. So also would be the wholesale devastation
we have brought to other countries. Countries like Colombia,
where we send billions of dollars of military aid and spray hundreds
of thousands of acres of populated land with dangerous herbicides
in a country with nearly a million displaced people. And each
military campaign or spraying is like a squeezing a balloon;
production merely shifts to another site or goes into a temporary
hiatus. It is time for an honest dialogue on this issue. Time
to stop the documented lies, half-truths, and propaganda that
got us into this mess in the first place. It is time to face
the facts." -- Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich, from the Drug War section
of the Issues pages at his campaign website
|"The results seem pretty self evident to
me. As someone who has done his fair share of drinking and smoking
marijuana, I know which one had significant negative effects
if I did too much of it. In short, smoking too much pot just
made me sleepy. It never made me emotionally volatile, or had
me doing things I regretted the next day. It never caused me
to spend hours in the bathroom vomiting. It never left me incapacitated
with a terrible hangover the next day. All of my worst party-related
experiences in college were the result of too much booze, not
too much pot. As for gateway drugs, I did cocaine once in my
life, over a decade after I smoked my first joint, and, interestingly
enough, at the end of a night of heavy drinking. I never felt
the urge to do stronger drugs after smoking marijuana." -- email sent to Andrew Sullivan and posted
in his column, in response to news about a study which found
& Tobacco Worse Than Pot & Ecstasy
|I like Barrack a lot more than Hillary, but I like Dennis
Kucinich the most of all. I also like Bill Richardson quite a
bit. (If our next Democratic President has to have the same name
as the last one, I'd rather it be his first name, not his last
name, at least in this case.)
|Speaking of Apple and the dark side of the future,
I got badly burned by iMovie software this week. (I've been a
big fan since the original Macintosh and never have I felt so
let down by one of their applications.) I've been using iMovie
'04 to edit all the videos I've been doing these last few months,
and due to some screw-ups of my own, I mistakenly deleted a bunch
of important files. (My entire Superhero
audition video and the master files for the Fluxx
videos I just posted, to be specific.) Had I upgraded to iMovie
'06, I'd have been able to recover my mistakenly-trashed files
from iMovie's special internal trash can. However, since money
is very tight we've been delaying upgrades, and the '04 version
had been treating me fine up until this point. But I've just
learned the hard way that in this older version of the software,
just no access into that special internal trash can! I can
tell it's got hundreds of megs of my old clips in there, but
the only option you are given for this special internal trash
can is to empty it. Geez, what's the point of showing me a trash
can if you don't give me the option to retrieve junk from it?
The betrayal was compounded when the hope of recovering the files
by upgrading was dashed. I got the 2006 version (although since
this is now spring '07, I could feel it getting obsolete as I
drove home) and yes, it does indeed feature a Show Trash menu
from which dead files can be recovered... but when I load my
old project files (with their carefully preserved trash files
intact) into the new version, there's a no-going-back update
process which leaves my trash nice and empty. Sigh. It won't
really be that hard to recover from (since I have the finished
DVD of my Superhero audition video and the master tapes for the
Espanol videos) but it was a big setback nonetheless and a serious
disappointment for this loyal Apple user. It's very painful watching
data you'd very much like to recover being instead erased.
|Well, I haven't heard a word from the Superhero
people, so I guess I didn't make the cut. I'm actually more surprised
than disappointed... I thought the ideas I submitted were really
very compelling and unique. I'm guessing I was rejected for a
specific reason, like worry that I was just trying to promoting
my games, or perhaps it was my views
on the drug war, or maybe my character was just a little
too crazy for their tastes. Oh well, on to the next challenge!
|Speaking of people
getting into trouble after posting videos on You Tube that
included reworked copyrighted footage, did you see that redo
of the Apple 1984 ad with Hillary inserted in place of Big Brother?
I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, since it suits my politics
and I appreciated how clever and well executed it was. My favorite
detail of the "Big
Sister" ad was the addition of an iPod to the hammer-thrower's
|Speaking of mistakes in old versions of stuff,
it's come to my attention that there's a problem with the Hand
Limit 0 card in the 3.0 series of Fluxx decks, which has been
among some game groups as to how that card should be played.
The problem is in how this First Edition card interacts with
the card Inflation, which was added
in version 3.0. The way the fine print reads, some were arguing
that Hand Limit 0 was unaffected by Inflation, but had that been
my intention, the title of the card would have been Hand Limit
Zero. The fact is, it's an oversight, which we need to remember
to correct on the next version.
|It looks like I'll have to add another section
to the Fictional
Andy Looney... apparently a student named Nathaniel in an
Intermediate Playwriting class is writing a play about how I
started the Time Repair Agency. "Basically, it's about how
Andy becomes a Chrononaut and helps the other Chrononauts realize
how much good they can do for the world, when until then they
have been going about their jobs without any compassion at all."
I wonder who they'll get to play me when it becomes a movie someday.
(Speaking of which, the folks on the Chrononauts
mailing list are brainstorming ideas for a Chrononauts movie,
something I myself have long been pondering...)
|I've started participating in the Wednesday night
Texas Hold'em tournaments that are being held nearby at the College Perk Coffeehouse,
and last night, I won 2nd place! This is the best I've ever done
in a Hold'em tournament of this size, which had over 40 players,
and I got to pocket $15! (First prize is $25, and those are the
only financials involved... to avoid getting into legal trouble
for gambling, the buy-in is free.)
|After tabulating the first 435 survey
results, the first thing we notice is that 79% of the respondents
are male. (Where are you, Lady Fluxx Fans?)
|No sooner had I announced
that I'd broken my new
watch, when all of a sudden it started ticking again. Wow!
It's a self-repairing time machine! Unfortunately, while the
analog element is running again, the digital component has a
tendency to randomize its values every couple of days. So I still
need to get a more shock-resistant replacement at some point...
|I loved last week's Lost, in which Hurley finds
an old VW microbus in the jungle and tinkers it back into life.
(Sure, it couldn't have happened anywhere except on Lost's strange
magical island, but if any car could endure that much time in
a rainforest without maintenance and still work, it'd be the
VW.) The climax involved that glorious trick for roll-starting
a car with a stick-shift, by pushing it down a hill and popping
the clutch at the right moment. This scene struck a resonant
chord with me (as well as anyone else who's ever had to ask their
girlfriend to push a cranky old car to get it started), and the
scene also makes a great analogy for the current struggle we
are in: will we succeed in getting the car that is Looney
Labs to "start" (i.e. become profitable) before
we run out of time (i.e. money) and end up smashed into the rocks
at the bottom of the hill? I'm confident that we'll make it,
but of course, I have the faith of Hurley: I too believe that
you make your own luck.
After a lot of wheedling
from Icehouse fans, I dug into my ancient files to find out
the exact mathematical formula we used in 1990 to determine the
standard dimensions of the three Icehouse pyramids. The final
formula was hammered out by John's
brother Kit, after a detailed analysis of the hand-made pyramids
in the first 100 game sets. Here's the equation:
BaseSize = 4 / 7 FaceHeight = [ 4 + (2 ^ PipCount-1)
] / 8
|While working on our upcoming Fluxx Survey, I
found myself challenged by one of the questions we came up with:
Hobbies. How am I supposed to narrow down all my manifold interests
to just 3 short answers? After much pondering, I came up with
this: 1) Games, 2) Gadgets, and 3) Hedonism.
(I was also very amused by Robin's
answers, which were Email, IM, and Meetings.)
|"Both 'wars' fail because they target an
enemy that isn't there. Terror is a tactic, not a nation or ideology
that can be warred against. In modern terms, terrorism is rooted
in disaffected, oppressed people. It won't go away until conditions
or perceptions change. The drug war is even worse -- it targets
our own people as the enemy. About 1.7 million people are arrested
annually for narcotics, 43 percent of them for marijuana, a drug
far more benevolent than legal alcohol. In America's booming
prison industry, 25 percent of the 2 million-plus inmates are
there for drugs, and most of their crimes are nonviolent. In
federal lockups, 60 percent of the prisoners are drug offenders." -- John F. Sugg, "Kathryn
Johnston's Real Killer"
|I broke my new
watch! I accidentally dropped it onto hard pavement and now
the analog portion doesn't tick. But the digital element is still
functioning, so I guess I'll put up with it for awhile... and
next time I'll know to look for one that claims to be shock-resistant.
|No wonder I like cheese so much! It's like totally
addictive! Cheese contains casein, a dairy protein which contains
tiny opiate molecules called casomorphins, which are "remarkably
like morphine" and pack about a tenth of morphine's opiate
strength! (I also found it fascinating that cheese proved harder
to give up, for people in the
article I just read, than ice cream, hamburgers, chicken,
and even cigarettes.)
|"Pick your week or month, the evidence keeps
rolling in to show this country's vaunted 'war on drugs' is as
destructively misguided as our cataclysmic error in invading
Iraq. There are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, another 5
million on probation or parole, the Justice Department reported
on Nov. 30. We exceed Russia and Cuba in incarcerations per 100,000
people; in fact no other nation comes close. The biggest single
reason for the expanding numbers? Our war on drugs - a quarter
of all sentences are for drug offenses, mostly nonviolent. So
has the 'war' worked? Has drug use or addiction declined? Clearly
not. Hard street drugs are reportedly cheaper and purer, and
as easy to get, as when President Richard Nixon declared substance
abuse a 'national emergency.'" -- Neal Peirce,
Misadventure Of Our Drug War"
|My journey to the dark side is now complete.
It's been a couple of years now since I switched from regular
cola to diet, and I have now reached the stage where I actively
dislike the flavor of the Real Thing, and will choose a different
type of beverage if Diet Cola isn't available.
|A major sea change has just occurred in congressional
decision-making about our nation's Drug War. The
new chair of the subcommittee which oversees the ONDCP is none
other than Dennis Kucinich! Woo-hoo! For all these recent
years, congressional control of the Drug Czar's office has been
in the hands of the most aggressive drug warrior in all of congress,
Mark Souder; but now, we have that body's most vocal critic of
the Drug War at the helm! Yes! Talk about a pendulum swing! Finally
we have someone in charge who will challenge the drug warriors
instead of continually giving their lies a free ride! I can't
wait for the start of the new hearings Kucinich is promising
to call for. I think real discussions about the
stupidity of drug war are finally about to begin!
|I particularly enjoyed the puzzle on the cover
of the April '07 issue of Games magazine, which challenges you
to identify 20 popular candy bars by looking at photos of their
cross-sections. (And since I'm a dedicated CandyFreak, I was
easily able to ace this "bar exam"!)
|"I'm attracted to awesomeness."
-- Comment with an order from Rebecca M of Ypsilanti,
MI, which has been floating around in my possible Testimonials
file for months and which I decided to make a Thought Residue
instead because it's starting to become a saying around here
|I love the way cellphones have minimized the
tedium involved in picking someone up from the airport. At BWI
they now have a special parking lot set up, just for people with
cellphones to wait comfortably in their cars until they get the
call from the person they're picking up, calling from their cellphone
as they wait to pick up their luggage. Thus you can drive up
to the curb just as they're stepping outside!
|"It has been 30 years since President Nixon's
declaration of war and things have changed, but not for the better.
We've arrested millions, spent billions and drugs today are more
plentiful, cheaper and easier to find. Where is the success
in this, our new Prohibition? Police every day arrest drug dealers
and drug users, but at what cost? The nation that was once proudly
known as the 'Land of the Free' now has the highest incarceration
rate on the planet. If we cannot legislate, arrest or spend
our way to success how do we put an end to tragedies like that
of the 10-year-old in the recent Zanesville bust? As a former
police captain I know from my firsthand experience that this
war cannot be won. I know that we err in repeating the failures
of Prohibition. The same problems that plagued us then, plague
us now; illicitly produced substances are controlled by criminals
and gangs." -- Peter J. Christ, "It's
Time To End Pointless War On Drugs"
|"For most of life, nothing wonderful happens.
If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your
work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then
the chances are that you're not going to be very happy. If someone
bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great
new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or
a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of
the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good
breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are
more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness." -- Andy Rooney (seen quoted
|"I agree [that it takes a lot of courage
for Andy, a self-proclaimed hippy, to even consider denouncing
recycling]. I've had many wonderful conversations with Andy,
and even when we don't agree he's very willing to listen to my
side, and actually consider changing his mind. (Many people have
trouble doing this.) I only hope that I can be so strong in my
critical thinking skills as he is." -- John Cooper,
on the Eco
mailing list this week (wow, coming from you John, that is
high praise indeed!)
|"Ultimately, all our efforts at recycling
are tiny in comparison to the one on-going juggernaut event that
is the growth of human civilization. When I was in high-school,
I read something about recycling and environmental policies that
stated with some statistical authority that the one biggest impact
any person could have in protecting the environment was to not
reproduce. Talk about a gree-gree. You can rail against urban
sprawl and pray for sustainability all you want, but people just
keep having children, and every single one of them wants to grow
up, have a house, stay warm, eat food, drive a car, have their
own children, etc., and it's pretty tough to tell folks that
that might be bad." -- Dan
Brashler, on the Eco mailing list
In any discussion
of recycling we should always remember that it's best of all
to reduce and reuse. With that in mind, here are 3 tips from
our daily life which I highly recommend:
- Bring your own reusable cloth shopping bags to the market
so you can say "Neither" when they ask "Paper
- Say "I don't need a bag, thanks" when you forgot
to bring your own bags and you're only getting a couple of items
which you can easily carry home without a bag (it drives me nuts
when clerks automatically shove a solitary purchase into a plastic
- Bring your own reusable food storage containers with you
when dining out, so you can take home a doggie bag without getting
(and just throwing away) those big styrofoam clamshell things
|Are there any other flavors of Hawaiian Punch?
The can says it's "Fruit Juicy Red" along the top and
on the dude's surfboard, where it could instead say something
like "Lemon Lime Green" or "Very Berry Blue."
But I've never seen any other forms of Hawaiian Punch. Am I simply
too far from Hawaii to get the other flavors? And if so, what
are they? Of course, Wikipedia
has the answer: apparently there are (or have been) 7 other flavors:
Green Berry Rush, Mazin' Melon Mix, Bodacious Berry, Tropical
Vibe, Wild Purple Smash, Island Citrus Guava, and Mango Passionfruit
Squeeze. (Oh, and the dude's name is Punchy. Remember when the
TV ads had him punching out tourists?)
|I'm helping revise our business plan, and for
inspiration I'm reading the samples at Bplans.com, including
one for a place called Sagebrush
Sam's. It's fun reading about how great this new steakhouse
is theoretically going to be. Here's my favorite part : "Our
surroundings will be more entertaining than our competitors'."
It's just a bullet point on a list, so I wondered how they would
back up this claim, especially since, elsewhere in the document,
we find this description: "Each location will feature authentic
western antiques such as Native American blankets, cowboy gear,
and horse tack. We will equip the restaurant with a state-of-the-art
sound system connected to an old-time juke box where our customers
will be able to select their favorite country and western songs
for free." There's nothing amazing about nostalgic junk
on the walls, so I guess the superiority of their surroundings
was to hinge upon their Great Stereo -- and the fact that it
costs extra to play the old-time jukebox at their competitors'.
However, the document dates back to 2002, so I decided to use
Google to find out if anything had come of these plans... and
if there's any connection between this and the Sagebrush
Sam's of Butte, Montana, the "surroundings that will
be more entertaining" seem to have become Exotic Dancing
and Casino Gambling.
|"Proponents of drug prohibition tend to
dismiss reform groups like NORML or the Drug Policy Alliance
as fringe ideologues (politicians seem fond of dismissing the
latter group for no other reason than that it gets its funding
from George Soros). But when decorated police officers, former
police chiefs, and ex-judges and prosecutors speak up, audiences
can't help but take notice. These aren't stoners. They're former
public servants, and many risked their lives for a cause they
now say is mistaken. That's powerful stuff. When a guy tells
you he regrets what he's done for most of his career -- and what
he could well have died for -- his words take on a unique credibility
and urgency. One common characteristic you'll find in many members
of LEAP is guilt. Most of these former officers lug around a
weighty burden. Many concede they realized early in their careers
that the drug war was a failure, and would always be a failure.
They regret now that they didn't speak up sooner." -- Radley Balko, "Former
Narcs Say Drug War is Futile"
|"But a child
could not be a flower child." -- a line from the
Dan Hart song
of Love, which captures beautifully my own memories of (and
feelings about) being very young during the Sixties
no such thing as too much cute." -- tagline from
the back of the box of a PS2 videogame called Horsez, which I
gave my 10 year old niece for Christmas last month
|For his birthday last week I gave
my 10 year old nephew a replica of the classic Star
Trek communicator (to go with the phaser I gave him last
year when he first got into the original Trek series). Of
course, he immediately did what everyone always does, which is
to flip it open and bark into it, "Beam Me Up Scotty!"
But of course, Scotty never responds, and you end up just standing
there, looking foolish. What this toy really needs is a button
you can press to get Scotty's voice saying "Sorry Cap'n,
the transporters are still malfunctioning!" Then this situation
would have a proper punchline!
|"I like to crash Christmas
parties. If I'm driving around in costume and I see a bunch of
parked cars, I'll just get out and go in."
-- a professional Santa Claus seen quoted in a Washington Post
Magazine article called "The School of Yule" by Lauren
|I just learned, during the coverage
of his passing, that Gerald Ford was originally named Leslie
Lynch King. Why is this amazing to me? Because it means my Chrononauts alternate
reality card for 1974, President King Takes Office, turns out
to be, in a way, the actual reality!
|Holiday baking is having a measurable
impact on the environment! "Weekly tests of treated sewage
sent into the sound from the West Point treatment plant in Magnolia
showed cinnamon, vanilla and artificial vanilla levels rose between
Nov. 14 and Dec. 9, with the biggest spike right after Thanksgiving."