Stray Thoughts That Stuck in Andy's Brain in 2007


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 Labs games!

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 Building Museum.)

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 Binary 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 email .sig 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.
I 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 Vegetarian Gamer"
For 3 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 Canada, and upstate New York, and various places 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 to David Artman for pointing that out, not to mention for moderating the 5th 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 be excellent)

Blank Uptown 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 recently 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 the Stonehenge 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."

At GenCon 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 in 2001)

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.

Andy 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!

I'm seriously 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. The Wikipedia 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 awesome-looking 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 them Imperial 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 next...

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."

Kory's 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)

"Icebreaker 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 Lowdown: "Yet 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!

While visiting 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 again, dude!)

"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: "Cooking 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? The Emperor's 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 Alcohol & 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 Espanol 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, there's 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 jogging outfit.

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 causing debates 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, "The 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 by Ginohn)

"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:

  1. Bring your own reusable cloth shopping bags to the market so you can say "Neither" when they ask "Paper or plastic?"
  2. 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 bag)
  3. 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 Summer of Love, which captures beautifully my own memories of (and feelings about) being very young during the Sixties

"Because there's 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 Wilcox

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."