New Year! Here's hoping your holidays were as wonderful as
ours. We enjoyed all the usual traditions: gift exchanges, heavy
dinners, light saber battles... Yes, my nephew James has discovered
the awesome power of Star Wars, and wants to be Darth Vader when
he grows up. So we got him a light saber labeled "Darth
James" (it didn't matter that this was his second light
saber, since as you can see he can wield two at once) and since
we wanted to be sure his twin sister would be able to defend
herself, we got Sharon a lovely purple light saber and labeled
it "Princess Sharon." As you can see, the Force is
strong with her as well.
I could tell many other stories about gifts and parties and
good times had during the holidays, but I'll let it go at that.
Thanks so very much to everyone for the cool gifts, tasty treats,
colorful cards, and best wishes! And here's hoping we all have
a fantastic 2003!
Another thing that happened over the holidays is that we have
hired a new employee! Marlene Bruce (aka Ember)
has been a part of our online community for years, and a close
friend of ours as far back as any of us can remember. (Andy has
known her since 1977!) She moved out to California a
year or so ago, and started doing weekly Ember Updates a
few months later. She has continued to keep us and our readers
up to date on her California adventure ever since.
Marlene will be serving as our webmaster, on a part-time basis,
and will be digging in and helping us with very different types
of webmastering duties than what Dale was involved with. As you
can see from her
resume, she has a ton of experience in design and usability,
which is just what SuperFRED needs right now. We're contemplating
the idea of bringing her on full-time, and having her do webmaster
stuff half-time and sales stuff half-time... but first Kristin
needs to get the books up to date and figure out just how good
sales were this holiday. (They seemed really good, but how good
were they really?) Also, Marlene needs to follow up on some other
job leads... but it looks like she might be moving home, and
she might even start working for us full-time! Wow, now wouldn't
that be cool? Even if it's only part-time, it's going to be great
having Mar working with us.
With this changing of the guard, Dale Newfield, who has been
serving as our volunteer webmaster and freelance SuperFRED programmer
for a couple of years now, will no longer be involved with the
technical running of things here at Looney Labs.
We first met Dale in the early Icehouse
Games days, long before Looney
Labs even existed. In fact, it was Dale and Eeyore
who created the very first online presence for any of our games,
and hosted the Icehouse Mailing List on their college list server.
Icehouse Page is still online, but we took over the mailing
list in February
We saw Dale from time to time over the years, but it was at
a Greenbelt Drum Jam late
in 1999, that he started to move from random fan into a new
and growing friendship. Kristin has fond memories of hanging
out in the woods that day, telling Dale about her ideas for a
demo team of fans called the Mad Lab Rabbits which we had just
week before. About six
months later, Dale stepped forward for the position of volunteer
Unix Guy to help Kristin out with some of her webmastering duties,
and after a great house
cooling party in Charlottesville, he left grad school and
moved to DC for a cool new high-tech job and part-time geek work
with Looney Labs.
While Dale was busy designing distributed-computing systems
at his day job, we spent a lot of time hanging out and playing
games at Wunderland.Earth and Kristin really enjoyed having a
UNIX geek around. But it wasn't until January of the next year
that he really became our webmaster, when Kristin was faced with
our server again. The
last time we had done a website move like this, Kristin did
it alone (at least she thinks she did... we can't remember if
anyone responded to this
plea for help a few months earlier) so Kristin was very excited
to have Dale's help with the move.
Dale helped out with all sorts of technical stuff all throughout
2001, although he didn't get involved with building SuperFRED
until much later. If you've been following our story, you know
we had a number of false starts building Kristin's vision for
Lab Rabbits program. (And the story is far from finished.)
Mostly Dale was working at his day job during all of this, but
served as head volunteer geek rabbit, tracking
down lost rabbits, and getting Craig Forbe's online Lost
ID voting system running on our server. He even came to our
rescue and helped Kristin get
our network operational again when our DSL provider went
belly up. It was great having Dale around.
It was the middle of 2001 someplace when we got serious about
building SuperFRED, and we started putting real money on the
line and started paying real programmers to build it for us.
Can you believe the quality of the work was far lower than anything
we had been getting from our volunteer fans for years? Go figure.
One thing led to another and in October we found ourselves
in need of a new programmer, right about the same time that Dale
found himself in need of employment. (The startup he was working
for did that thing that startups always seem to do: fizzle out.)
We were still calling it the Wunderlist
back then, but Kristin and Dale dug in to try
get the project on track, and they ultimately fired the original
company that was building the thing and continued well into the
next year building the system themselves. As Krisitin likes to
put it, no one will be winning any efficiency awards for the
project management on this one.
Luckily, just about the time that we had completely run out
of money and simply could not afford to keep paying him, Dale
found a new job. He continued to work hard on the project
on credit, for a couple of months, spending much of his spare
time on it (outside both his job and his wonderful new girlfriend)
and for this we are grateful. Our
new programmer, Liam, has picked up where Dale left off,
and the system continues to grow and evolve... but we never could
before the holiday season without this extra push from Dale.
SuperFRED rocks! Kristin keeps talking about how much more
needs to be done, but I've seen the system in action. One of
our retailers will call, asking about the status of their order,
and within a few clicks she has at her fingertips a list of everything
this customer has ordered from us in the last 4 years. It needs
a lot of spit and polish, and there will always be new features
we want to add... but SuperFRED lives, and has already started
contributing to our success.
Thank you Dale for all that you have contributed to Looney
Labs over the years... we appreciate your hard work and dedication,
and we wish you lots of happiness in life.