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"A friend of mine came back to HK from England for a week. I met him for only one day, and with one other guy, we ended up playing Fluxx 3.0 for 6 hours straight. I knew I had to get the game after that." -- Email accompanying an order from Ronald of Hong Kong

Thursday, June 3rd, 2004
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

What's Going On? Andy's Back From Amsterdam

Well, I'm back from Amsterdam and I had an absolutely fabulous time! As you can see from this photo, I even managed to spend some time riding around on a bike! Whee!

Of course, I have a million things to say (OK, it's more like half a million, but who's counting) which means I can't possibly squeeze it all in here, so I'll just toss out a bunch of thoughts and we'll see what you find interesting...

Let's start with some statistics. I spent 31 days living in Amsterdam and I return with about 2600 digital photos, amounting to a total of 7.1 gigabytes of data. (And that only counts the ones Russell and I took, Shel took a bunch of others during her visit at the end of the month.) During the month, I made a total of 125 different visits to 59 different Amsterdam coffeeshops. (Of course, that doesn't count all the times I peered into a coffeeshop but decided not to sit down for refreshments.)

As I've said before, my idea of the perfect vacation isn't a trip to the beach, or a resort, or camping in the mountains, or Vegas, or even Disney World, much as I like all those things. For me, I can think of no vacation activity I enjoy more than sitting in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam, enjoying their refreshments and ambiance while playing a game of Binary Homeworlds with one of my close friends. And while I doubt I'll get to do so again for an entire month, I enjoyed this trip so much I'm already thinking about the next one...

Next spring, I'd like to return to Amsterdam with even more friends to run a casual little competition I'll call the First Invitational Amsterdam Coffeeshop Binary Homeworlds Tournament. The competition will last for several days, with opponents meeting up in different coffeeshops around the city for official tournament events. The competition will test the players' skills not only at playing Homeworlds in the coffeeshops, but also at navigating from place to place around the city. And for the Significant Others who tag along but don't care for Homeworlds, we'll have a Spouse Track: a Stoner Fluxx Tournament!

Speaking of elaborate schemes relating to the Amsterdam Coffeeshops, this trip was more than just a vacation. Russell and I are now in the process of writing a coffeetable book about the coffeeshops, loaded with photos and descriptions of what the experience of visiting these places is really like. Most folks know about the Dutch Coffeeshops at this point, yet very few indeed really know what the scene is like. The purpose of this book will be to share that experience with those who are curious but cannot make the journey for themselves. Of course, it won't be done for a long time and we're planning to shop this around to actual book printers before publishing it ourselves, so it may yet be a long time before this becomes a reality...

My visit to Amsterdam had 4 phases. First, I was there with Russell. Then, Kristin and Alison came to visit. Then, I was alone for a week. Lastly, Shel came to visit my temporary Amsterdam home. During Shel's visit, I taught her to play Homeworlds, and by the end of the week she was becoming quite good at the game. After experimenting with various ways of handicapping me, to make the game more fair, we settled on giving her a 2-planet headstart, which worked well...

Speaking of games I played, I also got in a bunch of Zarcana with Russell. As I've said before, I prefer Zarcana over the redesigned successor called Gnostica, but I also do now feel that a couple of little tweaks to the rules are in order. The ruleset we've been using drops the "from the hand only" restriction on the wild nature of royalty, which necessitates the further change of increasing the power of the Magician in some way, which we've done by adding a free card draw (limited by hand size) to his ability. We've also been playing a shorter game, by inserting a special marker card about halfway into the deck that triggers the end game just as if the deck were exhausted. Other than that, what we've been playing is straight up Zarcana (using the stickers, of course) and we had some great games.

I played lots of other games, too, including such favorites as Volcano, Stoner Fluxx, and Aquarius. I even got in a round of Hearts! We also did some playtesting of yet another Icehouse game, as well as playing more than a few games of Early American Chrononauts, which seemed only appropriate given that this trip was, in part, a reward for finishing the design and production of EAC on schedule. And thanks to FedEx (the next best thing to teleportation) I was even able to approve the card sheet proofs while overseas!

Also, although I haven't played regular old Chess in perhaps a decade, I even played a game of that, too. One afternoon as I sat alone in a coffeeshop called Katsu, a Dutch guy named Steven challenged me to a game, and how could I resist? I did OK, too -- I fought him to a draw! We both had nothing left at the end but a King...

I'm sure some of you are saying, "You went to Europe for a whole month and all you did was go to coffeeshops in Amsterdam? What about museums? Parks? Other cities?" To them I say this: I did go to a couple of museums, but I grew up in a city of museums so those don't particularly impress me. I went to Vondel Park, which was nice, but a park is a park and we have plenty of those here at home. No, I went to Amsterdam to see something which no other city on Earth currently has, and which most cannot even imagine: hundreds of intricate little hang-outs where it's legal to buy and consume marijuana. I myself find this network of establishments endlessly fascinating, and I had decided even before going that I wanted to spend this time really getting to know this one particular town. For me, further exploration of Europe can wait for other excursions.

During the long airline flights I read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Wow, what a great book! Now I just need to find book 2, which is being hidden from me while I get caught up on Life...

Upon returning, I find I'm swimming in emails... oddly enough, my original email address, andy@wunderland.com, received around 2600 emails while I was gone -- the same number of photos me and Russell took while in Amsterdam! I wish I could say they were all glowing messages of praise from fans, but the fact is, almost every one of them was a worthless piece of spam. Argghh!!! It's enough to make one give up on email entirely! In fact, I think it's time I shut down this account and moved over to a secret, non-polluted one. Henceforth, if you write to me at my old address, you'll get an auto-response that looks like this:

"I'm sorry, Andy is no longer reading email at this address. It has become too polluted with Spam to be useful to Andy any longer. If you wrote to him at this address recently, he probably hasn't seen it. If you need to contact him, write to someone else at Looney Labs and ask to have it passed on. Or send a letter to him at PO Box 761 College Park MD 20741 USA. (And don't even think about calling him on the phone!)"

Well, that's it for now. I had a great vacation and I did get some work done while I was gone, but now that I'm back and Origins is looming, I've got to get that nose back onto the grindstone...

AndyHave a great week! See You at Origins!

the story so far

Thought Residue
"The shaming truth is that everything has gone wrong. Just as it was bound to go wrong, as many of us predicted it would go wrong--if anything more hopelessly wrong than any of us would have dared to prophesy. Iraq is an epic train wreck, and there's not a single American citizen who's going to walk away unscathed. The shame of this truth, of such a failure and so much deceit exposed, would have brought on mass resignations or votes of no confidence in any free country in the world. In Japan not long ago, there would have been ritual suicides, shamed officials disemboweling themselves with samurai swords. Yet up to this point--at least to the point where we see grinning soldiers taking pictures of each other over piles of naked Iraqis--neither the president, the vice president nor any of the individuals who urged and designed this debacle have resigned or been terminated--or even apologized. They have betrayed no familiarity with the concept of shame." -- Hal Crowther, "With Trembling Fingers"

"It's quite possible that spam alone is killing e-mail. Add all the bogus messages containing viruses and you can see people becoming disillusioned." -- John C. Dvorak, "The Death of E-Mail"
I've reached a new conclusion about JFK: I don't think there was a second shooter, but I do still think there was a conspiracy. I think someone unknown fired the shots, and that Oswald was set up to take the fall. Having studied the matter for a long time, I feel that this scenario fits the evidence better than either the single-nut-acting-alone theory, or the multiple-shooters-working-together theory.


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