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"One of the teachers, after hearing a bit about the Icehouse system, decided she wanted to run a game design class in her classroom using Icehouse pieces. The idea was very well received by the rest of the people at our table, and generated more than a bit of buzz. I could have sold twice as much Treehouse as I was sent, after that." -- Trey Reilly, from her NAGC event report


Thursday, November 9th, 2006
Sponsored by Looney Labs

What's New?

What's Going On? Happy Birthday and Farewell, Josh!

This is a picture of Josh Drobina, who's been working as our Rabbit Coordinator for almost a year now. Josh is stepping down from that position, and will be moving back to his hometown of Athens Ohio by this time next week. We're sure going to miss him!

If you saw us at any of this summer's trade shows (in particular, Origins & GenCon), you'll remember how great Josh was during those events, coordinating the schedules, running the Lab, and tending to the needs of the Rabbits. You'll probably also remember how jovial and fun Josh is to talk to, and what great hugs he gives. Josh is a really nice guy.

Obviously, his departure leaves us even more short-handed than we've been, and we'll all be needing to pick up the slack where we can. Of particular note is the fact that Carol will be taking over the official title of Rabbit Coordinator. (Rabbits, please direct your questions to her henceforth, and please be patient with her, since she just donned that hat!)

Josh has been great to have around for other reasons, too. He set up a couple of tie-dying parties for our friends, and even ran a tie-dye class one day at the Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies (the camp Alison works at every summer). He was part of the playtesting sessions during which we redesigned Just Desserts, where his input and suggestions were often helpful, and once when he asked me what game I might design next, I became inspired with ideas that lead to the creation of Martian Coasters!

On a personal note, Josh has been the only one in our office willing to take on the challenge of playing against me in Binary Homeworlds. (What's more, he's gotten so good at the game that he's been regularly kicking my ass!) A good Homeworlds opponent is hard to find, and I'm sad to be losing regular contact with a Starship Captain as good as Josh. He's also one of our weekly poker players, so I'm going to miss playing that game with him, too!

Anyway, we wish Josh all the best in his next adventures! Good luck Dude! We'll miss you!

However, before we could let Josh leave, we had to celebrate his birthday! Why? Because it was also my birthday! Actually, our birthdays are 2 days apart... but that's close enough. Since mine was the 5th and his was the 3rd, and the day in-between was a Saturday this year, it seemed like destiny that we should have a joint party on the 4th. So, we did!

Although I love eating out in restaurants, I find that I'm happiest and most comfortable when I'm in my own space, being the host. Also, while there are plenty of dining establishments that offer my two favorite foods -- steak and cake -- in many excellent formats, there are none that make them quite as I like them. So I decided to hold a small Festival of Grilled Meats for my own birthday, and to do the grilling myself! Announcing the times for Steak, Cake, and Gaming, I invited friends and family to drop in for whichever phases of the party they were interested in, and the loose format worked out splendidly. Along with other accompaniments, I served up my version of steak (top round grilled rare, cut into bite-sized cubes and served in communal bowls) and cake (chocolate angel food, cooked by Alison, eaten all at once by a fork-wielding mob). As for the games, we were up late playing Martian Hold'em, and before that I got in some Homeworlds, some Fluxx Espanol (using a newly-arrived real deck!) and even a couple of games of good old original Chess, against my Dad, using a cool hand-carved set he and Mom had just gifted me with.

The next day (on my actual birthday), we went to an art opening featuring the works of our friend Rich Potter, at a local hang-out called the New Deal Cafe. We enjoyed all of the whimsical images he had on display, but we were particularly interested in the Treehouse painting he had created, inspired by my game Treehouse... we're considering making some posters advertising our different games, the first of which would be a scene of kids playing Treehouse in an actual Treehouse. It's hard to say when we might actually make such posters, or if we'll really create one using Rich's art, but it's cool to see his vision nonetheless. People at the opening seemed to think it was one of Rich's most compelling pieces. (If you live near Greenbelt, go check out Rich's show, it will be up until November 26th.)

In other news, our country just had an election! (The fact that Election Day falls so close to our birthdays was part of what made Josh and I realize that we have this in common... although it didn't happen to either of us this year, we both know what it's like to have an Election on your birthday.)

Anyway, I'm quite pleased with the election results... it's still hard to believe the Republicans lost both houses of Congress! Yay! That said, I am sad about the failure of the Nevada and Colorado initiatives to legalize marijuana, but even there I find cause for optimism: Our side got 40% of the vote in Colorado and 44% in Las Vegas, and although we failed again, the margins are getting tantalizingly close. This is clearly no longer a fringe movement... almost half of the voters now agree with us, and all we need is to get 51% onto our side. And while progress is slower than we'd like, opinions are moving in the right direction. 4 years ago, a similar initiative was similarly defeated in Nevada, but that time we only got 39% of the vote. At a growth rate of 5% every 4 years, we'll fail again in 2010, but by 2014 we'll have an easy majority. And that's assuming the movement doesn't increase speed. So despite the disappointment, I'm still optimistic, particularly since 10 local-level marijuana reform initiatives did pass! Victory is inevitable! And the Democrats control Congress! Whoo-hoo!

Like most birthdays, I got some of the things I wanted, but of course not everything. (For one thing, as I just mentioned, I only got some of the results I was hoping for in the election.) As usual, no one gave me that airline ticket to Amsterdam I'm always putting on my wishlist; however, I did get something extremely cool which I've been drooling over for years: TIVO!

Many of my friends have wondered why I haven't jumped onto the Tivo bandwagon sooner, since it's obviously so cool and since so many other people have already upgraded at this point. But it's precisely because of my geeky obsessions that I've been able to survive without Tivo all this time; Being both a clockwatcher and a skilled VCR programmer, I haven't really been drawn to Tivo for its easy programming options. No, the thing I dig is the luxury of always being able to rewind a few seconds to see what I just missed. As a dedicated multi-tasker, I frequently fail to catch important visual stuff because I tend to listen to the tube more than I actually stare at it. But now, I can go back and actually see what I'm used to having to imagine! (Yes, I know, most of you already take these joys for granted... but it's wonderfully new for me!)

Another reason I haven't minded being slow in adapting to Tivo is because I knew that integrating Tivo into my home entertainment setup was going to be a nightmare, and it was indeed quite a challenge.

Over the years, I've been slowly expanding my stereo system, component by component, and at this point I have quite a complex network of machines scattered around the house, interconnected with a maze of wires and hidden connections. To help me keep track of it all, I have often drawn up complex routing diagrams, and I had to create a new one this weekend, after tearing down and rebuilding a big section of my equipment rack to install Tivo. Since I figure some of my readers might be interested in seeing my diagram, I'm posting it here:

As I said, I've been creating diagrams like this every time I do a major rebuild of my stereo... if you enjoyed that last diagram, you'll probably also like this one:

I made this diagram in 1991, when I was working at NASA and learning to use clip art software to create graphical presentations. You will note that this reflects a time in my life when a) I still listened to record albums and b) I had 2 turntables in my system because Kristin and I had gotten married and merged our stereo equipment into one setup. Although not shown in detail on the new chart, several of the devices seen on the 1991 diagram are still in use, including the mixer, the receiver, the dual-deck cassette, and one of the turntables (although no one has used it to play a record in a very long time).

Anyway, having torn apart, redesigned, rebuilt, and re-documented my home entertainment center, I'm now ready to kick back and enjoy the wonderful world of Tivo. Thank you so very much, Robin and Kristin!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!Andy

Thought Residue
Hold'em-obsessed Prisoner fans (a narrow audience, I realize) will appreciate the nickname I'm pioneering for pocket sixes: Schizoid Man. (We use many such nicknames at our table, including the Hammer (7-2 off-suit), Snowman Taterlegs (8-3 off-suit) and Dave's Fave's (5-5)). Schizoid Man has become my new favorite hand (following a string of bad beats with my previous favorite hand, Two Ladies (Q-Q)).
"A former NASA scientist by the name of Andy Looney became the hero of the revolution that never happened, for he did not return from the past empty-handed. He had brought back artifacts which, when studied by the same team of scientists and engineers who had studied and re-created the original Time Chamber, offered incontrovertible proof that the timeline had indeed been altered and somehow miraculously restored." -- snippet of a short story written by Jim Dunaway and posted to the Chrononauts Mailing List recently, titled "History of the Time Repair Agency"

"There's no real point in destroying poppies in Afghanistan, because they'll just get planted elsewhere: so long as heroin is illegal, the price will be high enough that people somewhere will grow it.  Even if it is ideologically impossible for the United States to end its foolish, unwinnable 'war on drugs,' it should have turned a blind eye in Afghanistan. But it didn't.  For the past five years a shadowy outfit called DynCorps has been destroying the poppy-fields of southern Afghanistan's poorest farmers with U.S.  and British military support.  This was an opportunity the Taliban could not resist, and the alliance between Taliban fighters and poppy-farmers (now often the same people) is at the root of the resurgent guerrilla war in the south." -- Gwynne Dyer, "A Modest Proposal For Afghanistan"

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