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Monday, December 29th, 2008

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"WW5 is one of the most fun board games I've ever played. It was great to sit back and watch my opponents try to annihilate each other while I quietly invaded and conquered the country of my choice, thus winning the game without having to fire a single shot or defend myself." -- Message from Jim Dunaway written on Andy's Facebook Wall, 12/23/8

Class Photo plus lots of links

Back From Disney World!

Happy Holidays! Our Christmas season got off to an awesome start as we just returned from a week at Disney World!

It's a tradition in many families to visit Disney World during the holidays, but while most people go during what I call National Play Week (the last week of the year) the parks are actually at their least crowded of the year (and cheapest too) during the run-up to the holiday season. And that's why we chose last week as the time to go!

We had an incredible time. There were 8 of us on this trip: Myself, Kristin, and Alison, my brother Jeff and his wife Judy, and in center stage, their kids James and Sharon and my other nephew Eric, son of my eldest brother Howard. This was the first time for the three kids, whereas I've been a number of times over the years, previously with Jeff and with Kristin, most recently over ten years ago. So it was fun on many levels, ranging from seeing old favorites through the eyes of the kids, to noticing changes, to discovering big exciting things for the first time (in particular the entire Animal Kingdom park and Mission: Space and Soarin' rides). Along the way, we feasted like kings in exciting faraway lands, most memorably that awesome restaurant inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT.

Best of all, since we were there during the off-season, and took full advantage of the FastPass system (my favorite new thing) we spent very little time standing in line, often being able to walk right onto various rides. We spent so little time standing in line, in fact, that we barely found time to playtest the new minimalist Treehouse game I'm currently developing for situations where you're standing in a line and don't even have a table, so that all pieces are held in the players' hands at all times. (But so far, it's looking really promising!)

As a traveler, I'm all about the details, and I love noticing the things that have changed -- and haven't -- since my last visit. Some of the updates have been improvements, but usually I found the new versions disappointing. I felt particularly let down by the new Imagination ride, and its after-ride, and the changes to the Living Seas pavilion. I also mourn the loss of many things that are closed or gone, including the SkyRide, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Cranium Command, and most of all, the Adventurer's Club. But it's the nature of the Disney parks that they change and evolve - that's how Walt wanted it.

It was also interesting to speculate about what they might build next. I have to believe they have plans on the drawing board for a fifth park, and beyond. But when are they going to build some more monorails?

One other thing that made this trip different from previous trips is that many of us now have cellphones, making rendezvous issues so much easier, and I have an iPhone, allowing me to read my email and post little updates to my FaceBook, Twitter, and LiveJournal pages all throughout my adventures. This allowed my fans to make on-the-fly suggestions, causing us to see a show we probably would have otherwise missed (the Finding Nemo musical, with amazing puppets) and resulting in this photo of me with Mickey (which I otherwise wouldn't have posed for).

Also, speaking of other websites where I post content, I've finally gotten a Flickr site now too, where I posted the best of our vacation photos!

All in all, it was a simply fantastic trip, although it was also utterly exhausting, particularly when factoring in the long car trips to and from Florida. Here's a special thanks to the folks who held down the fort for us at home while we were vacationing, in particular Gina (for dog-sitting Molly), Nikki (for processing all those holiday orders without Alison's help) and especially Robin (for running the office. watching over both our houses, and taking care of our five cats). Being on vacation is so much nicer when you know things back home are in good hands!

Upon returning, we got swept up in the frantic chaos of holiday celebrations... while the timing was great from the standpoint of avoiding crowds and expenses, it did leave us scrambling to prepare for our usual holiday traditions at home. But even so, we had a great Christmas... hopefully you are enjoying the rest of National Play Week as much as we are!

AndyThanks for playing our games -- and for giving them as gifts!

Happy New Year!

Thought Residue
Last April we got a dog, and ever since then Alison has been yearning to know what breeds she is made up of -- particularly whenever someone asks, "What kind of dog is she?" So, as a holiday gift, we decided to find out. Robin secretly got Molly's DNA tested, and since it's an expensive process, we got lots of friends and family members to chip in a few bucks to fund the research. Anyway, the results are in, and Molly's strongest component is American Eskimo Dog, along with some Shih Tzu and Boston Terrier.

"It's called 'A Salute To All Nations But Mostly America'" -- Sam Eagle, Muppet*Vision 3D, a line which became frequently quoted by us during the rest of our visit to Disney World (another favorite was his shocked gasp at being told his three hour epic would have to be done in a minute and a half)
I'm really hoping Obama heeds the call at and chooses Ethan Nadelmann to be the next Drug Czar. Please sign the online petition and urge the President-elect to consider selecting this extremely well-qualified candidate. I really can't think of anyone I'd rather see in this position than Ethan Nadelmann.

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