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factotum (fak-toe'-tum) n.
an employee or assistant who serves in a wide range of capacities.
[from Latin fac: imperative of facere "to
do" + totum "everything."]
Fantastic Four :(
How lucky for us
that The Incredibles stole
"ps: To date I have personally gotten
over 37 people mercilessly hooked on your games."
-- email from nikin
||Visiting the New NASM
weekend we finally got around to checking out the new extension
of the National Air and Space Museum, located out near Dulles
Airport. And I really liked it! But since it's well-known I'm
a space history geek, this should hardly be a surprise...
I'm old enough to remember when they built the original National
Air and Space Museum (NASM) and I've been there countless times,
so I've been following the story of this new annex museum for
quite awhile now. (I for one was particularly intrigued by the
idea someone had suggested, for building the museum around what's
left of the old NY State pavilion in Flushing
Meadows.) The only reason it's taken us so long to go see
it (it's been open for 2 years now) is that we're just so doggone
To begin with, I really liked the museum's layout. Whereas
the original NASM had a decidedly random layout, with space capsules
on display right beside early aircraft, the Udvar-Hazy NASM has
2 main zones: a huge, long, hanger-like area for the airplanes,
and a VAB-like side room where all the space artifacts are on
display. (As one who cares mainly about the latter, I find this
Obviously, it was great to see various artifacts, some of
which I'd never been close to before (like the space shuttle
Enterprise and an SR-71 Blackbird) and some of which were old
friends I always enjoy seeing again (like the Vanguard
flight spare, which I had previously noticed was no longer on
view at the downtown building).
As a game designer,
I was particularly intrigued to discover a magnetic Scrabble
set on display in this area. According to the plaque, NASA had
considered sending this set up to SkyLab, but then decided not
to when they realized that astronauts with free time in space
would rather spend that time just enjoying weightlessness, looking
through the window and such, and not playing a board game. (And
I can't say that I blame them.)
for us, the most exciting artifact to discover on display was
the Massively Parallel Processor, the MPP. It's tucked away in
the very back corner of the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger (you
could see it in the center of the photo at the top if there wasn't
a space shuttle blocking the view).
Were it not for this one-of-a-kind mainframe computer, Kristin
and I would never have met.
Of course, there are many things you could say that about...
NASA as a whole was the instrument of our courtship, after all.
If we hadn't both gotten jobs there, we'd never have met. But
the MPP played a vital role.
plaque says, the MPP was developed by Goodyear Aerospace
between 1978 and 1983, and was then installed at NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center (GSFC). The next year, a noted mathematician,
Marv Wunderlich, became part of the team of scientists working
on programming this powerful new computer to factor large numbers...
and when his daughter (Kristin) came to visit him for Christmas
that year, he took her into NASA to show her this cool new computer
he couldn't stop talking about. That Saturday afternoon, Kristin
met a division chief, who also just happened to be working that
weekend. Kristin had no idea who this random person was that
she was talking to, but the end result was a summer job, and
then a career, at GSFC, far from her hometown of Dekalb Illinois,
in a city she can't imagine she'd ever have come to if it hadn't
been for the Massively Parallel Processor. And now, that very
same computer is on view at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy National
Air and Space Museum! Cool, huh?
My week of Space Studies Field Trips was capped off last night
by a visit to the good-old original Air and Space Museum, where
I had the privilege of attending a preview showing of the new
IMAX movie, "Roving Mars." It was extremely great!
I liked it even more than the Space Station movie we took in
while at the Udvar-Hazy. In fact it might be my favorite IMAX
movie ever. Well, OK, in some ways, nothing can ever beat "To
Fly!" so we'll call it my second IMAX favorite. (Then again,
I haven't yet seen "Magnificent Desolation.")
It was extra fun for me because I got to playtest Treehouse
(while waiting for the movie to start) with the son of one of
Petra's co-workers (thanks again for sharing those passes with
me Petra!) and
it tested well. I'm so excited about my newest game!
Also cool to see while at the flagship NASM: the newly arrived
Space Ship One, hanging proudly in the air between Glamorous
Glennis and the Spirit of St. Louis, overlooking the moonrock
and the Apollo-11 capsule. Wow, you can't be in better company
In other news, we are talking seriously about launching a
separate commercial enterprise, a different imprint if you will,
under which to publish my Amsterdam Coffeeshop playing cards
(which has been simmering on
the stove for a while now) and under which to reprint Stoner
Fluxx. The current print run is about to sell out, and we've
decided the next edition will be redesigned to work as a 56 card
version, with more color and blister packaging like the new Family
Fluxx. Our hope is that the lower price point will make the
new version of Stoner Fluxx something that Spencer's will decide
to start selling... it will certainly be a better price point
for the head shops that have been trying to sell it. Separating
the two product lines under different company names will allow
us to run two separate rosters of stores, and will make it easier
to advertise both lines of products without them getting in each
But what do we call this new enterprise? We've been brainstorming
up a few names but nothing has emerged yet as the right choice.
Our favorite candidates at the moment are Dutch Mindset and Fully
Baked Ideas. Anybody got any other suggestions? If so, please
get yourself onto the Stoner-Fluxx
mailing list and join the discussions!
for Playing Our Games! Have a great week!
PS: Thank you to everyone on the Icehouse list for all your
feedback on the Treehouse
||Needless to say, as wild-eyed liberals slowly making plans
to move to Canada, the results of this week's elections up there
were a big disappointment for us. The reigning liberals kept
dragging their feet on the marijuana decrim bill they once pledged
to pass, and now they've lost their chance. Instead, the new
guy has pledged to get tough on drugs, and to challenge Canada's
gay marriage laws, support US military adventures, etc. Ugh!
Fortunately, the Canadian version of Conservative is less extreme
than ours, and they're going to have to share more power than
do our current Republicans. And anyway, being a big anti-incumbency
guy, I understand the need to throw the bums out when they've
proven themselves corrupt, even if they are on your "team,"
and regardless of what you might think of the alternative. In
fact, I wish more people here understood that!
||A few weeks ago, I whined
about broken-down VCRs and asked for recommendations on getting
one fixed. My conclusions from the responses I got to that: forget
about repairs, its not cost-effective, instead just look for
a hand-me-down replacement. Between TIVO and DVDs, the VCR is
rapidly becoming a device which people no longer need at all
and are willing to give away (or sell for much less than the
cost of repairing a VCR).
||"There is a strange parallel between the relationships
Canada-US and Holland-Germany: the smaller brother looks at the
bigger one and finds fault with much of what he sees, he then
desperately tries to do everything better, succeeds remarkably
well, but tragically, his efforts are completely ignored by his
brother and the rest of the world - he is simply too small and
unimportant." -- Axel Boldt, "A
Subjective Comparison of Germany and the United States"