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"Dear Looney Labs: I manage a bar. One of my employees recently started playing your game Fluxx, and she decided to share it with all of my other employees. Now I have trouble getting everyone to do their job, because they are too occupied with playing. I have come to the conclusion that Fluxx is entirely too fun. I would appreciate it if you would make an edition of your game for "at work" that is 1/2-1/4 as much fun, so it doesn't detract from business. I also have a question: How do you folks ever get anything done with Fluxx being right there all the time? ...I just wanted to say thank you for a great game. I appreciate that all my random slow times (waiting for the bus, waiting for customers to show up, taking a break, etc) are now filled with a cool little game. Keep up the fun!" -- Email from Erich H of Champaign, IL


"Thursday" May 4th, 2006
Sponsored by Looney Labs

What's New?

From Hamilton to Niagara Falls

We're back from spending 12 days on the road, and we had a most excellent time. It started when the 3 of us drove to Michigan to be Guests of Honor at Penguicon (see last week's report). From there, rather than going home, we drove up into Canada and spent a week in Hamilton, the city we want to move to, and the place where the Lion Rampant Open House and the Great Canadian Baycon were both being held later in the week. After all that, we went to Niagara Falls, where we found a house so cool we wanted to buy it on the spot! (But now I'm getting ahead of myself...)

In Hamilton, we decided it would be fun to just book into the convention hotel right away, and really settle in, learn the neighborhood, etc. Then, on the day before BayCon, a game distributor in Hamilton (called Lion Rampant) held an Open House, so we had a table there, and it was a very good event. So was BayCon itself! Along the way, we made lots of new friends, and we visited others we'd made previously. We played Stoner Fluxx at the Up In Smoke Cafe, we took in an improv class at a funky little art gallery (called the Blue Angel), we walked around in parks and along the Escarpment (check out this view of the city from the edge of the mountain), and we compared the various neighborhoods, talking about which one we might eventually settle in.

Below are a couple of photos of the two main events we attended. On the left is Kristin at the Looney Labs table under the tent at the Lion Rampant Open House, and on the right is a view of our scene at BayCon, with Alison and her Lovely Hair in the foreground. (Sadly, I failed to get a photo of Mary, the woman with awesome hair from the booth next to ours....)

The two photos below are a couple of Rabbits from Guelph we've met during previous trips to Canada. That's Penn teaching Chrononauts on the left, and Heather demoing Treehouse on the right.

Anyway, BayCon was great fun. Here's a big thank you to Penn and Heather and to the other Rabbits who dropped by to help out. Thanks also to the guy at Crossed Swords who took care of selling our products for us at this event, and to Rose for running a great show, and to everyone there for making us feel so welcome. We're already looking forward to next year!

As I said, we did a lot of other stuff while visiting Hamilton this time, but of particular note was looking in on the events at the Up In Smoke Cafe, the city's first "Smoke-easy," this being a club where marijuana smoking is tolerated. They've been open for 2 years now, and despite some issues (like having just been raided by the police mere days before our visit) they were still open and apparently thriving. The raid was a reaction to a 4/20 rally the day before, at which pot was not only being smoked in public, right out on the street (instead of behind the closed "members only" door in the back of the cafe) but people were actually giving away joints, an action too bold for the cops to ignore. The police basically terrorized the club for 5 hours, holding peaceful people at gunpoint and making them lie down on the floor and such, not to mention vandalizing the cafe, stealing their cash, thousands of dollars in merchandise, and even their House Copy of Stoner Fluxx. (Yet even though the cafe was crowded at the time of the raid, they only found a very small amount of pot, in total less than an ounce.) But in spite of all this chaos, oppression, and strife, the club was open the next day and was as pleasant as any Amsterdam Coffeeshop.

To sum up: there have been some skirmishes on the front, but the battle for cannabis freedom is going well up in Canada.

At the end of our week in Hamilton, we grabbed sandwiches (with donuts) from a Tim Horton's (the McDonalds of Canada) and started heading home, stopping off 35 minutes later at Niagara Falls, where we spent a day or so getting to know the area and scouting out candidate locations for the Space Platform.

We looked at 3 very different houses in the region.

The first made it obvious to us that we really don't want an old farm... if we buy a chunk of land for the sake of having a nice piece of land, we want a forest, not a field that was recently used for farming.

The second place was looked at was initially very exciting. Instead of a run-down old farmhouse, this was a modern dream home. It was huge! So much space and so many nice features, with a fabulous little pond in the back and a horse barn beyond that, all on the edge of a 48-acre beautifully wooden lot. The place was in the middle of nowhere, a short drive out from the Falls (about 10 miles from Lewiston), and the price was only two-thirds of what we expect to be able to sell our house for. It seemed like the perfect candidate for the Space Platform!

The third place made us forget all about the second one (except for needing to get some wire cutters so that we could rescue a weeping willow tree that was being slowly strangled in their yard, a task we took care of the next day on our way out of town).

The house you see here is located on a tiny island on the edge of the American side of the Niagara River, a short distance above the falls, called Cayuga Island.

It's a wonderful house, with all the features we'd love in a home, including an incredible kitchen, a massive bathtub, a big entertaining room, an attached two-car garage, a dry basement, a storage-worthy attic, a laundry chute, a fireplace, wall-to-wall carpeting, big picture windows with an awesome view of parkland, plus porches and decks all nestled into a lovely neighborhood filled with trees and parks, just minutes from the Rainbow Bridge and surrounded by the bi-national cities of Niagara Falls, with all the interesting nearby locations which that implies.

And on top of all that, there's a river in the backyard, with a private boat dock.

I can't begin to tell you how cool I think that is.

OK, I'll try anyway.

I've always loved boats. I got all the small water-craft merit badges in Boy Scouts and loved driving boats around whenever I had the chance. For maybe 10 years when I was growing up, we'd go out once or twice a year with a big group, the assorted friends of a guy my Dad knew named Stu, on a canoe adventure in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. It was called Braving the Mullica, but very little actual bravery was required: the river was very small and tame, often more of a creek than a real river. At the start of the trip, fallen trees often blocked our way, but towards the end it widened out and we'd float past all these wonderful houses that backed up right onto the river.

I always loved those trips... it was a sad day when Stu stopped organizing them.

The photo shown here is from May 1977... those are my older brothers Jeff and Howard in the canoe behind the one Dad and I are in. Some years later, the instamatic camera I took this photo with got drenched along with everything else in our canoe, when Amy & I capsized. It was the only time on any of those trips when I fell into the water... the one year I brought a girlfriend along was the one time I tipped over the canoe. [Note to Amy: If you happen to be reading this, drop me a line! I'd love to get caught up.]

Anyway, as I stood in the backyard of this lovely little house, looking out at this tiny bit of the Niagara River which creates Cayuga Island, it suddenly seemed like the reality of a dream I never dared to entertain until now: the idea of having a place like one of those houses that back up onto the Mullica River. I could get my own little boat! I've never imagined becoming a boater, but in my heart of hearts I now realize I've always wanted to. (It reminds me also, I realize now as I'm writing this, of cool houses I've admired along the C&O Canal over the years.)

So we suddenly have a very specific notion of where we'd like to build the Space Platform. But that doesn't make us any closer to being ready to actually go... there's still a massive amount of work to be done in preparation for the move, and because Looney Labs work always takes priority over packing to move, it's probably still going to be at least a year before we can really buy a house up there. This was just a scouting mission.

But the good news is, the house we fell in love with isn't actually on the market yet. We caught a preview because the current owners mentioned to their Realtor (who also happens to be our Realtor) that they're getting close to being ready to sell.

Amazingly enough, the price for this house was about the same as what they were asking for that huge dream house with 48 acres way outside of town, which again is only about two/thirds of the estimated value of the house we're planning to sell. So even though it seems like a dream come true of this sort should be unaffordable, it's actually right within our price range.

What's more, we quickly became friends with the current owners, teaching them our games and such, and they seemed to like us, so who knows, maybe they'll just wait until we're ready to buy before selling, so that they can pass their really cool place along to us.

The question now becomes: can we make enough progress on packing and preparations to go after this house when the current owners are ready to move out, or will we end up missing out on this opportunity, and being stuck looking for something similar instead? Only time will tell...

AndyThanks for reading, and sorry this report was so late this week!

Thought Residue
"Just a note to say thank you for your post re: migraines and pot. I started getting them about three years ago and have been miserable ever since. All the triptans (Imitrex, Zomig) gave a horrible reaction, and the Topamax made me dumber than a post. I, like you, smoked in college but haven't really smoked much since (I'm 37) other than hot springs and skiing (I live in Oregon). My doc had me on Vicodin which made me feel kind of queasy and it took me about 7 pills to mask the pain. I finally got some pot purely as an experiment and, guess what, it worked like a charm... I had a migraine tonight, smoked a bunch, then filled a balloon and let the pup bounce it off his nose for a while. Within 15 minutes I went from dark room, pressing on my temples to having fun and feeling good. It struck me that someone must have had the same therapeutic effect from the stuff, so I got online. Upon a Google for 'migraine marijuana' your site came up first. You rock. Take care, and if you are ever in Oregon I'll buy you a beer." -- email we got this week from someone in Oregon named Peter

"Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, 'Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.' First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!" -- Stephen Colbert, mocking the president and the people who report on them, to their faces, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Saturday, April 29, 2006
"The rain was hitting the windows and occasionally I would hear the loudest parts of the harp notes appearing like the tips of icebergs in this sonic ocean. And from that I really developed the whole Ambient idea - which was more an approach to listening than to composing. It was saying: 'let's treat music like painting'. If you have a painting on your wall you don't sit in front of it staring at it as you would a television. It's there and you sometimes look at it and sometimes look away from it. Sometimes it will hold your attention for a while and sometimes it's just a glance. It doesn't make paintings any less important just because they don't engage your attention fulltime - it just means it's a different kind of attention." -- Brain Eno, describing the Birth of Ambient Music

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