Stray Thoughts That Stuck in Andy's Brain in 2006

I wondered recently why Peter Jackson isn't working on a movie of the Hobbit... turns out he was, but got fired! According to what I read in Newsweek, the studio is apparently moving forward on the film without him! I hope they don't mess it up!

"Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic. This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence." -- Milton Friedman, "An Open Letter to Bill Bennett," April 1990 (seen quoted in "The Futility Of Drug Prohibition," by Kevin Zeese)

"Is Time Real?" -- cryptic question posed by a sign seen on an overpass last week in Morgantown West Virginia   "I've been doing some research on the internet, and I've decided that the place for us to move is Pittsburgh." -- Shane, during the season 2 finale of Weeds [Also sticking in my mind is that fact that in episode 7, characters were playing & talking about the German board game Carcassonne... I wish they were playing Fluxx or Stoner Fluxx instead!]

I'm really enjoying this book by Steve Almond called CandyFreak. Being a candy freak myself, and also a professional Game Designer, I'm intrigued by the realization that there's a similarly rare and desirable job out there, which only a lucky few (and yet, more than you might think) get to say is their job: Candy Bar Designer. In the chapter entitled "There Are Men Upon This Earth Who Tread Like Gods," there's a story from Dave Bolton (inventor of the Five Star Bar, whose official title is Chocolate Engineer) about being offered "the best piece of candy you've ever eaten" and replying that he was actually the inventor of the candy bar the guy was offering him. Wow, that's even cooler than me finding a group of strangers playing Fluxx!

"Like Iraq, the drug war has been pressing ahead at enormous cost and destruction without a pause for an honest assessment of whether the tactics are working, or will ever work. Yet while it only took three years for the American people to lose patience with the Iraq War, the drug war has been dragging on virtually unchallenged for three decades. Given the cost, it's baffling that taxpayers haven't demanded more accountability.  State and federal drug fighting efforts cost roughly $1 billion a week. Here's the return on that money: Zero.  Despite keeping more than 300,000 people locked up for drug offenses, narcotics use has held steady for 20 years." -- Nolan Finley, "Subject Drug War To The Iraq War Test"

It's a drag having only one car between the 3 of us but one thing that's making it easier to make do with just one vehicle is being in the Prius club. We know 4 other Prius owners among our families and close friends, and this makes it very easy for us to borrow other cars. You see, Prius owners tend to be more hesitant about loaning their fancy high-tech cars to those who aren't familiar with the car's finer points. By the same token, Prius owners are more inclined to trust other Prius owners with their cars. And driving a borrowed Prius feels just like driving your own! (Well, almost... sometimes you notice tiny differences that make it seem like you've slipped into a parallel universe.) Anyway, thank you for loaning us your Priuses recently, fellow Prius Club members!

I may be 43, but I've only just now been officially declared an Adult. I've been going to the same dentist (Hi Linda!) for 20 years now, and because I gag easily, they've always been doing my X-rays with child-sized films. But I just got back from a check-up (no cavities!) during which they tried me on the Adult-sized bite-wings, and it wasn't a problem! So I'm finally an Adult now! Yay!

We're in the midst of a cold snap and the heat in part of the house isn't working at the moment, so I've been shivering and chilly this week. It reminds me of how much I dislike being cold, which in turn makes me happy about our recent decision not to move to Canada after all.
"The thinking is this: This is a big group of people. They are not going away. You can't incarcerate them all. You can't drive them out of the state. So they are here. What do we do about it?" -- Mark L. Shurtleff, Utah's Attorney General, regarding the movement to legalize polygamy, seen quoted in a Washington Post article, "Polygamists Fight to Be Seen As Part of Mainstream Society"

I'm sad that Milton Friedman died... not only was he an outspoken critic of the war on drugs, as a Nobel Prize winner, he was also one of those impossible to dismiss, highly credible voices we need so badly on our side in this fight. (Three years ago, I used a 1972 quote from him on this page.) It's a bummer to have lost him, but what I'm really disappointed about is the way his death was covered. Time and Newsweek both ran big articles on him in their "Appreciation" sections (a one pager in Time: "Milton Friedman, Freedom Fighter" and two full pages in Newsweek: "A Man of Ideas in the Arena") but neither article mentioned his decades-long dedication to ending drug prohibition. It's really annoying how Big Media always censors criticism of the Drug War, and it's especially sad in this case because I feel certain Milton would have wanted this message highlighted in these summaries of his life & radical viewpoints.
"Another reason to stop caging people for using cannabis that isn't mentioned is because the Bible indicates God created all the seed-bearing plants, saying they are all good, on literally the very first page (see Genesis 1:11-12 and 29-30). The only Biblical restriction placed on cannabis is that it be accepted with thankfulness (1 Timothy 4:1-5)." -- Stan White, "God Says It's OK To Smoke Pot"

I'm calling for a minor change to the rules for Homeworlds. Instead of allowing the first player to enjoy the dual advantages of being one move ahead and getting the best choice from among the Homeworld configuration options, I think the player who goes last should get the first choice for Homeworld setup. (When more than 2 are playing, the Homeworld selection phase should be done in reverse turn order.)

Segregation has ended among the felines in our household! In August we got a new kitten and we've been keeping her isolated from LittleCat, since whenever they got near each other, they immediately tried to kill the enemy cat. But while we were gone, Alison decided that the "getting used to each other" phase had gone on long enough, and opened the border. Squabbles are still common between the black and white spies, but they're working it out and starting to get along! Yay!

I really enjoyed the two lists John posted last week, of good and bad things about our country. A few examples, of Good: "We have invented amazing things, like the internet, lasers, and jazz," and "We have sent men to the Moon, and robots to other planets and outer space," and of Bad: "We torture people. We execute people. We start wars. Our prison population is one of the highest in the world. Our murder rate is one of the highest in the world. We have prohibitions against certain drugs, consensual sex, and gambling." I notice John found 13 Bad things but only 10 Good things to list. Does that means our country is more bad than good? "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"

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"

I have a new travel goal: I want to be like that guy who goes around trying to eat at every McDonald's there is, except with Renn Fairs. I see each one now as being like a different group's effort to create artificially a time travel trip to the middle ages. I want to visit each one and see how they compare! I want to eat Steak-on-a-Stake at every different medieval village in the nation, and judge which one is the best! I want to hear people in an English town who speak with a Texas Accent! And finally, I have a reason to book a trip on a cruise ship (since I'm still waiting for them to build that recreation of the Titanic): I read on the internets that there's a Renn Fair onboard a Cruise Ship somewhere! Can it be true? The mind reels. "as for us we cannot help but speak of the things which we have seen and heard." -- Acts 4:20, a verse that has become my favorite to use when I'm playing Fluxx with the Christian expansion and I get the Bible Verses card. (Thanks for pointing that one out to me, Carol! But I'm still on the lookout for a cool, interesting, obscure Hebrew word to memorize for when I run into the Hebrew Knowledge card.)

It's a sad day when our National Space Policy's primary goal is changed from "Enhance knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the Universe" to "Further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives." I'm glad I don't work for NASA anymore.

The first gay couple I know to actually get married (in Canada) have broken up. It's sad, but of course, a huge percentage of straight marriages end in divorce, so it's not really surprising. And I guess that's what equal rights are all about: having the same opportunities to succeed means also having the same risks of failure.

I agree with everything George Will says about how stupid it is for our government to be criminalizing internet gambling, and I certainly agree with his comparisons to the failures of alcohol prohibition. The only thing that bugs me about his article is his attempt to call this Prohibition II. That's totally incorrect -- this would be Prohibition 3 at least, maybe even Prohibition 4. The War on Drugs is obviously Prohibition II, and it's been doing all the same damage for a much longer time even than the original policy disaster we call Prohibition. I'm disappointed with George Will's failure to point this out. "When something is not working, we, as a society, must have the courage to try something different. Thankfully, we had the courage to abandon the experiment of Alcohol Prohibition when it became obvious that it was doing more harm than good. Even the most conservative among us do not advocate that we return to that disastrous policy, which made violent criminal gangs rich and wreaked havoc on our streets. It has now become obvious that it is time to abandon our experiment with marijuana prohibition in favor of a system of strict regulation with sensible safeguards like those proposed in Question 7." -- Rev. Jerry Pruess, a retired Lutheran minister (from the conservative Missouri Synod denomination), one of 33 Nevada religious leaders who recently endorsed their state's upcoming initiative to legalize marijuana

I've been getting into a couple of new prime-time hour-long game shows, both from the same production team: Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100. I admire the design of both games, which are what I call Push-Your-Luck style games. The first is all about luck, whereas the second includes trivia, so if I could, I'd choose for Kristin to be a contestant on Deal or No Deal, while I'd like to be on 1 vs. 100. Why? Well, Kristin hates trivia, and she's both lucky and good at push-your-luck games (our inspiration, Cosmic Wimpout, being a classic example), so I think she could do really well on DoND. As for me, I'm good at trivia plus I really like the 1 vs. 100 concept. I'd even be happy just with a chance to be one of the 100, aka "the Mob." (Either way of course, it'd be great to win some big bucks, since Looney Labs needs investment money yet again...) "What our deliberate, pluralistic democracy demands is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason. If I am opposed to abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to peoples of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. For those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do, such rules of engagement may seem just one more example of the tyranny of the secular and material worlds over the sacred and eternal. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice." -- Senator Barack Obama, seen quoted on page 60 of the October 23rd 2006 issue of Time Magazine (with him on the cover)

I've also been getting into this new show "Heroes," but the more I watch it the more I want it to be just about the one hero with the power I'd want myself: the Japanese office worker, named Hiro, who can bend the time-space continuum with his brain. In fact, what I think would be perfect would be a movie, rather than a weekly show, made up of just the scenes featuring him. It would be called "Hiro." "The active ingredient of marijuana could be considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer's than any currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of the disease. Scientists report the finding in the Oct. 2 issue of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics." -- Charles Q. Choi, "Marijuana's Key Ingredient Might Fight Alzheimer's"

I learned recently (from a show on the History Channel) that if the A-bomb hadn't worked and a ground invasion of Japan had been required to end WWII, the Pacific equivalent of D-Day would have been called X-Day. I wish I'd known that when I was designing Chrononauts, I would have used it on the Patch card for 1945-A ("Allied Troops Invade Tokyo").

Why isn't Peter Jackson making a movie of The Hobbit? As far as I'm concerned, The Lord of the Rings is a 4-book series, not a trilogy (The Silmarilion and other Lost Tales being, to me at least, more like bonus tracks or DVD extras) and the set is currently incomplete. I can see wanting to take some time away from Hobbits, but with his King Kong remake all done, it seems to me that it's time for Jackson to go back to the Shire and make the needful prequel.

We've just learned that, since we make all our games in the USA, Looney Labs qualifies for a special tax break for companies that do their production domestically! And it's getting better! The deduction doubles in 2007, and goes to 9% after that, so the tax savings could be substantial! [Our pyramids are manufactured right here in Maryland, as are many of our smaller printing tasks, and our card games are printed in Tennessee, which is also where the coaster company (now making Martian Coasters for us) is located.]

It dawned on me last night, while watching the Lost season 3 opener, that the main character has the same name as a now-obscure historical personality: Jack Sheppard. (The original Jack Sheppard was a thief who became famous for breaking out of prisons over and over again, early in the 18th century.) It's probably just a coincidence, but on this show, you never know. Various Lost-watchers have noted that the character name Henry Gale is undoubtedly a Wizard of Oz reference, so perhaps other names are clues as well. So maybe this Jack Sheppard is destined to break out of the prison that is the island they're all trapped on.

Wow! In the most recent anti-drug commercial from the ONDCP, "Pete's Couch," the government actually admits that marijuana use is remarkably non-toxic ("safest thing in the world," the ad says) and that the "gateway effect" is nonsense. The worst thing pot does, according to the Drug Czar's latest ad, is to make you sit too long on the couch. OK. So why is it illegal? Can we stop arresting people for it now? (BTW, I think it's pretty rude to say that stoners don't take risks in life. After all, they're brave enough to risk going to jail in order to pursue their passion for couch-sitting. Do you have that much dedication to your hobby?)

I first learned about the exploits of Jack Sheppard from my brother Jeff, who had this idea for a story called "Harry and Jack Escape From Hell." The idea was that Jack Sheppard meets up in the afterlife with Harry Houdini, the other greatest escape artist of all time, and together they find a way to break out of the underworld. Who else but those two working together could escape from the ultimate prison? I liked this idea so much that in 1985, I worked it into one of my earliest game design efforts, a LARP called Reklone 3: The Road to the Future. In that game, Harry & Jack had just escaped from Hell when they found themselves being automatically summoned to the Crystal Palace (along with everyone else outside of the normal time-stream) for an Emergency Meeting of the Union of Time Travelers. Since I wrote the part with him in mind, Jeff agreed to play Jack Sheppard, and he got a friend of his (named Ted) to play Houdini. Harry & Jack went on to play vital roles in preventing the destruction of the entire universe, due to an expanding hole in the Time-Space Continuum. (I reused a number of ideas from Reklone-3 in the design of Chrononauts, but neither Harry nor Jack have made an appearance in any of my modern games... yet.)

Speaking of ads, I can't believe the Vegas people are still running that commercial where the lawn-mower guy extorts a double-sized fee from a customer whom he saw cavorting in Vegas the weekend before. Is that really the message they want to be sending? Apparently, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas at all... instead, it will become blackmail material for your hired help to use against you.

Sharon's Day Report: This year's day out was a bit more modest than our trips in recent years to 1536 and 1775. This year, at Sharon's request, we did a repeat of our 2002 miniature golfing trip, followed by a sumptuous feast of Chinese food. Along the way, we went to Target where Sharon chose for herself the gift she most wanted: a beginner's digital camera. (James also got a Sharon's Day gift of his choice: a bunch of Yu-gi-oh cards! That boy's gonna be a gamer...)
"You're playing Fluxx 3.1 with two other players. The only New Rule card in play is Hand Limit 0. Nobody has any Keepers in play, or cards in their hand. The current goal is 10 Cards in Hand. It's your turn. Is there a possible arrangement of cards in the deck that would let you win, without changing the Goal, before the next person gets a turn? If so, what's the simplest arrangement (i.e., fewest specific cards at the top of the deck before you reach the 'rest of the cards can be in any order' point)?" -- Andrew R. Mutchler's Fluxx Puzzle, posted to the Fluxx mailing list on September 17 [the next day, Zarf posted a solution that gets you to 12 cards in hand with just 5 cards]

I really should have explicitly mentioned Starship Exeter in my Star Trek Geekery of last week. Starship Exeter is another fan-created Star Trek series set in the timeframe of the original show, but on a different ship in the fleet. I'd previously seen only their first episode (The Savage Empire), which (also like New Voyages) was impressive just for what it is, but otherwise not that amazing. Until now I hadn't seen any of their second episode (The Tressaurian Intersection) which they've only released half of so far... but now I'm on the edge of my seat! I'm really looking forward to seeing how it will end, but unfortunately, spare-time projects are slow... the last time they added a segment was in February, and from what I'm hearing on their podcasts, it will still be a long time before they'll finish up the post-production work. But I'm really looking forward to it! (Incidentally, Starship Exeter reminds me of my own idea for a comedic Trek series... particularly this "Night Shift" sketch that was shot as test footage prior to the filming of their second episode.)
"Carry a piece of paper wherever you go. To give yourself the necessary urgent facial expressions and body language, imagine it's something incredibly important, like a stay of execution from the governor." -- One of the tips for "How-To Look Busy," by Scott Adams, from the How-To Guide that appears in the August 2006 issue of WIRED magazine (I also enjoyed Daniel Gilbert's "How to Be a Happy Person," point #5: "DON'T REPRODUCE: People are happier when napping or watching television than when taking care of kids.")

I really enjoyed the new Reflections by David Sedaris, called "In the Waiting Room." It's subtitled "The advantages of speaking French," but it really should have been "The dangers of always saying Yes to questions, even in a foreign country when you didn't quite understand what you're being asked." This liberal "just say yes" policy finds him sitting nearly naked in a waiting room where, to avoid looking stupid, he decides "to remain where I was and pretend that everything was normal. La la la."
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn." -- Rod Serling, from the closing narrative for "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" (quoted by Keith Olbermann during his Sept. 11th Fifth Anniversary commentary) "Instead of reducing the likelihood that kids would smoke marijuana, the ads increased it. Westat found that 'greater exposure to the campaign was associated with weaker anti-drug norms and increases in the perceptions that others use marijuana.' More exposure to the ads led to higher rates of first-time drug use among certain groups, like 14- to 16-year-olds and white kids. Five years and $43 million to show that a billion-dollar ad campaign doesn't work? That's bad.  But perhaps worse, and as yet unreported, NIDA and the White House drug office sat on the Westat report for a year and a half beginning in early 2005--while spending $220 million on the anti-marijuana ads in fiscal years 2005 and 2006." -- Ryan Grim "A White House Drug Deal Gone Bad: Sitting on the Negative Results of a Study of Anti-Marijuana Ads"
"The media focuses relentless attention on the president, on the premise that he is actually the chief executive. But for all intents and purposes, Cheney is chief, and Bush is more in the ceremonial role of the queen of England. Yet the press buys the pretense of Bush being 'the decider,' and relentlessly covers Bush -- meeting with world leaders, cutting brush, holding press conferences, while Cheney works in secret, largely undisturbed. So let's take half the members of the overblown White House press corps, which has almost nothing to do anyway, and send them over to Cheney Boot Camp for Reporters. They might learn how to be journalists again, and we might learn who is running the government." -- Robert Kuttner, "The Cheney presidency" "I tell people now that this extradition attempt is a blessing, because it has galvanized the world movement for cannabis peace. It has given me an even stronger personal urge to have marijuana legalized in Canada within two years, and I am given opportunity in regular media exposure to be a proud spokesperson for our great culture. I am not afraid of the task ahead of me. I am not afraid of jail for the rest of my life, undoubtably painful as that would be. I don't fear prison rape or abuse or suffering or lonliness, though those miseries will no doubt be present in a US federal prison. My fear is that the marijuana people will continue to be taken away to lives of ruin and despair by a murderous police state. My fear is that Canada will be absorbed as a compliant puppet state of the US War on Drugs. My fear is that the DEA, with offices in 65 nations around the Earth, will have more and more citizens from other countries extradited to the USA to face draconian punishments for the rest of their lives." -- Marc Emery's Message

It's a sad week for the stoners of Hamilton (and freedom-lovers everywhere) as the Up In Smoke Cafe (which we've visited a number of times) has now been shut down forever. Founder Chris Goodwin (currently in jail) pushed the envelope too far in April, by freely giving away a whole bunch of weed during a 4/20 celebration (which resulted in a raid just days before our last visit), and now the club is gone. But I expect another smoke-easy will open in Hamilton soon...

Inspiration is like lightning: you never know when or where it will strike. Often ideas occur during a (brain)storm, when you can kind of expect it, but sometimes they strike totally out of nowhere. Depending on how interesting the idea is, and what else is going on and such, I will often go into a sort of trance, becoming deep in thought, pondering the idea, running thought experiments, etc. And of course, after 16 years of marriage (Happy Anniversary to us tomorrow, dear!) my wife Kristin can read me like a book, and she can tell as soon as I'm getting one that I'm having an idea. Sometimes I'll go off on my ponderings, knowing that she's waiting for me to snap back to reality and tell her about the idea I just had, and sometimes I do; other times, I'll insist on having more time to think about it before explaining whatever the idea is. And that's what it takes, to get time to ponder an idea before presenting it to Kristin, at least for any idea I have while she's nearby... she's so good at noticing when an idea has occurred to me that even when I try to totally keep that fact to myself, she's always asking "What did you just think of?" (It's a good thing she doesn't play poker with me, she'd probably be great at picking up on my tells.)
"Drugs are just less interesting here. One of my best friends here never smoked cannabis, never wanted to even try my products.  Then when she was 32 she went to America on holiday and smoked for the first time.  I asked her why, and she said: 'It was more fun over there.  It was illegal.' " -- Arjan Roskam, owner of an Amsterdam Coffeeshop called the Green House, seen quoted in a New York Times article, "The Czars' Reefer Madness"

I figured out why I enjoyed "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?" so much. It wasn't just that it was a comic book reality show hosted by Stan "the Man" Lee, it was also basically a competitive LARP. The players created their own superheroic secret identities, and many of the elimination challenges turned on who did the best job of staying in character. Congrats to the winner! I can't wait to see your comic book and made-for-cable movie! (And while I'm on the subject, I can't resist quoting Kristin's favorite line, which a little girl said after asking one of the superhero contestants about his favorite videogame. After the hero said it was Pong, the little girl said: "I've never heard of the game Pong. I think he made it up.")

I was fascinated by this article on How to Persuade Your Neighbors to Quiet their Barking Dogs. The author, Craig Mixon, has spent a lot of time dealing with this issue, and has concluded that over 45% of the people with noisy dogs are either malicious or recalcitrant and thus are just impossible to deal with: "When you encounter an intractably obstinate person keeping a chronically barking dog, you are dealing with a diagnosable personality disorder, (usually a Borderline, or a Narcissistic, or a Paranoid, or an anti-social Personality Disorder) who is incapable of participating in mutually respectful relationships."

This week we finally finished up the revisions for Are You a Werewolf? 3rd Edition. The changes are mostly very minor and are driven by efficiency issues... instead of including a separate rules insert, the instructions will now appear on a series of 4 extra cards. The game itself is not changing, but the new edition will include some added recommendations, like playing only with odd numbers, limiting villages to 15 people, and using options like Timed-Days and No First-Night Kills. Also included is a section called Types of Hunters, describing the differences between Detectives and Avengers, to help players understand their preferred hunting-styles. AYAW? 3rd Edition should be available in a month or so, and the price will still be just $4.

I love how YouTube has become a venue for releasing and promoting short films that otherwise would have trouble finding an audience. For example, this week I got emails pointing me to a pair of excellent short films just released by a couple of the best Drug Peace organizations at work today, the Drug Policy Alliance and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Please go watch both of these films, then point them out to people you know! (On a lighter note, I also really enjoyed these two comedy bits by Patton Oswalt.) "Consumers might warm to the idea that anytime viewing brings with it a tradeoff in the form of unavoidable commercial viewing." -- Mike Shaw, ABC President of Advertising Sales, seen quoted in an article on ABC's efforts to disable the fast-forward button on DVRs

I feel sorry for Yogi Bear. Last week at King's Dominion, I was struck by the fact that the classic attraction I recall as "Yogi's Cave" had been lamely rethemed as a generic "Treasure Cave." Why? Everywhere around me I saw examples of booths and rides with some sort of character or brand grafted onto the front, up to and including the park itself, which now is officially known by the awkward moniker of Paramount's King's Dominion. So why was poor old Yogi kicked out of his cave? It can't be that they lost the license... Boo Boo still has his ride right next door. And it's not like some other newer more important character had taken over, as has happened elsewhere in the park. No, the cave was simply de-Yogized. The re-themeing was so clumsy as to leave intact subtle gags that don't make much sense now, like the sign that says "Bear Left." But then again, I guess that's the point: instead of encouraging us to imagine that Yogi Bear was around the left corner, the sign now tells us that the bear has left the cave. But why? Where did Yogi go?

I'm fondly remembering our family's favorite ice cream parlor, long gone now: Weile's Creations. They had brightly-colored whipped creams and amazing sundaes so big you needed a team to eat them, with fun names like the Drip, the Empire State, the Tin Roof, and the Brown Beauty. They'd top their desserts not just with cherries but with small toys and such... I remember saving the little flags that came sticking out of the top of a Washington Monument. No Wikipedia page yet, but Joe H described Weile's as "the greatest, most spectacular ice cream parlor of all" (in the DC area, anyway), remembering that they offered a sundae called the Lincoln Memorial, which cost $30 at the time and was meant for a party of 50 people. I was reminded of Weile's last weekend, when Dad told me a funny memory he'd just heard from my sister Kathi... she described a time when she was 3 or 4 years old (which means I was around 8) and Dad used a spit-moistened hanky to clean the residue of one of Weile's Creation's off of her face. When she complained about it to me, I reportedly said "Well, you should learn to use your napkin!"

A comparison of the amount of caffeine in various popular products (derived from an article of National Geographic from Jan '05):

  • 25 mg: Hershey's milk chocolate almond bar, 6 oz
  • 40 mg: Espresso, 1-oz shot
  • 57 mg: Coca-Cola, 20-oz bottle
  • 75 mg: Brewed tea, 12-oz cup
  • 92 mg: Mountain Dew, 20-oz bottle
  • 130 mg: Excedrin pain reliever, 2 tablets
  • 200 mg: Brewed coffee, 12-oz cup
"I know we tend to think of games as childhood pastimes, but there are many, many adults-only games out there which can provide good fun without the family. Games are really the ideal group activity. Everyone has a good time (unless you're one of those scary ultra competitive people who can't have a good time unless they're winning, in which case, go away), and people actually talk while playing. While I enjoy a good movie night as much as the next guy (probably moreso), talking during a movie can be rude. Talking during a game is expected. Think of all those televised celebrity poker matches you see on the TV:  the people are beautiful, laughing, always having a good time, and exchanging witty banter (or at least trying to).  Yes, you too can be a celebrity.  Just bring back the games night." -- Lev AC Rosen, "Your Boy Friday: Games"

On March 1st, Wikipedia hit the million-article mark (with an entry on Jordanhill, a railway station in suburban Glasgow). By comparison, the Encyclopædia Britannica (the gold standard for reference works for the previous two centuries) only has a hundred and twenty thousand entries in its most comprehensive edition. (Learned from a New Yorker article called Know It All.) "We face a future where almost anything could happen. Will we be crippled by global warming, weapons proliferation and species depletion, or liberated by space travel, world government and molecule-sized computers? We don't even want to start thinking about it. This is our peculiar form of selfishness, a studied disregard of the future. Our astonishing success as a technical civilisation has led us to complacency -- to expect that things will probably just keep getting better. But there is no reason to believe this. We might be living in the last gilded bubble of a great civilisation about to collapse into a new Dark Age, which, given our hugely amplified and widespread destructive powers, could be very dark indeed. If we want to contribute to some sort of tenable future, we have to reach a frame of mind where it comes to seem unacceptable - gauche, uncivilised - to act in disregard of our descendants." -- Brian Eno, "The Big Here and Long Now"
"There are 2 things you have to do to be a Looney: Read and Play Games." -- my 9-year old nephew James
"I grew up in the age before microwave ovens, when vcrs where expensive and spoke only in military time. It was the golden age of arcade games, when every mall had an arcade, and every kid who could scrape up 25 cents could be a hero. I used to go to arcades like 'Time Out', and spend hours in the local People's drug, which had an aisle of arcade games and a coin changer. Back then, we listened to bands like Van Halen and Led Zeppelin, ate burgers at Roy Rogers, read Heavy Metal magazine and took buses all over town to get to 'newer' video games." -- Skipernicus, writing at his LiveJournal about a youthtime much like my own "Twenty-two of the 36 volunteers reported having a 'complete' mystical experience, compared to four of those getting methylphenidate. That experience included such things as a sense of pure awareness and a merging with ultimate reality, a transcendence of time and space, a feeling of sacredness or awe, and deeply felt positive mood like joy, peace and love. People say 'they can't possibly put it into words,' Griffiths said. Two months later, 24 of the participants filled out a questionnaire. Two-thirds called their reaction to psilocybin one of the five top most meaningful experiences of their lives. On another measure, one-third called it the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, with another 40% ranking it in the top five." -- Malcolm Ritter, "Mushroom Drug Produces Mystical Experience"

Our goal of getting rabbits to multiply appears to be extending its influence into the natural world surrounding our house. We've been living here for almost 2 decades, and for the first time I'm seeing feral bunnies running around in our front yard! "Social isolation has many well-documented side effects. Kids fail to thrive. Crime rises. Politics coarsens. Generosity shrivels. Death comes sooner (social isolation is as big a risk factor for premature death as smoking). Well-connected people live longer, happier lives, even if they have to forgo a new Lexus to spend time with friends." -- Robert Putnam, "You Gotta Have Friends: A study finds that Americans are getting lonelier"

A couple of random memorable quotes overhead by Robin at Origins:

  • "There's 3 of us?!?" -- a werewolf's last words, after someone in the village asserted [incorrectly] that there were 3 werewolves hiding among them
  • "It's like meeting Willy Wonka!!!" -- words of fan after getting an autographed Andy Looney Keeper card
"Before the 29th, I had read about this and I knew many, many things about eclipses. And yet it turned out that I was completely unprepared... Words cannot describe the force of this stare. I had planned to spend totality roaming the helipad, observing the reactions of the other eclipse watchers, but the instant this stare was upon me I was powerless to move. I was powerless to think. I seemed to be standing waist-deep in honey, holding my brain in a jar." -- Jake Silverstein, describing the experience of seeing a Total Solar Eclipse in the company of the "Eclipse Addicts," hardcore enthusiasts who try to be wherever they need to be every 18 months, so that they never to miss a TSE (a event which most people never experience) in an article in the current issue of Seed magazine

This week I finally got around to trying out the computerized adaptations of several of our games which Zarf & Jmac & the others at have been implementing... and they rock! Nice job, guys! Zarf mentioned at Origins that he's thinking about doing a version of Homeworlds soon... wow, I'd sure love to see that! Particularly if they can create a "Starship Captain" Bot to play against!     "So, say 'yes.' In fact, say 'yes' as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, 'yes-and.' In this case, 'yes-and' is a verb. To 'yes-and.' I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what's going to happen, maybe with someone you've never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you're doctors -- you're doctors. And then, you add to that: We're doctors and we're trapped in an ice cave. That's the '-and.' And then hopefully they 'yes-and' you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other's lead, neither of you are really in control. It's more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience. Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say 'yes.' And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say 'yes' back." -- Stephen Colbert, Knox College 2006 Commencement Address, June 3, 2006

I've been learning all sorts of fascinating things today from the aptly-named DamnInteresting website, including:

  • Nuclear reactions have occurred naturally! (At least once, in Africa, long ago, when radioactive half-lives were longer)
  • An early atomic bomb "putter-togetherer" died in 1947 because they were testing chunks of radioactive material at near-critical levels by holding them apart with a screwdriver, and he slipped
  • There's a movement to demolish the Georgia Guidestones, a strange, anonymously constructed monument built on public land in 1980
  • The Russians spent decades trying to drill a hole so deep they'd break through the crust and into the mantle (but they never quite made it)
  • In India, most people who report Near Death Experiences say they were returned to Earth because of a bureaucratic mistake, such as having the same name as the person whom Yamraj (the Hindu God of Death) was actually expecting
"Americans still live in one of the few countries that kill people to make clear what a terrible thing killing people is. Hardly any other civilized place does this anymore. In the past three decades, the number of nations that have abolished the death penalty has risen from 16 to 86. Last year four countries accounted for nearly all executions worldwide: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. As my Irish grandmother used to say, you're known by the company you keep." -- Anna Quindlen, "The Failed Experiment"   "I have friends who are alive today because of medical marijuana. These are people who suffered unbearable nausea from chemotherapy or retroviral drugs - nausea that only marijuana was able to bring under control. The bottom line [on the recent FDA rejection of medical marijuana] is that this is another sign that science at the FDA has given way to politics. They just pretend research evidence for the medical value of marijuana doesn't exist. But in fact quite a bit does - - even though the federal government has done everything it can to keep this research from being conducted. They're terribly afraid of such research, because any serious scientific study of the subject is going to reveal how little basis there is for their claims. Continuing to demonize marijuana is the key to the drug war, and the drug war pays the salaries of a lot of people." -- Bruce Mirken (of the Marijuana Policy Project) as quoted in an article by Paul Campos (a professor of law at the University of Colorado) entitled "Follow the Drug War Money"

According to a new Zogby poll, 39% of those surveyed said they think the Election of 2004 was stolen, with only 54% thinking it was legitimate. What's particularly interesting about this poll is that they also asked about the news channel those surveyed favored: 70% of CNN viewers believe there was voter fraud, while an amazing 99% of Fox News viewers thought the election was legitimate.

We're finally getting into Toys R Us! It's just a test program at first -- 50 of their top game-selling stores will soon be carrying Family Fluxx -- but if it does well it could lead to a lot more. Woo-hoo!

"Please, try to understand the way we work at Neen: we consider all visual/audio material as everybody's property. It's more cool like that." -- amazing view of intellectual property law found quoted on

My sample copy of the encrypted version of Icebreaker 2 has finally arrived! And it's works! They did it! They successfully encrypted my final work-in-progress test disc, and now it can be played on any standard 3DO instead of the extremely rare developer's testing stations. I actually own 2 of these, but I'd become reluctant about using them very much, since I've always figured they'd be the only way for me to ever be able to play this extended version of my only videogame, and therefore haven't wanted to risk wearing them out. But soon, OlderGames will publish it and anyone with a 3DO will be able to play it! And it's great! Now that we can finally play Icebreaker 2 in our primary videogaming lounge, we've been getting addicted to it all over again. And the new features are SO cool! And while the level grid is incomplete and uneven, there are some excellent levels in there. Now I need to write some liner notes and such so that the OlderGames guys can move forward on publishing it...

"The issue of what happened in 2004 is not an academic one. For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office -- which means, in effect, that we have been deprived of our faith in democracy itself. American history is littered with vote fraud -- but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people." -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?"

We're finally getting close to printing the Holy Fluxx expansions, and with final decision time at hand, I've finally decided to use my sister-in-law's suggestion (thanks Ruth!) to specify on the Bible Verses card that the player should say "Jesus wept" if they can't think of any other Bible Verse to quote. I'd basically already decided on this, since (as Ruth pointed out) it's famously the shortest actual verse in the Bible and because it's funny to imagine that Jesus might be weeping because you couldn't think of any other Bible Verses to quote. But now I have a third reason: I've just learned from Wikipedia that in some places, "the phrase 'Jesus wept' is a common expletive, curse or minced oath spoken when something goes wrong or to express mild incredulity." Well, that just makes it perfect!

"The cure for 1984 is 1776." -- comment posted by Mentifex on a Mother Jones article (entitled "Uppity Cleveland woman carted to psych hospital by police and ordered to a psych unit by judge")

I have dim yet vivid memories of the original McDonaldland TV ads from 1971, which were pretty far-out and trippy when compared to modern McDonald's marketing. Gosh I'd like to see those again! Now I've learned from Wikipedia (I sure love Wikipedia) why it all changed just a few months later... they were sued! By the H.R. Pufnstuf guys! For intellectual property violations! And McDonald's paid a $50K settlement, and had to totally change their whole campaign!

"People who smoke marijuana may be at less risk of developing lung cancer than tobacco smokers, according to a study presented yesterday. The study of 2,200 people in Los Angeles found that even heavy marijuana smokers were no more likely to develop lung, head, or neck cancer than nonusers, in contrast with tobacco users, whose risk increases the more they smoke." -- Heather Burke, "Marijuana Cancer Risk Played Down," Boston Globe, May 24, 2006

"'The same procedure as last year, Madam?'
'The same procedure as *every* year, James.'"
-- a question repeatedly asked and answered in an obscure 11-minute British film from 1963 called Dinner for One, which has become Germany's most popular New Year's tradition [and which I'd like to get a copy of for myself, so as to join in the traditional yearly viewings...]

"It's easier to rig an electronic voting machine than a Las Vegas slot machine, says University of Pennsylvania visiting professor Steve Freeman. That's because Vegas slots are better monitored and regulated than America's voting machines, Freeman writes in a book out in July that argues, among other things, that President Bush may owe his 2004 win to an unfair vote count. We'll wait to read his book before making a judgment about that. But Freeman has assembled comparisons that suggest Americans protect their vices more than they guard their rights, according to data he presented at an October meeting of the American Statistical Association in Philadelphia." -- "How To Steal an Election," The Washington Post, May 16, 2006

Yay for the Hippies! BJ & Tyler, nicknamed the Hippies, narrowly beat the Frat Boys to become the winners of a million bucks on this season's finale of the Amazing Race! It was a particularly thrilling race for Hippie-watchers, because not once but twice they came in last but weren't eliminated from the race because it was a non-elimination round. Well done Hippies! Congrats! (And if you feel like investing some of your winnings in a Hippie Game Company, give us a call.)

"If cannabis were unknown, and bioprospectors were suddenly to find it in some remote mountain crevice, its discovery would no doubt be hailed as a medical breakthrough. Scientists would praise its potential for treating everything from pain to cancer, and marvel at its rich pharmacopoeia-many of whose chemicals mimic vital molecules in the human body. In reality, cannabis has been with humanity for thousands of years and is considered by many governments (notably America's) to be a dangerous drug without utility. Any suggestion that the plant might be medically useful is politically controversial, whatever the science says. It is in this context that, on April 20th, America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement saying that smoked marijuana has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. The statement is curious in a number of ways." -- The Economist, "Reefer Madness: Marijuana is medically useful, whether politicians like it or not"

"A collapsing economy is especially hard on those who are accustomed to prompt, courteous service. In the Soviet Union, most official service was rude and slow, and involved standing in long lines. Many of the products that were in short supply could not be obtained even in this manner, and required something called blat: special, unofficial access or favor. The exchange of personal favors was far more important to the actual functioning of the economy than the exchange of money. To Russians, blat is almost a sacred thing: a vital part of culture that holds society together. It is also the only part of the economy that is collapse-proof, and, as such, a valuable cultural adaptation." -- Dmitry Orlov, seen quoted in a Speech by Michael C. Ruppert called "The Paradigm Is The Enemy: The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse"

It's the little differences (as Vincent Vega said) that make international travel so much fun. Here are a couple of little differences I noticed this time in Canada: 1.) Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts (a particular favorite of mine) is much more readily available in Canada than in the US. 2.) Those Lipton noodle dinner packets are still available in a flavor called Cheddar and Sour Cream, which I beleive is same recipe as the long discontinued American flavor, Noodles Romanoff. 3.) The new US ten dollar bill is a yucky shade of yellow, whereas the Canadian ten is my favorite color: Purple!

"I am vegephobic. I hate vegetables. They are foul-smelling, foul-tasting, and posessed of a texture that seems scientifically engineered to make me cringe. I recoil at the very thought of having to eat vegetables. In short, vegetables are evil. And I suspect that many of you reading this page feel the same way. Here we are, in the supposedly enlightened 21st Century, where we can buy any number of wondrous artifacts to make our lives easier and more pleasant, and can sue somebody just for looking at us funny. Yet, despite all these advances, we are still bombarded from every direction with the message that we have to eat our vegetables, as though it's some moral duty we must all endure. Well, I'm here to tell you: You don't have to eat vegetables! You can get all the macronutrients you need from grain products, meat products, and dairy products. You can get all the micronutrients you need from vitamin pills. The alleged health benefits of having vegetables in your diet have been grossly exaggerated. The instincive revulsion to eating those icky plants, which most of us have felt from early childhood, is there for a reason." -- Roger M. Wilcox, "Vegetable-Free Living"

"Food items solve crimes." -- capsule description of the Cartoon Network series "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," as provided by our cable box (which for some reason we found hilarious)

"Salad isn't food. Salad is what food eats." -- message on a button I was given at Penguicon this year by Colleen (aka Nazgul Bunny)

"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

"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

"The hotel wanted us to do the panel somewhere else, but where they wanted us to do the panel was already being used by people playing games, eating lunch, and by a 'stuffed animal tea party,' at which, you guessed it, a bunch of stuffed animals were having a delightful afternoon repast. So there was nowhere for us to have our panel. Writer Dave Klecha suggested that maybe we should change the panel to 'Tea parties in Science Fiction' instead. So we did." -- John Scalzi's Whatever blog, "Penguicon Notes" entry

"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

Consider Galaxy Quest. It was just like Star Trek, except for the numerous minor ways in which it was deliberately different. Now consider Star Trek itself. In the history books of the characters who live in the Star Trek Universe, no TV show called "Star Trek" can actually exist as such, since the events depicted are supposed to be real events, not the fictional plots of a TV show. So here's what I'd like to see: a Star Trek episode that makes reference to (and even features a clip from) an influential TV sci-fi show from the 20th century, which would turn out to be Galaxy Quest.

The sessions at Penguicon 4.0 provided a striking example of why we officially discourage playing Are You a Werewolf? with an oversized village. (As Josh put it in his internally-emailed report, it was "an unmitigated disaster.") Instead of creating 2 or 3 Villages, and starting a new one each time you had enough dead people hanging around (like we do at Origins), this group insisted on playing as one gigantic village. And instead of starting something so fun it would continue literally all night, the game fell apart after just one hunt. It really isn't as much fun when you get past about 15 people. Just because you CAN play it with 30 or more doesn't mean you should. Don't make the mistake of thinking the game will be even more fun with even more people: the test results have proven otherwise.

"Hi Andy, just wanted to thank you again for the car, and to let you know that it is running great again (I replaced a few vacuum lines and a solenoid on the carb, and the smell you said it had was fixed with a valve cover gasket). When we got home, Rhoda washed and waxed it, she loves it! It is being tagged tomorrow and she will be driving it every day so thanks again for a great little car. It will get a second life like you hoped. Thank you" -- Grumpy, the guy who bought my old purple car

"By this time, the suitcase was getting very heavy, so, I rested on a grassy knoll, and took a peek inside. As I opened it, out burst a fountain of many-colored butterflies, rainbow game counters, chess pieces, laughing cutlery, tiny chairs and tables, and flying plates covered with exotic fruit." -- one of several surreal spoken word bits which appear between songs on an album by the band XTC (performing under the name The Dukes of Stratosphear) called "Chips From The Chocolate Fireball" [Another of these bits goes like this: "I took the strangely-glowing ticket from the giant crane-fly, and turned to get onto the train. 'Hurry,' he hissed, and then before my eyes, changed into a splendid cream bun."]

I'm pleased to report that my old purple car will be getting a good home! The auction was won by a man folks call Grumpy, and he's just the sort of guy I was hoping would buy it - he likes tinkering with old cars (he's even owned this kind before), his wife loves the color (and the cool gear shift knob), and he's planning to fix it up and keep it running! Since he's from West Virginia he won't be concerned with the Maryland Emissions Testing issue that prompted me to go ahead and sell the car, and he thinks he knows how to fix the cause of the smells that makes me worried it wouldn't pass the Emissions Test. In short, Grumpy is my dream buyer! And I'm getting $150 for it! Yay!

I recently posted a long article with an update on our plans for moving to Canada, and why it's taking so long. One thing I didn't mention was the change in their political climate. Two years ago, Canada's liberal government was on the verge of decriminalizing cannabis, but now, their Conservative Prime Minister is attempting to reverse all that, not just scrapping the decrim plan but pledging to increase penalties and worse. We have many reasons for wanting to go north, but as anti-prohibition activists, one of the biggest was their recent proximity to marijuana freedom. Suddenly, I'm in less of a hurry... moving to Stephen Harper's Canada just isn't as appealing.

We've been really enjoying the new PS2 videogame Shadow of the Colossus. The giant monsters you do battle with are amazing! But in some ways the horse-riding simulator game (which you play in between the fight scenes) is even cooler.

If you've been following the debate over which name we should use for one of our new Holy Fluxx expansions, you'll be interested to know that we've finally decided to change it from Bible Fluxx to Christian Fluxx. Although there were many votes for the name Bible Fluxx, it just doesn't sound right alongside Jewish Fluxx.

"ABSTRACT: This experiment measured the effects of tactical decision making on the likelihood of victory in the card game Fluxx, and gauged the amount of first player advantage. Two hundred test games were conducted in which players alternated the roles of first player and of playing randomly. It was found that the tactical player won 86% of the games, while the random player won 14%. The starting player won 54% of all games. This concludes that Fluxx players greatly benefit from tactical decision making, but that first player advantage is negligible." -- Ryan Hackel, "On the Effects of Tactical Decision Making on the Card Game Fluxx"

"Participants who used cannabis seven days a week demonstrated no difference from non-cannabis users on indices of motivation. These findings refute hypothesized associations between heavy cannabis use and low motivation ... Daily users reported slightly lower median subjective well-being scores ( 2 points less on a 28-point scale ) ... Post-hoc tests find that some portion of the differences in subjective wellbeing arose from medical users, whose illnesses may contribute to low subjective wellbeing more than their cannabis use." -- results of a study debunking "amotivational syndrome," conducted by Sara Smucker Barnwell, a graduate student in the psychology department at the University of Southern California, who analyzed responses from some 1,300 people to questions on an "Apathy Evaluation Scale" and a "Satisfaction with Life Scale"

"You confused the issue with the Monday story headlined 'Double slaying probably drug-related, police say.' Remember the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929 when Al Capone's men gunned down men from the competing Bugs Moran gang? Would you say that was 'alcohol-related'? Hardly. Those thugs didn't kill each other because they were drunk; they killed each other over money, and the gang wars stopped when the prohibition on alcohol was repealed. The Keller slayings, like the 1920s Chicago slayings, were prohibition-related, not drug-related. Let's put the blame where it belongs." -- Carl Veley, Letter to the Editor of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, March 19, 2006

I've been catching up on a few movies lately. I finally saw Donnie Darko and I'm surprised to say I didn't really like it much. (It had many interesting elements, but overall it just didn't work for me.) On the other hand, I loved The Call of Cthulhu, a B&W silent movie made last year, an adaptation of the Lovecraft story from 1926 (filmed in the style of movies from that era). In the middle was Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, which mostly just got me excited about the obvious sequel (which is apparently now in production): Harold and Kumar go to Amsterdam.

We finally got a couple of big heavy objects removed from the house: the long-dead soda machine is on its way to the dump at last, and our heavy-duty paper cutter has been moved out of our basement and into the production facility of Tuxedo Graphics. (That's our friend Landru's printing company.) Thanks to everyone who helped us move heavy objects last weekend!

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." -- Jamie Raskin, professor of law at American University, testifying on the proposed Maryland Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, March 8th, 2006

If you're playing Treehouse with only 2 people, you can use the 2 leftover colors for score-keeping! Each time someone wins, they get a point in the overall match; the first to get 6 points (i.e. the complete tree) is the match winner!

"Unattended Children will be given an Espresso and a Free Puppy" -- text on a sign seen in a photograph at Nick Scipio's Picture Of The Day site

Flying Buffalo's classic card game Nuclear War now includes a nicely updated version of the Anti-Missile Capabilities Chart I created (which we printed ourselves on a promo card a few years ago). It's pretty cool for me, as someone who's been a fan of this game since High School (and who was inspired to become a game designer partly by this game) seeing something I created actually get incorporated into their newest edition. Wow!

"Bad week for: Straight-laced jihadists, after Dutch authorities started requiring all would-be immigrants to watch footage of a topless woman bathing and two men kissing as a test of their social tolerance." -- The Week magazine, March 24th, 2006 [I love the Dutch!]

"Why Canada: National health insurance, legal gay marriage, no death penalty, full abortion rights, less crime, less poverty. Canada didn't support the invasion of Iraq, and they don't keep a huge military with which to bully the rest of the world. Religious fanatics do not control the government. It's not a socialist utopia, but it all adds up to a very different attitude about government, society and a nation's place in the world. In short, it's a country with values more similar to my own. The US has moved so far to the right. It's not just the W Regime, even though they've made it so much worse. It's been going this way for almost 25 years. Relative to the norm in this country, I used to be a liberal. Now I'm a radical leftist - and I haven't changed at all!" -- Laura K's blog, WeMoveToCanada

"No one has ever gone to jail for selling seeds in Canada and only two people in 35 years have even been charged. The most recent person fined for selling seeds in the year 2000 received a $200 fine. I am blessed by what the DEA has done. I'd rather see marijuana legalized than me being saved from a U.S. jail. The language I like to use is one of a person, a leader, who's confident and prepared to accept the punishment that noble purpose will bring about." -- Marc Emery (Canada's "Prince of Pot," whom the DEA is seeking to extradite and imprison for life as a "drug kingpin"), as quoted on CBS's "60 Minutes"

Marlene has decided to embark on a bold career change: she's gone back to school to become a Massage Therapist! She's already reduced her hours with us, and will be phasing out her assignments over the next few months. We all wish Mar the best of luck in her new adventures!

"It's interesting that you've found it a source of tension to be paired with an extrovert. I've read that introvert-extrovert pairings work well because the person who doesn't like to make small talk can just let the other person do it for them." -- Interviewer's question from "Introverts of the World, Unite! A conversation with Jonathan Rauch"

Keith knows somone who was color blind for his entire life until one day when suddenly he could see colors! Wow! Nothing seems to have triggered the change, his eyes just started seeing differently! Doctors are baffled!

"Ask Me About My Vow Of Silence" -- funniest t-shirt slogan I saw while in Colorado

I really like Peter Oliver's suggestions for a 5th row for the Chrononauts timeline, ranging from the year 2000 to 2019. Great ideas, Peter! I've long been pondering a complete new timeline that would include a whole century of future events, but I'm really intrigued by the idea of making a single-row expansion. Maybe someday we'll make a Lost Identities-style product built around this concept...

"A marijuana grower can land in prison for life without parole while a murderer might be in for eight years. No rational person can defend this; it is a Dostoevskian nightmare and it exists only because politicians fled in the face of danger. That includes Bill Clinton, under whose administration the prosecution of Americans for marijuana went up hugely, so that now there are more folks in prison for marijuana than for violent crimes. More than for manslaughter or rape. This only makes sense in the fantasy world of Washington, where perception counts for more than reality." -- Garrison Keillor, "A Foul Tragedy: Democrats Fled in the Face of Danger"

People have been wondering why we're apparently turning our backs on our old way of selling Icehouse Pyramids (in tubes of one color) in favor of the new way (as mixed color stashes called Treehouse sets). Shouldn't we just keep pyramids available in both formats? But this kind of thinking is what's keeping the $1 coin from catching on. If you really want people to switch, you have to take away the old system. So just as I believe the US Treasury should abolish the $1 bill, I believe the best way to promote the new way to Icehouse is to reduce availability of the old style packing. (That said, we plan to keep selling solid colored stashes, through our Short Run Depot, for a long time to come, if not forever. Right now, we're only taking them out of primary distribution.)

"I'm not saying that you were *trying* to make Treehouse dice the de facto currency of the Rabbit underground, Kristin. I'm merely saying, you just did. Henceforth, Rabbits (and maybe even some non-Rabbits) won't see a superfluous die in each additional Treehouse set, but instead a cubical carrot coin. People will buy, sell, and trade these dice. If J. Random Rabbit has (or wants) several dice, she'll find it's worth the effort to seek someone to trade with; besides, her trading partner will probably want to play the same games she likes, too, so why don't we meet at the coffeeshop and bring your pyramids too, okay? I'll bet you three dice I can beat you at Binary Homeworlds." -- Tom Phoenix, responding to Kristin's announcment on the Icehouse mailing list about our plan to award one Rabbit point for every Treehouse die someone returns to us for re-use

"When the President does it, that means it is not illegal." -- Then-President Richard Nixon, heard quoted in the new TV ad, which assert that "George W. Bush is Breaking the Law"

"But everything that was great about the first [Star Wars] trilogy -- reasonably decent acting, an engaging storyline and cool model-based special effects -- is gone, replaced by detestably unsympathetic characters reciting torturously bad dialogue in a manner so wooden that coaching from Keanu Reeves would have helped, and CGI effects that, while painstakingly crafted down to the nanopixel, somehow looked less real than plastic spaceships and Muppets." -- The Beast's 2005 List of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America, #44: George Lucas (don't miss the top 5)

"2006-01-27 at 03:37pm (kristin) spoke with Bill about assembling Treehouse. He doesn't even want to bid on the job, there is no way we can afford for him to do it... after factoring in good salaries and vacation and health insurance - he charges $35 per hour for his assembly folks time - and counting out these pyramids and putting on these little stickers would take LOTS of time. He told me point blank that the right business decision for me would be to just get the product made in China. Wow." -- internal call notes which have triggered a re-evaluation of our commitment to domestic pyramid production (we're still refusing to go to China, but we're now seriously considering Canada or Mexico...)

When I designed Chrononauts back in 2000, I thought the Crown of Thorns was an artifact a time traveler could swipe without rippling any timelines. Obviously, no one had saved it, right? Well, I recently learned (from the History Channel -- gosh I love the History Channel!) that a relic purporting to be the real Crown of Thorns is at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris! Apparently it was a prize passed along from one King to the another, ever since it first turned up, in 570 AD. It was even used as collateral, in 1238, and the thorns were all removed and incorporated into other cherished relics! Oh well, it's one more thing to see when I eventually visit Paris...

"It's a very slim mandate, and the party that is holding power is holding it by a thread. If you have a party system divided into four, one party can take power with a proportion of the vote in the 30's percent range. That doesn't mean the country is moving right." -- Pierre Martin, a political scientist at the University of Montreal, seen quoted in "Canada's Shift: To the Right, Gently"

"So my mind sort of drifts, and I start thinking about how indefinably cool these little colored pyramids are, and about how infinitely more colorful and artistic they are than a boring old chess set, and how *right* the design is, of three sizes and five of each size and everything, and I start thinking about the mind-bogglingly huge number of imaginable games that could be invented with these pieces, and dammit, isn't it about time *I* invented one?" -- Kory Heath, from an email to us, August 14, 1999

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"

While growing up, Jeff and I were both very fond of the American Heritage series of war-themed board games, Battle Cry (about the Civil War) being our hands-down favorite. This weekend we got to play our first game of Skirmish, a 5th title in the series, published in 1975, but unknown to us until recently, which he finally got a copy of via eBay. It's about the Revolutionary War, and we both really liked it! Both the history and the game play are solid. I'm looking forward to playing it again!

TSI-TelSys has finally gone completely under. The technology company Kristin helped found in 1996 (under the leadership of our mutual boss from our days together at NASA, Jim Chesney) has been struggling to stay afloat for years, and finally ceased all operations last month. Naturally, this is a bummer for us... when Kristin left TSI to start Looney Labs, she retained a lot of hope for TSI (not to mention founder's stock, which is now officially worthless) and since Marlene and I also worked at TSI-TelSys for a time (and various friends and relatives of ours actually invested in the company) this was sad news for many of us here at Looney Labs.

Kids at birthday parties now routinely sing (or rather, shout) "cha-cha-cha" in-between the verses of the traditional birthday song. Perhaps it's a regional thing, but if you haven't encountered it yet, just wait... it's a powerful meme. In the distant future, no one will sing it any other way.

"Organization is the key to success in all endeavors." -- Dave Bondi, during his recent visit, quoting something I first said 10 years ago, when we were working together at Magnet Interactive Studios

My favorite "Suggested Alternatives" to 33 commonly-stated reasons people give for having children:

  • "We can't experience everything. Far better to regret not breeding than to regret breeding."
  • "Do great things with your genes, rather than expecting the next cultured batch to do it."
  • "Save money and prepare for retirement. Be nice to people so they will visit you in the home."
  • "Accept mortality. Spread memes not genes. Socrates' heirs are not apparent, but his ideas linger strong."
  • "Choosing to breed precludes most other things you'll just want to do."

"I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way. Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" -- George W. Bush, in a closed meeting with Republican Congressional leaders in late 2005, as reported by Doug Thompson, who says he confirmed this quote with 3 people who were present at the meeting

2005 was a great year for us in many ways, but it was a bad year for my collection of video equipment. I used to have several VCRs in active use, and they all broke down last year. (My primary unit started freezing up on New Year's Eve.) So now the question is: Does anyone know a good VCR repair place in the DC area? (Or is this a sign that it's time for me to finally upgrade to TIVO?)

During National Play Week, I caught up a little on my movie-watching. I really enjoyed 3 hits from last summer: Fantastic Four (I think it was the best superhero movie I've ever seen, though what I'm really looking forward to is the sequel I have to assume they're planning: The Coming of Galactus), March of the Penguins (which made us all really glad we're not penguins), and The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (which I liked best of the bunch). I also really enjoyed a Disney classic I somehow had never seen before: The Parent Trap.

"An alien invasion is coming to town,
So fire up your blasters and sit yourself down.
Or play paddle-tennis with a cubical ball,
Shoot very slow weapons and hide behind walls.
Oh what can console us now that this has been packed?
The new ones are fancy, but just don't take us back." -- clue from a Boxing Day scavenger hunt, written by Alison, leading to the spot in our video-gaming area where we used to have our Atari 2600 set up

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