Stray Thoughts That Stuck in Andy's Brain in 2008

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

I'm really hoping Obama heeds the call at and chooses Ethan Nadelmann to be the next Drug Czar. Please sign the online petition and urge the President-elect to consider selecting this extremely well-qualified candidate. I really can't think of anyone I'd rather see in this position than Ethan Nadelmann.

"Plastic dinosaur toys are made out of dinosaurs." -- John Cooper, October 2, 2008

"It's called 'A Salute To All Nations But Mostly America'" -- Sam Eagle, Muppet*Vision 3D, a line which became frequently quoted by us during the rest of our visit to Disney World (another favorite was his shocked gasp at being told his three hour epic would have to be done in a minute and a half)

"On the homefront, there's another hugely important change you could quickly bring America: Call off the federal government's bipartisan war on drugs. You could get on TV some Tuesday night and tell your fellow Americans the truth most of them have known for decades: The dirty drug war waged by government on its own people has failed by every measure. Then reassert your forgotten call for America to start treating all drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. Then give your presidential blessing to the decision by Massachusetts voters last week to approve the marijuana decriminalization initiative. Then make marijuana as legal as beer. Then pardon all nonviolent drug offenders. Then decommission the DEA. Then, using your best oratorical skills, declare a great victory in America's never-ending war against too much government and too little personal freedom." -- Bill Steigerwald, "Yes, President Obama, You Can Try"

"Q: What do you get when you cross a Hippie with a Trekkie? A: Andy Looney!" -- example question and favorite answer from a game of "Why Did The Chicken...?" described to me by Dave Chalker on November 27, 2008

"A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of." -- Burt Bacharach, seen quoted in The Week magazine 11/7/8 (originally quoted in Piano World)

I love doing a Twitter search on the word Fluxx. For years I've been enjoying the thought that somewhere, at any given moment, people are playing one of my games and having a great time doing so. But now I have a window into that fun!

"Bad Week For: British transportation officials, who sent an e-mail to a Welsh councilman asking for a translation of a road sign they wanted to erect: 'No entry for heavy goods vehicles.' When the reply came back, the officials dutifully erected a road sign that said, in Welsh, 'I am not in the office at the moment.'" -- The Week magazine, 11/14/8 issue

I'm so very pleased with the election results this year. I vividly recall the first time I heard an Obama speech, during the '04 Convention, and I've been rooting for him ever since. Thank you America for electing him! I was also delighted to hear about the passage of Question 2 in Massachusetts, decriminalizing marijuana. While I'd rather see full legalization/regulation/taxation, this was a good step in the right direction, and it's great that it passed by such a wide margin -- two to one! Thanks, voters of Massachusetts! I'm disappointed by the Californians, for their decision to write a gay marriage ban into their constitution, but so it goes. As for my own state's politics, while I'm not a fan of slot machines myself, I'm glad we voted to allow them. But mostly, I'm excited about the election of Barack Obama. It was great waking up on my birthday with the knowledge that change has come to America. It was another TimeLine worthy event: we're sending a family of color into the White House!

The retirement money I saved up during my career as a computer programmer lost a fourth of its value during the recent stock market declines. But Kristin's similar nest egg retained its value, since she'd kept her IRA money in less risky accounts than me.

"My work is writing, and I'm happiest when I'm doing that. The trouble with writing is, you're always working. I hate myself for it, but I'll be at a party, and I'll hear someone express an interesting idea, and I'll think to myself, 'Gee, I could use that.' You have to have an ego if you're a writer too; it's egotistical to think that anyone else cares what you think and put down on paper about anything." -- Andy Rooney, 60 Minutes, 10/26/8

Last year, we decided the burden of updating this site every Thursday was just too much, and shifted to an every-other-week approach. That made a big difference, but I've still been finding it really hard to get these updates done on time. Also, a lot has changed in cyberspace since we began this webzine, and since I'm now using LiveJournal, FaceBook, and Twitter to provide much more frequent reporting on my activities, I've decided to give up on trying to keep the WWN to a routine update schedule. From now on, the Wunderland Whenever News will be updated on random days at irregular intervals as warranted by availability of time and new content. If you want to be notified when updates occur, just sign up for the announcement mailing list or use the RSS feed.

Ten years ago, I wrote "Although I hate the telephone, I'll be tempted to get a cel phone if they ever make one that works like a speakerphone and has a gold metal flip-top." Well, it's been done, but not yet in a mass-marketed version, and I'm not about to spend $500+ for a custom-built job. Anyway, I now have the most amazing cell phone ever, the iPhone, and it includes a speakerphone mode, so all I need now is for it to look more like a communicator. Chris Freeman has answered this call halfway, with an iPhone ap called Kirk's Communicator, but this is just a toy. I'm still waiting for the functional version, which will over-ride the regular telephone interface with Trek-style graphics. But even that would be insufficient, since software can only do so much. The ultimate iPhone accessory would be a hard plastic case (not unlike many iPhone holsters already on the market) with a flip-open golden grill cover. It would really be quite perfect, since the iPhone is already about the size and shape of the bottom half of a communicator. I wonder how long it will be before such a product is created.   Speaking of toy communicators, I see that there's a new version of this classic item on the market. I've written before about the problem with toy communicators, i.e. that no one answers back when you try to talk into it, and this new version addresses this need with a host of digitized voices you can make it "respond" with. But I have to agree with the reviews I've read, which ask why in this day an age such a sophisticated toy is hamstrung when it could have worked like an actual cellphone. I remember yearning for a set of Trek-style walkie-talkies that were advertised on TV in the seventies, which didn't really look like communicators and were much too big; now I can get one that looks perfect but doesn't really do anything. So the waiting continues, but one way or another, I expect my dream of a fully-functioning Communicator replica to become a reality someday.

I love Alton Brown's food show "Good Eats," and I enjoy his commentary as the Kitchen Stadium announcer, but what I'd really like is to see him become an actual challenger on Iron Chef America. I'll bet Ted Allen could stand in as the Kitchen Stadium announcer...

Diet Mountain Dew has become my primary beverage of choice. But it can be hard to find, so I often have to settle for Diet Coke.

I'm extremely impressed with the Shazam software I got free for my iPhone. I've been testing it out on my favorite old mix tapes of classic electronica, and although it does get stumped sometimes, it's amazing how often Shazam can correctly identify the music on my stereo, given just a brief random sample recorded over the phone. Like the iPhone itself, Shazam is an incredible culmination of modern technology.

I noticed this week that the assimilation of Kinko's into FedEx has been completed; their newest ads say "FedEx Kinko's is now FedEx Office." I'm saddened by this; Kinko's was a fun name to have in our marketplace, and phrases like "I'm going to Kinko's" will continue to be common, for me at least, long after all the signs bearing that name are gone.

Now that I have an iPhone (and OMG this thing is the greatest gadget ever!) I've become an instant fan of Pandora Radio and the Music Genome Project. What a system! You just tell it the name of a song or an artist you dig, and then it sets up an automatic "radio station" for you featuring an endless, ad-free mix of music it thinks you'll love based on what you like best. I've been very impressed with the results -- a sweet blend of great stuff I've never heard of with long-time favs I didn't tell it about but which it knew I would enjoy. It's incredible -- and apparently totally free, too!

"We're playing this track because it features electronica roots, use of modal harmonies, inventive instrumental arrangements, headnodic beats, acoustic drum samples, downtempo influences, thin ambient synth textures, a slow moving base line, trippy soundscapes, mellow rock instrumentation, prevalent use of groove, and many other similarities identified in the Music Genome Project." -- typical description from Pandora of the music I really dig

It's been a hectic couple of weeks, but among other things, we got the Looney Labs office fully moved from Janet's Attic to Alison's Basement, we emptied out the storage space where we had hundreds of boxes of stuff along with our 7 machine video arcade, and we sent the card files for Monty Python Fluxx off to the printer. Thanks so much to everyone who helped us get all this done! To celebrate these many accomplishments, I bought myself an iPhone. Woo-hoo!

Although Kristin tried really hard to make it happen, we've had to give up on the idea of making purple dice for Pink Treehouse. It's a long, sad story which I don't really want to get into, but suffice it to say that our previous dice supplier went out of business and no other company appears able to make custom-printed purple dice without doing a much bigger print run than we need, and of course, making them in China. So we're sticking with a standard color, and instead of expanding color options, we're reducing them: future production runs of Xeno Treehouse will also include black dice, instead of white ones.

A topic of great debate this week has been the name to use for the dead parrot card. Monty Python Fluxx will include a Keeper with a picture of an undeniably dead parrot; however, in the spirit of the pet store clerk, the title of the card will refuse to acknowledge the deceased nature of the bird in question. Up until now I've been calling it the Sleeping Parrot, a title which I think best sums up the situation, but since purists will complain that the sketch doesn't use that exact phrase, I've decided instead to call it the Resting Parrot.

It's fascinating being a dog owner after a lifetime spent avoiding and disliking dogs. It's easy to see now, though, how I came by and maintained my negative attitude about them. Molly almost never barks -- except when she encounters a stranger, at which times she can carry on with amazing ferocity, considering how sweet she is otherwise. So if the only encounters one ever has with dogs is when they're treating you like a stranger, you're bound to get the wrong idea about them.

I've become convinced that I'm a supertaster. It's not like it's rare - odds are 1 in 4 for a person like me -- and I certainly fit the profile. There's a list of "Problem Foods" on the wikipedia page about supertasters, and I totally hate absolutely everything on the list. (But there's other stuff I hate the taste of too, so I'm also just a generally picky eater.) Incidentally, I'm delighted to learn that there's a name for the type of flavor my supertaster taste buds crave the most - Umami, the recently-acknowledged fifth type of taste.

Hippies come in many flavors but I've observed two main categories, which I'm calling Green and Orange. Green Hippies are the crunchy-granola vegan types, who care a lot about saving the earth, while the Orange Hippies are the Burning Man hedonists who are into taking drugs, making art, and exercising their right to personal freedom. Green Hippies tend to be the New Age Pagans while the Orange Hippies are the Freethinking Mind-Expansionists. But while the Green and Orange Hippies may disagree about including meat on the menu, we all get along well together under our big tie-dyed flag.

"The idea that a man returning to his home and moving a package from his porch to his hallway, should trigger a SWAT raid, by a team that had literally been waiting in hiding to see him move the package, is criminally insane. They didn't wait for the package to go inside because of any tactical purpose. They waited because they wanted to use the action of bringing the package inside as evidence. They had literally all day to figure out some way of being able to search the home without murdering their dogs! They didn't even have to bring the package to the house -- they already had the address with which it had been marked. They could have simply called the individuals in for questioning, or conducted an ordinary search or arrest warrant, waited for Mayor Calvo or his wife to walk up and approach them on the street, almost anything other than what they did. And as evidence goes, moving the package inside the doorway is worthless anyway, or should be. Would you bring a package that arrived in your mail inside, maybe even open it to see what it contains? Doing so would prove nothing about your knowledge of the contents. So even that weak rationale falls to pieces." -- David Borden, "Two Dogs Dead, a Family Traumatized, Another Day in the Drug War"

This week, a PG County SWAT team smashed up the house of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, slaughtering their two dogs upon entry (chasing after the smaller one to kill it as it tried to run away) and terrorizing the family for several hours, all because someone in Arizona mailed them a box containing 32 pounds of marijuana. Granted, that's a lot of weed, but why did the dogs have to die? Did these armed and armored soldiers actually feel threatened by a fleeing dog -- or is it just standard procedure now for the drug warriors to murder your pets if they catch you holding a big box of drugs? How many more incidents like this will it take to end the madness of prohibition? (Remember, all it takes is a mistake on a street address, and it could be YOUR beloved pets the cops are brutally gunning down.) Our hearts go out to Mayor Calvo and his family as they cope with this act of intolerable cruelty.

I think what happened in the Calvo case is that drug smuggling has merged with identity theft. Mayor Calvo and his wife were obviously innocent victims -- someone else was clearly supposed to intercept that package of weed before it ever reached the Calvo's front door. Perhaps the real recipient was staked out watching the Calvo household as well, intending to swipe the package from the doorstep, or maybe it was someone who works at the post office, who was supposed to watch for the package and steal it from within the system. No complaint would ever be made about the package having disappeared, since the Calvos didn't even know it was coming, and who better to choose as your hapless fall guy than someone nice and respectable, like the mayor's wife? In any event, the plan obviously went awry when a drug dog in Arizona detected the box, causing the cops to take over the delivery as undercover package carriers. [After writing this, I read that some arrests have been made, including of a FedEx employee, and that the Calvos have been officially exonerated.]

I absolutely love the idea proposed by Michael Benson (in an editorial in last Sunday's Washington Post) of strapping a big engine onto the International Space Station and sending it off to the Moon and beyond. We've built this incredible space ship (there's nothing stationary about the space station, it's already flying through space) yet the ISS has no mission and no purpose. All it needs is an ion-thrust engine and a landing module (and a few other details) and the ultimate spaceship would be ready to go! Haven't we spent enough time just flying circles around the Earth? Wouldn't it be cooler if the ISS orbited the moon for awhile, and then went off to Mars?

One of the reasons Pink Treehouse is taking so long is a design debate we've been having about it. I had this idea, see, to make one of the trees in the set an opaque pink, so that the House tree would stand out from the players' trees during the game. This would also have given Icehouse fans 2 new colors at once, since the Idea included making a companion product (at the website only) featuring 1 translucent and 4 opaque pink trees. We found this concept interesting enough to keep considering for a long time (we even asked KLON to investigate opaque pink plastics), but it died when we remembered how nice the upgrade path to Volcano becomes with the Pink Treehouse set containing 15 translucent pyramids.

I am supremely bummed to learn that Disney is planning to close Pleasure Island this September, for one reason: The Adventurer's Club. I haven't been back to the World in many years, but the Adventurer's Club was quite possibly my favorite Disney thing in all of Florida. All the other stuff at Pleasure Island was forgettable, but the Adventurer's Club is totally unique, incredibly cool, and very inspirational. I'm really hoping it can be saved. I think they should rebuild it at their Animal Kingdom park, it would fit right in over there.

"I always wanted to serve my country. I felt it was a good opportunity for me to give back." -- a different Andrew Looney, who lost part of his foot in Baghdad last October, after an insurgent IED exploded in the vicinity of his vehicle (seen quoted at the Oklahoman website)

I've really gotten into using these disposable paper notebooks called PocketMods (the site for which was featured as a Tirade's Choice last April). You simply fold up a standard piece of paper, unfold it enough to make a single cut, refold it a different way, and presto, you've got a wonderfully handy little 8 page notebook! I write my latest to-do list on the back cover and I keep various notes on the other pages. It takes me about 3 days to fill one up, by which time it's also starting to wear out -- so I make another one!

"In terms of global warming, the truth about air conditioning is chilling. According to the Department of Energy, one-sixth of American energy use goes toward cooling buildings, a particularly large proportion given that most air conditioners operate for only about one-quarter of the year. Another way of looking at it: Keeping your home cool this summer will add one to three tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere." -- Eviana Hartman, "That Cool Blast of AC Is Not So Cool for the Planet. What Can You Do?"

I'm fascinated by the idea of Polyphasic Sleep. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be just the thing for me... but after sleeping on it I've decided not to attempt it. I hate having to wake up when I'm not at a good stopping place -- in contrast, rising when I naturally return to wakefulness is a cornerstone of my own bizarre sleeping habits. Moreover, the polyphasic approach requires adherence to a painfully strict schedule, whereas the approach I developed is built around maximizing flexibility. What it all comes down to is that I've already got a wacky sleeping system that works for me, so I don't need to adopt another.

Regarding laws, Bruce Baskir writes that "they are cumbersome, abstruse, loaded with jargon, and largely incomprehensible to the general population. But there is one group that specializes in writing rules that are easily understood and concise. I'm talking, of course, about game designers. Which leads to the question - what would society be like if the laws were written by game designers?" Regarding me, Ben Lott added this to the Geeklist:

  • January = You can only do one thing every day.
  • February = You can do 2 things per day.
  • March = You can do 2 things per day but you're only allowed to own 4 items.
  • April = You can do as many things as you are able per day, but are still only allowed to own 4 items.
  • May = You can only do one thing per day again and you can only own 2 items.
  • June = You can do one thing per day and are allowed as many items as you want.
  • July = All you need is Love.

We had a great time out at the theater this week. Alison wanted to see this hilarious play called The Mystery of Irma Vep, but she also wanted to save money on the tickets, so she got 15 of her friends to go with her and thus we qualified for a group discount!

Last weekend, while visiting Alison's aunt & uncle, her aunt Gray served up a cake she described as a chocolate pound cake. Alison liked it so much she asked for the recipe, and it turned out to be almost exactly the same cake recipe as Wacky Cake, a popular dessert in my family since before I was born! Moreover, when they actually looked at the recipe, the original name was there too! So I googled the phrase and look! It even has a wikipedia page! The entry seems incomplete to me, though... it doesn't explain the strange name, calling it unique only because of its vegan properties. But the recipe page it points to does provide this info -- it even includes photos showing the "wacky mixing method" (in which you make 3 little holes in the dry ingredients to pour the 3 liquids into). But perhaps the most amazing thing I learned from all this was the *reason* for the wackiness: it's about chemistry! The bubbling action of the soda & vinegar is what makes the cake rise, so you need to keep them separate until the last moment. Thus, the batter is mixed right in the baking pan, which must go into the oven as soon as possible after the chemical reaction begins. (Dad probably explained all this to me when I was a kid, but obviously I'd forgotten it.)

"Our enormously productive economy... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate." -- Victor LeBeau, circa 1950, seen quoted in the Story of Stuff

Three things I remember creating as a kid which I wish I still had a copy of:

  1. A short story called Sir Brian the Brain, about a knight who overcame his challenges using his intellect instead of violence
  2. A new final chapter to Charles Dicken's Great Expectations (written as an English class assignment) in which Pip meets a scientist who'd just invented a time machine, which Pip then uses to go back in time to warn Ms. Haversham about her fate
  3. A tiny homemade boardgame I created (probably my first such effort) which was based on the American Heritage series game about the Civil War, but used a much smaller set of army pieces and was played on a very small board, intended to be both portable and much more quickly played than the original

"Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter." -- Clay Shirky, "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus"

"A nice cake is waiting for you." -- the best fortune cookie message I've gotten in awhile, since I love cake. (But it makes me worry a little... if a cake is waiting for me, that suggests it's already been baked and might be getting stale waiting for me to do whatever is needed to obtain it. I wish the message had included the words soon and chocolate.)

"He took off a life jacket in the middle of a hurricane and gave it to someone in a boat." -- James of Survivor, summing up the most jaw-dropping of many amazing moments on the "Fans vs. Favorties" season, the most intense and interesting one ever

For two years now I've been sending out a congratulatory letter to new Eagle Scouts whenever requested. This week, this little service has gone co-ed! Congrats to Christa Rose Kelly, the first Girl Scout Gold Award recipient to get a letter from me congratulating someone for that accomplishment!

At PenguiCon 6 I was amazed to encounter a group playing my game Chrononauts with the Timeline arranged vertically rather than horizontally. Instead of taking up a space on the table of about 15" tall x 20" wide, their Timeline had a 29" tall x 10" wide footprint. It looked really strange to me, but they seemed to prefer it that way. Well, like I always say -- House Rules rule!

I was very pleased by the news that Zombie Fluxx had been nominated for an Origins Award for Best Card Game of 2007. It's also nice to see that Hobby Games: The 100 Best (of which I wrote 1%) got a nomination too. However, I was also shocked and disappointed to note that Stonehenge was passed over for such honors in the Board Game category. Oh well, perhaps it will get that special Vanguard award...

This week I finally got a gadget I've been lusting after for as long as I've had a cellphone: A Hulger P*Phone! It's an old-style telephone handset -- you know, on a cord -- which plugs into my cellphone. I greatly prefer using this larger, more comfortable phone for anything but the briefest of calls. Plus it's just looks great, in a zany, retro way, to be talking on a classic-style telephone handset in random public settings.

"But in the ensuing months, the government's case unraveled, exposing some unsettling truths about the way jailhouse informants are used in America's courtrooms. In December 2006, all charges against the family were dismissed. The federal judge who presided over the trial was so upset about what happened in his courtroom that he has since taken the rare step of speaking out about it publicly. The legal fiasco was partly attributable to familiar themes of racism and overly aggressive prosecution. But the Colomb story is mostly about the war on drugs. It shows how the absurd incentives created by the unaccountable use of shady drug informants by police and prosecutors can quickly make innocent people look very guilty." -- Radley Balko, "Guilty Before Proven Innocent"

We had a mysterious lapse in postal service recently, which suddenly resulted in the arrival of a bunch of never-delivered mail from weeks and even months ago. The stale mail came with a cover letter from our local postmaster, apologizing for the mishap and hinting at some sort of strangeness that had been the cause. Apparently our carrier (who'd always seemed like a nice and reliable guy) had begun hiding peoples' mail in his truck rather than delivering it. I wonder what went wrong here, and what will happen next, and if I'll ever hear anymore about our former mailman.

Holland has exempted cannabis from their pending ban on public smoking, thus protecting the future of the Amsterdam Coffeeshop, which is currently a $6 billion industry and a major element of Dutch tourism.

"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear, kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor, with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not rally behind it." -- General Douglas MacArthur, in 1957 (heard quotes on 3/31/8 on Countdown with Keith Olbermann)

As I learned from the very enjoyable History Channel show called History of the Joke, all jokes are a pair of different stories unfolding at the same time. First there's the story you think you're following, and then there's the reality of the situation which is suddenly revealed at the end. The punchline clues you into what's really going on, and the assumptions you made earlier become the source of amusement. Twilight Zone stories, with their shocking twist endings, do the same thing. So Twilight Zone episodes are basically just extended jokes.

As a fan of Battestar Galactica, I really enjoyed the 8-minute synopsis of the first 3 seasons called "What the Frak is Going On?" which is currently playing at the official website. An awful lot has happened in the series so far and with the 4th season finally about to start it's a great way to be reminded of the events up to this point. And the narration is hilarious! Of course, it's total spoilerage, so avoid it if you've never seen the show and think you might try to watch it all on DVD someday, but I think it's probably pretty entertaining even if you've never watched a single episode. (Incidentally, the same can all be said about Lost.)

There's this dream I've had a few times recently, in which I finally manage to travel back to Amsterdam. I'm not sure who I'm with, but it's someone who's never been there before, and I'm showing this person around my favorite city. And we see and do various fun things, but for some reason I can't seem to find any of my favorite coffeeshops. The more I search, the more it becomes clear that all of the coffeeshops are gone, that they've somehow disappeared since my last visit. (I guess I'd have to call this a nightmare, not a dream...)

Some people say that deaths come in threes. In my last update, I mentioned mourning Gary Gygax; just before that, we lost William F. Buckley, conservative supporter of drug legalization; and this week it was Arthur C. Clarke, one of the greatest science-fiction authors of all time. Goodbye & farewell, gentlemen...

"Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain. 'A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right,' wrote Thomas Paine when he called for civil disobedience against monarchy - the flawed national policy of his day. In a similar spirit, we offer a small idea that is, perhaps, no small idea. If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented." -- Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon, "The Wire's War on the Drug War"

This week, we in the adventure game industry are mourning the loss of game designer Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons. Gygax represents the pinnacle of achievement for someone in my profession: not only did his games create infinite hours of fun for never-ending numbers of people, they also revolutionized the culture, inspiring countless other such games, not to mention computer games, books, cartoons, jokes, movies, clubs, businesses, and so on. Goodbye Gary -- and thanks for all the fun.

"The genius of D&D is the way it parcels out rules and fantasy. The game tethers the imagination just enough to keep you focused on an imaginary world (main goal: slaying nasty things for profit) without putting limits on what you could do inside that world. Dungeons & Dragons is like the greatest Etch A Sketch on earth: It gives you the tools to create whatever you want." -- Jonathan Rubin, "Farewell to the Dungeon Master: How D&D creator Gary Gygax changed geekdom forever"

We've decided not to attend GenCon this year. As I mentioned last month, we're on our own again as far as running a sales booth at the big summer game trade shows, and we're choosing to run such a booth ourselves at Origins but to skip GenCon entirely this time around. Hopefully we'll be back in 2009!

"These two horrific scenarios are a result of the way the War on Drugs has morphed from a well-intentioned campaign to discourage drug use into a war against American citizens, a war in which we are not even awarded the noncombatant rights our soldiers give to foreign civilians. The use of SWAT teams, police paramilitary units, has become commonplace in raids against non-violent, suspected drug users and dealers. The United States used to be a place where its citizens didn't have to fear the government, proudly standing in contrast to the USSR and its terrifying secret police. We can't honestly say that today." -- Ryan Langril, "War On Drugs Must End"
Speaking of GenCon, we were shocked to hear the news this week that GenCon has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, apparently as a result of a lawsuit from Lucasfilm over unpaid bills. Hopefully GenCon will get their house in order and recover from these problems, but I'm suddenly worried it won't be there anymore by the time we're ready to attend again...

I've been a fan of the music from Sweeny Todd ever since 1982, but I approached the Tim Burton movie with apprehension. I finally went with Renee (she's a huge fan - this was her 9th viewing) and I did find a lot to enjoy. The violence was way too over-the-top for my tastes, as I was expecting, but it was always well enough telegraphed for squeamish people like me to look away as needed, and most other elements were really quite good. So at first I liked it. However, I became increasingly disappointed later, when I listened again to the original album and realized how much of my favorite music was missing from the film. Not only are whole songs missing, but key verses are gone from many of the songs they did include. So if you see the movie and crave the music afterwards, get the original album (featuring Angela Lansbury) rather than the movie soundtrack.

I've just discovered that (the company which published my long-awaited sequel to Icebreaker last summer) went out of business in December. The company that bought their assets has been using eBay to liquidate their unsold goods, but all their copies of Icebreaker 2 are already gone. Now I wish I'd gotten a few extra copies of it while I had the chance! Oh well, at least it finally got through the encryption process and is playable now in a few places other than just my house...

Last week I got a big kick out of seeing the characters in the webcomic Weregeek playing a card game which is clearly Fluxx. Apparently the action takes place in the future, since they're playing a Pirate-themed edition I haven't invented yet; either that, or they've loaded up their deck with a bunch of Fluxx Blanxx and their own wacky ideas...

This is the best year of the decade for the mistake of writing down the previous year's date, since it's easier to turn a 7 into an 8 than any other pair of sequential numbers.

"It's only late once, but it's bad forever." -- Mike Selinker, commenting on why he's just as happy that the Stonehenge expansion I helped design was delayed, since it gave them more time to get everything perfect

I wish everyone in the country would read the inspiring book by Jim Collins called Good to Great. Then it would be clear to all that we need to elect a Level 5 Leader as President and start a National Stop-Doing List.

I had a great moment with Shiro the shoulder-riding cat this week. I've put her up onto my shoulder countless times and she's gotten great at finding a comfortable spot and hanging out there for awhile, but for the first time ever, she hopped up to perch on my shoulder on her own! Sweet!

"We're the folks walking toward a festive house saying, 'How long do we have to stay?' Or we're the ones in the center of the room assessing others' interactions, and slowly backing toward the door. Introverts crave meaning, so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche. Here's what introverts are not: We're not afraid, and we're not shy. Introversion has little to do with fear or reticence. We're just focused, and we prefer one-on-one because we like to listen and we want to follow an idea all the way through to another interesting idea. That's why small talk annoys us. So does pretending to be happy or excited or anything that we're not." -- Diane Cameron, "Happy Introvert Day"

I'm super-bummed that the new time travel series called Journeyman was canceled after just 13 episodes, particularly since the last two ("The Hanged Man" and "Perfidia") were the best of the bunch and really showed the kind of potential this series had. I wish they'd gotten on with episodes that good a little sooner, perhaps then the show would have grabbed the audience needed to continue it.

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