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Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that came to mind.
1. There was a flurry of news about those little plastic things that prevent the guy in the airplane seat in front of you from leaning back. Didn't you lean back? So you want to steal space from the guy behind you but expect the guy in front of you to do without you passing that space along?
2. It's comical to see the badly spelled or phrased words in spam from foreign countries. I as "invitated" dozens of times to click on some link, and that's just one example. Given what I do for a living, I am always tempted to reply with a proofreading guide, telling them "You meant 'invited' as there is no such word as 'invitated' just in case you didn't know" but do I really want to make their spam more effective? Worse, do I want to tell them that I actually READ their spam.
3. Confucius said: "You have two lives. The second begins when you realize there is only one." I like that. Once your perception shifts, everything starts over.
4. There is a 1909 penny attached to the Curiosity Rover on Mars to help calibrate the camera. Is this going to be proof a hundred years from now that the US owns Mars? Are there any more US coins even farther from Earth? I don't know.
5. When I was young (maybe 14) I went to a movie with my parents. Back then, you often got a short subject movie for free as part of the feature, and one of these was a National Geographic wildlife thing. It mentioned tropical penguins, those who do not live in ice and snow of Antarctica. At some later point, a teacher told the class that penguins only lived in Antarctica. I said that I had seen tropical penguins in a movie. The teacher was livid, insisting that I was making it up, and actually told the entire class not to believe anything I told them because I made up stuff like that. At the time, I was so humiliated and angry that it didn't really occur to me that a quick check of an encyclopedia might prove my case, so I suffered in silence and was mocked by my classmates for years. (I was a bookworm and spent all of my time reading everything I could get, which meant I had something to say on almost any subject, but my classmates had been warned not to believe me, making me something of a laughingstock.) I happened to think of this incident the other night and went to Google and sure enough, tropical penguins showed up (in South America and southern Africa) right away. These days if some teacher does that to some child, I hope that the child whips put a smart phone and proves the teacher to be a fool. (Of course, I hate it when I'm chatting with somebody, mention something, and they whip out a smart phone to look it up.) Proving the teacher is wrong sometimes backfires. A history teacher once told the class a couple of "facts" about World War II, one of which was even in our history book, but both were just flat wrong. I showed up the next day with a dozen history books to prove this, but was told to shut up. Arguing further, I got sent to the principal's office to be punished for insubordination. My parents were outraged, and the next day my father walked into my history class (uninvited and unexpected) wearing his Army uniform (he was a colonel) and proceeded to lecture the teacher on what was a fact and what was not, using those same history books I had brought to prove she was plain wrong. He then left. The teacher blew a fit and hauled me to the principal's office, only to find my father had gotten there first (with the history books). The principal warned the teacher not to argue with me without checking her facts, and that if I got any grade from her on any test or report card other than A+ he would want to see proof or she would face the school board's disciplinary committee. That teacher found other ways to make my life miserable, such as denying me a chance to compete in a national history contest with big cash prizes. I wouldn't have won anyway, but would have liked skipping school for a day to take the tests.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Play Online

Many people do not know that you can play either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander online in real time against live opponents.

Ten years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of Star Fleet Battles with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to include Federation Commander!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 a month per game system, you have access to most of the ships in the Star Fleet Battles/Federation Commander game systems as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in online tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

We continue to develop Federation & Empire for an online environment and have playtesters working out the kinks. We'll let you know as soon as it is ready to release.

Monday, March 02, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 22-28 February 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was the second of the three-week final push to finishing Captain's Log #50, and we were over 77% done by Saturday. The weather this week was cold, with snow limiting us to work half-days most of the week. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on almost exclusively on Captain's Log #50, and was unable to get his walking done most days. He did get a good report from his new doctor, who considers Wolf to be the best thing for Steve's health.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #50.

The Starline 2500 project continues to wait for production molds that are two months late.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with three new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2521 friends), managed our Twitter feed (134 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Captain's Log #50, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

On Snow, More Snow, and Even More Snow

Jean Sexton muses:

When I moved from my home in North Carolina to Amarillo,Texas, I thought I had a handle on things. Amarillo was a bit north of where I lived, but about where I grew up in northeastern North Carolina. Texas is in the "South" according to books. I thought I'd move to a climate that was a bit less damp and a bit cooler.

Amarillo isn't exactly "normal" Texas. It is part of the Texas Panhandle. It is on the Caprock, the high plains. It is about 3,600 feet above sea level.You can see storms divide to go around the Caprock. Amarillo gets less than half the precipitation of my former home. However, sometimes Amarillo gets its own private weather. A weather band will come and sit on Amarillo and snow. And snow. And snow! I am beginning to think most of the precipitation comes as snow!

In eastern North Carolina we realize that snow is slippery. Should you drive on slippery things? No, of course not. On the forecast of snow, then you know what to do. You get milk, eggs, bread, and toilet paper (along with any other things you are out of). If you are on well water, you pick up water. You make sure the car has gas, even if you aren't going to drive.

When it snows in North Carolina, many local places close. There's no need to drive on slippery roads; wherever you would be going is closed. Besides, you have everything you need because you bought your staples already. And the snow will melt in a few days.

In Amarillo, people go out and buy staples. When it snows, they go driving around! In slippery snow! The good thing is that Amarillo prepares for snow. Intersections get sanded. Major streets get plowed. Sidewalks for businesses get shoveled and salted.

I'm adapting, at least some. The entrance to my apartment gets some snow buildup. I've been sweeping the snow to create a pathway to the main sidewalk. If I do that before it gets turned to ice, then things are better. A couple of my neighbors are helping me if the apartment complex doesn't shovel the sidewalks. They will make me a path to the point where the sun has melted the ice. (I live on the shaded north side of the complex.)

I can handle driving in an inch or so of snow. My skills there are slowly increasing. Luckily, the Coles are willing to pick me up when the snow is deeper. I miss my "snow days," but I remind myself there will be plenty of those when I am truly retired. In the meantime, I will learn to embrace the snow. And more snow. And even more snow!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Jean Sexton for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Your Weird Uncle at Thanksgiving

He ... always eats while ... grandpa talks,
He snacks ... while cousins take a walk.
They ask him to dinner ... in late fall.
Where they serve ... roast Butterball.
He likes potatoes and green peas.
Loves cranberries ... drinks iced tea.
He looks at the feast and wants it all.
So he'll slice ... that Butterball.
Any ... drumstick he wants ... he'll get.
He will eat ... a whole pie ... without regret.
He ... is the meaning ... of excess.
His plate ... holds more than he'll digest.
They ask him to dinner ... in late fall.
Where he eats ... that Butterball.
His ... days of fasting ... are all gone.
His meals ... go on and on and on.
But he thinks ... that the pounds ... are worth it all.
So he eats ... more Butterball.

(c) 2015 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.