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Monday, September 26, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 18-24 September 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was mild.
 

New on DriveThru RPG, DriveThru Fiction, and Wargame Vault this week is the "pay what you want" short story "Women of the Zombie Apocalypse."
      

 

Steve Cole spent most of the week catching up on months of admin backlog, but made progress on Federation Admiral, Captain's Log #52, Federation Card Pack #4, SFU Secret Book #1, and other projects. Steve and Jean took a moment to turn a conversation into a non-SFU zombie story and post it to the PDF download sites.
      

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52 battle groups, Master Starship Books (Romulan, Lyran, LDR), and did quality checks on production and outgoing orders.
      

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 worked on the zombie story, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,230 friends), managed our Twitter feed (202 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

RANDOM THOUGHTS #272

Steve Cole ponders a few things about dinosaurs he thought he would share. This is by no means a systematic or even organized list, but it is a lot of things most people don't realize.
   
1. Most of what we "know" is a really a collection of guesses (that hold water) by large numbers of scientists. Somebody proposes an idea and if a lot of other scientists think it's probably right then it moves into the "fact" category. Actual hard "prove it in court" facts are few and far between. We know from the bones that a T-rex was 40 feet long, but there is a lot of dispute about whether those bones supported five, six, or eight tons of body. What we "know" changes over time. When I went to school in the 50s and 60s, we all "knew" that dinosaurs were stupid, slow, and cold-blooded. Now, we "know" that lots of dinosaurs were smart, fast, and warm-blooded.
   
2. There is no "Dinosaur Board" which rules on what is and what is not a fact; there is no "Dinosaur Election" wherein scientists vote what is and isn't a fact. There is only an ever-flowing consensus of a lot of opinions. What makes it worse is that dinosaur scientists are not in the habit of starting sentences with "My own theory is..." but instead just state their own theory as an established fact. There is the ICZN, which controls animal names so that no two scientists use the same name for different critters. (One dinosaur scientist had to add a letter to the name he picked for his discovery because another scientist had used that name for a beetle.) Often, a dinosaur gets a name based on one bone or one tooth. Sometimes, one scientist finds part of a dinosaur and another scientist finds a different part of another individual of that species, and nobody realizes that the two are the same until somebody finds another specimen which includes overlapping parts of both. The earliest one named becomes the official name. China doesn't recognize non-Chinese names and is constantly giving new names to well-known species. But at least half of dinosaurs are known from a single individual and usually even that is not complete.
   
3. Lots of things that people think are dinosaurs really aren't. Pterodactyls, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, mososaurs, turtles, coelacanth fish, and alligators are sometimes called dinosaurs, but they're separate groups of unrelated animals.
   
4. One of the most important questions (which cannot be answered) is what the air was like during the dinosaur era. Most scientists think that the oxygen content was higher (up to 30%) than it is now (about 21%). Evidence for this is questionable. Air pockets in amber may or may not reflect original air, and calculations based on animal size and activity start with information that cannot be accurately ascertained.
   
5. The dinosaurs occupied three consecutive but very different time periods of Earth's history. In the oldest (Triassic) the dinosaurs were just one of several kinds of animals fighting for domination. The Jurassic was a very wet lush jungle environment. The Cretaceous was the last period and was much dryer. T-Rex was one of the last dinosaur species and is closer to us in time than to Stegosaurus, the one with the triangular plates down his back. (Speaking of Stegosaurus, at least one scientist originally thought that the triangular plates were horizontal and that the dino could glide from high places.)
   
6. We all know that a big rock fell out of the sky, landed in Mexico, and killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (i.e., the extinction level event). Except maybe that didn't really do it. The Deccan volcanoes in Indian went off for a few million years and really messed up the planet. Maybe the big rock caused the volcanoes, or maybe the big rock fell as the last of the volcano-ruined dinosaurs were trying to stay alive one more day. The big rock (Chixalub Crater) really messed up North America (which was covered in a shower of red-hot rocks and burned to the ground) but that didn't kill dinosaurs in Asia, Africa, and the random smattering of islands that was Europe. Any dinosaurs there had to have died from either a cometary winter type event or from those volcanoes in India.
   
7. Speaking of extinction events, the one at the end of the Cretaceous (the dino killing rock from the sky one 65 million years ago) was just the last of at least five. The End of the Permian extinction event was the worst, and allowed the dinosaurs to rise up and take over from (wait for it) the mammals that ruled before the dinosaurs. The Triassic and Jurassic both ended in major extinction events. Some of these may have been caused by big meteor impacts, but some may have been caused by supernova stars that exploded and killed most of life on Earth.
   
8. A lot of dinosaur research goes into figuring out the family try of the dinosaurs. Not long after dinosaurs first appeared in South America 235 million years ago, the tribe split into the two groups. The lizard-hipped group includes all of the meat eaters, the birds, the sauropods (Brontosaurus and so forth), and the pro-sauropods (which are kinda halfway between the meat eaters and the brontocritters (which split into four types that nobody can make sense of). The bird-hipped dinosaurs (which are not the ancestor of birds) included the iguanodons (which evolved into duckbills in the Jurassic and crested duckbills in the Cretaceous), the stegosaurs of the Jurassic which were the ancestors of the armored ankylosaurs of the Cretaceous, the various horn-faced dinosaurs leading to the final species (Triceratops), the boneheads, and a few smaller groups.
   
9. Fossil bones are not the only thing we have to go on. We have trackways (which can in theory give some idea of animal speed, even if no one knows if the speed of that dinosaur on that day was his maximum). We also have coprolites (fossil dino dung) which give some idea of what they ate (although connecting any given item to a species of dinosaur is hard to do). We have "skin impressions" (sort of like fossils) and "dinosaur mummies" (the entire dinosaur turned into stone, which provides only very limited detail about internal organs).
   
10. The names non-scientists know dinosaurs by are in fact the genera (general) name, not the species (specific) name. Consider that lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, and cougars are all "panthera" while lions are "panther leo" and tigers are "panthera tigris." Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Brontosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus are all genera names, not species names. While we're mentioning lions and tigers, the way scientists evaluate dinosaur skeletons is limited by the fact nobody has seen a living dinosaur (other than a bird, which is a dinosaur descendant). Let's say you gave a dinosaur scientist four skeletons (male tiger, female tiger, male lion, female lion). The scientist would not be able to see the lion's mane or the tiger's stripes and could go only by the bones. Evaluating the four skeletons, a modern scientist would 90% of the time put the two females in one species and the two males in the other, all four being in the same genera.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

ADB, Inc.’s page on Facebook is now up and running, and we’re finding a lot of new faces who haven’t been around the BBS or Forum. We have pictures up of ADB, Inc. staff, links to many of our videos, snippets of information, and interaction with our fans. Jean Sexton is the main voice you will hear on our page on Facebook. If she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask one of the Steves and ferry the answer back.

All that is left is for you to "like" the page for Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf.

Many people on our page on Facebook have not been on our BBS, so perhaps our new outpost on Facebook will become the place for those who want to keep up with current events without the intense atmosphere (and flood of information) found on the BBS. If you are very busy on a given day, checking our page on Facebook would tell you quickly if something important has been announced. The page also has its own art galleries, plus a place where you can post a review of our products. It also has discussions where you can link up with fellow gamers.

We've also added a Twitter feed which you can follow at https://twitter.com/ADBInc_Amarillo.
 Be sure to follow us for a quick look at what is going on!

We hope to see you there! For Facebook users, be sure to add us to an interest group to see all of our posts.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why My Hair is Thinning

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I need to start making notes to myself. Sometimes between episodes of having to post, I come up with an idea for something to say, but when I am actually here, I cannot recall what they were and wind up staring at the computer screen with my usual blank expression (of course, everyone here would tell you my expression is usually blank even when I am not staring at a computer screen).

Jean is slowly reaching the end of proofing the Romulan Master Starship Book. I managed to transfer the text files to a different computer, so while I am concerned with the formatting (word never seems to be the same length on different computers) the biggest problem seem like it will be getting the files to PDF at all (this computer does not seem to want to PDF any word files . . . it will read PDFs, but will not convert word to PDF). I might have to move to another computer for the PDFs, and that may require reformatting everything (yet again) to accomplish that.

The thing about PDFs is that it creates another "error path." Things "jump." By that I mean something that fits a column suddenly moves one line (the last one of course) to the next column, which cascades all through the section (and sometimes all through the book). So the graphic that fit on the bottom right column of Page #9 is forced to the top of the left column of Page #10, leaving a large white space, which has to be filled by moving text that was below the Ship graphic to above the ship graphic. And I wind up fighting that all through the book before a final PDF can be done.

So it is finish the book with everything formatted and do a PDF.

Check PDF for jumps.

Go back to the book and manually move things around to fix the jumps, and do a new PDF.

Check the new PDF for jumps, and repeat until you finally have a PDF with no cases of large white spaces (caused by jumping graphics caused by jumping text) and no cases where two ship descriptions (or a title bar and ship description) have run together with no separating line and so.

Only then can you verify all of the page numbers (did all this checking result in a section formerly ending on Page #21 now ending on Page #22, requiring that the next section start on Page #23 instead of Page #22) and verify the table of contents.

It is no wonder my hair is thinning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Playing Star Fleet Universe Games Long Distance

Playing games by email or by post is an alternative to playing face-to-face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

When playing Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander using the Play-by-Email (PBEM) system you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "SitRep" (Situation Report) to the players via email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FC or SFB PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game. Moderating a game is also an excellent way to learn more about the game's rules.

Prime Directive games can be played by posting on the Forum. The GM of the game gets players, approves their characters, then sets up situations for the characters to face. It takes a bit longer because the players are not sitting around the table, but it also allows people who are spread out across the world to play.

Players of all our games are expanding the frontiers of playing long distance. Some are trying chat, some are adding webcams to that, many are trying out VOIP so as to get close to a face-to-face experience.

While there are some disadvantages to playing long distance (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing long distance, drop in on the Forum (http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2) or BBS (http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

Ever wished you could take a peek inside a shrink-wrapped box or look behind the pretty covers of a book? Then these videos are for you.

The brainchild of Mike Sparks, our YouTube videos are of three types. The first is about a specific product line and you can hear Steve Cole (yes, he is the talking hands in our videos) discuss the products that are in one of the different games. The second kind is what ADB, Inc. has released in a particular month. These are a great way to catch up quickly on the new items.

It is the third kind that let's you see what is in the box. A boxed game such as Federation & Empire is taken out of the box item by item so that you can see what's in there. From rulebook, to charts, to maps, to counters, each item is shown and discussed. It's a lot of information to pack into a short clip, but SVC and Mike manage it.

Check out our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames and be sure to bring the popcorn!

Monday, September 19, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 11-17 September 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was very nice.
        

New on Warehouse23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week were Cerberus and the Star Fleet Battles Module C2 rulebook and SSD book (the latter in both B&W and color). 


 


Steve Cole worked on Federation Admiral, blogs, demotivationals, Captain's Log #52, and took a rare three-day weekend with Leanna in order to celebrate their 39th anniversary.
       

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #52, Romulan Master Starship Book, Module C3 update, proofreading Federation Admiral, and other projects.
     

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 3,224 friends), managed our Twitter feed (202 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the Romulan Master Starship Book,, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.