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Sunday, May 31, 2009


Company President Steve Cole reports (with help from John Crawford, our European VP):

I love this British TV show (so does John), but didn't anybody tell the Brits that a "season" is 22 episodes, not six or seven? (Imagine if they were now on episode 45 instead of Episode 16?) I always loved dinosaurs (and other ancient beasts) and the CGI effects are great. The stories are good enough, better than most of what we get on the SciFi Channel. I like most of the characters, and respect the two annoying junior members of the team for being what the writers needed in order to create a good mix of quirky scientists managed by a bunch of government bureaucrats and protected a few redshirts ... uh ... soldiers (an old Hollywood cliche). But, being a soldier, and having spent several years as a "first responder, waiting for the next terrorist attack" who was deeply involved in emergency planning at city, county, and regional levels, I must say, there is just so very much wrong here. And it doesn't HAVE to be wrong. Surely, somewhere in all of Britain, there is one retired soldier and one retired policeman who might have taken a quiet afternoon to just point out a few things to the writers and producers, things that don't change the show but make it more "realistic" and less a bunch of Scooby Doo clowns who don't really know how to run this kind of operation. I realize the show may not want to pay a lot of actors to stand around pretending to be soldiers or policemen. Fine, just have the military officer give these imaginary off-camera people orders over the radio. I did think it was good that Season Two saw the creation of a formal organization and headquarters (which doesn't seem to have accomplished all that much) and was very pleased that Season Three opened with "This bunch of nice soldier fellows are here to keep you alive so you can do the scientist thing." But I would want to see better in Season Four. Something like this... (I am sorry if this sounds American instead of British, but I'm doing the best I can. I actually do know a lot about how the British system works, and John made a few edits which corrected what I got wrong.)

Everyone sit down, and listen well. Things are going to change, not for the worse, but -- you will soon agree -- for the better. I am not here, and the new procedures are not designed, to get in your way, and if you ever think that something is wrong, you need to speak up.
First, we're adding another group of people to our operation. The six men, Detective Sergeants, -- and one woman, a Detective Inspector, -- you see behind me are plainclothes officers, seconded from the Metropolitan Police Firearms Division -- armed police, and real ones at that. They know more about the streets, and about protecting the public, than you scientists -- or even you soldiers over there. They can blend in, and show you how to. They can work with local authorities, so you don't have to. They can spot suspicious persons, or ordinary citizens who are likely to do something stupid and dangerous, because they've been doing just that all their professional lives. They're all veteran police with a dozen or more years on the street. They all have real, valid, police credentials -- seconded to the Home Office of course -- and nobody will give them a second look or a second thought. When we have to post guards around an anomaly -- or some old building where Professor Cutter thinks the next anomaly will appear, there will be times it will be easier to use plainclothes police for the duty. Most of the time, they will be accompanied by you scientists, and oftentimes you and they will work with soldiers, some of whom may also work in civilian clothes just to avoid raising the public profile. Work with them! They'll keep you alive and cover for you while you do your jobs. We need the perimeter guards assigned to watch an anomaly to have sufficient manpower so if a creature escapes, there are enough people to both block the anomaly and pursue the creature, but not so many, or in such obtrusive dress, as to raise questions or draw a crowd.
The soldiers, or sometimes the policemen, will continue to keep you alive, but you need to give them a chance to do that. From this moment forward, when on a mission, the first man through any door is a soldier or a policeman, not a scientist or a civil servant. You lot are too expensive and irreplaceable, and you don't have time to fully train for soldier duties, but we will give you as much training as time allows. In some cases, each of you scientists will be assigned a personal bodyguard. He's your partner, not your keeper and not my spy, there to watch your back while you watch the detectors -- or the creatures. He can carry some of your equipment, but not if it interferes with his job. You protect him and he will protect you. If we suddenly need to deploy a big gun to take down some beast, the soldiers will do that for you, if possible, but every one of you scientists will get full firearms training, and will be licensed to carry a weapon with you. You will learn not just how to shoot, but how to safely carry a weapon and how to get that weapon from point A to point B without scaring the hell out of the citizens standing around. You may have moral objections to firearms, but remember some of the creatures we have seen so far do not have the moral objection to eating you! Finally, remember if your bodyguard is incapacitated, you may have to render his firearm safe so you don't accidentally shoot yourself, or a member of the public. Or worse a member of the public picks it up and dangerously discharges the firearm.
Speaking of carrying things with you. Some attention has been paid to creating a standard kit for each of you. Each of you will have three levels of tactical kit available at all times. At level one, which is most of the time, you will continue to wear comfortable civilian clothing so you can blend in -- or formal business attire in your case, Jenny, so you can do your job. However, you ladies will be expected to wear pants and sensible shoes, in case you become involved in a situation that warrants a more active role. One of the new police members of our fraternity is a woman, as you can see, and she will advise you ladies on how to appear stylish in an ensemble that allows you to run at your best speed, climb ladders, and wrestle with creatures. Each of you has a mobile phone; you will each be issued a second mobile phone to carry, switched off, in case you lose the first one. After Mister Conner's misadventure, you will all carry government identification cards with instructions for the local police to call this office if they have any questions. A talented official will field the calls to sooth any ruffled feathers and assure that you can function without hindrance, and without having to bully local police or local government officials.

When needed, which it will be any time you enter a dangerous area, you will move to Level Two. This will include a tactical vest, including numerous items of equipment such as a flashlight, first aid supplies, an encrypted two-way radio (since mobile phones don't work in the jurassic), and other items I will explain later. There will even be a couple of ration bars, so you don't have to leave your post if you get hungry; they might also be useful to coax shy creatures into a cage. Each of you will be issued a police anti-stab vest and will wear them any time you are sent on or called to a situation. At Level Two, you scientists will each carry a dart pistol to safely control any creatures, as well as a real pistol for self-defense. You will have dart rifles -- and real rifles of medium and heavy caliber -- stored in your vehicles. You may use any of the equipment or weapons in your vehicles as you feel necessary, but as I mentioned, it will usually be better send a soldier to get the big rifle while you keep an eye on the detector and creature. You will be given police-style windbreakers that identify you as officials of the Home Office and will wear them when told to do so by Jenny or myself. There will be a detector for each of you, and spare ones stored in your vehicles.

For Level Three, all of you civilians -- as well as you police -- will have full tactical kit of the type worn by the military members of our team should the situation require and give you time to change into it. You will be trained in how to wear and use this equipment so you don't have to puzzle it out for yourselves. We're all on the same side. You will, in turn, train the police and soldiers to use your scientific equipment just in case they have to. We will be using flash-bang grenades in this case; they should distract a creature but we cannot use real grenades in civilian areas. Over time, we are going to experiment with some other personal defense weapons. Expedition equipment will also be stored in your vehicles. If anyone has to pass through an anomaly to explore the other side, we won't have to bash together the gear you need. It will already be on site. As time goes by, and we begin to carry around more and more equipment that we might need, the bulkier items can be moved to support vehicles that the military members of the organization will bring to the site.

Available in your vehicles will be two kinds of gas masks. One will filter out harmful substances, and the other -- sadly, bulkier -- one will have its own self-contained breathing air system. One thing you scientists have never done is to compile a database of the atmosphere found in these ancient time periods -- as best you can determine, or can update from actual experience -- so we can anticipate such problems. Mister Conner, when you read out the database entry for the creature, tell us what he's breathing so we can prepare. I expect that database to be established by the end of the day and as complete as possible by the end of the week.
We will have a small number of standard cover stories. Jenny will select, for each mission, which one to use, and you are then free to tell the story to anyone who needs to be told a story to get them to cooperate. One will be a safety exercise, another will involve diseased animals which escaped from a medical testing laboratory, another will be a chemical spill. Jenny will consult with you as to which one is the most plausible in a given scenario. In extreme cases, when someone is absolutely impossible to deal with in any other way, Jenny, and only Jenny, is authorized to quietly communicate what we call the ultimate cover story. I've asked her to give you a sample. You'll have to imagine her quietly communicating this in a whisper, leaning close to the troublesome person. Jenny, if you will?
"We're from the Home Office Special Operations Department, and we're trying to deal with an impossible situation and we need your help. Can I rely on your absolute discretion? Very well. What I can tell you is this. A powerful ... high-tech concern ... very high-tech ... is involved in some ... research involving animals. I cannot go into details, you understand ... Official Secrets Act and all that ... very hush-hush ... You see, powerful people are involved in this high-tech concern ... people with titles ... very high titles ... the duchy of ... No, I have said too much. But these are people who want this kept quiet until the boys in the lab coats have completed their vital work ... work which will ultimately bring billions of pounds of new business to the UK. You do understand why I cannot say more? Foreign interests don't even know to come snooping around, and we don't want them to. Her Majesty's government requires that this be kept entirely secret, and that you are expected and required to keep that secret. If you cannot keep this secret, we can arrange a comfortable ... place for you to stay ... until this vital work is complete ... shouldn't be more than a decade or so ... There's a good chap."
Thank you, Jenny.

Finally, personal & ARC security. It seems to me, anyone who feels like it can wander in off the streets and start contributing, either in a positive way or a destructive way. This must cease. I am appointing a Security Officer who is responsible for securing the ARC and advising you on home security. All potential new members of the team will be fully vetted before being brought inside. If you need to bring anyone here, for debriefing or whatever, they will be held -- comfortably --  in a separate area until we have vetted them. Passwords and electronic door codes will be issued individually. Each area in the ARC will be sealed with electronic locks, either with voice print, retinal, fingerprint or some such recommended by the Security Officer as the best solution. Vehicles and bags will be searched inside, out, underneath to stop intruders. The gates will be reinforced and a standard Z entrance built to stop sightseers gazing in and vehicles, or large creatures, from simply crashing in, or out, of the ARC. Other measures will no doubt be introduced and you will be briefed how and why these are applicable.

I need to mention home security. As recent events have shown, members of staff have proved vulnerable at home. Senior personnel in MI5 and MI6 have beefed up home security, and we will look into this for all our staff, as none of us want to live in the ARC together 24/7. But in the meantime, lock your doors and windows and set home alarms if you have them. Its basic stuff but you'd be surprised just how effective it is. Security is everyone's responsibility; if you see a gap in the security procedures point it out. Now, this is difficult, but necessary. Anyone with a new friend, romantic or otherwise, needs to report this and the person will be quietly vetted by security. If someone from outside did want to find a way in, pretending to be your new friend would be the most obvious way to do it.
There will be more new faces to come. We'll be creating a second and third team of scientists, not to discharge you but so we can give you some time off and can keep the missions going in spite of any future eventualities. We have been contacted by the Americans, who have their own anomalies and their own version of our organization, as well as by the French. In time, some of them will come over here to exchange ideas.
None of these new procedures are intended to hinder or restrict operations. As we have all seen we must prepare for all sorts of emergencies, including those caused by inter-departmental politics or ex-wives. Our watchwords must be "Safety and Security".

Good Luck.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

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, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Mike Filsinger for STAR FLEET BATTLES.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Mark Tutton does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures at a cost that barely covers his costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, 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 who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, 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.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Looking for the Cherry Pickers

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the things you have to watch for in developing ideas for a game is a tendency for people who want things to "cherry-pick" data that proves their point.

A few cases in point for the Andromedans.

An Andromedan player felt that the firepower of Andromedan satellite ships was too weak. So he did a comparison of an Andromedan destroyer satellite ship versus a galactic power destroyer. He only compared the Andromedan ship to a single galactic power destroyer, and clearly there was a major mis-match between the firepower of the two ships.

If you have not guessed, the galactic power destroyer he was comparing Andromean satellite ships against was the Federation destroyer, at that time (late 1980s early 1990s) the only destroyer that packed firepower equivalent to a heavy cruiser.

Having that minor point made to him, the Andromedan player returned to his task by comparing the Viper to the Klingon E4. In this case he always assumed that the E4 would be able to bring all four of its phaser-2s into arc (incidentally exposing its considerably weaker #2 or #6 shields), but the Viper was never able to centerline the E4, so either its LS or RS phaser-2s would be out of arc when it fired, and the Viper always had to fire on the E4's #1 shield.

The thing of it is, this player also wrote an article conclusively proving that the Andromedan Cobra (as it existed in the late 1980s) could destroy a Klingon D7 in a one-on-one duel without any chance of taking internal damage, and there was literally nothing the Klingon commander could do about it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I am a free market guy. I believe that "the marketplace" will take care of a lot of things all by itself. This economic crisis, for example, will be over and done with in a year, and it will be the free market (not President Obama) that fixed it.

In theory, the Free Market is evolution in action. The company that can build a better mousetrap will thrive. The company that still makes spare parts for catapults is probably near bankruptcy. New ideas are proven to be good or bad ideas based on whether or not they attracted investors and produced profits.

But I have come to doubt my beliefs in the Free Market.

The Free Market invented those insane financial instruments that caused this mess, and nobody from the government stopped them. Anybody could have said "Do not make loans without documenting the borrower's income" and this would never have happened, but the government wouldn't do that, as the lobbyists and the money men and the power brokers were all getting rich off of the ridiculous schemes, and politicians bought votes by creating the chance for people who could not afford houses to buy them.

The life insurance industry is an example of the failure of the Free Market. Anybody can tell you that cash value insurance (combining death benefits and investments) is the dumbest thing you can buy (except maybe for variable annuities) but these things are sold by the tens of thousands every day by commission-inspired salesmen who don't care if it's a good deal; they care if they get paid to sell it to you.

There is no reason we cannot have health insurance for everyone, and by that I do not mean the government paying for it. If everybody were REQUIRED to spend some of their income on health insurance, and most bought the cheapest possible kind (buying into Medicaid, which you cannot do but you could if Congress could ignore the lobbyists for five minutes), the cost would come down. (Yes, yes, those truly poor would get it on the government dime, just as they now get reverse income taxes.) People use the Free Market to decide for themselves that they would rather have a second car, Tivo, and premium cable than health insurance. Then, when they go to the hospital for an emergency and get abrupt treatment and sloppy care by cost-managed medical staff, they complain that somehow it's the fault of somebody other than themselves and somebody other than themselves needs to cough up the money so they can have health insurance without having to give up anything to get it.

If there is a theme -- a point -- to this, it's that the Free Market works if Congress does its job.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

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. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. 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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Company President Steve Cole reports:

It's been one of those springs that makes you pull out your hair and wonder if the new building is on an Indian burial ground or something. Nothing went right, everything that got done took too long, and a lot did not get done at all. Some of it was our fault but some of it was not. Some of what happened was just a price to be paid for a better future. Some of it was just bad planning. Some of it was people being a problem.

We set up the schedule in that quiet two-week period between abandoning attempts to buy the building we almost bought (the one we found out would cost $50,000 or more to fix and even then could never be sold to anyone else) and finding the building we did buy. During that period, we assumed we would not find a building, and that we'd end up staying in the old cramped quarters for another year.

Moving the company was an adventure, as you all know from the blogs and MY DAY files of that epoch. Doing this took two entire weeks, but that was just "the move" and did not count the week that we spent "closing the deal" and running around talking to remodeling contractors and did not count the two weeks it took to turn the piles of stuff that just got dumped in any random office into a workable company. (We are still looking for my box of Civil War books, but that will keep.) It also did not count the week we went to Austin (which was part of the moving the company deal since that was taking warehouse stuff we sold to the guys we sold it to and installing it for them). All of this is the price paid for much better and more effective working conditions. We now have the third printer and second binder out of storage and our printing capacity has nearly doubled, which is pretty cool since restock orders from wholesalers continue to pour in.

Oh, yeah, then there was the computer crash (crashes, actually) that cost me a week's work, and the one that cost Petrick a week's work. All data was recovered, but lots of work got delayed.

Then I began my first of three spring projects, Federation Commander Briefing #2. This project was supposed to take less work (than, say, Orion Attack) since everything was just a conversion of an existing ship (even if we were doing 72 ships, not 20). But the real work turned out to be (as we always knew it was; why were we so stupid?) in CHECKING the cards for mistakes, to be sure everything got changed. Not just that this ship (in the Middle Years) has 3x9 warp instead of 3x10, but that the power track also does not need a +40 any more. Not just that plasma-S became plasma-G, but that the plasma track was reduced from 30 to 20. Not just that those phaser-3s were deleted, but that the "weapon fired" box also got deleted. A Ship Card is just exactly as hard to do if it is color or B&W (same work goes into it, and the color versions are on file for future use). A Ship Card that is a modification of a Ship Card is no easier (in some ways harder) than a new Ship Card. If you're doing a new card, you don't put things on it that it doesn't need. If you are converting a standard to Middle Years, every single thing on the card has to be re-confirmed as being what should be there, not a leftover artifact of the historically later (previously published) card. Had I thought this through, I probably would not have done FCB2, at the very least, not in the "spring" when the Origins deadline is there to get screwed up. At the very least, any future module of this type is going to get some VERY careful "time cost of the product" study before being "green lit". Plans for Borders of Madness #1 were pushed back to fall and will be re-thought. We will probably do it, but maybe not in the way we assumed we would be, and maybe not this year.

Then I did my next project, the FC Reference Rulebook, which was "already finished". Except it wasn't. The draft version had the updates there; the "final" version had to be "written through" to build the updates into the original text. (Plus, lots of last-second "we always knew that this needs to be fixed but never mentioned it" stuff showed up out of the woodwork.) This took a week that was not budgeted, and Jean took more time updating all of the text to the "higher standard" she has set (paying attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar). I could not go do something else while she did that (which would have been the case had she been in the office). Since she was doing everything by email, I had to make all of the corrections for her. (She reduced the Chief of Design to her page format slave, not to mention reducing me to tears.) Nobody budgeted "fixing whatever Jean wants fixed" into the plan, and we all should have known better. A lesson for next time.

Then there was another "not on the schedule" project. I had known that doing the FCRRB would require me to do Revision 5 versions of FCKB, FCKA, FCKS, FCRB, FCRS, FCRA, FCA, FCTA, FCBA, FCLB, FCDK, and FCOA, but I had planned to just ignore this until after Origins. Meanwhile, Leanna told everybody that "Of course, Steve will do the Revision 5 versions of all twelve rulebooks immediately after we ship FCRRB!" Sounds like a simple "Open the old rulebook, remove the rules, replace them with the new rules, print" but it's not that simple. The non-rule parts had to be done over (scenarios, mostly), and then Jean had to go through them and update the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Two weeks burned on those twelve rulebooks, all the while with people screaming at me to hurry up since we could not ship tens of thousands of dollars worth of wholesaler restock orders until the new rulebooks were done. Leanna was a genius here, going through all these orders and figuring out which ones could be shipped with the fewest new rulebooks so I could do those first. Every day, another rulebook was finished, and every day, another order or two shipped.

Then I spent over a week on the die cutting crisis. (And that was doing nothing BUT the die cutting crisis. I had already spent over two months working on this, a few minutes here and there.) This crisis was not our fault (although my having too many jobs hurt; in a company ten times our size, I would have done the FCRRB, another guy would have done page layouts for the twelve rulebooks, and a third guy would have solved the die cutting crisis, all at the same time). The die cutter we have used for two years suddenly announced he didn't want to do it any more, because we actually expected him to do it right instead of taking whatever he decided to do for us. We found another die cutter who would do it, but he wanted twice as much money. Fortunately, with some friends in another game company, we found a dandy die cutter who can do the job for less than we were paying, and based on his work for other companies, it's vastly superior. This is a die cutter who does wargame counters, not a die cutter who has never heard of wargames, thinks he can do them, but has no understanding why it matters if the starship is on this counter and its combat factors are on the next one to the left! Even so, the problems here will mean that Hydran Attack will appear this fall, not at Origins. On the other hand, the new die cutter has shown us how to get 280 counters in the space of 216, which will launch an exciting new edition of Federation & Empire. The bad news about not having Hydran Attack for Origins is that now I have to find some other product (probably Booster #91) which I can finish in time. I don't even know where Petrick is on C3A and G3A, and he's home fighting some kind of plague (I told him to take the day and rest up so he'd recover more quickly) so I cannot even ask him, but he works more on a steady state basis than I do. I work in spurts.

As overwhelmed as I am with this spring, I am excited about this fall. The new edition of F&E, Hydran Attack (easy to finish from where it is), and Star Fleet Assault all beckon to my designer's passion.

After the die cutting crisis, I got sick and spent the last several days doing nothing much (other than being sick). At least I finally figured out that I wasn't going to get over being sick until I quit trying to get to my desk every time I felt half-awake. I took some time to just rest (I spent some of it packing paperclips into bags for Klingon Border), something I have never done, but it did the trick. I'm back at my desk feeling quite well. (I also got to watch all 15 episodes of PRIMEVAL start to finish, and lost six pounds.) If nothing else, the enforced time off gave me time to think through where I am in this mess and how I am going to get out of it. I have a plan, and I think it will work. I am determined to make it work.

And remember, that every time I lose a day of work, I lose two days of design time, since the non-design work still has to be done. This is one of the reasons why I have yet to find a way to get the FCB2 Ship Cards printed (or sold as PDFs if I cannot get them printed in the small quantities we are likely to sell; the minimum print run for laminated cards is four times the sales of FCB2). Two months ago I was confident that we would have the fighter miniatures ready for Origins, but Todd reports that the first production run did not work, and I haven't had time to prod him every day into getting the second round finished in time for Origins. Oh, yeah, then there's the problem that none of our fiction authors have delivered a story for the Captain's Log #39 headline (and by the way, CL#39 was suppose to have shipped today, and nobody has even worked on it since January, when we were halfway finished). So, tomorrow, I have to sit down and force myself to think up and write a story. I have had to do that a dozen times in ten years, and every one of them took all day every day for an entire week. Some of those stories were brilliant and were published. Some of them were total drek and will never see the light of day (but still took an entire week). About a week from tomorrow, Petrick will read whatever story I write (maybe Juggernaut #3, maybe Flotilla Commander #2, maybe something else) and tell you if CL#39 will be released at Origins or not.

See you then.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Ryan Opel, a Federation & Empire staff member, writes:


Memorial Day. 


A time to remember friends and comrades lost. Some lost in war. Some lost in peace. Some lost to old age. Some still alive but yet lost to us.


As I spend my third Memorial Day in the Iraqi Theater of Operations I remember all those brothers, sisters, friends, relatives that have answered their nation’s clarion call of service. From those early days in 1775 when a small group of British Colonies decided that they had had enough. Through the dark days of a Civil War that almost tore our young nation apart. Into the dark days of 1941 when we were forcefully thrust onto the world stage to stay. The dark days of the Cold War brought us even more to the forefront of the stage as millions of men and women from the United States went to serve around the world.


My own service began during this time and I trained for war as hard as I prayed for peace. For I knew, like my brothers in arms, who would pay the harshest cost if our efforts to maintain the peace failed. I lost friends and comrades during this time in accidents, both training and regular. I remember them and their families.


On September 11th 2001, once again our nation’s clarion call to war was sounded and our nation’s citizen soldiers answered that call. From Ground Zero, to Arlington, to the skies over Pennsylvania, warriors answered the call. Within hours we had answered that call, knowing that much sacrifice would be needed from all of us.


On Memorial Day I will close my eyes and remember.


I will remember my Grandpa Arthur Fredrick Opel, USMCR, who died before I was old enough to realize what he’d done for country.


I will remember my Grandpa John Elmer Webster, Army of the United States, who died before I was old enough to truly talk to him about his service.


I will remember my roommate Todd Drobnick, who was killed while working as a civilian translator on Thanksgiving Day 2003 in Northern Iraq.


I will close my eyes and walk through the fields of Lexington Commons, Cowpens, Valley Forge, Yorktown, Fort McHenry, New Orleans, Vera Cruz, Manassas/Bull Run, Antietam/Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Nashville, Appomattox, Little Big Horn. I will walk in Santiago and Manila. 


I will walk along the Somme, the Meuse-Argonne. I will walk from the Philippines, to Burma, to Egypt and Libya, through Italy and France and on into Germany. I will set foot on the islands all across the Pacific and on into Japan.


I will walk up and down the Korean Peninsula from Pusan to the Yalu, across South Vietnam from Saigon to Khe Sanh.


I will travel again to Germany and visit places like Hohenfels, Augsburg, Nuremberg, and walk the Inter-German border.


I will patrol the Korean DMZ.


I will go to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I will visit Iraq and Afghanistan.


Along this trip I will be accompanied by those that have fallen. They wear Continental Blue, Confederate Gray, Union Blue, Khaki and Olive Drab, Woodland and Desert Camouflage, and the current combat uniforms. Those that walk beside me are the dead; they watch over the US soldier wherever he goes. Our lost comrades will never be forgotten, even if we don’t know their names or faces. The memory will be guarded and cherished as long we draw breath.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

We have merged the two websites. The combined site now has a new front page, site map, and index, making it a lot easier to use. You are welcome to comment on the changes, but more importantly, please suggest changes, and check the changes we make.

Here is my e-mail: Design@StarFleetGames.com or you can comment on either forum.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Night at the Museum

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I went to see Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian. It was not as much fun as the first film, although still a pretty good effort. There were things that I found objectionable. One of the biggest was the "level of destruction". In the first film, while things were damaged, there was no major structural damage, at least not something that might fail to be hastily covered up. In this one, static displays are not only effectively wrecked, but are wrecked in different buildings from where they were normally displayed. Leaving far more mystery than before. Naturally the investigation is going to be somewhat stymied in that there will be a notable lack of clues that anyone would believe that would indicate that the displays themselves did the damage.

In the first film, there was enough "containment" to believe that (except for the museum guards) no one might know what was going on. (That with a wink and a nod since obviously in the real museum there are going to be security cameras that would record much of the activity.)

Still, it was nice to see an event where "mystical forces from the past" are brought into play, but are not "invincible". (One of the most annoying things about "Dragon Wars" was that modern technology was relatively impotent, not completely, but relatively, against the ancient demon army.)

If you liked the first film, give this one a try.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I was watching one of those Discovery Channel reality shows about lobster boats off New England. The way they do it is to lay strings of 40 lobster traps, all hooked on one rope. with a float on each end that rides on the surface of the ocean. They had a frequent problem with other ships accidentally dragging their strings miles away or accidentally cutting their floats, causing them to lose equipment and doom the trapped lobsters to death by starvation (as opposed to death by restaurant).

It would seem to me that somebody could solve this problem by inventing something (and make money selling it to lobstermen). That "thing" would be something fastened to the middle of the string with a timer to release a float (with a GPS-based "cell phone") after so many days. You would always know that no matter what happened, you'll find your lost gear on a certain date (when you set the device to release its float).

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Playing FEDERATION COMMANDER by Email 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.

The basic gist of the FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that 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 FEDERATION COMMANDER 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 of FEDERATION COMMANDER. Moderating a FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the FEDERATION COMMANDER rules.

While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (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 FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:
Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

Donald, I love ya, man, but you totally botched Celebrity Apprentice. Annie Duke clearly beat Joan Rivers in every way you could have counted it. Over the entire show, she raised more money, won more challenges, and had more wins as a team leader.

Your staff told you that Joan won three of the five tests in the last challenge. Setting aside for the moment that two of these were highly dubious judgements, let's consider that Annie should have gotten a bonus point for raising three times as much money, and Joan should have gotten a penalty point for driving the decorator to the point of quitting the show without warning at 5pm on a Friday.

Joan should also have gotten a penalty point for her actions in the Boardroom: insulting Annie, calling her "worse than Hitler", calling her a liar (when she was telling the truth as proven on the video), and a whole range of unprofessional actions that would have gotten her sued or fired in any company in America.

You gave the win to Joan Rivers for all the wrong reasons. Joan was show biz and had powerful friends; Annie the poker player had no friends you have to deal with. Joan's charity was entirely inside New York (which should have been a negative, not a positive). Joan's charity served a group with powerful political friends who could have made your life miserable.

You should have done the right thing for the right reasons, not the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to Find Opponents

STEVE COLE WRITES: Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four wargamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).
These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, and works much better, and you have a lot of ways to do it. For best results, do all of them.
You can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out of somebody near you has signed in.
You can go to the forum and find the area where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations and let people know you're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.)
Feel free to go to your local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of FEDERATION COMMANDER (or any of our games) and "grown your own" opponents. If anybody already plays the game you demo, they'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.
Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts.
The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to our Legacy site and look for the button that says Player Resources. Under that menu is a link for Starlist. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than your local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.
The original website has a bulletin board system and the 8th item on the main menu is "seeking opponents". You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.
Many of those on Starlist and StarFleetGames.com/discus will be players of STAR FLEET BATTLES, but most of those can be convinced to play FEDERATION COMMANDER. Indeed, over half of the names on Starlist are people who quit playing STAR FLEET BATTLES for lack of opponents (or because SFB was too complex for them or their opponents) and most of those are ready recruits for the faster cleaner FEDERATION COMMANDER game system.
With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see the links list on our site).
If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town, or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a star trek club in your home town, show them FEDERATION COMMANDER or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their Email address and left these in the windows of their cards who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.
You can go always go to SFB Online and play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $4 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.
There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Future Spock and What He Knows

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

By now, most of you have seen the new Star Trek Movie. It is a fun ride, but not something that can handle a lot of consideration of all the changes it makes.

One of the biggest is that apparently "history diverged" BEFORE the Kelvin was destroyed.

How do we know this? Because it was known that the Romulans were an off shoot of the Vulcans and Uhura, by gosh, knew all three of the Romulan dialects. For any of that to be true, the Federation had to know about the Romulans for a while.

So the historical diversion we are looking at pre-dates the Kelvin's destruction.

Even though we know about that diversion, we have serious problems because of "Classic Spock" (as opposed to "New Spock").

Is there still a vampire gas cloud out there? Is Classic Spock going to warn the Federation to go use an anti-matter bomb blood trap to destroy it?

Is there still a Doomsday Machine heading towards Federation Space? Is Classic Spock going to warn the Federation to drop a starship with its engines on overload into its maw to destroy it?

Is Classic Spock going to warn them not to mess with "The Guardian of Forever"?

Is Classic Spock going to warn the Federation not to mess with Gary 7?

Is Classic Spock going to warn the Enterprise to avoid the black hole that sends it into the past and results in the download of computer files to an Air Force Base that is the basis for Star Fleet Battles? It would make sense to do so (and avoid all of the strangeness that occurred). But if he does then Amarillo Design Bureau would not exi . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2009

THE PRIME PROBLEM WITH ADB, INC. (and any small game publisher)

Steve Cole reports:

I publish games (hex and counter wargames, RPGs, card games, miniatures). I think I do a decent job. One of my great friends also runs a game company. I don't really think he does a better job than I do (and neither does he), but he has TEN times the sales my company has.

This isn't because his games are ten times as good, it's because he's in ten times as many retail stores. That ten times factor affects everything, from the hours I work to the number of jobs I do. (My friend's company has FIVE people doing what amounts to my job(s), which easily means I am not doing any of my five jobs as well as I should be, but I am doing them as well as eighty hours a week will allow me to do them.) It's all about the stores, guys, the stores.

In every store my games are in, I sell as well as anybody. I'm only in ten percent of the American retailers, and that's why I'm working eighty hours a week and the manager of the local McDonald's where I have breakfast makes more than I do. I could shut down my company and dust off that license I have as a registered professional engineer and go to work Monday for triple my salary. I don't do that because I want to be in the game business more than I want to make money. My wife and I have no debts, no kids, and don't live extravagantly. I can afford to make what I make and be a happy person. I'd be happier if I could make three times as much salary and still be in the game business. (My friend does that.) If I quit games to be an engineer again, I'd be miserable (and probably drink).

Why am I not in more stores? Because any given retailer fills up his store with the top five, or top ten, or top fifteen companies. Then he fills up that last shelf with whatever happens to come to mind, come to his attention, be his old sentimental favorite, be requested by a few diehard customers, or was the favorite game of the Alliance customer representative he deals with.

The retailers aren't stupid. The retailers aren't evil. The retailers don't hate me personally. (Well, maybe one or two of them.) The retailers, like me, are busy people working eighty hours a week making half what they could make doing anything else because they, like me, really could only be happy in the game biz. They don't have TIME to notice one of the 100 or so companies that fit into that quarter-million-dollar-a-year sales niche in between the “top ten” and the “itty bitty guys” (and the PDF-only publishers who cannot get into distribution).

How do I get noticed? How do I get out of the crowd? How do I claw my way into stores? I don't really know. I know that buying $700 full-page, color ads did not work (nobody seems to even notice these ads, which is one reason why at least one game magazine went bankrupt). I know that mailing a thousand postcards did not work (a retailer friend at a local game store showed me fifty mailers he received in one week from small-press game publishers and big-press game publishers and no end of other folks. I know that cold-calling retailers DOES work, but it's very labor intensive, and you have to have somebody who loves doing that kind of work. I had a college intern do it (and nothing else) for two weeks and picked up a store or two per day. Small gains, but they add up. She moved on to another job, and the next two interns I had doing that cold call thing scored zero. They just were not very good at doing it. I see out-of-work game guys trying to make a living as "consultants" and tell them "I will pay you $25 for every store you talk into adding my games" and none of them want to do that. They want to charge me $1000 to tell me what I already know. If any of them were actually finding work, I'd quit publishing and be a consultant.

Now, it's more complex than that, but that doesn't change the facts. My friend (with the bigger company) sat me down and slapped me in the head and showed me my games and his games and said "see my point?" and we will be doing some new kinds of games over the next year, but my mind wanders back to the last time I did just exactly that kind of game, and the ONLY stores that carried it were the stores that already carried my older product lines. The other 90% of stores either never noticed the “new” product line, or they blew it off thinking that if I did it, it must be just like the old product line. I still have a few thousand of those games in the warehouse. They sold like crazy in every store they were in, but the only stores they were in were the ones who buy anything I print. The stores that blew off my product lines (or never noticed me among the other 100 game publishers of my strata) missed out on some fairly huge profits. Later, I did another new product line. Colorful. Designed for profit. Simpler. They sell like crazy in the stores my old product lines were in, and they sell like crazy in maybe fifty stores that I personally contacted and made presentations to.

The biggest problem I have is time. I'm working eighty hours a week and right now I'm supposed to be working on a product that ships next month. not typing this, but I just have been building up a need to philosophize. I have got to make some hard choices, some tough decisions, stop doing some of the things I'm doing (such as sleeping) and focus on building markets, by all of the means I have mentioned and some more that I haven't (and some more that I haven't thought about yet). Yes, we do it all. Internet banners, newsletters, press releases, conventions (all of which but Origins are money losers for us), new kinds of products, demonstration teams, demo kits, you name it and I'm already doing it, as much as I can. And I'm going to have to do more. There is no magic solution for those of us in slots #21-#150 in the game publisher pecking order. Just a ton of hard work we don't have time to do but have to do.

If you read all of that, thanks for reading it. I hope it explains things. I hope you understand that I just do not have “a few hours” to go look up something for you. I hope you understand that I don't have the time, or money, or employees, to come to a store in North Carolina and demonstrate my games. I hope the people who make business deals with me (and RPG authors) understand why it can take a month or three to get a contract. I need to revamp the banner campaign but I haven't had time. I hope you guys who want me to whip up a few playtest decks of SFBF expansion cards can understand that it might take me an entire day to find a short-run card printer and get the technical answers out of them to prepare the card sheets, and that I just haven't HAD an entire day to spend on that project. I hope people can understand why Communique can be a day or two late sometimes, or why I haven't read the latest 400-page draft of Federation Admiral, or why I won't do the starbase ammo diagrams before Origins. Guys, I am doing all I can in my 80 hours a week, and if there were anything I could delegate that I haven't delegated yet, I'd delegate it right away, but when it takes more time to check something somebody else did than it would take to do it myself, and I don't HAVE time to do it myself RIGHT NOW, then complaining about how I won't delegate things or do the one thing YOU want isn't really helping.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!

STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). Go to www.StarFleetGames.com/fc and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:
o The free First Missions packet (demo version of FEDERATION COMMANDER).

o Turn gauges and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.

o Sample Ship Cards.

o Wallpapers of game covers.

o Frequently asked questions.

o Information for retailers.

o The original theatrical trailer (ok, not that, but it WAS the original flyer handed out at trade shows).

o Notes from the game designer (Steve Cole) on what parts of the older game STAR FLEET BATTLES we decided to include in FEDERATION COMMANDER.

But that's just a start. If you join the Commander's Circle, which is free, you can download the monthly Communiqué which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!).

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I went to see it. Not bad. I had to keep telling myself: "It's a romp, it's a romp. So what if it doesn't make sense?"

GOOD PARTS; Lots of action, not bad acting (Pike was great, Spock-younger better than I expected, Spock-older was brilliant), ships with odd-numbers of engines (which Paramount once declared verboten). The fact that two people you would never guess are in love was, strangely, nice. Some random mention of "drone defense".

BAD PARTS: The fundamental silliness of taking a cadet who hasn't even graduated and giving him command of a starship. Five-sixths of the graduating class is killed in combat but there isn't a vacant seat in the auditorium in the final scene. The silliness that anybody on the Bridge can jump up and go do something else anytime he wants. The silliness that a ship short on pilots would take a pilot who volunteered for hand-to-hand combat when they had security troops trained for that sort of thing on board.

QUESTIONABLE: There's an emergency and the fleet must go to Vulcan right now, but we're going to wait while Star Fleet Academy picks just the right assignment for every cadet? (Ok, maybe the ships were busy refueling anyway and they just used the time wisely. Ok, maybe the ships were "stood down" for some reason and most of the crews were gone and they had to use cadets to fill them out?)

The bedroom scene (with no real nudity) had Cadet Kirk making it with Cadet Orion Slave Girl. Now, THAT was a hoot!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your store when to expect new products.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will try to set it up for you! Email me at: Design@starfleetgames.com

Monday, May 11, 2009

Points of View

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There was an editorial in today's paper complaining about the stand of a particular elected political leader. Who this leader is is not relevant to this observation, but before anyone throws brickbats at me, it is not President Obama.

The editorial writer complained vociferously that the particular elected political leader had "failed to show leadership" because the political leader had announced that while his own views were that he should vote for the issue under consideration, he was elected to represent his constituents and his constituents opposed the issue.

The point is of course is that had the elected political leader voted for the issue and against the will of his constituents, and the editorial writer had been against the issue, he would have castigated the elected political leader, not because he was "showing leadership", but because he "failed to follow the will of the people".

The editorial writer has done this on numerous occasions. Do what the editorial writer wants you to do, i.e., act as his marionette casting ballots in accordance with the Editorial Writer's point of view, and you are a great person, showing "leadership" by forcing the people who elected you to represent them to do the write thing, or properly representing the people who elected you, depending on whether or not you have done what the editorial writer wanted.

Many editorial writers take this view. They cannot see themselves as wrong, they are always right. Just read their editorials and they will tell you so.

So many of us are conditioned to accept this.

If all the Right-wing Talk Radio hosts were to announce they had had a study done by a right wing organization and had determined that they represented the mainstream of America, the Media would castigate the findings and denounce them as it is obvious that right-wing radio take show hosts are biased in favor of right-wing causes and ideals. But we are all assured that the Media has investigated itself, and found itself to be representative of the mainstream, and even though we may believe they have a left wing bias, they deny it and many accept it because they (the media) had more talking heads announcing their views are not biased in favor of left wing causes.

But they very truly are, and the sad part is that many of them are no longer afraid to admit it. We saw much of that in last election where reporters would go on record that it was more important that President Obama be elected than that a fair election be held, i.e., it was their duty "as a free and fair press" to make sure that McCain lost and Obama won.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and I will get it set up for you.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

Yesterday, the jobless figures came out, and guess what, we ONLY lost 500,000 jobs in April, not the 600,000 of previous months. This was heralded as GOOD news. Well, at least it's not quite so bad as it has been, but it's bad. At best, it's not getting worse as fast as it was.

Of the 100,000 "saved" jobs, 66,000 are temporary two-year jobs to conduct the census.

President Obama insists that his "Stimulus Bill" gets the credit, despite the fact that only $33 billion has actually been spent (out of about $390 billion of actual stimulus and $390 billion of worthless feel-good-but-do-nothing programs that reward the groups that supported Obama and move the country closer to socialism). No, Mister President, it wasn't you, it was some temporary jobs (the hiring for which  was scheduled about 200 years ago).

Let's face it, we all know that...
1. Spending your way out of a recession has never worked.
2. Half of the stimulus bill was not stimulus.
3. The economy was going to turn around sooner or later anyway.
4. You were going to TAKE credit for it when it happened. Could you at least wait until the economy turns around before you take credit?

Friday, May 08, 2009

More Tales of Tivo

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things with Tivo is that you get to take a little time to see a lot of old films you might never have taken the time to see before. In so doing, you begin to notice things that are missing. There are a lot of old "crime" movies (detective stories, bank robberies, police investigations, etc.), and a lot of stuff that, to me, is pure drek (love stories, morality plays, sports stories, etc.). This is not to say that there are not aspects of the latter category in most of the others (a "love interest" for a main character is quite common, and often there is a moral lesson as part of a film even if it is not really a "morality play"). There are of course other types of films (comedies can be about any of the above, although I am less likely to see a comedy that is not about something I am already pre-disposed to take some interest in).

So what is missing?

Science Fiction.

There is (on TCM) hours and hours of programming of old films, including some that could be classed as "Spiritual", e.g., The Green Pastures, but there is very little science fiction. Most of what there is is more appropriately classified as "horror", but while Doctor Frankenstein was a "doctor" and "built" his monster, Frankenstein is always going to be horror, and not science fiction in my book.

Still, Tivo has given me the ability to record a great many things for later viewing. Such as Seven Days to Sunrise, Flame Over England, Richard III, Henry V, Count of Monte Cristo, The Fuller Brush Man, Suicide Fleet, Modern Times, Shane, Knight Without Armour, and various other old films.

But notice that the only one of those that is even remotely "science fiction" is "Seven Days to Sunrise", the tale of a scientist with a nuclear weapon that he intends to detonate in London unless Parliament passes a law banning the manufacture of such weapons.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What Is Stress?

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Different people react to stress in different ways. This is one of the problems the medical profession has in dealing with any illness. Because not only do we react to stress in different ways, we react to different medications and treatments in different ways. Every member of the human race is, effectively, a "one off", i.e., a unique individual. A medicine that will have minimal effect on one person can have serious side effects for another. There are even people who are allergic to surgical gloves. There is no way, today, to unique tailor treatments for each individual, so all of us more or less get treated with what seems to work, and some of us turn up with bad reactions.

But as to stress. Long ago when I was a very, very young Second Lieutenant I was required to take a "stress test". This was a new thing the Army was working on at the time, and lucky me I got tapped to be one of the people they were doing a check on. This so-called test was little more than filling out some forms about your background and life and how your current life was operating, and then answering some questions.

I was advised that my own, personal, stress levels were extremely high, and that I would probably be hospitalized within a year if something was not done to reduce the stress I was under.

That was pretty much the end of it.

About a year later I was transferred to a new unit, and shortly thereafter promoted to First Lieutenant. And they were running the stress thing again. My new unit decided to send me (despite my complaint I had already been and was not interested in a repeat performance). So I went, and dutifully and honestly again filled out all of the forms and answered the questions.

This time the team performing this little traveling circus looked at me and wanted to, in essence, why I was not dead or at least in the hospital. All of their tests said that my stress load was extremely high, and I completely lacked any of the "stress reducers" in my life. Yet, there I was.

Truth to tell, I did go through a "crisis" within the next year. Literally woke up, came into my office, sat down, and was utterly unable to function. Did little more than star at people who came into my office to talk to me.

One of the people who came in to see me that day was the First Sergeant, and after talking to me for a while he finally stopped and just stared at me. Then he left and returned with the Company Commander. The CO looked at me for a while also, and I know he spoke with me briefly, but nothing connected. Finally he directed that I keep my door closed from now on. I was so far gone that I did not really respond to all this, but for about the next week I dutifully reported to my office, sat in my chair with the door closed until the duty day ended and the First Sergeant told me to go home. This went on for about a week. At the end of that time I came into the office, sat down, took the top document from my in box and began processing it. About an hour later the First Sergeant looked in (several documents had by that time moved from my in box to my out box), and asked how I was doing, to which I responded fine. Then the CO came by, simply looked into the office, and left my door standing open from that point.

I have probably gone through several similar burnouts in the course of my life. There is a point where the stress level almost literally shuts down most higher brain functions (food, sleep, do not crash car, etc. remain operable, but create and take initiative are disconnected). It is very probable that, given the stress levels I have carried for much of my life that real physical harm has been done.

Life, however, goes on.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.StarFleetGames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry 28 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company lasted 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he was personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The White Cat Ghost

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

For much of the first few years I worked with SVC, I sat in a chair nearby at a smaller desk, with a poster of a Tiger with a White Cat in front of it. This poster slowly, but surely, drove me insane. The reason for this is that every now and again I saw that white cat "move". It was always just out of the corner of my eye, i.e., at the edge of my peripheral vision, but I saw it. Every time I saw that movement my head would snap around and my eyes would focus on the white cat, but its position was unchanged. Yet, I SAW it MOVE. It was not possible. It was a flat picture, nothing more than a poster (captioned "The Difference is Power", being an advertisement for something long ago and juxtaposing the power of the Tiger against the power of a house cat). There was nothing special about it, but time and again out of the corner of my eye that white cat would move.

Turned out that what was moving was a cobweb that was entirely contained within the picture of the cat. Every now and again the flow of air would cause it to shift, i.e., move. The white cobweb moving on the picture of the white cat created the illusion that the cat had moved.

We still have that picture, and since the cobweb was discovered and eliminated, the cat has never moved, but part of my brain still looks at that cat, expecting it to do so.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Our Cause is Just, So Lies Are Okay

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the annoying aspects of some groups is their feeling that their cause is so important that it is okay to tell lies in order to achieve their goal. To cause people to support them by telling untruths because the truth is not enough to sway the majority.

An example is the PETA campaign in which they try to convince people that eating meat is bad. They do this by telling us that when an animal dies in terror that it floods its body with toxins, and meat-eaters shorten their lives by eating the meat tainted with these toxins.

This relies on the failure of the school systems to teach that modern man is taller, stronger, healthier, and longer lived than his earlier ancestors. The average height of Americans increased in just the last century (causing problems not just with beds made for the shorter standard, but with the design of ships wherein the standard hatches were made for the shorter average). This is even more graphically illustrated by the increases in height, health, and longevity among the average Japanese citizen given the increases in protein in their diets since the end of the Second World War. It is even more obvious in those from other lands who have assimilated into the American Dietary system.

It also fails to take into account that the majority of Predators bring down their victims in circumstances that are, to be succinct, terrifying.

If meat was poison, nature would have done one of two things:

All the meat-eaters would have died off or

Some of the meat-eaters would adapt to the poison.

It is possible there is an evolutionary change happening in some (unlikely for it to be all of them simultaneously) animals that would make their flesh poison. There is no indication that such is happening, much less has happened.

But PETA is on a mission to convert the world to a Vegan diet, and their cause in their own eyes is just, so much so that any tactic is valid, including lies that prey on those who do not know the truth. Which is itself one more condemnation of our public school system.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight 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.

This successful operation has now been 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 $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system 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 on-line 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.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Constant Intrusions

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I mentioned a while back that I had discovered that my phone had been dead for over a week. I had cause to find out just how annoying the phone can be. I went home early on Thursday because I was not feeling well. Having arrived at home, headed to bed despite the Sun still being high in the Western sky. Barely had I nodded off then the phone rang, dragging me from my barely achieved state of slumber. Having just gotten home from the office, it was possible that SVC needed to ask me a question about something, so I could not ignore the phone.

It was not SVC, it was Discover Credit Card company wanting me to accept a new service they were offering.

Having gotten off the phone, I returned to bed (I really did not feel well, but I could not figure out what was wrong . . . I was just foggy and getting foggier). Having been jerked from slumber earlier, it was harder to get back to sleep, but I had just about achieved it when, again, the phone rang.

Again, it was not SVC. This time it was my bank wanting to offer a new service.

Once more I headed to bed and tried to gain the bliss of sleep to give my body a chance to sort out whatever was going on. And again, the phone rang.

And again, it was not SVC. This time it was the phone company wanting me to accept a new service they were offering.

As things happened, SVC did not call me that evening for any reason, which was just as well, because after the third phone call I manually disconnected the phones. Much of the damage had already been done (having been jerked awake from near slumber three times in a row in less than a half hour trying to go to sleep the fourth time was hard). I pretty much tossed and turned for over an hour before finally losing consciousness.

I did plug the phones back in when I left for work on Friday morning. And when I got home Friday night, the phone rang yet again. This time it was someone running a Survey for a store chain.

Looking back on that week when the phone never rang, I begin to feel that if it were not for the Tivo service, I might just disconnect the service. I am just really, really, tired of the phone having been converted in the last decade and a half into little more than a near constant intrusion into my life by strangers. It is bad enough that the Cell Phone keeps getting calls for someone who apparently had the number before it was given to me (seems like about one call a month), not to mention the occasional wrong numbers that come both into my home, over my cell phone, and the ones we get at the office.

Do not get me wrong. The lines of communication are needed, and I like having the back up phone line in case the cell phones are knocked out (and vice versa). But the constant intrusions of strangers dragging me from sleep, interrupting my quiet times in the evenings, or (also extremely annoying) having the phone ring just as I have locked the door to leave, or as I have arrived at the door with my hands full of groceries. It would be one thing if these calls were from friends or family, but the constant intrusions by strangers have just become too annoying.

Friday, May 01, 2009

What To Do If You Win the Lottery

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Tonight the Mega-Millions Lottery will probably be won by somebody (or somebodies). A windfall of $220 million dollars.

I will not have the winning ticket, of course. Having a ticket at all, as others have noted, gives me the opportunity to dream (as long as I do not count on it, but as noted, I know my ticket will not be the winner).

There are a lot of things I would like to do with such a windfall, however (even if I anticipate that Taxes, accountants, and attorney fees will eat up half of it to start with . . . just to be on the safe side). Send my Nephews and my Cousins to the best schools I could get them into for example. My big thing is to make things better for the next Generation. And that means watching all of them to see which one will inherit (I have no heir). The one that will do whatever is needed to build up the wealth more, and use the wealth to continue improving the family.

If you win, look beyond yourself and do what you can for future generations.