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Monday, November 30, 2015

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

Steve Cole reports:

This was the week of Thanksgiving and the following ice storm. That made it a shorter week than normal as the police asked everyone to stay off the roads on Friday and Saturday and ADB's personnel complied.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Star Fleet Times #31-#35. It was already available in Warehouse 23 and as a paper reprint.

Steve Cole spent time recuperating from his successful surgery, but did make it into the office to check his email. He appreciates all the good wishes and reminds you to see a doctor if you haven't in a couple of years.

Steven Petrick worked on updating SFB Module C2 and did more work on Captain's Log #51 and the Romulan Master Starship Book.\

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She also worked with Jean about some of the more challenging orders.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt inventory, and helped Jean with orders.

Jean processed some of the easier orders, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,889 friends), managed our Twitter feed (167 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS and Forum, uploaded PDFs, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

In Praise of Our Volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at ADB, Inc. are taking the day off to spend time with friends and family. We wish you and yours a
 wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Take Charge of Your Health

Steve Cole writes:

Steve Cole is fine. Let's start there before any of the rest of this upsets anyone. Fine means cured, full recovery in progress, no problems. Now, as for what happened.

Last Friday a brilliant surgeon removed my left kidney which had a big tumor. This kind of cancer is self-contained and non-invasive (at least it would have been for another year) so there is no follow up, no radiation, and no chemotherapy. I'm done, cured, back to a normal life. Home and safe.

I did not mention this earlier because I knew that it was a simple procedure with odds of success at 100%. Easy fix. I wasn't worried and you didn't need to worry either. If I seemed distracted in the last few weeks, this was why. (Unlike TV doctors who schedule your surgery for the third commercial, real world cancers wait several weeks for a surgical appointment.)

I am telling you now because ADB, Inc. has always been totally honest and transparent, and because just maybe it will inspire a few of you who don't currently take care of your health to see a doctor regularly and keep track of your blood pressure and blood sugar. My blood pressure had been stable for a decade when I noticed a sudden climb that steadied at a higher number. When it didn't go away, I asked my doctor to check into it, and a few specialists and tests later they found a tumor the size of a tennis ball (which was causing my blood pressure to rise).

I am going to take the four-day holiday weekend to rest and let a few places heal. It hurts when I laugh -- but not even enough to take pain pills. I will be fine. See you all Monday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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.

Monday, November 23, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 15-21 November 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Captain's Log #17. It was already available in Warehouse 23 and as a paper reprint.

Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations and Captain's Log #51.
Steven Petrick worked on updating SFB Module C2, Captain's Log #51, the Romulan Master Starship Book, and the tree for the Star Fleet Battles International Championship Tournament.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date and worked on cross-training Jean on the ordering process.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and helped Jean on orders.

Simone did website updates and hunted pirates.

Jean worked on learning more about processing orders, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,884 friends), managed our Twitter feed (167 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

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/).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

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!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

First World Issues

This is Steven Petrick posting.

With the exceptions of a brief visit to Canada with my father's parents while I was growing up and a tour in Korea courtesy of my Uncle Sam, I have lived all my life in the United States. I have thus lived in what has become known as "the first world."

This means, but for some of the more arduous things my Uncle Sam asked of me, I have led a relatively complacent life.

As an example, I get to go home at night to a temperature controlled building, leaving for the day my temperature controlled office, and driving in home in my temperature controlled car.

I will then spend the evening in my chair, not really needing to move after having acquired my drinks and snacks to watch television.

Well, supposedly.

You see my apartment complex has a rather rapid turnover of occupants, being largely composed of college students who come and go.

Recently some of my new neighbors have apparently brought with them some electrical apparatus. The effect of this apparatus when it is turned on is to block the signals from my TV remote. Whether I use the original remote to the TV, or the programmed capability of the tivo remote, the TV will not accept the signals. At first I thought something had simply worn out in the TV's electronics, but were that so, it would not become operational again for extended periods. The only logical conclusion is that one of my fellow dwellers has some system that is jamming the signals of my TV remotes.

Now, the major effects of this are that I cannot turn the TV on and off, as most of the channel selecting is done by Tivo which is independent of the TV. So I can watch shows and record for later viewing what I wish. But if I want to adjust the sound (for example) I have to, and I know this sounds terrible, actually get up out of my chair and walk over to the TV! (Same thing I have to do to turn it on or off.)

I am aware of other lives in this world, people who do not know where or when their next meal will come from, or how they will stay warm and dry. So I cannot really look on this "hardship" one of my neighbors is unknowingly inflicting on me with more than a little annoyance. It is not really going to hurt me to lose this little bit of accustomed ease in my life.

But it is an annoyance, and I will probably have to live with it until next summer when the neighbors will probably all go home and one of them takes his little jamming device with him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Find New Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four war gamers 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, works much better, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For best results, you should do all of them.

If you play Federation Commander, then 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-ins every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out if somebody nearby has signed in. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/

Primarily for Federation Commander players, the Forum has a topic where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations. Players can let other players know they'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.) http://www.federationcommander.com/phpBB2

You can to go to a local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of your favorite game(s) and "grow your own" opponents. If a person already plays the game you are demoing, he'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. There is also Craigslist, but you should use the normal caution you would for meeting a stranger.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to http://starfleetgames.com/starlist.shtml. 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 5,000 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 a 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.

You can find opponents for all of our games on our BBS. Go to http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/ and you'll see "Seeking Opponents" on the main menu. 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.

Friends of our page on Facebook can post to see who is out there. Not a friend? Become one here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see http://www.starfleetgames.com/links.shtml for suggestions).

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 cars who got emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online (http://www.sfbonline.com/index.jsp) and play Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander online with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $5 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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Steve Cole writes:
1. Sometimes you need to take a moment to admire your own work. Somehow, reading something you wrote or edited just to enjoy your own work will find a mistake that proofreading it six times did not find. I think it's because your mind is relaxed and not looking for problems.
2. Do you remember the movie ZULU? In it was Colour Sergeant Bourne, who was a stalwart supporter of the two young officers. Bourne was given an officer's commission for his heroism that day, and died a lieutenant colonel at the age of 91 on the day after Germany surrendered in 1945.
3. Much is written about the best weapons for the zombie war. Besides the obvious (one each: assault rifle, pistol, machete, big knife) you may find yourself without weapons due to some situation. The easiest thing to find is some sort of club, which might work if you don't have to face more than one zombie at a time. The easiest real weapon to find is a knife. While a good combat knife is preferable, any big kitchen knife is better than nothing. Absent a firearm, several strong knives with blades of a few inches or more long will at least give you a fighting chance. When you get time, make a spear. You need a piece of wood maybe four or five feet long and at least an inch in diameter. Hardwood is preferable, and shovel handles can be swell. Shape it to a point with your knife. (You can "fire harden" the spear point by holding it over a flame then scraping away anything charred or burned.) That gives you something that can penetrate a skull, keep a zombie a bit farther out of reach, and use two hands to extract if it gets stuck. If you only have one knife, make some extras by sharpening stakes (a foot long) and using them first. Driven by both hands, they will penetrate a zombie skull, or you can aim for the eye sockets.
4. The top stupid reason to open a business: I am tired of working my rear end off so that somebody else can live the high life. I want to have the easy job, sitting in the office counting the profit.
5. One day last June, Simone, Jean, and I were looking over JagdPanther #7 (a magazine I published in 1974) which Simone was to scan so Jean could upload it to the PDF stores. Jean took great delight (and great pain at the same time) pointing out my rather silly spelling, formatting, and punctuation mistakes. (I actually hyphenated the word "rules" at one point. Ok, it was a fanzine, but I was a 23-year-old college senior and you'd have thought that I'd have known better.) Simone found the graphics laughable. I told Simone that 40 years from that day, she would be showing some of her 2014 work to a 23-year-old intern who would be laughing at how primitive it was compared to 3D holograms that sang and danced.
6. Things SVC wanted to say to college graduates: Congratulations. College is tough and graduating is an accomplishment. Just remember that your degree is not a certificate of entitlement. The world doesn't owe you an income or even a job. You have to get out there and find a job and earn an income. Remember that everything you did, and everything you're about to do, was already done by almost every adult you know, so welcome to the club, but you're not unique.
7. The best of the random interesting words was PANDEMONIUM, a place of great noise and confusion, comes from the Greek words pan-daemonia. Milton named the capital of hell (in Paradise Los) as Pandemonium because all of the demons lived there, and it became a polite word for hell, which was somewhat impolite. In time, because hell was expected to be noisy, busy, and confusing, that became the meaning of the word. Even today, the word is capitalized in most dictionaries as it is (technically) the formal name of a city.
8. Best of the ADB TV Network: REALITY SHOW PREPPERS: Has your restaurant, bar, or hotel signed up to be on a reality show? Have you ever watched one? Don't you know that the first half of the show is going to make you look bad so the expert can save you? Avoid embarrassment by having our crew of experts get there a week early. Expert chef Jean streamlines your menu. Expert accountant Leanna gets your books in order and drills you to memorize and recite the key numbers. Expert operations chief Steven whips you and your employees into a frenzy of cleaning. Expert web designer Simone rebuilds your website, launches your social media campaign, and installs new software. Expert maintenance chief Mike gets everything working and a repair schedule established. Meanwhile, our fearless leader rethinks your entire business plan. On tonight's episode, hotel owner Ken asks "You mean discounts for skinheads is bad for getting families to stay here?"
9. Television taught me that everyone who does not live in New York wishes they did, except for the people who wish they lived in Los Angeles. (People who live there think so; those who don't live there mostly don't want to.)
10. In the final days of July, 1945, the Japanese had assembled 60 twin-engine bombers and 600 commandos for Operation Sword. This was to be a one-way suicide mission to attack the US bases for B29 bombers in Guam, Saipan, and Tinian. The theory was to crash land on the bases, at which point the commandos would rush out with machineguns, grenades, and firebombs to cause as much damage as they could. The mission was continually delayed (by weather or by US attacks on their base) with one of the final dates set for a time when the Enola Gay was sitting on the runway with the Little Boy atomic bomb inside.
11. A thought on game design. Many years ago, someone put on my desk (I was part of TFG then) the game Supervillains. I tried to read it, but it made no sense. I gave it back to my partner, and years later he printed it. The reason I couldn't make heads or tails of it began with the introduction, which described the events of a typical day for the supervillain about town. One of them was to go to a certain area and "beat up some punks." There were other events of the day, but that one stuck in my mind. Why did I want to go beat up punks? Did I gain money? Did I gain reputation points that had some game function? Did I gain combat skills? Why was I doing that? So remember when designing a game and writing that very important introduction, get the people into the game mindset. Something like "Go to the Bowery and beat up some punks, thereby gaining reputation points you can use to intimidate people when you go to Central Park later" or maybe "beat up some punks, thereby gaining money to support today's expenses and activities" or "beat up some punks, thereby keeping your combat skills points up to the maximum level." Give me something to start getting my mind into the purpose of the protagonist's lifestyle.
12. A year ago I wrote in a blog: If you find my body beside a jogging trail, it's a good bet that I was killed somewhere else and moved there by somebody really strong. My, what a difference a year (and a dog named Wolf) make. Now, I'm on the walking (not jogging) trail every day.
13. The Foodie & Grumpy Show, Episode 4: Foodie Jean takes Grumpy Steve to a restaurant he used to visit every week, but grew tired of. Foodie Jean points out that it is easy to grow tired of a place if you always order the same one menu item. Grumpy Steve says that he has to do that, because it's too hard to figure out if he is allergic to a dish from the menu listing. Foodie Jean suggests that Grumpy Steve order something new, while she orders the item he has eaten 12 times in a row. She promises to trade plates with Grumpy Steve if he doesn't like what he gets, or if it turns out to be allergy toxic. She helps him review the menu and select some likely choices, and he gets lucky and finds a new dish that he has never tried before but which he greatly enjoys. Foodie Jean complains bitterly that the dish Steve traditionally orders is boring and plain and proceeds to liven it up with a selection of items from the condiment counter.
14. Sometimes people want to know why we published a stupid rule, a stupid ship, a stupid scenario, or an entire stupid product. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. There; now I never have to answer that one again.
15. The next US atomic bomb was just a few weeks away and was scheduled to be dropped on Tokyo itself. That might have killed the emperor and decapitated the command structure, leaving nobody with the authority to surrender.
16. Be very careful in making enemies. If there is a way to work with or within the existing power structure, give that a try first before you launch a revolution. (Most revolutions fail and most revolutionaries are remembered unfavorably.) Claire (on Outlander) should have told the priest something like this: "You know that Satan sets traps around the old ruins to ensnare souls. This leaf is part of the trap; it made the boy sick enough that a demon could get inside him. If you let me cure the damage the leaf did with this elixir, you will have an easier time of removing the demon while the boy is still alive." That would have been win-win-win. The priest (who knew the kid was going to die) gets to claim he saved him. The boy lives. And you now have a priest who will ask for your help not reject you as a person.
17. During the zombie apocalypse, there isn't much in the way of entertainment other than curling up together and making out, even with someone you would have never married in the pre-apocalypse world.
18. During World War II, the division my father was in was given one of the few companies of African-American combat infantry. By all accounts, the unit performed well in all respects, equal to white units. This was partly because the men were picked volunteers, partly because blacks hated the Nazis more than typical whites hated them, and partly because, as my father said, "they fought like demons, like they had something to prove."
19. When negotiating a deal, ask yourself: Am I making a deal which produces no benefit other than the warm feeling that I made a deal with someone?
20. ACTASF required some "cut-out comet terrain pieces" which we promised to upload (as they could be used with the miniatures version of any game). Reminded of this promise during the proofreading process, I tasked Simone with creating some comets. She created a few, and I wanted changes made (which she did) but I told her to upload both versions and let the players take their pick. It should be noted that comets are actually fairly boring things (muddy white smears on a black background) but I decided to have Simone make ours very colorful just because color is pretty. Simone also suggested that she put a starfield behind (and showing through) the comet to make it more like space, and we agreed that this made them much nicer, but (again) told her to upload the original versions as well since some players might not have the same taste in comets as we do.
21. Never, ever, sign a contract with a person or company until you have spent 10 minutes trying to find them on Google.
22. Women's lib did not mean that guys could stop being gentlemen. Giving women equality doesn't mean men can't open doors for them or let them go first in line.
23. Happy wife = happy life. That's true and hubby better live by it, but I would advise wifey that nobody wants to live with grumpy hubby, so it's not all going to go your way.
24. It is often said by people studying Noah's flood that "every culture on Earth has a flood myth" and because of this, one might assume, every culture on Earth descends from a single group of people who survived the biblical flood. A simpler explanation might be that floods happen all the time in localized areas and a storytelling looking for a new plot for his next story might well just make up a "really big flood." There may, however, be some truth to it. About 5600BC, the basin that is now the Black Sea flooded; that much is a geological fact. There is a theory that due to dry conditions, a substantial part of the European and Middle Eastern population lived around the shore of the (much smaller) Black Sea. (Not everyone agrees. The Black Sea might have been like the Great Salt Lake and not much use for drinking.) When the dam broke and the Mediterranean flowed it, it took a year or two for the basin to fill. There was no real need for panic, but everyone who wanted to keep living by the shore had to move their camp a mile away from the edge every evening (and probably woke up with wet feet the next morning). Eventually, the people got tired of this and relocated to more distant areas.
25. I was told a story once, by someone who insisted it was true and was in a position to have known. Back when they invented the Internet, somebody at that table suggested charging a penny per email. It would, the story said, have been easy to implement a system from the start that did not let an email into the router loop until some account had paid the penny (or a fraction of a penny). The vast majority didn't want to bother, or thought that the internet should be free. If that system had been in place, there would be no spam. Spam only works by blasting 40 million or more emails and even at a quarter of a penny per email that would not be something spammers could afford.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 8-14 November 2015

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was cooler. We sent out Communique and Hailing Frequencies.

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Star Fleet Battles: Module Y2 - The Early Years II Rulebook.

Steve Cole worked on Fighter Operations (delayed when a key staffer could not get a plane home), Communique, Hailing Frequencies, and press quotes for new product covers.
Steven Petrick worked on updating SFB Module C2, Hailing Frequencies, Communique, and rebuilding the Rated Ace list.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with one new entry.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and covers for new products.

Jean worked on learning more about processing orders and providing information for Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,878 friends), managed our Twitter feed (167 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique and Fighter Operations, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Free Stuff for Star Fleet Universe Players!

Steve Cole writes:

We have a lot of free stuff on our website. Let me point you to some of the most popular things. Doing this in alphabetical order we start with Federation & Empire. They have play aids and countersheet graphics here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#FNE

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). First Missions will give you enough of the game that you can try it out. Go here to download it: http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/first-missions.shtml

But that's just a start. Commander's Circle has lots of free resources such as various formats of the Master Ship Chart, Ship Cards, the current and back issues of Communique, scenarios, and playtest rules. If you register, then you can find other Federation Commander players.

Prime Directive players can find a treasure trove of play aids, including medals, insignia, maps, the timeline, and lots of other goodies to spice up a game. These can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#PD

Want to introduce a friend to the Star Fleet  Universe? Try the free download of Introduction to the Star Fleet Universe: Prime Directive and Roleplaying found here:http://www.warehouse23.com/products/introduction-to-the-star-fleet-universe-prime-directive-and-roleplaying

Star Fleet Battle Force
has new cards and play aids as well. These are located here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/sfb/sfin/index.shtml#SFBF

Star Fleet Battles
players have the Cadet Training Manual and Cadet Training Handbook. These were done as a way to get players into the complicated Star Fleet Battles game system. You can download them for free here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/CadetTraining.shtml Also available on the same webpage are lots of SSDs for the game.

We have downloadable art for your computer and iPhone so you can show your SFU pride. Those are here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.shtml

Don't forget Hailing Frequencies, our free monthly newsletter. Covering all our games, you can read back issues here: http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html Don't forget to sign up to get the link delivered straight to your email box each month. You can "opt in" here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/newsletter.shtml

There are many historical documents which are available for download. Maps, deck plans, assorted graphics, and much, much more can be found here: http://www.starfleetgames.com/historicaldownloads.shtml

Browse our master index to find all sorts of interesting information: http://www.starfleetgames.com/masterindex.shtml

As you can see, you could spend days browsing. We hope you enjoy what you find.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Steve Cole ponders various thoughts that came to mind.

1. In this part of the country, sunshine is rather bright and during a hot summer day your car can actually get too hot to touch. I have had to use a handkerchief to pull open the handle or grasp the top edge of the open door. I wonder if car makers could not put something akin to space shuttle heat shield materials on the handles and the top edge of the door. I saw this stuff on TV; even red-hot it won't burn you because the heat transfer rate is incredibly slow.

2. A woman will multiply what she's given. Give her sex and she'll give you children. Give her a house and she'll give you a home. Give her grocery money and she'll give you a tasty but healthy meal. Give her a smile and she'll give you her heart. Give her love and she'll make you the most loved person on the planet. But give her trouble, and you're about to get a trainload of it.

3. Can you imagine what I'm going to be like because I'm now eating right, exercising, and losing weight? I can't either, but it's going to be fun finding out.

4. I was talking to Ramses the other day, and I said to him that I had told Leanna that I was the man of house and what I say goes. That was why I was in the gazebo with Ramses.

5. An example of sarcasm is when a woman tells a man that he's right.

6. I had a regular doctor's appointment recently, and as always I typed up a list of everything I thought she was going to ask or want to know. (I do this by cloning the previous list and updating it.) Being an engineer, this is just the way I do things, but mostly I talk too much and doctors don't want their time wasted. This way, records exist of minor "not worth treating" items so we have a history without spending doctor time discussing them. I listen to her questions each visit and am sure the current answer is provided in my notes for the next visit. My doctor wishes every patient would show up with such a one-page summary document so she could get right to the things that need attention.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 6

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

FRAXTV: Pay-per-view: "Simulating Virtual Reality." All your dreams guaranteed to come true. At least you'll think so.

Republic Broadcasting: 10:00 p.m. "Overthrowing a Count," part 2 of 12. Helpful hints from the LDR for Lyrans everywhere.

Captain's Log #14, (c) 1994 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the  Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault websites. So far on Warehouse 23, we have released a lot of stuff for Federation Commander, including the Revision Six Reference Rulebook, the 72 ships from Federation Commander Briefing #2 (divided into six packs of 12 ships and a separate rules pack), and more than a dozen Ship Card Packs. Our ebook PDFs are in color and high resolution. PDFs of most books are searchable (older Captain’s Logs are not).

The way Warehouse 23 works, once you buy a product, you can download it again for no cost if you lose it or if we upload a revised version of that edition. Thus, the people who bought Reference Rulebook Revision 5 were able to obtain Reference Rulebook Revision 6 for free (and to download it again when we discovered we had accidentally left out rule 4S).

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG. We have started offering general RPG books there as well as some of the general gaming materials that Steve Cole has written. We are also listing Federation Commander, Federation & Empire, and Star Fleet Battles products on Wargame Vault.

We must note that these products are copyrighted and are not to be uploaded or passed around to your friends. Doing so is piracy, a criminal act, and may result in us deciding not to offer any more PDF products. We have already uploaded many Starmada, Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and Prime Directive products. We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale through the various venders. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

So check them out! Many people like the fact they can search our rulebooks for a keyword and find everything that pertains to that issue. Others like the fact they can carry around multiple books on one device. Some ship cards are available exclusively as PDFs. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Changes in Tactics

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Back in the day I frequently ran the merchant shipping my opponents would attack. Some of my opponents were fleet officers simply engaging in a little light-hearted commerce raiding, some of them were hard-core Orions looking to make a buck (all of them were fellow gamers, of course).

Because I ran so many convoys (back in the day when Skids and ducktails were not available), I was constantly looking for means and methods to safeguard my charges.

Many raiders ran afoul of my ad-hoc fighter squadrons (a surprising number were shocked at just how much firepower flocks of admin shuttles working in close company with the freighters represented). And, infamously, in those halcyon days there was no rule preventing the common freighter from purchasing not just T-bombs, but nuclear space mines. To this were added armed freighters and Q-ships to supplement the more normal police ships and frigates as escorts.

Eventually there was sufficient hue and cry about convoys beating up on cruisers and Orion raiders with masses of T-bombs (and those occasional nuclear space mines) that the rules were changed. Nuclear space mines were not just removed from the freighters, but were further proscribed and limited to mine-warfare ships and Romulans. (Back in the day, even my personal ship always carried the two allowed nuclear space mines, but that is no longer allowed.)

So it happens that my convoys continued to use their massed shuttles offensively, and the occasional heavy firepower provided by a Q-ship in surprise, but tactics had to be adjusted for the loss of the T-bombs (it being rules that I could not even mix in an auxiliary minelayer as part of my escort forces anymore).

Thus a new complaint arose that the convoys I operate tended to "offensively board" enemy warships. After all, each freighter still has a transporter, and if I cannot buy T-bombs and nuclear space mines with their commander's option points, I could still buy marines.

Fortunately, I moved on to working for Amarillo Design before my tendency to capture raiding ships (and Orion pirates) got too much notice and that rule has not yet been amended, although there are rumblings about it.

So, I wonder, where will I go for my next tactical solution to unwanted strangers harassing my freighters in the future?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Steve Cole reports:

We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. Hailing Frequencies has the latest company information and covers all of our games. You'll find news on the latest releases both in print and ebook, information on the company, and even serialized fiction. Hailing Frequencies also has links to the latest Star Fleet Alerts, which are press releases about new products and when they will be available for order. From Hailing Frequencies, you can link to Federation Commander specific news in the latest Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including a new ship, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Monday, November 09, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 1-7 November 2015

Steve Cole reports:

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

New on PDF sites this week were Fighter Operations 2015 Rev 5 Nov. and SFB Module P6.

Steve Cole worked on Communique #119, F&E Fighter Operations, art for the SFB Module C1 rulebook (Jean wanted more "sizzle" than blank pages), resolved the ESG-vs-asteroid question for Federation Commander, and other projects.

Steven Petrick finished the revision of Module C1 and worked on the revision of Module C2.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with one new entries.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates, worked on Hailing Frequencies, worked on three covers, and did some graphics.

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2,870 friends), managed our Twitter feed (164 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique #119 and part of the Romulan Master Starship Book, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Star Fleet Universe Downloadable Art

Simone Pike writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download backgrounds and covers with Star Fleet Universe art. We have art that will work on Facebook, iOS7 iPhones, Android devices, and computers. You will also find art you can use as binder spine cards.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/backgrounds.shtml.

Big monitors, small monitors, we have something for nearly everyone. 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1680 x 1050, even 2560 x1600. If you need a different size, we'll see what we can do to fill that desire.

If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into downloadable art, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

How Not to Get into the Game Business

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 over 30 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 online 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.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 5

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

WYN Network: 8:30 p.m. "A Bit of Hitch and Watkins" Two refugee Earth comedians try to make life in an irradiated section of the galaxy a little more bearable for its inhabitants. They fail miserably. Again. (Episode 226, 30 min.)

Lyramax: 10:00 p.m. "Destruct-O-Mania '601'" Grudge Match in the Klingon Pain-Cage for the Top Cat Title. Death Match: Bill, the Wonder Lyran vs. Kzaptain Kzinti. Guest Referee: Hulk Hogan XXII. (sched. 1 hr. 30 min)

Captain's Log #14, (c) 1994 Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

CSI: Canyon

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I tend to take a last walk for the night before going to bed because it tends to calm a incipient spasm in my legs.

Recently, I found what amounted to a blood trail along my route (a circuit of the sidewalk around the apartment complex). This was not a great deal of blood; a drop or two here and about a pace beyond another drop or two. The blood trail was quite easy to follow by the light of the early morning sun as I was leaving my apartment to head to the office.

From their placement and pacing, it was evident that the source of this blood trail had made two circuits around the complex.

Of course, as you have probably figured, the blood trail was mine.

I had stubbed my left big toe near the end of my first circuit the night before, but in the dark judged the damage as an inconsequential as it had been immediately painful but not necessarily continuing in a great deal of pain. Only when I returned to my apartment and, in the light there, examined the injury did it become apparent that I had ripped the skin from the front of the toe, making for a quite bloody oozing mess. A mess I had promptly stomped through dirt and muddy water in completing my circuits.

I really do need to be more attentive to pain messages than I am, but at least at present it does not appear that my failure to respond in this case has (despite the environment I dragged this open wound through) has resulted in any serious infection.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.
1. Maybe once a month I go scan through the blogs the company has posted. One of the things I have noticed is the occasional typo in my own blogs, which means Jean missed something, but that makes me feel good, because she really doesn't need to be doing triple proofreading of stuff we give away. We need to focus on things that make the money to keep the company healthy.
2. I also noticed that Jean and Steve Petrick are always posting blogs I didn't know about. Sometimes I wish I had known before they were posted (and stopped them) but the reality is that I can't check/approve everything. I have too much to do and if they give me something to read, they will get it back in 3d6 days. And that's a logarithmic scale, meaning they might get it back in three months or not at all. They really got tired of waiting for me to check stuff, I guess. I feel like I let them down, but if I stopped working on new products to check their blogs before they post, we'd get fewer new products done.
3. I have been doing "my day" for 20+ years and posting it for nearly that long. Every now and then, something inspires me to reorganize it, and that happened in October. I mentioned to Jean that I wanted to delete a particular item from each day but that the way to make sure nobody noticed it was missing was to reorganize the whole thing without deleting anything else. Jean said that she had long thought (and so had Leanna and a lot of customers) that there was a bunch of stuff on there that just didn't need to be there (such as what I had for lunch). I pointed out that some things had to be recorded because my doctor wanted me to, and Jean said, "put them into another diary," and I said, "I don't want to keep two diaries." While she ranted about how much she didn't like me posting what I had for lunch and that I should shut up and keep two diaries, one public and one private, I came up with a better solution, that is, to keep one diary but to move the private parts to the end of each day, put them on the screen in a different color to remind me what they were, and when I "cut and pasted" each day into the BBS I would just not copy the purple part. Jean readily agreed and joyfully pointed out no end of ideas for things to move to the non-posted section. Some of those made sense, some I didn't want to move (and some of those I moved anyway just to get Jean to stop pestering me). When I got everything reorganized, I started going through the non-posted part asking myself "why am I recording that?" One such item was the amount of spam, some fairly useless numbers that are tedious to record (since every time I delete spam I have to count it and add it to the number from a couple of hours ago). My doctor wanted me to record the weather each day (to keep my brain from rotting, I think) but she didn't want to see the records so I quit keeping those records. Nobody (not even me) cared what time I finished the daily web crawl so that went away. For years I have recorded the subject to Ann Coulter's weekly column, but liberals hate me for doing that and conservatives already read it, so it moved to the private area and became a simple "delete when done" note rather than a "insert summary of editorial" item. In the end, about a third of the work of doing My Day disappeared and everyone is better for it. I can more easily record truly private things that I need to track in the non-posted section, and (since I expect everyone to read the posted part) it's less than half as big and far less boring.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Play Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 02, 2015

This Week at ADB, Inc., 25-31 October 2015

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady progress on many projects.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week were Star Fleet Times #26-#30 and the SFB Campaign Designer's Handbook.

Steve Cole returned from the fall Wolf Trip and spent a day with friends and a day catching up. Then he worked on Fighter Operations 2015, blogs, graphics for SFBOL3G, and other things.

Steven Petrick worked on the Romulan Master Starship Book and on the C1 Rulebook update. He pulled together the materials to do the Lyran Master Starship Book after the Romulan book is finished.

The 2500 project showed signs of life as a staff study reviewed the status of converting the DNs to metal.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with one new entry.

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 2,853 friends), managed our Twitter feed (163 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

On Visits, Memories, and Farewells

Jean Sexton muses:

I like visits. For the most part my apartment is tidy enough that I won't be embarrassed were someone to come over. The biggest "mess" is toys on the floor. Wolf simply hasn't learned to put them away yet. However, when someone is coming over, such as my mother, then "for the most part" simply won't cut it. She's allergic to dogs, so the daybed has to be stripped to the frame and thoroughly cleaned above and below. The whole "public" part of the apartment was cleaned thoroughly. The car got washed inside and out. Even Wolf got washed!

It paid off! With a little help from an allergy medicine, Mom was able to pat the dog without being uncomfortable. It's a good thing since Wolf loved her. I didn't have to wonder where he was; he was curled up beside her with her fingers ruffling his fur. He quickly learned "no bite" and didn't nibble on her fingers in play. He learned "off" meant no bouncing her legs as she walked.

The only problem we had is Wolf wanted my mother to be part of the "pack" and sleep in my bedroom. By the end of the visit he had accepted that he slept in his crate, I slept in my bed, and Mom slept on the daybed in the living room.

One of the things I like about visits is they create memories. Mom and I explored Amarillo as I showed her my everyday life -- going to work, the grocery store, some of my favorite restaurants, and the "look" of Amarillo. She was surprised to see so many trees, each one carefully tended. That has been the biggest change for me as well. In North Carolina, many times one must carve out a lawn from the trees. Here it looked like the lawn had been there and the trees placed artistically in the yard.

We also visited places she had read about, the "must sees" in Amarillo. The Big Texan (represented by the limo in the cartoon Cars), Cadillac Ranch (the Cadillac Range in the same movie), the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and Museum, and Route 66 are on the list of places people remember about Amarillo. She saw playa lakes for the first time. We created many new memories.

In the evenings and on the drives we relived so many memories of the past. "Do you remember," shared stories, and family jokes took us back in time. In some ways those are the touchstones that define a family. While those can be shared on the phone, seeing the smile form and the eyes crinkle or catching the fleeting glimpse of shared loss makes a difference.

Still a "visit" has a start and an ending. Parting is hard. You make promises to see each other again, knowing there is the implied "if possible." Even then, there are memories made. I won't forget Wolf checking the bathroom, daybed, dining room, and kitchen to see if Mom had come home. Finally in desperation he checked under the daybed to see if she'd somehow hidden under there. He then accepted she had left and curled up as close to her pillow as he could.

Still "farewell" is softer than "goodbye." "Goodbye" has such a finality to it. "Farewell" carries the feeling or a wish that you fare well until we meet again. I know there will come a day when my brother will call and tell me there is such a deal on airplane tickets and wouldn't I like to contribute to let Mom fly out again. I'll agree and start planning for a new visit and new memories to be made.

In the meantime I will treasure my new memories.