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Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Second to React

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Earlier this week I was taking Jean and her dog home. I drive this route almost every time I leave the office to head home.

The difference this time is that the car in front of me suddenly dodged to the left. Dodged is the term, as there was an obstacle in the roadway.

I was already somewhat alert, having noted above the top of that car that something out of the ordinary seemed to be going on with the traffic, but I had failed to make the connection that it was something in my lane of traffic.

We were on I-27 southbound. This is a three lane highway at this point, and we were in the right hand lane, moving at the speed limit of 60 MPH.

The car dodging out of the way revealed a chair in the center of the roadway, obviously having fallen from some vehicle.

All sorts of information flooded my brain.

Hitting the chair would most likely cause "cosmetic" damage to the front of the car. The chances of debris being kicked and coming through the windscreen were virtually nil. There was the possibility of a punctured radiator, or a punctured oil pan, possibly a broken brake line if I ran over the chair, so it was preferable to avoid impact.

Braking was not possible. The immobile nature of the obstacle combined with the speed meant that it was inside of the stopping distance, and braking so hard to try to avoid impact would have a grave risk of the car behind me impacting, perhaps setting off a chain reaction.

Dodging to the left, the option taken by the car ahead of me, was not available because I had traffic to my left (paying attention to traffic flow is important, especially when so many people are exceeding posted speed limits by more than five miles per hour). Dodging right was an option, the area was paved (it being a raised part of the roadway), but there was a concrete barrier on that side that would need to be taken into account.

On top of this, concern for Jean (I tend to be more cautious when driving if someone else is in the vehicle, if I make a mistake and harm myself it is all on me, but others have a right not to go over the cliff with me).

Jean also saw the obstacle, and was reacting. She said something, but my focus was elsewhere and I honestly did not hear what she said other than as a noise, and otherwise simply saw her in motion as she was trying to take some action.

Having assessed all of the variables, I dodged to the right, evading impact with the chair and missing the barrier and continued on down the highway after re-entering my lane.

I then took the next exit, intent on circling back around to remove the chair. Jean suggesting that this was too dangerous and the police should be called to accomplish this. While I did not disagree with her,  I felt the time interval was too great (how much more time would it take for an officer to arrive than for me to turn around and get it done). As it happened, by the time I got back to the point in question, someone else had already done the deed, moving the chair to the side of the road.

Even so, it is amazing how much data can flow through that organic computer when confronted with a need to make a critical decision.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Monday, March 28, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 20-26 March 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

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

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week Captain's Log #19.


Steve Cole worked on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Deluxe edition, blogged, and did a demotivational that Jean disapproved.

Steven Petrick worked on scenarios for Captain's Log #51, Federation & Empire auxiliary rules, and quality control.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates (including the new Federation Admiral page) and some graphics. She married her long-time boyfriend Andy Dale on Saturday.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,044 friends), managed our Twitter feed (180 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Deluxe edition, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, rescued a lost puppy (Willy is now safely home with his people) and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

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.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

On Success and Failure and Getting Up

Jean Sexton muses:

Things seem easy when you are being successful at attaining a goal. People praise you for your success and compliment you on lost weight. Milestones are celebrated. Being physically able to do more is its own reward in some cases.

In my case, being able to do more led to a spectacular failure.

While I was sick, I spent all my energy on doing "normal" things. It took energy to walk around my apartment, to take Wolf to the door to do his thing, to wash my hair, even to microwave food. I couldn't even muster the energy to go grocery shopping and had to hand over a list to a friend to pick up for me. When I finally was free of the daytime oxygen, I quickly ran out of energy while shopping and only got essentials.

The last time I was able to go shopping, I felt so much better that I made a menu in my head of things I could fix ahead and dishes I could buy and fix later. I went crazy with "this ingredient means I can also prepare this dish" and got a lot of things. I replaced spices and herbs that I hadn't used and which had gotten stale. One of dishes I bought for was a snack that I love and hadn't made in four years. After all, I needed fresh garlic powder, the Worcestershire sauce that was needed for homemade sloppy joes could be used in it, and onion salt isn't that expensive.

I had been eating soup or salad for dinner for weeks. On Sunday I froze the tomato soup I had made (eight bowls worth) and had some salad for lunch. Then I made potato salad, sloppy joes, and the nibbler's bowl snack I like. I ate far too much. In the morning, my scales told me the verdict: I had failed to meet my weight goal for the week.

Am I upset? Yes, and mostly with myself. I like fixing food and I was so proud I was able to do so much. I hadn't really considered the consequence of eating all of it.

But I will get back on the wagon. Sloppy joes can be eaten without the buns (and the buns will freeze and can be used for a time when I don't have potato salad). The "I haven't had this in forever and it is so good" urge is gone from the nibbler's bowl; once I see how much room the frozen sloppy joes and their buns take up in the freezer, I can also consider freezing the snack mix I made. I can hold off on making baked beans until I run out of the sides I did make. A cake can wait until much later to be baked. And I will walk more.

The important thing is that I will not focus on the failure. I will focus on the success of being able to cook. I will alter my plans so that I can compensate and not add to the weight. I will add more activity to my life and take the weight off.

In short, I fell, but I am getting back up. At least this time the bruises and scrapes are metaphorical. I know what made me fall and I can avoid that pitfall again. I will be successful and make my goal. All I have to do is keep my determination high.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Girl with the Purple Pen

by Stephen V. Cole, with apologies to Don Black

She has a powerful weapon.
She marks dozens on every page.
She's a proofreader that's locked in her den,
The girl with the purple pen.

Proofing in some darkened office,
Marking a product somewhere,
She's in the zone, and so very zen,
The girl with the purple pen.

Chocolate's required whenever she's hired,
Delivered before she reads.
No one can stop her, no staffer can match her
For she'll make their pages bleed.

One mark means another poor staffer,
Has come to a magenta end,
For a price, she'll proof anything
The girl with the purple pen.

Her eye may be on you or me.
What will she mark?
We shall see. Oh yeah!

Chocolate's required whenever she's hired,
Delivered before she reads.
No one can stop her, no staffer can match her
For she'll make their pages bleed.

One mark means another poor staffer,
Has come to a magenta end,
For a price, she'll proof anything
The girl with the purple pen.
She'll never get done
She'll proof til' she wins
The girl with the purple pen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Join us on Facebook and Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

So the Wind Blows

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I wear hats. I am somewhat uncomfortable when I am outdoors if I am not wearing a hat as part of my ensemble (swimming does not require a hat, of course, but normally if I am outdoors I will be sporting a hat).

Today the wind was gusting at 50 miles an hour, and a gust hit just as I exited the door of my car at the office. My reflexes have slowed over time, and I was unable to grab it before it lofted off down the road.

I could only watch it spinning wildly down and across 10th street, and think sadly that when I was a younger man I would probably have been able to dash after and recover it in short order. Now I was just watching the wind blow it further and further away in the hope that it would hit some obstacle that would stop it until I could reach it.

Jean (who had ridden to the office in my car this morning) suggested I drive after it. And, yes, I considered that, but it was not something I was going to do unless there appeared a chance of recovery. Her proposing it, however, distracted me for  a moment and I lost visual contact with the hat. Despite the loss of visual, I decided that perhaps that meant the hat was no longer in motion and had in fact become hung up on something. So after seeing Jean into the office I returned to my car and drove down the block, and sure enough the hat appeared to be caught in some grass.

I pulled over and got out of the car, only to have the hat at that moment blow free, and despite the fact that it went right between my legs, again my reflexes were too slow to catch it.

Rotating on its brim, I thought sure at that point it would just keep going, but a break in the wind caused it to drop open end down on the grass again, and I managed to reach it before the wind picked up yet again.

So the hat is recovered after about a quarter mile blow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Steve Cole ponders an obscure piece of military  history that came to his attention.

Everybody knows about the Japanese-American unit in World War II, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Italy and later in southern France. A few who have read more history know about the 100th Separate Infantry Battalion, the first Japanese-American unit, which was formed from Hawaiian National Guard troops of Japanese descent. This unit, the first in combat, was eventually added to the 442nd as an extra battalion.

I've read over a thousand history books and only recently discovered the 99th Separate Infantry Battalion, which was composed of 550 Norwegian-Americans and 450 Norwegians who just happened to be in the US when Norway was conquered by the Nazis. This battalion (everyone spoke Norwegian and knew how to ski) was originally envisioned as being sent into Norway, but instead fought in France as an extra battalion in various larger units. It was sent to Norway after the German surrender to supervise disarming the German units in that country.

The 101st Separate Battalion was to be formed from Austrians but did not attract enough recruits and was disbanded.

The 122nd Separate Infantry Battalion was composed of 650 Greek citizens and Greek-Americans. After seven months of training it was disbanded as too small but 185 of its members were transferred to the OSS and sent to Greece and the Balkans as spies. Most of those died in action.

In a separate program, a battalion of Philippine troops was formed and later expanded into two entire regiments.

Monday, March 21, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 March 2016

Steve Cole reports:

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

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the first version of Minor Empires for Federation & Empire. New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault was the final compilation of Star Fleet Times, #46-#50.


Steve Cole worked on Minor Empires (getting it done for upload), final preparations to print Fighter Operations 2016, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Deluxe background, a new Star Fleet Alert, and ship graphics for SFBOL3G. Steve worked his way back up to half a mile of walking per day as he recovered from the fall two weeks ago.

Steven Petrick worked on the SFB Module C2 update and other projects.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with six new entries and three updates.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Starlist welcome letters and demo reports for Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,034 friends), managed our Twitter feed (179 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread the first new background pages for Deluxe ACTASF, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing (Star Fleet Alert).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lights! Cameras! The SFU Hits YouTube!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 5

Romulan SparrowHawk IRV Plasma Donor
Seltorian light cruiser Muddy Waters
Tholian Web Tender Passive Resistance
WYN OLR frigate Loyalty

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Steve Cole ponders thoughts on surgical recovery after he had a kidney removed and Jean had her female operation:

1. When you are told that you are going to have surgery, you need to start planning for your recovery. I don't mean just mentally thinking about the day you go back to work, but the logistics of the time period during which you are stuck at home, hurting, resting, and trying to get better. The most important thing you can do is to start years before you need surgery to create a healthy body that exercises, is not overweight, and eats healthy food. The stronger you go into surgery, the faster you come out of it.

2. Unlike television where someone walks into a hospital with vague symptoms and has major surgery between the second and third commercials, in the real world your surgery may well be scheduled as much as a month away. If you have to travel (I had to go 400 miles from home) that will take extra planning, including how you're going to get home. Something nobody knows until you're told you need surgery is that a cardiologist and a lung doctor have to certify that you're allowed to have surgery. Most deaths during non-emergency surgery are from heart attacks, strokes, or breathing problems. That means several extra doctor appointments. In my case, I had to have my other kidney scanned before they would remove the bad one.

3. One big thing you need to keep in mind is that while you are recovering, you are going to be dependent on a lot of help from family and friends. You need to ask for as little help as you can get by with because after a couple of weeks of waiting on your every need, your family and friends are going to get tired of being your body servant. More people to share the load, and simplifying your needs and requirements, will help a lot. In my case, I stocked the freeze with microwave meals I can eat, reducing the amount of time Leanna had to spend preparing or fetching me food. There was no way I could cook for myself but I could manage to take something out of a box, put it in the microwave, and push a button or two. (We moved a chair to be beside the microwave so I could sit down and wait for it to finish.)

4. Modern hospitals are very different from just a decade ago. You can order room service meals from a menu rather than just eating whatever cold food somebody puts in front of you. The trick is to get people to explain the system to you while you're awake enough to grasp it. I never got to watch TV because the only time I was shown how it worked was when I was groggy. I was shown a place on the bulletin board that said how many grams of carbohydrates I could have but nobody said if that was per meal or per day or during my entire stay. (I just ordered what I wanted.) When my food arrived, I was not allowed to eat it until my blood sugar had been tested (by which time my food was cold). Take your own blood sugar meter and check it for yourself and then start eating. They can just get over it. I found out that I had a yellow gown because I was a fall risk but when I proved I could walk (expect them to force you to walk pretty quickly after your surgery) I was promoted to a blue one.

5. You will be given post-surgical instructions when you leave the hospital. Read them, ask questions, make sure you understand them, then review them with your family and with your primary physician. In my case, the cancer in my kidney was why my blood pressure was so high and once that was gone it dropped to dangerously low levels.

6. Avoid reading a lot of stuff on internet but stay with one or two sites that your doctor tells you are good ones. Being informed is good. Being scared to death about things that might happen is not good.

7. You will be bored during recovery as you spend the time you would have been at work waiting for the day you can get back to work. I planned a rotating series of activities, including banked episodes of TV shows, books to read, and the entire Admiral Jingles library (on YouTube) from World of Tanks and World of Warships. I also discovered some YouTube series of astronomy and alternate history stuff. I had never heard of Last Week Tonight or of Ted Talks.
8. Rearrange the house so that you have at least two places to be (bed and a recliner for example) which have access to a telephone and television, as well as a place to put food, drink, and reading materials. I ended up having my cell phone hung around my neck on a string so that I'd always have a way to call for help.

9. Planning for an extended period away from work is tedious but necessary. Get major projects finished before you go in. Teach someone to handle your routine tasks that have to be done every day. Be prepared to have the time away from work suddenly get much longer. Jean and I both got horrible colds which cost me two weeks in bed and almost killed Jean (literally) and did cause permanent damage. The worst part of recovery is just how "wearing" it is to feel bad for a few weeks. You get mentally worn out, and become convinced you will never get better, and if you don't shake that feeling, you never will feel better.
10. It is apparently common for surgical patients to tear a muscle while under pain medicines (perhaps catching themselves before a fall, trying to pick up something too heavy, or reaching for something too far away and too hard to move). Jean and I both had this happen, and it caused a lot of discomfort during recovery. (In my case, the torn muscle was right in front of my heart, and the severe pain made the hospital think I was having a heart attack. They were very good about this, however, and used an X-ray and EKG to determine that my heart was just fine.) Watch what you're doing and follow the post-surgical instructions to avoid injuring yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Revisiting A First World Problem

This is Steven Petrick posting.

As I noted before, I have been having one of those "first world problems." The remote system for my television has not been working, requiring me to get up and walk to the television to turn it on or off (or adjust the volume or etc.). Changing channels is not a problem, as that is all done on Tivo.

As I had noted, I am fairly certain that the problem is that someone nearby has a heating system that, in addition to generating heat, is transmitting an electronic signal on just the right frequency to jam my television's ability to receive signals from the remote. That it is the reception of the signal that is the problem as neither the television's normal remote, or the Tivo remote that has been programmed to also control the television will work with the television. (Neither can turn the television on or off, or adjust the volume).

For those who thought it was something else, the proof is in the weather.

It has been warm of late. Warm enough that heating systems are no being run (at least not constantly). The upshot is that my remotes work fine, and have been doing so for a while. The exception being a few early morning time periods when the night's chill is sufficient to cause the heating system to be started.

It is annoying that this is going on. But I am not starving. I live with a roof over my head, clothes to wear to protect me from the elements, access to clean water and health care. This does not even touch on the fact that I have a car and thus a huge range of territory available to me to roam (I am not confined to a few miles around my village). It is not going to kill me to get up and change the channel, and as the weather improves, I will be doing that less and less.

But it is a "first world problem," not something your typical third world citizen would have to deal with, and they have many other problems.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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.

Monday, March 14, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 March 2016

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of tremendous progress. We uploaded the final Fighter Operations 2016 rulebook and sent the cover to press, finished the PDF of Minor Empires (it will upload next week), uploaded Communique #123, and shipped out Hailing Frequencies for March. The weather this week was warm. 


New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was the final version of Fighter Operations 2016. The complete expansion can be bought from your local game store or ordered direct from ADB.

Steve Cole (still recovering from the painful injuries of last week's fall) finished the PDF of Minor Empires, Hailing Frequencies, Communique, and the final Fighter Operations rulebook. The two Steves worked on improving company project flow and management.

Steven Petrick worked on updating SFB Module C2, kept up with staff reports and slowly arriving art for the Romulan Master Starship Book, and creating his parts of Captain's Log #51. He supported the work on Minor Empires, Fighter Operations 2016, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Minor Empires, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,030 friends), managed our Twitter feed (180 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, surveyed fiction for Kindle books, managed the blog feed, proofread Fighter Operations, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Steve Cole discusses an interesting way to analyze World War II: Steven Petrick and I, as do many historians, often spend a quiet dinner discussing various what-if scenarios for various wars and battles. In a recent thought exercise, I said I would offer him a number of changes to the US Army in World War II and he could pick any one of them, but he had to defend his choice.
1. MORE TRUCKS: I offered him 25% more trucks, which would be useful during the fall of 1944 to bring supplies to a front line that was rapidly moving farther from the beaches. He turned these down because the logistical burden of the extra vehicles would reduce the value of the extra supplies.
2. MOBILE DIVISIONS: I said he could use the extra trucks to turn three or four infantry divisions into motorized divisions able to move much faster. He turned this down, again citing the logistical burden and that such divisions would really have been useful only for the few weeks of the breakout and pursuit phase in August 1944. He also noted that the Americans could and did turn infantry divisions into motorized divisions any time they needed them so extra trucks to make a few such conversions permanent would have little benefit.
3. MACHINEGUNS: I offered to replace the Browning Automatic Rifle with a real machinegun, something like the German MG34 or the much later US M60. This was ultimately his second choice, but he thought another option would be more effective. The US was the only power in WWII that tried to use massed rifles as the squad's firepower, when everyone else gave the squad a true machinegun which then became the squad's firepower. (The riflemen of those other armies were just ammo bearers, close-range guards to protect the machingun crew, and spare gunners.)
4. REPLACEMENT BATTALIONS: A favorite "change" of mine was to give every US division a replacement battalion like the ones in the German Army. New men arriving at the front would spend their first day or two in the replacement battalion being given very realistic training by men from the squads they would join in a day or two. This greatly reduced the number of casualties for the Germans. The US Army lost tens of thousands of men who were put into front-line foxholes with a no real effort to have veterans teach them how to avoid getting killed. Steven Petrick felt that the idea would be sound but that division commanders would not use it. They would simply order the new replacements into front-line foxholes an hour or two after their arrival, even if regulations insisted that every replacement must spent 24 hours at the replacement battalion in the company of someone from the squad they were about to join. The regulations would have provided a "combat emergency loophole" which would have been invoked every day by every division.
5. HEAVY TANKS: I offered to accelerate the production of the M28 Pershing tank with its 90mm gun and replace very M10 in a tank destroyer battalion with an M28 (renaming those units heavy tank battalions). Steven noted that the M28 was much heavier than the M10 and would have required more shipping and fuel. He also felt that the heavy tank battalions would simply be absorbed into the tank divisions (which already had too many tanks) leaving the infantry without support.
6. BETTER TANKS: This was the one he picked. I proposed to replace every M4 Sherman and every M10 or M18 tank destroyer with the "Easy Eight" Super-Sherman. These would have a much better gun and somewhat better armor. He felt (as I do) that the concept (used in the real history) of Shermans that attacked enemy infantry and artillery and unarmored tank destroyers that attacked enemy tanks was not workable, but that the Super Sherman could handle both jobs. With better guns and better armor, fewer American (and British, Polish, and French) tanks would be destroyed, few tank crewmen would be killed (perhaps saving a sizable fraction of the lives my replacement battalions could not save), and the same number of German tanks that were historically killed would be killed faster. Needing fewer replacement tanks and crews would simplify cross-ocean shipping. As stockpiles of replacement tanks built up in France, a few US armored divisions could sail across the Atlantic without tanks, picking up Super Shermans on arrival. That would leave more shipping for other things.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

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.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 4

LDR battleship Imperial Fealty
Lyran battlecruiser Feline Harmony
Lyran command cruiser Paper Tiger
Orion Battle Raider Benevolence
Orion destroyer 12 Step Program

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


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:

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

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.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Blog by Petrick

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I missed a post last week, because I tend to do them as just about the last thing I do for the day. This is because they are often difficult for me to do. I hate being repetitive, and coming up with something to say that I have not said before is . . . well. It did not help that we went into an "evacuation mode" near the end of the day (not anything disastrous, but simply a "let's go get supper" in that case).

I can say that work continues apace on various projects, but that is repetitive. Work is always continuing.

I can say that Mike Sparks gives me updates on the two girls (the kittens), and that they are doing fine, and have accepted the humans around them (I have not been in their presence since I so rudely dragged them in and stuffed a bottle in their mouths to assuage their hunger pangs). Mike has promised to bring them to the office for a visit this week.

I can say that Jean has threatened major bodily harm if I forgot to do the blog this week, but that seems to be rather obvious common knowledge.

Monday, March 07, 2016

This Week at ADB, Inc., 28 February - 5 March 2016

Steve Cole reports: 

This was a week of steady progress. The weather this week was warmish. We laid plans for the release of two further Kindle books.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was Federation Commander: ISC Ship Card Pack #1.


Steve Cole worked on the final fixes for Fighter Operations 2016, the pending PDF upload of Minor Empires, art for the Romulan Master Starship Book, Communique #123, placeholder art for the Lyran Master Starship Book, wrote a blog, and other projects. Steve continued walking every day, reaching 3/4 of a mile on Friday and then suffering a bad fall on Saturday.

Steven Petrick worked on the SFB Module C2 update, order of battle data for Minor Empires, inserting art in the Lyran and Romulan Master Starship Books,

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with a new entry and an update.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on Nexus fiction, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,022 friends), managed our Twitter feed (180 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread (Minor Empires, Fighter Operations, and the Romulan Master Starship Book), took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

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.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

On Goals and Progress and Baby Steps

Jean Sexton muses:

Many people say you should set goals or resolutions on New Year's Day. That gives a shape to your entire year. This year, for once, I didn't even whisper "I resolve" to myself. I was too busy trying to recover in the hospital in Amarillo. In fact, I was moved out of ICU on January 1st.

I've decided that my goals are going to be set month by month. They may be the same (lose a pound a week, walk a little longer, walk a bit further, work on my balance), but each month I will start from where I am. I have a long way to go to meet my long-range plans (be at a healthy weight, be able to walk two miles, exercise a minimum of 40 minutes a day), but I will try to make progress each week on them. I can add a minute onto the time that I walk and do that until I am reasonably not really tired out by it. I can let my Wii show that my weight is trending down. (Yes, I know that by video-game standards my Wii is a relic, but it does what I need it to do.)

Why month to month? If I fail at a goal or my body isn't quite ready to walk faster, then I start from that point and move forward. I won't recriminate and brood on the fact that I missed the goal and that means I won't make the year's goal. I've done that before and then I give up on my goal. This way I cannot give up on my goal which is to be better than where I started.

I do plan on being forgiving with myself. During Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I think my goal will be to not gain weight rather than focusing on losing it. I do count walking in the grocery store as "walking" right now, because I get tired after shopping. (Remember that I never go directly to anything, but check out what produce looks good, what is on sale, and what would complement a meal I am planning.) With the Wii, if I cannot walk outside, I can take the time to walk inside. The idea is to make a little progress a bit at a time.

One of my friends calls these "baby steps" and reminds me that baby steps add up. With "baby steps" I weigh 30 pounds less than I did in January. When I got out of the hospital, I struggled to walk for five minutes at a time. Walking the tenth of a mile to get my mail (and another tenth of a mile back) was nearly an impossible trip even a couple of weeks later. I slowly built up to walking 10 minutes and then 15. Now I can walk half a mile and that takes around 20 minutes. In a month and a half I am doing things I didn't know I would ever be able to do again. And that walk to the mailbox? I am taking an indirect path back to my apartment so I get in a little extra walking.

Do I get discouraged? Of course I do. I am only human. But for me all I have to do is look at where I was a month ago to see how far I have come. (And if I forget that, my friends remind me!). And I look at this picture of me on February 21 (taken in Leanna's "girl cave") and see how much weight I have lost, see that I don't have an oxygen tank following me, and that (most importantly) I am alive which was not a forgone conclusion in December, 2015.

Please join me this year in trying to be a little healthier each month, in being a bit more forgiving of yourself, and in rejoicing in life. Take baby steps with me and let's encourage each other.

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Ships that Were Never Built, part 3

Jindarian battlecruiser Hard Rock Cafe 
Klingon battlecruiser IKV Daisy 
Klingon penal frigate IKV Insubordination 
Kzinti battlecruiser KHS Feline Brotherhood 
Kzinti battlecruiser KHS Vegetarian 
Kzinti light cruiser KHS Hairball 

Captain's Log #17, (c) 1995 Amarillo Design Bureau. Thanks to David A. Coulthurst, Jeff Laikind, Larry Ramey, Richard Brooks, Stephan Fassman, Scott Fridenberg, Jeff Zellerkraut, and Reece Watkins.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

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.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on the rocky planets of our inner solar system.

1. Mercury is an interesting planet, in that it's mostly an iron core with far less magma of the other rocky planets. Whenever Mercury acquired another proto-planet by way of collision, the iron cores merged but most of the silicates (thrown into orbit) did not fall back down as crust. Instead, they were sucked into the sun.

2. Venus should have been our twin, being about the same size, but it's just too close to the sun and all of that extra heat turned it into an acidic oven. Probes can't survive long and humans cannot ever land there because the landing craft will absorb heat with no way to get rid of it. (A refrigerator works by transferring heat out of the insulated box to the air behind the appliance.) Also, Venus rotates very slowly because the last proto-planet it absorbed hit it on the advancing edge, stopping the rotation.

3. Earth is probably not unique in the cosmos, but it is certainly unusual. All rocky planets form by gathering up more and more dust, rocks, gas, comets, and whatever. The final phase of this is when proto-planets the size of the moon start running into each other and merging. About 4.7 billion years ago, the final merger occurred, combining Earth-1.0 with a planet called Thera into what is now Earth-2.0. The angle was just right, and Earth-2.0 got both iron cores (which is why we have a magnetic field), Earth-2.0 got half of the silicate crust material, and the other half turned into the Moon. It has been determined by scientists that Earth-1.0 had life (at least microbial) because we can find the carbon layers life leaves behind.

4. Living on Mars is likely to be problematic, even on a terra-formed Mars with oceans and grass. That planet has no magnetic field which means it is bombarded with cosmic radiation that makes living there just impossible (unless you mean underground colonies, which is possible for a few scientists but not for a population of a billion or two). The science fiction fantasy of steering comets into Mars to provide it with water and an atmosphere won't work either. Without that magnetic field, the solar wind steadily strips away any kind of atmosphere. For whatever reason (probably the gravity of Jupiter) Mars just collected less stuff than Earth, and being smaller it cooled more quickly and the molten iron core solidified. No spinning molten iron core means no magnetic field.

5. No one will ever know how many, but we are missing some proto-planets that were thrown out of the solar system by gravity interactions before 4.7 billion years ago. We have detected at least one of them (it passed in front of a star and we saw it by accident) that is several times as far away as Pluto.