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Friday, August 31, 2012

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, August 30, 2012

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 and Jean Sexton for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Gary Plana 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 On-Line 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 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 who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (Galactic Conquest Campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

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

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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nerves and Speed/force

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the odd things about human bodies is that they are capable of faster action uncontrolled than they are in conscious control.

For much of the preceding year I had some kind of malfunction affecting my jaw. At various times this would cause my jaw to involuntarily slam shut with considerable force (and a great deal of pain if my tongue happened to be in the way). I cannot consciously duplicate this (and, no, I have never experimented with putting my tongue voluntarily in the path of harm). I can get my jaw to bite down with all the force I can muster, but I cannot achieve the combination of speed and force the malfunction created. The force, yes, as a constant pressure, but I cannot get my mouth to close that fast consciously.

Whatever was causing the malfunction has since cleared up, apparently some kind of infection was affecting some nerve connected to my jaw, and apparently it was also linked to something else, as the most common times for it to trigger were either while I was asleep (accounting for most of the times I bit my tongue), or while I was lying supine attempting to go to sleep. It very rarely happened when I was wide awake and either standing/walking or sitting.

At one time or another in my life I have had other "misfires" (for want of a better term) causing a limb to move suddenly (usually from a position of rest). I suspect that tap dancers are perhaps better able to access the speed inherent in the system that is not available to us normally (at least I cannot account for the speed at which they "tap"). I have to wonder if this speed and strength is just something built into all of our bodies that mostly lies dormant until the "fight/flight" reflex kicks in, but perhaps once in a while gets triggered by a "short" in the body's electrical system.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wanted some kind of explanation of the plan for this fall.

Before I could even start working on new products, I had to wrap up Captain's Log #45 (the FLAP list, or Finish Like A Pro list). That meant doing not just the days of work updating indexes and databases, but getting the Supplemental File and the Large Print Edition ready to print by mail order day (seven days after CL#45 shipped to wholesalers.) Added to that, the 10th of August fell at the end of FLAP WEEK which meant that before I could work on this fall's new products I had to do what amount to two minor products (that we don't get any sales money from), those being Communique and Hailing Frequencies. I have also been reminded of the need to do a video about CL#45 and the two Starmada books we just released.

Work this fall will be dominated by one large factor (counters) and two minor ones (Kickstarter and Tribbles vs. Klingons).

We need to print FC Reinforcements Attack and that needs a sheet of counters. Since you have to print four sheets at once, we will have to find three other sheets (and maybe three other games) to print. One of these might be a reprint of a sheet that is out of stock (assuming that the die cutter in question cannot deliver the promised "die cut on demand" short-run counters he spoke of). One might be Marines Last Stand, simply because it's ready to go (even if other things have a higher priority). One sheet, or a half sheet, will all but certainly be a new SFB module. One might be FC Flagships Attack if only because that product (a year in the future) would be so very easy to get ready. We might also need the counters for Tribbles vs. Klingons if we don't get the whole game done "turn key" overseas.

Kickstarter is a minor issue if only because we can only put up one project every six or eight weeks. The first one will all but certainly be the expansions for Star Fleet Battle Force, but several other projects (notably Tribbles vs. Klingons) are competing for second place.

Tribbles vs. Klingons will affect the schedule because there are two ways to do this. One is to get it done "turn key" overseas. The other is to do it in the US by producing each part and assembling them ourselves. Thus, the card deck might or might not be combined with the print run for the SFBF expansions (meaning we might do one, two, or four such packs) and the die cut counters might or might not be part of that big countersheet print run.

Anyway, here is a rundown on what we are working on. I want to warn you right now that there is simply no way that all of this is going to get done in the last five months of this year.

1. FEDERATION COMMANDER-REINFORCEMENTS ATTACK: This product is almost done. All of the cards are done, and the "rulebook" (not done yet) consists only a ship descriptions and scenarios (selected from those tested via Communique and Captain's Log). The problem is counters. While those could be ready for press in a week, that does no good until other counters are selected and done. The three boosters aren't done but aren't hard to do.

2. STARMADA: Battleships Armada will be done quickly (for both Nova and Admiral editions), as will the Nova versions of Alien Armada and Distant Armada. Frankly, the only issue with scheduling these books is that they aren't big enough releases to be scheduled alone, and must be added to some other release.

3. STAR FLEET BATTLES: We will do a new SFB module in the next few months. It might be R13, Omega 6, C6, or any one of several other products. We know that the most-wanted new product is X2, but that may take more design time than we have calendar days available before the FC: Reinforcements Attack counters must go to press.

4. CALL TO ARMS: Mongoose will release additional squadron boxes and another Call to Arms Journal on their own schedule, and book #2 Battle Fleets will be done next year. What matters to ADB, Inc., is the need to finish up the Ship Card packs (delayed by issues fixing mistakes on the drafts) but once those are done the reprint of Book #1 can continue. Because we have almost sold out of Book #1, we may well have to push the Ship Card project forward in the work order, but we're all very reluctant to see any more ADB, Inc., products delayed by work on Mongoose products.

5. STAR FLEET BATTLE FORCE EXPANSIONS: Even while designing the card game Star Fleet Battle Force, we wanted to do expansions with more empires (Lyran, Hydran, ISC) and more variants (scouts, commando ships), and more special cards. The problem is that cards are incredibly expensive to print and card games are a very high-risk investment. (Over two-thirds of published card games in the last decade have failed to make enough money to pay for their own printing.) The plan is to print decks of 132 cards, hand divide those into four 33-card expansion packs, and sell those in clamshells.

6. TRAVELLER PRIME DIRECTIVE: Jean finished converting the PD Core Book into Traveller while she was here in May. There are two problems which actually solve each other. One is that doing a "proper" notice to wholesalers means that this hardback book cannot come out before December or maybe January. The other is that Mongoose wants the book expanded by about 60 or 80 pages, including some additional planet information (turning 20 one-paragraph planets into two-page planets). We'll use the time to prepare that new material (then use it in Final Frontier #1 so that GURPS and PD20M players can have access to it). Mike West and John Sickels are working on that but I haven't had time so far to track their progress and inspire them to get those done. The deck plans will have to be done by four or five artists and I should have organized and assigned that work two months ago but (overloaded to do list) I just didn't get there. I'll get on that after I finish FLAP week. The current plan is to have Jean wrap up Traveller Klingons while here in December, assuming Mike West does the files for it, assuming he finished his assigned work on Traveller PD itself. More stuff I need to keep track of.

7. STARLINE 2400: This product line won't die (not that we want it to) and it was only in July that ADB's profits from 2500s exceeded the profits for the year from 2400s. To support the line we plan to do some new ships, but for that to happen, I have to recruit, assign, and keep track of sculptors. That's another thing that got sent to "the week after FLAP WEEK."

8. CAPTAIN'S LOG #46: Steve Petrick has already kicked off Battle Groups (for SFB and FC) and has almost finished the Monster article. If we can find a decent story by an outside writer, this may get done on schedule in November or December. If I have to write the story, expect it in February and I did not say what year.

9. BOOKS: Federation Admiral needs to get back on my "do a few pages every week" list. I could do Reference Starship Book and Reference Scenario Book for Federation Commander on a rainy afternoon but I'm not sure they'll sell. Patrick Doyle said he would soon deliver the Federation Commander Tactics Manual, but after looking at dozens of style book fixes and "Jean things" on his four-page article in CL#45 I informed him that until he can deliver pages with a lot fewer things for me to fix, I won't accept the manuscript because it takes too many Steve Cole hours. If he cannot do that before May 2013, that could be something Jean fixes for him (and for me). I have always wanted to do more paperback books, which are fairly easy formatting jobs, but until we can figure out how to get them into Kindle that's just not worth doing.

10. OTHER: Battlestations Star Fleet (a joint venture with Gorilla Games) is either easy or impossible to do (depending on the status of a draft rulebook I have yet to read). It might or might not be done via Kickstarter. Merchants of the Federation (Jay Waschak's train game) will only be done if it flies on Kickstarter because train game players expect Chinese level production values.

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 August 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week, during which we were supposed to make a lot of incremental progress on six different projects and barely managed to do that. The weather this week was cooler than last week. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

New on e23 this week: Captain's Log #45 Supplemental File (free), as well as the Nova versions of Klingon Armada and Romulan Armada.

Steve Cole finished the individual pages on the Wall of Honor, finished the Mongoose ship card reports (thanks to Tony T and Dal D), updated the ship name index, and finished updating the deck plans protocols.

Steven Petrick worked on the Advanced Missions revision and the Captain's Log #46 monster article.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates (mostly Wall of Honor stuff), chased pirates (including one of the nastiest and dumbest ever seen, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1308 friends) and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

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. 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:

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, August 25, 2012


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 hope to see you there!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 4

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

Unauthorized Pirate Broadcasting: (various times) "The Life and Times of the Dread Pirate Roberto" Episode 4: An accident with a new cloaking device renders Roberto's upper torso invisible, causing much consternation for his Orion parrot. (1 hr.)

WTTN, Tholian Channel 17: 8:00 p.m. "Vacation Dreamlands" (Original title: "The Volcanoes of the Sol System") Tonight: Mount St. Helens and the lower hemisphere of Io. (1 hr.)

Video Free Seltoria: 10:00 p.m. "Eternal Vigilance" Tonight: How to tell if your paperweight is actually a well-disciplined Tholian spy. (4 hrs.)

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of interesting words:

1. ETIQUETTE, the rules of polite social behavior, comes from the French word etiquette, which literally means "ticket." In the original usage, this was the piece of paper that told a soldier where he would be billeted (i.e., where he would sleep). In the Middle Ages (and up until 1850) it was fairly common for soldiers to be billeted in private homes. When the Army was pulled together from several widespread bases, there were not enough barracks on the base for them all, so some were sent to live in private homes. The homeowners were obliged to provide the soldiers a proper place to sleep, even if they were put out of their own beds! The British did this during the period before America became independent, something that American homeowners found so offensive that it was written into the US Constitution that the new government could not do that. Anyway, back to etiquette/ticket. The piece of paper assigning the soldier to a private home often had on it warnings that he was to behave properly, which is how the term came into its current use.

2. EUREKA, which means "I figured it out" is the old Greek word for "I have found it." The story goes that Archimedes, one of the greater minds of the ancient era, figured out how to tell if a goldsmith had substituted silver for some of the gold in the crown he made for the king by comparing the amount of water that the crown, and an equal weight of pure gold, displaced.

3. EXPLODE, usually associated with explosives, comes from the Latin worlds ex plaudio, or "to clap until the bad actor is forced to leave the stage." The meaning continued to be that through 1800 even in England. The connection to dynamite or gunpowder can be seen as "a large noise, and then the bad guy is gone." For what it's worth, applause is also Latin for "to clap" the meaning being to make one clap at the end of each line spoken by a well-regarded actor.

4. EXPUNGE, to remove from the record, comes from the Roman Army, which would ex pungo (prick out) the name of a retired or deceased soldier from the list of soldiers in the unit.

5. FAD, a passing fancy, comes from the English word faddle, which meant (from 1700 until a few decades ago) to pet a child or animal. The contraction apparently meant "to make a pet project of some hobby."

6. FAKE seems to have come from the English work faken (a fraud) but that word stopped being used in 1500. About 1620, English soldiers serving on the European mainland came into contact with the German fegen, to sweep clean, and may have mistaken it or used it as slang for steal.

7. FAN, a passionate devote or supporter of someone or something, has perhaps a mixed origin. It may have come from the words fancy (which originally meant a following or hobby) and comes from the older word fanatic. A few language historians insist that people who watched baseball games in the 1880s carried fans because of the heat and became known as "the fans." It is entirely possible both sources are true and the two origins just happened to produce the same word.

8. FANATIC, someone who is passionately in favor of something beyond any logic, actually has an ancient Roman origin. Sulla has his fortune saved by a vision from the goddess Belona and built a temple in her honor. The priests would perform their rituals in black robes, but some were so taken up by the spirit of the event that the ripped their robes apart and cut themselves with an axe and (in their whirling dance) splattered blood on the crowd. They were said to be "inspired by the fane" and in Latin that is fanatic.

9. FARCE, a form of comedy, comes from the old Latin word farcio, to stuff (as in cooking). At a particular point in religious services (between the Latin words for "Lord have mercy") the crowd would shout special requests and prayers, which were known as "farcios" because they were "stuffed" into the proper prayer. (The verb FORCE comes from this source.) Centuries later (the term still in use) comic actors in a play wold insert "farcios" into their lines (or the lines of other actors). It wasn't long before the term "turn it into a farce" was applied to anyone who inserted ridicule or satire into speeches by politicians and statesmen.

10. FARM, a plot of land used to grow crops, and FIRM, which means not just a hardline position in an argument but a business enterprise, comes through the French ferme from the Latin firmus, which meant "a fixed amount." In England, the term was used to refer to the annual rental that someone who worked the land had to pay to the overlord. (In France, it was a tax, not rent, and a farmer was not someone who worked the land but a tax collector and most of them were reputedly corrupt.) About 1550, the term evolved into referring not to the annual rent but to the land and work of the tenant, who then became a farmer in the sense we know it today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Captain's Log #46 has started filling

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

As one might expect, there are steps that have to be taken to get ready for the next Captain's Log (#46). While we are still perusing the story situation, we have started the battle group topics for both Federation Commander and Star Fleet Battles. The various tactics topics have been scoured for their current papers which have all been placed into holding files after getting their initial scrubs. Work on articles has started. The "Monster Article" has been completed as a first draft for example (as noted elsewhere, I probably am having too much fun on this one).

I am trying to come up with ships for the issue. There is always a problem that some people want ships that are officially no longer doable. I have received several requests for a Federation heavy carrier with two squadrons of heavy fighters when the rules already say that you can only have one squadron of heavy fighters. The argument is the Federation should be allowed this because the Gorns and Lyrans both got "Space Patrol Ships" with two flotillas of fast patrol ships and no fighters. The problem is that the closest thing there is to a rule saying you cannot have two flotillas of PFs on one tender is the rules for the Lyran tugs, which prohibit them from operating casual fast patrol ships when carrying a fast patrol ship tender pallet. There is, however, a specific rule disallowing two heavy squadrons, or a heavy squadron and a fast patrol ship flotilla. I am not currently predisposed to violating the rules even for "conjectural" ships.

I have some time yet to come up with ships.

I also have an idea for a Star Fleet Marines: Assault article that I can write.

Beyond that, I do need to beg for term papers (SFB), tactical notes (F&E), command notes (Fed Com), conquest notes (Galactic Conquest), call out notes (ACTA: SF), tactics for Star Fleet Marines: Assault, and some new tactics primers for empires.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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/).

Monday, August 20, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 August 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was a quiet week of steady work for the design team; everyone else was busy with the Captain's Log #45 mail order release. The weather this week was not quite as hot, with even a little rain. The spam storm mostly remained at well under 200 per day.

Steve Cole finished the Captain's Log #45 Supplemental File and Large Print Edition. He updated the Gazetteer but still hasn't finished the FLAP list. In response to a customer request, he had five different comet art pictures uploaded to the art gallery. He updated 16 personal pages on the Wall of Honor, and checked the Fed-Rom-Klingon ship cards for ACTASF. He helped Daniel Kast finish converting the last two Starmada books to Nova, and started the process of getting quotes on die-cut counters.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #46 articles, the Advanced Missions update, and reviewed fiction. He also had some adventures with a car title he didn't know had never been issued.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1300 friends), proofread the Captain's Log #45 Supplemental File, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

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, August 18, 2012

How to Find Opponents

Steve Cole writes:

Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four 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-in's 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 five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than 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 on-line 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, August 17, 2012

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 3

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

Hydran Box Office: 9:30 p.m. "The Tritomic Methane Story" Series Finale: Dr. Gixafern blows himself to tiney bits in his laboratory. (105 min.)

ISCTV: 9:00 p.m. "Comedy Retrospective" Tonight: Veltressai Comedians Bob, Bob, Doug, and Doug McKenzie discuss the comedic significance of back bacon, toques, and beer, eh? (30 min.)

Unauthorized Pirate Broadcasting:
(various times) "The Life and Time of The Dread Pirate Roberto" Episode 4: An accident with a new cloaking device renders Roberto's upper torso invisible, causing much consternation for his Orion parrot (1 hr.)

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let This Be A Lesson

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I bought my Honda Accord brand new back in 1987. At the time I was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, so I bought the car in Columbus, Georgia. At the time I could not pay cash for it, so the bank owned a piece of it.

I separated service in 1989 and moved to Amarillo, Texas, and duly registered the car in Randall County, Texas.

In 1992 I made the last payment on the car.

Turns out, I do not have a title to the car.

I am not kidding.

It gets better.

If the car had died last year, I could have donated it to any number of organizations. But the Federal government has decided that too many people are using car donations as a means of disposing of stolen cars, so as of last year (according to the various organizations I have spoken to who would normally accept a dead car) no car can be donated unless it has a title. (You cannot really argue with that if it is a real problem, and I do not know if it is as I honestly had not heard that there was a problem with people donating stolen cars.)

Okay, I paid for the car, I bought it honestly and brand new from an auto dealership, so it should be no problem getting the title.

If you thought that, you would be wrong.

It turns out that all Randall county can do is direct me to Georgia's Department of Motor Vehicles, or have me do a "bonded title."

So I have spoken to the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles, and according to their records the car has never (I say again, never) been in the State of Georgia.

The best guess right now is that the bank got the title for the vehicle in some state other than Georgia until I paid for it, but nobody knows, and so far several searches for the vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number have not turned up anything. (Honda is searching their own data base, but has not reported back as of yet.)

So, if you have a car (or anything else requiring a title), make very, very certain you know where the title is. If you have not paid it off yet, make sure the bank gives you the title when you have paid it off.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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

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 wallpaper for your computer 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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about a recent outside game designer who pitched us a card game. We pointed out a few things he needed to know, straight up front.

1. As with any game company, we have more ideas for games than we have time or money. An outside design is going to have to be really special, not simply a fun game that actually works. Remember that virtually all publishers are designers who could not get anyone else to publish their game.

2. It's unlikely that any "new game" will get onto this year's schedule, but there are always more years, assuming the Mayans were wrong. We do want to move our company away from multi-decade, thousand-page games for people with Mensa membership cards and move into sell-through-and-gone, light-fun-games-for-normal-people so your game may be part of the new crop we need to be planting.

3. Card games are expensive to print (including art costs that can be astronomical) and their sales are hit-or-miss. In this industry, a lot of really cool card games never got noticed and hence, lost money. This makes card games somewhat harder to get into the schedule as they are a serious risk if printed in distribution quantities. Printed in on-demand quantities, they're too expensive to sell into distribution. I do already have two card games fighting to get onto the schedule. I cannot really afford more than one money-loser a year and that means not very many high-cost/high-risk games get done. That's why so many sequels and expansions are done: proven market, much lower-risk, even if the reward is smaller.

4. Game designer royalties, I'm sure you know, aren't much. Even assuming sell-through of 2500 copies of a $10 or $20 game, the total pot of money isn't that big and the retailers, wholesalers, and printers get more of that pot than the publisher gets. I found out when moving into publishing that the publisher gets more money than the designer because the publisher is the one risking the up-front money. I can think of a product or two I wish I had not printed.

5. Outside designers are a mixed bag; the fact that this one had published games put him ahead of the great unwashed pack. Over three decades in this industry, I have seen way too many outside designers who never finish the product (or do it very late), do sloppy work, or are just ornery to work with. I guess the same is true of publishers.

6. Small publishers are frustrating to work with because we have to use a tiny number of people do the same number of jobs (print buyer, editor, marketing director, art director, layout, dishwasher, playtester, Q&A guy, warehouse crew, shipping clerk, accountant, customer support) that a publisher with ten times the sales and five times the employees gets done easily. Sad to say, I have dropped as many balls as I have juggled. If you don't hear from me for a week or two, remind me that I owe you a reply, even if it's "I am busy and will get to you when I can." Assuming your game arrived on my desk today, I probably would not open the envelope until August after I finish the big project I am now working on. Well, I'm supposed to be working on it.

7. In our unique case, yes, we have a Star Trek license, but it's a very strange one that nobody understands (other than us, and sometimes we're not sure). We cannot use anything from TNG or the movies or the comic books or the novels or the Paramount trek website. It gets worse: We cannot use specific characters from the show, so we can make up any Vulcan we like but cannot use Spock. We can only use whatever is already in our published games (and new ideas we made up ourselves). Rather than expect you to run out and buy $2000 worth of games and spend six months reading them, we work with general guidelines on submissions (you just saw them two lines up) and specific "You cannot do any of the following" replies to those submissions. So do understand that we may well kick out specific cards or concepts or rules, and that if we do, there is no arguing and no negotiation. "No, we cannot use that", means "no, we're not ever going to use that no matter how much you beg, whine, or argue." Don't take it personally. I'd love to include more than a few things that I cannot include.

8. At least, you're dealing with a company that pays its bills on time. We may not make a special trip to Wells Fargo to telegraph your royalties to you in time for your mortgage payment, but we will mail a check every three months as per the contract without dragging our feet.

9. The way the industry works, we need to give the wholesalers at least 100 days notice of a new game, and that's after we have a final ready-for-press design and the cover art. (Some interior art can be done later.) Which means when the day dawns that we say "Ok, your game is officially on the schedule for release" that release is likely to be at least four months away (and your check a month or two beyond that).

10. As for a prototype, a really snazzy prototype is more likely to upset me (thinking of the money you spent) and hand-cut cardstock with laser-printed cards that have the information but not the art is probably going to do just swell. Frankly, I'd just as soon do a first read off of a PDF without even cardstock or cutting being involved. Even before that, start with a couple of paragraphs describing the game. Be sure to tell me the number of cards, number of players, basic concept, basic operation, and any special components the game needs.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 August 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the FLAP week for Captain's Log #45, when all of the after-printing chores (updating databases) gets done. The weather this week was warm enough to stay indoors. The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day. It was also a week during which the staff tried three new lunch places and added two of those to the regular rotation.

New on e23 this week is the original Prime Directive core rulebook, sometimes called PD1.

Steve Cole worked on the FLAP list for Captain's Log #45, including the Supplemental File and the Large Print Edition. He also finished Communique and Hailing Frequencies. He sent a set of asteroid rules for the cadet game to upload and wrote some blogs for Jean's stockpile.

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #45 FLAP items, Advanced Missions, Captain's Log #46, and other things.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, worked on Hailing Frequencies, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1292 friends); proofread the Supplemental File, Communique, and Hailing Frequencies; and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Exploring Excellent Ebooks

We have continued our long-awaited move to offer more of our products as PDFs by way of the e23 and DriveThru RPG websites. So far on e23, 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 e23 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).

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 GURPS Prime Directive products We have created a new page that allows easy access to our PDFS for sale on e23. From here you can see what we currently have posted and have links to those products.

Our Prime Directive PD20 Modern books are sold as ebooks exclusively through DriveThru RPG.

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 through e23. Whatever your reason for using them, we hope that you enjoy them and rate them.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


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 e23, 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 new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules.

You can subscribe to Hailing Frequencies at this link:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 2

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

Federation Network: 10:00 p.m. "Politically Correct in the 30th Century." Tonight: Dr. Saccharine discusses how to calm a distraught Kzinti with tender words and folk songs. (64 sec.)

Kzinti Central: 10:02 p.m. "Food and Fun with Crrowl" Tonight: "How to Bone a Human." Special Guest Star: Dr. Stuart Saccharine. (28 min.)

Andromedan Channel Z: 7:00 p.m. "Etude in E Flat Random: A Little Night Static" Part 28: Rapidly fluctuating force patterns to a white noise accompaniment by the Kelvan Cacophony Orchestra. (5 hrs. π min.)

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

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Star Fleet Universe Wallpapers

Joel Shutts writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download wallpaper with Star Fleet Universe art.

Check out what we have on http://www.starfleetgames.com/wallpapers.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 wallpaper, please feel free to contact us at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and we'll work your request in.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Left Hand and the Right Hand

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

A tale of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

I had a 2004 Buick LeSabre. It was equipped to have "on star" activated. I decided to go ahead and have this done. Shortly afterwards the car was destroyed.

I purchased a 2005 Buick LeSabre to replace the lost car. It was not fitted for "on star," but was "on-star compatible," i.e., I could get the system installed. I choose to do so.

Having gotten the system installed, I then contacted "on star" to ask them to transfer the service I had purchased for the 2004 vehicle to the 2005 vehicle. This is something "on star's" own literature says can be done.

On contacting "on star" their personnel (clearly not American as first language) are confused. They cannot figure out how such a transfer is even possible. They finally advise me (after placing me "on hold" for a while as they try to find the answer) that the only thing they can do is cancel the current subscription and then have me re-suscribe.

Wait, it gets better.

After the service is cancelled, we contact another part of the service which says "oh yes, we can transfer that . . . but it has already been cancelled."

Better yet, since the original service had a three month free trial period, my first "year" of dues for the service was not supposed to be paid until September. Ah, but that service was cancelled, and I have to start paying for the new subscription right away (effectively I lost about two free months of service on top of everything else).

Oh, but it is still not done.

As they cancelled the previous service, I am due a refund for what I paid for it, which I can obviously (when I get it) use to pay for my new service (which is already paid for, I have not got the refund yet), so all should be hunky dory, right?


The refund cannot be sent to me (the guy paying for the service), it has to be sent to the dealership which activated the original service (they still have not received it).

And is the above the final point?

Oh, no.

Even though the service on the 2004 has been cancelled, "on star's" billing department just sent me a reminder that I have to pay for the service starting in September when my free three months is up. Understand, this is not a reminder to pay for the service for the new 2005, this is a reminder to pay for the service of the dead 2004.

The left hand of "on star" is clearly unaware of what the right hand is doing, and vice versa.

Given that the system did not activate when the collision that destroyed the 2004 happened (because, honestly, for some reason none of the airbags deployed in the accident even though the damage totaled the car and spun it nearly 180 degrees), I am really wondering if the system is worth it, or if events result in my needing it, will I be dependent on the left hand, or the right hand?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

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 on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Monday, August 06, 2012

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 July - 4 August 2012

Steve Cole reports:

This was the third and final week of the push to finish Captain's Log #45. We did complete the book on Monday and after days of final fixes and proofreading started printing on Saturday so that we can ship wholesaler orders on Monday the 6th. The weather this week was hot, often exceeding 100F. (The office AC went out on Tuesday afternoon and was fixed on Wednesday.) The spam storm mostly remained at something over 200 per day.

Steve Cole worked on Captain's Log #45 and very little else. He did do a blog for Jean's stockpile.

Steven Petrick helped finish Captain's Log #45 and did some work on Captain's Log #46 and the Advanced Missions revision.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date. She went into full production mode on Saturday.

Mike kept orders going out, rebuilt the inventory, and managed customer service.

Joel did website updates, chased pirates, and helped Mike.

Jean managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 1290 friends), proofread the last pages of Captain's Log #45 by Thursday night, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the curious origins of interesting words:

1. EGIS, which is seen in the Star Fleet Universe by the alternate form Aegis, is the name of the shield carried by Zeus during his battle with the Titans. The shield was made of goatskin, perhaps because Zeus was always rather friendly with goats having been fed goat's milk as a child. Minerva-Athena had armor made of goatskins that was also called by this word. The original Greek word aigis may have been a holdover from an earlier civilization. While the Greeks knew it meant goatskin, they did not use it for that purpose but had another Greek word for those. The word Aegis is used by the US Navy to describe its recent anti-missile radar system.

2. EL DORADO is Spanish for "the golden one" and was used to describe the mythical city of gold (or its king) that resided somewhere in the Americas. There is also a kind of fish named dorado which got the name for its golden color.

3. ELECTRIC is derived from the ancient Greek work for amber, electron. It was known in 700BC that if you rub amber it gains will attract very light substances, although no one really understood that concepts of magnetism of static electricity, which are similar but not the same. When electro-magnetism was discovered by William Gilbert in 1600 (using amber in his experiments), he thought it was all the same thing and named it electricus (the Latin version of the Greek word). From this we get electric and electricity.

4. ELIXIR, a medical fluid or powder, comes from the Arabic words Al Ikser, which translate as the philosopher's stone. When the Arabs conquered large areas in the 600s and 700s, they brought together in Baghdad the wise men from conquered cultures, and this group became the basis of natural and physical sciences including chemistry. But like all other early scientists, they got almost everything wrong. They thought that every known metal was a mixture of sulfur, mercury, and (perhaps in some cases) other things. Since gold (the most valuable metal) was made of the same things as other metals (and none of those mixtures worked), the way to make it must involve some tiny amount of some really wonderful material. Alchemists spent a thousand years looking for this item, calling it the philosopher's stone. Later European alchemists thought that perhaps this stone was a liquid or powder and that ingesting it would improve health and prolong life. Soon, any medicine was an elixir.

5. EMANCIPATION, to grant the full rights of an adult citizen to a minor or a slave, comes from the Latin words manus (hand) and capio (to take). No contract was complete until someone "took in hand" the item involved. (Even in modern contracts for intangible property, there is always a symbolic dollar that changes hands.) When a Roman boy became of age, his father took him to the courthouse to sign the register and ceremonially took him by the hand and released him. As "e" means out, e-manus-capio meant "to release from the hand" and that wandered through French and into English as emancipation.

6. ENCHANT, meaning a magical change in something, comes from the ancient concept (found in almost every culture) that if you chant the right words, phrases, or poems, you can influence the future, or the gods, or fate, or something. The Latin word for singing was "canto" (which produces the word canticle that was used for some guy named Liebowitz) while "in-canto" meant "to sing against" (i.e., to ward off evil or bad luck). Incanto wandered through French into English and produced enchanted, incantation, and related words.

7. ENTHUSIASM, to have inside oneself a spirit of excitement, interest, or commitment to something, started with ancient Greek playwrights and entertainers. One who was very good was sent to be en-theo, to have a god within himself (or perhaps a god-given talent). This became the Italian enthousiazo and by way of France the English enthusiasm.

8. EPICUREAN, which now denotes fine food, began with the Greek philosopher Epicurus, born in 342BC. His theory was that pleasure was not transitory, but could be everlasting if based on pure thoughts and motives. His critics ridiculed this theory as an excuse for debauchery. Much later, those who devoted themselves to fine food adopted the name.

9. ESCAPE comes from the old Latin words ex (out) and cape (cloak) and means to run away leaving behind whatever article of clothing your former captor was holding.

10. ESQUIRE, now meaning a gentleman of means and refinement, once referred to a young man of gentle birth who wanted to be a knight. He served as a servant to a knight, primarily as shield bearer. (The word esquire is from the French and Latin and means "of the shield".) A knight simply walking around society might have light armor and his sword, but shields were heavy, awkward, and not really needed if not actually fighting. Thus, the servant would follow the knight around carrying this bulky object in case the knight suddenly needed it. Even when the shield wasn't brought along, the squire carried whatever else the knight wanted to have with him but didn't want to have to carry. (Imagine a modern-day lawyer having a law student carry his briefcase for him.) In the 18th and 19th centuries, the children of noblemen were often known by this term. Even today, some lawyers add "Esq." to their names on business stationery.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

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.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET
BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of
gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general
opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then. It since expanded to

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

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

Friday, August 03, 2012

Trivideo Guide, Wednesday 18 October Y216, pt. 1

Transcribed from the USAF datatapes by Reece Watkins.

The Romulan Channel: 9:00 p.m. "I, Colus" Episode 9: Chief of Staff Petricchio nearly causes an interstellar incident when he mistakes Minister for Andromedan Affairs Gastrightus for a common stomach ailment. (2 hrs.)

Gorn-o-Vision: 8:00 p.m. "Stuff We Can Sneak Up On" Episode 12: The Terran snail, a couple of sickly Seltorians, and white paint drying. (3 hrs., 30 min.)

Klinshai Value Channel: Continuous: "Mail Order Weapons of Mass Destruction." Tonight's special: Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.

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

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about the HBO series GAME OF THRONES.

1. This was recommended to me by several friends. We don't get HBO so we had to rent the DVDs, and could only get the first season so far. We liked it, a lot. Good acting, good story, magnificent sets. I always love shows with war, sex, politics, and business. I don't remember the names of all of the characters and don't plan to go look them up, but I think anyone who saw the show will have no problem following me. (I did buy the book and read it. The movies followed the book magnificently, but the book has more detail.)

2. The complexity of alliances and interest groups is mind boggling. The brothel guy was great to hide Lady Stark and then betrayed Lord Stark. The CIA guy (the bald eunuch) did what he thought was best for the realm. Nobody seems to have figured out why Jamie and the Queen are such buddies. The evidence that Prince Joffrey (king as of episode eight) is not the son of the fat king is dubious but, ok, I'll buy it. The Lannisters want power but I'm not really convinced they're bad people. (I want absolutely dictatorial power over the US government and I am a very nice fellow who only means the best for the country.)

3. I love the Night's Watch. It makes a great deal of sense, in so many ways on so many levels. Lords can send surplus sons up there to prevent power struggles in the future. Those sent there cannot have children precisely because so many surplus lordlings were sent there, and the children might not be willing to volunteer for a lifetime of duty. It has to be a lifetime because otherwise people like Ned could go there for exile and come back later. I do hope when they shut down 16 of the 19 castles that they stacked very large stone blocks in the 16 abandoned tunnels.

4. Ok, so we have a small group of wildings who somehow got south of the wall. They said they came south (and want to go as far south as they can) to escape the trouble that is coming. Which seems to indicate that we're about to see a mass migration of wildings trying to get south of the wall. So how come nobody asked the one surviving girl how the heck her group got past a 700-foot wall? Ok, I can tell you how they did it. They tied a few logs together and paddled around the end of it, starting and ending their sea voyage or river crossing just out of sight of a terminus castle. Time to start patrolling those beaches!

5. Wait a minute. The wall was built 8,000 years ago and in all that time nobody has seen any advance in technology? I mean, no gunpowder, no aircraft, no internal combustion engines? Nothing? At all? Really? Are these people just stupid or do they have no imagination at all?

6. I had no idea (but a fond hope) that dragons would be reborn, but I got a pretty good idea they were coming when I saw that blonde Khaleesa (Daenerys) burning candles around them day and night. When she started laying them in the fire, I knew that she knew she could awaken them, and knew how to do it. When her hands did not burn, I remembered her getting into that hot bath when we first saw her.

7. Someone asked me who my favorite character was. I liked Sean Bean (of Sharpe's Rifles) and will miss him. I love the imp, who steals every scene he's in. I love the horse clans! (Jason Momoa was on Stargate Atlantis.) That's how you run an empire of nomads! I love the queen Cersei. I knew I had seen that actress but had to look her up to figure out that she had been a queen on 300 and was the lead on Sarah Conner Chronicles.

8. The White Walkers seem to be some kind of zombies. Ok, cool, I like zombies. Blue eyes, black hands, got it. But apparently shooting them in the head won't work, you have to actually burn them.

9. Leanna was watching when we ran into 10 minutes of girl-girl sex at the start of episode 7 and she stopped the disk to exclaim "This is porn!" Well, yeah, ok, so it is, but it's nicely done porn.

10. From what I could see reading the "complete guide to Westeros" on the disk, there are a lot of interesting places with a lot of interesting plot hooks out there in the future. I am now reading the book and it seems to track amazing well with the movie.

I have very much enjoyed the book and the HBO series and can almost hear myself discussing some of my relatives with my father: "Heads, pikes, walls. Dad, I've got it."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Nightly Death Walk

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I have of late taken up walking once more. I cannot run (my left leg would collapse under me were I to try, and I do not want to think about the damage a bad subsequent landing could cause). I walk pretty much the same distance (actually, I have added some distance since I started, but I cover the same basic ground) every time. The major variety, such as it is, is the dress and the load. Sometimes I walk clean (just basic shorts, socks, shoes, hat, shirt, and an identity wallet with an ID card and the key to my apartment), other times I add 10 pound leg weights (20 total pounds), sometimes a 40 pound vest, sometimes I wear what I will call a "sauna suit." I will sometimes combine the sauna suit and the 40 pound vest.

The walks typically take less than a half hour, although when I am particularly drained before I start and I am wearing the 40 pound vest there are a couple of times I have exceeded a half hour.

I have, however, noticed that when I am feeling good, whether I am "stripped down" (i.e, not carrying any extra weight) or carrying the heaviest load (the 40 pound vest) the usual variation in time for the distance is just 17 seconds. When I am feeling good and relatively full of energy, the vest only slows my time for the distance (somewhat less than two miles) by 17 seconds.

I cannot tell what that says (surely I should be faster than 17 seconds unladen than laden).

I have, to be truthful, never actually measured the distance. I assume it is less than two miles simply because in my younger days my normal walking pace was faster than four miles an hour, and I know (because of the drag of my left leg) that I am slower than that now, and if I am walking the course I am walking in less than a half hour, it must be less than two miles. I started a couple of months ago just going around the block, extended that to two or three times around the block, then extended that the full length of the neighborhood, over one block, and back, then added another block, then two more blocks.

I do wear a bit more than the above. I always wear my glasses with a cricket strap (so that if I fall, my glasses will not fly off), some wrist bands to contain the sweat, and a pair of weight finger gloves. The gloves are because, if I fall I will likely try to catch myself and the pavement will likely rip the heels of my palms to bits. If that happens, typing and working a mouse would become more difficult. So the padding in the gloves is a precaution. I can afford additional damage to my legs (I am no longer, sadly, in the infantry), but I need my hands to work, so I have to protect them. Oh, yes, I also wear a stop watch to time the walk. I always stop and start at the same point.

As you might imagine, the walk is boring. So my mind wanders, and I have taken to counting cars (number that actually pass my person, number that I just see driving somewhere in my line of sight, and the number that are police cars are the three categories I try to keep track of . . . last night for example was: three, six, and two.

There are also, of course, the unusual events. The car full of, I would guess local college girls, who thought it was amusing to drive alongside of me calling out "beat that a**! (I still have no idea what that was about, I was wearing the 40 pound vest at the time), and recently a number of gamboling animals that when I first saw them I thought I was seeing a couple of cats possibly contesting terrain or a male chasing a female, but eventually resolved into a pack of six-eight roughly large size cats in size, but I only saw one of them in enough light to make out detail and I am almost ready to swear it was a pack of Coyote Pups running around inside town.

Well, I try to walk every night, but I do not seem to be losing any weight (there seems to have been some weight loss to start, i.e., the belt I usually wear has to buckle to its last setting, but it has not since become "loose").

Still, I think the walking is good for me, so I am going to try to keep it up.

Although I would rather be swimming.