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Daniel Einspanjer's journal

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tabletop season three

How busy have I been? So busy that I forgot to write a blog about TableTop Season 3, and how you can help make it happen.

tl;dr: We’re crowdfunding Tabletop’s 3rd season. We’ve raised $500,000, so we can afford to do 15 episodes. If we get to $750,000, we’ll have enough to do 20 episodes (like seasons one and two), and if we get to one million dollars, we can afford to do the RPG spin off that I’ve wanted to do for years (a season-long campaign, cut into about 20 or so 40-minute-ish episodes with the same players, characters, and GM).

Here’s a spiffy video I made about it:

(Don’t read the comments; they will make you mad. Or, if you’re me, they’ll make you sad, because a lot of people don’t understand television production, and how much shows cost, so they yell at you a lot, based on presumptions that turn out to be wrong.)

Because we’re going completely independent , we can do some things we’ve always wanted to do, like an episode that’s me, Anne, and our kids. We’re also going to do a special episode that’s just a game or two for children, played with children, because thousands of people have asked me what I recommend they play with their kids.

We’re also going to do the SUPER DIRTY and PROFOUNDLY INAPPROPRIATE “TableTop After Dark” episode, where we play Cards Against Humanity. There may be beer and a couple of dirty comedians involved. This will be the episode that likely makes the world hate me forever.

We have a bunch of perks for people who choose to contribute various amounts to our effort, but I want to be really clear that we’re making Tabletop for everyone who loves it, whether they can give us zero or infinity dollars.

I’m not entirely positive when we’ll be filming the first 10 episodes, but I know we’re going to try to get them done soon, so we can release them later this summer. A lot of that schedule is going to be determined by how busy I am with The Wil Wheaton Project.

There have been a lot of FAQs about this campaign, so we did our best to answer them in the standard way:

Why are you going Independent?

Felicia: Geek and Sundry (and Tabletop) up until now was funded by YouTube’s original channel initiative, which is not continuing to go forward anymore. We have been talking to a bunch of partners and are excited about some of our options to continue G&S as a company, but Wil (and we) were passionate about being able to keep Tabletop on schedule to release more episodes this year, and stay independent of influence to change the show for sponsor/commercial reasons. That is why we are fundraising like this.

Wil: We want to make the same TableTop that we’ve made for two seasons, and give our audience something that we’re proud of, and we wanted to do that without compromising our vision for the show. The quickest and most reliable way to make that happen was to go directly to the people who love TableTop as much as we do, and ask them to help us make our third season as awesome as our first two.

Why are you asking for so much money?

Felicia: This show is a standout for a reason: We pay professional people to make it. It’s polished and stands next to TV show quality because we wanted to make something long-lasting, and impact in a big way, like a TV show when we conceived it. To put it in perspective: The average 30 second commercial you see on TV? Costs 1-3 million dollars. EACH. The average 1/2 hour comedy? 2-3 million dollars. Shows like Game of Thrones? 7-9 million dollars. PER EPISODE.

We are doing a minimum of fifteen, 30 minute shows for a fraction of ONE TV SHOW. If you put it in that perspective, we are definitely not paying people professional rates to work on it. I do a lot of low budget web videos (to help do shows like TableTop, actually), and I think the ones that last beyond that moment of consumption are the ones that have budgets, that people tend to enjoy over and over. My goal always has been to show the established TV world that people can work outside the system and compete with their business, Tabletop is our best example of that, just like The Guild before us. We are doing this show for the minimum we can do it and keep up what we have established before us.

Wil: This is a question that I wasn’t expecting, and I feel really stupid for not explaining this more in advance. I’ve lived in the film and television industry my whole life, and I’ve been an active producer on TableTop for 40 episodes, so I know how much it costs to make an average show, and how much it costs to make our show. Let me be clear right away: we’re not getting rich off TableTop. In fact, if TableTop was my only job, I wouldn’t be able to support my family for even one year. That said, to anyone who does not live in the film and television world, i completely understand a sense of ‘sticker shock’ upon hearing that this YouTube show needs half a million dollars to produce fifteen episodes.

This week, I’m doing an episode of The Big Bang Theory, When it’s all finished and cut together, it’ll be about 22 minutes (approximately the same length as the average episode of TableTop), and it’ll cost several million dollars to produce. If you do a strict math problem, you’ll see that we do fifteen (or 20 if/when we get there) episodes of TableTop – 33 minutes, at least, that’s 660 minutes of TableTop – for less than the cost of a single 22 minute episode of network television.

We put everything we have into TableTop, because we love it, and we push our budget to its maximum limited so the show that we put out on YouTube can stand next to anything you see on Broadcast or Cable, and I’ll keep doing that as long as we can. I also want to make one thing really clear: we’re incredibly grateful – I am personally – incredibly grateful and honored by the contributions we’ve been given by the TableTop community. I know that you’re trusting us to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to honor that trust by making the very best show we can possibly make.

Will TableTop still be free to watch? Do I have to donate to see it?

Wil: It will absolutely be free to watch. And now that we are completely independent, we aren’t limited to broadcasting on YouTube, so we’ll be able to make Tabletop available to even more people in even more ways, as we release season three.

Felicia: You do not have to donate, we appreciate it so much if you choose to do so, and understand if you don’t. It will still be free and watchable by you if we make our fundraising goal.

So there you have it. Tabletop Season Three is guaranteed at least 15 episodes, and we’re feeling pretty optimistic that we’ll get to 20. I think it’s a longer shot that we make it to the RPG show, but Tabletop fans keep surprising me, so maybe I’m more uncertain than I should be.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, and PLAY MORE GAMES!

Providing more CS professional development for K-12 teachers with an expanded CS4HS

For more than five years, we’ve provided free and inexpensive teacher professional development trainings in computer science education through Computer Science for High School (CS4HS). In this program, Google provides funding and support for experts to create hands-on professional development training in CS education for K-12 educators. The goal is to arm teachers with the knowledge they need to help their students succeed in the field. The program has already trained more than 12,000 teachers, and reached more than 600,000 students—and we’ve gotten great feedback over the years (a 95% satisfaction rate!).

It’s been a great success, but there is still much more to do. So this year, we’re taking the first steps toward extending CS4HS across the globe. We’re piloting CS4HS projects in Latin America for the first time—an area where computer science education is often mistaken for computer literacy (think word processing, typing, or changing settings on your operating system rather than robotics or coding a game). We’re also introducing eight new online workshops, so teachers no longer need to be located near a CS4HS event to get quality training.

It’s not just the “where” we’re expanding, but the “when,” as well. We’re now providing new resources for teachers to get ongoing, year-round help. Our Google+ Community page hosts Hangouts on Air with CS industry leaders, Googlers, and top educators on a regular basis. And we’ve added a new Resources page with online workshops, tutorials and information on computational thinking, robotics and more. Finally, if you happen to be in the neighborhood at the right time, sign up for one of our in-person workshops available around the world in these locations:

Posted by Erin Mindell Cannon, Google Education Program Manager

two pictures from portland

I spent the weekend in Portland, visiting my sister and her family. I also saw some friends, and recorded an episode of Livewire Radio. It was a gorgeous weekend, with perfect weather, so we got to walk even more than we usually do when we visit.

We were walking downtown with my sister and her son when I spotted this in the street next to the crosswalk:


I got really excited, because it’s the first Toynbee tile I’ve ever seen that wasn’t just a picture on the Internet. While I was taking this picture, Anne was counting down the seconds on the crosswalk. Hearing “…4…3…2…1″ while I was taking the picture made the whole stupid thing a little more thrilling than it should have been, but I’m easily entertained.

One more picture (as promised in the title) before I get ready to go to the set:


Steel Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in the country, and this weekend was the first time we walked across it and up the opposite bank of the river. When we were about a quarter mile from it, heading toward a different bridge to cross back to downtown, a boat came up the river toward Steel Bridge. “Dude! If we hurry, we can get up to the bridge and stand right there when it goes up!” I said to Anne.

“You think we can make it?” She said.

“Yes. I know we can.”

“Are you sure it’s going to go past the bridge?”

“Unless it makes a U-turn in the middle of the river, it has to go past the bridge,” I said. “Come on! It’ll be cool!”

We turned around and walked quickly back toward Steel Bridge, the boat slowly gaining on us. When we were about 500 yards from the bridge, the boat blew its horn, presumably to alert the bridge person that it needed to go up … but when I looked at the boat to see how far it was from the bridge, I saw that it had blown its horn to alert nearby vessels that it was making a U-turn in the middle of the river.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, laughing, as we walked onto the bridge and began to walk back across it. “Well, it would have been cool.”

Anne laughed with me, and held my hand.

That was different
This was the day my granddaughter bought me lunch for the first time.

We went to the Walters, as we've been planning to do for the last several weeks. Had a great time exploring the collections on all five floors. She and I have been going there for years, and it's a place she really likes visiting because she learns a bit more about the art each time. Today we even sat down in the Knights Chambers and played a game of chess. The kid's gotten pretty good. She successfully countered my first five ploys, before finally missing a Queen-Bishop-Rook combination. I doubt she'll miss it next time.

After we left the gallery, she wanted to go out for lunch, as we traditionally have in the past. When we sat down, she asked if I'd mind if she got the check. I accepted her generosity, though I did insist on covering the tip.

She's 11, and she has her own Visa card. She walks dogs.

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The power of novels
I was just struck by this passage from the Australian Chief of Army's reading list. What he says about novels is profound.

Don’t despise the novelist, but make a distinction between the
author who writes merely to spin a good yarn and the author, the serious novelist,
who writes because he has something to say, some important comments to make.
is probably true to say that the novelist and the dramatist have done more to directly
influence the development of thought and ideas than all the philosophers. While it
is true that the philosophers and the thinkers produce the basic idea, it is the novelist
and the dramatist who ‘put it across’ by translating it into terms which ordinary
folk can understand and appreciate, into terms of universally experienced human
emotions—love and hate, courage and cowardice, hope and despair. Consider, for
instance, the tremendous influence of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Up to the time
of its publication there was a chance that the issues which divided the Northern and
Southern States of America could have been settled by wise statesmanship and public
forbearance. Its publication made the Civil War virtually inevitable. It focused all the
issues upon a single point—slavery. It enraged the South and it inflamed the North. In
far away Europe, particularly in England and France, it created a public opinion which
compelled the governments to drastically modify their policies of active sympathy
towards the Southern cause.

The First World War produced a crop of novels which profoundly influenced the
course of events over the two following decades. With few exceptions all these books
expressed the violent revulsion of the common man against the stupidity and futility
of the dreadful blood-baths to which they had been subjected on the Western Front.
You can learn all about the strategy and the tactics of the Western Front in half a
dozen printed pages, for there was precious little of either to write about. But if you
really want to understand, if you want to find out what the war was like from the
point of view of the fighting man, read novels like All Quiet on the Western Front, Not
So Quiet, Her Privates We, War by ex-Private X, Covenant With Death,
etc. Read the
poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and plays like Journey’s End. Above
all, read CE Montague’s Disenchantment. Every officer ought to have this little volume
of beautifully-written essays. He ought to keep it by his bedside and read a few pages
every night. That will keep his feet on the ground and his head out of the clouds.

That's some profound observations about the power of novels and similar works of fiction. Reading it, I think of how many naval officers I've known who read C. S. Forester, and Patrick O'Brian. How many aerospace engineers I know who read -- and were inspired by -- Heinlein and Asimov. The many Marines I've known who devoured every book by their favorite authors as soon as those books became available.

These stories we love shape our perceptions of the world. They sculpt our view of history and of human motivation, for good or for ill. Shared interest in them can bring us together in our various fandoms, and often leads to lifelong friendships. Sometimes even to marriages.

In the category of military novels, the stories teach us about leadership, and about courage, and about duty. I'd a thousand times rather a company commander who'd absorbed the leadership ideals of Robert A. Heinlein than one who'd steeped himself in the teachings of Baron Jomini.

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More crass commercialism
If you're looking for nice woolens, check out Wool Overs. Here's a discount code you can use there if you like something.

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tuesday morning

It was just after midnight, but thanks to the heatwave we’re having, it was still unseasonably warm. I walked comfortably in my T-shirt along a tree-lined street, the scent of orange blossoms filling the air.

A few miles away, cars on the freeway created a sort of white noise that I could pretend was a distant river. I looked into the sky, and saw Mars, red and beautiful above Vega, so bright it nearly outshone the brilliant white star.

I walked through the warm night, replaying the incredible events of the last few days, marveling at how lucky I am to be who and where I am. I walked into my house, and my dogs greeted me at the door. After inspecting me in the usual fashion, they trotted back into my bedroom, where I’d soon be competing for a spot on my bed with them. My wife was asleep, and I gently kissed her forehead before I got ready for bed.

I woke up this morning before my alarm, my head resting against my puppy’s head, who was sound asleep and snoring to my left. I moved, and she grumbled, stretched her legs, and snuggled back into me. From the foot of the bed, I heard Seamus’ tale thump, and I heard Riley walk into our bedroom, her nails clicking on the wood floor. I opened my eyes and looked to my left. Anne was already out of bed, and likely out of the house. I arched my back, stretched my legs, and kissed Marlowe on her little puppy forehead. Riley had arrived to the side of my bed and looked at me with her I’M A DOG face.

I stayed in bed for a few more minutes, before getting out, petting my dogs, letting them out, making coffee, and getting into my office to start my day.

Showing Promise
Granddaughter Rhiannon is visiting for Spring Break. In the course of our conversation on Sunday she was telling me about her current class in American History, and her semester project. She's chosen to examine the life and works of Phillis Wheatley.

Takes after her mother. Amanda was a fan of Emily Morgan at that age.

I wish my mother in law Thelma were still with us. She was quite a historian herself, having written a book about the Taos Massacre, and being the long-time director of the Denton county historical museum.

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GABBO — i mean tabletopday — IS COMING!

Tomorrow is the second annual International Tabletop Day! It’s TableTop Day 2: The Tabeleoppening Return of the Gamers Tabletop Harder Electric Boogaloo!

As I write this, our fellow gamers in those parts of the world where it’s already tomorrow are playing more games, and I’m so excited to join them when we finally catch up, here in California.

There are thousands of events all over the world, and you can find one close to you by going to Also, if you’re able to attend an event at one of the friendly local game shops who have partnered with us, you’ll have a chance to get some truly epic limited edition expansions to some of our favorite tabletop games.

If you’re going to be playing games at home, or you’re stuck at work and still want to get in on the action, you can watch our livestream, which begins at noon Pacific time, and you can follow the #TableTopDay hashtag on Twitter, for cool pictures and stories and big news all about Tabletop.

Also, I would love it if you would share your stories and pictures to the Tabletop Tumblr I run, As Seen On TableTop, so I can share your games with the world.

Also also, if you want to tell me what you’re planning to play tomorrow, or let me know what games you’d like to see on future episodes of Tabletop, use the comments here, for great justice.

Just Another Day
Once Upon A Lifetime part 30

1992 began with President George H. W. Bush puking into the lap of the Japanese prime minister at a state dinner. In March, Ross Perot decided he was going to make the election interesting and entertaining by running as an independent. In May, Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show after 30 years. In November, Bill Clinton was elected President.

Paula and the girls and I spent the entire year living at our rented home in Carney, northeast of Baltimore proper. Marianne graduated from high school that year, 20 years after I had graduated in 1972. She also got to vote in her first election. Amanda started middle school at Pine Grove middle, where she made a lasting impression by slamming a boy into a locker after he'd been popping her bra strap. I worked real-time operations at the Space Telescope Science Institute, doing 7 on, 4 off rotating 9 hour shifts. Somewhere around late September the old Crown Vic gave up the ghost, and I spent the last several months of the year riding a bike to work.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Read more...Collapse )

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