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Down and Nerdy: The Pluto Files and print-and-play board games

IN WHICH the Lost Planet is mourned, and James has a zombie in his pocket.

Briana’s pick: The Pluto Files

There’s been some controversy in recent years over the planets in our solar system. In fact, while you were sleeping, we lost one. Back in 2006 the International Astronomical Union essentially voted Pluto out of the club after redefining the definition of what classifies a planet. Pluto doesn’t cut it apparently, so we’re down from 9 planets to 8. Remember this rhyme?

My (Mercury)
Very (Venus)
Educated (Earth)
Mother (Mars)
Just (Jupiter)
Served (Saturn)
Us (Uranus)
Nine (Neptune)
Pickles (Pluto)

Well you can forget about the pickles. As you can imagine, the demotion of Pluto from a “planet” to a “dwarf planet” has stirred quite a brouhaha among the masses. And I don’t just mean the scientific masses. People in Illinois are REALLY pissed as I learned this week by watching NOVA’s “The Pluto Files,” hosted by everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. The PBS show aired earlier this week, but you can watch it online now at NOVA’s website. Before deGrasse Tyson took his story to NOVA, he wrote a book on it, also appropriately called “The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet.” Fascinating stuff. Check out a preview below:

James’ pick: Print-and-play board games

Hey, do you like board games? Well of course you do. What about free stuff? Yeah, that’s good too, right? And what about nerdy papercraft projects with scissors and X-Acto blades and stuff? Trifecta!

Welcome to the wonderful world of print-and-play board games. As the name suggests, these are (typically free) board games that you download as a PDF, print out on white card stock, cut apart, and voila – instant fun!

There’s a massive list of the best ones over at one of my favorite sites, Board Game Geek – but be warned, if games are your thing, be prepared to go through a LOT of ink.

I think the best one I’ve ever played is the solitaire game “Zombie in My Pocket,” which is really well designed and has some great graphics. It takes anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to play, can literally fit in your pocket and is great for long car trips or plane rides.

And for you grognards and history buffs out there, make sure you check out the incredible “Airborne in My Pocket,” which started as a variation on ZIMP but has evolved into a massive game of its own, complete with five expansion sets. (Honestly, I don’t know why anybody pays for anything anymore, because no matter what you’re into, some really talented person out there is making a free example of it as a labor of love.)

[podcast]http://archive.wfpk.org/Podcasts/20100305-nerdy.mp3[/podcast]