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Short Takes

Raiderette of the Lost Board Game

November 08, 1987|DICK RORABACK | Times Staff Writer

Like most of the rest of us, Yvonne Liu hadn't the vaguest notion that the stock market was about to crash. Unlike the rest of us, for Liu it couldn't have happened at a better time.

Liu, 28, of Rancho Palos Verdes, has just hit the major board-game markets with Mega-Raider, an "updated Monopoly-type game" for ages 12 to adult in which the object is to acquire cash and companies through takeover bids while protecting one's own firm against opponents' raids.

Husband Bill came up with the idea while Liu, a financial analyst, was laid up with back problems. "I did it all on my stomach," says Liu: translating concept into specifics, perfecting the game, finally marketing it, independently ("which is not so easy when you're competing with the likes of Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers").

Now she promotes full-time, including "Mega-Fests" on U.S. college campuses to introduce the game. "You can't put one over on students," she says. "They'll tell you on the spot if it stinks. At the University of Minnesota, though, we got our highest accolade: 'A great game for a beer-and-pretzel party.' "

"It's easy to learn; you don't have to be T. Boone Pickens to play," Liu says. What the game does not teach you is what Yvonne Liu has learned, to her delight: Timing is everything.

Small Tags With a Large Purpose

When it comes to tag, George Wager is "it." Wager, an Orange County ad executive, has distributed, free of charge, about 125 million Lifesaver Tags in the United States. The small reinforced paper tags contain name, address, medical and doctor information, etc., and are worn in the clothing or shoes of tens of millions of children, as well as seniors and pregnant women.

They've saved endless confusion, not to mention countless lives, and earned Wager the plaudits of everyone from the cop on the beat to President Reagan.

Increasingly, in the event of an accident, police, fireman, paramedics and hospital personnel search children's clothing for the tags; Wager hopes their use will become virtually universal.

Why did he embark on what has become a monumental, time-consuming and strictly altruistic operation? "I'm a Little League coach and a father of four," he explains. "One day a boy was hit by a car on the way to practice. It took five hours just to find his mother. He died about half an hour before she got there. I didn't need much more motivation than that."

Yes, the tags are free. For "as many as you want," send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Lifesavers Charities, P.O. Box 125-RD, Buena Park, Calif. 90621.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know, Fast

Time being money, it's doubly hard to resist a savings of $80,000. In 10 minutes.

Andy Mayer estimates the $80,000 as today's cost of a four-year college education. He suggests, instead, the "10-Minute University" (TMU), an audiocassette that compresses 3.5 billion years of knowledge into a succinct, if somewhat unhinged, 600 seconds: physics through comparative literature to football.

Mayer and Jim Becker, both of Santa Monica, conceived the project, brainstormed with Los Angeles scriptwriters Bob Tzudicker and Noni White "until it hurt," and enlisted the voice of John Moschitta, certifiably the world's fastest-talking man.

What kind of mind comes up with a TMU? "I try not to think of it," says Mayer, who, with Becker, also invents and designs toys. "It's frightening.

"It was not an easy project. We bought a lot of textbooks. We like to present factual information--when we can." As in the one-minute evolution course:

"Heritable traits that work, work. The ones that don't don't. That's why fish have flippers, not feet. The ones with feet die. . . ."

Occidental Professor Is a Winner With a Scientific Bent

His peers respect him (voting him the prestigious Graham Sterling Award).

His students love him (voting him the equally prestigious Donald Loftsgordon Award).

Now the state, even the nation, have gotten into the act: Frank P. DeHaan, 53, Carl F. Braun Professor of Chemistry at Occidental College, has been named California State Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (and has missed national honors by the width of a ruler as one of 10 silver medalists for U.S. Professor of the Year).

What distinguishes DeHaan from his colleagues, says Occidental's news director, Frances Hill, is that "He involves his students. Everyone works with him. By the time they've finished Occidental as undergraduates, most of them have probably co-authored a paper that has been published in a recognized journal. An astonishing percentage then go on to advanced degrees. . . ."

Since joining the faculty in 1961, DeHaan has received about 20 National Science Foundation grants, most of which have funded his research in mechanisms of electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

But perhaps a greater measure of DeHaan as teacher is reflected in the intent of the Loftsgordon Award. To his students, Frank DeHaan is quite simply a man with "exceptional ability to communicate--and inspire."

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