So...variables in the Blender GameEngine
Here are some things I have noticed over the last few days.
1) you can edit 'properties' of an object on the fly, thus (you don't need an actuator :-) )
owner = GameLogic.getCurrentController().getOwner() # there might be a better way than this.
owner.propertyname = "newValue"
2) These properties 'reset' when you start or re-start a scene.
Thoughts and tutorials on programming