Friday, June 29, 2007

43 + 2/365

My birthday was Wednesday... and the Under 30's small group at our church came over after Vacation Bible School to hang out, eat, & play our favorite board game, Smarty Party.

Thanks to Mr. Bo (hi, Jim!), my birthday cake was... well, you can see it in the picture. The icing on the cake for the evening? My team (go, Morgan!) won Smarty Party by 10+ spaces - sweet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wild Horses & Yetis

While it's been painfully obvious to any reader of this blog that I'm a huge Disney fan, those who remember my life pre-small fry also know me to be a lover of great roller coasters.

And one of the best coaster parks in the nation (though pretty weenie when it comes to theme & atmosphere) is
Cedar Point. I've had the privilege of spending the day there two different times - remind me and I'll tell the "tiny bullets" story (visit #1) and the "I think my best friend may be dying at an amusement park" story (visit #2). Of course, story #2 bleeds into story #3, wherein Chris & I get hyped up on Jolt Cola and torture Buster about his dating life in front of his mother.

But that's not why I'm writing this... instead, I want you to check out
this video of the newest coaster at Cedar Point, Maverick. Seriously... I'm sorely tempted to hitchhike to Sandusky just to ride this thing. A 95-degree first drop and a nifty surprise right in the middle of the ride... yowsa.

The only other coaster that's got me this excited is Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Due to all the special effects & darkness, it's much harder to get a feel for this one, but here's one
video (from YouTube) that might give you a clue about why I want to ride it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finally, A Movie I'm Really Excited About

All I'm going to say is that you're looking at the Pieces of Ate Dinner Theater... and we have to wait until November.


More info available at the film's website.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bite-Sized Reviews


My Father's Day gift from my boys was Pirates: Quest for Davy Jones' Gold, which is a board game version of the CCCG (constructible collectible card game)... so far, with only one playing under our belts, I'd have to say it's a decent little game. It's miniatures combat, but the limit of one order per ship (move, shoot, explore or repair) leaves you with some interesting decisions. I'd like to try this with 3 or 4 players and see what happens.

We've also picked up 4-5 packs of Pirates: At Ocean's Edge... I hope to get a game of that in tonight.

Burg Appenzell continues to be enjoyable & fast-paced as a 2 player game - I'm curious how it will do with more players on the board.


Ridley Pearson has written some very good thrillers (I particularly liked The Seizing of Yankee Green Mall)... but The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark isn't particularly thrilling. It's an attempt to cross the streams ("'Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!") of Disney fandom & Harry Potter - but the writing is boring & there's very little Disney feel to the story. Except for the extraordinarily cornball legends about Walt & The Stonecutter's Quill (don't ask... sigh), this could be any amusement park. (BTW, despite my tepid review, there are multiple sequels planned.)

Of course, it doesn't help that I'm re-reading the Harry Potter saga (I'm currently starting Book 4) in preparation for the release of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallowsas well as reading the Chronicles of Narnia to Braeden a chapter at a time as bedtime stories (we're in the real Book 2, btw - Prince Caspian - I still think the more recent publishers are complete numbskulls for re-ordering the stories into chronological order.)


Continuing on the Narnia vein, I am officially NOT excited about the film version of Prince Caspian While Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe had some spectacular moments (Lucy meeting Tumnus, dinner at the Beavers, Aslan's sacrifice), it added silly battle sequences & majorly downplayed the Christian symbolism.

OTOH, Shari & I saw Ocean's 13 on Saturday night & really enjoyed ourselves. It's not Oceans 11 (possibly the best caper film since The Sting) but it's quite good. Part caper movie, part film school experiment (it's Steven Soderbergh directing), part Rat Pack flick as reimagined by Clooney & Pitt - the thing works like a charm. Adding Al Pacino to the mix only makes it sweeter.


We also saw Stranger Than Fiction, which is a very thought-provoking & delightful small film. I recommend it highly to those who don't mind odd-paced dramatic comedies that are more interested in making you grin than guffaw. (No plot spoilers here - part of the charm of the film is approaching it with very little idea about where it's going.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paging Dr. Yu...

...Dr. Yu, you're needed in the game room, stat! (Can you tell I watched a lot of ER in the first couple of seasons?)

Dale Yu is my Gathering of Friends/Gulf Games buddy - and we have oddly similar tastes in games. What's really weird is when the two of us order the same games at the same time - just check out my post from earlier this week (Birthday Gaming) and his column from Boardgame News (Some New Games With Kids). Freaky deaky...

With three games of Burg Appenzell under my belt now, I'm convinced that this is a real gem - enough meat on it's bones for gamer-y types, enough luck & memory to make it enjoyable for kids. Primo.

Looking For A Metaphor

Dan Kimball is in search of a metaphor... and I'm no help. (Seriously, I've been thinking about this for a couple of days with no idea what to suggest.)

OTOH, his post (with the convoluted title of What to use for a metaphor for "core" or "non-core" beliefs) on his blog, Vintage Faith, is thought-provoking & important reading. I'm including a couple of of his slides here to wet your appetite.

Monday, June 11, 2007


This is not just a problem for businesses creating widgets... I've been around too many churches that live here, as well.

In fact, I wonder how many churches over the past 20 years declared their allegiance to the 7 Step Strategy or the 5 Purposes or the Emerging Conversation... and still do things pretty much the same way covered up with a thick layer of denial & bluster?


Find this cartoon at

Pathos (Entry 24)

I've thought long & hard about whether I should post this... an entire chapter from someone else's book. In the end, I decided this was the best way to inspire a number of you to saddle up & head to your local bookstore to purchase Erwin McManus' Soul Cravings. So, don't let me down.

In the meantime, soak in this for a little bit...

For better or worse, for richer or poorer - that's the commitment I made back in 1977 when I first saw Star Wars. I've been there through them all. If Star Wars was the honeymoon, then Attack of the Clones nearly caused our divorce. I was with a gorup of my friends in line at midnight just to be a part of the opening. But it hit me most fully at the Revenge of the Sith. We had flown all night from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. We were exhausted, jet-lagged, and committed to finding our life-long colleague Obi-Wan Kenobi and bringing our journey with him to completion.

I have always been very much aware that Star Wars carries at its core George Lucas' Hindu view of the world. Certainly over the last thirty years while God has been going down in the polls, the Force has been steadily climbing. It's not hard to understand what's so attractive about the Force, an untapped source of power that enables us to become more than we ever could alone. Our attraction to the Force is just further proof that our souls long for God. At our core, we know that something is missing, that there's more to us than just flesh & bone.

The challenge is, Which side of the Force will you choose - the good or the dark side? So far so good, right? Of course, you're going to choose the Jedi way. Which one of us would even want to be a Sith? Well, in a world of metrosexuals, the Siths do have better costumes. I mean, Darth Maul had by far the best mask. But as the story unwraps, it all starts to become so clear. I found myself torn by Anakin's dilemma. Anakin, we discover, becomes the infamous Darth Vader. He is training to be a Jedi knight. The way of the Jedi is a life of honor but also a life of detachment. You must give up your right to love, to feel, and even to be loved. You must learn to live a life absent of desire. This is the way of the Jedi. This is what it means to choose the good.

The way of the Sith is the only other option. There is darkness there, and this is where your passions will lead you if you do not relinquish them. Anakin, of course, has a dilemma. He was in love with the young Queen Amidala. This presented a problem. Given, he had lots of other problems too. But really this was the choice before him - live a life of detachment or live a life of passion. How can you disagree with this? Our passions have left an endless trail of devastation. Left to ourselves, it seems, desire leads us only to the dark side. I understand how this view can be compelling, but Jesus gives us another way.

Let him change you at your core, then let your passions fuel your life.

Spirituality & desire are not in conflict from the perspective of Jesus. In fact, he teaches that a genuine spirituality results in the passionate pursuit of life. I'm convinced one of the reasons so many have given up pursuing genuine spirituality is that they didn't know what to do with their desires & passions. No one ever told them that they were placed there by God, that they were intended to be the fuel that would drive them to pursue their dreams & visions. At the same time we must heed the warning of the Sith, that unrestrained passions, passions lacking a moral compass, will lead us to a life that is self-destructive and will hurt anyone who chooses to come near us.

Our greatest danger is living for whatever we can take & devour now and destroying our future in the process. Sometimes we find ourselves seething in anger because our desires cannot be satiated. When our dreams seem out of our reach, it is easy to simply choose apathy. Our worst-case scenario is taht we become enemies of hope. We have to come to grips with the longing of our souls to become something that requires a metamorphosis, which is why no matter what we become, it is never enough. Our souls always crave more. It's not because they're insatiable, but because we know there's more to be had.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Birthday Gaming

It's not actually my birthday... it's Braeden's birthday. But, since he's the son of a gaming "addict", his birthday had plenty of game-related stuff surrounding it.

The pictures above are from his party, where we played Jewels in the Attic, a game published by Discovery Toys back in the early '90s. It's a little difficult to describe, but it's essentially a cooperative text adventure without a lot of text. Using circle-shaped "tools", the players attempt to find the best item among them to help solve the problem - whether that be avoiding a swarm of bees or trying to get out of an overstuffed chair. The notch on the tool card is lined up with the notch on the "problem" card and a small hole in the tool card reveals a letter - which corresponds to a result on the problem card. Many times, you defeat the card & get to claim a reward (which is a more powerful tool, usually)... though sometimes the problem causes the group some trouble. (Most of the group ended up asleep on the floor at one point; another time, they were all stuck to the walls of the room they were in.)

Eventually, you have enough purple (reward) cards in order to try & enter the Attic to defeat the Jewelkeeper... which, of course, requires you to defeat his minions first. (I didn't mention at the start that the game is played in five rooms: a Main Hall - denoted by a large placard - and four rooms - denoted by door hangers with the room name & description.)

As you can see, we played at the church gym - the second picture shows the intrepid band of adventurers (and their guide, me) running through "the Main Hall" on our way to "The Library" (which was actually our senior adult Sunday School classroom.)

The game works very well with ages 4-8 with an adult guide... part of the secret of making something like this really "sing" is to get the kids involved in making spooky background noises, roleplaying the various troubles, and helping them celebrate their victories. This was, according to the kids & parents I talked to today, the highlight of the party for most of the kids.

In other birthday gaming news, Braeden got three games as presents:
  • Cranium's Pirate's Passage, which is a part of their Squawkbox series, where the game box is tells you what play you can make each turn. It's a pretty simple race to the center of the maze game, with some opportunities to hose over your opponent. Still, you're at the mercy of the box - if it keeps telling you to flip cards when you need to move, you're in trouble.
  • Haba's Der Schwarze Pirat (The Black Pirate), which takes the air pump action of Akaba & turns it into a pretty interesting little game. Players roll dice to see where gold is added to the map & whether they'll be moving their own boat or The Black Pirate. Good control of your ship is necessary (which has frustrated Braeden so far) as well as planning how to cut off other players from the islands you're trying to get to. Less frenetic than Akaba (there's no timer - simply a limit to the number of puffs you can make per turn) but a bit more of a game.
  • Finally, Braeden's favorite: Kiki Ricky from Ravensburger (which goes by the American name of Chuck-It Chicken). This is a "king of the mountain" game where you climb a 3D board with three chickens (each wearing a different piece of headgear: pith hat, baseball cap or football helmet) attempting to be the first to reach the top & subdue the nutty rooster who keep throwing down eggs to knock you back. It works OK with two players but really shines as a goofy kid's game with 3-4.

And, in unrelated gaming news, I get Burg Appenzell in the mail tomorrow (yippee! Zoch-ish SdJ-&-Bruno-Faidutti-recommended silliness!) along with Lost Valley. And I played Midgard, which is El Grande with extra chaos thrown in. Eh.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tire Swing

From left to right, that's "Little" Robert (once known as "Baby" Robert - but now Braeden thinks Robert is too old to be called a baby), Eve (the daughter of our worship/youth pastor who is almost as rambunctious as Collin) and Collin himself. Collin, btw, calls Robert "Bobert" sometimes.

They all three enjoyed the tire swing very much - thanks to Zoe & Evie for inviting all of us to their birthday party!

Monday, June 04, 2007

peppermint-filled pinatas

OK, I'm going to try my level best to review this book as objectively as possible... but that's an uphill climb considering that I've known the author since he was a teenager. (He & my lovely wife, Shari, were actually in the youth group at Shady Oaks BC at the same time.) It also doesn't help that we share an alma mater (Baylor University), a background in youth ministry, and a deep respect & admiration for the community of faith known as Mosaic. (Eric is a Navigator there - which is the rough equivalent of "lead pastor" - along with Erwin McManus & Chad His-Last-Name-Ha-Been-Flushed-From-My-Memory-Banks... sorry, Chad.)

One of the things I like best about
peppermint-filled pinatas: breaking through tolerance & embracing love is that feels like there's a real person behind the book. I've read way too many books on sharing the love of Christ that are peppered with what I can only call "airplane" stories: "I was sitting next to this person on the airplane & we started talking & by the end of the flight they gave their lives to Jesus... and I've never seen them again. But doesn't it make a great story?!" (Eric's only "airplane" story in the book is in the chapter about stereotyping - and involves the Bryant family's panic flying with nervous Arabs a couple of weeks after 9/11.)

Instead, Eric illustrates the principles he's trying to teach with self-deprecating humor & personal stories that feel very much like you're sitting across the table from him drinking coffee & scarfing down biscotti.

One of the most convicting passages for here is... well, rather than try & summarize his thoughts, I'll just quote 'em for you:

In our attempts to become holy or "set apart," we have mistaken a call for "living with a different standard" with "living in a different place that has a different standard." We want to live in an enviroment where the laws or policies enforce our beliefs & morality rather than engaging a lost & broken world where they live. And is we are to be "set apart" to be "apostles," in a broad sense of people who are "sent out," then we are to be "set apart" in how we live, and we are "sent out" to the world. Too often we reverse these two concepts. We live away from the world physically, but our behavior matches that of the world.

Another thing I appreciate about the book is Eric's willingness to tackle difficult topics: how do you build relationships with those who hold radically different beliefs from you... whether it's their sexual identity, their religious affiliation, or their ideology. Rather than simply saying "go & be friends with people," Eric offers specific stories & thoughts about how that works out practically in his life... and in our lives.

It's not a perfect book - they are some slow moments & I wonder if I'm able to "connect the dots" a little easier because I've known Eric for so long. But even with those caveats, I found myself reading this book avidly and wanting to read sections to my wife - both silly stuff (like the Darth Vader & Spiderman obsessions of his son) or the serious stuff (like some of the passages in the section entitled "Love is the New Apologetic.")