Monday, August 29, 2005

Theologian of the Year: Dogbert

This is brilliant. Ab-so-lutely brilliant. from

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

Had a nice surprise last night when cruising through my RSS feeds on Bloglines... Mikko Saari, the author/owner/etc. of Gameblog had a nice post on board games blogs which included this mention of yours truly:
Aka Pastor Guy is Mark Jackson's blog, a mixture of board games and religion. It's an interesting mix. Mark seems like a pretty sensible guy even to an atheist like yours truly and his blog is an interesting insight to a different world - with board games in it!
Thanks to Mikko for the kind words... it's nice to know that what I set out to do (talk about board games & life & God & other stuff) is coming through loud & clear, even if it's all the way across the Atlantic (Finland, no less!) and across the even larger divide of belief systems.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Welcome To Pat's World

Ah, what a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning, Pat Robertson was channeling former President Clinton as he responded to allegations that he'd called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez by saying:
"I didn't say 'assassination,'" Robertson clarified during a broadcast of his "The 700 Club" Wednesday morning. "I said our special forces should go 'take him out,' and 'take him out' could be a number of things, including kidnapping." He blamed The Associated Press for making him seem to advocate the assassination of a foreign leader. "There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him," Robertson said. "I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time." from FoxNews

By afternoon, the Right Reverend Robertson (say that 5 times fast!) decided he needed to apologize. If you want to read the whole statement he released, you can check it out on FoxNews. What I quote next is selected "highlights":

"Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him... "There are many who disagree with my comments, and I respect their opinions. There are others who think that stopping a dictator is the appropriate course of action. In any event, the incredible publicity surrounding my remarks has focused our government's attention on a growing problem which has been largely ignored."

He also managed to drag Dietrich Bonhoeffer into the mix, drawing parallels between Nazi Germany and Venezula. Huh?! Here's my "summary" of the week's events, as filtered through the mind of Pat Robertson.
  1. Chavez is one bad dude... somebody ought to hire Steven Seagal to jet down to South America and go medieval on him.
  2. When I said that the U.S. ought to "cap" Chavez, I meant that we needed to get him a new hat. Yeah, that's the ticket. Besides, you guys put words in my mouth.
  3. OK, kids, you caught me. I really did encourage government-sponsored assassination on national TV. Who knew the MSM watched The 700 Club? Say, any of you left-wingers want to buy a case of diet shakes?
  4. Actually, it's a good thing I put a shoe store worth of Nikes in my mouth over this thing, because it's all part of my secret plan to get the White House to pay attention to Venezula's godless Commie ninja strike force.
OK, a little over the top. Still, I'm enjoying myself, right?

Anyway, back to the serious: it's not really an apology when you attempt to justify your actions. Then it's just randomly using the word "sorry" like a talisman to ward off further attacks.

Which brings us to the icky part of this post... where are we "apologizing" in name only? Where do we spend inordinate amounts of time & energy struggling to justify, excuse or otherwise cover up our actions when the simpler, more authentic, more Christ-like way to deal with it would simply be to say "I'm sorry" and be done with it?

Ever thought about how much we can be like Pat? (Shudder.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gulf Games: Saturday

If you missed the first part of this story, check out Gulf Games: Friday.

Who cares if I went to bed at 2:30 am? I had to squeeze 5 days of Gulf Game-ish fun into 2 and a half, so I popped out of bed at 7:30 am and grabbed some devotional time while waiting for someone to show up with the keys to the game room. I don't remember who it was (Greg? James? Anonymous Nice Person Whose Name I Forgot?)... remember, it was crack-of-dawn-ish. :-)

Anyway, once we were in, we did a bit of cleaning up (less than I remember from previous years) and the gaming began. James, Scott T, Earl & Michell and I played Knizia's
Tower of Babel. It's an auction game, sort of... that turns into sort of an area majority game. (You'll notice I use the words "sort of" a lot in trying to sum up this game.) Because, well, I sort of liked it. I'm not sure it has "legs" (in other words, that I'd play it all that much) but with five players it's an interesting game system. (I'm pretty sure it would be much less fun with less players.) Scott won, with Michelle & I tied just two points behind him. (Nice to finally meet the legendary Scott Tullace, btw.)

We added Chris Comeaux to our number and pulled out a personal favorite that I think is too often overlooked,
Medieval Merchant. I sucked wind the entire game... Earl & I both wanted to start in the same place, but I chose first. My mistake; Earl went on to win from his position. Sigh. (For those who haven't seen/played MM, it's a rail game cleverly disguised as a game about opening cities to trade following the Dark Ages. This time around, I noticed it's similarities to Power Grid - well, at least the board play part of Power Grid.)

With just a few minutes to spare before the Liar's Dice tournament began, I coaxed Peter McCarthy, Joe Huber & my nephew William (who had just stumbled into the game room) to play Tom Jolly's
Light Speed. This game actually takes longer to score than it does to play. (Reader's Digest Condensed description: each player has ten spaceship cards, which are placed on the table "real-time". The first player to finish placing his ships yells "stop!" and then you score the game. You get points for hitting other players & asteroids with your lasers - preprinted on the spaceship cards. That's it.) We managed to play the game and were about 1/2 way through the scoring when...

Liar's Dice tournament actually started. I joined Joe, Derk, Cindy, Peter, & William to play - and, humorously enough, Joe, who actively does not like Liar's Dice, won.

We then returned to finish scoring to find that this was really Joe's morning, as he smoked us at Light Speed. (No real surprise there - Joe's the one who taught me the game originally.) I managed to put down my first negative score (-4) in my Light Speed playing history. Double sigh.

The last game before lunch was Royal Turf - as the Smith family (Sheldon, Regina & Laura) joined Ed Rozmiarek, William & I in betting on the ponies. This is probably my favorite horse racing game (though I'm still fond of the overly complicated Win, Place & Show.) It has a high celebration/cursing luck factor (those are games where there's lots of cheering & booing on the roll of the dice or, to quote Alan Parson Project, "the turn of a friendly card.") Anyway, the dice were not friendly to me - I managed to beat only William, the single newbie at the table. Triple sigh.

Lunch was McDonalds - because:
  1. we could walk there
  2. it was fast
For those of you who are concerned that William & I went to New Orleans and didn't manage to eat any non-chain food, wait for the Gulf Games: Sunday post.

After lunch was the one game on my "dance card" - an Operation Overlord run of
Memoir '44 with 8 players. We used the Ardennes scenario (the only published non-beach Overlord scenario) which has an amazing 12 point winning requirement. I commanded the Allies, with Tim McCarthy, William, and Paul Cortazzo as my field generals. Ed Roz commanded the Axis, with the motley crew of Eddie Bonet, Craig Berg, and Chris Lohroff as his field generals. The game was a little long, primarily because the German generals consulted with each other at unbelievable length. Of course, they won 12-7, so who am I to argue? A wonderful time was had by all - except the poor German infantrymen, Hans & Frans, who were cut to ribbons by tank fire... mainly because they were talking too much. (This was William's first exposure to gaming with Craig, which might be better known as "laughing your rear end off.")

Chris Comeaux then taught Allison Vander Ark, William & I
Sole Mio, the add-on/stand-alone sister/cousin/significant other of Uwe Rosenberg's Mamma Mia. (Note: I'm a big fan of Mamma Mia.) While we had fun playing, I'm not sure this is necessary. Chris managed to grab all 11 pizzas (grrr...) while only got 9. William continued his stunning losing streak with only 4 pizzas. Note to self: keep playing memory games with William.

Next, I introduced Susan Rozmiarek & William to the joy that is
Viva Topo. I've written about this other places, but Viva Topo is part of two game families. The first is the "the game chases you around and eats your pieces" family, which consists of:
  • Midnight Party
  • Viva Pamplona
  • Viva Topo
The second is the "cat & mouse theme" family, which consists of:
  • Cat & Mouse (Max Mauseschreck)
  • Mause-Rallye
  • So Ein Kase
  • Viva Topo
(Obviously, I'm missing some in the second category. But, of course, somebody with more free time than I has created a GeekList: What's New Pussycat, Whooawhoawhoa?) I managed to win (experience and good dice are everything).

Susan returned the favor by teaching us a new Haba game,
Tier au Tier, which is German for "stack cute wooden animals on a crocodile." It's Jenga for kids... but the bits are Haba-licious and it plays very quickly. I liked it, even though Susan (boo, hiss) won.

Since we were on a kid game kick, I pulled out one of the few games I brought with me, the little-known Bis Bald im Wald. (OK, "little-known" doesn't quite cover it. I'm the only person who owns it, according to the Geek, and only one other person has rated it - "Invisible" Craig, who played my copy last summer.) The theme is negligible (something about deers hunting for their forest friends), but the gameplay is substantially above "kid" level. Each turn you move your deer around the 5x5 grid of tiles, turning over tiles in an attempt to match the "search" card selection of animals. Turn over a correct animal, you get to move & flip again. Turn over the wrong animal, and your turn is over. Turn over an owl and you get to peek at one tile. Turn over a tree and you simply get to continue your turn. And, if there weren't enough things going on in the game, whenver someone completes a "search" card with a fox on it, the row & column that the fox was in are shuffled and redealt to the grid.

It's not that the memory element is impossible - it's only 25 cards. It's the changeable nature of the board coupled with the need to physically move to the correct location that short out adult brains. We called this one on account of needing to eat, but I think Kevin was in the lead. Lenny & I were sucking major wind.

Dinner tonight was a short jaunt down the street with the Rozmiarek clan - man, I like those people. We talked about houses & games & raising kids in the rarified atmosphere of Burger King.

After dinner, it was back to the game room for the Prize Table Party. A number of contest winners were announced... and while I wasn't in the running for Mr. Friendly (hard to do when you miss 2-3 days of gaming), I did manage to win the Box of Mystery competition. (Frank & Sandi create a box filled with 13 game bits... you reach in and figure out what game they're from by touching them.) The only one I missed was Coyote (I guessed Octopus, which still isn't listed on the Geek... gotta take care of that.)

The Prize Table is a huge pile of games (donated primarily by the attendees) which families get to grab based on a lottery system. I managed to snag That's Life!, Automania, Alles im Griff, and in the final "you must take something" round, Galloping Pigs (which I didn't previously own).

And then we were back to the gaming! Next up was the insanely expensive Master Thieves. The game is essentially Citadels crossed with a memory game... but the production values of the box/cabinet are stunning. I managed to snake out a 1 point win over my good friend, Ted Cheatham (who's about to be a published game designer!). Also in the hunt were Eddy, Jeannette, Rob Wood & William.

Next, the "old men" (Rob & I) played a quick game of Crokinole with the "young whippersnappers", William & Jeannette. Age & cunning beat youth & skill, which is at it should be. :-)

When folks found out I'd never played Coyote (from my mistaken Box O'Mystery identification), they insisted I give it a try. Gotta say, the novelty of wearing a velcro band on my head wore off pretty quickly... and there's not enough game left after that to sweep up off the floor and put in a thimble. (Can you tell I wasn't impressed?) For a really good bluffing game, try Liar's Dice or Ciao Ciao instead. Ted won, knocking out a number of us.

Next, we grabbed Igloo Pop and got into a discussion about the relative merits of this game and it's predecessor, Zapp Zerapp. (For the record, Igloo Pop is faster, less expensive, more involving, less downtime, and doesn't require exactly four players to work. Guess which one I like better?) Despite Frank & I coming in with some serious Pop experience, it was (wait for it!) William who finally broke his losing drought with a convincing win here.

Frank Branham knows my tastes... and so decided to show me the only game I know of made by Tupperware (aka Tuppertoys): Bounce It-In. (OK, Tupperware made some poker chips... my father-in-law has a set. But they don't clink, which is, frankly, the whole point of poker chips.) Bounce It In is insanely addictive - we played 5 games (Frank won 4 of them, while Jeannette won the other) and I'd have been happy to have played it for another 1/2 hour. It's just like those carnival games where you bounce the balls into a pattern... only, you're doing it competitively. Yes, I'm on the prowl for a copy of this one.

Jeannette & William joined Rob for two (count 'em, 2) games of Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom. I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out without benefit of anesthetic than play 1 game of that or Grave Robbers yadda yadda yadda...

So, Frank taught me Invicta's El Dorado. (Invicta is the same company that published Mastermind.) It's a quick moving deduction game with a bit of pirate theme added for flavor. Frank smoked me, but it was still good fun to play. (Unlike Mastermind, which just makes my brain hurt.)

The last game of the night was a partnership run of The Game of Life Card Game. I'd heard a lot about this (it had been a hit at the last Gulf Games) and this was my first chance to play. And you know what? The buzz was right - it's the world's greatest game, but it was quite fun to play. Even if Michael & I didn't come close to Frank & Shanna in developing a rewarding life for ourselves. (About 1/2 way through the game, it came to me how to describe this one... it's a kinder, gentler Fiese Freunde Fette Feten.)

OK, it was bed time - roughly 2 am. Got to get some shut eye before prayer service & more gaming the next morning.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Welcome To My World

Let's all put on our imagination caps for a moment, shall we?

What if you were pre-judged by the vast majority of people based on the behavior of one of your high school classmates... say, the pot-smoking loser who got the nods in History class every other day. How about if the person you were lumped together with was the guy in your fraternity whose major was carving notches in his bedpost?

Not fair, right?

Welcome to my world. Well, for those of us who claim to be evangelical Christians, our world.

And once again, one of our number has served himself (and by extension, us) up to the MSM (mainstream media) with an extended observation about the wisdom of the U.S. rubbing out the leader of another country. Thank you, Pat Robertson.

Of course, I found out this morning by cranking up the computer and seeing the article header/tease on TV Preacher: Kill Chavez

. Sigh.

So, let's make this clear. I'm not commenting on the content of his remarks... just the frustrating reality that I get tarred & feathered with the same brush as this guy because evangelicals are "all alike" - kind of like the old joke about white people being unable to tell folks of other ethnicity apart because they "all look alike." The faults not with the people of color (or, in this case, the believers in Christ), it's the maddening inability of the general public to see the differences.

I'll crawl down off my high horse now.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Enter Church History Man

Scott Rushing tells a great story on his blog, Theology Journal, that you need to read. (No offense, Scottster, but you could possibly pick name for your blog that screams "Don't Read Me!" any louder?) Anyway, Scott talks about a bet between his sisters, which leads to a familiar story for those of us who got caught in the Great Evangelical Culture Debate (otherwise known as "sacred vs. secular").
So what happened over the past decade? Well, I discovered that this issue is not so black and white. Family Christian bookstore is not the "end all be all" of "Christian" music. Not only are there "Christian" artists who produce trash, there are "secular" artists who produce high quality music; both musically and lyrically.
Scott's take on all this is gracious, funny, & wise. (And, yes, Scott, I'm saying all these nice things about you where you can read 'em.) Click on the link above to read the whole story. I'll weigh in later in the week with my own story and Stephen Lawhead-influenced take on the whole subject.

Paging Dr. Braeden

This is Braeden, working on his patient, Zoe Kellar. (That's right - our new worship/youth pastor's daughter.) Just after this picture was taken, he told her, "I think you need a shot." I'm not sure what the copay is at his clinic, but it's got to be less than what Blue Shield is charging us. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Collin Blake: Post #100

Can you tell he's genetically related to me? Posted by Picasa

DIY Religion

Maybe it's a little odd for a Baptist pastor to write so much about the Pope (check out my earlier posts entitled Hell-Bound Pope Sign, Anti-Christ No More, and Pope Found To Be Catholic). Perhaps it was that I dated a young lady who was pre-Vatican 2 Catholic (15+ years after Vatican 2!) Maybe it's the class I took in seminary on Roman Catholic Theology (because I liked the professor, a Dutch guy named Dr. Kiweit.) Maybe I'm just jealous of the cool hats Catholic clergy get to wear. Who knows?

Anyway, I just read a new article on
Yahoo this morning about World Youth Day in Germany... Pope Benedict had some very interesting comments for the nearly 1 million folks who camped to celebrate Mass with him:

He asked them not to see religion as a "consumer product" where people choose only what they want from it and disregard rules that are sometimes difficult to observe.

"Religion constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us," he said. "It may be comfortable but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves."

In other words, a faith based primarily on my personal choices is only as good as the quality of my personal choices. When you take into consideration my own track record:
  • Angel Flight slacks & silky flower shirts
  • the musical stylings of Barry Manilow
  • western shirts with pearl buttons on the pockets
  • 50% of the wargames I bought that I never played against another person
  • the aforementioned Catholic young lady & our dating relationship
  • for that matter, the vast majority of my crushes, infatuations & dating relationships
  • letting my hair grow out where it looked vaguely like Woody Allen
  • my struggle with an addiction to pornography
  • and so on... becomes crystal clear that any faith based on me is doomed to failure. One good strong "wind" in the weather system of life & I'd collapse like a house of cards. I need something (well, Someone) bigger than me.

My guess is that you're in the same boat.

Friday, August 19, 2005

To Be Continued...

Just thought I'd list for you guys (and for myself) what stories I need to tell (as promised over the history of this blog) and what series of posts I need to finish.
  • more about Sunday in the Park With George (the musical & the painting)
  • the story of the Pig Trail & the burning bus
  • the story of how I got kicked out of Disneyland
  • try to explain incarnational evangelism (notes from Becky Pippert's talk in May)
  • an update on Collin's current health condition
  • a post about coolness & gaming & being in the "in" crowd that's been percolating in my brain since June
  • posting Dennis' "closing prayer" for tc@hh - since the format it's in right now is pretty much unreadable
  • How In The Heck Did I End Up Here (part seven): how I got to NewLife
  • Gulf Games: Saturday & Sunday
I do take requests... :-)


Don't think I'll ever understand it
Don't think it matters if I do
Three billion people in the world
And I only know a few
Adam Again, "Worldwide" (from their album, DIG)

I'm not an expert at tracking who's reading along here... I know Zion Red & Katie & Nord & Scott & Mark P & Jimbo are all aboard. I even know my Aunt Nancy reads my blog (as does my mom!). But I'm not sure who else does...

So I hooked up with gVisit to produce a visitor log website. Evidently, it tracks where people visit aka pastor guy using their IP addresses. Cool, huh? I know that's probably Tom Vasel in Seoul, Korea, but I'm curious who has found this tiny corner of the blogosphere in Chelmsford, England?!

Still, I'd be interested in hearing from you if you're reading this blog on a regular basis... just add a comment with a note on who you are & where you're from!

The End of a Long Hard Search

I can't fire them. I hired these guys for three days a week and they just started showing up every day. That was four years ago.
High Fidelity

It's official - NewLife Community Church has just hired their first full-time non-senior pastor... Aaron Kellar is now our worship & youth pastor. (Or he will be in a few weeks, when he's able to move down here from Portland, Oregon.)

He's an odd but wonderful blend of GenX/Y dude (complete with subdued earrings, cross tattoo with Latin inscription, and semi-long hair), very cool family man (who's obviously in love with his wife & his two daughters), and serious follower of Christ.

What I like best is that I like hanging out with him. I don't feel like I'll be in competition to be cool... because, frankly, I will NEVER be as cool as he is. Ever. Even if I get that new pair of glasses Shari wants me to buy. :-)

Seriously, the way I've been describing Aaron is that he "seems comfortable in his own skin." And when you hang with people like that, people who are in love with God and can laugh at themselves and treat people around them with dignity, you end being more comfortable in your own skin as well - and people get to see a clearer picture of Jesus. And that's all good.

Big prayer request right now: finding Aaron & Margaret & Zoe & Eve a house here in Easton. Nah... what I really mean is that we need to find them a house that will be a home for them.


This will be the first year I haven't played fantasy football since 1993. (You may well ask how I can remember when I started playing fantasy football. We stopped at an outlet mall somewhere around Mammoth Cave, KY, on the way home from a youth choir tour... and in the Book Warehouse was a couple of out-of-date books on fantasy football. One of my youth, Todd "Webcatchers" Lewis, & I glommed onto those books and started what we called the DFFL - Dalewood Fantasy Football League - with 7 teams in the fall of '93.)

I ran the league myself, using newspaper box scores and a spreadsheet I'd cobbled together in ClarisWorks for a couple of years. I even published a weekly league newsletter. And we had the Ironman Trophy... made out of a defunct clothes iron and the base from a Sunday School attendance trophy I "borrowed" from the church's trophy case.

My team was named the Myx'd Nuts... the "Myx" part was a tribute to a record label I particularly enjoyed (Scott Blackwell's Myx Records... which put out some funky early 90's dance grooves). Everyone should check out their Myx'd Christmas record - I played it to death every Christmas at tc@hh.

And speaking of tc@hh, around the time we started the church @ hickory hollow, Jeff "Knicknacks" Smith took over running the league... and the name changed to HHFFL (Hickory Hollow blah blah blah). Jeff has done a far better job of running the thing than I ever did... my helmet's off to him.

They're considering a new name this year - which is as it should be. With only Todd & Jeff left from the original seven teams, it's a whole new ball game (so to speak).

Somewhere along the way I managed to win three league Super Bowls... including one year where I squeaked into the playoffs yet managed to beat the (on-paper) better team. Ah, good memories.

The transition here to Fresno was tough on the Myx'd Nuts... we've had two lousy seasons, due in part to getting used to watching NFL football on West Coast time. On Central time, the first game starts at noon (right as church lets out), with halftime of the second game happening just in time for me to watch the highlights before heading back to church or whatever. The ESPN Sunday night game comes on late enough to watch after your Sunday evening activities. But here on the Left Coast, the first game starts at 10 am (while I'm still putting the finishing touches on my message) and the second game is at 1 pm, cutting into time with the boys. We don't get cable here, so no ESPN games for me.

But that's not really what's closing the books on the Myx'd Nuts. My time is becoming more precious this year, what having a second son, hiring a worship & youth pastor at NewLife, running a capital campaign, and just being a husband, pastor & dad. I don't have the time to do the appropriate research or keep up with the teams the way I used to... and it's not much fun to play if you don't work to be competitive.

So this year I'll be watching NFL games without trying to read the passing & rushing leader ticker at the bottom of the screen - and I can go back to rooting for teams I like (go, Titans!) without secretly wishing they wouldn't score again against my fantasy defense.

And I'll be rooting for Jeff & Todd, my long-time nemesis', to show what the "old men" in the league (whatever it's named) are made of!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's Not My Yob, Man

One of my buddies in college went to Jamaica and got a T-shirt with the "it's not my job" phrase on it. And, in light of the passage I taught through Sunday morning (1 Peter 5:1-5), I've been thinking about what IS my job here at NewLife.

So, in honor of football season getting ready to start (go, Titans!), I'll use an extended football metaphor. (Those of you who hate football... sorry.)
  • I'm not the coach. That job belongs to the Holy Spirit, who is a far better life coach than I will ever be.
  • I'm not the quarterback. I don't call the plays, I simply do what I'm told. (And I'm definitely not the star of the show - that belongs to the One who gave His all for us.)
  • I'm not the center, as Jesus has to be not only the center of our lives but also the center of our church.

According to the Bible, I'm the equipment manager... the water boy.

(God) is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (New Living Translation)

My job is to get the team ready to play... ready to make a God-sized dent under the leadership ("coaching") of the Holy Spirit & suited up in the new way life custom-made by Jesus (Colossians 3:9-11, The Message). My work is to make your work for God better...

So, what's your job? (Hint: you can read the passage above to get a clue!)

This article originally appeared in the 8/17/05 edition of "the Grapevine", the e-newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

UPDATE: After this article appeared, Clint Wilder e-mailed with the following comment: "I think we are also the cheerleaders. We certainly are motivators for the crowd to cheer for God's 'team'."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gulf Games: Friday

For a day that started out with an interesting political discussion with a former ice dancer and was punctuated by bits of aircraft tire shredding hydraulic line, I still managed to get in a decent big of gaming.

I rode to the airport with Doug, one of Charles' groomsmen. They met when they were both competitive ice dancers. We had an meaty but generally agreeable talk about politics & religion before his flight left for Phoenix.

My flight from Providence, RI, to Orlando was uneventful, but I can't say the same for the flight(s) from Orlando to New Orleans. That's right, flights, as in plural. As in two. As in they had to turn around and land 10 minutes after we took off, due to the broken hydraulic system. Pretty disconcerting, btw, to see emergency vehicles parked by the runway when you land.

This meant I was 2.5 hours late getting into New Orleans - so William, my 16 yr old nephew was joining me there for Gulf Games, got to explore the airport.

Thanks again to Lenny Leo for picking us up and delivering us to Gulf Games Central... the Park Plaza Hotel on Canal Street. We ended up with a great room - just one floor down from the Gulf Games area. In fact, once we figured out that we could take the staircase just outside our room up to the next floor, we seldom had to wait for an elevator.

But on to the games!

We started with
Maus Nach Haus, a Haba game which evidently had been pegged as a "Fluff Daddy" game from the minute someone had brought it to the table earlier in the week. Each player has six small wooden mice (about a 1/3 inch thick) which they set on the table ready to play. One player (or possibly a non-playing friend) grabs a wooden ring and spins it on the table. The players then begin merrily shooting their mice into the center of the table, attempting to be inside or under the ring when it falls. And that's it. 5-10 minutes of flicking fun with a great random element. I need to own this one. (Wiliiam beat us in the first game... and that would be his last win for a very long time.)

Continuing on the "let's play kid stuff" theme, William & I next jumped into
Au Backe, which is essentially the card game version of Chicken Cha Cha Cha. Chris "Have Bass, Will Travel" Comeaux joined us and won as Allison Vander Ark gave him the game. (There's was something about buying a steak dinner and a side bet which I didn't completely understand.) Anyhoo, still fun. I already own this one and enjoy playing it with Braeden.

Next was a game on my "try it" list - the oddly named
Ubongo. Evidently "Ubongo" means "speed spatial puzzle" in German, as that's what this game is all about. Players race to finish Tetris-like puzzles then grab gems from the middle using an odd scoring system. (Cindy Wood suggested a different and more straightforward system that I think would work just fine.) I managed to squeak by for the win... which never hurts my opinion of a game. Probably the only thing wrong with it is that it tops out at four players.

Another game that I had on my "try it" list was up next - the difficult to pronounce
K├Ânig Salomons Schatzkammer. The first thing I noticed was the much better than usual production for a Clementoni game, what with the chunky pieces & hefty molded plastic board. It's an archaelogical dig for treasures - which means it's really a set collection/move optimization game. Nothing wrong with that, but the board position changes so severely between turns (esp. with 5 players) that you can not plan ahead. It's not a bad game - I'd happily play again (and did on Sunday morning of GG) but I feel no need to own. Tim & I tied for the win in this one.

Jim Cobb & Joe Huber (along with Rio Grande Games head honcho, Jay Tummelson) then introduced William & I to Verflixxt! (The English title of the game is That's Life.) It's a simple roll'n'move/press your luck dice game that works like a charm. I understand now why it was nominated for Spiel des Jahres. I've played it 4 times now, and I like it best with 5-6 players. Joe won, just edging out Jay.

I think this is when we went to dinner (my notes are unclear on this point) and we tried to meet up with the Berg family. Unfortunately, we were given 3 different sets of directions to the Mexican place they went to (none of which worked) and so we ended up with Sbarro Pizza. Oh, well... back to the games!

I handily beat Jeannette Vander Ark at Flowerpower, a tile placing game that I particularly enjoy. (It probably doesn't hurt that I "grok" the game and win about 85% of the time.)

Then I became the "ringmaster" for the semi-cooperative Days of Wonder game, Shadows Over Camelot. Susan Rozmiarek has done a tremendous job of telling the story of the game on her website, The Game Ranch. One nit to pick, however - we played this game on Friday night, not Saturday.

William was playing Ticket To Ride: Europe while this was going on - and getting slaughtered. Thanks to whoever was involved in humbling my nephew! :-)

Next, Joe roped us into Alpfer Stafette (which doesn't appear on the Geek)... it's a VERY early Klaus Teuber design about milking cows. Really, it's a dice game with a bit of card bluffing. In it's favor, it's got cute wooden pail pieces. Otherwise, there's nothing much to see here. I won, but it was more of a pastime than a great game.

Something similar could be said about Hamstern... in English, Hamstring. This is a draw your tile & place it game that just lacked any oomph. I benefited from the patterns developing on my board being more difficult to sabotage than others, which led me to victory. Joe got hosed by bad tile draws and never had a chance. I do NOT understand why Joe rates this one an 8.

The night continued with an 8 player game of Diamant. This blisteringly fast cousin of Can't Stop is a lot of fun to play. It's on my "must find a copy" list, and I don't win it nearly often enough for my personal satisfaction.

Then we played Klunker. My first game of Klunker (back at GG3) I managed to neither lose nor gain money - and I remember feeling like I didn't understand what had happened to me. This time, some 13 Gulf Games later, I consider myself a pretty decent Klunker player with a handle on some of the tactics - and I STILL managed to break even. Ah, well. Jay won this one, barely edging out Kay. Still one of my favorite 30 minute card games...

William & I ended the night playing Run For Your Life, Candyman, which is an over-priced and over-produced Cheap*** game. It's Candyland with the ability to attack other people... and I will admit that the damage system (when you take X number of hits on a body section, you rip that part of your gingerbread man off) is kind of cute. But the game goes on some 20 minutes past the point of enjoyment... not for me. Frank "Moo" Branham won... of course.

Saturday information coming later!

The Christian Imitation

This post originally appeared on the amazing website/blog, Church Marketing Sucks, which should be mandatory reading for anyone in church leadership.

Have you ever seen a "got pepsi?" T-shirt? No.

Do you know why? Because Pepsi—and any other company and organization worth their salt—is smart enough to come up with something original. They don't "borrow" ideas from other campaigns and insert their own name. They don't make look-alike logos.

Once in a great while they may spoof another company's commercial or tag line, but usually only the very clever can pull it off.

So why does the church constantly imitate what's already been done?

Bono & Grace

This comes to you courtesy of The Nord Report... thanks for the heads up, Jeremy. Always interesting to hear the lead singer of U2 say something profound about God besides his classic sneer "My God's not short of cash, Mister." (BTW, ask Shari sometime about how she got her parents to let her go to see U2 because they were a "Christian" band.)

Here's a very cool excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (Riverhead Books).

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.

Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s***. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Preach it, Bono...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Moe Szyslak, Emergent Church Guru

Moe: It's 'PoMo'! (blank look from Homer & friends)

Moe: Post-modern!... (another blank look from Homer & the guys)

Moe: Yeah, all right, weird for the sake of weird. (and suddenly they understand... smiles all around)

He he he... The Simpsons nail us to the wall once again.

Please Come To Boston

As I posted earlier, I went to Boston (or at least nearby) in order to officiate at the wedding of Charles & Natalie Glaser. The wedding went off without a hitch, up to and including the weather turning from hot & muggy on the day of the rehearsal to comfortable & breezy the night of the ceremony. The wedding coordinators and their facility (Independence Harbor) were top-notch... some of the best I've ever worked with.

Of course, it was a blast to see Charles, who has become a good friend over the game table. We even managed to shoehorn a game of Diamant in between the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner with the groomsmen. (Many who are gamers themselves.)

I left the rehearsal dinner earlier than planned (because the dinner started MUCH later than planned) to hang out with friends from Alan Moon's The Gathering of Friends: Dave & Jenn Bernazzani (I'm sure I've spelled this wrong - I can barely pronounce it) and Mark "Dangermouse" Edwards. We played one game (Kreta) which was notable mainly for how long it took because we kept getting distracted with odd conversations about video game systems, Dave's addiction to yard sales, and Mark & I attempting to quote sections of Finding Nemo correctly. All in all, a wonderful evening. (And I didn't even particularly enjoy Kreta - if I'm going to do an area majority game, I'd rather be playing El Grande.)

The wedding, as I said above, went very well - once everyone got there. There was an accident on the main road into Assonet which slowed traffic to a crawl. That only made the fact that there were 9 of us in the limo (groom, pastor, 5 groomsmen, 1 reader/groomsman & one of the groomsmen's dates) a bigger deal - never thought you could get claustraphobia in a stretch limo. Anyway, the wedding was beautiful, nobody muffed their lines, and I got to speak scriptural truth into it all.

Then came the dinner. I'm still not a big fan of drunken renditions of the Bunny Hop, but since I don't encounter it all that often, I can live with that. I spent most of my time at the wedding dinner/reception/dance talking with Natalie's family, particularly her mother, grandfather, and uncle. Her grandfather emigrated to Canada in the '50's from the Azores Islands (think "middle of the Atlantic Ocean") and from there to the U.S. His stories about that time were fascinating.

At 11:30 pm, I turned into a pumpkin and hightailed it back to the hotel... in order to make an EARLY flight to New Orleans the next morning. More on that later!

Long Time, No Blog

Whew... it's been many moons since I've blogged up here. I've got a lot to say/type/whatever, but I'm not sure I've got time to get to all of it. Which means I'll probably break it into smaller posts, which means more fun for your RSS feeder. Current situation:

  • all of the family is back in Fresno... and safely, despite the fun I had in Orlando with having to trade jets due to tire shrapnel & a hydraulic leak.
  • Aaron Kellar, our prospective worship/youth pastor, and his family are here visiting this weekend from Portland, OR. Things are going well... and I do like the guy. Voting is tomorrow after church. (For those from less autonomous church backgrounds, the members of a Southern Baptist church have the final say-so in voting to call a prospective staff member.)
  • I'm still getting comments about people seeing me in the paper.
  • I'm not playing fantasy football this year (for the first time since 1993... yowsa.) Too much on my plate this fall: wife, two sons, capital campaign, new staff member, etc.
  • Just finished watching Word Wars, a documentary about the 2002 National Scrabble tournament. Worth watching, though the language is pretty rough. And people think I'm obsessed about games. Sheesh.