Sunday, May 31, 2009

Machiavelli & This Bozo With a Gun Are Both Wrong

The end most certainly does NOT justify the means...
George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death on Sunday as he attended church, city officials in Wichita said. (NY Times website)
Hear this clearly... I'm emphatically pro-life. But that does not give anyone the right to murder someone. Period. End of story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mr. Lunt = Meat Loaf?

I've thought this for a long time... that "My Cheeseburger" (possibly the best Silly Song ever) owes a great deal musically to the original "Bat out of Hell"... but now I'm bringing it to my peeps & asking you for your opinion.

Thankfully, I don't have to listen to Mr. Lunt sing "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" or "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So Long To Stars Hollow

Well, Shari & I have finally finished our marathon viewing of the entire seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. It's been a long, hard run... what with all the stupid relationship decisions & whiny behavior from almost all of the major male characters on the show. (Thank goodness for Luke & for Gil - so ably played by Sebastian Bach from Skid Row. These are possibly the only two guys in the entire town who don't behave like petulant 5 year olds 50% of the time.)

But, for every moment where I wanted to yell "Stop trying to cover up your feelings & just talk to each other like adults already!," there were moments like this...

Rory: Sounds like you're over thinking this. Maybe if you just put pen to paper...

Lorelai: I tried that. I thought I'd just sit down and write…whatever inner critic…ooh, was that a bad idea.

Rory: Really why?

Lorelai: Because my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish…I'm writing a letter…I can't write a letter…why can't I write a letter?…I'm wearing a green dress...I wish I was wearing my blue blue dress is at the cleaners...the Germans wore wore blue...Casablanca, Casablanca...such a good movie...Casablanca...the White House...Bush...why don't I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car...I should really take my bicycle to work...bicycle, unicycle, puck, rattle snake, monkey, monkey, underpants.
Or this...

OK, I know that this is funnier because I've watched 110+ hours of these characters... wait a minute?! 110 hours? Oh, wow - I need to get a life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#12: Goblin's Gold

Magical Maze (Goblin's Gold)
  • designer: Gilbert Levy
  • publisher: University Games/Jumbo
  • date: 1994
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 4802/4.70
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $29.99 (eBay)
This is possibly the biggest disagreement I have with any of the BGG ratings in the Kid Games 100... and it's not even "haters" or a weird ratings spread. It's just that a lot of folks have a lower opinion of this game than I do.

OK, let's go back & give you a quick description of the game so you can figure out whether you agree with me or not. A single wizard figure stands in the middle of the board - and the board sits on a grid of plastic squares with a maze inscribed on the bottom of them. The wizard has a magnet in his base that is connected to a piston that raises & lowers his arm... and there's another magnet beneath the plastic squares that "gets lost" whenever the wizard is moved across one of the plastic maze barriers under the board, causing his arm to lower.

So, on your turn, you move the wizard SLOWLY across the gridded board, stopping your turn whenever his arm lowers. (You also back the wizard up so he can pick up the magnet again.) The next player takes over... and so it goes until one of you manages to get the wizard to your corner for the win.

The University Games version also includes small plastic hedges which can be added to the board to make it easier to remember how the maze is configured. This nice touch makes it an easy game to play with children age 4 & up... as long as they understand moving slowly & carefully.

I will note that setting up the game is not easy - my nearly 8 yr old son is just getting where he can handle putting all the plastic squares together then gently setting the board in place so that all the "teeth" line up. It works much better with parents involved.

I think what makes Magical Maze so neat is the process of working your way through an invisible maze... While the primary game mechanic is memory (can you find your way back across the board?), the coolness of the components is what draws me back again & again.

Framing the Conversation: Is There An Echo In Here?

In light of today's decision from the California Supreme Court, I feel a need to re-post a section of my Framing the Conversation: How To Get Kicked Out of A Gaming Group post from last November:

I want to speak specifically to those who declare themselves as followers of Christ. We have a huge responsibility tonight, esp. in regards to Proposition 8.

If Prop. 8 passes, we have to live out the love for gays & lesbians we've talked about... there is NO ROOM for gloating in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These people are not second-class citizens, to be loved only if they "mend their ways" - they are created in God's image & loved so much by God that He sent Jesus to die for them (and for us!). To do the church-y equivalent of "Hey, Hey, Goodbye" is a sick perversion of the love of Jesus Christ...

If Prop. 8 is defeated, we must still live out the love of Jesus Christ in a political situation that is not friendly to our values. I can not state it emphatically enough - this does NOT justify us behaving in an unfriendly manner to homosexuals or those who support same-sex marriage. If we're gonna call ourselves "biblical Christians", then we better live like it.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)

If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
(1 Peter 3:15-16, NLT)
The most important thing today is not the election of a particular candidate - no one person will usher in the Kingdom of God. (Well, one will, but He's not running this year.) Nor is it the passing of a proposition - law can compel moral behavior but it has no power over the heart. It is far more important that the world around us see followers of Jesus living in the grace & power of Jesus Christ.

The Photographers

Here are two great pictures from our Yosemite camping trip last week...

On the way into Yosemite Valley on Monday, we stopped at a meadow where we could clearly see Yosemite Falls... Braeden pulled out his disposable camera (we bought it for him so he could take his own pictures) and when he was finished, I got this picture of him.

On Tuesday evening, Collin & I hiked out to Stoneman's Meadow (near our campsite at Lower Pines) to see the deer. He's carrying a toy camera (actually a Happy Meal prize) which he used to "take pictures."

Great Games of the Last Year or So

Well, great games which came out in the last year or so - as filtered through the brain of Mark "Fluff Daddy" Jackson. The list is ordered by the number of times I've played the game.
  • Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm - I've played this both face-to-face & some 140 solitaire games & it still fascinates me. It's hard to believe that you can pack this much oomph into a 30 minute card game. For you real die-hard fans, you can check out my solitaire spreadsheet. (For the record, I like the goals & can't wait for more of them when Rebel vs. Imperium comes out later this year.)
  • Memoir '44 Campaign Book (Volume 1) - Takes a light wargame I already love & creates a new way to string scenarios together into a coherent story. Braeden & I have played through the Normandy campaign and I'm hoping to talk Richard into doing the Russian campaign with me... not to mention trying to figure out how to get someone to do the mini D-Day campaign (available as a download on the Geek) next week around D-Day.
  • Sorry! Sliders - Poor man's Crokinole... I've taught it a number of times, always to great delight by everyone playing. The multiple board configurations (Braeden really likes the L-shaped board for two players) make for great replay value.
  • Roll Through The Ages - The game Settlers Dice should have been. Jeff Myers (he of the Secret Underground Lair) & I even discovered that it's not a bad car game if both players know it pretty well.
  • Cheese Snatching (Kaseklau) - Stupid American name should NOT keep you from trying this... it's Can't Stop for kids... and anybody else who enjoys pushing their luck. Highly portable & relatively inexpensive in the Haba small box format.
  • Sushizock im Gockelwock - Cousin to Heckmeck im Brautweck (which is STILL a much better name than Pickomino)... less math-y & easier to teach & quicker to play. Possibly not as good as HiB but more likely to hit the table.
  • Mow - Cute limited release "better than Uno" card game of cows & flies. I think it's being reprinted, which is a good thing.
  • Timber Tom - I'm suspicious that the game is fooling me with the incredible beauty of the bits... but I'm still having a lot of fun with this gorgeous racing game. (Seriously, check out the pictures on the Timber Tom website... possibly the prettiest game I own.)
  • Die Kullerbande - More Haba brilliance... a dexterity game that uses the box bottom as the board with small magnetic animal "wickets." A complete hoot to play, esp. late at night. (The video of me playing this is at the bottom of this post.)
  • Sylla - Possibly my favorite Ystari game... I love the way the theme (Rome post-Julius Caesar) helps clarify the mechanics.

And yes, Dominion is notably absent from this list, even though I've played it 50+ times. My reasoning? While I adore the game when played on BSW (an online gaming site), it's way too fiddly with the actual cards. (Still, congrats to Dale & Valerie & the crew on the SdJ nomination.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nothing Unusual Happened 65 Years Ago Today...

...I checked. This was not one of those "red-letter days" of WW2.

Unless, of course, you realize that the Allied forces were just 13 days from D-Day. Today was a day of preparation...

Thank you once again on this Memorial Day to those who have given their lives in service to our country, the world & the ideals of freedom.

Kinderspiel des Jahres 2009 - Nominees & Recommendations

Want to see the whole list? Check out my Geeklist over on Boardgamegeek.

I've played two of the games:
  • Hang In There! (a mechanical dexterity game that was fun until we figured out how to knock each others' pieces off... just re-released this year in Germany)
  • The Suitcase Detectives (a game of shape recognition that works really well thanks to a very nifty box design from Haba)
Here's the nominated games I really want to try:
  • Curli Kuller (bowling with snails)
  • Land in Sicht! (cool-looking exploration game with individually folding map pieces)
  • Zoowaboo (imagine a game of Chicken meets timed dexterity - where some players are working together & others are betting they'll fail!)
And the recommended games that are on my "must try" list (both by Haba!):
  • Wurfel Wolfe (literally "Dice Wolves" - a small box dice game, which Haba excels at...)
  • Polizei-Alarm! (a game of dice rolling & magnetic board movement... criminals vs. cops... there isn't a BGG entry - yet - but I did find this YouTube video of a demonstration...)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yosemite Bound

So, this is what Shari is afraid of... our food getting bear-jacked. (Her fears, btw, are not irrational... take a look at this no-audio video from the National Park Service.)

The bear in this picture, btw, has chosen to try & break into a Hummer in the Curry Village parking lot. Evidently he's auditioning for the Yosemite Valley edition of "Cops."

this is what I'm looking forward to...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the Grapevine

Sometimes, I post articles I write for my church's e-newsletter here on the blog... and sometimes I don't. If you'd like to receive the Grapevine directly in your inbox, you can join our Google groups mailing list.

If you want to read some of the older articles, you can check out NewLife's website or look here on the blog.

Jesus in a Box

A couple of years ago, Tony Morgan posted the following on his blog:
We’ve been praying for this moment for quite some time. Emily found Jesus this morning. She was a seeker. She knew there was something missing in her life. And, fortunately, she found Him.

Turns out, he was under the family room couch the entire time. In the process of preparing for our move, we are having the carpets cleaned this morning. When we pulled the couch out of the family room, there He was. You see, we’ve been missing the little, rubber, infant Jesus that goes with the kids’ nativity set. We thought we left Him in Florida. Turns out He was under the couch the entire time.

In case you’re wondering, Jesus is now in the storage area with the rest of our Christmas items. He’ll be boxed up and shipped to South Carolina. There’s an illustration somewhere in this about putting Jesus in a box. For now, though, I’m just grateful to know Emily found Him.
And then, for his book Killing Cockroaches, he took that post & expanded it a bit:
There's a bit of irony in that statement, isn't there? Jesus in a box. I think sometimes we tend to do that with the real Jesus as well. Think about it:
  • Doesn't it seem like a lot of us live out our faith as though Jesus only exists in a building we visit on Sunday?
  • Do you get the sense we sometimes like to worship our rules & practices more than God himself?
  • Have we moved to a place where we think people will only accept Christ through a three-point message, a reflective song, and an invitation from the pastor?
  • Have we lost how big God is by thinking he can't use talking donkeys and the bellies of a fish and burning bushes to get our attention today?
It's one thing when we put the little, rubber, nativity Jesus in a box. It's a completely different thing when we put the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe in a box. We sometimes tend to do that.

I wonder what life & ministry would look like if we removed the box. More importantly, I wonder what miracles we've missed because we didn't realize Jesus has never been in the box.

I'm glad Emily found Jesus.
I'm glad Tony wrote that post. And the book.

#13: Duck Duck Bruce

Duck Duck Bruce
  • designer: Peter Neugebauer
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 1997
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2023/6.24
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $7.45 (Fairplay Games)
I want to tread really carefully here... because if you read this incorrectly, you're going to hear me accusing a famous game designer of plagarism. That is decidedly NOT what I'm trying to do. But it's important to note that Kleine Fische (the original version of Duck Duck Bruce published by Goldsieber) came out in 1997 and the remarkably similar Zirkus Flohcati by Reiner Knizia came out in 1998.

I think this is a case of parallel development... where two designers had similar ideas and created two different games with similar designs. No harm, no foul.

So, with Dr. Knizia's game ranked much higher on the Geek, why do I put Duck Duck Bruce on the Kid Games 100 instead?
  • While I love the flea circus art of Zirkus Flohcati, I think the bold & vibrant duck & dog pictures on the Duck Duck Bruce cards are much more compelling for kids.
  • The penalty for pushing your luck is smaller in Duck Duck Bruce... well, potentially smaller. You can "bust" and still possibly get some cards.
  • The scoring of Duck Duck Bruce is easier to explain to small kids - it's hard to get the concepts of Trios & Galas across.
  • I like the Bruce the Dog (dice) mechanic for stealing cards - it's a bit more random but does allow you to go after someone in the lead if you're willing to take a chance.

Maybe you've read this far & are thinking: "Thanks for all the comparisons, Mark, but I haven't played either game. A little help here, please."

No problem. Both games share a common mechanic: on your turn, you flip over cards from the deck until you either "bust" (get another card of the same suit) or stop & take your winnings. There are special action cards in both games that enable to get cards from other players - if you turn one over, you must take the special action. When the deck is exhausted, players in both games score the highest card of each suit they have.

The differences?

  • DDB is about ducks & the dog who chases them; ZF is about a flea circus
  • in DDB, your winnings include all the turned-up cards; in ZF, you pick one of the cards
  • if you "bust" in DDB, you only remove the matching cards & the cards between them; in ZF, a "bust" means you don't take a card
  • there are 3 special action cards in ZF: steal a card, ask for a gift card & keep placing cards until you have a match then take one of them; DDB has only Bruce the Dog that allows you to pick an opponent & roll the die to steal cards
  • there is only one kind of scoring in DDB; in ZF, you can also score for Trios (laying down 3 identical cards) and for a Gala (having 1 card of each of the suits in your hand - which also ends the game)
  • you play multiple hands of DDB & total your scores; you play one hand of ZF

Yes, I'm aware that the German rules & English rules for Zirkus Flohcati differ - if you haven't figured it out, I use the German name for a reason. (I don't like the English changes... you can see the differences here.

I think Duck Duck Bruce is a tad quicker & easier for kids to learn (my 4 year old can play if someone helps him figure his score). Not that I'm getting rid of my copy of Zirkus Flohcati, mind you - just that this is the better game for kids.

The Princess & the Frog

Of course, UP is only a couple of weeks away - but here's the next bit of joy coming down the pike. (Who wants to bet that Disneyland's New Orleans Square gets some serious love this year?)

Heroscape: Wave 9

Most of you can just move along quietly and ignore the funny man & his friends with the pre-painted minis. Perhaps you can use me as a cautionary tale for youngsters: "Look, kids... that's what you'll turn out like if you don't eat your Wheaties."

But for the rest of you, here's the scoop on Wave 9, courtesy of HouseMouse Games via

Here are the descriptions from each pack:
  • Braves and Brawlers: The Mohican River Tribe lie in wait, blend in with their surroundings, and pick off their approaching enemies with pinpoint accuracy. But face to face, they truly come alive, fighting with furious might. The Capuan Gladiators are ready to charge forward at their leader’s side to land the first blow of any battle. This pack includes 6 painted figures and 2 army cards.
  • Dwarves and Repulsors: Stout and fearless, no opponent can intimidate the Axegrinders of Burning Forge. Determined and calculating, they sweep over the battlefield and lay waste to all manner of beasts and villains. Only the Soulborg can defeat the Soulborg. Therein lies the power of the Omnicron Repulsors. With Repulsors on your side, you will shutdown your opponents’ Soulborg traitors. This pack includes 7 painted figures and 2 army cards.
  • Dividers and Defenders: The ranks of your Marro Dividers are seemingly endless. Your opponents try to cut them down, only to see them duplicate and come back stronger than ever! Ullar’s elite Protectors are masters of teamwork. They patrol the skies and strike fear in even the most powerful heroes with focused attacks from lethal crossbows. This pack includes 6 painted figures and 2 army cards.
  • Heroes of the Moon Tribe: Migol Ironwill swings his dwarven war hammer with earth-shattering might. Brave Arrow of the Mohicans stealthily tracks down his foes. Atlaga soars high and carries the deadly Bolt of the Witherwood. Kumiko, trained in the lethal art of ninjutsu, savages enemies with a barrage of flurrying blows. Marro overlord Tul-Bak-Ra uses his advanced alien powers to teleport himself - and his troops – across the battlefield. This pack includes 5 painted figures and 5 army cards.

There goes another $40 of my gaming money.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#14: The Secret Door

The Secret Door
  • designer: Jim Deacover
  • publisher: Family Pastimes
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2578/6.22
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 1-8
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $10.45 (Fairplay Games)
All of us have been forced to play the game Memory with a kid at one time or another... there's a couple of reasons for that. First, it's easy to teach: pick up two cards & keep 'em if they match. Second, it uses developmentally appropriate skills - kids are good at loading things into their memory banks. (Much better, in fact, than adults... which may explain why I lose at memory games to kids so dang often.)

So it's really nice when a game comes along that manages to tweak the standard Memory format in some small but significant ways, creating a playing experience that my kids ask for over & over again.

The theme (we're working together to stop thieves from stealing some of our precious stuff) is easy for kids to jump into... and the mechanics (turn up a card, then turn up another card) are easy. What makes the game interesting is the timer... wait a minute, let me back up.

When you're setting up the game, you mix all of the precious items together (I think there are 10 pairs) and pick three (face-down) to hide behind the secret door. The objective of the game is to correctly guess which three items are behind the door.

Before you place the objects on the board, you mix in 12 "clock" cards. Each time a player turns over a clock card, it is removed from the house & placed on the timer track at the top of the board. When all 12 clocks are revealed, the game is over. Using the information you've gleaned from making pairs of the valuable objects, the players together make a guess about the three items. Get them correct and win... but miss one & the thieves get away!

I'm not sure my description does the game justice. It's quick to play (15 minutes or so), always tense, easy for younger children (age 4+) to join in, and it's a cooperative game as well. It is, frankly, the best of the Family Pastimes games I've played.

My only caveat is the quality of the bits. The board is mounted, but the cards are on flimsy cardstock - you should put some kind of backing on them to help them withstand repeated play.

#15: Gulo Gulo

Gulo Gulo
  • designer: Hans Raggan, Jurgen P. Granau & Wolfgang Kramer
  • publisher: Zoch/Rio Grande
  • date: 2003
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 298/6.96
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $24.76 (Boards & Bits)

Dexterity games are tough with kids - they like the chunky bits & the whole "stack stuff & watch it fall over" - but younger kids just do not have the proper fine motor skills to compete with adults successfully. That puts some favorite games of mine (including the over-the-top silliness of Kapitan Wackelpudding) outside the Kid Games 100.

But it does not exclude the oddly (but correctly) named Gulo Gulo... a dexterity game in which the smaller the hand, the better the player. That's right: the younger kids have an advantage here. (BTW, "gulo" is the genus name for wolverine - told you it was correctly named.)

Seems the wolverines are miffed that the swamp vulture has kidnapped the baby gulo... so, in order to obtain his release, they begin stealing eggs from his nest. (Does this sound like a weird Jack Bauer-ish hallucination... or have I just been watching too much 24?) The first player to find the gulo and steal a purple egg wins the game.

The board is made up of a number of hefty cardboard hexes which are shuffled & placed face down. At the center of the table sits a wooden bowl filled with polished wooden eggs and the Egg Alarm, a thin stick with a bulbous egg-shaped weight on the top of it. The Egg Alarm is placed in the middle of the bowl of eggs.

In turn, players flip over tiles and attempt to steal the matching egg color. (Yes, for those of you who know the game, there's actually more to it than that - but this isn't a detailed review. Take a deep breath.) You must point out the egg you are attempting to steal and then do so one-handed without knocking other eggs out of the nest or allowing the Egg Alarm to hit the table. Success moves you forward, failure moves you back. The baby gulo tile is mixed into the final six tiles, so you're working to get there so you can take a crack at the baby first.

The game works with smaller kids (and mixed age groups) for a trio of reasons:

  • There's not a lot of difficult decisions... it's pretty easy to figure out your best move, even for younger kids.
  • The penalty for failure is not too severe... in fact, the layout of the tiles can make it very easy to catch up.
  • The tiny fingers of small kids have a much easier time getting out the eggs than adult-sized fingers.

I've seen kids as young as 3 play this game... though I'd probably recommend 4+ due to the "please don't bump the table" factor.

Bite-Sized Pieces (May 2009)

  • If you're in any kind of church leadership role (paid or otherwise), you should either (a) read Tony Morgan's Killing Cockroaches, or (b) read Tony's blog, or (c) all of the above. The book is "Tony Morgan's greatest blogging hits" - which is to say that it's a delightful mish-mash of musings & thoughts on leadership, vision, change & life. It's not that Tony is saying new "I've never thought of that before!" stuff on each page... it's that he's reframing key issues in eye-opening ways and using personal stories to make his points crystal clear.
  • Stephen Lawhead's King Raven trilogy is an imaginative re-telling of the Robin Hood legends set in Wales (rather than the Sherwood/Nottingham area) during the Norman Conquest. The best of the books (in my opinion) is the 2nd, Scarlet, but all three are very good.


  • Well, the Amazing Race is over for the 14th time... and this is possibly one of the best seasons for having a cast of relatively functional human beings AND for re-thinking how the show is edited. The focus here was on challenges and ground transportation rather than watching people wait & scheme in airports - MUCH better. It's been renewed for another season - I'm looking forward to it.
  • Still don't have a final word on Chuck - though the folks over at Entertainment Weekly have a bubble list that indicates a hopeful posture for all of us BuyMorians. Final word should come down next week.
  • Heroes is back to surprising us again, which is nice... and they've left a lot of interesting debris from the last plot line (season finale) to jump start next season. It's never reached the heady wonder of the first season again, but it's still holding my interest.
  • This is Survivor week - here's what I'm hoping will happen. Coach will FINALLY be voted off, Taj will figure out that she has to take Erinn with her to have a chance & the two of them will figure out a way to gracefully exit J.T. & Stephen. What's more likely: J.T. & Stephen end up as the final two, with J.T. talking about his challenge/provider role and Stephen explaining how smart he was to keep them both alive... J.T. will win with his "aw shucks" personality. Either way, I've enjoyed the season.


  • We saw Paul Blart: Mall Cop... the less said about that, the better. (Kevin James has impeccable comic timing... and lousy taste in vehicles in which to showcase those skills.)
  • Braeden watched Misty for homeschool (he'd read the book) about the Chincoteague wild horse roundup. Granted, the movie was made before I was born (1961) but the pacing was plodding like an old draft horse. I feel the same about "Misty" as I do about "Titanic" - the 'real' stuff is pretty cool - it's the boring & insipid plots that get in the way.


  • Braeden & I are still in the midst of our epic 2090 point Heroscape battle (Marvel characters vs. Valhalla powerhouse characters). The tide seems to have turned as Thanos was rejected by death & has returned to cause havoc with my men.
  • We also finished a game of Battlelore last night using Call to Arms and the Portiers board. I kept hacking away at his left flank, but couldn't get the Goblin Ostrich Riders to break... and then he played Creeping Doom on my troops & managed to take out 3 units, including my Dwarven Bagpipers! The momentum shifted and he was able to pound me into submission, 6-3.
  • Thanks to Michelle Z., I was able to find a good-as-new copy of History of the World to replace mine that was borrowed & stolen. Of course, word on the street has it that the Ragnor Brothers are getting ready to release a streamlined History of the World later this year. Sigh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Australian Fried/Grilled Chicken?

I actually managed to snag one of the coupons - no, I don't watch Oprah, but I have Facebook friends who do - for free Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Seems, however, that KFC wasn't ready for the power of viral marketing.

Of course, my blogging hero, Linda Holmes, had something to say about it in her Monkey See post, Lessons Learned From The Great Free-Chicken Fiasco Of 2009:
(My favorite quote from the KFC spokesperson in the AP story linked above: Restaurants that are out of mashed potatoes and gravy are "substituting as best they can." I don't want to know.)...

Oprah giveth, and Oprah taketh away, is the thing. If you throw in with Oprah, you have to be prepared to serve America -- all of it, at the same time. Kentucky Grilled Chicken is now the James Frey of fast food: something Oprah threw her support behind, and now will wind up having to apologize for in one way or another.
To KFC's credit, they figured out that they had a royal screw-up on their hands & are trying hard to fix it with their Rain Check program. (Hurry - you've only got until May 19th to get your coupon re-couponed.)

Me, I'm just weirded out that Kentucky Fried Chicken is being run by someone from Down Under.

Yep, it's a far cry from the Colonel & "finger-lickin' good.")

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mom Is Cool

There was a period in my life when I would not have titled a post about my mom in this manner. My mom was many things: educator, housewife, nanny, disciplinarian, Dad's wife, Sunday School teacher, WMU President, etc... but I would not have said my mom was cool.

That started to change as our relationship changed - as I left home to go to college & then seminary and the conversations we had on the phone or on holidays began to deepen. She talked more comfortably about spiritual things and how to deal with life. My mom even became one of the earliest adopters of Apple computers - she turned my old room into her "computer" room. (She still has more up-to-date gear than I do - in fact, some of my best stuff is hand-me-downs from Mom!)

I found out there was a lot more to my mom's life than just being the lady who told me to pick up my room (unsuccessfully!), forced to me learn cursive writing by doing workbooks during the summer, and fixed our meals. She'd been a cheerleader in high school... which weirds me out a little bit. (I've seen pictures and I still have trouble wrapping my head around it.) She didn't learn how to swim until college.

And although she never dreamed of it growing up, she's had the privilege to travel a number of different places around the world: the Far East, Europe, most of the U.S. and Canada... and right now, she & my sister are in Israel on a Kay Arthur study tour. That's pretty amazing considering she thought she was going to be a schoolteacher and settle down in the Ozarks where she grew up.

My mom has shown incredible courage in facing an illness that she's fought for 30 plus years that leaves her worn out if she pushes just the smallest bit over the line of her endurance. She helped my dad take care of Grandpa in his final years... and she's taken care of Dad for nearly half a century. (At this point, I tried a couple of times to make a snarky yet heartwarming comment about how hard it is to take care of my dad, but it either came out too mean or too syrupy-sweet... you get what I was going for, right?)

She managed to raise both my sister & I to be people who love Jesus with all of our lives... and though we've both given her grey hairs & crows feet from the tension our actions have caused, we both have a great relationship with her.

She's also been a wonderful grandmother to Braeden & Collin, her only grand kids. She reminds me of my Grandma Jackson, who would get down in the floor & play with us... and would listen to us babble on & on about stuff I'm sure she had no interest in whatsoever except that we were interested in it. I've watched Mom do that with my boys, and it makes me love her more.

On Sunday, I'll be preaching about parenting with hope... I think my mom is an incredible example of what I'm trying to say: that the best hope we have for our kids is to be individuals who imitate Christ. That's what my mom has done, and I'm thankful for it.

My mom is cool.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

10 Things I'll Remember...

...After Visiting Disney. (The following is from a blog post by Tony Morgan, whose book Killing Cockroaches has got me thinking a lot about the shape of my ministry & leadership skills. This post appears in the book in a slightly different format.)
  • The experience begins in the parking lot.
  • We will invest a lot of money to make dreams come true.
  • It helps to have someone with you that’s been there before.
  • The value of excellence transcends socioeconomic and cultural barriers.
  • It’s hard to communicate with people wearing masks.
  • The journey is more fun when you’re on it with friends.
  • The world is small.
  • Lots of people fulfilling the same mission can achieve great results.
  • It’s possible to leave a legacy for future generations.
  • We remember the fireworks at the end.

Five & Dime 2008: Decay Rates

I did this last year for the first time... it yielded some intriguing information. I'm not sure my work here is statistically sound but it's interesting. (That's your cue to smile & grin knowingly.)

Anyway, what I did was to take the top 350 (352 due to a tie for the last spot) games (percentage of plays-wise) from the last eleven years - the cut-off number ended up being an average of 2.08% or better over time. For comparison, last year the average was 2.00%. (You'll see this subset of games for the next 2 or 3 Five & Dime reports. It allows me to work with games that really registered statistically and lessens the workload at the same time.)

For this particular exercise in determining decay rates of games, I then set aside games with 4 or less years on the list... leaving me with 239 games. (Again, for comparison, there were 230 games in 2007.) To do the decay calculation, I:
  1. Took the largest percentage played number from each game.
  2. Compared it to the current (2008) percentage played number for each game.
  3. Divided that amount by the number of years since it had first appeared on the Five & Dime Lists.

Only two games showed no rate of decay whatsoever - they have appeared on the list for 5+ years and their highest percentage played is in 2008:

  • Tichu
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha

There were three games last year: Downfall of Pompeii, Hive & Uno. Here's the chart with the rest of the top 20 games... that is, the games that showed the least decay over 5+ years time. (There's actually 21 games on this chart, as the final 2 games were very close in percentage.)

Game years on list percentage decay 2007?
Tichu 9 0.00% no
Chicken Cha Cha Cha 10 0.00% no
Time's Up/Celebrities 11 -0.01% 19th
Connect 4 10 -0.17% no
Uno 7 -0.21% 1st
Fairy Tale 5 -0.21% no
Midnight Party 8 -0.22% 9th
Set 9 -0.24% 11th
Cloud 9 9 -0.27% 4th
Wizard 11 -0.32% 7th
Hive 7 -0.32% 1st
Dancing Dice 5 -0.33% no
Hamsterrolle 8 -0.34% 5th
Rummikub 9 -0.34% 12th
Gulo Gulo 6 -0.38% no
Gang of Four 8 -0.38% 6th
Mole in the Hole 11 -0.40% no
Pit 10 -0.44% no
Tumblin' Dice 5 -0.47% no
Familiebande 5 -0.48% no
Quarto 7 -0.48% no

And here's a chart with the 20 games who've shown the highest rates of decay. (Note - to show a high rate of decay, you have to start from a high position.)

Gameyears on listpercentage decay2007?
Ticket to Ride5-10.12%no
St Petersburg5-9.72%no
Puerto Rico7-9.48%1st
San Juan5-9.33%no
Euphrat & Tigris11-5.57%3rd
Mamma Mia!/Sole Mio10-5.52%7th
Lost Cities10-5.44%9th
Balloon Cup6-5.08%4th
Through the Desert11-4.94%14th
King's Breakfast6-4.82%8th
Settlers of Catan11-4.67%11th
Battle Cry (AH)9-4.63%10th
Wyatt Earpt8-4.38%12th
Hey! That's My Fish/6-4.24%no

I'm not sure I'm really qualified to comment beyond the statistics... you need to know that the average decay rate of these games was 16.51% over their lifespan (1.98% per year) and that the average lifespan was just over 8 & a half years. Make of that what you will.