Thursday, October 29, 2009

Abston Church of Christ

I got forwarded some pictures of this epic Lego building, but with no link (and, sadly, some of the usual "forward this if you love Jesus" hoo-ha that makes me irritable and keeps me from forwarding it out of sheer spite for trivializing the message of Christ with such crapola... even though I do love Jesus.)

Anyway, I thought I'd share a picture here (look carefully - it's made COMPLETELY of Legos) and link you back to the Abston Church of Christ - a work of love by Amy Hughes. If you like monster Lego projects and/or cats, go check the site out.

Did anyone else notice that there are no "back-row Baptists" at this church? In fact, there are a lot of people down front! Evidently I've pastored the wrong churches - the front row has always been kind of a moat between the pastor & the congregation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MIA #3: The Rolling Gang (Die Kullerbande)

The Rolling Gang (Die Kullerbande)
  • designer: Heinz Meister
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2006
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: no ranking/6.67
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-8
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $27.99 (
Actually, only one of the members of the gang is rolling... but the other members of his posse have decided (due to the benefits of magnetic power) to stand really still and let their friend the mouse (who to all normal powers of observation looks like a small wooden ball) run between their legs. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to manipulate the aforementioned mouse through the aforementioned legs as quickly as possible.

This weird & wonderful crass between Croquet & the old Labyrinth tilting mazes comes from the fertile creative mind of Heinz Meister - I mean, seriously, when is the last time you thought of putting a thin sheet of metal in the bottom of a game box in order to turn it into a farmyard with six animals wickets?

The rolling part itself is simple - take the box in both hands & tilt it in order to maneuver the mouse (small wooden ball) between the legs (magnetically attached wickets) of the various animals. The order is determined by a set of twelve very chunky cards with whimsical artistic representations of our barnyard friends - there are two of each animal. The basic version of the game involves laying out a line of all 12 cards & doing them in order while a sand timer runs. The second (not necessarily advanced) version of the game uses the same cards, but another player turns them over and makes the appropriate animal noise to clue the roller as to the next domesticated beast to approach.

This, of course, is where it is only fair & right to let you see this in action, courtesy of Doug "Garrett's Games & Geekiness" Garrett...

There are two other variations in the rules: one which uses a stick (much like Haba's OOP Mause-Rallye) and one that is basically a Name That Tune-like gambling game. We haven't played either of these because we've had so much fun with the first two.

The game also includes a wooden semi-sphere to put under the box to make it easier for smaller kids... we haven't found this to work well in practice but that may be our problem. Either way, I think the age 5+ suggestion is a little low - I'd say the fine motor skills needed to play don't kick in for a year or two after that.

MIA #4: Fluch der Mumie

Fluch der Mumie
  • designer: Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 2008
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 903/6.98
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $36.90 (Boards & Bits)
Many, many moons ago, I bought this weird magnetic game called Zomax on the recommendation of Games Magazine... and I wasn't disappointed. It's not perfect, mind you - it's kind of like Risk crossed w/Conquest, but it's played "blind" because of the magnets & the vertical metal board.

One of my other early German game acquisitions was Ravensburger's Scotland Yard, where one of the players was Mr. X & used hidden movement to try to escape from the other players - the detectives. A similar hidden movement system was used in Clue: The Great Museum Caper... which is a great game with a 3D-molded plastic board, btw.

Imagine that you crossed Zomax with Scotland Yard & A-mazing Labyrinth... then drenched the game in kid-friendly mummy garb: you've got Fluch der Mumie. (In English, that translates to "Curse of the Mummy.")

One player is the Mummy of the title and sits on one side of the board - he can only see his piece. On the other side of the board sit 2-4 adventurers, who can see their pieces as well as the location of the mummy. Each player starts with 3 ankh symbols (life points) and a hankering for Egyptian treasure. (The hankering is represented by 5 different treasure tiles matching treasures printed on the board.)

The objective of the Mummy is to catch the players X number of times (X = a certain number of ankh tiles, depending on the number of adventurers). The objective of the players is to be the first adventurer to get all five treasures.

On a turn, the player rolls the five dice & chooses one of them to be his move. There are a range of numbers on each die, plus an arrow that indicates that the player may move in a straight line until he reaches another player, a wall or the Mummy.

There is also a Mummy symbol on the adventurer's dice - if you roll one (or more) of these, you set them aside. You may choose at the beginning of your turn to pick up all the saved Mummy dice set aside from other player's turns... but if you do, the Mummy gets an "interrupt" turn for as many spaces as there were set-aside dice.

Once each player has moved, the Mummy rolls his die (making suitable mummy-like groaning noises). He adds the number of set-aside Mummy dice to his number & moves the appropriate number of spaces. If he catches an adventurer, his movement is done... and he gets an ankh symbol from that adventurer as well as sending him/her to the bottom of the board.

A player who loses all his ankh symbols is out of the game (aka "dead"). OTOH, a player who finds all of the treasures on his cards wins the game.

The flow of this game is almost perfect - in the early going, the adventurers are willing to toss each other "under the bus" (so to speak), letting the Mummy conk other players without being concerned about the ankh count. Later in the game, adventurers are torn between taking chances to race for the treasures & playing it safe so as not to hand the game to the Mummy.

As well, the "must reveal when & where you pick up treasure" mechanic means that whoever is in the lead is giving clues to the Mummy on where to find him/her - an excellent game-balancing mechanic.

This is one of those special games that is loved equally by kids and adults. With kids, the game is random but really a lot of fun. With adults, there's some strategy and some definite hosage. Highly recommended!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Green Beans & Humiliation

I first heard Chap Clark use the following illustration in the Next Time I Fall In Love curriculum for youth. (Yes, you can tell how dated a church curriculum piece is when you realize that the Amy Grant/Peter Cetera song it was named for was released 23 years ago.) In the process of trying to help kids figure out what love really means, Chap suggested that we use that one word in a lot of different ways. For example:
  • I love green beans.
  • I love my mom.
  • I love my girlfriend.
Same word, three very different meanings.

As I've been reading & studying this week, I've had the same kind of weird experience with pride. I can say that:
  • I'm proud of my sons. (Which, by the way, I am - I've got great kids.)
  • I take pride in my work.
  • Pride goes before a fall.
In one sense, pride is a good thing... it's the warm feeling you have when you enjoy the success of other people. Or, possibly, it's the satisfaction of knowing you've worked hard & done a job well.

In another sense, it's a completely out-of-whack view of your own importance. This kind of "proud" slides easily from a healthy self-worth (remembering that Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were created by God) into an arrogant disdain for anyone but yourself (Proverbs 16:18).

The Bible uses the word "pride" in the same wide variety of ways:
  • I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4, NIV)
  • Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else... (Galatians 6:4, NIV)
  • When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2, NIV)
The cure for pride is humility. Note: I didn't say "the cure for pride is humiliation" (though that will do a number on your inflated self-worth... trust me, I speak from experience.)
And all of you, serve each other in humility, for

“God opposes the proud

but favors the humble.”

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
(1 Peter 5:5-6, NIV)
Humility says, loud & clear, that other people are valuable, both to me & to God. It says that my worth comes not from my race or religion or bank account or employment status but from the fact that the God of the Universe both created me & gave Himself for me on the cross.

I'm going to be writing more about this... I'd appreciate your prayers. I'd also love if you wanted to contribute some to the discussion - email me at or pop me a message on Facebook. Next time around, I'll be discussing the subtle but deadly game of "at least I'm better off than he is."

Extra Credit Quote:

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, October 05, 2009

Crackpipe Remote: Recap

It's an ongoing discussion here @ aka pastor guy on whether or not I watch too much television. (I, for one, am willing to admit I can set the remote on "overkill" every once in a while.) As always, those of you wanting to give me lecture #188 ("You should go outside more") or lecture #189 ("Don't sit too close to the TV") can jump right with your comments.

But today I want to enlighten you to the joy of recaps... in particular, 2 excellent places to catch snarky recaps of a variety of shows. I have to say that some TV (particularly reality television) benefits dramatically from someone giving it the 3 Stooges poke'n'trip treatment in print.

Here's a couple of examples...

Flash Forward (from
Television Without Pity... btw, I really liked the first episode. The 2nd was pretty good as well.):
The guy crawls out of his overturned car, discovering the hard way that hot mufflers do not make the best leverage points for pulling oneself out, and once he's out in the open, he sees what can only be described as complete pandemonium: thousands of cars that have plowed into one another, a truck crushing some poor guy in a convertible, lots of bleeding and stunned people, someone running by whilst on fire. Or, as those of us who used to take the 405 in Los Angeles like to call it, "The morning commute."
The Amazing Race (from Entertainment Weekly)
Zev has Asperger's, which is on the autism scale, and at first I thought this was entirely the root of his flat, whiny, Rain-Man-like delivery. But then as the episode went on, and he grimaced at the thought of walking in Vietnam's flooded streets, and dropped dryly witty remarks that made his pal Justin roar, I realized, wait, he also sounds like many of my neurotic, funny, deadpan acquaintances who work in the media. So what does this mean: that Asperger's is only incidental to Zev's demeanor, or that 70% of all New York media types have Asperger's? That's a question for science, I suppose.
BTW, so far we've lost two obnoxious teams (the "yoga in the hood" couple & the "I'm projecting my problem with anger management onto my girlfriend" couple) and one clueless team (the "older internet dating" couple) from The Amazing Race. That's a pretty good percentage... now, if we can just ditch Lance & Keri...

The Amazing Race (from
Television Without Pity)

In maroon are Lance and Keri, who, as Phil tells us, are "engaged, from Salem, Massachusetts." Phil tells us. Over footage of them working out in the gym, Lance boasts, "We bring too much mentally and physically into this game not to win." Oh good, that means I don't have to watch them, right? No? Keri claims that Lance is "smaht," and he confirms that he's a trial lawyer, which I think is the one thing he could have said to make America like him even less. It's just a crying shame that the world of jurisprudence robbed us of someone who could have been the greatest Joey Buttafuoco impersonator of all time.

And, if you're keeping score at home, the grades are:
  • Heroes: C- (the 1st episode was OK, but I haven't watched the 2nd one yet & I have it taped)
  • Lie To Me: B- (weird MPD lead story balanced by great 2nd story & great cast)
  • Survivor: Samoa: B (I'm kinda looking forward to yet another Pagong-ing with the yahoos who make up Foa Foa)
  • Flash Forward: B+ (really cool premise; are actually raising the whole predestination/free will question; need to make sure they're advancing the plot each week & not just rumbling along)
  • Dollhouse: B (liked the 1st episode; was NOT a fan of the 2nd - felt like there was a major continuity break between the two... still, some great plot threads sitting there waiting to be tied together)
  • The Amazing Race: A- (some great challenges + a return to actual puzzles that require racers to think & work + obnoxious teams seem to be dropping off the race = good!)
  • The National Parks: America's Best Idea: ? (I have a bunch of it taped... but haven't got to watch any of it yet)