Friday, May 5, 2017

Jesus Recycles

"Come on Jesus, get up. The crowd will be here soon."

"Bartholomew, it can't be time to get up yet. We had such a long night last night. I knew staying up by the fire telling stories was going to come back to bite us, but noooooo, you wanted to tell that stupid story about the goats again. No one finds that funny. When they write a book about us one day, you're going to get mentioned once or twice and never again."

"Hey now, everyone likes my goat story. But whatever, we have to get up. Have you even prepared a talk for the crowd today?"

"A new talk? Come on, you've got to be kidding me. Where are we today?"

"Come on, dude, how much did you drink last night? We're in Capernum. It's been a few months since we were here last, but rumor has it the crowd is going to be a big one. You're getting quite popular. And if they do write a book, do you think they'll include my awesome sense of humor?"

"Fine, fine. Ugggh. Give me a minute. Ok, what did I talk about when I was here last time? I don't want to repeat myself, even if there is that one guy always in the back wanting me to play the hits."

"You did the Bread of Life part last time you were here, so don't do that."

"Can I just use what I talked about in Tiberias last week? No one would notice, would they? I just really don't want to have to come up with something new today."

"Are you really going to recycle a sermon, Jesus?"

"No one will ever know. Come on Bart. Don't be that guy. I'm just not feeling it today."

"Jesus, dude. Come on. You're better than that."

"What if I'm not, Bart. What if I'm just tired and not in the mood to come up with something new and insightful today and I just tell them the same thing I told the crowds last week. No one would know."

"Come on Jesus. You're not seriously considering this. I thought you were better than this."

"Bart, you try coming up with something new and meaningful every day. It's exhausting. Maybe just this once, we let it slide and recycle. If they haven't heard it before, it's new to them."

"Fine, Jesus, you're in charge. I just hope they don't mention this in whatever book they write."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Horrible bosses?

My boss is awesome, which is not only true, but a good way to garner bonus points for my annual evaluation.  (Unfortunately for me, was just completed. Someone remind me to repost this next year.)

I'm giving the flexibility to do my job the best way I see fit and as long as I get my work done and do it well, she's cool giving me the freedom to spend too much time on Twitter or write blog posts when things are slower than usual. She's even ok with me watching baseball at work, which isn't the actual reason I asked for dual monitors for my office but it doesn't hurt.

So now that I've said all that, it's nice to know this is an option should things ever get really bad.

Court says it's OK to call boss 'nasty mother******' during union battle

Just remember, you actually have to be trying to form a union before you try this.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


In college, ESPN seemed ubiquitous. I would watch SportsCenter for hours, even though it was the same episdoe rerun all morning. It didn't matter. That was the only way to get highlights and if I wanted to see a play again, I had to wait until that highlight came up in the next hour. ESPN was essentially the only way to see highlights, so I watched it all the time.

But times change. I get highlights on my phone mere minutes after they happen now. If Kris Bryant hits a home run or Addison Russel makes a great defensive play, I can be at my son's baseball game and still see the play and even show it to him on the way home. And it's not just official league sites. I can spend the evening watching a baseball game and see highlights of the hockey and basketball playoffs show up on twitter timeline. The idea of waiting for highlights is something my son will never understand.

ESPN has tried to change with the times. It still shows SportsCenter, but it's become more focused on personalities and analysis and less on highlights, which makes sense. But apparently it's not enough.

Today anywhere between 70 and 100 people are losing their job at the Worldwide Leader in Sports. From early indications, it looks like a lot of reporters are being let go. This is disheartening, not only for the people losing their jobs, but for people who appreciate sports news. While it's fun to mock a company that gave itself such a title, but the truth is ESPN does a lot of great reporting on a number of issues. Cutting those reporters means there's fewer people digging in to the issues affecting sports (and make no mistake, sports issues affect you even if you don't like sports.)

It really sucks for the people who lost their jobs. Hopefully they're able to find something else. I can't take joy in people, even people I don't like, losing their livelihoods. It also sucks for those who want to know what's going on.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's only a game

My son had a baseball game last night. He and his teammates are all seven and eight years old and from what I can tell, just want to be out there having fun and playing the game. Sure, they want to win the game, but they all seem to realize it's not the end of the world if they don't.

Some of the parents, on the other hand, seem to think this one game on a Monday night is the key to future success and need everything to be perfect. So when, late in the game, the umpire missed a call, these sports parents went a little crazy.

Here's the scene. The umpire (incorrectly) called a ball foul that should have been a fair ball. The call resulted in the kid having to try to hit again and the runners moving back to where they started. This blown call apparently merited scorn and loud, extended complaining from a few fans.

One dad (maybe a granddad, I wasn't paying close attention) took this affront to the rules of the game especially hard. After yelling at the umpire for blowing the call, he told the kid batting to "hit it hard back up the middle" where the umpire was standing since he had to put the balls in to the pitching machine. This adult wanted a kid to injure an umpire because he missed a call in an eight and under baseball game.

I didn't say anything to him or even talk to my son after the game about it. Maybe I should have. It's just interesting to me that adults not playing the game take it far more seriously than the kids actually playing it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On Death and Friendship

My wife had a good friend pass away recently.

I realize that's a terrible way to start a story,but in this case, this is where the story begins.

Her friend had cancer for years and in February, things took a turn for the worse. My wife became one of her primary caretakers, spending days and nights in the hospital. When weather forced our camping trip to end a day early, it turned out to be a blessing as it enabled my wife to be by her friend's side as she passed away.

But that's the beginning of our story.

About a week later I was getting the mail as I usually do and there was what looked like a card addressed to my wife from a friend of ours from church. It wasn't addressed to me and I didn't really think much of it.

When my wife got home I mentioned she'd gotten something in the mail and went back to doing whatever it was I was doing. A few seconds later, I hear "Awww, Kathy is so sweet."

Intrigued, I got up to see what it was.

It turned out that my wife had received a sympathy card for the loss of her friend.

I spoke with Kathy a few days later after church, telling her how much it meant to my wife and to me that she took the time to send a sympathy card. And that's when she told me something that I'm ashamed to admit I'd never thought of before.

Whenever someone dies, the family gets all the concern and the cards and everything, she said, but it can be really difficult for friends too and they don't get the same kind of love and support. She went on to say she didn't know my wife's friend, but understood how hard it was for her and wanted to let her know she was thinking about her.

Of course the family needs love and care when one of their family members dies. And I've always tried to be supportive and sympathetic whenever anyone I know loses a family member. But I've overlooked the friends that are grieving in their own, often intense way.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Game Time

The question was meant as a compliment, even though I wasn't quite sure at first.

"Where do you FIND these games?" my friend asked midway through our second game of the night.

She'd been enjoying them, but for a second I thought maybe I'd been visiting some deep, dark corner of the internet (which is the short answer to where I found those games) that I wasn't supposed to be frequenting. I certainly won't claim to have an extensive collection of board games, but over the past four years I've gotten more and more into the "German-style" board games. For those unfamiliar, these games typically don't have dice and you're not moving around a board in some kind of journey like in Monopoly or Life, or as one game reviewer wrote, "roll the dice, move the mice."

Instead, the games require a little more thinking and planning, and frankly, they're a lot more fun than the board games from my childhood. (Sorry mom, I know you did the best you could.)

Oddly, my newfound fascination with board games didn't start sitting around a table being introduced to a game by friends. Instead, it came about do to two things that 10-year old me couldn't conceive of - twitter and apps.

The short story (and I'll keep it short since I do want to give brief reviews of some of the games I enjoy) is that one of the baseball writers I follow on Twitter is really big in to board games. Big in that he has a ranking of his top 100 board games. It also helps that his daughter is one year older than my son, so I have a pretty good idea about my son's ability to play the game if she can play it. Anyway, he tweeted about 4 years ago about a game called "Ticket to Ride" and the app for that game being given away for free. Well, I figured, if it's free, why not give it a try?

So I downloaded it and stated playing and it became addictive. If I had a spare 10 minutes, I'd play a quick game. Soon my son, who was four at the time, would curl up in my lap to watch me play. I didn't know how much of the game he got, but after a few months, he asked if he could play. So he'd sit in my lap and I'd watch him play and while he may not have had the strategy completely down, he had the concept down.

So we got the game for Christmas and after teaching my wife, she loved it. And from there, we've started using that baseball writer's board game list as our guide to which games to get. After Christmas (when we got a few more games) we wrote the names down on slips of paper and every night after dinner, our son draws out the name of the game we're playing that night.

Below is not a ranking of the games we have and they're in no particular order, but in case you were wondering what games we play at the house, here's a brief synopsis of our favorites.

Ticket to Ride: The game that started it all for us. The basic concept is that you are a railroad baron claiming train routes from city to city in the United States and Canada. You draw destination cards in which you get points for connecting the two cities on the card, but lose those points if you fail to connect them. Each route is different and requires a certain number of matching colored cards (I believe there are six colors) to connect the cities. It's really a wonderful game in its simplicity. The only drawback to this game (and it's been corrected in later versions) is that it's possible to get fortunate in drawing some really long destinations (17 points or more) while your opponent may keep drawing seven, eight or nine point destination cards. But that's just a minor quibble.

For 2-5 players. 45 minutes to an hour to play.

Ticket to Ride: Europe (and India and Asia and Switzerland as well as expansions for the United States and Europe maps): Same basic concept as the original, only with different maps and slight rules variations that make a familiar game feel different enough that you're not playing the same game. Ticket to Ride Europe is a standalone game, but if you get any of the other editions you will need to have either Europe or the original to be able to play (as those two come with the plastic trains you need to play the game as well as the deck of colored cards.) Of these, I enjoy Europe the most just for it's geography and different strategies that seem equally likely to result in a win. The two expansions are just more destination cards to add variety, but they add to the complexity and fun of the game.

For 2-5 players (Switzerland is 2-3 players) 45 minutes to an hour to play.

Splendor: A game with a simple concept but multiple ways to try to win, the basic premise is you are a jewel merchant in 14th century Russia, and you use your wealth to buy mines, and then craftsmen and finally take your jewels to the cities all while earning prestige points. The premise of the game actually has very little to do with the game play, but it's fun nonetheless. You have to balance buying the lower (or sometimes no) value cards versus going for the big point cards. There's several strategies and there is an element of luck as to which cards are available to buy when your turn comes around. It's easy enough to learn. We played it at work the week before Thanksgiving and halfway through her first game, a coworker pulled out her phone to order it for her husband for Christmas.

For 2-4 players, 20-30 minutes to play once you know what you're doing.

Dominion: Like most games, the object here is to get the most points. Only in Dominion, a deck-building game in which you constantly reshuffle your cards, you make the decision as to when to buy the limited number of point cards or to acquire other cards that may give you more money to buy higher point cards. You start with seven coins and three victory cards and then can buy cards each turn that do things from allow you play additional cards, have more money to spend that turn and so forth. the game comes with 25 different sets of cards, but you only play with 10 at a time, meaning there's a multitude of combinations for a seemingly endless array of options. There are also roughly 2,392,271 expansions available. I've yet to play any (we actually got the first version because that's the one my son played and liked, but we're hoping to get others as the year goes on).

For 2-4 players, 30-45 minutes to play.

Carcassonne: My favorite game, even though I lose to my wife regularly. I love the concept of the game, which is that you draw tiles and then play on tiles that have already been played to create the board as you go. Carcassonne, for those who don't know, (and really, I feel dumb even typing this like you don't know) is a fortified French town linking trade routes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It's been inhabited since the Neolithic Period and was a key location for the Romans and later the Visigoths. For our purposes, you are trying to strategically place your tiles to either complete roads, cities or Cloister and playing your people-shaped tokens, called Meeples, as you play in the roles of Knight, Thief, Monk or Farmer. The random draw of the tiles makes every game different and, like Dominion, there are a multitude of expansions available. The version we own (and that I've seen for sale in places like Books-A-Million) comes with the River expansion, which is helpful for getting people comfortable with playing the tiles.

For 2-5 players, 30ish minutes to play. 

Forbidden Island: A cooperative game in which all players either win or lose as you try to capture sacred relics left behind by an ancient civilization. The only problem is the island was designed to sink into the ocean if anyone ever landed on it. (It's right there in the title of the game, the island is forbidden.) You and your team have to collect treasure cards, shore up the sinking island and locate the treasures. Then you all have to get off the island before it sinks. Each character has different special abilities that help you (though some are more useful than others) and the island is arranged differently every time, so much like the other games I've mentioned, no two games are alike, which adds to their re-playability. In case you're thinking this one is a little complicated, my eight-year old played and taught it to his friends with no help from his parents.

For 2-4 players, 30 minutes to win, less time if the Island wins.