Monday, November 30, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

From Mountain to Manger - Advent Week 1

Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service

Advent arrives too early. We have barely recovered from the joys and excesses of celebrating Thanksgiving when Advent comes knocking on the door like an unexpected guest. We open the door and welcome him in and then stand around not exactly knowing what we should do. At least when Lent, Advent's older brother arrives, we know how to behave. We greet Lent by giving up something, but Advent tells us to wait and prepare without giving us any explicit instructions.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
(Luke 2:8-15)

If Thanksgiving is the angelic party on the mountainside and Christmas is the encounter at the manger then Advent is the long walk down the mountain in the dark. The Shepherds leave the place where heavenly worship spilled over onto the earth and begin a journey. They begin as worship spectators and end as worship participants, but first comes a narrow dangerous path. A path that looks very different than when they walk it in daylight. And as they journey they leave their sheep, their only source of income, behind. The hope of a Savior drives them toward the manger, and the memory of Angels gives them comfort, but after seeing heavenly light the mountain seems especially dark.

I seem to spend most of my life on that path. I have had moments when Heaven's joy seems to fill my heart, and other times where I know exactly where the manger is and in which direction I should walk. But often my Christian life is a stumble down a dark mountainside. My lips may be singing 'Walking, walking in the light, in the shining light of heaven above' but that is more of a statement of faith than experience, of hope than reality.

I have experienced God, and I will experience God. The Hope of Advent is that no matter how dark the path, I will reach the manger. Christ will be born, not just in a stable, but in our lives. As we journey towards God, He, through some divine mystery, journeys towards us. The father runs towards the Prodigal Son as he sees him cross the horizon.

And there is another mystery.

None of us journey alone. We may tell ourselves that we do. We may keep other people at a distance because of what we fear they would see. But none of us walk down the mountain alone. Our companions may not be who would we choose, but they are who we have. And, if we have eyes to see clearly, that person is the embodiment of God for us.

As we journey towards Jesus, not only does Jesus journey towards us, but he journeys with us as well.

As we begin this journey of Advent, where are you right now? Basking in the light of Angels? Close to the light of the stable? Wandering down the mountain in the dark? It's not enough to know where we are going, we also need to know where we are.

Who is journeying with you? Who will you allow to be Jesus for you this Advent Season?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BGG Con Activity Breakdown

Total Number of Games played: 24
Number of Different Games: 22
Number of New Games: 17
Games Purchased: 2 (Court of the Medici and Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000)
Games I want to purchase: INFINITE

Here is the Play by Play Day Account:


Die Aufsteiger - I love this game. There wasn't a copy in the library so I brought mine with me and got to introduce it to some new people.

Waz Baraz - A clever little deduction game. I found it tough to play in a noisy room as I couldn't remember what conclusions I'd already made. I'd play it again though.

Tobago - Most people said it to rhyme with Cargo, but I always though it rhymed with Day-glo. Anyway, it was fun. I might purchase this one.

Neu Heimat - another game I brought from home, but this one was in the library. A tough economic auction game.

Zertz - a fun abstract

Opera - a big letdown for me. I so wanted to like this game of building opera halls all over Europe. It was rather dry and tedious. It went from 'Purchase Unseen' to 'Never play again' very quickly. At least I saved some money.

Monkey Lab - it was o.k. I'm not totally sure what all the fuss was about over this game.

Breakfast: Buc-ee's Burritos
Dinner: Scary Indian Buffet which caused post-meal intestinal problems
Time to bed: 2:30am


A La Carte - So cute and with great components! Competing chefs racing to cook dishes whilst being careful not to over season. It is so much fun to sabotage your opponents. I want this.

Dixit - Has a core mechanic similar to Apples to Apples, but requires more creativity on the part of the player. I would play this again and my purchase it.

You Robot - This game needs the right crowd or the right alcohol. Basically you make gestures and point at a card to get your partner to assume a pre-designated position. It was more frustrating than silly.

Basket Boss - Managing a Basket Ball team. I only found it mildly interesting and have no real desire to play it again, though I wouldn't run away screaming if I was forced.

Polizei-Alarm - Fun with magnets. A clever little children's game where one player is a thief and the other the police trying to apprehend them.

Die Aufstieger - Yeah! I got to teach it again :)

Ad Astra - Probably my favorite new game of the convention. Settlers trading and building combined with Wallenstein/Shogun programing mechanic and using a scoring system similar to Masons.

Sticheln - A great trick taking game that took some mind wrapping to work out the best play. I was poised in a great position to win this game, but the lateness of the hour befuddled my brain and I went wrong in the final round. This was fun!

Breakfast: Dennys
Dinner: Ali Baba Mediterranean
Time to bed: 2:45am


Scripts and Scribes - an excellent little card game that is difficult to track down. I would like a copy of this.

Elk Fest - a silly dexterity game we played at lunch. The only game of the Convention that I actually won!

Railroad Dice 1 - thanks for teaching this Judson! Another game I would play again that is difficult to obtain in the U.S.

Lost Cities the Board Game - This game was a lot better once we used all the cards. Oops! Slightly more complex than the original Lost Cities, but it plays more than 2 which is a bonus.

Crokinole - Late night dexterity fun!

Also played in the BGG Game show - A version of Family Feud played with approximately 15 teams of 4. We finished in the middle of the pack.

Also played 'If you wanna....I'd rather...' A very silly way to waste time!

Lunch: Chilis with my good friends Rich and Ginger (and their son Jack). Good times!!!
Dinner: Light snacking on chips and apples at the hotel.
Time to bed: 1:30 am


Court of the Medici - an interesting 2 player card game that I purchased. We played twice and I can see that it needs more plays to grasp strategic possibilities.

Atlantis - Leo Colvini re themes Cartagena and adds some other elements to make it less frustrating. I see no desire to own this but I wouldn't refuse to play it.

Pack and Stack - I was curious about this game so I was reading the rules when the Mayfair Rep came across and offered to teach it to me. He explained one rule and I pointed out that the published rules said different. He'd been teaching it wrong all weekend! It's a game about packing luggage crates in pickup trucks. I don't need to own it, but it was o.k.

Breakfast: Dennys again
Dinner: I'll fix something here
Time to bed: Still unknown, but I was snoozing in the car!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

I'm off to leave for my boardgame convention early in the morning.

It's been 2 years since I made it to this convention so I'm really excited about seeing some old friends again and playing lots of new games!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Turkey Turkey Turkey

Just in case you missed it last year, here is my handy dandy blog post dedicated to the art of roasting the ultimate Turkey. It's how I cook my turkey and it tastes great :)

Just Click Here

Trust me, if you are cooking Thanksgiving, you will be glad you did!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chipotle Sloppy Joes - for Eric

Here's one of my quick standbys. I originally got this from cooking light and I love the way it sits on the taste buds.

2 1/2 cups vidalia or other sweet onion - thinly sliced
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 lb ground sirloin
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 oz can no salt added tomato sauce
Hamburger buns

Heat a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add the onion and cover. Cook for 8 minutes stirring frequently until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Remove one adobo chili from the can and chop finely. Set it aside with approx 1 teaspoon of sauce. I normally bag up the rest of the chilies in individual mini bags with a little sauce and freeze them.

In a large nonstick pan coated with a little spray cook the ground sirloin until brown. Add the green bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the chipotle chili, adobo sauce, tomato paste, salt, cumin and tomato sauce. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon 1/2 cup of beef over the bottom of half a bun, and then top evenly with some onions and the rest of the bun. Some people like grated cheddar added on top too.

It's quick, it's yummy and spicy and it's relatively low fat, what's not to love!!!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We will remember them...

A poem by British War Poet Wilfred Owen in honor of Veterans Day (Armistice Day in the U.K.)

This is one of the few poems I remember studying at High School and it made a huge impact on me at the time. I am thankful for all those who served, who witnessed atrocities and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

('Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori' translates as 'How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country')

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Board Games I want to try at BGG.Con this year!

This list has been growing for sometime, here it is in no particular order!

Finca - It was nominated for some decent awards this year. It's all about Harvesting fruit on the island of Mallorca and it uses a Rondel mechanism and I don't have a game that uses that.

Cyclades - a new game by 2 designers that I like. Buying the favor of the Gods and building cities, interesting.

At The Gates of Loyang - the latest from Uwe Roswenberg. I enjoyed Agricola, (though it felt a bit long and does need a lot of table space) I've played Le Havre, but it felt a bit too dry for me. Maybe his new creation will hit the sweet spot?

Alcazar - I can't remember how this made the list. Competing to build castles and villas in limited space. It's a re theme and redesign of the game Big Boss which was inspired by the game Acquire which I do enjoy playing, but do not own, so maybe that was the reason.

Dungeon Lords - the hot new game from Czech designer Vlaada Chvatil. In Dungeon lords, you are an evil dungeon lord who is trying to build the best dungeon out there. You hire monsters, build rooms, buy traps and the other usual stuff. I've enjoyed his other 2 games that I have played. Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert. I do wonder if I"ll be able to get a copy from the library though as it is such a hot item.

Monkey Lab - it's light and silly. My Nephew loves monkeys so I'm wondering whether this will be a suitable game for him to play with his parents.

Opera - a game about mounting opera productions? Sign me up!

Revolution! - Steve Jackson games tend to be rather hit or miss with me, but I saw this game being played at Gen Con and was intrigued. It looks like a glorified reworking of 'Rock Paper Scissors' but it could be fun.

Thunderstone - I saw a post somewhere comparing it to Dominion, which is the game I have played the most times this year.

Abandon Ship - another game I saw at Gen Con by the same publisher as Monkey Lab. You are competing gangs of rats trying to get off the ship before it sinks.

...Aber Bitte Mit Sahne - probably gets the award for the strangest name. It translates as '...but please, with whipped cream.' It is a game about sharing cakes. Normally one person cuts and the other person chooses. This is an entire game based on that simple action but the addition of whipped cream can create chaos. It's a food game, how can I not give it a try?

Arcana - I have no idea how this game made it on the list!

Cities - another game that was an SDJ nominee this year. A tile laying game all about designing the best city that you can.

Nefertiti - an auction game where you are seeking out gifts for queen Nefertiti. Again, I'm not sure how this made it on the list.

Caylus Magna Carta - we played this game's bigger brother Caylus quite a few times when it first came out. I originally thought this was just a re theme (add some chrome and get some new sales in) but it looks like a distilling of the original ideas into a compact card game. I'll give it a go.

Blox - another SDJ nominee. This time it's tower building with forklift trucks!

Railroad Dice - this is a game that came out in 2003. It was a creative and different use for dice, it's kind of hard to find though so I'm not too bothered if I don't get to play it. I'd hate to really like it and then not be able to locate a copy.

Timber Tom - another hot ticket game that keeps having all its U.S. shipments sell out. Its all about being the best mountain hiker.

Carson City - A game that was interesting enough to get added to the list, but not interesting enough for me to remember what interested me in the first place.

Ants! - There is quite a lot of buzz around this game, well there was when I first read about it. Competing ant colonies in a suburban park. Do you play it safe and gather food or fight the other colonies for victory?

Stronghold - one player is trying to defend the castle being besieged by the other.

A La Carte - an older game that has been re released with a few rule modifications. The players are semi-psychotic cooks attempting to hone their culinary skills. Still recipes, attempt to cook them, and try not to over spice!

Tobago - Yet another 'hot' game. Each player gets a different part of a treasure map for the island and so it's a 'deduce where the treasure is and race to it before the other player' game. I have the 2 player Discovery Island on the shelf. This one plays up to 4 players and has some really cool looking components :)

Atlantis -the designer of Atlantis, Leo Colvini is another designer who is hit or miss with me. I really enjoy his game Masons, and Clans is o.k. but Carolus Magnus felt rather dry to me. Atlantis is a reworking of the mechanic from Cartagena with some other goals added. Players are trying to flee the sinking city of Atlantis with as much treasure as possible.

Well that's the list! If any more games catch my eye I'll update - and I give a big shout out to anyone who was brave enough to read all the way to the end!

Prodigal Poetry

I posted these back in 2007, but in going through an old computer folder I discovered them and thought I would repost.

2 Poems inspired by the Parable of the Prodigal Son

I worked hard and then gave it away
The sweat of my brow
The toil of my hands

Gave it away with no conditions
No guidelines for usage
No rules for compliance

This is no condition to live your life
Watching him hurt
Watching him leave

Living your life saying goodbyes
Goodbye to my son
Goodbye to my savings

Saying goodbyes to the boy I once was
When I was young, would I have run?
Did I once take without thought?

The boy I once was became the man that I am
Taking became giving
Leaving became loving

I loved hard and then gave it away
I and the son are one
I and the father are one

Both Prodigals.

Old cartilage and fragile bones run
Self care forgotten as calloused feet kick up dust
A dirty cloud of celebration
Muscle-stretching jubilation
Embracing the dirt
Kissing the stench
Ignoring the lie on the lips
Hearing the unspoken desperation
And, as fatherly sweat mingles with son’s
Whispering “Welcome home”

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Boardgames and Weight Update

Because of my vacation I'm only just getting around to posting this. :(

We won't talk about my weight - I'm still substantially lower than I was at the beginning of this year...but my weight has been creeping up for a while now. It's tougher for me to get the motivation to exercise as it makes my legs hurt. I have these nodules that have formed on both achillies tendons. I've been seeing a doctor and I'm going to have them removed, but we opted to do it in the New Year as I'm doing a fair amount of traveling before then which would have been inconvenienced by me having to have my foot in a boot.

Of course I really can exercise even though it does hurt some, and in reality the stretching exercises are good for the nodules, but it has become an excuse that is a little too convenient. I will do better this month!

Anyway, on to the games.

October was a surprising month for games. 45 Games were played in total of 25 different games. And 2 games came from nowhere to take the top 2 spots on the list. The reason for this was of course my English vacation and playing games with the rest of the family!

What was the top game of October?

Alhambra (6 plays) - is a great tile laying game. You are purchasing different buildings to make your own Alhambra. My brother and his wife really like this one so we played 6 times on the vacation. I think the final scores were Janet 2, Steve 2, Peter 2, Bugs 0, but I could be mistaken.

Uno (5 Plays) - a surprise entry played in a surprising variant. My nephew Tommy has difficulty holding all the cards and so we played their family variant where everybody's cards are placed face up in front of them in a tableaux. It completely changes the game and causes you to do a lot more strategizing about your plays!

Some other games of note this past month.

Carcasonne (3 plays) - this is one of the top 'gateway' games for introducing people into modern board gaming. I haven't played it that much and so I was a little dubious of its power, but I took it on the Chapelwoods Mens Retreat and was amazed at the response. I've never viewed board gaming as a spectator sport, but we must have had about 8 guys all watching us play this. I taught other groups the rules and their were quite a few heated battles and I know that some of the men have since purchased this for their families. I opted to use the original European Scoring as opposed to the American Scoring as I think it is a) Easier to learn and b) Makes for a better game.

Endeavor (2 plays) - this is one of the 'hot games' right now. I remember really liking it, but we played before the vacation so it's kind of slipped my mind right now! I'm sure it will make it to the table again soon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Thought for the day

The journey into deeper faith is a journey into greater doubt rather than greater certainty.