Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cheap Cooperation

This weekend, I played Scotland Yard, a cops-and-robber game, in which one player, Mr X, is pursued by the other players, the detectives. This game is awesome, because Mr X wears a visor. The rule suggest playing with at least four people.

The detectives have a perfectly shared objective--if only one of them apprehends Mr X, they all win. It's a pain to get four people together, so games that say that they need that many people ought to have mechanics that make each one important. Scotland Yard works just as well with two people, with one taking the role of several detectives, acting as several players, if you will. (Now, as Mr X, I found it fascinating to hear the conversations of four people plotting against me, but the way the game was played, there was no need for an actual one-to-one correlation between people and detectives--the players agreed on what each detective would do.)

The first time I ever went to the Collins Avenue Thrift Store, I paid $3.46 for the Lord of the Rings board game by Reiner Knizia. In LOTR, the players play as the Hobbits from the books, Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. Fatty is thrown in, too, for good measure, so up to five can play, working together to throw the ring into Mount Doom. It's fun, but I normally play it solitaire, acting as five players--it works better that way. The only reason I'd want other people involved is for help with strategy. I have five Hobbit playing tokens, but I can manage all of them myself.

In Star Wars Risk, the four players play as two teams of two, and the game is broken otherwise. I prefer to play Star Wars Risk with a single friend, and we each handle a team of two players. Just because the game rules call for four players doesn't mean four people are needed to manage them.

This effect even shows up in some competitive games: I have no idea why people bowl as a social activity. You get the same gameplay if you're bowling alone as if you're bowling with others. Golf is the same way. I think darts is, too. The only reason you do these things with other people is because you like them. Croquet is unusual, in that it's a mellow skill game that actually gets better with more players.

Bang! is one of the rare games in which players cooperate, but in which you need actual people to act as each player. Many compare Bang! to Mafia, as each player is given an objective, but no one knows what roles the other players have taken. In Bang!, the sheriff and his deputies face off against a band of outlaws; a couple of renegades are thrown in for good measure. Cooperation is required, but because one doesn't know who is on one's team, it's not the sort of cheap cooperation seen in Scotland Yard, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars Risk.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Church Tradition Story 3: Imago Dei

One time, Greg and I were hanging out with a group called Imago Dei. We went to a Celtic festival with them, but I'm not sure how that's relevant to the story.

Anyway, Greg and I had just met Imago Dei, but we didn't know what it was, so we asked Gary.
"It's us!"
"I mean, are you affiliated with a church or something?"
"I guess you could say that we are a church, but we prefer to think of ourselves as an intentional community. We aren't just about what happens on Sunday morning, we actually care about each other, and go through life together."

We talked about appropriate grounding for theological orthodoxy, I gave my "The Bible is not the word of God, Jesus is the Word" rant, and Gary nodded vigorously. I'm always a little terrified when my opinions on Christianity are taken seriously, so I asked Gary if Imago Dei is Emerging, and he said no, rather emphatically.

Imago Dei is a pretty neat intentional community. When we stopped at a gas station, a hat was passed around, and everyone shared as much money as they wanted to, which seems like a friendlier system than dividing up the bill exactly equally. When we got pizza, later, the hat got passed again. Pierre had given extra cash for gas, but didn't have any for pizza--no worries! We shared.

So we were sitting around, eating pizza, and Greg and I were asking some more questions about Imago Dei. Greg asked Jay where they meet; "Oh, we meet in homes," Jay said.
"So, you're a house church?" I asked.
"No, no, we're not a house church."
"If you grow big enough, would you get a building?"
"That's where our valuing multiplication comes in. If our group gets to be too big for us to have this sense of intimacy that we have now, we'll split."
"So you'll always be meeting in houses."
"Probably, yes"
"But you're not a house church."
"That's right."

Then, Greg asked, "Is there someone who's in charge?"
"Well, I'm the overseer."
"Oh, so you're the bishop."
"I guess you could say that I'm the episcopos, that's the Greek word for overseer, in the Bible."
"You're the bishop."
"Yes, I'm the episcopos."
"You're the bishop."
"I'm the episcopos."

Also, everyone in Imago Dei mentioned how much healing they experienced by reading John Eldredge's books; some spent a week with Eldredge in the middle of the woods in Colorado. I'm not sure how that's relevant to the story.


Edgy church breaks old rules, insists on new ones

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Church Tradition Story 2: Lightbulb Evangelism

I've heard that the Brethren in Christ commonly have "evangelistic services" at 7 PM each Sunday, which is curious, because the services aren't particularly evangelistic, they're just regular Sunday-night church services. Few remember why these services are called evangelistic. In the 1800's, when electricity and incandescent lights were bleeding-edge technology, many churches in this denomination paid dearly to have electric light bulbs installed in their sanctuaries. Then, they started having extra services after dark, so one could invite one's non-Christian friend, saying, "Why don't you come to church, to see the lightbulb?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Church Tradition Story 1: Dismissal of the Catechumens

There is a part in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy called the Dismissal of the Catechumens, in which the priest chants, "All ye catechumens, depart! Depart, ye catechumens! All ye that are catechumens, depart! Let no catechumens remain!" and this used to be important, because it would have been terrible for an outsider to see and misunderstand the meaning of the eucharist, when the early church was undergoing persecution. Now, the words remain, but it's understood that no one is expected to actually leave--it's just a tradition. However, some Orthodox churches today have problems with visitors leaving halfway through the service, not knowing that the Dismissal of the Catechumens is vestigial.

As Orthodox churches assimilate into American culture, the services shift from using the congregation's heart language to the English language, with some parts in one language, and some in the other. I've heard of a Romanian Orthodox church in DC that has its services entirely in English, except the Dismissal of the Catechumens is in Romanian, so no one leaves by mistake.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cous cous, Speeding, Grandma, Clara

On Good Friday this year, I was driving down 295 to Capitol Christian Fellowship, with a pot of Moroccan cous cous in my passenger seat. For no good reason, I was going 74 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour zone.

I got pulled over as soon as I passed a federal cop in an unmarked car. I hadn't been pulled over for anything in five years. After I got my ticket, I kept driving, but I felt terrible. I wanted to go fast, I wasn't trying to get to CCF early or anything, I just wanted to go fast, so I ignored the speed limit.

I got to CCF, where Mennonites from all the churches in the district were convening for a potluck. I mentioned that I had sped to my friend, Galen, because confessing sin is important, but I didn't feel any better.

As I ate supper, I wasn't really paying attention to what the other people at my table were saying. I was thinking about why I felt so bad. All of a sudden, I realized that I don't love Grandma.

I mean, I have nice feelings about Grandma and I'm polite to her when I see her. I don't give up much for Grandma, though. She's pretty lonely in assisted living; a visit would mean much to her. It's not like hanging out with Grandma is a wild and crazy time, but, still, it's easy for me to pop by, and I just don't, and that's how you can tell I don't love Grandma. What sort of person doesn't love his grandma? I could at least give her a call. (I think I will tomorrow.)

This scared me, because not loving Grandma is a lot worse than speeding, but I felt worse about speeding than about not loving Grandma.

I was thinking about why I felt so bad, and I figured it was because I had been confronted by an authority figure, and not because I was actually contrite.

After supper, I went into the sanctuary, and sat, alone, and prayed that God would change my heart, and that I would be more loving, like Jesus. I prayed that I would at least love Grandma more than I did then.

During the service, I was distracted by Clara. Clara is, I don't know, five years old? Clara's family was sitting right in front of me. Clara wouldn't sit still, and kept jumping from her seat with her parents across the aisle to her friend, and then back again. I was irritated with Clara because I felt terrible about speeding and not loving Grandma, and it's Good Friday, which is a good day to feel terrible about how bad we are, and I was trying to focus on God, and Clara wasn't being very reverent at all.

And then, Clara handed a piece of paper to her mom. It was a card that said, "I love you, Jesus. From Clara."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going out of Business

I was driving around Columbia one day, and saw a sign for a CompUSA going out of business sale. On my way to the CompUSA, I saw another sign for a Hollywood Video going out of business sale. I got great deals at each place, however, the countenance of the workers was unusual, because they were losing jobs they weren't excited about in the first place, but they know that the faster they sold stuff, the sooner they'd stop getting paid.

Something just occurred to me about Curious George. Curious George's friend is The Man with the Yellow Hat, but The Man is wearing yellow pants and a yellow shirt, too.

It turned out that the Hollywood Video was five miles from where I saw the sign indicating the going out of business sale. I stopped in at the library to look it up on Google maps. While there, I got a cup of coffee from the vending machine. I don't like paying for coffee when I'm out, because I can make it for so much cheaper at home, but I always get coffee from a vending machine, even if I don't need the caffeine. I like watching a robot make coffee for me.

At Hollywood Video, as I was browsing the racks, I heard a middle-aged woman gasp with excitement: I looked to see her pick up a copy of "Holiday".

I prepared a pizza bagel at home in the toaster oven, and melted cheese dripped through the annulus of the bagel. There needs to be a word for this annulus cheese.

I hate washing my hands while wearing a jacket, because of what I call the wet-hand-loose-sleeve problem. If I angle my hands down, my sleeves slip down, and get wet from my hands. If I angle my hands up, the water drips down my elbows, inside the jacket. I lament my inability to remember to pull up my sleeves before going to the bathroom.

I don't get the American drive to combine things. At a discount store, I saw an Easter-themed travel checkers set, in which the checkers were pegs shaped like carrots. I also don't get strawberry-kiwi juice or four cheese pizza--one cheese is enough.

Some people are mostly vegetarian, but they eat fish. I want to be the sort of person who's mostly vegetarian, but also eats whales.

Why did I buy Gattaca? It was only $5 in the Wal*Mart Bargain Bin. I haven't watched it, and I've owned the DVD for two years now.

I think there ought to be a dentist clinic funded primarily by the loose change that falls out of people's pockets when tilted back at an odd angle in the dentist's chair.

I think it would be great if there were car racks for bikes, so you can take your car with you on the bike trail.

Slinkies are great for people like me who can't juggle.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


[I wrote most of this on a snow day, a Thursday in February, and on the day after that.]

I clipped my fingernails just now, and so I have trouble picking stuff up.

I was in a bad mood, so I made postmodern food. Here is my recipe:
1 lb. tempeh
2 jars spaghetti sauce, nothing weird, maybe the kind with a little garlic and basil in it
3 Bell peppers, cut into 1/4" strips
1 Onion, diced
Some Blueberries (frozen is fine)
Olive oil, I guess
Blanch the tempeh, then chop it into triangles, and set it aside. Fry the onions in a little olive oil. Throw everything in the pot, including the tempeh. Bring it to a boil. Top with the bell peppers. This is awesome food, because the blueberries suck up the spaghetti sauce and they burst in your mouth with sweetness and acidity at the same time. I didn't have enough spaghetti sauce, so I had to go to the grocery store.

It snowed today, and school was closed. Snow is the one natural thing that grown-ups can't keep from interfering with their work. I like snow, because I pretend it's God's way of telling us we need a day off.

When I was in middle school, my friend, Dave, said that snow is like grace, because it covers everything, and you can see what everything was, but it looks completely different, at the same time.

One time, I was talking with my friend, Harold, about snow, and how it's like grace. I mentioned that my friend, Amber, doesn't like thinking of it that way, because she always thinks of the homeless people who are stuck out in the snow. Harold said that it's probably still okay to think of snow as a reminder of grace. He told me about a friend he has who is homeless. The friend would accept food and money as gifts, but, when it was snowy, Harold offered to let his friend into his house, but the homeless friend declined. Harold's mercy was available to his friend, but the friend didn't accept that mercy, so he was stuck, cold and wet in the snow.

So, I was in a bad mood, and I had left my food in a pot on the stove while I went to get more spaghetti sauce. I also needed gummi worms. I've never seen a sad person eating gummi worms. The gummi worms at Giant were unacceptable, they were chalky and very short, so I went to Wal*Mart instead and got gummi worms there. The gummi worms at Wal*Mart were a lot better, they were clear and stretchy. The only problem was that some of the gummi worms were a combination of red and orange, and those two colors don't go together.

When I grow up, I'm going to sell gummi worms with gummi surgical equipment, a scalpel and a needle and that special thread used in dissolving sutures. You can perform segment transplants, so that the gummi worms are only made of colors that go together. It's also fun to tuck a half a dozen gummi worms into my upper lip and let them dangle and pretend to be a monster.

I saw an armored truck parked right in front of the Walmart, with its warning lights on, in the middle of the crosswalk. Do armored trucks ever get towed illegally?

My favorite cocktail is the rusty nail, which is 9 parts Scotch whisky and 5 parts Drambuie, with ice to taste. I like to wait until the ice melts before eating.

As I write this, I'm sitting in the library atrium, avoiding finding useful articles for my research. It's late on Friday afternoon, the place is almost empty.

I notice that there is a table set up near the guard station, where you are supposed to leave your food, before entering the library proper. On the table sits a twelve-inch sub from Sub Connections. There is no guard.

I am tempted to steal the sandwich, and take it into the library, and devour it directly in the middle of the stacks, to see if I can do it without getting noticed. The only thing stopping me is that the sandwich might have meat on it; I'm a vegetarian.

Defibrilator and Spaz are excellent names for energy drinks.