Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

By the way, isn't this a cool present?

Monday, December 24, 2012


Do you know what today is? That's right it's my birthday! Yay! *muppet arms*

That means that tomorrow is Christmas. Did you ask for anything geeky this Christmas? Since 2008, I've asked for Magic cards for Christmas. And since 2008, I've had them. Stephen has already given me his gift this year to me, and it was Magic cards, so I get to say that it is still true.

I just wanted to post for my birthday on here. Other than that, hope everyone has a good holiday time with Christmas (or Channakuh or Kwanzaa) and New Year's.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Magic of an Open Mind

You know what's interesting about nerds? They like to learn and discover but are probably more close minded then the general public. Think about it. How many fellow gamers do you know refuse to play certain games with you even though they've never tried it?

I've found that when I have a closed mind, refuse to try something new, and hold on to predisposed judgements that I shoot myself in the foot. Let's take my experience of the game of Magic: The Gathering as an example.
Downtown Sykesville, MD. Jared and I lived near here.

I was first introduced to the game of Magic by my childhood friend Jared in the year 1997. (Great year, by the way. Lot's of great games and cool stuff happened.) We played one game and I had no idea what was going on. Really, I just like the artwork on the cards. I decided the game was stupid and too complicated.

I think it was in that same year that I was introduced to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Even though I was obsessed with Pokémon I thought the game boy games were better and got turned off from reading card games all together. My prejudice kept me from enjoying a great game.

I didn't touch Magic again until I was on my mission where it was reintroduced to me by my mission companion Elder Dylan Kaminske. Kaminske loved the game and insisted that it wasn't as complicated as I remembered. I decided I would play with him for a few games one P-Day.

Kaminske is good. I was still lost in trying to understand the game. I was a little bit of a sore loser too. "This makes me just want to make my own card game," I said. I liked the concept of Magic but felt like whoever had the better deck won.

So again, my prejudices were reinforced by not understanding the game and thinking I could create something better. It would be years before I would look at Magic cards again. I convinced myself I could never be good at the game and would never have the time or money to invest in to it.

About 3 or 4 years passed and I found myself in Utah. Since then, I had been trying new things. I met online friends in real life. I made crazy plans to moce to Southern California. I adopted a mindset that comforts and familiarities were nice but didn't help progress me into who I wanted to become. Because of these changes in my mindset I warmed up to the idea of moving to Utah when my other plans failed.

When I moved to Utah I made friends with Joe and later met and became friends with T.J. One day, one or both of them wanted to play Magic. "Why not?" I thought. "They're ridiculously good at every game I play with them and in the end I just want to spend time with them."

So I played Magic for the third time in my life. This time my mind and attitude had matured and I played the game without the pride I had adopted. I don't remember who won but I remember having a lot of fun. Did they change the rules of the game since I last played? No, I changed since I last played.

If I had continued to hold on to that prejudice I would not have experienced the joy of the company of great friends and a game I'm finding I am more and more passionate about. I see the game differently now. Where before I thought I could make a better game, I now feel it's the standard of care games.

Do you see how letting go of judgements and beliefs actually helped me? Do you think that it could help you? How many geeks do you know who refuse to try sports or non fantasy books out? They could be denying themselves of experiences that could fill needs and help them learn something.

I'd like to invite all of you readers to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. I'll be doing this too. I'll even make a new year's resolution from it. Do it for you and do it for fun.

Now, I want to give a special invitation to the non-geek readers. I am currently planning a Mormon Geeks hosted Magic Tournament. This will be a public event and ooen to everyone. When a date and location has been set, I would like to have non magic players come just to try it out. The less needy you are, the better! We will make sure there are tables just for the uninitiated.
My childhood best friend Michael found something like this exploring one day with our little brothers.  I wish I had gone with them.  Missed out on something cool.

Bring a date! Meet new people. Discover something new. Adventure is always just outside our door step. Really, what have you got to lose? (OK, besides 20 hit points.)


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Joe catches up

In case anyone hasn’t been able to tell from my recent posts I’ve been busy with finals recently. Because of this and the fact that my preferred living position is with my feet up in my Lazy Boy, I haven’t had a chance to talk about all the topics that have been popping up recently. So here’s Joe playing catch-up on his Christmas vacation.
1: the tragedy in Connecticut
We at Mormon Geeks are devastated by the shootings last week in Newtown, Connecticut and offer our condolences to those affected by this tragedy. I know that our Father in Heaven has welcomed his beloved children back to His arms and that families will be reunited again in a place beyond fear and pain. So much has already been said on this so all I want to do is leave with my testimony that I know there will be a time when we will all be reunited.
2: The Church’s new website
A few weeks ago the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints launched its new website in order to help members who struggle with same-sex attraction. A lot has been said about it by both sides of the fence, but as a guy who sat through the law of chastity lesson as a priest and remembers the sweaty first counselor of the bishopric stammer out under his breath that if you were having erotic dreams about your same sex to talk to the bishop, I feel that this is definitely a step forward. I love how clear and concise the Apostles are on same-sex attraction, and the member testimony is incredibly inspirational. Weather you struggle with same-sex attraction or not, I highly recammend you check out the website for yourself.
3: Christmas
I have a confession: I am really not the biggest fan of Christmas. For the life of me I cannot figure out how trampling each other through stores and going into crippling debt in any way celebrates the birthday of a man born in a manger and was heralded by angels to bring “Peace and goodwill towards men”. Luckily my family is Wiccan and they celebrate Yule, which is celebrated a few days beforehand so I get my big fun family celebration one day and a nice quiet reverent holiday the next (Although knowing me I’m probably going to end up spending Christmas day on my beforementioned Lazy Boy in my underwear playing video games).
A cool part about the digital age is that there are just so many ways to express ourselves on the internet, and I have found myself a neat one. Pintrest is a picture sharing site where you can essentially make little bulletin boards of pictures you like and show them off to your friends. Check out the new Stuff from a Mormon Geek board and see some neat geek stuff!
5: The Apocalypse
If the Mayans have any say the world should be coming to an end by Friday. Luckily, the world has pretty much taken this as kind of a joke so I doubt we’ll see much panicking or even the low level looting we got with Y2K. How do you think the world will end? My money is on either Cthuhlu will rise from the ocean or the zombie apocalypse is going to start up. Either way should be fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Minecraft - Feed the Beast - a little bit of everything

Disclaimer: this post is very long and may cause explosions or raving about pipes and wires.  You have been warned! Also, the screenshots tend to 'bleed' into the side bar...actually it's more like a hostile takeover.  For science!

Awhile back, I did a post on Minecraft on here, showing off a house that I had built.  After that, I sort of lost interest in Minecraft for awhile.  A few weeks ago, I saw a YouTube video about a modpack called 'Feed the Beast'.  Basically, a mod is something that adds something new to the game of Minecraft.  A modpack is a whole set of mods to modify the game.

Feed the Beast adds a LOT of stuff into the game (yes, that does deserve capital letters!).  I've been playing for about a week, and I've only played with a small number of the mods on the game.

One of the mods adds new biomes to the game.  Minecraft already has things like deserts, forests, taiga, etc.  The modpack adds in things like redwood forests, mountainous deserets, autumn forests (forests with autumn colored trees), and wastelands.
Redwood forest, from the top
A wasteland (the text is from a waypoint system in the mod pack)
Snowy Rainforest biome

A mod called ForestryCraft adds in things like automatic tree farms, wheat farms, cactus farms, etc.  It also adds in bees and beekeeping.  Kind of interesting step back from the usual build/explore of Minecraft.  You can have pet bees!

For me, the biggest add was from the mods IndustrialCraft, BuildCraft, and GregTech.  These mods add in machines, engines, generators, and all sorts of pipes.  Currently, I have a number of solar panels, water mills, generators that burn wood (and other things) as fuel.  There's also a machine that doubles how much metal I can get from ores.  The pipes can be used to pull items out of machines or sort them.  It even adds something called a 'Mining Laser' which speeds up mining, automated mining, new armors that are powered by electricity, and jetpacks.  Yes, jetpacks.  I can now fly around Minecraft instead of walking everywhere.

Standard farm, but with new crop stakes.  Allows me to harvest without having to replant
Me in my nano suit with my nano sword
A mod called 'MystCraft' adds in linking books as well as the ability to create new 'ages' in the game.  I haven't experimented with that much.  I mostly use linking books to travel between the 'Overworld', the Nether, and the Twilight Forest.

A shot (from left to right), blast furnace (for making steel), coal coke oven, enchanting table, and a linking book stand
Closer view of the linking stand
Purpose of this part of my laboratory is to create lava out of netherrack
Lava generator at work
Speaking of the Twilight Forest, that is another new mod.  It adds in a whole new area to explore.  It contains large trees, areas called 'dark forests' where the sun doesn't shine, hedge mazes, underground mazes, hills full of treasure and monsters, and a few new bosses.  I've only encountered a bit of the content that the forest has.  I just recently found the first boss and it was a tough fight (even with my super new armor and weapons).

Portal to the Twilight Forest, as well as a bug from it.
Welcome to the Twili- what the crap is this big whole doing here?
Wow.  Looks like someone was doing some strip mining here.
Sure is a thick canopy...what is that big orange thing?
It's my quarry, going to work at strip mining another part of the twilight forest.
So dark, I'm being attacked by a naga? Thing was so fast, that was the best screenshot I got of it.
More screenshots of my base
A shot of my underground base, full of machines, pipes, wires, etc.
Another shot of pipes and machines.  These ones provide power to the automatic tree farm
I like watching items spin around this square...
Barrels! They hold 64 full stacks of one item.  Above them is part of my sorting system
My super large power storage unit, and a bunch of strange blocks.  Shall we take a closer look?
What is all this heavy duty stone and this door for?
Oh, it's a nuclear reactor.  And it's active!
Complicated set-up, but somehow it didn't explode
Storage chest, my crafting table, and a bed. As well as an alchemy stand.
The main entrance to my base.  Can't get out of it you say?
Jet packs make it easier.
Solar panels
An automatic tree planter/harvester
My bee hives!
Water mills
I sure hope PETA doesn't find out about this...
The mining laser?  You're curious about that?  I definitely was!  I decided to put the thing to use to help my quarry cut through the leaves of the forest faster (leaves are about 8-10 layers thick).  I decided to play around with the 'explosive setting'...

This quarry is moving far too slow!
Trying not to aim to close to myself
I'm firin' ma laser!
A large crater is left

Monday, December 17, 2012

Take the Good, Take the Bad

We here at Mormon Geeks send out our sorrow for the families and friends of the victims in the school shooting last Friday. Being a father of a child in that age range, the whole situation terrifies me and makes me want to hug my children more, tell them I love them more often, and keep them as close to my heart as I can.

With that, my title for today's post is completely irrelevant to my above comment as I compare and contrast two very different movies...but before I go there, I wish to congratulate Denise on winning Survivor's 25th season last night. Something unique about Denise is that she walked away from every single Tribal Council without once getting voted out. Gotta say, that's a tough thing to do.

I'm sad that Lisa Whelchel (who portrayed Blair on the 80s show The Facts of Life) made it to the finals to lose. She did awesome and I was glad that I voted for her to win the $100,000 viewer's choice award from Sprint. Her show's theme song (Facts of Life, not Survivor) is the inspiration for this post.

I don't get to see movies very often. And at home, I feel like spending two to two-and-a-half hours of movie watching is a long time to devote. Although, I must say that I'm pretty sure my wife and I have watched more movies this year in relation to TV shows than we have in years past. This past weekend, I got to see one movie in the theater with Stephen and then one movie on Saturday on DVD with my wife. I don't think I've watched that many movies that close together. Not too mention the previous Sunday where my wife and I watched another movie.

Anyway...the movie Stephen took me to for my upcoming birthday was The Hobbit. To be frankly honest, I wasn't that excited to see it. I knew it was a long movie (look at LotR for past precedence) and I just didn't want to spend that much time in a theater. But...I also needed to relax and being forced to sit in a theater would have to let me do that...which it did.

Let me recap the movie for you.... slow....  slow.... interesting... more interesting... good.... better... awesome... worth seeing again. Yeah, me--the guy who doesn't like to sit through a movie--actually wants to see a LOOONG movie again. First, it's definitely worth seeing. I've read the Hobbit (I haven't read Lord of the Rings) and the movie does it justice. What annoys me is that they added a lot from other Tolkien novels to complete the Middle-Earth world. Seeing as how they've expanded what could've made an awesome single movie into three, I feel like the 2nd film could jip the audience.

Regardless, I must admit that I really enjoyed the film and it made me wish to reread the novel (which I will hopefully do in early 2013).

Something that I like about The Hobbit was the kinship I feel toward Bilbo. When I first read The Hobbit, I felt I connected to his height (well duh), but also his desire to enjoy his quaint home and ignore the rest of the world. That's me. I prefer to be home. I enjoy the quaint. I don't seek out adventure. But, when the option comes along, I will surprise myself occasionally and say "sure, why not?" Example: this past Summer Stephen and I participated in the Cahoots Duo Challenge. But ordinarily, I like my stay-at-home order.

On the flipside, there's a movie that my wife and I finally watched: The Dark Knight (aka Batman 2 aka Heath Ledger's final film). One of my biggest reasons for not watching movies (especially during the day) is because my children like to interrupt us. Having played in the snow earlier that day, we figured we could get our kids to watch Netflix so we could watch The Dark Knight (we've owned it on DVD for like 3 years and it hadn't been opened).

I liked the film for what it was. It was definitely dark and its message of "there are good people in this world regardless of who you break" is very good. And, I absolutely believe that Heath Ledger did give the performance of his life portraying the Joker and deserves the praise and accolades that he posthumously received. 

With that, though, the film made me miss what had me fall in love with the Batman series. I don't like dark. So when one compares the 1960s' Adam West series and the 80s/90s film series (okay, I admit the last one wasn't good at all), to this series, it gives a whole different feel. I prefer lighter, but that's the timid, optimistic guy speaking. Regardless, The Dark Knight was a worthy one-time watch.

In the end, having been a Batman fan before, this pulled my love of the superhero away a bit and had me wishing for my calm Hobbit friends.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who is Dr. Who?

Honestly what is so great about this Dr. Who show? Every time I turn on my Facebook I see at least 10 pics, sayings or whatever featuring a blue phone booth and something called a darlect. Dr. Who Christmas trees, Dr. Who baby costumes, people dressing in ugly tweed coats with little magic wand things. I'm not trying to be insulting here I seriously want to know what this show is about. From what I can gather this guy is some sort of time/dimensonal cop with a time traveling phone booth that's bigger on the inside than on the outside... and somehow this is the coolest thing ever? I'm open to trying new things, my brother just got me into Supernatural and it was only about a year or so ago that I fell in love with Firefly and Avatar the Last Airbender.
So I invite Whovians to post why I need to get into this show, and no I will not accept "Just watch it and give it a try" as an answer.