Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Some Funny Videos For Monday's Aftermath

I've got a case of Monday aftermath (and writer's block).  So, instead of writing, I'm going to share some YouTube videos that I've found to be entertaining.

Today's first video is a fun spin on music videos.  What if the music video said what was really going on rather than the song lyrics?  The result is 'Total Eclipse of the Heart: The Literal Version'.  Enjoy!  (Video is definitely rated PG-13).



The next video comes from the music of Jonathan Coulton.  At times, I've been tired of being the skinny geek, yet this video gives me hope that one day, I will rule the world!  Well, maybe if I manage to eliminate all the other Mormon Geeks authors first!  Just kidding.



Going again with the theme of music to a strange twist.  How about a home made music video to 'Ride of the Valkyries'?  It was actually made by a friend of mine from college who is also now a co-worker of mine.  Random, probably like this blog post.



Perhaps you've heard one of the 'latest hit' songs 'Call Me Maybe'.  Or perhaps, you've hated the song.  Well, as I said to a friend of mine, "The Muppets make everything better!"  Cookie Monster definitely proves this in his latest music video.



How about ending this random blog post with a random video of a cat saying gibberish?  I think so!



Anyways.  There are plenty of other entertaining Muppets videos on their channel, many other 'literal versions' of music videos out there, and Jonathan Coulton has many other interesting music videos.  Alas, one blog post is far too short to share all of those things.

Have a comment, complaint, or doubt about Mormon Geeks (or my sanity)? Have a funny video that you would like to share?  Leave it in the comments!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Energy Drinks: Yes, Please

I love energy drinks in general. I've tried many of them, to be honest. Some I like. Some I don't. Some are awesome! Some are...meh...But herein lies more than just my opinion, the story of how I arrived at various energy drinks.




While working one day after a long night, I went and bought myself a Red Bull. I kinda enjoyed its Sweet Tart flavor. (For my friend Casey who loves Red Bull, sorry, I still think it tastes like liquid Sweet Tarts.) So, every once in a while, I would drink a Red Bull.


After visiting my brother in Vegas one year, I went to fill up before my long drive home. Well, usually, I would buy the Hostess chocolate (or crumb) Donettes as my breakfast along with a Sprite. I left somewhat early in the morning (to avoid my nephews being sad at my leaving). When I walked into the Arco, I decided I needed something healthier than Donettes and grabbed an energy bar. Fearing that the Sprite would just make me tired, I walked over to the caffeinated section of the store. On this morning, I discovered SoBe's No Fear.

My logic was I loved the other SoBe drinks and decided to try this. At first sip, I thought it was odd, but then I really enjoyed it. It definitely helped with my 5-hour drives between Vegas and Ventura County, CA. It REALLY helped me on my 7 1/2-hour drives between Logan, UT and Las Vegas.

When I got married, my wife convinced me that I didn't need them for our drives from Logan to Vegas. Yeah.....seeing as how she slept from Cedar City to North Las Vegas, she has no idea how tired I really was because, let's face it, it's a lot of driving.

Over the next few years I occasionally would have a SoBe No Fear for the drive to Vegas. Occasionally, I'd want an energy drink, but decided not to. One day, my boss at my previous job had Diet Rockstar energy drinks that she offered me. Somehow, I imagine slop tasting better. (Not really, but you get the point.) It just did not taste good and it caused my stomach to be very unhappy with me. After drinking a second one a few weeks later, I decided this wasn't the drink for me. I didn't need energy to run to the restroom. I really didn't drink anything for a while.

And then my son was born (2nd child). With my daughter (1st), I worked 10 minutes away and had to wake up by 7:00 at the latest. I would get up with her at 5:30 (and plenty of times for an hour around 1:30 or 2:30 without my wife even knowing about it) to feed her a bottle. But with my son, I had to be up by 6:00 at the very latest and drive at least 40 minutes to work. He decided he needed to be up a few times in the middle of the night. One day my wife gave me her permission to drink a SoBe No Fear. So I went to the store all excited to discover it was out of them.

Well, I decided that Rockstar and I were sworn enemies. Red Bull still gave me thoughts of Sweet Tarts. So I ventured out and tried Monster. And you know what, I have not looked back since. Monster is my preferred drink. Even their Absolute Zero or low calorie versions are tasty for me. I know not everyone agrees with me, but you know what, don't care. Obviously I'm not keeping them in business (I am helping though.)



For the environmentally/financially concerned. There is a semi-cheaper version to all these drinks. (And when I say semi-cheaper, I don't mean "healthier-for-you". This is not a "drink this, not that" kind of thing. This is a "I like to drink this, deal with it" sort of thing.) 

The awesome people at SodaStream created this energy drink. (Add to carbonated water using their special system.) For me, it tastes somewhere between a regular Red Bull and the red (non-juice) Monster. It's also a lot cheaper. But it does take some time to make it. I mean, really, who can spare 2 minutes these days? (Oh wait, that'd be real people who aren't lazy, my bad.)


And here's another selection. One day I went to the store and someone was stocking the Amp energy drinks. So I asked him what he thought of them. He convinced me to buy one (I'm a firm believer in "try it before you convince yourself you don't like it" as opposed to my childhood alter ego whose motto was "if it isn't PB&J, candy, or milk, I don't want it.) In trying it, I decided that it was by far not my favorite. But it definitely beat out Rockstar in preference. And now I can say I've tried most the major brands out there.

I've even tried various different Rockstar drinks (none of which really fit me). I've tried about 3 different Amps (meh). I've enjoyed my SoBe No Fear (only one I've ever seen). I've tasted the low cal version of Red Bull. And I've had all but one of the Monsters (WOOT!)

In conclusion, I've suddenly become very thirsty.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Procrastination: The Other White Sin

A week or two ago I talked about how great film making was.  Then I talked about how things that we love to do, whether it is drawing, playing music, or making movies will often get put on the back burner.  Why do we do this?

I remember one time my mission president was interviewing me.  I had become a little inactive in my planning efforts.  My mission president lovingly taught me the importance of planning and asked how I felt about it.  I could honestly say that I thought planning was an important tool of the mission.  Indeed, I gained a very strong testimony of it coming home.  Despite knowing how true it was I also knew one other thing about it.

Planning is hard.

Trying to figure out what you're going to do in an area you know nothing about is daunting.  I got exhausted just thinking about planning.  I knew that it was true but had the hardest time getting on my knees for a planning session.  I told my mission president that I knew it was a true principle that I just had a challenge following it.

So why was planning so hard for me to do?  I don't know.  What I do know is that I liked to put it off when I could.  I also know that getting it done felt really good and put my mind at ease.  In the end, I would get scared and procrastinate.

The reason why we don't do productive things we love is because they will truly make us vulnerable and that scares us.  I am so afraid of failure. Last night, I didn't make a commitment I made to myself and an accountability partner.  I agreed that I would have two drawings sketched and inked for a friend's movie he was filming.  Only one was sketched and inked.

I was afraid of my artwork not being good enough and therefore me not being good enough.  I was afraid of new territory of doing artwork for someone else.  I was afraid of not meeting my deadline.  In giving in to my fear I also gave into idleness.

A lot of times we fill our lives with so much stuff and things to do that we don't make time for things that are really important.  I had plenty of time I could have set apart for my artwork but instead chose to give it to friends, facebook, reading articles, and other stuff.  Those other things are not bad but I was doing those things instead of facing my fears and doing what I needed to do.  I needed to do it for me and who I want to become not only as an artist but as man.

Satan will use distractions and get us to procrastinate so we don't go anywhere.  If he can't pull us down he can try to immobilize or slow us down.  Procrastination is easy to do because it feels like we're not hurting anyone or doing anything wrong.  But we do hurt people--ourselves.

Not facing what we are afraid of or uncomfortable with hurts us.  The only way to not procrastinate is simply doing it.  You can't face your fears unless you simply face them.

Yesterday, I didn't meet my deadline but I did do something.  I got one drawing done and without an accountability partner I probably wouldn't have even gotten that drawing finished.  Even having one of my sketches inked makes me feel great.  I know the joys that we have in doing what we love (and things we need to do) can be ours if we simply just do it.
-Stephen

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises review

There's a major problem in the entertainment industry that comes with success, besides the inevitable decline in morality and drug abuse. The problem comes that when someone does something that's hugely successful and popular, there expected to then do it again next time. That's the problem which haunts The Dark Knight Rises, besides the fact that the script writer presumably is a magpie and can't focus long enough to get a coherent thought on paper.
Now let me clarify one thing: I liked Rises. Overall it's a pretty decent movie with a great cast, some really solid acting and impressive visuals. Even though I'm fundamentally a Superman fan, I got a kick out of the portrayal of Batman, Bane, and especially Catwoman. I'm particularly impressed that Nolan didn't turn Hathaway into some sort of Playboy Kitty, but instead made her the best representation of the character I've ever seen. Despite what I'm about to say, go see it, it's definitely worth the time and money.


As I said before though, it's fundamental problem comes with the artist's previous work, namely The Dark Knight. The film was brilliant, not only for a Batman movie but for anything else you want to talk about. It took characters and a world that had been across the map in regards to sillyness and stupid and made them feel real, which is no small feat. Ledger deserved his Oscar, and I hope he feels his work is appreciated now in the next life. The problem at this point was that Rises now had to somehow surpass it's older brother, but without Leger's brilliance to even be referenced to, the film took on more than it could chew and sadly just doesn't live up to its older brother.   
The first issue here is the plot. Without spoiling anything, it's nearly impossible to explain what Rises is really about. Basically Batman has retired since the incident with Two-Face and friends down by the dock, leaving Bruce Wayne to be a shut-in billionaire pining after his lost Rachel, that Kirsten Dunst looking girl from the other films. Then events transpire that require the return of Batman and Wayne jumps to the call to stop the evil Bane from.... doing stuff... Even if you see the whole thing the main villain's motivation is pretty confusing, it being a convoluted mess trying to tie all the films together, which is pretty sad considering the last villains only reason to exist was basically just to mess with Batman and he got an Oscar for it. It feels like Nolan was trying too hard to impress us again, and ended up just creating an avalanche of motivations, sub-plots and secrets that sort of pay off but not really in the end. It's not a bad idea before heading into the theater sitting down with the first two films and review them then checking the finale out. 
Another really sad part about this Batman movie was that there wasn't a whole lot of Batman. We get some nice material of Wayne dealing with his tortured soul and whatnot but he doesn't throw on the suit and kick butt as much as he did in the last two. The film should have been named Batman And All His Angry Friends Go On An Adventure Through Imaginary Chicago. We also don't get a lot of Alfred time, which considering he's the film's comic relief the film get's pretty heavy pretty fast. Hathaway is left to make the sarcastic comments, but she's already pulling the psuedo-love-interest-action-girl routine she just doesn't have time to also be the C3PO of the film. 
I know that I've thrown a lot of negativity about the film, but despite its issues it's still a decent film. If it wasn't sitting in the shadow of the wonders and delights that is Dark Knight I would probably like it more, but we know what Nolan is capable of and this just falls a bit below the bar. Still go see it. If nothing else, I can promise that it's very ending is at least original and moving enough to conclude Batman in the way he as a character diserves, once and for all. 
-JOE

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fun Ways to Pass theTime

Have you ever noticed times in your life where you've 'come to' and realized that you've been enjoying yourself for an extended period of time without even noticing that time was passing?  Such and experience is called 'flow'. (See wikipedia for a bit more explanation)  I've had that experience many times before.  I've had it happen when I'm playing games with friends, when I'm at work, or when I've been enjoying a good video game.  Why do I bring this up?  I feel like my last weekend passed like a dream.

I spent the weekend playing in the Guild Wars 2 beta weekend.  I only had from Friday around noon till yesterday at midnight in order to play the game.  I played in one of their previous beta weekends and I was hooked almost immediately.  One of the things that had me hooked about the game was how beautiful it was.  The graphics aren't cutting edge or super realistic, but the landscapes are pretty stunning for a game.
  
The game play is very unlike other online role playing games that I've played.  First off, the game rewards players more for being skillful than for having the best gear.  There were many times where I had to stay on my toes in order to defeat one or multiple opponents that were bearing down on me.  It took a bit of practice to figure out what worked and how to use my skills to best defeat my opponents.  Second, the game encourages cooperation with other players!  The game creates a number of 'events' that show up where the players have to cooperate together to solve.  The difficulty of the events increases the more players that show up.  Third, the "quests" and events had variety to them.  Some events involved trivia, some involved defending or escorting people or places, and some involved taking down a rather large and nasty monster.  Most, if not all, of the quests gave players options on how to complete them.  I remember doing one quest where I could either retrieve bugs and grubs for cows to eat or I could go and try to cheer up depressed cows.  Fourth, the game encourages players to explore.  Each part of the game has a set of places to discover and "quests" to perform.  It also has a set of 'vistas' that a player can go to in order to see a short cutscene of the area.  Some of the vistas are rather easy to get to.  One of the more difficult ones I did involved doing an extensive jumping puzzle through some old ruins in order to get to the vista.  The game also has other jumping puzzles for players to explore and experience.  I was only able to find one of them this beta weekend, but I am sure there are many more.

Anyways, there are many things from Guild Wars 2 that I didn't have a chance to experience such as dungeons and player vs player combat.  I could spend the rest of this blog post lauding Guild Wars 2 for so many of things that they've done 'right' in the game (like fast travel, being able to access bank accounts at crafting stations, etc).  Anyways, I would like to share with you some Flash games that I've also found to be entertaining over the years.  Perhaps you will find a new way to pass the time and experience some 'flow'.

Diib's Dilemma

In Diib's Dilemma, the player assumes the role of an apprentice that has to traverse Diib's tower.  Armed with his (or is it her?) magic, the apprentice must defeat all the monsters on a level in order to progress to the next level.  Along the way, the player can find runes which will allow him/her in order to unlock new and more powerful spells.  Some spells set traps, others throw fireballs and bolts of lighting, and others will heal the player.  The game starts out with a few simple slimes to defeat, and eventually progresses to powerful monsters like ghosts that will throw lightning bolts through the whole map.  It is a very difficult flash game, and rewards quick thinking, timing, and careful spell selection before each level.  If you're up for a challenging game, try out Dibb's Dilemma!

Merlin's Revenge

Many years ago, my little brother and I would play single player games together.  It's a little more complicated than it sounds.  It usually would devolve into me controlling the movement of the player and my brother controlling the firing capabilities of the player.  Of all the games we played like that, I think I most enjoyed playing Merlin's Revenge with him.  The story of the game is relatively simple.  Merlin sets out to save his friend Berlin.  Merlin's only defense against the monsters in his way is a powerful magical blast.
After saving his friend, Merlin is set on on a second mission (Merlin's Revenge 2).  In this game, Merlin gains the ability to fire energy beams, summon allies, and even transform into other monsters.  Both games provided my brother and I with many fun times together.

 Seedling

Seedling is a very interesting game that I just barely discovered last week.  It is a game that plays very similarly to the 'Legend of Zelda' series, yet it is much more simple.  I haven't had a chance to play through the game all the way, but so far the puzzles have been a bit challenging.  If you feel up to some sword swinging and exploration, go ahead and give Seedling a try.

Monday, July 23, 2012

WWE



(Again, we at Mormon Geeks feel a terrible sadness for those affected by the Aurora tragedy. Please keep those affected in your thoughts and/or prayers.)

When I was a kid, I was a pretty big fan of the WWE (formerly the WWF). From 1990 through 1996, I watched wrestling as often as I could. My mom wasn't a big fan of me watching such violence and did what she could to forbid it. But I still got a little more than 6 years of it before I decided I just didn't have time for it anymore.

There's plenty to like and hate about wrestling. When they're standing up there and talking, I'm thinking, "Shut up and wrestle already." But when they're tossing people over the ropes, jumping off ladders, leaping off the top turnbuckle, landing on the Spanish announce table, or winning a title I want them to win, it's awesome.



Here are pics of who I consider my favorite 3 from that era. Left to right that's the Undertaker (probably the coolest character ever to grace the WWE), Bret Hart (my favorite wrestler during that time), and Shawn Michaels (someone I hated for a while until his character became liked).





Fast forward 15 years to 2011. Netflix has a deal with WWE to have some of its DVDs on Intsant Watch. One of these was "The True Story of Wrestlemania." For whatever reason, I decided to watch it.

In doing so, I got sucked into the stories again and the history. I started watching what I could, including renting DVDs from Netflix that I hadn't seen in over 15 years. I read what I could through Wikipedia about the history I had missed from 1996 to 2011. I had moments of sadness and loss upon hearing how many of my favorites had passed on. Below are three of my favorites that have sadly departed:

From left to right that's The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig), and the Big Bossman. I am still sad at their loss.


 As I read what had happened from 1996 - 2010 in the WWE (since it was early 2011 when I became re-interested in this), I became intrigued by the current wrestlers.

 I was fascinated that the son of one of the greatest villains was wrestling (Ted DiBiase Jr). I started to root for this great villain and was quite glad when he not only became a "good guy", he became one of the major champions (Sheamus).


And then of course, my wife has become minimally invested and even has her own favorite: John Cena.

There are a few reasons I chose to blog about wrestling today. First, today will be the 1,000th episode of WWE's Monday night show called "Monday Night RAW". 1,000 is no small feat. The thing that makes me want to watch it (besides being reinvested into WWE) is that I watched episode 1. I cannot believe it's lasted this long. That is awesome.

Second, I've been thinking about blogging about the WWE. I get mocked for liking it. I got mocked for it when I was younger. I get mocked for it now. I even get mocked by geeks for liking it. It bugs the crap out of me when I'm sitting there watching it and someone who doesn't get it just mocks it automatically. It's one thing to make fun of something or someone that you understand. (I mock the LDS church all the time. But I'm a member and do not lesson my faith in it by saying things like that.)

This was the reason that no one from 1997 to late last year actually knew that I liked wrestling. No one that didn't already know I liked it, had no idea I used to be so into it. I shouldn't be embarrassed for liking something like that anymore than someone should be embarrassed for being a major Harry Potter fan, or aTwilight fan, or a Desperate Housewives fan, or a Days of Our Lives fan, or a Nickelback fan, or a Bachelor Pad fan, or a Real Housewives of (this city) fan, or a Jersey Shore fan, or a Keeping Up With the Kardashians fan.

We get entertained by dumb things at times. I don't think wrestling is dumb, honestly. (About 75% of the time that one of them is talking, telling off somebody else, I do.) I do enjoy it and if you want to mock me, all I have to say is this: Beware, I WILL mock you back, because you obviously want me to do that to you since you're doing it to me.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado tragedy

I feel this day cannot go by without saying something. We at Mormon Geeks are both shocked and saddened at this horrific tragedy that happened last night in Aurora Colorado. I personally was at a midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises with two dear friends and can't imagine what it would've been like to have been thrown into such real terror. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.
Something that I want to say though is that now is not the time for fear. Our world will always be full of mad men who will kill and maim for their own sake, and it is the fear that they want. The only way to truly beat them is to show that they do not rule us, and that power is never found at the end of a gun. This is a theme Christopher Nolan explores in his Batman series, that good people do not cower before evil.
I want to say that if you haven't seen Dark Knight Rises yet and are now questioning weather or not to see it, I say do it. Don't let this man win by spreading fear and chaos. For just under a century movies have been a way for us to escape into other worlds of fantasy and beauty, to set down ourselves for just a moment and be swept away in an adventure, mystery, tragedy, romance, or comedy. Don't let him ruin that.
-JOE

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Film making is Fun!


I got to have a great experience the other day.  On Tuesday, some friends from work invited me to be an extra in their short film they were filmming.  They have a very professional independant studio called J-Wat Productions.  I signed an Actor's Release form and in front of the camera I was no longer Stephen Larsen but a cold, high end, Mafia Thug.  I had no lines and only communicated danger through my steely gaze.

It reminded me how much I enjoyed performing on stage, giving talks, and some other work I've done in student/independant filmmaking.  So I thought I'd share some of the fun stuff I've done over the years.

The first is a whiteboard animation short.  This was my first experience in animation.  I don't think I want to do whiteboard ever again.  Ha ha.  Other kinds of animation I would be open to.

The characters and sound effects were all done by me.  The "music" as well.  I still use the characters Johan the Turtle and Leon the signing Simian in artwork today.

See?

This one is a project I did with my buddy Clint and Taisuke.  Clint filmed Taisuke and I.  I played a jerk roommate.  This was a lot of fun.  Clint is pretty brilliant in his camera work.  We barely even had to edit it.  My teacher liked my acting.  :)

Filmmaking is really a lot of fun.  Why is it that something I love doing I barely ever seem to do? Even drawing, as simple as it is, doesn't get the time it deserves from me.

Answers to questions like this will have to be looked at later.  Until then, enjoy some of my work and pick up a camera and shoot something.
-Stephen

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Support for Claire

I want to take a day and show some support to my friend's daughter, Claire Driggs. I think her father's words explain it all:
Dear Friends and Family:

As most of you know, my sweet daughter, Claire, has been battling cancer for the last nine months - and I'm so happy to report that she's doing great!  She just started a final, two-year maintenance phase of chemo, and with God's help she'll come out cancer free.

She has decided to do a fundraiser to raise money for cancer research - "CureSearch Walk." I wanted to extend an invitation for you to join Team Claire, by making a donation, being on our team to walk on September 29th in Salt Lake City, or by just sending along your blessings to all those children fighting the good fight.

To join or donate, click on this site:

www.curesearchwalk.org/saltlakecity/teamclaire

Also check out the amazing video Claire's sister, Hannah, made.  Go to Hannah's site below to watch:

www.youtube.com/mod2amaryllis

Much love,
Dave Driggs

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to "lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees", well here's a great way to do it. Let's help make it so no child ever has to go through this again.
-JOE

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fraternity Adventures: Building Brotherhood Through Gaming

Forgive me as I reminisce for a bit.

Let's jump back about two years ago.  My best friend growing up, Michael, was designated as the president of a chapter of Sigma Gamma Chi.  Being the friendly person that he is, he invited me to some activities with his fraternity chapter on Thursday night.  One year later, I decided to become a full member of the chapter.  Sadly, last year, the fraternity was disbanded.  It is something that I miss doing each week.


Why do I bring this all up?  One of things that I miss the most about the chapter was the brotherhood that I felt there.  It was a group of people that shared very similar interests.  We enjoyed playing games together.  I seem to remember many weekly meetings where we gather together around one or more games.  It was through the fraternity that I was introduced to many games that I enjoy now.  The most notable one that I can think of is Dominion.

If you haven't been able to tell by my general theme of my blog posts, I love games!  Also, I am a rather shy person.  I found that playing games with the other members helped me to feel more comfortable around the other members of the fraternity.  A good game can also be a invaluable ice breaker.  Games encourage communication and interaction.  After enjoying a good game with someone, I typically feel more comfortable interacting with them.  Also, it has lead to many enjoyable memories of time spent playing games with friends.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bucket List of Games

I love to play games. And you know what, there are probably a million or so different games out there (many of which are probably similar to one another. I mean, how many times can you rename Slapjack, really?) But there are some games that before I die, I would love to play based off marketing campaign or word of mouth. And since Joe hasn't been able to tie me to a chair and force me to play all these games in one long sitting, I can still write this bucket list of games.

Smallworld: A strategic game that sounds a little like Risk, but with some awesome twists to the concept. One day I'll have enough time to play the game, but for now, it just looks friggin' awesome.

Heroclix: You control superhero figurines who have to fight against other superhero figurines. They keep coming up with various sets (and it's weird cause I keep hearing that this is supposed to be discontinued, but it seems like it's living strong.) But the game seems very unique and intriguing. Plus it's superheroes! It's a geek thing.

Shadowrun: I don't know what it is about this game that has me so intrigued. My brother played the RPG game in the mid-late 90s and, as always, never invited me to play. (I don't have younger brother syndrome or anything.) But as I saw a Kickstarter for a new Shadowrun video game, I got really intrigued to learn about this game my brother loved so much. A cyberpunk/fantasy is an awesome world to be in. I would love to get into this one day.

A full Dungeons & Dragons campaign: I've played D&D once. Don't really care to play it again except to try out a full campaign to see if I'm fully disinterested in it or if I really will enjoy it and immerse myself further into geekdom.

A color-wheel Magic: The Gathering game: Yeah, I've played Magic a lot. It's a game I love and know well. But there are many different ways to play the game. One of these is to have a five-player game where each player has a different color (or base color) and sits in the order of the color wheel: white, blue, black, red, green. (White and green are next to each other.) The goal for each player is to remove his/her enemy colors (the two people he/she is not sitting next to). So for white, this would be black and red. For blue this is red and green. And so forth. I just really like the idea. Well, either that or a five-player game where each person has a color and has to be the last one standing. Add the Planechase concept to it and it'd be an awesome game.




Batman: Arkham Asylum: Yeah, even a video game can get on the list. First, I love Batman. One of my favorite shows that KCAL 9 would show in So Cal was the 1960s Batman. But as I watched the Tim Burton Batman movies and the animated Batman series, I started to enjoy the darker feel that came with this character.



Ten-player Master Detective: Clue: I grew up loving traditional board games. Yes, I love chess. Yes, I love Monopoly. Yes, I love Sorry. And by all means, YES, I love Clue. But this version of Clue trumps all other versions of the game that has ever existed. Why? No friggin' clue. (How's that for a pun?) But you have more characters, more weapons, and more rooms. Also, it drops the hall (which I always found to be odd) and gives a not-so-even ratio between rooms, weapon, and players. I love it. Same game, just more. Sidenote: After months of being annoyed at eBay where the cheapest price for a used copy of the game was about $35, I found my copy of the game for $1.00 at a swap meet, which my cousin paid since I had spent the day helping her out with her own booth. I've played it like 5 times in my life, but I want to play it one day where all characters are being used.


Star Trek: Catan: It's Settlers of Catan set in the Star Trek universe. Do I geekily need to say more? I don't think so.

Well, that's 8 games I'd like to try/play one day.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Devotional Sundays: Praying to Know

We got a question from one of our facebook fans this week who asked, " How can I know that the LDS Church is true?"  I decided, seeing that I missed my day to write this week, to write a special blog post to respond to our reader.  Thinking about my blog post today I've come to understand some wonderful things about revelation.

It really isn't all that complicated.

At some point, we have to come to know if the church is true.  In primary, we give the following answers to every question: pray, read your scriptures, go to church, and keep the commandments.  The great thing about these primary answers is that they're true.  If we really want to know if the LDS church is true, we'll pray about it.

The knowledge of the validity of the LDS church cannot be gained simply by researching, investigating, and reflecting.  These are all essential to gaining our knowledge but are nothing without the power of prayer.  Furthermore, prayer without our actions will be meaningless.

On my mission I taught a lot of people that invited us into our home but would never keep their commitments on prayer or attending church.  They would pray at lessons but wouldn't come to church, read, or keep their appointments.  How could they expect to receive an answer to their prayers without living a life to have revelation?

There were other investigators I met on my mission that would keep all of their commitments but never pray.  They are already living their life to receive revelation but do not seek it.  Sometimes they are afraid of more responsibilities or deeper commitments that they don't feel ready to face.  Fear will keep them from fully embracing the gospel and taking the risk and praying to know.

If we really want to know if the LDS church is true we will act on the answer we receive from our prayers.  That can mean some really drastic changes in lifestyles and some difficult sacrifices we have to make.  We won't get an answer to our prayers without acting on what it is we learn.

My mission wasn't a story filled mission.  I certainly had many wonderful experiences and learned so much about the gospel.  I was averagely successful in inviting people to be baptized.  Many of the converts I helped bring to the gospel are now less active though it is wonderful to hear from them.  Despite all this the biggest success from my mission, something I'm so thankful and proud of, is just in one convert:  myself.

I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true church of my savior Jesus Christ on the earth.  I didn't see an angel.  I didn't take 8 years of intense college study.  I didn't take investigative trips to upstate New York, Israel, and the south Americas.  I know the church is true because I prayed about it.  The answer I received through the divine influence of the holy ghost confirmed to me what I believed.  Then I took two years where I biked in cold rain, had hundreds of doors slammed in my face, and was insulted regularly.

I wouldn't trade those two years for anything else in my life.  The blessings and knowledge of the restored gospel is worth any pain or discomfort I experienced then or now.  Truth is hard but it's worth it.  I know that if you want to know if the church is true, and if you're willing to act on it, you will receive your answer through the power of prayer.

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.  I hope these words help you find the answers you're looking for.  I know that although it is hard to sometimes live the gospel that it is worth it.  Life is meant to be enjoyed not just endure.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Sunday post!

Watch out tomorrow when we're going to have a very special post from Stephen Larsen!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oz The Great and Powerful trailer

Something's been circling the internet lately, a trailer that warms my little heart.
http://disney.go.com/thewizard/?cmp=NLC-CDE|ozg|Launch|TrailerDebut|Primarybutton|Watchnow|071212|||synMovInTheatM|#main
That's right. It's a Wizard of Oz prequel.
Between this and The Witches of Oz TV series set to come out this year, it's looking like the Wizard of Oz is going to be like how Snow White was this year. I'm actually looking forward to this thing, though I am curious as to why James Franco picked up the roll. He seems more of the action-fighting-monkeys-chopping-off-arms-drinking-his-own-pee actor than a let's-go-play-in-CGI-land actor. But whatever it'll either rock the world or end up in a $.99 bin at Kmart.
-JOE

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Once Upon a Time and the pre-existence

So here's a modern concept: I watch all my TV online. I have never been able to guarantee that I'm going to be home a certain time every week to catch whatever show I'm currently drooling over, so the fact that Hulu, Netflix and networks themselves put full episodes online fills my little heart with glee. Right now, among other great shows, my girlfriend and I are catching up on ABC's Once Upon a Time. During one of these cutesie date nights by laptop light, I realized the show has a neat allegoric to one of our most treasured principals- we lived before we came here.
The show follows a bunch of fairy tale characters, namely Snow White and Prince Charming, who are placed under a powerful spell by the evil Queen to be teleported to a distant land where all their happily ever afters are taken away. This manifests in the form of a small town in Maine called Storybrook, where all the fairy tale characters live without memories of their prior selves. The only way to break the curse is if Snow White and Charming's daughter, a freaking awesome bounty hunter named Emma Swan, who was protected from the curse by an enchanted wardrobe forged by Gepphetto. I know, this sounds like if Buffy the Vampire Slayer slammed into Kingdom Hearts, but stick with me I'm getting somewhere.
The only people who know the curse exists at all is the evil Queen, now manifested as the mayor of Storybrook, and her son Henry. An interesting twist is that Henry is actually Emma's son, that she put up for adoption and was snatched up by the Queen. Henry knows about the curse because of a storybook his teacher, the former Snow White gave him, that has the history of the land before they all showed up in Maine.  The show flashes between Storybrook and fairytale land to reveal plot points and show what the characters were like and what they did before the curse.
The part I wanted to get to is the phrase that chokes me up every time I think of it, "All your happily ever afters will be taken away". Right before the curse hit, it seems like all the fairy tales had reached their conclusions, thus everyone was happy. Pinocchio was a real boy, Red Riding Hood had Granny, Snow White had her Prince Charming and even had a daughter. They lived in a beautiful kingdom in relative peace, which makes the Queen's curse that much more painful. As the series begins, Snow White is a lonely school teacher, Charming is in a coma, and even Jiminy Cricket, now the town's psychiatrist(which in my opinion was just writing genius) is forced to sell out his own consius to keep his job and home. All this so that the evil  Queen can play with everyone's lives and make them just as miserable as she is.
There is a ray of hope. As I mentioned before, Snow White's daughter was sent to our world before the curse could effect her. In the first episode there's a scene where Snow is crouched over her husband as he bleeds out from a wound, tears running down her cheeks in her daughter's nursery. The evil Queen walks in, flings open the magic wardrobe's doors to reveal the baby has disappeared. Snow looks up at her, smiles, and through tears says "It's too late. You've already lost." Emma shows up at the insistence of her son, and stays when she believes the Mayor is mistreating him. Her presence in the town causes unforeseen changes, including Charming to wake up and townsfolk finding the courage to stand up to their oppressive monarch.
What does this have to do with pre-existence? To me everything. Like us, the characters come from a world where they were happy, but have now forgotten who they really are in exchange for the beliefs about themselves that evil has forced upon them.  How many women struggle with self-worth when once they were princesses? How many men cower in the face of a challenge when once they charged into battle against the Adversary? Why are so many content to be peasants when called to be heroes? When we remember who we were, that we stood with our Savior and agreed to come down to what the wicked Queen called "Somewhere horrible", then we realize that "were" should be replaced with "are" and we live up to our true potential. We can become the righteous kings and queens our heritage provides us, by overcoming the world and standing up to what we know is right.
I know why I get teary eyed at the idea that "everyone's happily ever after was taken away", it's because this really isn't the place where happily ever after is. That place is yet to come.
-JOE

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writer's Block: The Fear of Being Stuck

Today's post is going to be more personal in nature.  If you're not interested, you can still enjoy the funny pictures of cats!

Today, for whatever reason, I'm experiencing some bad writer's block.  For some reason, it's reminding me of a fear that I have: the fear of being stuck.

When I was a child (somewhere between six and eight years old) I was playing near some tables that my parents had.  At one point, I somehow got my hand stuck in between some slats that made up the bottom part of the table.  For what felt like an eternity, I was unable to remove my hand.  I remember that it hurt, and I was crying.  Eventually, I was able to remove my hand (probably with the help of one of my parents). 

Ever since then, I've felt a sense of panic if I'm unable to move part of my body.  Sometimes this can lead to particularly violent reactions to people trying to hold or restrain me.  I will fight to try to escape, even if it is causing me pain.  It can sometimes be a little dangerous when I'm playing with my nieces and nephews.  Luckily, I'm able to somewhat distinguish that I'm not 'stuck' just temporarily being held by them.

I've noticed that this fear of being stuck can extend to other sort of situations.  I notice it most frequently in social situations.  If a person is talking to me, and I don't want to continue talking to them, it can lead to some feelings of fear.  In fact, there are some people I try to avoid because I know that I may become 'stuck' in a conversation that I'm just not interested in.  I've found that it also extends to other situations.  If there is a puzzle or a problem that I don't know how to solve, I have a tendency to avoid it.
How does this relate?  Having writer's block is reminding me that I'm feeling stuck.  I feel quite a bit of pressure to produce interest and relevant content for this blog.  Some weeks, I think I'm just writing a post to have a post and that I'm the only person who finds the post interesting.  I often feel myself stuck between the pressure to produce something, and the thought that no one finds it interesting.

Of course, most of that is probably in my head.

Thank you for enduring this post.  Feel free to share this or other posts from Mormon Geeks.  If you don't, the cat below may come to your home and eat all your food.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's All In The Numbers

For those that know me, you know I'm a corporate accountant. Here's a bit of truth that people don't understand: the majority of accountants don't actually like numbers. They're decent at algebra and the occasionally algebra 2, but really, they understand how this action creates this reaction. There are many concepts in accounting that are learned through study and experience.

Me? Oh yeah, I fit that stereotypical, number-loving, nerdy geek. Yep, that's me. Today, I'm gonna share with you some of my favorite number references.

The first is a funny moment. Yeah, I can be funny once in a while.  And if you don't find it funny, meh, not gonna care too much.

I was with my in-laws and I can't recall what we were talking about. But at one point in the conversation, my father-in-law says "No, 2 is not a two-digit number." To which I replied, "It is when it looks like a 10." (If you don't get, you're not geeky enough, sorry.)




π: Pie is awesome. Well, it is, but I digress. Pi is also awesome. I love its randomness. The fact that it's incomplete and can keep being calculated further and further out. And really, I only know pi as 3.14. But on March 14th, it'd be awesome if more people celebrated pi day with pie. It just means so much to the balance of the universe.


42: Thanks to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to everything. If you have a problem you can't figure out, just put 42 down. 


7: The bible has many references to the number seven. It is complete, good, lucky, and positive. In some religions, it has one negative to it: The seven deadly sins. I love looking at this concept of how all sins stem from the seven vices of wrath, greed, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, and pride. Also, you get to see six out of the seven in one of my favorite movies (hence the reason you see the Willy Wonka cast above.)



May 4th: The ultimate Star Wars fan day (hello, dates have numbers to them). "May the fourth" is just an awesome way to look at a day. I wish I could have a trilogy marathon every May 4th. It'd be an awesome way to celebrate the day. (When I say "trilogy", I mean trilogy. I don't wanna be annoyed by Jar Jar, bored by Padme/Anakin's love interest, or angry that Anakin just killed a bunch of innocent children.)

There's some numbers for you today.

Alien abductions are involuntary,  but probings are scheduled.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man review

They're are two reasons to do a reboot of something. One is if you can somehow make the product better, with better scripts, direction, actors, graphics, ect. like in the case of the Christopher Nolan Batman films. The last Batman series had devolved into hour and a half long commercials for Hot Wheels and McDonald's, and it's characters devolved back to when Robin would say "Holy bad-writing, Batman!" and now they're a cross between The Departed and James Bond. The other reason to reboot of course is to milk a franchise for even more money and sadly that's what happened to old Spidey. The Amazing Spider-Man serves no purpose than to further grow the Marvel/Disney corporation and give Emma Stone a reason to run around in mini-skirts.
So here's the big question: What's different from this film than the other films that came out between 2002 and 2007? The answer: Not a whole lot. Like the Batman series, pretty much everyone knows the basic back story of Spider-Man. Loser science geek Peter Parker (Brought to us today by Andrew Garfield, last seen in The Social Network) is being raised by his aunt and uncle when he's accidentally bit by a genetically altered spider and is thus given the "abilities" of something you smash with a newspaper (honestly, if I saw a spider swinging at full speed through my house, and shooting webs 5X the length of it's body, I would freak).  His uncle is killed when he uses his powers for selfish reasons and he decides to become a super hero to make his father/uncle proud. A strange difference Amazing has to the previous series is that Spidey's origins is stretched out through the entirety of the film, creating this oddly placed theme of missing father throughout the piece. Usually a super hero's back story is done in the first 15 minutes and the hero all but forgets it by the second act. It does add this unique lost father concept that the comic books rarely touch on, which is a point for the film, but honestly isn't enough to salvage it from what I'm going to say next.

The real problem with this film was that it just went nowhere. The idea of adding Gwen Stacy without Mary Jane, Spider-Man's other love interest, is a terrible mistake. Mary Jane and Gwen are supposed to be rivals for Parker's love.Without her, Gwen just feels like a blonde version of Mary Jane, maybe a little more nerdy, but nothing to get excited over. The villain, Lizard, ends up being incredibly confusing, since he's apparently able to heal almost instantaneously from gunshot wounds, shotgun blasts, and even carbon dioxide, that was supposed to be his big weakness. He also has this weird habit of putting on a lab coat, only to later rip it off when it gets destroyed by bullets and masonry, presumably because the Lizard in the comic books always wore a tattered lab coat, but here it just doesn't make any sense. The film is meant to be seen in 3D, which means if you see it in a normal theater like I did, all the funky web slinging shots and excruciatingly long skateboarding scene just feel confusing and altogether makes the film feel like it has a run time of ten hours. Even the aforementioned lost father theme gets confusing at times, with Peter Parker's school bully turning best friend for some unknown reason, presumably because his father figure is also dead. 
The shear star power of the film is mind-boggling considering the script. America's sweetheart Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, the legendary Sally Field and Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and Rescue Me's Denis Leary fill out the supporting cast, but this also creates the problem of they're just being too many characters fighting for screen time. People see super hero movies to see super heroes, not the hero's entire Facebook friend list. 
In the end, the whole film was just mediocre. It had a feeling of heard-it-before-but-better, like listening to the karaoke version of your favorite song. The notes are all there but they just have no flare or individuality. If you've got kids old enough to get into super heroes they'd probably like it, but if not it's probably best just to watch the Avengers over again and wait for Dark Night to come out. 
-JOE
P.S. There is crap after the credits, but it's honestly not worth sticking around for.