My Conversion Story

People have asked me for my “Easter conversion story” before, and since today is Holy Wednesday*, it seems like as good a time as any to talk about this.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find it interesting. Or inspiring. Or crazy. I’m sure some “rational skeptic” will tell me it’s a “chemical phenomena akin to insanity that shouldn’t be viewed as proving anything other than the delusion-holder’s personal subjective experience,” and so on.

(Boy, wait until I tell the story about when I had an honest-to-God prophetic vision . . .)

Whatever. All I know is what I’ve experienced and you can take it or leave it. The important starting point for this particular story is that, from the ages of about fifteen to seventeen, I was an atheist.

Or thought I was. Things changed on Good Friday when I was 17.

Let’s back up a little bit though. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Both of my parents are 100% Greek with either parents or grandparents from the old country. On my mother’s side, my grandfather is a priest, and so was his father. There were more in the family, but I don’t know how far back it goes.

My experiences with the church were generally positive. I rather enjoyed seeing my pappou up there doing the service and giving communion, and we always went out to breakfast afterwards. Orthodoxy focus a lot on the mystical, the afterlife, the resurrection, and the love of Christ . . . as well as the wages of sin. This didn’t bother me, nor was it prohibitively frightening. In fact, it made sense: Disobeying your own parents and ignoring tradition and common sense lead to big trouble. Why wouldn’t ignoring your heavenly Father lead to the same?

And the fact that there was a Creator didn’t bother me at all either. Everything has to come from something, I thought. And even to this day, “Everything spontaneously came into being in perfect order for no reason and with no cause whatsoever” remains an unsatisfying leap of faith to make.

No, what first got me as I got older was the idea of the Resurrection.

I remember on my way to church with the family when I was 14. It might have been Easter; I can’t remember. What I do remember is expressing skepticism that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead. “I get all the other stuff,” I said, “but how do we know he didn’t just die?”

My family didn’t quite know how to answer. Continue reading “My Conversion Story”

Kids As Pawns

My family went up to Mount Vernon not too long ago. We enjoyed the first President’s estate, the excellent museum, and of course, based on our son’s enthusiasm, the gift shop.

One would normally expect a five-year-old to be into toys and other knickknacks, but not our son: Ever since his school started taking about the Founding Fathers and other presidents, he has been obsessed with them. And like me, George Washington is his favorite.

So when he asked us if we could get him a book about all of the Presidents of the United States, how could we turn him down?

This book has actually become his go-to nighttime reading lately. He loves memorizing facts about them, and has prompted me to memorize them all in order, which has proven to be a handy mental warmup in the morning. But I digress.

What struck me was the disparity in feeing over the earlier presidents to the modern ones. We take descriptions of past people’s lives as gospel, but a similarly neutral description of someone alive at the same time we were evokes a very different response.

“I was there! That’s not what happened!”

Yet, when reading the book with my son or talking about presidential history, I keep my personal opinions to myself.

Maybe this is the wrong tactic. Maybe I should indoctrinate my son before somebody else does. Everyone else’s parents seem to do so around here. But you know something? I find that kids who spout what their parents say without actually understanding it obnoxious, and I would like to keep my son as free from politics for as long as possible.

That’s right: no super-woke six-year-old at my house.

Continue reading “Kids As Pawns”

Unpaid Product Review: Boss Monster

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[NOTE: I am forced to rewrite/reconstruct this post, as WordPress decided to send it down the memory hole for some weird reason.]

My wife and I are always on the lookout for things to do with our son. Luckily, he’s at the age where he’s into a thing that both my wife and I enjoy: Board games and card games. One card game was introduced to me by my brother-in-law one summer, a game designed to tickle the nostalgia center of my brain, given my love for old video games: Boss Monster by Brotherwise Games.

A typical two-player set-up.

In Boss Monster, players take on the role of the boss of a dungeon, building rooms full of traps and monsters in order to dispatch the heroes that constantly stream in to kill the boss and steal their treasure . . . provided they survive the dungeon. Each dead hero gives the boss one “soul.” Be the first to amass ten souls, and you are the winner.

Dungeons consist of up to five rooms, and are laid out to the boss’s left as the heroes enter traveling right as in an old-school side-scrolling video game, going room-by-room to see if they fall before wounding the hero. Five wounds, and you lose.

Boss Monster is a fast-paced game that requires on-the-fly tactical shifts and a healthy need for adaptability and improvisation. Each turn, two hero cards are revealed and placed into “Town,” where they are lured to dungeons with the most matching treasure types. Each dungeon room has one or more icons–for example, a money bag, which lures thief heroes–so sometimes the strongest room isn’t the best room to build in every situation. Rooms can be built on top of other rooms, can be destroyed, and in some cases be taken back into your hand, so dungeons are in a constant state of flux which keeps the game fresh.

Add to this spells which can both help you or harm your opponent, items that make the heroes stronger (but grant the boss special abilities if you are able to beat the hero with the item), and other ways of messing with other players, and games can get pretty intense. Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Boss Monster”

A Budding Gamer

Knowing my fondness for retro games, this past Christmas my sister and her husband–total gamers, the both of them–got me a Super Nintendo Classic Edition.

For those who aren’t aware, the Super Nintendo Classic Edition is a cool little device that Nintendo released in 2017 that’s similar to their NES Classic: it’s a hand-held version of their classic early 90s Super Nintendo console pre-loaded with 20 classic games, designed to work on modern TVs, and guaranteed to tickle your nostalgia gland and separate you from your hard-earned money!

So while we were visiting my parents over Christmas, I fired it up and gave a few old games a spin. And my pleasure centers were absolutely engaged. Super Mario WorldSuper MetroidF-ZeroDonkey Kong CountrySuper Castlevania . . . aw yeah, total classics. And of course, one of my all-time favorites that I haven’t played in easily twenty yearsMega Man X. I loved that game, and was immediately engaged.

And of course, so was my son.

I mean, Mega Man X, like every single game in the Mega Man franchise, has bright and colorful graphics, fantastic music, exciting gameplay, and robots that fight each other, steal each others weapons, and blow stuff up. In this edition, the main character, X, has to fight animal-based robot masters in order to beat their big boss Sigma. It is, in short, tailor-made for a five-year-old.

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But the presents a bit of a parental conundrum for me. I grew up with Nintendo, getting a set for Christmas in 1987, when I was not much older than my son. I also played Atari with my maternal grandmother, who is always up on technology, and classic Sierra adventure games with my paternal grandfather on his then state-of-the-art Leading Edge computer (with two external disk drives!). So video games were always a thing with me.

I’ve written fondly about retro games before. The music in those old games was often fantastic and inspiring. And speaking of inspiring, the plots and mechanics of many old video games really stoked my imagination, and continue to be an unlikely source of inspiration. And I know for a fact that I am not alone in this.

But I also reflect on all the hours I spent playing video games as a kid, especially as the console generations marched on and got better and better and more realistic, and the games got longer. I always liked role-playing games, you know, those dorky games where you fight monsters and level up and so on. They always had really fun tactical combat, customization of characters, and a lot of options to just go and explore stuff.

They were fun. They were engrossing. And they often took sixty hours to finish.

And as the games got better and better, they got longer and longer.  Continue reading “A Budding Gamer”

2018 Is Here!

Happy New Year everyone! It’s 2018, and you know what that means:

Retrospectives and lists!

I’ll spare you the worst of it, but suffice it to say 2017 was a year of good and bad for yours’ truly. The family was reunited, but apartment living in a new city continued to be a drag. We’re working on fixing it, though, so hopefully soon we’ll have a home again.

On the blogging front, 2017 marked my first full year, and it showed an increase in posting activity and visitors. Admittedly, 2016 was skewed when Scott Adams linked to a post, but still, an increase is an increase.

Doing the rough math, this blog averaged about 24 visitors a day in 2017 over about 23 in 2016, but almost 400 more total viewers. Remember also that I started this blog in May of 2016. It’s be more accurate to do a retrospective like this on May of this year, but where’s the fun in that?

Yeah, I’m trying to finesse the numbers. But I’m still happy about the growing readership here. It’s been fun connecting with lots of people, sharing and gaining new ideas and perspectives. For all of you who read and comment and get in touch via social media, know that you’re much appreciated! Continue reading “2018 Is Here!”

Interesting Times

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It’s easy to feel yourself swept away by things, insignificant and out of control. Watching the world unfold, one question–maybe the first question–should be:

Why do you care?

The second question, then, might be:

How could you not?

Simple questions with no good answers. Simple questions that, I’m sure, human beings have been asking our ancestors first formed questions in their minds.

I imagine a caveman watching the blizzard from the relative comfort of his cave and pondering his existence. Is this all there is? Am I destined for nothing but fleeing the saber-toothed, hunting the mammoth, and finding shelter? Luckily for us, his answer, and those of thousands like him, was no.

So what’s our excuse?

Are we destined only to scrape enough to pay the taxman and the other bill collectors, to undue the sub-par education of our children, and to try and end life without running afoul of the endless laws that surround us?

It’s a reactive pose, which is why I suspect it creates such deep feelings of powerlessness.

The caveman sure thought so. It was this discomfort that eventually led to the skyscraper and insulation and central heating, the firearm, architectural principles, and the automobile.

So what’s our excuse? Continue reading “Interesting Times”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! These days, it seems we need it more than ever.

I have left off the God stuff for a while, but today is a perfect day to reflect on the blessings in our lives. We have it so good and yet we remain intent on tearing each other apart…as well as ourselves.

Evil is real. But thankfully, so is good. Never forget this.

Pray for God’s blessings. And don’t be shy about it.

And please, please, please enjoy your family and friends. Sincerity and happiness are underrated, out-of-date, and long overdue for a comeback.

God bless everyone, whomever you are, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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