Monday, September 2, 2013

Minecraft and getting old


I’ve been obsessed with many video games in my life (Space Invaders, Shining Force, and Super Mario 64 to name a few), and my life seemed to center around them, if for a short period of time.  The games, however, made sense to me.  They were fun and logical.

Enter Minecraft.  My sons and all of their friends love Minecraft.  They play it constantly and discuss epic tales of digging, battling creepers, making crafting tables, and more digging...lots and lots of digging.  They watch youtube videos for hints and suggestions on….you guessed it….Minecraft.  One of my sons is now making a “Hunger Games” map so that he and his friends can “fight for survival.”

I’ve tried to get into Minecraft a few times.  I don’t understand it.  It seems boring and slow.  I will admit that there is a unique creativity to the game, and I guess that causes people like my kids to be hooked on the virtual crack known as Minecraft.  Personally, I would rather just have a large pile of Legos if I am going to build something.

I must be getting old.  Way too many folks play Minecraft on PC and XBOX 360.  I’m just not one of them.  Minecraft ignorance is bliss, and I am the most blissful person in my household.     

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Random Thoughts on the 2014 Boy Scout Resolution on Membership Standards

Today, BSA announced that their resolution for a change in membership standards passed with 61% approval of the 1,400 voting members.

Officially, BSA “approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
In short, no child will be denied membership or participation in Scouting based on their admitted sexual preference.
Since this was announced, I have had at least 10 people ask me what I thought about this.  I think I surprised them with my answer.
“Great.  Nothing really changes for me.  I have never once asked a child his sexual orientation nor will I ever.  Sexuality has no place in Scouting.” 

By the same token, I do not ask families about their marital status, their religious preference, whether they smoke, drink, or even if they are gay/lesbian.  Frankly it is irrelevant to me.
Nothing changes for me.

I have children in our Scouting program that come from all kinds of backgrounds.  I have Scout parents that are single, divorced, living out of wedlock, etc.
I have friends, coworkers, and family members that are openly gay and lesbian.

Amazingly, I am able to work with people that may be different from me, teach Scouts that come from different family backgrounds than mine, and love my family members and friends that are gay/lesbian.
I don’t agree with each and every one of these individuals, their beliefs, and their lifestyles.  However, that doesn’t mean I am going to treat them any different than someone who shares my exact belief system and lifestyle.  
Will the new BSA ruling change anything I do as Scout leader?  No.  Nothing changes for me.

There is nothing in the Scouting curriculum regarding sexuality or sexual preference, and this will never be an issue in my group.  It wasn’t an issue before.  It isn’t now.
Will I try to be a strong Christian role model to all of my Scouts and their families?  Yes.

Will I hate or despise anyone who is different from me based on their faith, race, or sexuality?  No.  I never have, and I never will.  When Scouts and their families work with me and see me, they know the type of man I am.  They also know that as a Christian, I love others.  I don’t have time or room for hate.  I will continue to teach and model God's love.

Again, nothing changes for me.

I am glad that a decision on this resolution is over.  It’s time to move forward.
There were a few sentences in today’s official BSA statement that I feel truly represent my feelings about this issue. 

"While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America's youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."
I am and will continue to be a Christian role model and Scout leader for the young men in our Scouting program. 

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
This is what I teach.  This is what I will model for each of our Scouts.

Nothing changes for me.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All Good Things....

Change is one of the hardest things to accept. 

As I am going into my 40’s, I have finally had to accept a few things in life. 

My hair is no longer brown but filled with streaks of gray.

My weight…ummm…is more than it used to be.

My athletic conditioning…ummm….is less than it used to be.

I could go on and on.  I can deal with these changes. 

However, I am still struggling with one thing.

My blog is entitled  “Random Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Gamer.”  Well, when you look at my posts, not that many are about games.

I am getting to the point that I have to accept that I am no longer a “gamer.”  I spent more than 35 years playing almost every game and system under the sun.  I’ve cycled through pong, the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Nintendo 64, Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, 900 different versions of the Gameboy, Xbox 360, Wii, etc.

As work and family responsibilities have grown over the last several years, I’ve seen myself change from a hardcore gamer to a casual gamer.  I long for the days when I could drop 80 hours into an RPG, but those days are gone.  I am lucky to get a small amount of time on an iPhone game or on my DS.  My last console game played was….gasp….Nintendo Land on the WiiU.  Not real hardcore, although I do play a good game of Mario chase. 

With the newer generation of consoles arriving, I have had to deal with my mid-life crisis.  I am not a hardcore gamer anymore.  I will buy the consoles for my kids and try to play when I can, but the man who played Shining Force for three straight days is gone.   He has been slowly replaced by a father who spends time with his kids, coaches youth sports, and runs a scout program.  I spend more time trying to teach kids wilderness survival and how to cook over a tin can than I do saving the world in the latest video game.

Long story short, all good things must come to an end.  I originally started this blog because I thought it would reignite a fire in me to become a hardcore gamer again.  It didn't.  It just helped me to realize that I am not that person anymore. 

This will be the official final blog post for “Random Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Gamer.” 

The blog won’t end though.   It needs to change as I have changed. 

Starting today, it will have a new title.

Random Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Scout Leader. 

You can find it here if interested:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Scouting Still Relevant?

It's been awhile since I posted an entry.  I hope more will be on the way soon.
Recently, I had an experience at work where someone found out for the first time that I was involved as an adult leader in our local Cub Scout program. 
The person was shocked and said, “Is scouting even relevant?  All I hear on the news is that scouting discriminates.”

For my answer, I could have quoted national scouting enrollment numbers, the amount of community service done by scouts across the country, discussed political and religious opinions, etc., but I really didn’t think that answered the question. 
Sadly, the number of scouts has decreased over time, even though there are still millions of scouts in this country.  In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the issues being discussed nationally about allowing gays and lesbians to participate in scouting.  Those are issues for the political groups within and outside of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) national office to debate and argue.  Scouting is not done by bureaucrats.  I have yet to see one on any campout or scouting activity for my group.  Scouting is done by parents at the local level.  If BSA changed its stance tonight on having openly gay/lesbian leaders or gay young men as scouts, do I think it will spur a massive movement of scouting enrollment?  No.  Some will openly proclaim they are gay scouts or leaders, maybe a few new members will join, some will even leave, but you will not see a massive change in the total number of scouts in this country.  I don’t believe these items answer the question of “relevancy” for scouting.  They are political topics that tend to dominate the news rather than stressing all of the wonderful things that scouts everywhere are doing as part of their scouting programs. 

In reality, there are too many distractions and other activities that pull away a young man’s time and interest away from scouting.  There are year round sports programs/sports camps, video games, and as a society, we are much “busier” than ever before.   Despite all of these things, I think the biggest issue is that there are too many children who do not have active parents in their lives.  I’ve seen more young men leave scouting because they didn’t have a parent who would bring them to meetings, take them camping, or support them in completing activities for their rank advancement.  Scouting is a family activity, and its success completely depends on active parents who are willing to spend time with their child and place them in programs that help them develop into good young men.  Scouting instills character development, citizenship training, personal fitness and more, but it all starts with parental involvement. 
Well back to the original question, and my answer.

“Is scouting even relevant? ”
 A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  These are timeless values that will never lose their relevance.  These were the values that were taught to me as a young man and the values I live by as an adult.  The bureaucrats and politicians in BSA will argue and make changes to scouting policies over time.  Whatever they do or don’t do will never change those timeless values that form the backbone of Boy Scouts.  These things need to be stressed and taught to young men everywhere.   Too many non-scouting programs and activities focus on competition rather than character development and citizenship.  The biggest issue isn’t the relevance of scouting, it’s the priority of scouting.  We need more parents to be involved with their children and help put programs like this as a higher priority in their child’s life.

I understand that not every person is going to agree with my thoughts on this issue.  The good news is that we live in a free nation where we can respectfully have differences in opinion.   Some out there feel that scouting is no longer relevant , and that BSA is an organization that is stuck in a time that has passed.  I’m one that recognizes that there are national issues and local issues with scouting.  This occurs with virtually every national organization or business chain.  We shouldn’t confuse the two.  Scouting is driven at the local level.  It is the parents and volunteers of these programs that are making a difference in helping young men develop into good citizens.   Each week, I get to see how scouting impacts our community locally.  We have raised thousands of pounds of food for the homeless, picked up trash in the parks and highways, visited nursing homes, and sorted clothes at the local care center.  I simply can’t believe that raising young men to be this type of citizen is a bad thing or something that is no longer relevant to society.   The world needs more scouts in their communities.   The world needs more young men who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the father of scouting, was quoted as saying, “When a boy finds someone who takes an interest in him, he responds and follows.”  Parents need to take that interest, and when they do, we see the question of relevance go away as scouting again becomes a priority in a boy’s life.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Gentleman Always Carries a Handkerchief

Life has conspired against me to take a month off of the blog.  For those few faithful readers that have contacted me, I will try to get back to regular posting again.

That being said….
Recently, I was asked, “What is the most important thing that a man should always carry with him?”

I started to think of an answer and decided to stop thinking and simply look in my pockets.  Out came several items.
1.       Wallet
2.       Pocket Knife
3.       Handkerchief
4.       Car keys

That prompted several others to do the same thing.  Everyone had a wallet and car keys.  Two of the five had a pocket knife, and only one (me) had a handkerchief.

At that point, I was informed that only “old men” carry around a handkerchief.  For whatever reason, my friends never really saw fit to carry one.   One even referred to it as a “relic of days gone by.”

Then I was asked, “Why do you even carry around a handkerchief?”

My response was simple.  It’s part of the code.  The man code.  A gentleman never leaves home without his handkerchief.    

That of course generated a few jokes at my expense, but I was serious.  The handkerchief can always be used by the owner, but the best reason to carry one is to be able to give to someone else when needed.  It’s a small gesture of chivalry to give your handkerchief to another.  I can’t tell you how many times I have given my handkerchief to someone who needed to cry, someone who needed to blow a nose, someone who needed to wipe their brow, someone with a cut or mess that needed cleaned up, etc., and in each of those situations, there wasn’t a box of Kleenex or roll of Bounty paper towels available.  The handkerchief was invaluable.  Something that small and insignificant by itself became the most valuable item in my pocket.

Having a handkerchief should be an essential item in every man’s pocket.  If you don’t own one, go out and buy about 10 of them.  They are dirt cheap and won’t set you back more than a few cups of coffee.  Launder them and take a clean one with you every day.  You will be surprised how often they will come in handy.    

I never remember a time that my dad didn’t have a handkerchief or a pocketknife with him.  That’s probably why I have always carried both items with me.  The day he died, I remember removing both items out of his pockets.  I’m sure the day I die, someone is going to be doing the same with me.  Until then, if you need to cry, have a runny nose, or need to clean up a mess, I’m your man.  I’ll be glad to give you my handkerchief.

As for the pocketknife, carrying one of those is in the man code too.  I’ll touch on that subject later. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kayfabe and the desire to believe

Kayfabe…the reality of professional wrestling.  It’s wrestlers staying in character to put on a show.  It’s the reality of their gimmicks, their feuds, etc.  It’s their portrayal that everything they do in the ring is real.
To truly enjoy professional wrestling, you need to suspend your disbelief in what you are seeing.  You need to believe that one man wants to fight another for a specific reason, and this reason can only be settled in the ring.  You need to believe that these men are pushing themselves to their human limits for a real purpose, not to put on a fake, choreographed fight.  It’s the story of the match that sucks you in and makes you suspend that disbelief.  It’s the performance that keeps you at the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen next. 
It’s not often fans get taken to that place anymore.  As a kid, I wanted to believe.  Each and every match was real.  As an adult, it’s rare when I watch wrestling with the same feelings I had as a child.  With the internet, news feeds, twitter, etc., it’s hard to suspend your disbelief and “enjoy” wrestling when kayfabe is broken over and over again.  With Wrestlemania coming around the corner, I have been watching more wrestling with the hope that I will once again be able to believe (even for a moment) that what I am seeing is for real.
In the world of Kayfabe, the Undertaker is 19-0 in matches at Wrestlemania.  This incredible record is affectionately called “the streak.”  For the last two decades, this man has been unbeatable on the greatest stage of the wrestling world, Wrestlemania.  Three years ago, Shawn Michaels, largely considered to be the greatest modern day in-ring performer, challenged the Undertaker at Wrestlemania but came up short.  The next year, he demanded a rematch and put his career on the line versus the streak.  Again, he fought valiantly but lost and retired from professional wrestling.  Last year, Shawn’s best friend, multiple time world champion HHH challenged the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  HHH used chairs and sledgehammers to destroy the Undertaker in a brutal match, but like his friend, came up short and lost.  HHH walked out of the ring the loser, but the Undertaker was unable to walk at all after the match. 
As we build towards Wrestlemania, it has come time for the Undertaker to defend his streak once again.  He wants to prove to himself that he is the better man and can beat HHH.  HHH wants one more chance to be the man who ends the streak.  Shawn Michaels has been made the special referee for the match.  Even though he is known as “Mr. Wrestlemania,” Shawn wasn’t able to end the streak.  In his quest to beat the Undertaker, he had his greatest failure and lost his career.  Is he jealous that his best friend may accomplish the one thing he couldn’t do in his career?  Does he want to be the one to help end the streak by any means necessary?  Or, will Shawn call it down the line?  Will the Undertaker keep the streak alive?  Will HHH finally put an end to the Undertaker's reign over Wrestlemania?
Is all of this real?  No, of course not, but these men are doing what they do best.  They have made me want to believe, if only for a short while, that this match means everything to all three of them.  They are fighting over something beyond a championship.  They are fighting over their legacy as professional wrestlers. 
Only a few more weeks, then I’ll know if the streak ends.  Then I can come back to reality…

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thoughts on the movie Courageous

Normally I watch movies for escapism, not realism.  However, on occasion, I do stray away from your run of the mill zombie apocalypse or alien invasion for more wholesome, family cinema.
A few days ago my wife and I watched the Christian drama “Courageous.”  Like other movies from Sherwood Pictures, the majority of the cast are not professional actors but members of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.  Don’t let that deter you from watching this or any of their other movies.  You watch their movies for the message, not because you are looking for a cinematic masterpiece.
***Relatively Spoiler Free***
The story centers around four sheriff’s deputies who begin a journey in examining fatherhood and the need for the father to be the spiritual head of the home.  We have the father of two kids who is too busy for his oldest son, the father who feels the need to protect his family, the father who doesn’t have custody of his son, and a young man who seems to be distant when discussing issues of family.  Each has their own story and viewpoint on the meaning of fatherhood.  Eventually we meet another character named Javier who joins our deputies in their spiritual journey.  Javier is a good man, who is down on his luck, but has faith that the Lord will provide for him and his family.
An unfortunate tragedy bring these five men closer to one another and to God, and they all eventually take on a resolution to be the father that God wants them to be.
There are plenty of subplots in the movie with drugs, gangs, stolen evidence, etc.  They all really serve as backdrop for the movie to get its points across (and they will; you will get constantly reminded if somehow you missed the message).  God wants you be an involved father and to honor Him in everything you do.  Your children need that positive influence in their life.  Not having that positive, spiritual influence potentially sets them up to fail in life.      
At times, the film suffers from plot holes and a lack of coherent plot structure.  There is a whole lot that one can criticize about this movie, but if you are doing that, then you are missing the point. 
I think every father can somehow relate to at least one of the main characters in the movie.  That’s what makes the movie work.  You want to see these men stand up for God and succeed as fathers.  You are rooting for them to set the bar high and achieve it.  Hopefully, you will want that for yourself as well.
For me, I don’t want to be a “good enough father” as the movie mentions.  When I am dead and gone, I want my children to have nothing but positive memories of me.  I want them to remember a father who protected them, loved them, and demonstrated for them how to honor their heavenly Father in all that they do.  Courageous reminds me why it is so important to achieve this kind of parental legacy. 
Courageous fills a need that can’t be found in so many modern movies.  If you are in need of a positive, uplifting spiritual movie, check this one out.   You won’t be disappointed.