“Our bad”

A few days ago, someone broke into an AT&T system and stole the call and text records for all AT&T subscribers– some 100 million or more people. Today AT&T sent an email to me, and presumably to the other 100 million people, admitting to the incident. As I read it, I couldn’t help but “translate” in my head what they said.

What happened?
We found out AT&T call and text records were accessed by cyber-criminals who have claimed responsibility for unlawful access to other companies in the past. At least one individual has since been arrested.

Translation: even though these folks have attacked other similar systems in the past, we didn’t bother to learn from those companies’ mistakes and secure our own systems against the same attack. Oh, and the bad guy was arrested! (Which we had absolutely nothing to do with.)

What is AT&T doing?
Protecting customer data is a top priority. 

Translation: making money is actually the top priority, but protecting customer data is definitely one of our top priorities. At least in the top ten. Or maybe top twenty. It’s hard to say for sure, because that kind of stuff costs money, and spending money takes away from our top priority.

We hold ourselves to high privacy standards and are always looking for ways to improve our security practices.

Translation: we’re not really going to do anything about this, except tell you we’re “looking for ways” to make it better. Oh, and we’re not going to compensate you in any way for screwing up.

This kind of stuff happens all the time these days. Companies can’t be bothered to spend the money to properly secure their customers’ data, and then when someone (inevitably) breaks in and steals it, there are no repercussions. They issue a boilerplate apology and move on. There are no penalties, no requirements for them to do better, and frankly no incentive for them to actually effect change.

Although this particular incident isn’t terribly damaging to me, the data could be used by malicious parties to do some real damage. It’s only metadata, not content, but it would be a treasure trove for abusive or dangerous stalkers, ex-spouses, and the like. There are real-world consequences for people. But, as we see yet again, not for the corporations.


The cities that shall not be named

Today we were driving back from San Diego and took a different route than usual. We passed through Indio, which is the name of the first serious board game I designed. And yes, I got the idea for that name whilst driving through California on our San Diego road trip a few years ago. I saw Indio on a road sign and thought it would make a good name for a game.

Anyway, as we approached the exit for Indio today, we saw this sign:

The “Other Desert Cities” the sign is referring to are El Centro and Brawley, our stomping grounds out here. It felt a little hurtful that they couldn’t even be named on the sign!


When we packed for our mission, I intentionally didn’t bring many board games. Although I have almost a hundred in my closet, many of them are complex and take a while to play. I didn’t figure I’d run into people who have the same passion for gaming as my group in Bigfork. Also, space was at a premium and games take up a lot of it. After discussing it with Pepper, we did agree to bring King of Tokyo and Catch Phrase, both of which are fairly simple and fun for a group.

Now that we’re here, I’ve found that many of the young missionaries enjoy games. Skull King is a classic; here are The Boys in the middle of a hand:

Earlier this week we played Scum, and ended up with twelve people in the game. We found two decks of enormous playing cards and laughed as we awkwardly shuffled and played them.

Inspired by their enthusiasm for these simple games, I decided to expand my meager game collection here by adding a few party games:

These are all easy to learn, good for a group, and inexpensive. Unfortunately I already have them in my collection back in Montana! I guess we’ll enjoy them here, and then donate them to a worthy cause when we finish our mission. In the meantime, I’m excited to teach the young missionaries some real games…

Cookies on the dash

It truly is amazing how hot it is here in El Centro. We step outside and it feels like when you’re baking cookies and open the oven door, and feel a blast of heat hit your face. Except here, that blast of heat just… keeps coming. You walk around in it.

Speaking of cookies, one of the young missionaries we’re serving with mentioned the other day that he was thinking of frying an egg on the sidewalk. I asked what he thought of baking cookies in his car. He thought it was a great idea, and this morning I whipped up a batch of chocolate-chip cookie dough. I gave a little baggie of dough to each of the ten missionaries in our area, including him. Most of them just ate the dough (no judgement– that’s perfectly legitimate). But Elder Bushman brought out a baking pan, set little cookie dough balls on it, and let it sit.

Here’s the video he made (actually three videos in sequence):

Although they’re not quite like you’d get in the oven, I thought it was hilarious that they actually baked. That’s hot.

Montana ladies

After several months of living in Montana, Kyra and Greta have decided to embrace the “Western lifestyle”. That means they bought some cowboy hats, which they wear around town. Last night at the Bigfork Rodeo, I’m sure they fit right in with the crowd.

I love it! They’re both so beautiful and fun.

Compare and contrast

I was scrolling Reddit just now, looking for some nice nature photos to use as computer desktop backgrounds. I stumbled across this amazing shot of Peyto Lake in Alberta:

Literally a dozen photos later, I saw this shot, by a different photographer:

The contrast between the two startled me. I’m sure that standing in this spot, looking out over the wilderness, is breathtaking. The latter photo above looks amazing. But compared with the former, it seems dull and drab.

Sometimes I feel like my photography– despite years of effort– is like the second photo. I remember being in places and feeling awestruck by them, but my pictures don’t always reflect it. I enjoy doing post-processing work, although I feel like I need to stay true to the actual scene. For example, the first photo here seems over-processed, and I don’t want to take it that far. I guess I just need to find the right balance.

Luckily photography can be a lifelong pursuit, and I still have a lot of life in me. One of these days…