The web site’s borked. Again.

You’d think the largest telecommunications company on earth would be able to build a web site that works.

But you’d be wrong.

Now that we’ve switched over to AT&T out of necessity (their coverage beats the competition in our area), I’m repeatedly frustrated by their web portal. Whenever I use it to see my bill, update my email preferences, or do pretty much anything, it fails. It doesn’t even work in browsers other than Chrome (which I avoid using). Just now it prompted me to agree to some new “disclosure of documents”, and when I clicked OK it popped up with an error message. When I attempt to validate my email address– which will send me an email– it fails. Really, AT&T? You can’t send an email message?

While I understand web portals like this can be complicated, I’m amazed at how horrible theirs is. As a web developer, I would’ve been embarrassed to release a product like this to a client.

Sigh.

It’s all about the opening

Kyra sent me this:

As a fellow writer to this 7-year-old (can I call myself a “fellow writer”?), I have to congratulate him on a gripping introduction to his book. I, for one, want to know what happens next.

I feel like this would be a good exercise for one of those writers’ contests where everyone is given the same opening/topic/theme and has to write a short story using it. Imagine the results…

New hobby

When people hear that I’m retired, they invariably ask what I do with my days. Many also ask if I have any new hobbies now that I have more free time. To date, I haven’t really picked up any new hobbies, although I’ve been fortunate to spend more time on some existing ones.

Until today.

Today I started the hobby of game design. I happen to like board and card games. A lot. I play them whenever I get a chance, which generally means whenever I can find someone willing to sit down with me for a few hours. It was a ton of fun to play with Kari’s kids last week in Missouri, and I’m working on gathering a gaming group here in the Bigfork area.

So I figured with all my game experience, I’d try my hand at designing one of my own. I thought about the concept, made up some cards and rules, and sat down to play.

As I’ve read a bit about game design, a common caution is that the first few times you play your own game, it’s going to suck. Yep. Mine did. There were several things that simply didn’t work. In addition, it didn’t feel very compelling… it was fairly deterministic, which would inevitably lead to optimal strategies which would win every time. So I need to introduce an element of chance, spice up the theme a bit, and so on.

I’m back to the proverbial drawing board, and I guess time will tell whether I’m any good at this hobby…

utAHHHHHHHHH

Our niece McKenna is leaving for a mission to Finland in a few weeks, and her “farewell” was in Utah on Sunday. We thought it would not only be a chance to wish her well and see some of Pepper’s family, but also to visit our kids at BYU. So after returning from Missouri, we packed up the car and headed south.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, and the sunny weather made it quite bright. Pepper doesn’t own a pair of sunglasses, so she borrowed mine and made a fashion statement by wearing them over her normal glasses.

As we hit the Salt Lake City area, it was rush hour. On a Friday. Of a holiday weekend. Yeah, fun. Although it’s hard to see in the photo below, the lines of cars and brake lights extends for miles.

It sure is nice to live in a small town, where rush hour means you might end up waiting a cycle of the one stoplight in town. Anyway, we made it to Provo and hung out with Alex, Kaitlyn, and Kyra for a few days. Dinner at the Olive Garden was wonderful, and Kaitlyn managed to score an amazingly cheesy mozzarella stick:

On Saturday, Pepper and Kyra went to the DI thrift store to shop for clothes. I was the lucky guy who wandered the store for nearly three hours waiting for them to try on a thousand things. In my journeys I found a photo that I considered buying and then hanging on a wall somewhere just to generate conversation (“Who are they?”).

There was an ancient contraption that’s either a medieval torture device or a sewing machine:

After walking the entire store, I sat on an old couch and literally read most of a (short) novel until the ladies were finished. Whee! Then it was off to Kaitlex’s apartment for a game of Aeon’s End:

Not surprisingly, they loved it– they play Dungeons and Dragons almost every weekend, so a D&D-themed game was right up their alley.

The mission farewell was great, we hung out with the fam for a few hours, and then drove back north. The scenery was really cool along the I-15 and I-90 corridors, including some pretty mountains in Utah:

The edge of a snowstorm in Idaho:

And a storm brewing in Montana:

All in all, it was a fun trip, and we plan to take more down to see the kids in the coming months.

Three coins

In the pocket of my jeans, I always have three coins.

Two of them are gold dollars. I’ve been carrying them for around fifteen years, since reading The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. It had been recommended to me by a friend, and it was instrumental in helping me organize my finances and, eventually, retire. A quote from the book has always resonated with me:

“The man who wisheth to achieve must have coin that he may keep to jingle in his purse”

This was part of a lesson on saving money. Although two dollars isn’t much, and I never plan to actually spend these two coins, their jingling reminds me to be thoughtful in my spending and a wise steward of the blessings I have.

I added the third coin a few years ago. It’s a replica of the “mite” cast into the temple treasury by a poor widow, as told in Luke 21. It reminds me that despite the abundance in my life, I need to always remain humble and grateful.

Onion goggles

A few months ago, when I saw Alex and Kaitlyn’s wedding gift registry, I learned about onion goggles. I had no idea someone had invented eyewear that would prevent you from crying while slicing onions. I must admit, I mocked the idea heartily.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to try a pair.

Stylish and functional… who could want more?

23rd anniversary

Today’s the 23rd anniversary of my 25th birthday. Happy birthday to me! Still lookin’ pretty good…

Well, except for this white stuff:

Ugh. The goatee betrays me. Still, as I’m fond of saying, “I may get older, but I’m never going to get old.”

The big question, though, is this: Can I still eat a bowl of Peanut M&M’s for “lunch” and not gain any weight?

The answer: Yes. Yes I can.

Aeon’s End

Ben is awesome. He sent me a new board game for my birthday. It’s called Aeon’s End, and is similar to Dominion– my favorite game ever– with a few twists, including the fact that it’s cooperative. That alone means Pepper is willing to play it (she hates losing to me above nearly everything else in her life).

So we cracked open the box and learned how to play. There’s an initial game setup intended to teach the game to new players, which was nice.

When a game has this many cards and tokens, you know it’s a good one.

We were slaughtered the first two times we played. Apparently we’re missing something about the strategy. But we’ll keep playing. Thanks, Ben!

Don’t be so sure

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble… it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
— Mark Twain

Everyone knows carrots are good for your eyesight, right?

Well, during World War II the British had advanced radar technology to the point where they could identify incoming German aircraft. But they didn’t want the Germans knowing about the technology, so the Ministry of Food (yes, that’s a real thing) fabricated propaganda stories that said the British pilots’ exceptional eyesight was because they ate a lot of carrots.

Why carrots? Because they grow in abundance in Great Britain, and the government wanted to encourage people to eat them. Also, they’re healthy.

Mission accomplished! Carrot consumption went up, and from that day forward, everyone thought carrots helped your vision.

While it’s true that the beta carotene in carrots is converted to vitamin A by your body, which in turn is helpful for eyesight, any substantial improvement would require consuming so many carrots that your skin would literally turn an orangish-yellow. And that amount of vitamin A may actually end up being unhealthy, because it can also cause liver problems.

So, don’t be so sure about things you’ve heard…

… because it turns out the story about the British carrot propaganda machine was made up, too. Oh, and there’s no proof Mark Twain actually said that, although it’s generally attributed to him.