My phone smells like spam

I saw some anecdote the other day that the FCC expects “spam” phone calls (automated marketing junk) to exceed 50% of all calls this year. I believe it. Today alone I’ve had seven automated calls advertising things like solar panels, chronic pain solutions, and tax preparation help. I can mark the number as “blocked” on my phone, but all that means is the next time they call, my phone doesn’t ring but I still get a voicemail message with their recorded garbage. Ugh.

She’s baaaaaaaaack!

It’s been almost a year and a half since we welcomed Alex back from his mission to Peru. And today we had the same opportunity to welcome Kyra back from California, as she finished her mission in Bakersfield.

We piled into the van and headed to the airport. In the parking lot we found one of those luggage carts, so we decided to hijack it. I pushed Zaque about halfway to the terminal (of the half-mile walk we did from long-term parking) and then he took a turn pushing me.

Then we positioned ourselves in the terminal where the trains empty, since that’s the closest we could get to the gate. While waiting, Zaque and I noticed a big bronze statue of some aviator dude. His shoes were very shiny, and I figured it was because countless people rub his shoes for good luck. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to get a little of the luck for ourselves.

A short while later, there she was!

Not surprisingly, there were hugs and laughing and tears. Laralee got a hug that seemed like it lasted forever, while the rest of us stood around awkwardly waiting for our turns. Then again, moms probably miss their missionaries more than others.

We posed by some DIA construction sign, together again for the first time in over three and a half years.

After a stop for lunch, we came back home to a big banner:

And that’s all she wrote! Eighteen months of service, hard work, and tremendous sacrifice, in the record books. I’m so proud of Kyra and her decision to serve a mission. And I’m so glad to have her back!

The last email

Every Sunday, I have a repeating item on my to-do list to write an email to Kyra on her mission:

Today I closed the item as “complete”. It was the last email I’ll write to her while she’s serving in California. Laralee and I are both excited to see her again when she flies back to Denver on Wednesday. Eighteen months sure flew past. I’m so proud of her for choosing to serve a mission.


For a while now, I’ve been increasingly concerned with how much information Google has about me (yeah, I know many people feel this way). The problem, of course, is that they make it so easy to use their services, and when you get an Android device, you’re pretty much locked into their ecosystem. There was a time I thought maybe being locked into the Android/Google world was better than iOS/Apple, but I no longer think that. So I’ve been thinking about how to migrate away from them, without losing the convenience many of their products provide.

Last week, I was surprised and dismayed when Google announced they were changing how their Tasks system worked. It essentially killed the interface I’d been using for years to manage my daily to-do list. Since I’m a guy who absolutely depends on my to-do list, it was crushing. Their new Tasks UI is clunky and terrible, and I immediately hated it.

Luckily I’m a web developer!

So I sat down and started building my own to-do list platform. Because I was building it from scratch, I could make the user interface exactly how I envisioned a “good” task system would behave. Over the next few days, I spent a few hours here and there poking at it. I connected it to Google’s API so I could still manage my to-do list through them (since I have a phone app for it, and don’t know app development). Things were good, but today I decided even that’s not a good solution. I’m still providing Google with a list of everything I do, and although I don’t think there’s some poor employee who reads the to-do lists of millions of users, I also think there’s no reason Google should have that information about me.

I started poking around NextCloud, which is a fantastic platform I’ve been using for years for file-sharing, and found that the calendar and task tools are first-class. They have all the functionality I need to manage my schedule and tasks, and I found some apps that integrate directly with them. Best of all, the data is completely under my control (running on a server I own) so it’s all private to me.

Now I’ve successfully switched everything over to NextCloud, imported my data, and deleted all of it in Google. Laralee saw what I was doing and asked if I could set it up for her as well, so I did. Now we’re both de-Google-ified, at least in these two areas. Woot!

100% Dominion

Dominion remains my favorite board (card) game, and I’ve been a faithful collector of all the sets since it first came out many years ago. For Christmas, Mom and Dad gave me a set of wooden dividers, and I promptly bought an “Artist Supply Case” from Hobby Lobby– the dividers were specifically designed for that box, and provide a way to insert six rows of European-sized gaming cards.

After spending a weekend sanding, staining, and varnishing the box, it was time to load up the cards. They all fit– barely– but I needed a better way to organize them so I’d see what was what. With almost 400 unique cards (10+ of each type), there are over 4,000 cards that have to be sorted. So I found a list of all the cards online, downloaded an icon set, matched the font on the game cards, designed and printed everything on colored paper, glued them to a bunch of bridge-sized playing cards, and inserted them into the stacks of cards so everything is organized.

The result is awesome. Everything is color-coded by set, alphabetized, and squeezed in perfectly. The box is exactly big enough to hold all of the expansion sets. Laralee says that’s great because it means I won’t order any more expansions in the future. She also saw what I was doing and commented that she couldn’t believe I’d spend so much time on something so trivial, but that only proved she’s a Philistine when it comes to board games.

So now I’m all ready to crush Kyra again, when she returns from her mission in a couple of weeks. Yay Dominion!