the walking writer

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is one of my favorite games on the 3DS. I’m certain that I’ve spent the majority of my playtime with that console on New Leaf. I resisted buying it for a long time because I had played one of its predecessors and just didn’t get the appeal. I’m happy that I finally bought it because I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth from it. I have a few confessions from my years of playing it…

1. I haven’t checked on my town since Christmas.

Even though I feel like I’ve mostly done everything I want to do in the game, I still enjoy checking in with my villages and walking around my town. However, during the holidays, I didn’t have a chance to play much. So when I booted up the game, I discovered that Poppy, my favorite villager, was moving out the next day. Yes, she’s just a pile of pixels in the shape of an adorable squirrel, but I’m still sad to lose her. I wish the game had a vacation mode that would keep your town in stasis if you won’t be playing for an extended period.

I need to just get it over with already and start playing again. I wonder if the bamboo in my town has completely overtaken the empty spaces of land by now.

2. I can’t stand the jock villagers.

The jock villagers are really the only type that bother me, mostly because they call my mayor “ladybro.” Ugh. While all villagers are of a particular type, jock villagers seem to take their theme a bit too far, and their conversations are quite repetitive. I’m always annoyed when they move in, and I’m never sad when they finally move out of my town.

3. Tutu drives me nuts, but I still keep her around.

Tutu is a polar bear who is way too full of herself. Based on her dialogue, I actually thought she was a snooty villager until I checked and saw she is in fact a peppy villager. Even though she’s attempted to move several times, I stop her every time because she is one of my few remaining original villagers.

4. I’ve tried to place paths in my town, but I always end up deleting them.

I’ve seen some really amazing towns with beautiful paths and layouts. I’ve tried to do it in my own town several times, but I end up erasing the paths after a few days every single time. I think I’m just a bit too lazy to try to do the really complex paths.

5. I think my town is a random mess, but that’s okay.

I’m always impressed by the work and effort some players have put into their towns. I’ve visited some towns with neat themes that are fun to visit and inspiring. My town…is just sort of a conglomeration of random features. I can’t even decide on an orderly way to display flowers. As with The Sims, I’m not terribly great at planning layouts, but it’s still fun to play around with from time to time.

As I write this, I’m currently uploading files to my new web host. I’ve been a loyal customer of A Small Orange for many years. I joined them when they were still a fairly small company, back when they still had customer forums and you could expect quick responses to support issues. A few years ago, ASO was gobbled up with many other web hosting companies by a company known as EIG. You don’t have to look far on the web to find a long list of complaints about web hosts owned by EIG. In ASO’s case, however, I believe they managed to hold onto their support staff for many years. Unfortunately, that seems to have changed recently.

Last month, I suddenly realized my site was suspended. I was rather surprised as I had seen the PayPal receipt for my invoice that month. After logging into the email I used for ASO, I discovered they claimed they never got the payment and had suspended my site. Now, I fully admit that I should have seen the emails warning me that they were going to suspend my account due to non-payment, but I’ve been using the same PayPal subscription for years without problem and as I said earlier, I saw the receipt for December’s payment.

So, I sent in a ticket. And waited….and waited some more. I looked at their Twitter and discovered their Twitter feed was full of messages to and from clients about tickets not being answered. Each time, the poor soul manning the Twitter feed would ask for a ticket number and problem to get the issue looked at. That is a terrible way to do customer service, in my opinion. In my case, I don’t have a Twitter account, so I decided I would just jump into their live chat. It took 15 minutes, but finally, I got someone to look at my issue and fix it immediately. I never really got an explanation for what happened, just some claim that PayPal had held onto the money for some unknown reason. The fact that they were able to fix the problem within mere minutes indicates to me that something may have actually gone wrong on ASO’s end. If it was PayPal’s problem, wouldn’t they have needed to actually talk to PayPal first?

Well, this little incident made it clear to me that I needed to look for a new host. During the holidays, I put it on the back burner, but I made sure to closely watch my invoices for January’s payment. Sure enough, once again, PayPal deducted my money and ASO said that my invoice had not been paid and that I was late. I responded immediately to the email they sent, and waited. Two days later, they sent another automatic warning email about the lack of payment. I replied to that email immediately. Two days later, they sent me a final notice about the non-payment, so once again sent in another email. Finally, four (!!!) days after the initial email I sent in, I got a reply. This time, they gave me a completely different explanation for the problem then they did last month. It’s pretty clear to me that they don’t know what is going on, and while they are willing to fix things for their customers, you could be waiting for days and days for help. I should also note the customer service rep offered no apology for the delays or the payment problem.

Based on reading their Twitter feed, I understand that ASO is having significant problems serving clients who pay far more money than I do. However, just because I am a small potato compared to other customers, doesn’t mean rather urgent issue can’t be fixed. It’s amazing to me that a web hosting company would ignore someone who’s on the verge of having their site incorrectly suspended yet again.

I am sorry to have to say that I would strongly recommend staying away from A Small Orange. Fortunately, there are plenty of other web hosts out there, including my new host, iWF Hosting.

I haven’t had a chance to play The Sims 4: Get Together expansion too much yet, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far. When they first announced the expansion, I thought it was just basically more party stuff and not much else. When they fully explained the club aspect, however, my opinion changed. Now that I’ve played it, I can see that this expansion brings a new layer of interaction to the game. Instead of just having your Sim’s friends come over to your house and randomly play on your computer or take out your trash (what is up with that?), you can actually specify what the group does together. It seems so simple, but it’s really quite a new thing for the series. I’ve only set up one fairly boring club (they drink coffee and read books), but I’m sure I’ll do some more creative things with it soon.

Sims 4 Screenshot

My Sims enjoying the life-size chess set in Windenburg.

The new town of Windenburg is fantastic; it’s a very pretty place with some great places to hang out. For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that Windenburg would be more like a vacation spot and not a place to live. I was thrilled to see your Sims can live there if you wish. The expansion also has the usual new clothes, hairs, build mode stuff and more. There’s some really good stuff in there that I’m looking forward to building with. I am a little sad that they didn’t add a new life state to this expansion, but on the other hand, I’m not sure that any of the life states really would have fit with the expansion’s flavor. Overall, I think Get Together is a excellent entry to the series and brings plenty of new life to the game.

For many years, December was a very stressful time for me. Even though I had left Mormonism and Christianity, I still wanted to be part of the holiday season. Unfortunately, whenever the calendar turned to December 1st, I immediately felt stressed for a number of reasons, including upcoming travel back home and my desire to find the perfect presents for everyone in my family. It wasn’t pleasant to feel overwhelmed and it certainly took away any fun in the season. I’ve since realized a few things that have significantly reduced my stress to almost zero. This includes:

1. Round Robin Gift Exchange
For years, each member of my family felt obligated to gift each person a gift. This was a source of unending stress for me. I saw how thoughtful several of my family members were about the gifts they gave, and I wanted to reciprocate. This usually resulted in hours of online shopping and hours spent in stores. Since I strongly dislike shopping, especially when everyone in the store is suffering from some terrible plague, I really hated this. However, for the last couple of years, we’ve made it simple with a round robin gift exchange. Finding a gift for one couple is so much easier than what we did previously.

2. Stop Seeking the Perfect Gift
This is a problem that I’ve had since I was a child. I disliked it when someone posted a wish list on the fridge for Christmas gifts; I wanted to surprise them! Looking back, I realize now that while surprises are very nice, there’s nothing wrong with giving someone exactly what they want. There’s also nothing wrong with asking the intended recipient what they would like. When it comes down to it, as long as you put a bit of time and thinking into it, there really is no bad gift.

3. Your Nieces and Nephews Will Still Love You if Your Presents Suck
One thing I’ve long struggled with is shopping for presents for my nieces and nephews. In our family, we have the option to give gifts to the kids if we want to; there’s no obligation, and the kids aren’t part of the gift exchange. I spent many hours browsing the toy stores, thinking once again that I needed to get the perfect gift. But then one day I realized something. The parents of my nieces and nephews give their kids way too many toys. It’s something that irks me, but it’s probably best saved for its own post. The point is, my realization changed how I shopped for the kids. I tend to look for things that are activity-oriented, such as science kits or craft kits. The kids will have fun with them, and it won’t just be another doll that gets ignored after two days.

4. Avoid Travel if Possible
Visiting my family during Christmas is fun; I cannot deny it. Unfortunately, the travel aspect is less than pleasant. Every single year I’ve gone back home for Christmas, I’ve picked up at least one cold along the way. I’ve also had the misfortune of waiting hours upon hours for delayed flights and been stuck on planes that were completely full to the brim. After a particularly painful trip back and forth, my husband and I decided we would shift our schedules and visit family during other times of the year. This lets us have our own traditions and we still get to visit with our family through video chats. It’s not the same as being there, but it seems to work out just fine.

Eliminating sources of stress is always a good thing in my book, and I am very happy to have found some solutions that help me better enjoy the season.

I’ve mentioned before that I was once a member of the Mormon church. Although I’m not even on their list of members anymore, I still have friends and family members in the church. So it’s something that I still hear about from time to time, especially when the church does something incredibly unexpected with far-reaching effects.

A few days ago, information was leaked concerning a new change to the church’s handbook meant only for the eyes of the leadership. These changes states that the children of gay couples are, to put it plainly, no longer welcome in the church. The way the church puts it is a bit different, but the effect is the same. Children of gay parents may not participate in any of the essential church milestones, including baptism at age eight and serving a mission, until they take certain steps:

1. Reach the age of 18

2. Disavow your gay parent or parents

3. Move out of the home of your gay parent or parents

This dramatic shift has inspired me to wonder the following:

1. What exactly does disavowing your parents require? From what I’ve read, it sounds like it means you must disavow their relationships with members of the same sex. But, to me, that means disavowing the parents as people since being gay is not a choice.

2. The church is allegedly concerned with the eternal salvation of all souls, which is something that can only be accomplished through baptism (and a few other steps). Why is the church willing to risk the souls of children and make them wait until 18 to get baptized? How many people would still want to join after being denied for years simply because of their parents?

3. The policy change also states that gay individuals who marry (an act that is, by the way, fully legal in the United States) are now considered apostates. Does the church think ANY gay person (or their relatives who can look past the church and still care about their family) will still feel welcome in the church by all of these changes?

4. What about the second Article of Faith, which states: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Has the church leadership forgotten this simple doctrine?

5. Defense for this policy usually includes a claim that this change is to “protect” the children of gay individuals. The theory goes that this stops the kids from having to listen to how “sinful” their parents are in church, avoiding potential parental conflicts at home. So, why is the church not worried about the children who live in homes with parents who commit other “sins”, such as watching R-Rated movies or drinking coffee? Why are they specifically targeting the children of gay individuals?

It makes me sad to watch people I know support this policy change. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do when someone believes that a policy comes directly from God, even though the Mormon church has a history of changing its mind on its policies when the tide of popular opinion begins to shift. Yet again, the church finds itself on the wrong side of history.