Sunday, June 26, 2016

Business Negotiation

You might have noticed by now that Donald Trump's initial reaction to anything is to say something outrageous and attention-grabbing. Why does he do this? Is he immature and desperate for attention? Does he not think things through, before saying them? Is he just dangerous and crazy?

Actually, this is a business technique, similar to highballing. The idea is that you start off with something huge and outrageous. That way, all the attention gets centered on you, not your competitors. That served Donald Trump very well in the primaries, when he was up against eight competitors; the majority of news stories focused on him, not the others. It also gives you the upper hand in subsequent negotiations, because you look more reasonable and accommodating when you back away from the original position.

I saw a recent example of this in Baby Sitters Club #21: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins. Mallory wanted two things from her parents, so she purposely asked for THREE things. The outrageous third thing she asked for was a new wardrobe. Her parents felt bad about turning down this request, so they were more likely to give in on the other two requests. Also, Mallory came out smelling like roses, when she gallantly agreed to give up the new wardrobe, in exchange for the other two things. But really, she wasn't giving anything up. She wasn't expecting to get the wardrobe anyway!

Maybe that's a silly example, but that's what Trump is doing. He always starts with an outrageous statement, then backpedals away from it later. So whenever there is Trump news, you should probably ignore his first response and wait for his second one, which is his "real" offer. I'm sure he talks more about this technique in his book on business negotiations.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gun Control

Gun control has been a big topic in the news, following the Orlando shooting. Everyone from President Obama to Donald Trump is trying to make it illegal for you to buy guns, if you're a suspected terrorist on the government's no fly list.

I support this effort, but there have been problems getting legislation passed. The main problem is that the rules surrounding the no fly list are secret. Well, duh, of course they're secret. The government doesn't want its list of suspected terrorists to be public knowledge. Still, we need some kind of checks and balances here, in order to prevent abuse. Not only do we need clear rules as to how someone gets on the no fly list, but we also need rules for getting people off the no fly list. Because there has to be some kind of appeals system, for people who feel that they've been put on the no fly list unjustly. The way people are reacting, there definitely have been innocent people who were put on the no fly list accidentally.

Once they make the system more transparent, I'm sure it'll be easier to get the gun control legislation passed. Or maybe the law-makers will just split in half along party lines, like they usually do. Who knows?

I find it super-interesting that Trump's reaction was to agree with President Obama on gun control. Have you ever heard the saying "only Nixon could go to China"? I think it applies here. The Republicans are going to ignore any and all gun control suggestions, coming from President Obama. But when the exact same suggestions come from Trump? All of a sudden, the Republicans have open ears.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Frozen Heart

On my vacation, I read A Frozen Heart, which is a novelization of the movie Frozen. This one is done in the style of a teenage romance novel. Every chapter alternates between Hans and Anna as the main character.

The best part of the book is the first part, which is mostly original material. I didn't realize how much the start of the movie rushes the story, until reading Anna's chapters. Like, over the course of the song Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?, there are at least two multi-year time jumps. The book gives a full chapter to each time period, and it really fleshes out the relationship between Anna and Elsa. Seeing the girls interact with their parents was neat, too.

Even more interesting was seeing Hans as a child. He is given a fanfic-worthy tragic backstory, as we meet his horrible brothers who routinely insult him and occasionally assault him. His evil father forces him to kill people. Or, at least, the book very strongly suggests that Hans is forced to commit murder on a regular basis. The end of the book backpedals from this.

One brother is nicer than the rest, and he helps Hans make a plan to escape his horrible life by marrying Princess Elsa of Arendelle. So Hans is desperate to go to Arendelle and instantly fall in love. He sets up a plan to meet cute with the princess, which goes perfectly...only there's a mixup, and he meets the wrong princess! And there's drama, as he struggles with his feelings. He knows the plan is to marry Elsa, but he really likes Anna, and darn, why didn't anyone tell him there was a second princess?!

Meanwhile, Anna struggles because she really likes the cute new price, when she knows she can't fall in love, because the gates are only open for one day, so any relationship is doomed to end in heartbreak...

So, yes, it was good, and interesting, and totally fanficy.

But partway through the "Hans and Anna fall in love" segment, the book syncs up with the movie. Hans' personality does a complete 180. He morphs from a likeable main character to the evil, scheming seducer who is purposely trying to break Anna's heart. I really didn't like that. I think the book either should have kept with Nice Hans the whole time, or Evil Hans the whole time. Switching from one to another, without any warning, is not the right way to go.

The rest of the book follows the movie almost exactly. The narrative becomes heavily skewed towards Anna; the Hans chapters become very short, and the Anna chapters become double-length. The book mildly regained my interest, with a scene of Hans making a secret deal with the Duke's men to capture Elsa alive. The men break the deal, almost out of necessity, because it doesn't exist in the movie. I thought it was a nice touch, though, and it added a different flavor to the scene where Elsa is captured.

In the end, Hans never gets redeemed from his status as a villain, even though the start of the book was 100% villain redemption.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The first part was my favorite, since it had the most original material, and it had the interesting love story with Nice Hans and Anna. I stopped liking the book when he turns into Evil Hans. If I had to read it again, I'd stop at that point instead of continuing to the end. I mean, I know how it ends. I saw the movie.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Three Things Thursday - Catholic Marriages

Last week, Pope Francis made some off-the-cuff remarks about how the majority of Catholic marriages are invalid. This was headline news in a lot of places, and it made the news again when his remarks were later removed from the official transcript.

So what's going on here?

Well, as you may know, Catholics do not allow divorce. Catholic marriages last until one of the spouses dies. If you don't know or believe this, that may affect your ability to get married as a Catholic. It might even make your marriage invalid!

Pope Francis was saying that most Catholics follow modern society, culture and beliefs on the subject of marriage. The culture currently teaches that divorce is completely acceptable. If most Catholics DO believe in the possibility of divorce, then yes, it's possible that most Catholic marriages are invalid.

I've got three thoughts on this.

1. How can you go through Catholic marriage prep and NOT know that marriage lasts forever? It's possible, if your marriage prep is bad. It's also possible, if the people taking marriage prep aren't paying attention or just don't care.

That happened with the marriage prep I took with my wife. There was a 20-25 minute segment on money and finances, and one of the salient points that got repeated was "don't keep secrets from your spouse". The instructor said this multiple times. So what happened? Months later, one of the couples broke up, because the one fiancée had a $50,000 debt that they were trying to keep secret forever. That's exactly the sort of problem that the marriage prep was designed to avoid! It's almost like they were asleep during the marriage prep classes.

2. I said that not knowing Catholic marriages last forever may affect your ability to get married. It may not. The key point is, if you knew divorce was impossible, would you still have gotten married? Because that affects your will, and a marriage is only valid if done out of free will.

3. If you're legitimately worried your marriage is invalid, you can always go through convalidation. That is the official term for making an invalid marriage into a valid one. My wife and I will have to do that if, say, it turns out the priest who performed the wedding was an impostor in disguise, and we were never really married. I'm 99% sure that's not the case, though.

Normally, though, convalidation is a short ceremony/process, done when a couple is married outside the church, and they want the church's blessing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Star Trek DS9: The 34th Rule

On my vacation, I read Star Trek: Deep Space 9: The 34th Rule. This book was co-written by the actor who plays Quark. He pitched the idea to the show's writers, but they didn't like it, so he recycled the idea as a book. The book is seen as unique, in that it takes Quark and the Ferengi very seriously, whereas Star Trek generally treats them as comic relief.

The first part of the book is the best part. The premise is that the Ferengi and the Bajorans are having a big fight over a religious artifact. This naturally causes problems for Quark, because he's a Ferengi who lives in Bajoran space. He gets hit with economic sanctions and struggles to find a way to keep his business open. Eventually, he's arrested as a political prisoner.
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Part Two shifts the focus onto Captain Sisko, who realizes there is a mysterious puppet master, manipulating both planets. Sisko tries to identify the puppet master, at the same time he tries to stop an all-out war. He is unsuccessful, and things steadily get worse. The situation reaches its peak, when the puppet master blows up a Ferengi spaceship and frames the Bajorans. The war officially begins after that.

During this part, we only have a few chapters about Quark. He and the other political prisoners have been sent to a concentration camp, where they are beaten and tortured on a daily basis. These chapters were disturbing and difficult to read. The man running the camp slowly descends into madness, until he snaps and decides to kill everyone. He's in the middle of torturing Quark to death when there is an uprising, and the villain is defeated.

The unusual thing is that Quark is mostly absent for this part of the book. Instead, the narrative focus is placed on Quark's brother. We hear everything from the brother's point of view. I don't know why the authors decided to switch main characters here. Everywhere else in the book, Quark is the main character, but for this 150+ page chunk, he's just a background character.

The book teases a big mystery, with the concentration camp section. The camp is officially closed, so how did the villain manage to reopen it, without the government or the military finding out? How did he kidnap the political prisoners without anyone noticing? How did he staff the concentration camp, and why? Sadly, the book introduces these questions and completely fails to answer them.

In Part Three, the narrative reverts back to Quark. He and the others escape from the concentration camp, around the time that Sisko realizes Quark is the only one who can stop the war, because the main character is obviously going to be the hero in this situation. Quark has one-on-one negotiations with the Ferengi leader, and the war is stopped, partway through the first major battle.

In the end, Sisko and Quark realize that the Ferengi leader is the mysterious puppet master. He purposely started the war between the two planets, so he could make a huge profit. As in, he sold the same war fleet, twice. A very bold move.

Overall, I liked the book, and it was nice vacation reading. I agree with the critics who say the book is too long. A judicious editor probably could have removed a third of the book, without much trouble. Speaking for myself, I didn't realize how slow the pacing was, until Chapter Seven. That chapter begins with five full pages of Shakaar looking at scenery. Nothing else happens, outside of that. Five pages of scenery. I can handle slow books, but readers who can't might want to stay clear of this one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pagemaster Speedrun

I did a speedrun for The Pagemaster! This is my pirate game speedrun, which I promised I'd do months ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qJJVNxxOfM

Note to self: Don't make crazy speedrun promises ever again.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Treasure in the Royal Tower - Extra Phone Call

When I replay Nancy Drew #4 soon, I'll be on the lookout for an extra phone call! Back in January, somebody sent me a message about how you can get a third phone call, this one from Lisa.

Well, after you explore the library AND catch Jacques trying to sneak into the tower, the following day, you can talk to Lisa about what you found in the library, but you can only move forward if you admit to everything

After that, when you try to talk to her again, you'll have nothing new to say to her. But if you try a third time, she'll ask "Ever find out what Hotchkiss lost?" Now to get her to say that, you have to talk to Hotchkiss and explore her room as well around the time you find Jacques.

Anyway, when you talk to Lisa and say "Yeah well she still won't tell me what's missing. Seems she's suspicious of everybody," then Lisa will get mad and refuse to talk to you anymore..

But after you go outside and find the key to the tower gate, you can check your voicemail, listen to it, and the third message will be one from Lisa. From there, you can talk to her about Dexter supposedly taking the medallion out to the shed. And that's that.

I honestly don't remember the game that well, since my walkthrough for the game was done eight years ago. Do people want to see me make a separate video, for this one phone message that I didn't trigger in my walkthrough?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Treasure in the Royal Tower Review

My work and my vacation kind of threw off my YouTube schedule, so I wasn't able to do a review for Nancy Drew: Treasure in the Royal Tower, like I expected.

So here, have a sneak preview of my review for the game. It covers...hmmm...the first minute of the game? Ha ha. It goes from the start of the game to Nancy leaving her room, and that's it.

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Treasure in the Royal Tower starts with Nancy writing a letter to George. Nancy is on a Wisconsin ski vacation, but a snowstorm has ruined everything. Now she's stuck inside, and it's boring.

Then Nancy explains that the building is a huge, old castle with dead ends and secret passageways, and there's a mystery because the caretaker is acting strangely, and also, Nancy took candid pictures of the hot ski instructor when he wasn't looking. So really, even IF Nancy could go skiing, she'd still be inside, investigating.

Nancy's opening letter appears in her inventory, and that's neat. I think this is the only game where it's an inventory item, and not just a plot device to introduce us to the story. It also guides the player to Dexter, because the first thing you need to do is drop off the letter with Dexter and start the chore run. More on that later.

First, Nancy's room. Gonna be honest, I don't like it. It's pretty bland, and it tries to trick you into thinking it has more going on than it actually does, by spreading things out unnecessarily. That is, you have three things to pick up: Nancy's room key, the room service menu and a pamphlet about Wickford Castle. They all get put in separate areas, for no apparent reason. In real life, Nancy wouldn't have half her stuff in the dressers and half her stuff in her suitcases. Or maybe she would. Is Nancy a slob? Her family DOES have a housekeeper. Maybe she's a slob.

There's also a radiator in Nancy's room which is making noise, and a telephone. The telephone system got upgraded. Now there's an operator and voicemail. Oh, boy! I think it was a nice idea, but maybe not. Who calls the operator? I don't do that. Do I? [Check to see if you actually do have to use the phone at some point in the game.]

On a table in Nancy's room is Sassy Detective magazine, which explains how to fingerprint security locks. I like the fact that this exists. It's much better than Legend of the Crystal Skull, where there isn't any explanation of how fingerprinting works at all. You're just magically supposed to how it works, and that Bess has powder in her inventory in the first place. [Fix this complaint so it doesn't sound weird.]

So Nancy leaves her room and explores the Wickford Castle. It's a nice location, and it comes across as big and imposing. The only problem people have with the castle is navigating through it. Because it's so big, and because the upper floor is identical hallways, it's very easy to get lost the first time you're playing the game. It doesn't help that there are three dead ends, so you can get lost and end up in an area which goes nowhere. Some people find that frustrating, other people think it's wonderful. Me, I quickly learned to avoid those three pathways, so it wasn't a big deal.

One change I'd make to the castle is that I'd include the Royal Tower. Like, a closed and locked door with a sign that says "Royal Tower, no entrance permitted" or something like that. That would stir up mystery and intrigue about what's inside the Royal Tower, and make it more obvious that Nancy's main goal is to get into the Royal Tower. Because when I last replayed the game, I was surprised at how unimportant the Royal Tower is. Lisa mentions it once, and I think that's it.

We never SEE the tower at any point. I don't even know where to locate it on a map of the game, because the only way to reach it is through a windy tunnel to the elevator and through another windy tunnel under the elevator. And even when you solve the elevator puzzle, it's not obvious that your destination is the locked tower, because we never SEE the tower. So that's what I'd do. I'd put the tower SOMEWHERE in the game, even if it's something simple like a locked door.

Actually, a locked entrance to the tower would be nice, because Dexter could give you the key to that, when he notices the red dirt on your shoes, and that way, getting back to the tower a second time wouldn't involve a huge detour.

The hotel castle itself has three dead ends, and it's easy to get lost the first time around. The top floor is the largest. The first floor has a huge chunk which is missing, and the basement floor has the exit. Uh, what?

The navigation is not good, and it'd be a big help if the navigation was consistent everywhere, instead of varying from place to place. Probably the biggest pain is getting into Nancy's room. You can't zoom in on it. You have to walk PAST it, then U-turn, THEN zoom in on it. Also, it'd help if her room number was listed on her card, because I forgot what room she's in.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Upcoming YouTube Stuff

I'm going on vacation for a week, starting today! So no blog posts for a while. I'll be posting my walkthrough for Pepper's Adventures in Time, and when I come back, I'll do the next two chapters of Miss Clue: Cruise Most Deadly.

Aside from that, all I have recorded is this:
  • Awakening 7
  • Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
  • Nancy Drew Files 31-34, Book Reviews
  • Starfleet Academy 7-10, Book Reviews
  • Shadow Wolf: Curse of Wolfhill - Speedrun
  • Whispered Secrets: Everburning Candle - Speedrun

I was hoping to record a walkthrough for either Spy Fox 2 or Edge of Reality: Ring of Destiny this week, but it didn't happen. I'll work on those, when I get back. As for book reviews, I've been good about reading books, and bad about writing reviews for them. There are four books I've read: Boxcar Children 11, Baby-Sitters Club 24, Nancy Drew 10, Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Supermystery 3. I hope to at least TRY to write reviews for them, before the vacation starts, because otherwise I'll forget all about the storyline and have to re-read them.

You might have noticed I have two speedruns on there. I was thinking of doing a speedrun, for all five of the games I bought this year. And I was also thinking of doing a dueling speedrun competition with my stepdaughter, Mary, but I have no idea what game would work for that.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Democratic Primary

The Democratic Presidential election is over now! I guess that means it's safe to talk about it. I wanted to talk about it earlier, but I also didn't want to start any political wars.

The candidate I supported was Bernie Sanders. Call me silly, but I supported him because he was the only one to visit my state (Oregon). He visited multiple times! Hillary Clinton didn't visit us; she sent her husband Bill to stump in her place. That's sort of like expecting an ice cream sundae for dessert, but getting an ice cream sandwich instead. I mean, it's still ice cream, and everyone likes ice cream, but it's not what you were really hoping for.

I'm doing the math now, and it looks like Sanders and Clinton had a 45-55 split, with the normal delegates. That's not too far off from the 46-53 split that Clinton and Obama had in 2008. In comparison, the Republican race was a blowout; Trump and Cruz got a 62-22 split.

The magic percentage that you want is 60. If you get 60% of the normal delegates, you win automatically. Otherwise, the election gets decided by the superdelegates. Superdelegates make up 15% of the Democratic vote, and they vote in July. Most of them broadcasted their votes before the primaries started in February, and they have a 92-8 split, in favor of Clinton. That's very lopsided, and Sanders supporters have complained about this system at length.

As I said, superdelegates vote in July. So technically Sanders could still become the Democratic nominee. He just needs to win 76% of the superdelegate vote. Going from 8% of the superdelegate vote to 76% of the superdelegate vote is probably not possible.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

1980's Nancy Drew's Karate

As part of the 1980's reboot, Nancy Drew learned karate. This was hailed as a good, feminist move. She can fight for herself! She's no longer a damsel in distress who gets rescued when the culprit shows up! (The 2002 Scooby Doo movie did the exact same thing with Daphne's character.)

Although they had good intentions in making Nancy Drew more of a modern feminist, I think there were three problems with making her a karate expert.

1. Her karate skills are plot-related. She can only use karate to win a fight, if the plot demands it. If the plot demands that the culprit gets away at this point, then either she fights badly, or she forgets about her karate skills completely. So the karate ends up being more of a curse than a blessing, because the majority of the time, she either fails at it, or she's an idiot who forgot she can disarm anyone bare-handed. Keep in mind, knowing karate doesn't stop her from regularly being captured and thrown into death traps.

2. This was hailed as a new, groundbreaking move...but it wasn't. The Hardy Boys had been fighting culprits for decades, before Nancy. She wasn't so much breaking ground as retreading old ground. The authors seemed content to have their only feminist development be "Nancy Drew acts more like her male counterparts", instead of "Nancy Drew moves so far forward, she bypasses her male counterparts".

To be fair, "Nancy fights culprits by herself" would have been an equalizing move in the 1960's. But we're talking about the 1980's Nancy Drew reboot. Well, guess what? The Hardy Boys got a reboot in the 1980's, too! In their reboot, they transitioned from dangerous fistfights to dangerous gunfights. So she caught up to them, just in time for them to move on to something else, meaning she still remained two steps behind them. Although, really, they still did a LOT of fistfighting, so she wasn't THAT far behind them...

3. There was no introduction. It just popped up at the end of Nancy Drew Files 2 without any warning whatsoever. On one page, she's normal Nancy, and on the next page, she's a black belt in karate who just beat up some culprits. That came completely out of left field, so much so that it was ridiculous. They should have mentioned her karate skills at some point BEFORE she used them for the first time, because it comes across as a cheap gimmick / deus ex machina scene.

Of course, this isn't a problem anymore, because now I'm in the 30's of that series, and it's firmly established that she knows karate. Still, I imagine some readers get shocked when they see her use karate for the first time, without any warning.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pokemon Yellow Again

Oh, hey, I surprised myself by being super efficient and actually reaching the end of the game!



Overall, I wasn't a big fan of the game, and that's probably my fault for starting with the hardest of the GBC Pokémon games. There is definitely a good game in that cartridge, but it's obscured by a lot of unexplained rules and problems, such as "you can't tell what an item does BEFORE you use it". I hear good things about the GBA remakes, which solve a lot of the general problems and tweaks/fixes the battle system problems in particular.

...Wait. They did GBA remakes of the GBC games? Seriously? Wow. That's like Zelda: Link's Awakening getting a GBC remake of the GB original. Huh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pokemon Yellow Blind

This weekend, I did a Pokémon Yellow livstream, which started off as "this is fun!" and eventually devolved into "I have no idea what I have to do next, I just spent 40 minutes wandering around and getting NOWHERE".



I'm at the final third of the game, where the entire map is opened up to you, and you can go mostly anywhere you want. And that's what got me stuck. I could go ANYWHERE, but I didn't know where I was supposed to go! I (correctly) guessed that Fuchsia City was my next destination, as it was the only place I hadn't been to yet. After that, though? I had no idea where to go, and there weren't any clues to guide me.

It would help a LOT, if every boss told you where the next boss was. For example, when you defeat Erica, she can say, "You beat me, but I bet you can't beat Sabrina in Saffron City!". Something like that is what this game desperately needs.

After the livestream, I checked some walkthroughs online to figure out what to do next, and it turns out the solution was to revisit some old areas, to do very specific things. I soldiered on and recorded four more videos, these ones being a lot more focused and on point. Mostly. There's still a fair amount of me wandering around a dungeon for the first time, exploring and getting lost. But now I'm only 2-3 videos away from defeating the final gym leader! After that is the final boss gauntlet, and game over! I think.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rice and Apples

One recipe my family actually liked was rice and apples! Technically it's a breakfast dish, but we have it for dinner.

You mix 1/2 cup rice, 4 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt inside a casserole dish. You bake that in the oven at 275 for two hours, occasionally stirring to prevent sticking.

Then, you add 2-3 sliced apples. I add 3-4 apples, because the daughter loves the tiny apple bits floating inside the rice. You bake it for another hour, and that's it.

I've never had porridge, but I think this is a porridge recipe. Porridge with apples isn't so bad. To make it healthier, don't add as much sugar. Thanks to Carole Arkin, for contributing this recipe to cookbook!