Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Barbie Princess Power

Did I mention Barbie Princess Power is an amazing movie? It's way better than all the other Barbie movies that the six-year-old has made me watch this year. I think I like it, mainly because it's a comedy. There's a lot of slapstick and good one-liners.

Take the main villain, for example. He's an evil Baron, and he's angry because his great-great-grandfather lost the kingdom in a ill-fated game of rock-paper-scissors. That is literally his entire motivation for conquering the kingdom. I laughed.

The story is pretty standard superhero stuff. Girl gets superpowers, girl has to learn how to use superpowers, girl struggles to hide her secret identity from her family and an obsessed reporter. Her jealous cousin finds out her secret, and then the cousin gets superpowers of her own. Barbie and her cousin fight constantly, until they're forced to team up and stop the main villain. Throw in a moral about "working together", and you're done.

Of course, the movie contains a lot of stereotypical Barbie elements, like mandatory cute animals and little sisters that don't really affect the plot. Oh, and she's a princess who dresses in pink all the time. Obviously! Some of those things felt like a parody of typical Barbie movie elements, while some felt like demands from the marketing department. "Sorry, guys, you need to have a scene of her trying on different outfits, so we can sell multiple outfits with the toys."

The main complaints about this movie are the violence. Yeah, there's a lot of danger and fighting in the movie, compared to other Barbie stuff. She's a superhero! I would be disappointed if there wasn't a superhero duel between her and the main villain. Also, people dislike the character design. Barbie looks less realistic, and you might go so far as to say her face looks like it's collapsing in on itself. Maybe that's why they have a hand-drawn picture of her on the DVD cover.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

One of the recipes I tried out last week was a chicken and rice casserole. My casserole book says it was made by Helen Watts. The Internet tells me that she died last year. Now I'm hesitant to look up any more of the names in my old cookbooks.

You're supposed to mix a can of mushroom soup, chicken soup and celery soup, along with a lot of butter. As in, more than a stick. I just used whatever butter was left over in the fridge. Also, I don't have celery soup, so I used about a quarter can of chicken broth. You cook all them together in a saucepan, until they're smooth.

Then you add a cup of rice. This is basically your dipping sauce. Not really. I messed up the recipe. I thought you were supposed to dip the chicken breasts in the sauce mixture, then cook it in the oven. Turns out, you're supposed to fill the casserole dish with the soup stuff, then put the chicken on top of it. That makes more sense, because otherwise, you've got a lot of leftover soup.

You coat the chicken tops with butter and paprika. I still don't know how to sprinkle with paprika. It came off in huge globs.

You cook the thing at 275 degrees for two and a half hours.

The casserole ended up being kind of bad, in that the chicken had no taste to it whatsoever. I guess I cooked it wrong. The soup mixture is good, though. If I wanted to make soup by itself, that would not be a bad way to go about it! It's too bad the chicken didn't absorb the taste.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Land Before Time: Good Times & Good Friends

My library has some DVDs for the The Land Before Time TV show. I didn't even know there was a TV show. Apparently, the show aired in 2007, the same year as the thirteenth movie. The first DVD I got was Good Times & Good Friends, and it has four episodes.

The Star Day Celebration is all about Ruby. Who is Ruby? I have no idea. She wasn't in any of the movies. Fortunately, the episode briefly delves into her backstory. One year ago, on her birthday, Ruby's family was attacked by carnivores. To keep her safe, her parents sent her to live with Littlefoot in the Great Valley, so she could learn about sharing and friendship.

I don't understand that explanation. What does "learning to share" have to do with "protecting yourself from carnivores"? Why did Ruby's parents only send HER to safety, and not her siblings? Heck, why did Ruby's parents not move to the safe area? Instead, they asked Chomper to guide her there. Chomper, the baby T-Rex. It's cool to see Chomper again, but maybe the BABY isn't the best choice for a guardian.

Anyway, Ruby is sad because it's been a year since she last saw her family. Our heroes decide to cheer her up with a surprise birthday party. They get her some special berries, and they help her when she's caught in an unexpected landslide. That's basically it for the episode. I didn't like it very much.

The animation quality was okay, but definitely not as good as the movies. The main problem was consistency. Cera's pupils kept changing shape from shot to shot, and Littlefoot's cheeks occasionally ballooned out, like he had gained several pounds. And when characters turned around/to the side, their faces got a little weird.

The Brave Longneck Scheme is a follow-up to the fourth movie. Littlefoot's love interest, Ally, returns to the Great Valley with her herd. But, uh oh! She's got a new boyfriend! Rhett is a phony braggart, who pretends that he's a brave hero. He tells several tall tales, about how he fought dozens of villains and saved everyone.

Our heroes are pretty sure that Rhett is lying about his adventures. So they decide to test him, by setting up a fake emergency. Rhett screams and runs away, exposing him as a liar. Our heroes triumph for a while, but then Rhett tells the adults about the emergency, resulting in a minor uproar. In the end, both Rhett AND our heroes learn that it's wrong to lie and create fake situations. I liked that moral, and how the show didn't let our heroes get away with acting like jerks, in their quest to stop a villain.

I also liked how they sang Friends for Dinner from the fifth movie. The lyrics were changed slightly, and they made it as short as possible, but I think I liked this rendition better, because they had a better person doing Littlefoot's singing voice.

The animation was good for this episode. It was different, though. Compared to the movies, the characters were simpler and less detailed. Littlefoot's head lost the lines on the top of his muzzle, while Cera's eyes and forehead became larger. It didn't bother me, because it was very well-done; the characters' faces were interesting and expressive, even if they were different from normal. I actually would like to see more of the series, done in this different style.

The Great Log Running Game is a Cera episode, and storylines with her are usually my favorites, because she's an interesting character. To be honest, only the Cera and Littlefoot storylines interest me. The other characters are mostly comic relief, and it's hard to take their problems seriously. Whereas Cera and Littlefoot have struggled with real, heavy problems, ever since the first movie.

In this episode, Cera's father gives her a big pep talk about how she can do anything she wants, because she's a triceratops. Good advice for your daughter, but she takes it too far and insists that she can win a log-rolling game that's designed for two-legged dinosaurs. Cera injures herself, which convinces her to try harder, and then she gets caught in a dangerous current. Everyone works together to save her.

This episode wasn't the greatest, but I liked the scenes of Cera and her father. It's interesting to see him try to help his daughter, only to cause more problems for her. Poor Mr. Three Horn. For someone who was introduced as a one-note villain, he's sure taken on a lot of depth.

The Bright Circle Celebration is a straight up WEIRD episode. It's about religion, which has never been mentioned before in the series, because all the characters are dinosaurs. I mean, dinosaur religion?

Well, it turns out that the dinosaurs are nature worshippers. Petrie goes on and on about appeasing the sun god, because if the sun isn't happy with them, it will make the days shorter and shorter until they all die. Cera rightly notes that the sun doesn't CARE what they're doing, because it's a ball of gas in the sky. But Petrie insists, they have to make the sun god happy by fixing up his sacred clearing and having a traditional ceremony there. The episode doesn't go into much detail, but the ceremony appears to be something of a mix between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The dinosaurs argue whether or not to celebrate the ceremony. Some of them think it's nice to do the ceremony and have a big feast, even if it's not necessary. Cera gets angry at them and storms off, complaining that they're all a bunch of idiots. After that, Cera and her father sing a song called "My Reality", where they boldly proclaim that they don't believe in anything supernatural. No, they only believe in things they can SEE. As a result of this worldview, they believe the Earth is flat, and that the sun rotates our planet. Uh...okay.

The ceremony is interrupted by a volcanic eruption. The nature-worshippers freak out, but it seems like their sun god is trying to kill them. Everyone works together to put out the ensuing fire. In the end, Cera and her father decide to celebrate the ceremony, even if they're skeptical about its purpose and origins.

I think the moral of the story is that religion is a bunch of baloney, but it's still a good idea for atheists to celebrate Christmas, because it's fun. Also, atheists are stupid for believing science is the end-all and be-all. Whether you're on the side of science or religion, you can find something that insults you in this episode. Thank you, dinosaur show, for perpetuating the myth that science and religion are incompatible!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden

I'm doing a walkthrough for Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden.

Strictly speaking, it's not a full-length game like the previous one. It's more of a mini-adventure, released for Halloween. It's three chapters long, and it should be finished in under two hours.

My main gripe with the previous Miss Clue was the episodic format. This game is a large improvement on that front, simply because it's short. Backtracking at the start of every chapter is a pain when you do it fourteen times in a row, but it's not so bad when you only have to do it twice. Plus, the backtracking isn't as much of a hassle, because there's a lot less area to cover.

That said, it still looks likes the programmers were forced to release the game, before it was finished. There are two spots where an area is closed off, because the programmers haven't finished it yet. In later chapters, these areas are opened, and the game acts like you could explore them the entire time. These two areas being the haunted garden, unlocked in Chapter Two, and Miss Clue's bedroom, unlocked in Chapter Three.

Actually, there's a third area which seems like it was originally intended to be part of the game. It's the locked door upstairs. You can interact with this locked door, unlike all the other locked doors; Miss Clue has a line of dialogue about needing the key to open the door. There's also a cutscene where she overhears people talking behind the door. That certainly makes it seem like you were intended to go through the door at some point, but no. The door remains forever locked. This, and some unused inventory items, makes me think that perhaps the programmers weren't able to finish everything on time.

Speaking of inventory items, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a particular puzzle which had me stumped. That would be the music puzzle. The puzzle itself is really simple; you use the sheet music on the piano, then play the song. The tricky part? This is the only puzzle in the game where you ABSOLUTELY MUST take the inventory item back, after using it. You have to pick up the sheet music, because it triggers a conversation ten minutes later. The conversation has nothing at all to do with the music, and indeed, you never use the music for anything again. But it HAS to be in your inventory, or else the game won't progress. It's a completely non-intuitive puzzle, and I'm pretty sure it's NOT supposed to be a puzzle. It's just weird programming. Unless there's a reason why you're expected to pick up used inventory items?

I'd say this game on par with the previous game, in terms of puzzles. The puzzles make sense, in general. The only one that gave me trouble, besides the unintentional puzzle I mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the big finale puzzle, and I'm willing to let that slide, because it's perfectly fine to have the finale puzzle be extra-difficult. Still, I can easily see some players getting stuck on puzzles, and wishing that the game gave you an explanation of how the puzzles work, at any point.

The storyline in this game is...okay, I guess? The problem is that there's only one character, Mrs. Danforth, and she sounds super-bored the entire time. She could not care less about her tragic family backstory. The two other characters are a ghost cat and the ghost of Mrs. Danforth's sister. Neither character talks; they're just there to wander around in the night and make the game spookier. At one point, the ghost possesses Mrs. Danforth and writes a note, but when she talks about it, she sounds just as uninterested as ever.

The culprit of the game is Kenny. You catch the culprit, and Mrs. Danforth--trying her hardest to sound like she cares--says, "It's Kenny!". She then proceeds to explain who Kenny is, because he's never been mentioned at any point until just now. That was frustrating and unsatisfying. There's a REASON it's against the rules of detective fiction to have a culprit who isn't introduced until the end.

The only other thing I have to say about this game is that the navigation is improved, through the use of larger hitboxes. "Improvement" is probably the best word to describe this game. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. I hope the series continues to improve. The next game is allegedly NOT episodic, which means that maybe, just maybe, the programmers will have completely finished the game BEFORE release!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stock Trading

I started doing some stock market trading in September.
I learned a lot about the stock market from the experience, and the good news is that I haven't lost any money yet, since I started buying at the perfect time! The market crashed in mid-August, so prices were low.

The main thing I learned is that trading on the stock market is not for me. There are basically two strategies for making a profit on the stock market. #1, Trade with huge amounts of money. #2, Do a huge amount of trading. If you can do BOTH strategies at the same time, it's the best recipe for success.

I can't do that. I don't have huge amounts of money, and I don't have the free time to do hundreds of trades per day. So those options are out.

Once I've sold my current stocks, I'm going to switch from short-term trading to long-term trading. That means I'll buy stocks, and I'll hold onto them for at least a year, before selling. If the price hasn't gone up enough, then I wait another year. This is a good general strategy, because stock prices usually go up from year to year. The price of EVERYTHING usually goes up. That's called "inflation".

The long-term stocks I have right now are Disney and Wells Fargo, because...I dunno. They both seem like companies which will exist and be successful, ten years from now. Unless there's a market crash or something, their stocks should be in good shape in the distant future.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

I might spend the holiday watching football. At the last big family gathering, my wife tried to explain the rules of football to me, before she fell asleep. I now know the rule that the clock stops, whenever the ball goes out of bounds. (Usually.) I'm still not sure why time-stopping quarterbacks never throw the ball directly out of bounds, though. They seem to always throw the ball out, at a slim angle. If your only goal is to get the ball out of bounds, it's more efficient to turn 90 degrees to the side and throw directly ahead.

Maybe this time, Katie can explain the rules on catching. Specifically, when multiple people are jumping to catch the ball. Sometimes, it's against the rules for the two players to even touch each other. Other times, I see the two players more or less slapping each others' hands and punching each other, but the referee doesn't call a penalty. I'd like to hear an explanation for that.

(Hopefully the explanation is not "the one player is a rich, famous superstar, and the other player is a nobody, so we'll let them break the rules". I hate it when they do that in sports.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Putt-Putt Travels Through Time

This week, I'm doing videos for Putt-Putt Travels Through Time! It was one of my favorite games in high school. I suppose it says a lot about me that I spent more of my high school days playing games like this, than I did studying for the SATs.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nancy Drew Rival

I've read two Hardy Boys books, where the Hardys have to go up against rivals. In the one Hardy Boys book, the rivals were basically social rivals. That is, they were just like the Hardys, only cooler and more popular. All the Hardys' friends started hanging out with the new guys; Frank and Joe got sad and lonely, and they felt like they were replaced. It was a good premise, but badly written; everyone in that book comes off as a huge jerk, EXCEPT for the rival characters.

The other rival Hardy Boys book I read was one of the supermysteries, where two teenagers frame Frank and Joe for bank robbery. The teenagers were more or less evil clones of the Hardy Boys. They looked and acted like the Hardys, and they were just as obsessed with being strong and manly.

Yesterday, I talked about Nancy Drew's rivals, who are basically more nasty, incompetent versions of Nancy. And I wonder, why do the Hardy Boys get competent rivals, while Nancy Drew doesn't? It would be interesting to see Nancy go up against a competent rival. I can think of some possibilities.

#1. The smart girl. Nancy's rival is smart, and she notices clues before Nancy does. Or she notices clues that Nancy overlooks, much to Nancy's chagrin. But Nancy is still a better detective, because she does a better job of fitting clues together and figuring out the big picture.

#2. The tough girl. Basically, 1980's Nancy Drew. I want see her be the rival of 1930's Nancy Drew.

#3. The clone. Just like those Hardy Boys rivals, a girl who acts disturbingly similar to Nancy. I don't think I've ever seen Nancy interact with someone who's just like her. If I was writing a book like this, I'd have Clone Nancy become friends with Bess and George, but I'd make it so she hates Ned with a passion. I think that could be interesting.

Do you readers have any ideas for a Nancy Drew rival? Or do you think Deirdre Shannon is good enough competition for our detective hero?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Brenda Carlton

I've been reading the Nancy Drew Files series recently, and I just realized that Brenda Carlton hasn't shown up in a long time.

Brenda is supposed to be Nancy's big rival. She's basically the 1980's equivalent of Deirdre Shannon; both of them are selfish, spoiled rich brats who mess up Nancy's investigations. They're the same age as Nancy. Brenda was in Books 1, 4 and 10. She also appears in some of the 8-year-old Nancy Drew books.

I find it interesting that both of Nancy's rivals are incompetent. Brenda is a bumbling idiot, who likes to think that she's a great detective. Deirdre couldn't detect her way out of a paper bag. I guess the series didn't want to give Nancy any legitimate competition, when it comes to mystery-solving.

Kind of a lost opportunity there. I mean, half of Brenda's storylines are her, challenging Nancy to a mystery-solving competition. You know, "I bet I can solve the mystery before you do!". But outside of issuing challenges, Brenda doesn't seem interested in solving mysteries. Neither does Deirdre. What's the point of having a rival, who doesn't actually compete with you? Seems strange.

Book 20 takes place at the local newspaper, and I kept expecting Brenda to show up, 'cause that's where she works. Nope, she's not in the book at all. I sure hope they haven't written her out of the series. She was an interesting character. Well, kind of.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Reviews

I mentioned book reviews two days ago. Well, here are two more book reviews! As kinda promised, the one is shorter than the other. That didn't work out so well, actually. Having a short recap just means there's more stuff I want to discuss in the post-book followup.

I've written reviews for Nancy Drew Files 16-19, but I haven't turned them into videos yet. The plan is to stick with the original Nancy Drew series for a while, before going back to 1980's Nancy Drew. How many of the original Nancy Drews should I review, before switching to another series?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

I saw Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. It's a lot better than the first Star Trek movie, which is not saying much, considering that the first movie, you know, didn't have a full script.

The premise is that Captain Admiral Kirk is going through a midlife crisis, now that he's fifty years old, and he's basically working a desk job instead of exploring space like a bold hero. Around this time, his arch-nemesis Khan escapes from exile and launches a grand scheme to take over the universe. Kirk is forced to fight Khan one more time, even though he hasn't piloted a ship for decades.

Khan is...well, I saw the original episode with Khan, and it's a bit of a stretch to call him Kirk's arch-nemesis. He's more like "the guy who caused Kirk a minor inconvenience". The premise is that Khan is a genetically-enhanced superhuman who took over the world back in the 1990's. That was a good premise, and it set him up to be a great villain. However, the episode didn't follow through on the premise. Khan acted like a normal person, not a superhuman. He spent most of his time seducing a random woman, not plotting to take over the universe.

I preferred the 39 Clues Unstoppable series, which has a relatively similar premise. That is, the villain is a genetically-enhanced super-villain, who is plotting to take over the world. It's near-impossible to stop him, because he has super-intelligence and super-strength.

Like the episode, the Khan movie overlooks the premise that Khan is a super-genius. But unlike the episode, that's okay! Khan is still a good, interesting villain, even if he's not the genius he's supposed to be. He comes off as a legitimate threat, who has an intense rivalry with Kirk. The acting and solid script completely sold me on the big rivalry, even though, in reality, these are two guys who met each other once, fifteen years ago, not life-long rivals. Heck, Kirk even admits he hasn't thought about Khan in years, that's how little of an impact he left.

I liked almost the entire movie, except for the part where Kirk escapes from an underground trap, by using an emergency transporter which didn't get mentioned until just now. That felt like cheating, on the scriptwriter's part. But hey, one of the characters calls Kirk out on being a cheater, so at least they're aware that Kirk likes to bend the rules in order to win. Plus, the movie ends with a legitimate victory for Kirk in the battle of wits, so I'm willing to overlook the time he cheats his way out of an inescapable trap. After all, it is totally in character for Kirk to do something sneaky like that.

My wife liked almost the entire movie, except for the casting of Kirstie Alley as "Hot Mr. Spock". Or should I call her "Mrs. Spock"? Either way, it was completely unnecessary to have a sexy Vulcan in this movie, and borderline out-of-character for Vulcans to do things like try out a cute new hairdo. Spock is only half-Vulcan, and he would NEVER do that, so it's hard to picture a full-Vulcan doing it. I much preferred the random Vulcan woman in Star Trek: The Next Generation who didn't do much besides stand around, looking bored. That's way more in line with the Vulcan mythology that the original series built up.

All in all, good movie. Good writing, good acting, and the ending was extremely powerful. Apparently, the movie is really popular with non-Star Trek fans, and I'm not surprised. It's that good. Not the best movie ever, by any means--I'd rather watch Indiana Jones than this movie, any day--but it's still enjoyable and worth watching. I cannot say the same for the first movie, which deserves the condescending title of "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture".

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blogging Followup

So here's a comment I got on the post I made two days ago.

I'll be blunt with my OPINIONS.

I read your blog because some of the topics are interesting.

My biggest issue is that you very rarely engage with the commentators. Occasionally you'll ask what your readers think of a topic but you never interact. Occasionally someone will ask a specific question and you never answer. I realize that you can't spend all day responding, but it appears that you're not interested in what your readers think.

I don't care for your 'here's the videos of my walk through of blah, blah, blah game, because with the exception of Nancy Drew, I don't play games. But - I know that that's your thing so I get it.

Your book Nancy Drew book reviews are too long and I suspect that there are few people who are really interested.

I enjoy your blogs on religion, cooking, daily life and general topics. I really like Katie and Mary and enjoy when they pop in.

I think Stephanie's got a point. I'm more interested in hearing what people have to say, than I am in having a conversation. I know a few years ago, I tried to have a series of response posts, and it just turned into a mess, because there were response posts to response posts, and people who jumped in halfway through the conversation, and I dunno. Blogger is NOT the ideal forum for having a conversation.

Livestreaming sometimes works for a Q and A--I did one of those recently--but there are problems with that, too. Like when someone spams the chat with the same question twelve times, even though it was already answered. And if there are too many people in the chat, conversation is impossible. And it looks like the livestream chat STILL doesn't get auto-saved by YouTube. Sad.

The "here's the latest video walkthrough I did" posts can be boring, but they're here to stay. Mainly because it's super-easy to write those posts, but also because that was the original purpose of the blog: cross-promotion.

Book review blog posts--again, that's something I do because it's easy. I mean, I have the review written out for the video. It's super easy to just copy/paste them as blog posts. I agree that they're super-long, compared to all my other blog posts. I dunno. Maybe it's my background as an English minor, but I'm inclined to write a TON of stuff for book reviews. My first draft of every book review is usually 2-3 times as long as the finished copy, although I'm getting better at summarizing, instead of mentioning every single little thing that happens.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game Endings

I'm still working on Cat President, my dating sim that focuses on cats and Presidential elections.

I'm not an expert on dating sims or anything, but I think it's standard for games to have three endings per pathway. You have the bad ending, the good ending, and the special ending, which is the exact same thing as the good ending, only they added a second scene at the end.

I don't like it when a game has multiple, near-identical endings. So with Cat President and the other games I've written, I'm making an effort to have every ending be different. It was easy to have unique endings with Francy Droo. Each of the four suspects got one ending, where they were the culprit.

With Cat President, it's more difficult. It feels like I have to write the same ending, three times in a row. Now, it's relatively simple to write a bad ending where things end poorly. But as for a "good" ending and "special" ending...what's the difference? They're both good endings, it's just....one is better than the other? How do you qualify what counts as "better"?

The more different two endings are, the harder it is to make a judgment call. For example, I like the bad Dr. Nom-Noms ending best, and I prefer Thunderpaw's good ending to his "special" ending.

I think I want to imitate the Sushi Rangers dating sim, where if you unlock an ending, you unlock all the easier endings. That is, if you get the best ending, you automatically unlock the other endings, too. I went through all the trouble of making multiple endings; people should be able to see them all without having to repeat the entire game.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I feel like I've been neglecting this blog, recently, because of all the writing I've done for Cat President. Have you readers felt that way? Is there anything I can do or write about, to improve things here?