Saturday, July 22, 2017

Several Questions

I got several questions posted as a comment to one of my posts. Let me answer them rapid-fire.

1. How did you discover that some ND puzzles and story lines are optional?

Some of them, I was deliberately looking to see what could be skipped, for speedrun purposes. Others, I skipped accidentally, and I didn't discover they were a thing until I replayed the games.

2. How did you find out Lani Minella disliked some of the ND puzzles when she played the games?

Phoenix, one of the Nancy Drew interns who talked to Lani Minella, told me so. I have never talked to Lani, either directly or indirectly.

3. How many times have you played each and every ND game?

Five times each, I'd say. More like twenty, with the ones I've done speedruns for.

4. Which ND game do you think you have played the most times?

Message in a Haunted Mansion. It's short, so that's ideal for speedrunning.

5. Who is your favorite ND character?

Let's go with Nancy, this time around.

6. Who is your least fav ND character?

Whoever gives you a ton of chores.

7. After your first game was Haunted Carousel, which was the very next game you played?

No idea.

8. If you could only play one ND game ever again, which one would it be?

Right now, The Final Scene is a game I want to revisit.

8. What is your favorite part of being a father?

I like watching Rosie develop and learn new skills.

9. What is Mary's favorite part of being a big sister?

She likes playing with the baby.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull (French)

Here's the latest video in the Foreign Nancy Drew marathon!



The French version is DEFINITELY faster than the English version, as it cuts out some of the dialogue. For example, the part where Bess tells Lamont what order to look up. According to the text box, Bess is supposed to say the number out loud, before Lamont searches through his index. The game cuts out Bess' line and goes straight to Lamont searching through the index.

Solving the graveyard puzzle was incredibly difficult, because most of the character names are puns. The only one I understood Marion Nett, or "marionette". I was able to get the names "Grant" and "Tammy Tasselman", simply because they're the same in both languages. The others were a nightmare to figure out, and I'm sure it took at least twenty minutes.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Star Trek Voyager

Well, my wife and I finished watched all the episodes of Star Trek Voyager. It's an okay show. The two previous Star Trek shows both got really good in Season Three. Voyager waits until Season Five, before getting good. I wish the show had improved much earlier, instead of improving past the halfway point.

My main problem with the series is its wasted potential. The premise is that our heroes are stranded, 70 years from home. It's almost impossible for them to get back alive. Also, half the crew is dead. They're forced to team up with their mortal enemies in order to survive. About two episodes in, neither of these things matter anymore. Everyone acts like normal officers on a normal mission, to the point where they could be only 7 days from home, and you wouldn't know it.

When the show started getting good again, they remembered the "stranded far from home" premise, and we had about five memorable episodes that take place in our home galaxy. These episodes starred Barklay or the Doctor. There was also a neat subplot of our heroes getting letters from home.

They didn't go back to the premise of "half the crew are former rebels", which I guess makes sense. They've been acting nicely for five years. No need for them to suddenly turn evil, although we did have a mind control episode where they did just that.

I think something which dragged the show down was the large cast. It's got too many characters, and remember, the original Star Trek had three main characters. The other characters were mostly just props, although Scotty the Engineer managed to become an ascended extras. Voyager wasn't able to successfully juggle so many characters; I think they should have gotten rid of a few of them.

I'd suggest getting rid of Harry Kim. I liked him a lot, but he was unimportant to the show. I'd also get rid of Chakotay, who was in basically every episode, but it felt like he wasn't. It felt like he was missing, for a season or two. It doesn't help that his main character trait is "stoic"; the show has too many stiff characters as it is. I think it was the right decision to get rid of Kes; as the DVD commentary from the producers said, she just didn't work, even when they tried multiple things with her.

The Doctor is great, as is Seven of Nine. I'm sure someone must enjoy the Neelix/Tuvok dynamic, or else they wouldn't keep showing it. I'm ambivalent about Captain Janeway. It's clear that fans of the show love it, when Janeway is forced into a rough situation, and she makes tough decisions, like in "Year of Hell". I personally don't like that. Yeah, it's nice to see her kick butt and take charge, but I'd like to see her do that, without being forced to go through awful situations first.

My wife and I are split on how we feel about the other characters. She hates the Bellana/Tom romance, which is basically the only romance on the show. I liked Bellana as a character, although I didn't like her gratuitous nude scenes. Tom has an interesting backstory, being the criminal son of a celebrated admiral, but I think there were too many "Tom plays with his newest car/obsession" episodes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Life Overview

I mentioned high school yesterday. Hard to imagine that I'm twice as old as I was when I first entered high school!

I have a hard time remembering high school, without cringing. I was pretty awkward and made stupid mistakes a lot. I also wrote awful poetry, fought with my parents, and occasionally hated everyone. I started doing videogame walkthroughs in high school, though, so it's not a complete loss. And I was President of the English Club for a semester, until the club was cancelled due to lack of interest!

It sounds awful when I put it that way, but I got a neat t-shirt and theme song out of it.

College was a lot like high school, with all the bad parts amped up, because nobody had any parents to keep them in check. Seriously, everyone behaved like idiots without any self-control. I hated most of college and high school. If I could go back, I'd probably change colleges. Or at least, have a different major. Go into business or computers, something which pays better than ancient languages. But college is when I started my YouTube channel! I saw it as a natural extension of videogame walkthroughs.

The other major periods of my life since then have been "Michael has no idea what he's doing with his life", "Michael is studying to become a Catholic priest", "Michael has no idea what he's doing with his life, Part Two" and now I'm on "married with kids". When I read some old posts from this blog, it feels like I'm reading something that was written by a totally different person!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This Blog

I feel like I haven't had enough time to keep up with this blog, recently. I mentioned Facebook yesterday, and I honestly feel like I don't have enough time to keep up with my Arglefumph Facebook page! I try to write a new post for Facebook every day, even though it's usually a generic post like "here's the latest video I've posted today!". But half the time, I'm scrambling to come up with something, and I post late.

Keeping up this blog is harder, as I usually write more than a single sentence. The baby takes up most of my free time, but I think my wife is part of the problem, too. I now have someone in real life who will listen to the random thoughts and ideas I come up with! I don't have to resort to using a blog for human contact anymore!

This is the first time that's been the case since, um...high school? High school.

Anyway, I'm not cancelling the blog quite yet, but don't be surprised if I try to transition away from the blog and onto Facebook for my random Nancy Drew writing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Reviews

Okay, now that my Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription has run out, I can stop reading Sweet Valley High books. I feel like that's all I've read so far this year, after reading 33 books in six months.

I've recorded the audio for all my Sweet Valley High reviews at this point; I just need to pick out pictures and sync them to the audio. My wife and I joke that my book reviews are glorified PowerPoint presentations. The reviews I'll have, when I'm done, are books 52 53 57 59 67 79 81 83 91 94 99 100 105 112 126 127 128 129 130 131 141 142 and 143.

The only non-Sweet Valley High book reviews I have ready are Hardy Boys Casefiles 6 and 17 and Baby-Sitters Club 37-39, plus Baby-Sitters Super Special 5. I wrote reviews for the next four River Heights books, but I haven't recorded them yet. I find it amazing that there are only four River Heights books after this. I'm gonna finish that series relatively soon! Maybe. Or maybe Sweet Valley High's huge backlog will get in the way. Maybe I'll Facebook ask my fans how to proceed.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Supergirl

Mary and I are watching the Supergirl TV show together, and it's really good. The show strikes a balance between stereotypical girl parts (like love triangles) and stereotypical boy parts (like punching aliens). So there's something everyone can enjoy!

My favorite character is Supergirl's boss, who drops a lot of funny one-liners like "Get me a salad. I don't care what type it is, as long as there's a cheeseburger on it." Sadly, her funny one-liners got replaced by random pop culture references, which I guess are supposed to be kind of funny, but they're more self-aggrandizing than anything else.

We're currently working our way through Season One, which came out in 2016. There are some painful references to the 2016 Presidential race, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Like one episode, with the racist politician who openly rants about aliens. Or the episode where "the walking personification of white male privilege" tries to discredit Supergirl's boss by publicly releasing her emails. Those are the more obvious examples. I have to imagine they received some backlash for interrupting the superhero cartoon with political lectures.

[Random side note: Just saw the episode where Supergirl has to disable a nuclear bomb. I paused, on the shot which shows a map of the United States, with red lights for all the places that are being bombed. The only place in Oregon getting bombed is Medford. What?]

Mary sometimes complains that the special effects are too CGI. I tried telling her that is the only type of special effects that exists, nowdays. It actually reminds me a bit of the Quidditch scenes, in the first Harry Potter movie, in that the greenscreen shots look better and more realistic than CGI shots. They should lean more heavily on that.

Overall, I'd give the show a thumbs-up. I like it so far.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Fairly Oddparents

My wife and I were talking about long-running TV series the other day, and I couldn't help but think of The Fairly Oddparents. I liked that show when I was younger. I haven't seen it in years, but it seems to me that it went through several distinct phases.

Seasons 1-3 were really creative and inventive, coming up with neat ideas based on the premise of magical fairies who can grant every wish. It was good stuff.

Seasons 4-5 were not so good, as the show became more of a generic sitcom. Creative premises were replaced by more typical premises, like "let's do an episode based off a movie" and "celebrity guest star episode". Also a lot of "reuse a previous idea/character that was popular", which was hit or miss. That was when I stopped watching the show, and it was cancelled.

The show was uncancelled two years later. Seasons 6 and 7 introduced Poof, the new main character. I don't much care for him, myself, but I enjoyed those seasons. The show went full-blown comedy at that point, and I liked that. Off-the-wall comedy works well for the show.

Season 8 was a strange one, with only six episodes. They made each episode double-length. The show was basically the same, but longer episodes made it different enough, to keep it fresh.

Seasons 9 and 10 tried to shake things up, with a new main character each season. I haven't seen Season 10, but Season 9's new main character was kind of a failure. He was a weird Rick Moranis parody, and I'm told he hasn't been seen since.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Harbinger Maze

I just finished writing the video descriptions for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Harbinger. I doubt I'll write a full review for the game, but I wanted to complain about the maze. The maze in that game is straight-up awful.

The main reason it's awful is because of the drones. Every time you take a step, there is a 40% chance of drones appearing. You need to shoot the drones off the screen, or else they shoot you, and it's game over. Turning left or right counts as "taking a step", for the purposes of the drones. It's really hard to get your bearings in a three-dimensional maze, when every few seconds, you have to do a shooting challenge.

The other reason why it's awful is that it comes with unnecessary, unexplained rules. The maze has four exits, not counting the one you enter from. You need to visit the four exits in a specific order. If you visit them in the wrong order, sorry, you have to go back and do it again. This isn't as bad as it could be, since the maze is mostly a one-way trek. There are only two places where the pathway splits for real; all the other pathway splits lead to dead ends. Still, basically no one is going to visit all four exits in the correct order on their first try. That would require a ton of luck.

The first two exits you want to visit are generator rooms. Those are simple. Go into the room, push a button, then turn around and go back into the maze. I'm not sure why you have to visit the one generator room before the other. They're not connected in any way.

The third exit leads to the central control room, and the walkthroughs I saw recommended to visit this room FIRST, as you can turn off the drones from here. The drones are such a huge pain, going out of your way to disable them as soon as possible is definitely a good idea.

Turning off the drones is part of a five-part matching puzzle, with the other parts being activated by the two generators. The puzzle is difficult and unexplained. The general idea is that you press both panels with the same picture on it, while following audio cues. Do this for all five matches, and you're done! The problem is that the audio cues aren't obvious, and they appear to be randomly mixed up. Last time I played the game, I knew what I was doing, and I still failed the puzzle three times in a row.

The fourth exit leads to an elevator, a hallway and another elevator. You can't get into the second elevator, unless you've solved all the puzzles in the third room correctly. There is no in-game explanation for this, like "the elevator needs power". The game just doesn't let your character step forward to the elevator. He walks partway down the hallway and stops there.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. Two people were flying drones in the sky, during the local Fourth of July fireworks. What a jerk move! "Let me fly a lighted drone all around, to distract everyone from the show!"

2. What's with all the reviews of Wonder Woman that say it's the first action movie with a female lead? Did those reviewers not watch the last two Star Wars movies? I didn't see the last one, but I did see The Force Awakens, and it was all about a woman with superpowers saving the world. I'd say the Jedi are superheroes, if you use a loose definition of "superhero".

3. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the Bernie Sanders people have me on file as a potential political candidate, in the next set of elections. I highly doubt that they'll ask me to run for office, though. I've posted too many silly things on this blog and YouTube; I can just imagine the attack ads, featuring my goofy dance moves. Plus, I'm a pro-life Democrat, and we tend to be unpopular with Democrats in general. Maybe I could run as a family values candidate? I have a family. That makes me pro-family values, right?

More realistically, though, they'll pick someone from Portland. Those people are way more invested in politics than I am. My interest in politics is mostly limited to writing Cat President: A More Purrfect Union. In my defense, I had a baby shortly after the 2016 election! It's hard to get the free time to focus on politics, when you're changing diapers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Insurance (Part 2)

Yesterday, I explained that insurance is cheaper, when a lot of people are buying it, but not using it. Prices are higher if people are using it a lot, or if only a few people are buying it.

This is why childbirth insurance is expensive. Pretty much no one gets it, except for pregnant women. It's an unfortunate combination of not many people buying it, and almost everyone in the insurance pool using it. When I say "not many people" get that health insurance, I'm speaking relatively. Obviously, millions of women give birth. But the percentage of the general population who gives birth any particular year is low, compared to, say, the percentage of people who watch the Superbowl.

This is also why the government runs the Medicare program, for people who are 65 and older. Statistically speaking, people at that age are very likely to need healthcare. By putting all those people in their own separate program, it lowers the cost of healthcare for everyone else. When you don't count senior citizens, that lowers the number of people using healthcare.

I personally think we should renamed "Medicaid" as "elder care" or something like that, because as it stands now, "Medicaid" sounds a lot like "Medicare", and people get the two confused all the time. Medicare is healthcare for poor people, who normally can't afford healthcare. The idea is that this increases the number of people who buy insurance but don't use it, making prices go down. I personally think Medicare's effect on the price of healthcare is more or less irrelevant; we should provide Medicare to people who otherwise couldn't get healthcare, because it's the right thing to do. Jesus commands us to help the sick as a corporal work of mercy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Insurance (Part 1)

I've been told that the golden rule of insurance is "insurance is cheap, when people who don't need it are buying it."

For example, let's say Nancy Drew has "getting hit on the head by a criminal" insurance. When she gets a concussion, insurance pays $5,000 for her hospital fees. If there are 50 people in the insurance pool, they all have to pay $100, to cover for Nancy's fees. If there are 100 people in the pool, they all have to pay $50. If there are 5,000 people in the pool, they all have to pay $1.

Basically, we need a lot of people who AREN'T getting hit on the head, to cover for Nancy. But say Frank and Joe Hardy join the insurance group. Now there are three people getting concussions, and everyone has to pay three times as much, in order to cover them.

Get the idea? People who use the insurance = higher cost per person. People who don't use the insurance = lower cost per person. Ideally, you could get such a large number of people in your insurance pool that prices would stay relatively stable, regardless of how often it's used. That's sort of how car insurance works. The car insurance company has millions of customers, keeping prices low.

Another way insurance companies keep costs low is by charging people on a sliding scale. That is, the more likely you are to need the insurance, the more you have to pay to get it. I remember in high school, when the guys spent HOURS complaining about the fact that they have to pay more for car insurance than girls do. Adults responded with condescending remarks about sixteen-year-old boys being reckless drivers. This led to the teenage boys complaining even more.

The sliding scale usually has a cut-off point, where it's not financially viable for someone to get insurance. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are a good example. They get into dangerous situations, every single month! Each book usually has three to five scenes where they almost die or get killed. I wouldn't want them into my insurance pool, because they'd make my prices skyrocket!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime

Here's my walkthrough for "The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime".



I was expecting an adventure game, like the previous installment in the series. Alas, we got a hidden objects game without any voice acting, instead. It's moderately amusing, even if it's not as high-quality as the last game. I think it would be improved with voice acting and some more localization (for example, sometimes a wrench is called "wrench" and sometimes it's called "spanner").

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor in Russian

Here is a livestream of me playing Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor, in Russian!



The most interesting difference is that LouLou, the female parrot, is now Lori, the elderly male parrot. Lori's word association game was turned into a "enter the famous person's last name challenge". I think Ethel is less scary in Russian, while Linda is more scary, as she does angry wolf-breathing. Playing Bul against Jane is easier, as she is a way less aggressive player.

Also, you see the pieces of paper that Nigel uses for his memoirs. I'm pretty sure that's not in the English version. I mentioned the lack of memoir-papers in the "Everything Wrong With" for that game, right?

I'm pretty sure that there's a time difference between the English and Russian versions of the game. Speedrunners will have to figure out which version is faster! The main time difference will probably be Nancy's dialogue. If she talks faster in Russian, then speedrunning in Russian will be ideal.

I'm hoping to turn this into a 2017 Foreign Nancy Drew Games Marathon! I have no idea what the official name for the marathon should be, though,