Saturday, May 19, 2018

Nancy Drew Book Ideas

People say my last blog should be about Nancy Drew, so here are some ideas for Nancy Drew books! You might know I sent my resume to the publishers over two months ago, but I never heard back from them. But if I had heard back from them, I probably would have pitched these books:

1. The Sitcom Sabotage. The most recent Nancy Drew Diaries book mentioned Packed House, an obvious allusion to Fuller House. Even if it was a one-off joke, I want to see more of it. Let's say there has been sabotage on-set, and they've asked Nancy to solve the mystery. Pretty typical setup for a Nancy Drew book. There are lots of characters, I could have fun with an actor whose personality doesn't match their character at all, and the culprit is obviously the Olsen twins.

2. High School Mystery. Unlike every other series, Nancy Drew is officially a high school student in Nancy Drew Diaries. Multiple books have referenced this fact. I think we should get a full-blown high school mystery, one that takes place entirely in school. Let's say Nancy (or one of her friends) is accused of stealing the answer booklet to the SATs, and Nancy has to prove their innocence by finding the real thief. Or someone egged the Principal's house, or Deirdre Shannon is spreading mean gossip about Nancy, or whatever. I just think it'd be interesting to explore the River Heights High School setting, because this is the only series where she's in high school.

3. Sequel Book. I'd do a book which is a sequel to one of the popular games. In Return to Shadow Ranch, Nancy goes back to Shadow Ranch and solves a new mystery, probably either the "Nancy finds someone's long-lost father" or "Nancy helps a poor orphan girl" storyline that was cut out of the game / rewrite of the book. Also, I'd include some love drama with Dave Gregory, because how could you not?

I also like the idea of revisiting Blackmoor Manor, with an adult Jane Penvellyn. That would also be awesome. Say Jane is being haunted by visions of her witch ancestor, Elinor, or Mrs. Drake revealed a big family secret on her deathbed. I know Treasure in the Royal Tower is consistently in people's "top three Nancy Drew games" list, but I don't think anything there is worth revisiting; they did a pretty good job of wrapping everything up neatly.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Katherine Applegate Book Signing

This is amazing, everyone! Katherine Applegate did a book signing in my area! She's best known as the author of The One and Only Ivan (a Newberry award winner that is being made into a movie) and the Animorphs series.

I was shocked when she casually mentioned that she wrote a bunch of Sweet Valley Twins books! I have reviewed three Sweet Valley Twins books. Not by choice! I was commissioned to do these reviews, through Patreon.

So I basically had to ask her which books she wrote. She says she's pretty much blocked those books out of her memory, except Jessica's Secret. The Internet says she wrote 17 Sweet Valley books in total. I told her the names of the three books I reviewed (Boys Against Girls, Center of Attention and Booster Boycott). She remembered hearing the title Booster Boycott before, but she doesn't think she wrote it.

She agreed that $10 is not enough money, for me to review one of those books, and she laughingly apologized for the series. This is such an amazing, special moment. I am speechless.

I thought I would be cute, so I brought a copy of See You In September for her to sign. That's an obscure YA romance book from the 90's; it has four short stories from different authors. She said she hadn't seen the book in decades, and she wasn't sure she even has a copy. It would be amazing if I could get the other authors to sign it! I know the one author (Ellen Conford) stopped writing a long time ago; it turns out that she died in 2015. But maybe I could hunt down the other authors at book signings, somehow.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blog Backlog Done

As I said last month, my plan is to stop posting on this blog, once I cleared out my backlog. Well, I've officially done that! Everything has been posted at this point.

What should I do now? What should my final blog post be? Let me know your ideas.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

If I Rebooted Nancy Drew

Q: If you had to reboot the Nancy Drew franchise (books and/or computer games), how would you go about it? You have seen most of the franchise and all of the failed reboots/mistakes they have made, and I am curious to hear your answer. How would you make a good reboot that paid homage to the originals while still pressing onward?

A: Phew, that's a tough question!

For the game series, fans seem to prefer the older Nancy Drew games, the ones that make up the "classic" series. At least, they always dominate in "best game" polls. To recapture that magic, I'd bring in one of the bigwigs from that era. Say, Max Holechek, the director of Games 4-12. Alternately, I would try making a game based on a book. The older games did that; the newer games not so much. Make a game based on The Haunted Staircase to coincide with the movie release! That might be for the best.

Another safe bet might be a sequel game. Say, Return to Shadow Ranch or Terror at Blackmoor Manor. If done correctly, it could be fantastic. I personally want to see a follow-up to The Silent Spy because I was interested in the unresolved storylines of that game. The Shattered Medallion also had unresolved storylines, but I'm less interested in seeing Sonny Joon's Scavenger Hunt: Part Two.

For the book series, I think the main problem with the current series is that Nancy is a reluctant heroine who doesn't like to solve mysteries. She goes out of her way to avoid mysteries, and she's often passive in investigating. That defeats the entire purpose of the series! Who wants to read a mystery-free mystery series?

The last book was particularly bad, in that Nancy is constantly scared and complaining; she starts off by talking about how she almost wet her pants when someone talked to her unexpectedly. That's a horrible way to introduce your main character. So I would start there; I would completely change Nancy's personality.

Here are all my various ideas for a book reboot:
  • Make Nancy Drew a good role model, someone readers can look up to. When 1930 Nancy Drew is a better feminist / role model than your Nancy Drew, you're doing something wrong. If I wrote for Nancy Drew, I would model her off the videogame series version of the character, which is currently better than what we're getting in the books. (
  • Aim for an older target audience. The last three Nancy Drew reboots have all aimed for a younger target audience. Time to crank the reading level back up a bit!
  • Longer books. The original series had 210 page books; the rewrites had 180 pages. Since the 1980's, Nancy Drew books have normally hovered around 150 pages each. Nancy Drew Diaries has huge spacing, so it's hard to tell how long those books are, but they seem a tad shorter. I'd recommend either going back to longer books, or giving every book the same number of pages/chapters.
  • Better titles. Too many books in the Nancy Drew Diaries series have titles that have nothing at all to do with the book. There are no red slippers in The Red Slippers, there is no phantom in Phantom of Nantucket, there is no puzzle in The Professor and the Puzzle. Seriously, it is not asking too much to have the title match the book in some way. The worst title goof is in Book 13, where one chapter is titled "the bachelor did it". Way to spoil the culprit's identity before the book even started.
  • More variety in stories. Over 90% of the Nancy Drew Diaries books were sabotage mysteries. Please stop.
  • Hold off on pop culture references which quickly become dated. Some of them are dated, by the time the books go into print! Be cool like 1980's Nancy Drew and change the names of pop culture references. Just imagine how bad the Donald Trump or JFK Jr. books would be seen today, if they hadn't changed their names.
  • Go back to third person perspective. This is just a stylistic thing, but it's a good way to emphasize "we're going back to the series' roots".

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Questions from Blog Readers 5

As I said, I'm wrapping up my blog soon! Here are more questions from blog readers.

Q: How do you keep such an optimistic attitude?
A: I tend to be optimistic by nature, but I get negative and angry like everyone else. I just cut it out of my online content, so no one sees it. Have you seen my commentary outtake videos? I cut out all the outakes where I swear loudly, because I messed up.

I tend to be happier and more enthusiastic in my online life, in general. Most of that is acting. In real life, people tend to think I'm unfriendly, partially because I'm shy/introverted, and I normally don't approach other people on my own. My wife says I have Resting [Bad Word] Face, which doesn't help.

Q:  How do you plan on raising your family as Christians? In the modern age with easy access to obscenity, pornography, and all of these loud distractions, what is your advice about blocking it out? (Sorry if the question came out a bit heavy or awkward—I just know you are very devout to your faith and I respect your wisdom about religious and serious topics.)

A: Three words are coming to mind: example, honesty and love. You need to set a good example for your children, because the life of the parents is the book that children learn from. If you check your phone all the time, your children will think that's normal behavior. I struggle with that, to the point where I had to delete most of my apps on my phone, just to remove the temptation of me playing games all day. I fell back into the phone trap recently, when I installed Fire Emblem Heroes.

Honesty is our strategy with tough subjects. We respect our kids enough to tell them the truth and provide them with all the facts, so they can make the right judgments. I don't think lying to them helps, even if done with the noble intention of trying to protect them. And of course, love is important in all aspects of family life, as it lifts us out of ourselves and draws us deeper into a connection with the divine.

Q: I only knew of the Voltage dating sim game you played that got you copyright strikes, but you said you played “a bunch”. What other ones did you play?

A: Be My Princess, My Sweet Bodyguard, My Forged Wedding. I played demos for Kissed by the Baddest Bidder and My Wedding and Seven Rings. I forget the names of other ones I played, but there was one at a magic school which was sort of like Harry Potter. It was a free game, if that narrows it down a bit!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Current Projects

What's the status on my current projects?
  • The Courting of Miss Bennet is now second-to-next on the Hosted Games publishing list! Even though this isn't official, or a release date,not an official release date
  • I'm almost done with the store page for Mermaid Mission Titanic, and the deadline I gave the testers is coming up soon. Hopefully the testers will all meet the deadline, and hopefully, it won't take long for me to go from the final test build to a completed build. (I'm a little wary about the programming for achievements...)
  • Stay-at-Home Detective has been sent to a publisher for submission.
  • I didn't hear back from the publisher that I sent my pitch for The Works of Saint Patrick. Oh well! I guess I can try another publisher.
I wrote this on 5/6/18, and I'm sure the statuses have changed by now. As I've said before, I'm going to use these projects as a gauge for what future projects to pick up. If self-publishing games is a bust, I won't do it any more. If The Courting of Miss Bennet is a hit, I'll try another game in that style.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

On the Conscience

Here is an old blog entry I wrote but never published. They're notes on a philosophical speech, about the conscience. I tried cleaning it up a bit, but it's still pretty heavy philosophy. I wrote this before Pope Francis' election.

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Someone led me to Conscience and Truth, a presentation that Pope Benedict XVI made in Dallas, Texas.  He did this in 1991, years before he became Pope, but the issues he speaks about are still important today.
  • People like to think that conscience is opposed to authority.  They say that conscience must be followed at all times, even in opposition to authority.
  • "It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience...is always right...is another question." Why? "Judgments of conscience can contradict each other". This can lead to subjectivism.
  • Ratzinger gives two stories on the topic.  Story #1 is from a man who believes that Catholic faith is a burden, what with all the rules and things it forces on people. Unbelievers are super-lucky in comparison, because they can get to Heaven merely by following their consciences.  It's a convenient "get out of rules" free card. This notion of faith as a punishment or a burden has severely crippled evangelization.
  • The above argument relies on the idea that the conscience shields someone from the truth.  "Conscience appeared here not as a window through which one can see outward to that common truth which founds and sustains us all...Rather, it appears as subjectivity's protective shell into which man can escape and there hide from reality."
  • Conscience in this argument is used as a justification for subjectivity.  It no longer looks at the truth. Conscience also becomes a justification for social conformity, which is a mediation between two different subjective people.
  • Story #2 is the question of what happens to Hitler and the other Nazis.  The argument is that all of them are obviously in Heaven right now, because they followed their consciences with firm conviction.  "There is no doubting the fact that Hitler and his accomplices who were deeply convinced of their cause, could not have acted otherwise. Therefore, the objective terribleness of their deeds notwithstanding, they acted morally, subjectively speaking. Since they followed their albeit mistaken consciences, one would have to recognize their conduct as moral and, as a result, should not doubt their eternal salvation."
  • And those two stories led Ratzinger to stop and say, "Whoa, something is wrong here.  Conscience can't work like that. Those are obviously false conclusions; ergo, the conception of conscience is flawed."
  • Gorres, a psychologist who studied these things, says that a conscience incapable of feeling guilt--as is the case with Hitler, Himmler and Stalin--is basically an inhuman monster, incapable of morality.  Gorres questions if these people were incapable of feeling guilt, or if they were really good at repressing guilt.
  • By the way, a good Biblical scholar should be able to avoid the false notions of conscience, by looking carefully at Psalm 19:12-13 ("But who can detect his errors? Cleanse me from unknown faults"), Luke 18:9-14 (the tax collector and the pharisee) and Romans 2:1-16.
  • It doesn't work to identify your conscience with mere self-consciousness, which brings you certainty about yourself and and your moral behavior. On the one hand, this gives you a conscience which is only a reflection of the social surroundings and the currently popular opinions. On the other hand, this gives you a conscience completely devoid of self-criticism, one that is unable to listen to the depth of one's own soul.
  • "To put it differently, the identification of conscience with superficial consciousness, the reduction of man to his subjectivity, does not liberate but enslaves. It makes us totally dependent on the prevailing opinions and debases these with every passing day." Conscience is used to rationalize our behavior, rather than guide our behavior. To say that "conscience/my feelings are what prove I'm right all the time" is to retreat from truth, not to follow it.
  • Blessed Cardinal Newman was an Anglican, before becoming Catholic. He had problems, understanding how the Pope functions in the Church. Newman knew that truth lies somewhere in between authority and subjectivity. He wanted the Pope "not put in opposition to the primacy of conscience, but based on it and guaranteeing it. Modern man, who presupposes the opposition of authority to subjectivity, has difficulty understanding this."
  • But our modern age replaced "truth" with "progress" as the ultimate goal of humanity.  This is bad, especially when progress is not defined.  Progress requires truth; it requires fixed measuring points, by which we can judge progress.  "And what is called conscience in such a worldview is, on deeper reflection, but a euphemistic way of saying that there is no such thing as an actual conscience, conscience understood as a 'co-knowing' with the truth. Each person determines his own standards." And so no one can be of much help to another.
  • Socrates and Plato had similar issues with the Sophists, who didn't want to follow truth.  They thought people can create truth, and so they focused on formal categories.  We see this again today.  "The verdict on someone's thinking is ready at hand as long as you can assign it to its corresponding, formal category: conservative, reactionary, fundamentalist, progressive, revolutionary." He makes a good point that many people will judge the truth of what you're saying, based on what kind of speech you're using, rather than the actual content of your speech.
  • Ratzinger comes to the conclusion that conscience is made up of two levels.  The first level is synderesis or synteresis. This is something akin to natural law, written on the hearts of all men.  It is their connection to God.  The love of the law which is implanted in humans beforehand; "the sense for the good has been stamped upon us, Augustine puts it."
  • "The true sense of this teaching authority of the Pope consists in his being the advocate of the Christian memory. The Pope does not impose from without. Rather, he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it."
  • The second level is conscientia, which is the level of judgment. As just stated, each person has an inner repugnance to evil and an attraction to the good. The second level of conscience "applies this basic knowledge to the particular situation. It is divided according to Thomas into three elements: recognizing (recognoscere), bearing witness (testificari), and finally, judging (judicare)."
  • And this is how you deal with the question of Hitler and the others. They completely stifled the first level of conscience. "It can very well be wrong to have come to such askew convictions in the first place, by having stifled the protest of [the innate conscience]. The guilt lies then in a different place, much deeper—not in the present act, not in the present judgment of conscience but in the neglect of my being which made me deaf to the internal promptings of truth. For this reason, criminals of conviction like Hitler and Stalin are guilty. These crass examples should not serve to put us at ease but should rouse us to take seriously the earnestness of the plea:  'Free me from my unknown guilt' (Ps 19:13)."
  • Ratzinger talking about two levels of conscience reminds me that Fulton Sheen spoke of conscience as having three parts, like the US government. One part makes the laws, one part oversees them and the other part enforces them.
  • The CDF stated in 1994: “The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive holy communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible.”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Salve Regina

I wrote an English version of the "Salve Regina", because I don't like English translation in the hymnals.

(tune: Salve Regina)
Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope, Hail Mary.
To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve
To you do we sigh, groaning and weeping,
In this valley of tears.
Therefore please come, our consolation,
And turn those eyes, your merciful eyes towards us,
In our devastation,
And show to us the blessed fruit of your womb,
Jesus, after this banishment of sin and gloom.
O gentle, O holy, O loving, Sweet Virgin Mary

Friday, May 11, 2018

Three Things

1. I played Ittle Dew 2+ for the Switch. It was great! I loved the original Ittle Dew, but I never beat it, because I had the iPad version. I couldn't win one of the boss battles, because I had too much trouble with the iPad controls. I was glad to have the chance to play an Ittle Dew game with an actual controller! This one has more difficult combat than the first; I'm not sure you could do it on an iPad.

I'd still like to play the first one on the Switch, but I doubt it will happen.

2. I played Lords Mobile for the iOS system. It's a great game! It's one of those timed strategy games, but they added an RPG minigame. Unlike other timed strategy games, the RPG minigame actually works. It's so good, it could be a full game on its own. The downside is that you eventually hit a wall, where you have to grind like crazy to upgrade characters. Like, get 100 drops of a particular item? No thank you. Item drops are not randomized in the game; if you exit a battle partway through and restart it later, you get the exact same items. Still, good game!

3. I guess the final game I want to recommend is Idle Miner for the iOS. I got super involved with that game, trying to maximize my output and make my mines as great as possible. I eventually reached the point where you have to mine for, say, a full day before you can upgrade anything. And I was at the point where my mine was producing way more than my miners could collect. So it was "wait a day, upgrade miners so they get slight more per day, repeat" for a week or so.

I got rid of all my iPhone games, because they were cutting into my stay-at-home dad duties. Those games can be addicting! But playing games instead of watching your child is a bad parenting strategy. So I removed the temptation entirely.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tax Reform

Hey, here's a blog post I started last November and never got around to finishing. What would my ideal tax reform be? Here are some ideas I have.

1. The government has to keep track of your money and tell you what it was spent on. There are several charities which do that, it'd be nice to see the government do this.

I especially like this idea, because it imposes no burden on the IRS. The IRS doesn't get to keep a cent of the money it collects. Did you know that? All money sent to the IRS goes straight to Congress, which redistributes the money however it wants to.

2. I would make social security income non-taxable under all circumstances. Any President who does that is basically guaranteed to be reelected. Currently, social security is non-taxable, as long as your income is under a certain level. I don't know the specific threshold, but if social security is your only source of income, you're basically guaranteed not to be taxed on it.

3. I'd get rid of "Head of Household" as a filing status. Replace it with "single parent" or something people actually understand. Sorry, but I've dealt with too many people who think "head of household" means "the one who makes all the decisions in the house". Uh, no. That is completely irrelevant, when it comes to tax law.

4. I would make registered domestic partnerships count as marriages, for federal tax purposes. I'd also get rid of the marriage penalty. Let's not punish people for being married! Marriage is awesome!

5. I would make charitable donations an above-the-line deduction. I understand that's gobbledygook to some people, so let me explain. The current system requires you to jump through some hoops, before you can get a tax break for donating to charity. Only about 25% of people were able to jump through those hoops, in 2016. I'd move the "charitable donations" tax break to a different part of the tax form, so everyone can get it.

6. Childcare is stupid expensive. I would create a childcare tax credit, to encourage people to have more children. Alternately, I would encourage people to have children by greatly increasing the child tax credit and/or the EITC. Say, $4,000 per child?

Why should tax laws encourage people to have children? They already do. The reasoning is that the children will grow up to become taxpayers themselves, so any "encourage people to have children" tax breaks will pay for themselves. Other countries have done things like free schooling to encourage childbirth.

The complaint I've heard is that these credits encourage the wrong kind of people to have kids. Whenever someone says that, I ask them what their definition of "wrong" is, because that sounds dangerously close to "poor people shouldn't have kids".

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

PC Games

The only videogames I was unable to sell were my PC games, because game stores don't take those. Here's a list of the PC games I have. Do you think any of them are valuable enough to be worth selling on eBay? If not, I should probably just throw them out.

  • McKenzie & Co
  • Detective Barbie 1
  • Detective Barbie 2
  • Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft
  • Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime
  • Agatha Christie Adventure Game 3-pack
  • Agatha Christie Hidden Objects Game 4-pack
  • Number Munchers
  • Chaos: A Fantasy Adventure Game
  • Detective Barbie 3 (PS3) -- Not a PC game! What is it doing here?
  • Kwirk (GB) -- Also not a PC game! What is it doing here?
  • Pajama Sam Lost and Found
  • Infinity City
  • Gizmos and Gadgets
  • Math Blaster Mystery: The Great Brain Robbery
  • 3D Pinball Creep Night
  • 3D Pinball the Lost Continent
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Harbinger
  • Lost In Time (a Sierra Adventure game)
  • Grammar Games
  • Myst
  • The Pagemaster
  • Treasure Mathstorm
Also, let me know if I should walkthrough one of these games; I've done walkthroughs for some, but not all of them. That Sierra Adventure game sounds neat!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Videogame Selling

I sold my videogame collection! It's sad, but it was long overdue. I haven't touched 90% of those games, since I moved to Oregon. There's no real point in keeping all my old NES or Gameboy games. The Gamecube/Wii games were harder to part with.

I thought I would get $75 for everything, but I ended up getting over $800 in store credit. Um, wow. I guess keeping games in the original boxes is a major money booster! But really, I only did it that way to save on storage space. I wonder which of the games were worth lots of money! I could have sold them on eBay or something.

The one game I didn't turn in was Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN). I know for a fact that game is rare! I sold it on eBay for over $100, easily.

What will I do with all my in-store credit? I dunno. I guess I can buy Switch games and resell them on eBay or something. I sold the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild game on eBay, for about 2/3rds the price of a new copy. I assume new copies go for more on eBay.

Monday, May 7, 2018

YouTube Ads and Endscreens

For the past few months, I've been using YouTube's "suggest placements" feature to put ads on my videos. Sometimes, it decides to put an ad in the middle of a video. Other times, it wants two ads per video: one at the start and one at the end, but they're always picture ads, not video ads. Or at least, that's what I've seen on other channels!

I have no idea what the criteria is, for which type of ad you get. If YouTube suggests the two ad setup, and one is in the first thirty seconds, I always decline it, because I find that super annoying when I watch videos myself.

I've also used YouTube's endscreens feature. You know, where a subscribe button, a link to my Patreon account and a recommended video pop up, for people to click on. I did this for months, before being told that the endscreens cover up the entire video, so viewers can't see anything. That's annoying! I thought people could minimize them / turn them off. So I had to go back through dozens of videos and manually turn off the endscreens. From now on, I'm going to try leaving a 20 second black screen at the end of each video, and put the endscreen there. That way, it's black screen that gets covered, and not an actual video.

I've been told the "official" way to use endscreens is to have your video running in the upper/left corner, while the endscreens cover up every other part of the screen. The idea is that people will still watch, because the video is technically still going. People are more likely to click out of a video right away, and not explore the endscreen links, if it's just a black screen. I'm not doing this for two reasons, though. #1, that involves editing prowess that I don't have. #2, I don't like it when other YouTubers purposely shrink a video to make room for ads. If someone doesn't want to watch my endscreens, I'm not going to try to trick them into doing so.

The endscreen video also said to never make a complete video. You want to end each video on a cliffhanger, so viewers will be hungry for more content and click on the link to the next video. Why, they will be grateful to you for providing that link! I say "not true!" Viewers will be mad you wasted their time with an incomplete video. I'm pretty sure viewers get mad if you add fluff to your video, such as an extremely long intro, just to make it longer. So I try to avoid that, too; I generally do intros every other video, unless it's something like Phoenix Wright where I do an intro every video, just so I know where to cut off videos. (Editing those videos is tough; the intro is my cheater way of making the editing process easier)

Just in general, my strategy is to avoid doing things on YouTube which I find annoying, because I bet my viewers will find them annoying, too.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill Remastered

I am now accepting suggestions for "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill Remastered". Leave them as a comment on this blog post. Here's a video of me playing the game, to refresh your memory: