Friday, December 31, 2010

Nancy Drew's New Year's Resolutions

It's almost New Year's Eve, which means it's time to make New Year's Resolutions. Believe it or not, I actually got a hold of Nancy Drew's list of resolutions.  I thought I'd share them with you.

Nancy Drew's New Year's Resolutions
-----------------------------------
This year, I resolve to avoid getting in so many life-threatening situations.  I almost died six times last year, and Dad worries about me enough as it is.

I resolve to spend more time with my boyfriend Ned.  It feels like I never see him sometimes.
Also, I want to go on a vacation without it turning into a mystery for once.  Please?  Can't I enjoy one vacation without having to do detective work?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1000 Videos...Video Trouble

I don't own a video camera, believe it or not, so it's a hassle to make the 1000 videos video.  To make the Call for Questions video, I borrowed a regular camera, which works for really short videos.

I borrowed one of the school video cameras for the 1000th video, but I'm having audio issues.  The camera's microphone insists that I have a lisp:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX9KtFvzyk4

I'll try to work out the issues in audio editing (feel free to send in any suggestions!), but if I can't get it to work, the project will have to wait until I can borrow a different camera from the school.

The California Bullet Train

For the past seventy years or so, they've been trying to make a train that goes from LA to San Francisco.  Every attempt so far has failed, because it would cost way too much money.  From what I hear, the process goes like this:

Step 1: The state decides to make a railroad.
Step 2: The state charges everyone a lot of money with a railroad tax.
Step 3: The project is cancelled.
Step 4: Nobody gets their money back.

The latest railroad project is called the California Bullet Train. The state approved the project two years ago, with a $10 billion price tag.  Right now, we're at Step 2.5, where the contractors come up with a good reason for cancelling the project, such as "we spent most of the money already".  This time, the problem is that they can't find a good place for a train stop in the middle part of the state.  The towns there are pretty small.  Everyone is shocked and surprised at this unexpected development.

Personally, I find it amusing that we are two years and ten billion dollars into the project, and we just now have reached the question "where will the train go?"  Boy, I love the government.

In any case, the project isn't set to start until September 2012, so they have plenty of time to think of a reason to cancel it.  My money's on "it will cost over five times more than what we originally thought".  Literally. My money is riding on this.  Why do you think I'm so poor?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vacation

Q: What's easier than worrying about making your next video?
A: Not worrying about making your next video!

I just finished my walkthrough for Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.  This walkthrough has been underway since April, and my playtime kept getting delayed for other video walkthrough projects, like Super Mario Galxy 2 or the three Nancy Drew games that came out this year.  It's a relief to finally not be working on three video walkthrough projects at once, for the first time in six months.

In the future, I'm never going to do multiple recording projects at once.

In any case, I really enjoyed the last two days of not doing any video work. It was so nice that I think I'll do the same thing today.  I know people are waiting for my 1000 videos celebration, but you'll have to wait a little longer.  I'm off to focus on my reading and writing.  See ya!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First Thoughts: Back to the Future

I was really bummed about not being able to play the Back to the Future videogame, thanks to a deceptive preordering promotion.  But then I realized I had $25 on PayPal thanks to eBay sales, which was enough to buy the entire Back to the Future series.  Score!

I'll write a full review later, but for now, the thing that sticks out for me about this game is the character of Edna Strickland.  My friend Paul said that the company who made this game is weird about its characters.  That is, pretty much every character they make is a bland stereotype.  You know, the characters are all generic archetypes, like grumpy old man, the coach who loves sports too much, and the fat guy who loves to eat.  It's okay to have generic characters like that in adventure games--no one complained that Carrot in the Pajama Sam series was bad, just because he's a generic hippie--but when every character is that way, it's not so good.

Back to the Future: The Videogame looks like it's going the generic character route.  The game's villain, for all intents and purpose, is nothing more than a generic 1930's mobster.  Young Doc Brown is your generic nerd, who loves science and is scared of girls.  And the third new character, Edna Strickland, is a generic mean old lady who hates kids and loves kittens.

The 1930's version of Edna Strickland, however...I'm not sure what to make of her.  I can't tell if the producers are trying to make an original character for once, or if they wanted to do another generic character, but failed.  See, for plot purposes, she's a newspaper reporter.  As far as that's concerned, she acts just like a generic reporter. But also for plot purposes, she's big on charity and volunteer work. The game just kind of flubs along through this part, and it feels like the producers had no real strong ideas about how she should act, probably because that's not a generic character trait.

So in the end, she ends up being kind of a weird character.  It just sort of feels like they didn't know what to do with her, because she doesn't fit into an easy stereotype.  It'll be interesting to see what they do with her in the other games, to see whether they'll try to develop her into an original character, or if she'll fall back into generia.  As it is now, she's in a weird limbo between the two.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve, and this has kind of been an interesting holiday season.  It doesn't really feel very Christmas-like, because there was a lot less planning and things going on this year than there were in years past.

The TV hasn't been very Christmasy, either. Usually, there are all sorts of Christmas movies and TV shows.  But this year, not much got shown besides The Santa Clause movies.  Those are fun, but where are the other Christmas movies?  And what happened to the animated Rudolph specials?  I think the Christmas channel--ABC Family--has stopped airing them, and put the Harry Potter movies in their place.  You can't fool me, ABC Family.  Harry Potter is not a Christmas movie!

I guess it also doesn't feel Christmasy, because my sisters have been busy with school and work. It's really only been me and Snickers at the house this year.  I tried getting him to wear a Santa hat, but he didn't like it.

Unless there's a Christmas Miracle today, Mom's gift isn't arriving in time for Christmas.  I ordered it from eBay, and I thought I was purchasing from a US seller, but it turns out I bought it from someone in Britain.  The last time I had something shipped from Britain, their government confiscated it for an extra month, as part of their routine anti-terrorist measures.  I'm guessing the bobbies at Scotland Yard decided to hold my books hostage again. They really don't want me to read for some reason.

Mom tried to make Christmas fudge this year, but she didn't follow the recipe and ended up making fudge-like slop.  I mean, I'm not a very good cook, but even I know that you use aluminum foil to cover a pan of fudge, whereas Mom put the foil inside the pan and poured fudge batter on top of it.  Of course, this meant that when she put the fudge in the oven, it didn't heat up enough, and it's stuck to the aluminum foil.

But even if this Christmas season has been kind of strange, Merry Christmas to everyone!

And here's this year's Phoenix Wright Christmas video!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Fabulousness

There are fun comments on my recent blog post about the upcoming horror film, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.  Technically, it's not a horror film, but I'm sure it will inspire horror in many who watch it.  Once again, here's the preview:



Now for the comments!

First off, Sharpay's ugly dog. You might recall that this dog appeared randomly in the High School Musical movies, even though dogs don't belong in high school.  It turns out that the dog belongs to the movie director.  Mr. Director wanted his dog in the movie, so he put the dog in the movie.

Now, no offense to Mr. Director, but his dog is kind of...ugly. Plus, it didn't belong in the movies.

Upon closer inspection, it appears that they have replaced Mr. Director's Ugly Dog with a new dog, which is decidedly less ugly and probably better trained.  Therefore, I take back what I said about the dog in this movie being ugly.  A thousand apologies to the dog and its owners.

Second, I'm pretty sure the name "Sharpay" is simply the French version of "Sharpee".  As in, the marker. People make up weird names nowdays...

Third, Holden Caufield is a whiner. About six times in the book, he goes off on a one to two page whining spree about how he wants to call Jane Gallagher, but he's afraid to.  And in the end, he never calls her, and you wonder why that was even put in the book.

I dunno, I liked Holden, but I read the other books by J.D. Salinger, and they're all exactly the same (only a lot worse), so I lost my taste for his writing.  Hearing him whine about how everyone else is a horrible person, and children are so beautiful, and everyone else is horrible, and I wish I were a deaf/mute so I would never have to deal with other people again, because everyone else is horrible, and why don't they care about the ducky duck ducks and, God, other people are just horrible, and....you get the idea. Salinger has a real hang-up about how he hates other people.  Which, I suppose, is why he was a hermit who never left his house.

Fourth, I don't think Disney is making the Sharpay movie, just because Tron bombed at the box office.  Disney had this planned before Tron bombed.

And what the heck is Tron, anyway?  I hear it's some movie which bombed in the 80's.  So they remade it, and it bombed again?  That was kind of a dumb decision.  The previews don't help very much, either, because they were confusing and didn't make the movie look good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Back to the Future: The Videogame

*beep*

Michael is not here today. He is busy playing the new Back to the Future videogame, which was just released.  Therefore, he does not have the free time to write a blog post. Please try again later.

*beep*

EDIT: Please ignore the above imitation of an answering machine. I wrote it two days ago, when I thought I would be playing the game.  It turns out that my copy won't be available until February, because I went for the "pre-order now to get the first episode for free!" deal.  Thanks a lot for not mentioning this when I signed up for the free episode, game producers.

Seriously, "get the game for free when it comes out" is such a great deal, I can't believe that anybody would pass it up.  Turning it into a "get the game for free...after we finish the second one" deal is just plain deceptive.  I mean, I probably would have paid full price to get it when it came out if I had known that getting it for free entailed a two month wait.

...And I'm pretty sure that I can't buy a copy of the game now, because the website already has me listed as someone who has bought and paid for the game.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure

Almost a year ago, I talked about the pros and cons of Disney's plans to make High School Musical 4.  It seems like the movie is doomed to be completely horrible, so it should fit in perfectly with the other films in the series.

Sadly, it seems that Disney has officially dropped this project.

Now, before you throw a huge party, let me qualify that statement.  Disney has dropped its plans to continue with the High School Musical series, in favor of some High School Musical spin-offs. This includes two movies that came out this year in non-English speaking countries, and this cinematic wonder:



A direct-to-home video movie, starring the lead villain of the High School Musical series.  I know, I was a bit skeptical myself, but then I saw that the director is the same person who directed The Santa Clause 2.  Suddenly, my worries disappeared.  This movie is destined to be a classic!

As far as I can tell, the plot goes like this:

Sharpay is going to live out her dream of becoming a superstar actress in New York, but once she gets there, she realizes that everything in New York is horrible.  The apartments are small, the traffic is bad, and Holden Caufield won't ever shut up. Plus, someone totally stole Sharpay's part in the Broadway play.  With the help of her romantic interest, can she turn things around and become a superstar?

This brings up a number of questions in my mind:
  1. So...the villain of the High School Musical series is a hero now?  And her antagonist acts just like she did in the HSM movies?  Um...okay...
  2. Why does her romantic interest look exactly the same as the guy who played her twin brother in HSM?  Isn't it slightly awkward that her romantic interest looks just like her brother?
  3. Will Tim Allen have a cameo in this movie?
  4. Why does half of the preview focus on her super-ugly dog?
These questions, and more, will be answered when the movie is released next spring. Word on the street is that it might appear on the Disney Channel, in addition to the DVD release.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ebay Shipping

Somebody should warn Santa Claus, because Ebay is being naughty and nice to me right now.

Nice: I was able to sell two games for $24.49.
Naughty: My Christmas gift for Mom, which was ordered last month, still hasn't arrived.

The games I sold were Legend of Zelda: Toon Link Rides on a Choo-Choo Train and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.  I got both of those games for free, so selling those games makes a nice little profit for me.  Especially considering that I'd probably only get ten dollars for both of them from a videogame store.

I like to think that the secret of my success is not being a jerk and charging too much.  There have been times where I bought a DS game, and the person charged twelve dollars for shipping.  Twelve dollars?  Keep in mind that the DS cartridge is about the size of a thumbnail. The game was mailed to my house in a normal envelope with a stamp.  No priority mail, no special envelope, no anything.  This happened to me several times.

My shipping policy is "it costs about $2.50 to send something across the country, so that's what I'll charge."  When I bring the envelope to the post office to be weighed and mailed, they always charge somewhere around the two dollar range. So I charge the same amount.  If it ends up costing more--which it never has--I'll just accept it as a shipping loss and move on.

Buyers get interested when they see one of the sellers charges ten dollars less for shipping than the other people do, so I always end up making a sale.  True, I've only done this four times so far, but still, it seems like a good policy.  Non-inflated shipping is the way to go.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thoughts On My Last Video




I just made a forty-six minute video, which was an interesting experience.  Here are my thoughts:
  • This video is way too long.
  • I can't talk for forty-five minutes straight.
  • Deku Shrub Link is a really useless character.
  • Did I mention that doing the commentary takes forever?  I mean, wow.  It takes forever to come up with forty-five minutes of halfway decent commentary.
  • Editing takes a long time, too.
  • Okay, the commentary about brooms was sub-par, but I've been doing this for so long, and I'm so close to finishing that I don't care enough to re-record.
  • I really don't like Wii Sports.  The controls stink, and the sports aren't fun.
  • It takes two hours for the computer to put the video together.
  • It takes two hours to upload the video to Youtube.
  • Whoops, one of the sound bytes is off!  Looks like I have to fix that.
  • Two more hours of the computer putting the video together.
  • Two more hours of uploading.
  • This is taking way too long.
  • The comments on the video are going to be all over the board, aren't they?
All in all, I think I won't make super-long videos again, for the sake of my sanity.  But the recording schedule stays as planned.  I finish with Majora's Mask, then I make the 1000 videos vlog!  The number of questions has reached 319, and...oh man, I don't like super-long videos.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Philosophical Ponderings

I've already finished my final paper for my Philosophy of Evil, but I think I'll continue my discussion of evil, because morality is such a fascinating topic.

Last time I discussed evil, I came up with a thesis saying that the moral status of an action depends on the action itself, its consequences, and the intentions of the person who performed the act. That's a pretty broad thesis, but I like it anyway. For reference, here is what some of the great philosophers say in response to the question "What makes an action good or evil?":

Mills: An action is good if it has good consequences.
Kant: An action is good if the intention is good.
Neitzsche: Morality? What's that? You're making things up, bro.

I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but it always seemed to me that Mills was wrong, because his morality ignores intentions that go into an action.  Kant's morality also seems wrong, because it ignores the consequences of an action.  And so, I took the safe route and said that the moral status of an action depends on the consequences and the intentions, not just one or the other.

The problem with chosing just consequences or just intentions becomes apparent in a case where the consequences don't match the intentions.  For example, think of someone who means to do something good, but ends up doing something bad by mistake.  The person thinks he's doing the right thing (intention), but it turns out that he does something really bad (consequences).  In that case, did the person do right or wrong?  It is obvious that you have to take both the intention and the consequences into account before rendering moral judgment.

I have a similar solution to a different philosophical problem: self. Philosophers wonder, "What is the self?"  Some people say it's just the body, and other people say it's just the brain.  The body guys have trouble accounting for situations that involve the brain, and the brain guys have trouble accounting for situations that involve the body. My response is, why does it have to be either mind or body?  Why can't it be both mind and body?  Just like how it seems morality can be both intentions and consequences.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that "the self" is a trinity of mind, body and soul, but few modern philosophers believe in souls, so it's not an idea that gets discussed.

One of Kant's huge achievements in philosophy was to bridge the gap between rationalism and empiricism.  On one hand, you had people who only believed in a priori knowledge, and on the other hand, you had people who only believed in a posteriori knowledge.  Kant expertly ended the debate between the two schools by creating a philosophical system that included both a priori and a posteriori knowledge.

I think the philosophical world needs a similar coming-together today.  Let's have a system that bridges the brain-philosophers and body-philosophers, in a unified theory of self.  And let's bridge the consequence philosophers and the intention philosophers with a system that accounts for intentions and consequences. Hegel would certain approve of a resolution to these philosophical debates which follows a triadic movement like that.

I don't think all philosophical debates should be settled by a synthesis of the two opposing positions, but these two particular debates seem like they should be settled in this way, as the opposing positions both feel like they're missing something.  Each side has one part of the jigsaw puzzle, and they need to come together to finish the whole picture.

Oh, shoot. I'm at the end of this entry, and I completely forgot to talk about the topic of evil. I'll have to remember to do that next time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Non-Religious Religious Holidays Confuse Me

Christmas is coming up, and this year, I'm starting to get confused by the quasi-religious portrayal of Santa Claus.

I mean, they say that Santa Claus is really Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children. But Santa Claus doesn't seem to have anything to do with Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (in Turkey) during the 300's.  Santa Claus is a nice fellow and all that, but I've never once seen him go to church, much less perform Bishop duties like ordain priests. Plus, bishops only wear red on Pentecost and the memorial of martyrs. Santa wears red all year long.

And it's not just Santa Claus. Saint Patrick's Day and Saint Valentine's Day, as they're celebrated here in America, have pretty much nothing to do with Saints Patrick and Valentine. In fact, Saint Patrick would be extremely upset if he saw some of the things people did to "celebrate" his entry into heaven.

Oh, man, and don't get me started about Halloween.

Anyway, I just thought that it's weird that people still celebrate religious holidays, even when they take out the religious elements and replace it with something totally ridiculous, like consumerism or Easter baskets.  I like candy, but it has nothing to do with the death of Jesus Christ.  You'd think people would make up their own holidays and traditions, rather than keep the same holidays but completely change the traditions.

And here are some fun facts:
  • The "twelve days of Christmas" mark the twelve days from Christmas (December 25) to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 5).  I don't know why everyone mistakenly says that the twelve days of Christmas are the days that lead up to Christmas, but I think I'm going to blame the song, because it's long and annoying.
  • In ancient times, the Roman calendar was fifteen years behind the Greek calendar. So when the Greeks were in the year 650, the Romans were in the year 635. Neither calendar is still in use today.
  • This year, people were arguing about when Christmas season starts, because everyone started doing Christmas things ridiculously early, for instance, in September. For the record, there is an official starting date that the church sets, which is always on a Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Book Reviews

I don't read a lot of new books that come out anymore because they're so expensive, but this fall, I read some new installments of three children's book series.

Atermis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex is the seventh installment in the Artemis Fowl series, and I'm pretty amazed that the series has gone on this long.  I remember when the title was first announced, and the plot was said to be something like this: Artemis goes undercover as a convict in the Atlantis Jail so he can make friends with his nemesis, Opal Koboi. Together, they stage a daring jail break, because nobody wants to read about non-daring jail breaks.  Then, presumably, he stops her from taking over the world.

But then Toy Story 3 totally stole the jailbreak plotline, so they had to go with something else. Either that, or the author changed his mind, just like with the reports that the last book would feature an evil hypnotist.

The real plot is that Artemis is suffering from The Atlantis Complex, an imaginary disease which makes him paranoid, OCD, and gives him multiple personalities.  I'm not going to lie: it's a little weird to see the series' main character become mentally unbalanced. His alternate personality, Orion, however, is hilarious because he's so ridiculous.

I think the book moves a little too slowly.  It takes a long time before the plot shows up. The villain of the book--there's only one this time--doesn't show up until you're a third of the way through.  And the heroes of the series don't get together to stop the bad guy until two-thirds of the way through.  I say it would have helped the book's pacing if the two chapters about Mexico (chapters 2 and 4) were merged into one.

There are good parts to the book, though.  Juliet is back, for the first time since Book 3.  Opal Koboi is not the main villain, which I'm told makes some people very happy, even though I like her.  It's nice to see a new villain take the spotlight.  And like I said earlier, Artemis' alternate personality is pretty hilarious.
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is kind of, but not really, the latest book in his Percy Jackson series. It takes place in the Percy Jackson universe, about a year after the last book ended. Percy himself isn't in the book because he has mysteriously disappeared (uh oh!), but the familiar characters like Annabeth, Rachel and Thalia all make appearances.

Most of the book is about our three new heroes, Jason, Leo and Piper. They're on a fancy quest to defeat the King of the Giants and save Hera from being killed. Jason is the main hero, who is the strong and silent type. He's suffering from amnesia, for plot purposes, because otherwise, he'd know what to do ahead of time, and nothing would be a surprise.  Piper is the female lead, and I kind of like her better than Jason. She has self-identity issues, mostly thanks to her father who has his own issues.  Leo is the comedy relief, but he's also a good character who has some depth.

The book is in third person, and every chapter switches off between characters. So, one chapter will focus on what Jason is doing, then the next will focus on Leo, and so on.  It helps with the character development, because you get to see each character in his/her own element, rather than seeing all three of them together all the time.  In fact, my favorite part of the book were the chapters when Piper was alone, without the other main characters, in a minor plotline about her dealing with a girl named Drew.

My other favorite part was the Coach, who is the comedy relief. He's very gung-ho about fighting and sports. It's funnier than it sounds, believe me.

Overall, I would say it is just as good as the Percy Jackson books, although it is a tad long. I would have cut out the King Midas adventure, myself, as it did nothing to help the plot, not was it particularly interesting. And of course, the book's cliffhanger ending (when Jason gets his memory back and they realize where Percy Jackson is) makes me eager for the next installment.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth is the Christmas gift I'm giving my little cousins.  It's basically just like the other books in the series.  I see it more as a collection of different little stories, rather than a book with a unified plot. The stories are kind of, but not really, related to each other.

So, if you like the other books, you'll like this one. Say what you want about the series, the author is very consistent about keeping each book at the exact same level of quality as the others.  As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  I'm sure my cousins will like it just as much as they like the other ones.

In conclusion, I'd say that The Lost Hero comes in first place this year, followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Artemis Fowl trailing in last place. Tough luck there, Arty.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Video Recording Plans

As my latest video for Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask makes clear, I can now upload long videos.  I'm not sure why.  It could be that I applied for a Youtube Partnership (although they say my application is still "under review"), and it could be that they just decided to do this with everyone.  My friend Nathaniel Hoover says it means I'm either (a) awesome, (b) an anomaly, or (c) just like everyone else.  Further investigation is required.



These new longer videos are not good news, because it takes a lot longer to make them (obviously), but now I can plan out my next several videos. I think I'll end my Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask walkthrough on video #999.  That just seems like a good place to finish.

Here's the tenative list of what I'll do in those videos. If you haven't played the game already, this list will probably make no sense.

Video #995: Clmbing Stone Tower
Video #996: The Stone Tower Dungeon
Video #997: The Random Video Where I Do Anything and Everything I Haven't Done Already
Video #998: To the Moon!
Video #999: Final Boss Battle / Ending Credits

Video #1000: The 1000 Videos Celebration

This should be a fun Christmas Break!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Idea

So, here's an idea. My 1000 videos Q and A session is probably going to take up several videos. Why don't I start off each video with a small intro, featuring various clips from different videos?

It'd look something like this.

I think that's a good idea. Are there any clips that people would like to see featured?

Speaking of Youtube, they decided that they like me, so now I can upload videos that are longer than 15 minutes. I wonder how long my time limit is now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home for the Holidays

School has officially ended, for a while at least, and now I'm back home for the holidays. Things have kind of gotten off to a rough start, though.  The family dog, Snickers, was attacked by our neighbor's St. Bernard recently--something which, I'm sure, the real Saint Bernard of Clairvaux would never do.  Snickers has since gone to the vet, who shaved off the fur around the wound.  So now, Snicks has two big patches of skin on his neck, with bite marks.  It looks really weird.

The cold weather makes driving in my car a pain, because the windows take forever to defrost.  One of the windows in the car doesn't shut all the way, so the windows are always frosted over.  Also, it seems that the cold weather makes my engine rattle more than it usually does.  I'm used to it, but Dad drove my car yesterday, and he wouldn't stop complaining about how horrible the engine sounds, and how I'm a horrible person for not telling him sooner.

Yesterday, we went to get the Christmas tree, despite some horrible fog.  It was pretty amazing when we went up into the mountains, above the fog, and then looked down.  It was like being in an airplane, where everything below you is covered in clouds.  I took some pictures with my phone, but I don't know how to get pictures off of my phone, so I can't share them with you.

The tree has a trunk, as well as many branches, so I can only presume that it is a good tree.

My plans for this holiday are to do some language work, by reading a lot of things in Spanish, Latin and Greek.  The only problem is that I don't have any books in Spanish, so I'm reading stories for free on the Internet instead.  Most of them are not so good, er, I mean, muchos no son buenos.

And of course, I'll have to try to make more videos, so I can reach Video #1000 and make the fancy Q and A vlog.  No puedo esperar.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Ebooks

People who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I like to edit books in my free time.  I've done 47 books so far, and they're all available for free on the Internet.
Now, I couldn't help but notice that these free books are all available to download on Amazon...at definitely not free prices.  Print copies are also available, at even less free prices.  In other words, Amazon is making money off of my charity work. Not cool, Amazon.

They still have me listed as the book editor inside the books themselves, which is a little odd.  They're not going to pay me for my work, but they want to give me credit for being the editor?  I'm having flashbacks to the non-paying publishing job I rejected.

In conclusion, I think Amazon should...

1. Share the profits with me. It's only fair.
2. At least give me a complimentary copy of the books.

But they won't.

--

And by the way, I've done more book editing! Here are the four ebooks I produced since I last talked about ebook editing:
  • Readings from Latin Verse. It's a book of poetry in Latin, with notes in English. I agreed to do this one because I wanted to work on my Latin, but I got bored about five poems in.
  • Fraternal Charity, a religious book about dealing with your brothes/sisters in a monastry (although, obviously, you can apply these skills outside a monastery). It's a short book, with short chapters. That makes for easy editing.
  • The Priestly Vocation, a book written by a British bishop who gave a series of lectures on the priesthood. I thought it would help me a lot, because I'm studying to become a priest, but it's mostly intended for British priests in the 1910's.
  • Happiness in Purgatory, a four page essay on how Purgatory isn't necessarily a bad place, even though the people there suffer.
Hopefully, the next group of books I edit will be more interesting.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Playing Videogames in Classrooms

I was on the Internet today, looking to see if they had any new information about the release date for Legend of Zelda Wii.  I'm pretty sure that this game is being delayed again, as the Zelda team is now putting all their energy into making Ocarina of Time 3D a launch title for the 3DS.  It's kind of weird how Nintendo is working on two Zelda games at once, but they're complete opposites: one is a rush job, and the other has officially broken the franchise record for longest development time.

Well, I didn't find any news on Zelda, but I did find this news report from two years ago, about a Japanese classroom where kids are required to play Nintendo's "learn how to speak English!" videogame.



This video raises a number of questions for me.  First, did this idea come from the school, or did it come from Nintendo?  Does the school pay for the equipment?  And why did they dub over the English teacher's voice? Doesn't she know how to speak English?  Because...that's sort of her job.

I know that there are games that help build English vocabulary, such as My Word Coach or Brain Age.  You usually find these educational titles in the discount section at stores.  The games themselves are okay, until you reach the spelling challenges.  That's when you quickly learn that the DS screen does a terrible job of recognizing handwriting.

I can't tell you how many times I got points knocked off my score on Brain Age, because the game thought I wrote an "c" whenever I tried to write an "r".  And it confuses "t" for "b" and "h".  Eventually, I stopped playing the games, due to the frustration factor.  And so, I can't really see those games as being very useful tools when trying to teach English penmanship to Japanese people.

And keep in mind that I use the stylus that is shaped just like a normal pen.  The stylus that comes with the system, manufactured at Nintendo's toothpick division, leads to major hand cramps.  I can't imagine what the penmanship looks like when it comes from people using a stylus that's smaller than your finger.

In conclusion, I don't think this educational experiment is going to work very well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

December Newsletter

Her Interactive has released their newsletter for December, reminiscent of the funky end-of-game awards they gave out in all the games from Haunted Carousel to White Wolf of Icicle Creek. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Happened to My Free Time This Week


(A dramatic presentation)

Michael: Here's my final essay.
Teacher: (looks at the essay) This is too short.
Michael: But it's four pages, just like the outline said.
Teacher: No, I meant four pages per question.
Michael: Wait, what?

The End.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Come Fly With Us

There's been a lot of news about airport security recently.  You see, the airlines here in America upgraded their security in response to a terrorist threat, and...no, wait, they upgraded their security in response to absolutely nothing.

Now everyone has to go through Super Security, which involves going through the machine that sees through clothing and having TSA agents touch you everywhere, including the certain private parts that are, ahem, in the "no-fly zone".

Needless to say, everyone is very upset that airports are taking nude pictures and feeling people up.

The local airport at San Jose recently underwent a ten-year reconstruction project, and to celebrate the "new" airport, they set up a mural of people's hands on the side of a five-story building.  It's really creepy to drive by and see humongous hands all over the building.  It reminds me of a horror movie, where all these hands started popping out of the ground and...*shudder*.


The hands are supposed to represent the different people of the community, who work together in mutual love and trust.  But now that the airport officials have begun touching people in inappropriate places, the hands have taken on a very different meaning.

My favorite part in this whole airline security drama has been watching the US Congress do nothing about the situation, while pretending they are, in fact, doing something.  For example, I read a news report on Defense Secretary Hilary Clinton, who made an official statement, pledging that she will do everything in her power to protect people's privacy and uphold their basic human dignity.  Ha ha, I am joking, of course.  What really happened is that Hilary made some compassionate remarks about how she "understands" why people are upset.  However, she will not change anything because traumatizing innocent citizens helps protect our country, by jingo.

The report ended with an interesting fun fact: she doesn't have to go through the new airport security.  It's very comforting to know our leaders approve of the new security measures...but they don't approve of them enough to actually undergo them.

Now, personally, I didn't like airports to begin with. They make you show up two hours early for your five AM flight, just so they can tell you it's been cancelled, and you're forced to pay for a hotel room.  These new security measures are just icing on the cake of reasons to never use airplanes.

As a priest in training, I can't help but be reminded of some statements that Pope Benedict has made about human rights.  Human rights are based off the principle that humans are made in the image and likeness of God.  As the US Constitution says, humans have certain inalienable rights, bestowed on them by their Creator.
 
But in a world where society at large doesn't believe in a creator god, human rights tend to evaporate. In a world where humans are the by-products of random chance, there is no reason for giving them special treatment.  In other words, when God is the basis of human rights in society, and you eliminate God, you also eliminate human rights.
 
Historically, people justified an abuse of human rights by saying the victims are not humans, so they do not deserve rights.  Today, people justify abusing human rights by saying that nobody deserves human rights. It's a slight twist in thinking, and a dangerous one at that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Talks about Epistemology

Last week, I had to do a paper/presentation for epistemology class, comparing Plato and Descartes' theories of knowledge.  You know, the class that's hard to understand?  I wasn't sure I could do a good job, so I decided to get some help from my good friend, Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln: Hello my friend and how are you this fine day?
Michael: What is the difference between the epistemologies of Plato and Descartes?
Abraham Lincoln: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought the difference was a sort of quality. It's fairly difficult to explain what the difference is. The difference was an amorphous concept, like Classicism or postmodernism. The difference can mean pretty well all things to all people.
Michael: That doesn't help very much.
Abraham Lincoln: My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.
Michael: That's great, Abe, but I'm going to fail epistemology if my final paper isn't perfect. Could you please help me out?
Abraham Lincoln: I could help, but not until midnight when the lights go out.
Michael: But the paper is due at midnight! Our teacher has a strict Cinderella policy.
Abraham Lincoln: Well, you're entitled to your opinion. I had many wonderful teachers in my lifetime. However, I would say that experience was my greatest teacher of all.
Michael: So, back to Plato. What does he have to say about knowledge?
Abraham Lincoln: That's a rhetorical question, as I'm sure you realize. You know perfectly well what he has.
Michael: Fine, then. What does Descartes have to say about knowledge?
Abraham Lincoln: Sarah Josepha Hale was a fine writer from my day. Prompted by a letter she wrote me in the fall of 1863, I issued the first Federally mandated Thanksgiving day to be kept on the last Thursday in November. be good and treat everyone like you would like to be treated.
Michael: I see. And what do Plato and Descartes agree about?
Abraham Lincoln: I am glad you see the point. I credit many of my genetic gifts to my mother, because I believe that my gifts come from my unknown grandfather, who fathered my mother out of wedlock.
Michael: And what do they disagree about?
Abraham Lincoln: Saturday, March 4, 1865, started out dark, damp, and disagreeable. Most streets in Washington remained unpaved, and two days of incessant rain created a record amount of mud. A local reporter wrote, "the streets and sidewalks were encrusted with from two to ten inches of muddy paste, through which men and horses plodded wearily." Tens of thousands of visitors streamed into the city for the re-inauguration, filling "every available room, bed, nook, and corner," only to reckon with the mud and one another. But the intrepid crowd would be rewarded with a ceremony of historic proportions and the finest speech I ever produced.
Michael: Thanks for the help, Abe. I'm sure I'll get an A on that paper, now.
Abraham Lincoln: You are indeed! You'll meet people who say you aren't, but don't let them intimidate you. Stand up to them and they'll run away.

I copy/pasted Abe's responses into the appropriate sections of my paper.  Well, I just got my paper back, and the grade was very low.  Curse you, Robot Abe!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

School and Questions

School has been tough lately, because we're coming up on the end of the semester.  Last week, I was up for review by the staff, and I had to do presentations for most of my classes.

I don't think the presentations went well.  Someone fell asleep during my epistemology presentation.  And with the Spanish presentation, I got through all my prepared notes, but there was still a lot of time left over.  So the second half of the presentation was me making everything up off of the top of my head.  In Spanish.

This week is finals and papers.  I have twenty pages to write, so let's hope I can write them quickly.  I'll be recording the vlog videos tomorrow if I finish with my epistemology paper.

---

Like I said yesterday, some questions for me came in from Megan Gaiser, the CEO of Her Interactive.  They were mostly standard questions I get a lot, such as...

5) When did you first start playing Nancy Drew games? What do you like about them?
 
6) Which is your favorite Nancy Drew game and why?
And if you quickly scan through the list of questions I've already received, you'll notice that the "favorite game" and "why did you start playing Nancy Drew" questions appear multiple times.
 
What I think I'll do is start with the CEO's questions, then move on through the list.  If I'm not busy writing my papers, that is.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Saturday Blog Post

Okay, so the total number of questions I have for the 1000 videos blog has just jumped to...250.  This might end up being a multi-part video after all.  In any case, I hope to start recording on Monday, if I'm not too busy with finals.

One of the people who sent in questions is Megan Gaiser, the CEO of Her Interactive.  I'm a little scared to read her email.

Anyway, the comments on my blog recently have been interesting, so I thought I'd respond to some of them.
  1. Yes, the new Harry Potter movie is British. My mom and sister were excited to see the guy from Love Actually play Rufus Scrimgeour.  They like that movie, but they hate Uncle Jamie.
  2. The cool part about fairy tales is that there are lots of different versions. A 1940's researcher discovered over 100 distinct versions of Cinderella that exist in the United States.  So technically, I guess there is no "official" version of the story.
  3. I understand the "they had to split the last Harry Potter book into two movies, because it's very long" argument.  The problem is that's what I said about the fourth Harry Potter book, and they made that into only one movie.  Same with the fifth book, which is longer than the seventh.
  4. I can be fine with a movie if it doesn't follow the book.  The Wizard of Oz is probably the best example of a movie that's good, even though it barely follows the book.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tangled

I saw Tangled over the Thanksgiving break. It's the newest animated Disney movie, and it's the story of Rapunzel. Apparently, a lot of people don't know this story, even though it's familiar to me. It was in my family's book of fairy tales, and twelve years ago, I used to read it to my little sister as a bedtime story every now and then. As I recall, the story goes like this:

Rapunzel is a beautiful princess who is trapped in a tower by a wicked witch. She has been stuck in the tower her whole life, and she has never once gotten a haircut, so her golden hair is now thirty feet long. 
The witch comes by every day with food, and she cries out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!" Rapunzel then sticks her hair out of a window, and the witch climbs up the side of the tower, using the hair as a rope.

This goes for several years, until our hero Prince Charming finds out about the tower and becomes curious. He tries calling out to whoever lives in the tower, but no one responds.  So he decides to wait by the tower for a while, and eventually, he sees the wicked witch come to the tower.  He watches her go inside, and that's how he learns that you can't get into the tower unless you say, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"

As soon as the witch leaves, Prince Charming jumps out from his hiding spot and cries out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!".  She lets her hair down, and Prince Charming climbs up to the tower. The two of them quickly fall in love, and he agrees to rescue her the next day. He then leaves the tower and rides into town, singing happily. He is so happy that he doesn't even notice the wicked witch standing there as he rides off.

The witch then goes into the tower and confronts Rapunzel.  She cuts off Rapunzel's hair and uses her magic powers to send Rapunzel far away, so she can never see Prince Charming again.

The next day, Prince Charming comes with two horses: one for him and one for Rapunzel.  He cries out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"  The witch throws Rapunzel's hair out the window, and he
 he climbs up the tower.  When he reaches the top, he realizes that he's been tricked by the witch.  The witch then lets go of the hair-rope, and the prince falls to the ground.

As a result of his fall, the prince becomes blind.  He becomes a blind beggar and starts wandering all over the kingdom, looking for food.  Meanwhile, Rapunzel is also wandering all over the kingdom, trying to find the prince. Eventually, the two of them meet up again, and they get married and move into her father's palace, and they live happily ever after.  The end.

I always thought it was an interesting fairy tale, because the prince becomes blind.  Usually, bad things like that don't happen to Prince Charming.  If you're still sketchy on the details of the Rapunzel story, check out this old Sesame Street sketch with Kermit the Frog:



Tangled is the Rapunzel story, with a few changes. The Prince doesn't become blind, and he's not thrown off the tower. Instead, he gets lured in the tower, and then he gets stabbed by the wicked witch.  Oh, and he's not a prince in this version; he's Flynn Rider, adventurer extraordinaire.

Flynn is a fun character.  Have you seen The Road to El Dorado?  He's basically the two main characters of that movie, morphed into one.  He's a thief on the run from the law, but he's really laid-back and makes jokes all the time.  He takes Rapunzel on a trip to the kingdom's castle at her request.

Rapunzel is a very sheltered character, because she's spent her whole life living in a tower.  Actually, she kind of reminds me of Polychrome, the Rainbow's Daughter (another fairy tale character, this one from the Oz series).  She doesn't know much about the outside world, and she's kind of scared and unsure about what she's doing.  But she's also super-excited to be in a brand new place.

The wicked witch is less of a witch in this story.  Instead, she pretends to be Rapunzel's mother, who is protecting her from the scary, outside world.  They did a good job with this character, balancing out her "concerned mother" act with her true personality, that of the selfish villain.

Oh wait, I'm like two pages into the review, and I haven't said what I thought of the movie yet.  The movie was great.  Much better than the other hit movie right now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.  In fact, I heard that Tangled has made more money than Harry Potter, even though Harry's movie has been out longer.  Well, Tangled completely deserves to do better in the box office, because it's a far superior movie.

I'm glad that Disney has started to turn things around.  Disney has had tough luck with their animated movies in the past ten years or so, partly because the movies they made weren't very good, and partly because Pixar totally stole their limelight.  Last year's movie, The Princess and the Frog, was their best movie in a long time.

I'm a little curious as to what Disney is going to do in the future.  Their next movie, which comes out in March, is another Winnie the Pooh movie.  Besides for that, they haven't really announced anything.  Hmmm...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Harry Potter and the Money-Making Adventure

Over the Thanksgiving break, I saw some movies for the first time since July.  So here's movie review #1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 of 2.

Splitting the movie into two parts was kind of a dumb idea, because this is the book where not much happens.  Harry and his friends spend nine months camping in the woods, and those are the chapters you skip when re-reading the book, because it's a total snoozefest.  And sadly, most of these boring chapters make their way into the movie.

The camping parts aren't really that bad, but it's the easiest part to complain about, because the movie and plot gets very slow at that point.

Here are various thoughts I had on the movie, in no particular order.

  1. It kind of upsets me that Harry Potter is not a kids series anymore, even though they are children's books.  I want to talk about the locket scene, but I won't, in order to keep things child-friendly.
  2. I think the movie did a bad job of handling the Ministry of Magic scenes.  The oppressive environment and focus on blood purity is supposed to remind you of the Nazis, but the movie goes overboard and puts actual Nazis in these scenes.  That is, there's a squadron of soldiers with red arm bands marching around the area.  It was ridiculously out-of-place to have soldiers that look just like Nazis, considering that everyone else on the set was dressed in wizard robes.  Besides, there are no soldiers in the wizarding world, so there's no reason to have them.
  3. Also, it was weird how Harry and his friends didn't leave the Ministry of Magic as soon as possible.  You'd think they would be in a hurry to leave, seeing as their disguises just failed, and there are Nazi troops patrolling the area.  But instead, they just stand in place for a minute, doing nothing.  Worst escape plan ever.
  4. Dobby was great in this movie. They gave him a lot of good lines to try to make up for the fact that he got cut out of all the other movies.  But it's still depressing that they brought Dobby back, just so he could get killed.
  5. The big escape from the Dursley's house took place on a freeway.  Why did it take place on a freeway?
  6. Harry and his girlfriend Ginny are not a good couple.  Their "romantic" scene was hard to watch, and it's only the comedy relief who comes in at the end which makes it a bearable scene.  The "friendship" scenes between Harry and Hermione are much better, to the point where you think Harry and Hermione are going to become a couple.  He clearly has more chemistry with her than his girlfriend.
  7. The Snatchers chase reminds me of the Twilight movie previews.
  8. Our heroes wear a lot of flannel during the nine month camping trip.  And even though they spend months away from human civilization, they have perfect hair and makeup the whole time.  Riiight.
  9. The part with Luna and her dad at the wedding felt rushed.  Luna was all, "Hi, Harry. This is my dad. I'm introducing him to you to set up for later on in the movie. Bye!"
  10. The set-up for the Godric's Hollow scene was not optimal.  I knew what was going on, but everyone who didn't read the books had no idea who Bathilda Bagshot is or why she's important.  And so, when she shows up in Godric's Hollow (and no one mentions her name), the reaction from the crowd was confusion, and not, "Oh, hey, it's Bathilda!".
  11. The Seven Potters scene was awesome, but the start of it was a little weird. It's a scene where there are 14 characters in one place, but the movie places importance on introducing the two "new" characters (Bill and Mundungus) that were cut out of the other movies.  So the other twelve characters kind of get skipped over.  Oh well, at least Moody kept things moving along with a stream of constant one-liners.
  12. They did Japanese shadow puppet animation for the Deathly Hallows story.  It was weird.  They should have gone with the Potter Puppet Pals instead.
  13. Harry is a hilariously bad dancer.
  14. Peter Pettigrew doesn't get killed, which I'm pretty sure disappointed everyone.  I was disappointed that Ollivander, in his ten seconds of screentime, didn't say his catchphrase, "Curious.  Very curious." The fans would have gone nuts.
  15. At the part where Harry talks about catching the snitch in his first Quidditch game, I wanted to see a flashback to that moment.
All in all, it was better than Movie #6, but I can't help but feel that the pacing is bad.  There are scenes that are too rushed, so you have no idea what's going on, and then there are scenes that just drag on forever.  I think it would be a much better movie if they cut out a lot of stuff.

The weird part is that the director says they cut fifteen minutes of footage out of the movie already.  I'm wondering what they cut.  Maybe it all comes from the scenes that feel rushed.  Or maybe it's the "Harry spies on Dean, Ted Tonks and Griphook" scene from the book.  Maybe we'll find out when the DVD is released.  Or later, when the Special Edition DVD is released.  Or later, when the Parts One and Two Put Together DVD is released.  Or later, when the Parts One and Two Put Together Special Edition DVD is released.  Or later, when the Entire Harry Potter Series - Please Give Us Money Edition DVD is released.  Who knows?

Look for my review of Tangled tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It Is Decided!

Given that all twenty-plus comments to my last post mention a vlog, I think it's official: I should do a vlog.

So I set up a video page for people to leave questions/discussion topics on.  You can also leave some here, if you want.  I'm not opposed to making this a multi-video project, if there are a lot of questions/discussion topics.

If my hands look weird in this video, it's because I had no idea whether or not they would appear onscreen.