Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blog Plans

Okay, the general consensus seems to be that I should try to alternate the various topics I have here on this blog.  I support this idea.  I remember that there was one week where I talked about videogames every single day, and it got boring.

The problem with me setting up blog plans is that I don't always follow them.  For example, I have a general policy of writing about news on Friday/Saturday.  And you'll notice I've only done that about three times since September.  Whoops.

Also, I seem to forget my Three Things segment for months at a time.  Silly me.  Maybe I should try to always have news on Friday and threes on Thursday.

Anyway, I like the idea of posting a new chapter of my Nancy Drew story every 2-3 days.  It sounds good to me, so that's what I'll do.

As for the trip to Spain, I think I'll write about it from December 9th to the 21st.  Yes, I have that much material written up about the trip to Spain.  Each day's entry is going to be one day of the trip, and many of them will have pictures.  It'll be great, and you'll love it.  Either that, or you'll stop reading the blog for two weeks.  No big deal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blog Projects

I've been reading a fanfiction based on Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull.  Basically, each chapter of the story is about five minutes of gameplay.

I want to write a story like that.  I was thinking I'll write it here on my blog.  It seems easy enough, and I like the fact that each chapter takes a short time to write.  But even if I write a new chapter every day, it'd probably take two months to finish.  Two straight months of Nancy Drew writing is too much, even for me.

Plus, if I'm going to do a series of entries around the same topic, it really should be about my trip to Spain, because my notebook from the trip is sitting on my bookshelf, lonely.  That's two weeks of information which is already written; I just need to type it up.  Another project I'm working on is a week of entries about the meaning of life and the nature of happiness, which is shaping up to be exciting and philosophical.

What do you guys think?  Do I go ahead with Nancy Drew?  Do I go ahead with the stories of my trip to Spain?  Should I try to do both at the same time, or should I keep up with my normal routine of blog writing?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Part 2)

To continue my recap of the first hour or so of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword...

  • Finally, I get through the tutorials, then I go meet Zelda, near the goddess statue. Zelda is wearing a fancy costume, because she's playing the goddess in the play today. She wanted Link to be the first one to see it, and she giggles a few times.
  • Sadly, the dialogue is kind of hard to read, because the game is supposed to be played on a widescreen TV, and I don't have one of those. It is impossible to read any of the colored text.
  • Zelda's father appears. He is kind of hideous. He's got a large unibrow, which he combs upwards to cover his bald spot. He and Zelda talk about Link for about five minutes, as if Link isn't standing right next to them.
  • It seems that everyone in town has a guardian bird called a Loftwing. Today, they're having a flying competition, with the birds. The winner of the race gets to do something special with Zelda, for the ceremony. Naturally, she wants Link to win. Link is the only one in town with a crimson-colored bird, which is why he's special.
  • Zelda is very concerned that Link will lose the race, and so she drags him off to practice. She takes him to the edge of the island, then pushes him off.
  • Link screams as he plummets to the ground. His bird doesn't come to pick him up.
  • Eventually, Zelda realizes something is wrong, so she jumps off the side of the island. Her bird appears, and the two of them save Link's life. Way to go, Zelda! Of course, it's your fault his life was in danger in the first place, but still, I thought it was cool.
  • So something weird is going on with Link's bird. Can he find his bird before the race starts?
  • Twenty minutes later, I managed to find a character named Groose. He is the bully of the Knight Academy, and he tells his friends that he kidnapped Link's bird. He starts bad-mouthing Link, when Zelda shows up to the rescue.
  • And Groose has a crush on Zelda. Uh oh! Link's going to have to find his bird, then win the race! We don't want that jerk to get some alone time with Zelda, do we?
  • My Wii-mtote ran out of battery during the scene with Groose, which is a real shame, because I wanted to win the race and triumphantly say, "Ha!  Looks like  your Groose is cooked!"

And that's it!  I might write a full review someday, but so far, it seems rather interesting.  I played for an hour after that, and the game really emphasized the fact that Link and Zelda would be a great couple together.  That's interesting, because in every other Zelda game, Link and Zelda aren't boyfriend and girlfriend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The New Mass

Hey, everyone!  Guess what?  Today, the Roman Catholic Church is staring the brand-new English language mass here in America!

So, some people are going to be very surprised when they go to church this week and find out that a lot of the language has changed.  We're keeping the exact same structure of the mass, of course, but the words that we'll be using are slightly different.

All in all, it's going to be pretty awesome.  The prayers are going to be closer to the original Latin text, which is more poetic than the version we've been using for the past thirty years.  The language is going to be fancier, as well, which is a good thing.

So let's hope everything goes well with the transition to the new mass.  This is happening in every Catholic Church here in America, so no matter which state you're in, you'll be getting the new mass.  We had our first new mass here last night, and it went pretty well, although some people accidentally said the old responses.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Zelda: Skyward Sword - First Impressions (Part 1)

I got to play Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for about an hour and a half yesterday.  Here are my first impressions of the game.
  • The game starts with an opening cutscene.  The music is fancy, while the graphics are kind of generic.  The narrator says that evil villains started a war, in order to get the Triforce, the super powerful magical device that the Goddess made.
  • The Goddess didn't want humans to get hurt during the war, so she banished them to a floating island.  Okay, maybe she didn't banish them, but once the war was over, she forgot to bring the island back down to Earth again.  Whoops!
  • And that's the backstory.  Several generations later, all the humans are still living on the floating island, which is called Skyloft.  It's a pretty-looking island, filled with large colorful birds.  Zelda is singing a song on a harp, and she gives a letter to one of the birds.
  • Link is having a nightmare about an evil worm creature, which is attacking a forest.  The foreshadowing is scaring him tremendously, but then a bright light appears in the sky.  A voice comes from the light, saying that it is time for him to fulfill his destiny and save the world.
  • Then Link wakes up and gets the letter from Zelda.  She wants to meet up with him before the big Wing Ceremony today.
  • At last, you get to control Link.  He lives in the Knight Academy, presumably with a bunch of other people who are also knights.  There are a few optional tutorials here.  One involves moving heavy barrels, which is not more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  The other involves finding a lost cat.  The cat tutorial was cool, because it involved Prince of Persia-style building climbing.  Unfortunately, I messed up when I got to the end, and I accidentally threw the cat off a building.
  • I had to spend the next five minutes, working with the throwing controls, because I had to throw the cat back up the building.  Yeah, the throwing controls take a while to get used to.
On Monday, I'll have Part Two of my first impressions of the game.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. One of the churches in our diocese is dedicated to Saint Catherine, and I wrote a four-page biography of her for their parishoners. I thought that today would be a good day to reprint it.

Saint Catherine was born in 282, in Alexandria, Egypt. He mother was Queen Sabinella, while her father was King Costis or Costus, from Rome. Costis' mother was an unknown Armenian woman who died in childbirth, while his father was Constantinius Chlorus, who became the Emperor of Rome in 293. Sadly, Costis did not live to see his father become the emperor; he died while Catherine was young, making her the only heir to the kingdom.

In ancient times, Alexandria was famous for being a great center of education; it once housed the largest library in the entire world. Many wealthy Romans sent their children there to be educated. Because Catherine was a princess, she was educated like any other child of noble birth. She quickly fell in love with school and education, and she studied for hours without end. Her favorite pastime was studying the Greek philosophers, especially Plato.

Catherine became well-known for her education and skills in philosophy, and she was able to surpass many of her male contemporaries. The Egyptian citizens, however, did not approve of her studies. They did not think it was right for a woman to be so enthusiastic about learning. Instead, they thought she should concentrate her efforts on finding a good husband, so Egypt would have a king to inherit the throne.

Catherine was too concerned with her schooling to engage in courtship, and besides, she had no real interest in getting married. She began to put off the question of finding a husband by saying that she refused to marry anyone, unless he was superior to her in every way. "The only husband for me," she said, "must be smarter than I am, nobler than I am, of higher rank than I am, and especially if he is going to become king, he must be compassionate towards everyone, unlike the brutish kings of the past who thought they could never be wrong."

Needless to say, no one could be found who fulfilled Catherine's standards for the perfect husband. The few suitors who met with her were all quickly dismissed. Catherine would say something like "He is not handsome enough for me" or "He is too stupid to be the King of Egypt". Then she would leave them and return to her studies.

In addition to being a center of education in those days, Alexandria was also a center of Catholicism. The Bishop of Alexandria was considered to be the second most important Bishop in the world, after the Pope in Rome. In fact, the word "Pope" first comes from the town of Alexandria. So it was no surprise that one of the Catholic citizens of Alexandria heard about the princess' refusal to marry, and he decided to do something about it.

This man, who was a hermit and an ardent devotee of Mary, boldly proclaimed that he found the perfect husband for the princess, a man who fulfilled all of her requirements. He was allowed to have a meeting with Princess Catherine. She laughed when she first saw the hermit, because it seemed ridiculous that this man could have found the perfect husband for her.

But then the man showed her a picture of Jesus and Mary, and he explained that she should become a Bride of Christ, because Jesus met all of her requirements and more. Jesus is wiser than anyone else, because he is the wisdom of God. Jesus is of higher rank than anyone else on Earth, because he is the King of Kings and the natural-born ruler of humanity. Most importantly, Jesus shares his infinite compassion and justice with everyone, regardless of their rank or status.

Catherine was intrigued by what the hermit said, and she began to look into the matter herself. She was converted almost overnight. She soon lost interest in her studies of philosophy, and she refocused her energies on studying Christianity. She studied the Gospels, and she was amazed to find that they were filled with higher wisdom than any of the other books she had read. She quickly sought out all the religious texts she could find, and she built a small prayer chapel in the palace.

One night, Catherine had a heavenly vision. In this vision, she went to a sanctuary, and angels came to meet her. She fell to the ground in humility and worship, and one of the angels told her, "Rise, dear sister Catherine, for the King of Glory delights to honor you." Catherine rose, and she followed the angels to the presence of Mary, Queen of Heaven.

Catherine was astonished with delight to see the Virgin Mary and all her heavenly servants with her. As the Egyptian Princess, Catherine was used to seeing royal courts decorated in fineries, but the splendors of heaven far surpassed any palace Catherine had ever seen on Earth. As the Psalmist says "How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of hosts...one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere." (Psalm 84:2, 11)

The Virgin Mary is the spiritual mother of us all, and she welcomed her daughter, Catherine. Mary leads all good Christians to her divine son, Jesus, and so, Mary took Catherine through the heavenly courtyard to the divine throne. Catherine marveled at everything she saw, but what made the greatest impression upon her was the layout of the palace, which was intimately familiar to her. In preparation for her arrival, it seems, the throne room had been rearranged, so everything was in the same place as Catherine's throne room in Egypt. Despite the similarities, Catherine could not help but think that, compared to the Lord's heavenly dwelling-place, her throne room was only a pale imitation.

The King of Glory, Jesus Christ, was seated upon the very throne which, in the Egyptian palaces, Catherine normally sat upon. The courtroom, full of angels and saints singing praise to God in loud voices, fell silent, as the Virgin Mary presented Catherine to Jesus. Jesus asked Catherine what she desired, but she was too afraid to speak in his presence. The Virgin Mary answered on her behalf, saying that Catherine wanted to become a Bride of Christ. She wished to consecrate her virginity and dedicate her life to the heavenly bridegroom, after the example of the holy saints who had come before her, such as Saint Lucy and Saint Agnes, both of whom were still alive at this time.

Jesus gave Catherine a passing glance, then he turned away from her, saying, "She is not fair and beautiful enough for me."

After Jesus said these words, Catherine awoke from her vision. She began weeping, because she had been rejected by Christ, in the exact same way that she had rejected others. The just judgment against Catherine recalls the words of Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not judge others, so you may not be judged yourself. For as you judge, so you will be judged, and the measure with which you judge others will be measured out to you" (Matthew 7:1-2).

Catherine began to feel a great sorrow for the way she had lived her life, because she had let her studies make her arrogant and proud. She had acted as if she was better than everyone else, just because she was a princess; she had deliberately ignored the truth that other people were her equals, her brothers and sisters, because we are all children of God. With great sadness, she reflected on all the times she had not followed Jesus' commandment to serve and to love others.

Catherine vowed to repent from her former way of life, and she confessed all that happened to the hermit who first introduced her to Christianity. She begged him to tell her what she could possibly do to make herself worthy of the heavenly Bridegroom. She longed to be united to Jesus; her soul was thirsting for the true and living God. The hermit, seeing her earnest desire, agreed to catechize her and to baptize her.

The night after her baptism, Catherine had a dream where the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son again appeared to her. Mary presented her to Jesus, saying, "Behold, she has been regenerated in the water of Baptism." Then Christ smiled on her and said, "Ah, now she is fair and beautiful enough for me". Jesus placed a ring on her finger to signify their spiritual marriage, and when she awoke, the ring was still there.

After that, Catherine's life was generally a happy one, even though she often came into contention with certain citizens who either didn't like Christianity or didn't like her decision to never be married. Catherine did her best to be a good ruler, and it is said that she made significant achievements in the field of education, apologetics and philosophy, although none of her written works survive.

Catherine's life changed drastically when she was twenty-four, and her mother died. As the only heir to the throne, Catherine became Queen Catherine. The historians of this time period, all of whom were Romans, say almost nothing about her work in Egypt; they focus exclusively on her interactions with Rome.

As the new Queen of Egypt, Catherine was required to have an audience with the Roman Emperor, Maximinus the Second (sometimes confused with his contemporary, Emperor Maxentius). The formal intention of the meeting between the two rulers was to reaffirm the alliance between Rome and Egypt, as well as to discuss various treaties and other issues that they felt were pertinent. However, Catherine was not interested in discussing matters of wealth and politics with the emperor. Her main concern was reversing Maximinus' decision to renew Christian persecutions in his territories. The two leaders quickly got into an argument, and she used her superior intellect to counter all his claims about the evils of Christianity. Emperor Maximinus was stunned into silence.

Queen Catherine returned home to Alexandria, but Emperor Maximinus was not satisfied at having lost an argument with a woman, especially a foreigner. Maximinus later contacted the various scholars in Alexandria, whose education was being officially financed by the Roman government. He ordered the scholars to continue the debate with Queen Catherine, until she admitted she was wrong.

The scholars, fifty in total, did not want their funding revoked, so they met with the Queen. Over the course of the next few months, Catherine was sustained by the power of God during her debates with the scholars. She was not only able to defeat their flawed arguments, but she was able to convert them to Christianity.

Emperor Maximinus was back at Rome when he heard that his scholars had lost the debate. He ordered his soldiers to kill the scholars, and he requested a second meeting with Queen Catherine. She made the journey to Rome, where she was well-treated, as a foreign dignitary and the granddaughter of a previous emperor. It is unknown whether or not Catherine met her relatives Saint Helena and Constantine the Great during this visit to Rome.

This time, Maximinus tried a different approach with Catherine. Instead of arguing with her, he treated her as an honored guest, and he tried to impress her by showing off the wonders of the city, the splendors of his palaces, and the strength and size of his formidable army. The emperor said that it was not good for the Egyptian queen to be unmarried and childless, and he suggested that he would make an excellent father for her children, as a way of uniting their two countries.

Catherine refused this offer. She boldly said that she would never marry the emperor, because she had dedicated her life to Jesus, because he was a foul man who was persecuting Christians, and besides, Maximinus was already married to somebody else. Catherine wisely decided to leave the room before Maximinus could make any more unwanted advances towards her.

The emperor returned to his quarters, rather upset. He tried to speak to his wife about how Catherine was brutish and ill-mannered, but the empress refused to listen. His wife said that Catherine was a lovely woman, and that the two of them had become good friends during Catherine's stay. In fact, the Empress was so impressed with Catherine that she was interested in becoming a Christian herself.

Emperor Maximinus became furious at this, and he claimed that Catherine was an evil bewitcher whose goal was to destroy the Roman Empire. "This Egyptian Queen is a second Cleopatra," he said, and he immediately sentenced her to death for being a Christian.

Saint Catherine was thrown in a dungeon for twelve days. After this, she was taken to the torture room and tied to a spiked wheel to be killed. This is a specific type of torture that was used to execute criminals; it slowly tears a person's body apart, through the movement of the wheel. However, once Saint Catherine was tied to the wheel, it broke into pieces. Because of this, the breaking wheel is sometimes called "Catherine's Wheel", and it often appears in pictures of Saint Catherine.

Because the wheel was broken, the soldiers could not kill Saint Catherine as planned. Instead, they put her in prison. The question of what to do with Catherine went back to Emperor Maximinus. He was advised to release Catherine, in order to avoid a potential war with Egypt. Maximinus disagreed, because he cared more about his personal pride than the welfare of his citizens. He ordered the Roman soldiers to scourge Catherine, then to behead her. This grim death sentence was carried out on November 25, 307.

Legend has it that Catherine's body was taken to Mount Sinai by angels, and she was buried there. Saint Catherine's monastery was built in that location, about 250 years later, and the monastery is still there today.

Saint Catherine is the patron saint of philosophers, students, maidens and preachers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Enjoy the holiday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grocery Shopping

Apparently, single people have a problem where they get overly-excited about boring things.  For example, on Sunday, I got psyched up because I had a book to pick up from the library.  On one of my days off, the highlight of the day was going to the bank and depositing a check.

I mention this, because I went grocery shopping yesterday, and I think I was more excited for that than I am for the new Zelda game coming out this week.  I couldn't wait to get back home and blog about the fascinating things I purchased.

I bought some juice.  Normally, I like to drink soda.  But now that I'm the one who's buying food, I only get juice.  It's healthier and cheaper, and nobody else but me will drink it.

I also bought some oatmeal, and now that I'm checking the receipt here, I can assure you that the oatmeal is way overpriced.  Five dollars for oatmeal?  I knew I should have gone with cereal for my breakfast food for the next two weeks.  Although cereal doesn't last as long as oatmeal, and you have to buy milk along with the cereal or else it's worthless...

These are the fascinating things I thought of while shopping for groceries.

I also got cheese and hot dogs, because I haven't had any hot dogs in several months.  I didn't buy hot dog buns, though.  I guess I'll just use bread slices instead of buns.  Or--be prepared for a bachelor suggestion--what if I wrap my hot dog in a slice of pizza?  A pizza dog sounds delicious.  It's also a heart attack waiting to happen, but it sounds delicious.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beauty and the Beast 3D

Back in June, I said that the next Disney movie is the Lion King in 3D.  Well, the next Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast in 3D.



So, does anyone remember when Disney changed their policy on sequels? You know, after they made Mulan 2, Lion King 2, 101 Dalmatians 2, Bambi 2, [Insert any Disney film here] 2, and so on.  Three years ago, Disney announced that they would no longer make direct-to-home release sequels.

Many people were happy about this, because they thought the home release sequels were bad movies, and Disney only made them because they wanted to capitalize on a pre-existing licenses.  "Good for Disney!" people said.  "They're starting to care more about the quality of their products, and less about the profit!"

Well...now it's starting to look like 3D re-releases are Disney's new method of capitalizing on pre-existing licenses.  Which film is going to be re-released next in 3D?  I'm thinking The Little Mermaid or The Jungle Book.

The kind of sad part is that I'm tempted to go see Beauty and the Beast 3D, despite my ban against 3D movies, because the movie comes with a Tangled short.  Sort of like how I was tempted to see Cars 2, because it had a Toy Story short paired with it.  But I understand the Toy Story short has been released on DVD, so if I wait six months, the Tangled short will probably be released on DVD, too.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Professor Layton (Part 3)

Welcome back to my plot recap of Professor Layton and the Last Specter.  When we last left off, our heroes made no progress at all in hunting down the mysterious specter that is destroying the town.  They did learn that Mr. Barde, the father of Luke's girlfriend Arianna, died under mysterious circumstances.

Emmy decides that she hasn't yet cemented her role as a main character in the series, so she decides to fly solo for a while.  She goes to London and meets up with Inspector Grosky of Scotland Yard.  Grosky is a barrel-chested crimefighter.  No, seriously.  His chest is roughly the shape and size of a barrel.  It's creative character design, and I don't know whether to be amused or scared by it.



Emmy learns that Mr. Barde's death was a suicide.  There was only one witness, and the witness inherited all of Mr. Barde's estate.  Who was the witness?  Luke's father, Darth Vader Clark.

Our heroes interrogate Clark, but they don't learn anything.  In the meantime, they meet with the morbidly obese and obviously evil Police Chief Jakes.  Jakes gives them twenty-four hours to leave town, before he arrests them.  Also, he sends a pack of thugs after our heroes to  beat them up.  Emmy has watched Kung-Fu Panda at least twenty times, though, so she is able to fight the thugs without much trouble.


Then, it's time for a weird plot twist!  Luke reveals that he has a magical talking mouse in his pocket. The mouse has the power to predict where the specter is going to appear.  I am not making this up.  There really is a magical talking mouse.  His name is Toppy.  Luke is fluent in Mouse, so he talks with Toppy to learn that the specter will appear near the arch in town, where the water level is low.

There is, of course, no reason to doubt the word of Toppy the Magical Talking Mouse.  That's why our heroes go to the arch that night. When the specter appears, Layton gets a good look at it.  He determines its identity immediately, and right when he's about to announce what the specter is...

...The police show up and arrest Professor Layton.  All our heroes, including Toppy, get thrown into jail.  Oh no, not Toppy!  Can our heroes escape from jail and solve the mystery, before someone gets killed by the specter?  Does Luke always keep vermin inside his pockets, or was this just a one-time deal?  Will the Professor ever remember how he first met Emmy?  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Antique Shopping

On Thursday, I had to go out of town, about a half-hour to the north.  Before returning back home, I figured I'd visit the local antique store, which is really big.


Apparently, it used to be two different antique stores that merged into one.  With such a big store, I was able to find a lot of great items.

Ah!  My cooking problems are over!  I've got a book of magic recipes for the new-fangled electric blender that just got invented!


A Hardy Boys Mysteries lunchbox?  I can put my electric blender food in there!  I would gladly pay $5 for that, but sadly, it cost $45.  Antique stores, why can't you have garage sale prices?  Then people would actually buy things from you.



There was a large shelf of Disney figurines, which were nice to look at.


Among the pictures they had for sale was one of random mustache man.


Why did they put a copy of Zelda: Minish Cap inside the 1940's case?

---

After seeing all their items, I was thinking about buying two or three things. But then I overheard the two employees talking about me. They were old and must have hearing problems, because they were talking louder than necessary. They were discussing whether or not they could trick me into buying a figurine, if they pretended it was supposed to be religious. "We'll just say it's a Virgin Mary. He'll never know the difference," the woman said. The man laughed in response.

So naturally, I left without buying anything from Rip-Off Antiques. After that, I went to a smaller antique/gift store. The small store was much better, even if their selection wasn't as extensive. The lady at the counter was nice, and they had garage sale prices. I went home with two 1910s books for five dollars.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bronies

I have been informed that there is a new Internet subculture that has developed: Bronies.

A brony is a person who is a big fan of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. For some reason, the most recent installment of the series (2010) has become wildly popular, especially among adult males who you would not expect to watch a TV showed marketed towards six-year-old girls.

For the record, I am not a brony. I have never watched this TV show, nor do I really have time to watch TV anymore. But I can appreciate the fact that the bronies have made some truly hilarious videos:



I sometimes catch a little flack from people, who think I should not be allowed to enjoy Nancy Drew games, because I'm a boy, but I imagine the bronies have a harder time with that sort of thing.

If anyone named Brinny is reading this, I expect you to make a brownie recipe for these My Little Pony fans.  That way, you can call them Brinny's Brony Brownies.  Make it happen, Brinny!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brave

To continue my previous discusson on Pixar movies, we now have a trailer for Brave which actually shows off the characters.



I think this movie is going to fight an uphill battle, distinguishing itself from How to Train Your Dragon. They look somewhat similar.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I like the movie or not. What do you guys say?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Most Popular Nancy Drew Game Guides

I've written text walkthroughs for 21 of the 25 games in the Nancy Drew series.  The ones I've missed are Legend of the Crystal Skull, Secret of the Old Clock, Danger on Deception Island, and Phantom of Venice.

GameFAQs keeps track of how many views each guide gets.  Just for fun, I thought it'd be interesting to list out the most popular guides here.
  1. Curse of Blackmoor Manor (32,174 hits)
  2. Haunting of Castle Malloy (19,035 hits)
  3. The Haunted Carousel (16,368 hits)
  4. Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon (15,500 hits)
  5. Ransom of the Seven Ships (14,270 hits)
  6. Treausre in the Royal Tower (11,378 hits)
All the other guides have received less than ten thousand hits.  Warnings at Waverly Academy and The Final Scene are neck-and-neck at around 9,400, though.

The least popular guide is Alibi in Ashes, with only 658 hits.  Then again, I only finished that guide three weeks ago.  It hasn't had as much time as some of the other guides, which have been up for years now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Kung Fu Panda Show

On my trip back home from Spain--remind me to talk about that one day--I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 four times.  Not by choice, mind you.  They have TV sets built into the seats on flights to Europe, so you can watch some movies or TV during the 14-hour flight.

The TV set on my seat was broken, so I couldn't watch anything.  Instead, I watched the only TV I could see, which was the one belonging to the kid in front of me.  He watched Kung Fu Panda 2 four times, and he watched Rio three times.  It was a movie marathon of seven back-to-back movies...made up of two movies.

I should note that he was the only person with headphones for his seat.  I couldn't actually hear the movie.  But after watching it four times, I got a pretty good idea of what the plot was.  I still wouldn't recommend watching it without the sound on, though.

Recently, I saw a bit of the new Kung Fu Panda TV show, and I had two reactions.  1, the animation quality has been greatly decreased.  2, I incorrectly guessed the genders of half the characters.

For example, I thought the Tiger Buddy was a macho man who is Panda's main competitor.  And it turns out that Tiger Buddy is actually Tigress, voiced by Angelina Jolie.  Same sort of thing with Granny Goose, Girl Monkey, and Weird Goat Dude.  Oh well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes Review

Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes is the 25th game in the Nancy Drew series.  To mark this occasion, they tried to do something really different in this game.  Most of the games in the series have Nancy travelling to some exotic overseas location in order to solve a mystery, but this game has her solving a mystery right in her home town of River Heights.

Another special thing they did for this game was to fill it with characters who are regulars in the Nancy Drew book series.  I thought that was a really neat touch.  Another neat touch is the plot, which is unexpectedly different.  Within the first ten minutes of the game, Nancy gets framed for arson and arrested.  If that's not a dramatic way to start your game, I don't know what is.

The other thing that strikes me as really "different" about this game is how the culprit's identity is revealed.  Normally, the culprit only gets revealed during a dramatic confrontation at the end of the game.  In this game, Nancy confronts the culprit, the culprit confesses...and the game keeps going for another half hour after that, because Nancy doesn't have concrete proof of the culprit's guilt.  I thought that was a creative move that really added to the dramatic tension of the situation.

I think what I'm trying to say is that they tried some new and different things in this game, and I liked that.

The characters in this game were well-done, although really, I would say that no matter what the characters are like, because they included Police Chief McGinnis.  If Chief McGinnis was the only character in this game, and all he did was talk about his mustache for two hours straight, it'd get a thumbs-up from me.  Alas, the Chief and his Mighty Mustache of Criminal-Catching Awesomeness only appear in cutscenes during this game, but it's still enough to get me to officially approve the cast list.

Alexei Markovic was the most well-developed character, I would say.  His backstory gets revealed in pieces, instead of all at once, which makes it more interesting.  Deirdre Shannon's portrayal was spot-on; she acted just like she does in the books.  I haven't read any of the books in which Brenda Carlton appears, but I'm going to guess she's accurate, too.  Toni Scallari, though, was probably my least favorite character, because she doesn't talk much about anything to anyone, except Bess.

This brings me to another point.  You play as four different characters in this game: Nancy, Ned, Bess and George.  Each character has his or her own special abilities, of sorts.  For example, Deirdre is only nice to Ned, so if you want to get information from Deirdre, you need to switch to Ned.  It's an interesting gameplay mechanic to have you switch between four characters semi-regularly.  The complaint that people have, though, is that you switch directly between Nancy's three friends.  So, if you want to switch from Bess to George, the game makes you switch from Bess to Nancy, then you switch from Nancy to George.  It's an unnecessary middle step that could have been easily eliminated.

All in all, I'm giving this game a nine out of ten.  They went out of their way to do something special and different for the twenty-fifth game in the series, and it really paid off.  Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes is a good testament to a long-lived series.  Here's hoping for the next twenty-five games!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Abraham Lincoln Comments on Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes

I managed to find our good friend Abraham Lincoln and interview him about the latest Nancy Drew game.

Abraham Lincoln: Hello my friend and how are you this fine day?
Michael: I am a little tired, good sir.
Abraham Lincoln: That's nice to hear.
Michael: Are you excited for the new Twilight movie?
Abraham Lincoln: Most likely I'm not. I am just putting on an act.
Michael: I hear they're splitting the last movie up into two parts, just like Harry Potter did.
Abraham Lincoln: If they are, I'll never forgive them.
Michael: Wow, I never pictured you as such a Twilight-hater. Moving on, though, have you played the new Nancy Drew game?
Abraham Lincoln: Oh yes, I have played quite a lot. Come to think of it, I have also been to the movies quite a lot.
Michael: Not the Twilight movies, I presume. Did you like Alibi in Ashes?
Abraham Lincoln: You're joking! I would have run ten miles to get away from Alibi.


Michael: Oh...so you don't think it's a good videogame. Why not?
Abraham Lincoln: Ok.
Michael: Ok what?
Abraham Lincoln: I could try telling you what, but then you'd have to get your head round the technical terms. Are you ready for that?
Michael: I am ready. I am prepared. Tell me, Abe.
Abraham Lincoln: Then maybe you should go to bed. I was a "self-made" man being both self-educated and self-disciplined. The Whig party (which came before the Republican Party) espoused these ideals and I identified with that. My legal career and temperment were both highly suited to being a "Whig." Today, given the shift if party beliefs and political positions, I'm not entirely sure which party I would endorse. Fancy that, mine too.
Michael: So...you dislike Alibi in Ashes, for political reasons. That makes sense, I guess. Are you upset that the River Heights Town Hall gets burned in the game, or are you more upset at the less-than-ideal portayal of Toni Scallari, the town's councilwoman?
Abraham Lincoln: Yes I am upset, but don't worry. Upset doesn't bite!
Michael: No, I asked what upsets you more: Toni or the Town Hall.
Abraham Lincoln: What upsets -- that's rather a tricky question. The trouble is, one upset appears to be much like another.
Michael: Some people think that Toni Scallari is based off Sarah Palin. What do you say?



Abraham Lincoln: I think she was a very interesting choice. be good and treat everyone like you would like to be treated.
Michael: Would you have voted for Toni Scallari, though, knowing that she dislikes Nancy Drew?
Abraham Lincoln: I certainly would. Just watch me!
Michael: What?! ABE! Are you saying that you hate Nancy?
Abraham Lincoln: I don't believe I know anyone by that name.
Michael: Nancy Drew, the girl accused of burning down the town hall.
Abraham Lincoln: I don't know about that, and as a matter of interest I really don't need to know! What else are you able to talk to me about?
Michael: You are totally avoiding the topic, Mr. President, and I have the feeling it's because you secretly dislike Nancy Drew almost as much as you dislike Twilight.
Abraham Lincoln: Quite right, I am. But then, so is the gorilla in the Berlin zoo. Or so I was told.
Michael: I knew I should have let Brenda Carlton handle this interview. You can't give me a straight answer.
Abraham Lincoln: Frankly that's not my favourite subject.
Michael: Did you just use the British spelling of "favorite"?
Abraham Lincoln: I like classical music.
Michael: ...Right. Anyway, I think we should end this interview. Any final thoughts on Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes?
Abraham Lincoln: Ok. With hard work and determination nearly everthing is possible. He was definitely much cooler and better looking than I was. He was the star football player to my loner, intellectual vibe. I can't compete with Camelot. I'll tell you that he's pretty cool to chat with...great story teller.
Michael: Goodbye, Abe.
Abraham Lincoln: Goodbye, it was nice speaking with you.

Wow, Abraham Lincoln really dislikes Alibi in Ashes.  Do I feel the same way?  Tune in tomorrow to find out, as I review the game myself!

(If I can finish writing the review by then.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yumi's Secret

Someone pointed out something rather itneresting.  In Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water's Edge, there is a scary sequence where someone tells Yumi that her secret is known.

It's in 0:48 of this video:



...Did we ever find out what Yumi's secret is?  I don't remember finding out any of Yumi's secrets.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Audio Recording

Hey, you guys should know this.  Is there any kind of iPhone app I can use to record audio?  Specifically, I'm thinking of using the iPhone to capture the audio for my video walkthroughs, because people say my new computer's microphone is bad.

The iPhone has voice recognition, so I have to believe it has some kind of high-quality audio recording program.  People probably use it to make bootleg recordings of concerts and things.

Does the app have a time limit?  I know the audio program on the Nintendo DSi has a time limit of, say, forty seconds.  That's not very useful.  It'd be nice if the audio program for the iPhone didn't have a time limit to destroy its usefulness.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dot and Tot of Merryland

I just finished producing the eBook version of Dot and Tot of Merryland, by L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow.  The story behind the book is actually more interesting than the book itself, in my opinion.

In 1900, Baum and his buddy Denslow worked together to make The Wizard of Oz.  The book and Broadway play were mega-hits, and they instantly skyrocketed to superstar status.  They obviously wanted to duplicate the success of the Wizard of Oz, so the next year, the two men came together again and made Dot and Tot of Merryland

I admit, The Wizard of Oz is a really, really tough act to follow.  How should they have followed it up?

With anything other than Dot and Tot of Merryland.

Not to be mean, but it's not a very good book.  Maybe it was rushed or something; I think it could definitely be improved with some editing and reorganization.  The book was a complete flop on the market.  Shortly afterwards, the Baum/Denslow dream team broke up, and the two of them never worked together again.

Baum's career was rocky for a while after that, until he wrote a sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  That became a big bestseller, so he wrote more sequels, and he eventually became known as the Oz guy.
Denslow, on the other hand, seems to have gone somewhat crazy after he broke ties with Baum.  He used his Oz money to buy an island in Bermuda, and he declared himself King Denslow the First.  He also became an alcoholic and died penniless.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter (Part 2)

All right, time to continue with my plot recap of the latest Professor Layton game!  When we last left off, our heroes went to find the evil specter.  And that's exactly what they did!  They sat in their hotel room and watched as the shadowy beast appeared in the mist and started smashing buildings.  The whole time, the mysterious "Specter's Flute" was playing.

What is "The Specter's Flute"?  That was the original title for this game, and apparently, whenever you play the flute, the specter appears and starts destroying things.  Yes, that's right, a flautist is responsible for all the destruction in town.  I think the culprit is probably an angry band geek who wants to get revenge on the jocks who teased him in high school.

The next section of the game is Chapter Four, which should be titled The Thoroughly Uninteresting Chapter.  Here, you have to spend an hour and a half, going through the marketplace over and over and over again.  At the end of it all, you learn that children like candy and dressing up in costumes.  Well, that red herring was certainly worth the effort!  I could never have figured that out on my own.

The plot picks up again in Chapter Five, when our heroes go to a nearby mansion, which is the home of Arianna the Witch.  It turns out that Arianna is a young girl, a little older than Luke.  Luke reveals that he and Arianna used to be good friends.  A somewhat romantic flashback plays, which shows how Luke met Arianna, and how the two of them spent the entire night together, watching the beautiful stars in the sky.  But before you can say "true love", Arianna kicks our heroes out of the house and tells Luke never to talk to her again.

...Ow.  Maybe that's why Prequel Luke is so moody.  His girlfriend hates him.

Luke explains that Arianna has a terminal illness, and that she has refused to talk to anyone ever since her father was killed.  After that, Luke's mother disappeared, the specter started destroying the town, and lots of people died from an unknown disease.  In other words, it was not good times.

The rest of the chapter is an hour of Layton chasing down another red herring.  It's kind of weird, actually.  Layton is a super-genius who solves mysteries so quickly that he puts Sherlock Holmes to shame.  But he's extra-stupid in this chapter, so they can really draw out the red herring subplot and make it last as long as possible.  I didn't like seeing Layton get dumbed down for the sake of filler.  It just felt wrong to see him break character like that.

Professor Layton: He's smart, unless him being stupid results in another hour of gameplay.

With that, you reach the halfway point of the game.  So far, our heroes have learned...well, not that much, actually.  They learned about the flute, and they met Luke's girlfriend. But they completely forgot to investigate the specter which is destroying the town. Maybe they'll remember the main plot of the game in the next section.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Outhouse Burgers

When I first moved to my new town, I decided to visit every single restaurant in order to figure out which one I liked best. Good plan, right? I'll visit the three or four restaurants, and then decide which one is best.

Well, it turns out that my new town has almost nothing but restaurants in it. There are over 40 places to eat here.  It's all expensive restaurants and no fast food places anywhere.  I can't afford to eat out unless I save up money by eating macaroni and cheese for a few days, so this is not an ideal situation for me.

Fortunately, after two months, the search for my new favorite restaurant in town has ended. I am now a proud fan of the restuarant called...I forget the name. I only remember the nickname, "Outhouse Burgers", which shows you how good people here think the food is.

Okay, so the burgers aren't the best. The buns are too flaky, the fries are too small, and I literally had to try out four different things before finding something which rates higher than "edible" on the taste meter. But I have my reasons for liking Outhouse Burgers!

  1. It is within walking distance of my house.
  2. It is cheap. It is one of the few places in town where you can get a meal and a drink for under ten dollars.  There are free refills, too.
  3. It is very low-key and quiet and relaxed. That's the atmosphere I'm looking for, because I usually only go out on my day off.
Anyway, I just thought I would share with everyone the good news.  I have a new burger hangout in town!  You should stop by and visit sometime.  Just try not to eat the food there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

Today is the 40th anniversary of Stairway to Heaven.  The last time I heard the song was 10 years ago, when I was told that it is the best song ever, and you have to hear it, or else you are a bad, bad person.

I listened to the song, and I don't remember liking it because it's too long. Too much guitar, not enough singing. Let me try listening to it again.



Okay, yeah...the guitar solos are kind of long and repetitive...And the lyrics aren't so good, either...

Hey, I figured it out! Just skip ahead to 6:00, where it becomes a halfway decent rock song. Yeah, that's not that bad. I wouldn't call it the best song ever, but it's kind of good if you just listen from there.

I guess I still don't see why people like this song too much. I think it takes too long for the song to get going; I would probably prefer it if they played with all the instruments from the start, rather than adding a new instrument into the mix every two minutes or so.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Question Time

Here's a question I have, inspired by Halloween.  Which Starburst flavor is the best?

1. Red
2. Orange
3. Yellow
4. Pink

The correct answer, of course, is pink. Everyone who answered "yellow", feel free to read someone else's blog.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Michael's Worst 12 Games List Explained

Uh oh, people want explanations for my Worst Twelve Games list.  Maybe I wasn't clear yesterday.  There was a list of 112 bad games for us to vote on.  It has every bad game, from Where's Waldo? (NES) to Try Not to Fart (Xbox Live).

I have not played all 112 of the bad games. In fact, I have only played 12 of them.  I was asked to rank these 12 games, from bad to worse.  I didn't come up with the games; I was just asked to rank them from bad to worst.

Here are more explanations:

1. Metroid: Other M (Wii) is the best of the bunch, in my opinion.  It has good graphics, and I loved the Nightmare boss battle.  My main problem is with the control scheme, which makes it almost impossible to dodge enemy attacks.  I couldn't complete the final boss battle, because of that control scheme mishap.

It's on the list of bad games, because fans of the series really, really hate it.  It doesn't fit in well with the rest of the series.  The main character, Samus, is completely out of character in this game.  In all the other games, she's a confident, kick-butt bounty hunter.  In this game, she's an insecure whiner who needs a man to tell her what to do all the time.  It's sexist, and the Samus from the other games in the series would never act like that.

2. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN) is another good-ish game, which is why it's on the better end of the spectrum.  The problem with Super Mario Sunshine is that it gets boring, really quickly.  There is no variety in the gameplay.  It's basically just twenty hours of doing the same thing over and over: using the FLUDD to clean up dirt.

Sure, they try to switch things up with different FLUDD nozzles and Yoshi.  But in the end, they all do the same thing: clean up dirt.  It's boring.

3. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (DS).  If Metroid: Other M is bad because Samus acts differently than she does in the rest of the series, Apollo Justice is bad because Phoenix Wright acts differently than he does in the rest of the series.  Phoenix gets demoted from "hero" to "drunken hobo who abandons all his friends".  Pretty much every time Drunken Hobo Phoenix appeared onscreen, he said or did something that made me want to pull out my hair in frustration.

Other than that...it's a well-written game, and they make good use of the DS features.  I have other minor issues with the game--such as the fact that Case #3 makes you watch the same movie about ten times, or the fact that the time-travelling adventures in Case #4 make no sense from a time-travelling perspective--but overall, it's good enough to be one of the top three best games on the list.

4. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GCN).  Wind Waker is bad for two main reasons.  First, the game is incomplete, and you can tell.  Following the in-game logic, there were two more dungeons that Link should have gone to.  Heck, if you followed the in-game logic closely enough, Link should have visited five more dungeons: seven dungeons for the seven sages of Ocarina of Time.  But the game was already running behind schedule, so they left the planned dungeons half-finished.  What did they put in their place?  Probably the worst collection quest of all time.

You have to go all around the game, finding the seven treasure maps.  Then you pay Tingle a ton of money to decipher the maps.  Then, you go all around the game again, to find the treasure.  It's a 3-4 hour sidequest that kills every attempt to speedrun the game.  What a rip-off.

The second main reason people dislike this game is because most of it involves sailing, and sailing is not fun.  Even when you learn a warp song, you still have to sail an awful lot.

Oh, and people dislike the game because it introduced the character Toon Link, who has since dominated the entire series with his cartoony, more G-rated adventures.  Zelda used to be the dark Nintendo series, compared to Mario.

5. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for Girls (GBA) is the exact same thing as Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, with a few minor changes.  Mainly, the main character is a girl now.  Other games in the series let you pick whether you want to play as a girl or boy; they don't make you buy a separate game, just so you can play as a different gender.  Harrumph.

6. Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion (GBA).  This was a bad port of the original PC game.  They cut out pretty much all the animation, voice acting and sound effects.  If you haven't played the original game, you probably won't be able to beat this one, because you won't know what's going on.

7. Santa Claus Saves the World (GBA) has bad graphics and bad gameplay.

8. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS) is another game in a series, where the characters start acting out-of-character.  There's no problem with character development and having characters change a bit, throughout a series.  But there's a problem when the characters act completely different from their usual selves, for no reason whatsoever.

The pacing to this game is absolutely atrocious, and it ruins everything.  The translation is, by and large, completely horrible.  I feel bad for this game, really.  With minor changes to the pacing and the translation, it would be twice as good.

Also, one of the main characters they made up for this game, Kay Faraday, is kind of annoying and overly perfect.  The Edgeworth from the other games would never tolerate her, but in this game, he willingly puts up with her.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES).  Hey, I like this game!  Who put it on the list?

Okay, fine, the other games in the TMNT series are so good that everyone pretends this first game doesn't exist.  And nobody ever beat the game, because it was a mixture of too hard and not well organized.  And the second level, the underwater one with electrical seaweed, did not fit in at all.  Since when do the turtles spend their time swimming?  I know they're turtles, but they spend their time fighting bad guys, not swimming around and trying not to be killed by plants!

10. Athena (NES) is too hard.  The enemy set-up is particularly bad.  Most games will only have one or two enemies attack at once, but in this game, enemies just flood the screen constantly.  You can't really stand still; you have to be constantly moving to get through.  This doesn't work so well, because some levels are mazes, and you need time to figure out how to navigate through them.

Also, the weapons and armor system doesn't work.  You're best off if you find one weapon, the ball and chain, and you never ever ever switch to a different weapon.  You hear me?  Actively avoid picking up the weapons that enemies automatically drop.  Oh, and feel free to cry during the levels where the game forces you to pick up a horrible weapon that doesn't do any damage at all, just so you can get through a specific area.

11. Bart Versus the Space Mutants (NES).  No one got past the first level, where Bart needs to spray paint 40 purple things.  The controls don't work well enough for this to be a feasible task, and Bart dies really easily.  You probably won't get past five things before reaching the game over sequence.

12. Mega Man Xtreme 2 (GBC) is another game that's just a bad port of the original.  The graphics, music and controls don't work, even though they cut those things down as much as possible.  Just play Mega Man X2 instead.  It's actually enjoyable.  Plus, there are no translation errors in that game, as far as I know!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michael's Worst 12 Games List

I am working on a collaboration project, to identify the 50 worst games of all time.  The list has 112 games on it so far, and we're trying to narrow it down.

I was asked to pick my personal "Worst 10 Games" from the list.  There were only 12 games on the list that I actually played and disliked to some extent, so I made it a "Worst 12" list instead.  Here's the Worst 12, from best to worst.
  1. Metroid: Other M (Wii)
  2. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)
  3. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (DS)
  4. Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (GCN)
  5. Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town for Girls (GBA)
  6. Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion (GBA)
  7. Santa Claus Saves the World (GBA)
  8. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS)
  9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
  10. Athena (NES)
  11. Bart Versus the Space Mutants (NES)
  12. Mega Man Xtreme 2 (GBC)
I came up with that order by asking "Would I rather play Game X or Game Y?", instead of by asking, "Is Game X worse than Game Y?".  The results surprised me, to say the least.  The final four are games that I think are bad, but I don't actively dislike them.  I just never play them because they're not fun.  The games that I do actively dislike (Wind Waker, Wind Waker and Wind Waker) ended up getting placed closer to the "good games" end of the spectrum.  Very odd how that turned out.

In the next phase, I think I get to vote on bad games that I haven't played, such as Monkey Island 4 or Quest 64.  That should be more interesting.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What's Up With Nintendo

In today's Friday news post, let's talk about what's going on with Nintendo right now.

First up, Nintendo published their quarterly earnings statement.  As you might remember, the last quarter was very bad for Nintendo; they had to cut their expected profit by 82%, and they cut the price of the 3DS by $80.  So how did Q4 (or as they call it in Japan, Q2) go for them?

Well...not so good.  The reports show a loss of $924,000,000.  That's almost a billion dollars.  They say the huge loss of money is due to the poor world economy, which has hurt most of the Japanese companies which rely on exports for profits.  Also, Nintendo blames the 3DS price cuts for making them lose money.  I find this claim to be completely ridiculous, because if they didn't drop the price of the 3DS, no one would have bought one.  The same financial reports prove that people actually started buying the 3DS once the price dropped!  The number of 3DSes that were sold tripled, compared to the previous quarter.

Also, Nintendo is making the Circle Pad Pro, which is an accesssory that connects to the 3DS.  It gives you...another circle pad, on the right-hand side of the screen.  It makes the 3DS sort of look like a PSP.  I'm really bad at games that require two control sticks, such as everything ever made for the Xbox 360, so I'm going to pass on buying this kind of bulky accessory.

The 3DS Shop is coming to PC and Smartphones.  Good to see that they're trying to fix the 3DS shop, which has a weird layout that makes it hard to find whatever game you're looking for.  Also, I haven't purchased anything from the shop because it follows a weird points system that I can't decipher.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure the games cost way more than iPhone games do.

Whoops, I was so busy complaining about the 3DS shop that I forgot to say how it's being improved!  It...isn't being improved.  You can look up a game in the shop on your smartphone, but then you have to use your 3DS camera to take a picture of the QR reader.  The "buy this game" page will then open on the 3DS.  That seems like a lot of unnecessary work, and it'd be easier to just use the 3DS shop on the 3DS itself.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The California Bullet Train

We've just received some more news, concerning the California Bullet Train.  For those of you who don't know, the Bullet Train is a high-speed train that travels from San Francisco to LA in about three hours.  That's an eight-hour car trip, so the train saves a lot of time and money.

The only problem is that the Bullet Train doesn't exist yet.

Back in the 2008 election, the people of California voted to build the Bullet Train System. After one year of planning and ten years of building, the train would be operational.  The projected cost was 33 billion dollars, which is a really hefty price, especially considering that the economy had recently died.

Well, it's almost three years from that election, and the train still hasn't left the "planning" phase.  The planning team recently announced that the projected cost has been revised, and now the train is going to cost $100 billion dollars.  Also, it's going to take fifteen more years than originally expected to build the train.  Oh, and also, most of the money that's being used to pay for the train doesn't exist yet.  The state government still supports the project, though.

Ha ha, California.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adventures in Bachelor-ville

I had some more bachelor adventures today, as I tried cooking chicken in the oven for the first time.

Cue ominous music

"This shouldn't be too difficult," I said to myself, putting the chicken in one of those pan-things that I don't know the name of.  You put the chicken and the oven and you let it cook for fifteen minutes.  Even a caveman can do it.

I put the chicken in the oven, then I went to my room and started messing around on my computer.  When I checked the time, I was two minutes late for turning the chicken over, so both sides are cooked evenly. Whoops.  The chicken wasn't burnt, though, so no harm done.

When the fifteen-turned-eighteen minutes were up, I took the chicken out of the oven, and I reread the instructions.  The next step is "carefully remove baking sheet with chicken from oven".

What is going on here???  What is a baking sheet?  Is that...the aluminum foil thing you sometimes put over pots for some reason?  Why didn't they mention this in the instructions earlier?  And how am I supposed to tell if the chicken is cooked if aluminum foil is over it?

Okay, so maybe I failed on that step.  But I was sure I could solve the final step, "drizzle or toss sauce over heated chicken pieces and serve".

There is SAUCE involved???  Since when?  I didn't make any sauce!  The only sauce I have here is ketchup.  No one told me that I was going to need sauce.  And how do you toss sauce, anyway?  Am I supposed to cover my hands in sauce and fling it onto the chicken?  THIS IS MADNESS.

In conclusion, I failed at following Trader Joe's chicken cooking instructions.  Joe and I are no longer on speaking terms now.

I guess you're supposed to cook the sauce while the chicken is cooking, because the sauce recipe requires you to heat water for five minutes.  I didn't have time to cook the sauce, so I just used cold sauce.  Fortunately, the fresh-from-the-oven chicken warmed up the sauce a bit, and the cold sauce cooled down the chicken a bit, so it didn't burn my mouth.

The verdict?  A passable meal!  I guess.  I'm told that "real" meals consist of more than just a main dish, but I say that chicken plus sauce equals two different things to eat, so it's totally a real meal.  Plus, I'm only cooking for one.  Even cooking the small dish of chicken resulted in leftovers for tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nancy Drew Culprits

Okay, so I reviewed the list of culprits in the Nancy Drew series.  The only culprits who made a direct attempt on Nancy's life are in Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, Alibi in Ashes and Treasure in the Royal Tower.  All the other culprits only attack her during the endgame sequence.

Here's something that may interest you.  It's a comprehensive list of how the different culprits attempt to attack or kill Nancy, during the endgame sequences.  When I say the culprit "escapes", I'm indicating that there is a "chase after the escaping culprit" sequence.
  • Secrets Can Kill: The culprit shoots Nancy.
  • Stay Tuned for Danger: The culprit chokes her.
  • Message in a Haunted Mansion: The culprit knocks her unconscious.
  • Treasure in the Royal Tower: The culprit uses pepper spray on Nancy, then escapes.
  • The Final Scene: The culprit leaves Nancy trapped in a building that is going to explode.
  • Secret of the Scarlet Hand: The culprit locks Nancy inside a monolith with little oxygen.
  • Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake: The culprit attacks Nancy with a dog bone.
  • The Haunted Carousel: The culprit chokes Nancy.
  • Danger on Deception Island: The culprit chokes Nancy.
  • Secret of Shadow Ranch: The culprit captures Nancy.
  • Curse of Blackmoor Manor: The culprit attempts to rob Nancy of the treasure.
  • Secret of the Old Clock: The culprit escapes from Nancy.
  • Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon: The culprit traps Nancy inside an abandoned mine.
  • Danger by Design: The culprit uses martial arts to beat Nancy to death.
  • Creature of Kapu Cave: The culprit escapes.
  • White Wolf of Icicle Creek: The culprit tries to blow her up with a bomb, then the culprit escapes.
  • Legend of the Crystal Skull: The culprit locks Nancy in a tomb, then escapes.
  • Phantom of Venice: The culprit locks Nancy in a room that is slowly filling with water, then escapes.
  • Haunting of Castle Malloy: The culprit throws Nancy in a dungeon.
  • Ransom of the Seven Ships: The culprit throws Nancy in a dungeon.
  • Warnings at Waverly Academy: The culprit leaves Nancy inside a booby-trapped dungeon.
  • Trail of the Twister: The culprit knocks Nancy unconscious when a tornado is about to hit, then the culprit escapes.
  • Shadow at the Water's Edge: The culprit escapes.
  • The Captive Curse: The culprit traps Nancy in a dungeon, and when Nancy escapes, the culprit attacks her violently.
  • Alibi in Ashes: The culprit locks Nancy inside treacherous tunnels.
So according to my calculations, Nancy should stay away from dungeons, because she tends to get trapped inside them. She also gets blown up or choked to death with some frequency.