Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Do you have nothing to do this New Year's Eve?  Well, I've got a suggestion for you.  Why not watch this fine Nancy Drew movie?



Happy New Year!

Question

The boy at 3:25 in this video...



Is that Justin Beiber?

Friday, December 30, 2011

WWA, Chapter Seven

Here's the seventh chapter in my drabble series about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy. If you've missed out on some chapters, click the link to catch up.  Today, Nancy meets Izzy Romero!

---

Nancy decided it was time to leave her room. She opened the door and ran right into a girl with dark hair and impeccably folded clothing.

"Woah, watch it!" the girl said, an angry look on her face. Then she broke into a grin. "Oh, your hair's on fire—no wonder you're in a hurry."

"My...hair's on fire?" Nancy asked.

"Just kidding," the girl said. "Red hair looks really good on some people. I'm Izzy Romero."

Did she just make fun of my hair? Nancy wondered.

"I'm Becca Sawyer," Nancy said. "I just transferred here."

"Where're you from?" Izzy asked.

"From the States originally, but I came here by way of France," Nancy said. "It's a long story."

"Chouette alors," Izzy said.

Nancy didn't speak French, but she had the sneaking suspicion that Izzy had said something mean about her hair. Nancy ran her fingers through her reddish locks, making sure that there was nothing wrong with it.

"Lemme have your cell phone," Izzy demanded.

"My...cell phone?" Nancy asked. First she makes fun of my hair, then she robs me? Who is this girl?

"Yeah, so I can set you up on the local network," Izzy said. "It'll just take a second."

"Okay," Nancy said warily. She handed over her cell phone, and Izzy started tapping on the touchscreen.

"This way, you'll be able to get texted and keep up on all the breaking news," Izzy said.

Uh...my phone could already receive text messages... Nancy thought.

"There ya go," Izzy said, handing the phone back to Nancy. Izzy looked rather cheerful. "Look, my room's on the other side of the study hall, but lately I've been spending most of my time in the library. So come talk to me! I'm student body president, which means when it comes to the lay of the land, I got the best map. See ya."

Izzy left, going down the stairs to the library. Nancy stood there for a second, absorbing the entire conversation.

She's got the best map, but I've got the best hair, Nancy eventually decided. Next tine I see her, I'll have to remember to be more aggressive, otherwise she'll just step all over me.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three Things

1. I've noticed that Pope John Paul II's birth name is always listed as Karol Jozef Wojtyla. Why doesn't anybody translate it into English as Charles Joseph Wojtyla?

2. People still seem amused by the joke I made three years ago, when I said that soap operas like Days of our Lives sometimes have Topless Tuesdays.  That's what my family calls it when all the hunky guys are topless, so they can show off how good-looking they are.  I always fast-forward through those scenes, but it's sometimes amusing to watch them and see what ridiculous excuse the guys give for being shirtless.  They usually try to pretend that they've just had a big exercise workout, even though they obviously haven't played any sports more physically demanding than checkers, because their hair and makeup are still perfect.

Anyway, Topless Tuesdays still lives on. Check out the first minute of this Tuesday's episode.



3. I have no idea what to do for New Year's Eve this year. Maybe I'll just go to bed early again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winnie The Pooh

I didn't review this year's Disney movie yet, did I?
This year's Disney movie was Winnie the Pooh.  It's the first Pooh movie to be made by Disney's main animation studio since the 1977 movie.  True, there have been other Pooh movies made since 1977, but those weren't made by the main studio; those were made by one of the lesser Disney studios.

Well, I looked up the official box office numbers for the Pooh movies.  2000's The Tigger Movie had a net profit of about $60 million, and 2005's Heffalump Movie had a net profit of $32 million.  This year's movie?  Its net profit was only $3 million.

Huh.

So, this year's movie did a lot worse than the last three Pooh movies.  That's kind of surprising, because the last three were made by a lesser studio, while this one was made by the main studio.  You can tell it was made by the main studio, too, because the animation quality is higher.  They clearly put a lot of work into perfecting the animation and making it look just like original Pooh shorts.

I kind of wish they put more work into the story, though.  They reused plotlines from other Pooh movies, which in turn came from the original Pooh books.  It sort of felt like a rip-off, because I remembered those storylines, so I knew exactly what would happen ahead of time.  Also, they cut out the plotline I was looking forward to, AKA the only plotline I heard would be in the film.  That was a plotline about Rabbit's relatives.  I actually went through the effort of finding that story in the original book.  It's in the chapter where Pooh and his friends discover the North Pole; Rabbit's relatives join the expedition.

The universal complaint about the movie is that it's too short.  Unless I'm mistaken, it's the shortest Disney film ever, a record previously held by Dumbo.  That includes the credits, I'm guessing.  I have to agree that the movie is short; maye it'd be longer if they didn't cut out two of the proposed five storylines.

It's not that I dislike the storyline.  It's just sort of disappointing to see storylines get reused, especially since the movie is only a little longer than a typical episode of Days of our Lives.

So all in all, I think I agree with the universal consensus.  It's a decent movie, and it's especially nice to see non-CGI animation for a change.  But the movie is too short, and the plot could use some beefing up.  If I had to choose between watching this movie and watching one of the other Pooh movies, though, I would probably pick the other movie.  Final score: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weirdness at Waverly Academy, Chapter 6

Here's the sixth chapter in my series about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy.  Kind of a boring chapter here, but I guess it's important to set up the storyline about Rachel Hubbard. Even if Nancy probably won't meet her until Chapter 20.

Nancy took a deep breath. She had just finished talking with her new roommate, Corine Meyers, the Queen of Awkward.

I should get things in order here, before I explore the campus, Nancy thought. Waverly Academy for Girls was a pretty big school, but she knew that she would have to spend most of her time here in the valedictorian dorm. After all, this was where all the attacks had taken place.

Nancy turned around. Her side of the room was rather empty. The only thing here that really belonged to Nancy was the bag on the desk.

Nancy reached into the bag and pulled out a framed photograph of her two best friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, from their trip on Dread Isle. The only other things in Nancy's bag were a hairbrush and a change of clothes.

I really should have packed more things, Nancy thought as she put the photo down on the desk, next to the...was that a note? Nancy picked it up.

Hello Becca,

Welcome to Waverly!

Since you just transferred here and don't really have any papers due or exams to study for (unlike the rest of us!), I could really use your help on this project I'm working on. Please come see me as soon as you can; my room's at the other end of the hall.

Thank you so much!
Rachel

"Someone named Rachel wants me to come to her room," Nancy said.

"Rachel Hubbard," Corine said. "She's in the room at the end of the hall."

"Okay," Nancy said to herself. It would probably be a good idea to make friends with Rachel by helping her with her project. As long as Rachel didn't have any chores for Nancy to do, everything would be fine. Nancy really hated doing other people's chores for them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Council of Chalcedon

There seems to be some controversy over my brief words about Christmas yesterday.  The topic of debate is the question as old as Christianity itself: "Who is Jesus?"  Is he God?  Is he human?  Is he, perhaps, half-god and half-human like people at the time said about Hercules?

Fortunately for us, we don't need to worry about this issue.  In 451, at the Council of Chalcedon, all the bishops in the world came together to settle the debate once and for all.  No one was excluded because of their beliefs.  Over a series of sixteen sessions, they discussed the nature of Christ (and many others) at length.

At the end, the Bishops decide to make full use of a helpful suggestion by Pope Leo I, now known as Saint Leo the Great.  They solemnly declared that Jesus is both fully God and fully human.  In other words, Jesus has two natures in one person.

This was an exercise of extraordinary magisterium, the highest teaching power of the church.  To put it in layman's terms, this teaching is infallible.  The church recognized that this was one of the rare circumstances in which they could invoke infallibility, and because it was an incredibly important issue, they decided to do so.  That was the purpose of the council: to get an infallible definition of the nature of Jesus, which would decide the matter for all time.

Saying Jesus is fully God and fully human is not only the correct answer to the question of Jesus' nature, but it's also the best one.  The problem with saying "Jesus is 100% God and 0% human" is that it means Jesus didn't really die for our sins; he just pretended to die.  The problem with saying "Jesus is 0% God and 100% human", which is a very popular idea today, is that it completely erases Jesus' authority and power to forgive sins and give life.  There are more problems than these; I'm just giving examples to show that it's difficult to build a theology which tries to balance God and human in Jesus.  More often than not, you end up overemphasizing one nature, and the other one gets diminished. That's why the correct answer is not "either/or"; it's a "both/and".  By saying "Jesus is fully God and fully human", we are not limiting either of the two natures of Jesus.

Of course, when Protestantism and other Christian denominations were invented about a thousand years later, many of them decided to re-open the question of Jesus' nature. So now beliefs on this topic are all over the board.  But for Catholics, at least, that question has been dead for a really long time.  We say he's both God and human, and there's nothing which could make this answer change.  Beliefs as to what this means and how this affects our religion, yes, those can change.  But the solemn definition of Jesus as both God and man cannot.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Christ the Lord has been born!  By choosing to become human, God has made an inseparable link between humanity and divinity, through Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully human.  Let us thank God for his glorious Incarnation, which he undertook not for his own glory, but for our salvation.  Peace on Earth, good will to all, and Koko Kringles for everybody!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Blog Writing, Cold

I'm not sure what to write about today.

I haven't done any blog writing in a few weeks.  The story of my trip to Spain was all written back in August.  So when the Spain stories were being put up, I didn't do any writing.

And you know something?  I kind of liked not having to do any blog writing.  It was a nice break.

But now I'm back, so I guess I have to get into the habit of writing again.  Hmmm...let's see...what can I write about?

It's insanely cold here in California right now.  I consider any temperature under 60 degrees to be insanely cold. I've started to wear two pairs of socks each day, instead of one.  I'm wearing two jackets, too, which looks ridiculous because only the one on the inside has a hood.

Gee, I don't think I remember how to write about interesting blog topics anymore.

Friday, December 23, 2011

WWA, Chapter 5

Here's the fifth chapter in my series about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy. Not the most exciting chapter ever, but at least I finished the opening conversation with Corine!

---

"What're you working on?" Nancy asked Corine. "You look so busy."

"Busy? That's the understatement of the year," Corine said. "I've got four days to write a thirty page research paper utilizing a bibliography that has to include at least six published—no online stuff—published sources. Any other student would hate having you bug them like this."

Gee, thanks, Nancy thought.

"But then, I'm not all that normal, so you can bug me all you want. Not that you're bugging me. Well, you are, technically, but you're not really because I'm so—Never mind."

The conversation with Corine had proven one thing, at least: Corine was Captain Awkward. The somewhat depressing cello music playing in the background fit the situation perfectly.

Nancy frowned. That wasn't background music, coming from Corine's laptop. Someone was actually playing a cello nearby.

"Where's that cello music coming from?" Nancy asked.

"Next door. That's Mel Corbalis."

"Does she ever stop playing?" Nancy asked.

"Depends on her mood," Corine said. "When she's really, really down, I'll bet if they didn't give demerits for make noise after hours, she'd play that thing 24-7."

Interesting... Nancy thought. A depressed cellist.

"Well, guess I'd better go start meeting people," Nancy said.

"Yeah, guess you'd better," Corine said wistfully. Her royal awkwardness seemed upset to end a conversation with the only person who was willing to talk to her. "I'm not so bad, right?"

"What do you mean?" Nancy asked politely, pretending she didn't know that Corine was talking about her social awkwardness.

"It's just that...well, you're about to find out that I'm not exactly the most..." Corine sighed. "Never mind. You'll see soon enough."

With that, Corine turned around and returned to her research paper.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three Things

1. I went over my food receipts for the past few months.  It turns out that I was wrong when I said the food budget was $20 a day.  It's more like $5 per day, with a monthly cost of around $150.

2.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.  All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.  They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games, like Monopoly.  Why did Rudolph want to play Monopoly with those bullies, anyway?

Speaking of the Rudolph song, I find it weird that the song presumes "you know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer" and the other reindeer.  It's like the song is telling you that you are some kind of weird reindeer enthusiast.  Then the song has the audacity to ask, "Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?", as if you're not a reindeer enthusiast.  Which one is it, song?  Am I someone who knows all of the reindeer, or am I someone who is so unfamiliar with reindeer that he does not know the most famous of all reindeer?  Make up your mind, song!

3.  Now that I think about it, a lot of different adventure games I've played have an "escape from jail" puzzle.  Off the top of my head, these include Pajama Sam 3, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch and Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective.  Is there some reason adventure games tend to have puzzles that involve escaping from jail, or at least, escaping from some sort of building/area?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December Newsletters

The Nancy Drew folks released two newsletters during December.  I've been talking about my trip to Spain over the past week and a half, so I haven't had time to talk about them until now.

The first newsletter is about their holiday sale. Buy a physical copy of one of their games, and you'll get it for half off!  You also get a free strategy guide and a Koko Kringles chocolate bar.  The sale is still ongoing, but they've run out of chocolate bars.  Sounds like the sale was a success.

The second newsletter is about their second text challenge.  From what I can tell, it's basically a series of puzzles, and you have to text your answers to them.  Get enough answers right, and you could win the big prize!  If you don't get enough answers right, you're still in the running, but for a lesser prize.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 12) - Tuesday

Tuesday was a freee day.  It was basically the only free day we had; the group leaders scheduled it because leaving on Monday or Tuesday would be an absolute zoo at the airport.  I used the time to buy things for the people at home.  I also found my way to the cathedral, which was very nice.  At the Pope's mass, I only got to see the outside of it.  I searched all over the cathedral, but I didn't see the relics of Saint Ignatius inside.  Maybe I mistranslated what was said about St. Ignatius' cross.

The cathedral was packed with hundreds of pilgrims, like every other place we've gone to, pretty much.  The priest who led mass in the side chapel tried in vain to get everyone in the main chapel to stop talking.

Pope John Paul II

 
The Trinity

Rules which all the tourists disregarded

Many people were there

A statue of St. Joseph, following the tradition that says he was rather old when Jesus was born.

I want a picture wall like this for my church, with all the mysteries of the rosary.

I'm told that most of the gold there is fake gold, just like in my local church, where the gold inlays on the wall are just shiny gold-colored paint. Who cares if it's fake, though?  It still looks nice.

I went back home after that and went to sleep.  I don't know if it got hotter or what--is there a temperature above insanely hot?--but ever since the Pope's mass, I have been too tired to last all day doing things.  I just go to my room and collapse on my bed.  I did that until I could go out again, and I tried to visit the Statues of Mary exhibit I heard about, as well as a nearby church.  They both appeared to be closed.  After that, I went to an Irish pub called O'Connell's, and I had a late lunch of potatoes.  This is basically the only place in Spain I've found that serves potatoes.  And it's also one of the few places where everyone is expected to speak English, not Spanish.

I had plans for what I'd do for dinner--I wanted to try out one of those European-style three hour meals--but the group wanted to go to some J-11 Ham place.  I probably have the name wrong.  The place served a special kind of blood meat, which tastes pretty good.  Unfortunately, I couldn't taste it very well, with all the extra things on top of it.  Then again, I did order the "three mustards" version which comes with two types of mustard and Heinz ketchup.  I guess the ketchup is supposed to be the third kind of mustard.

After that, there was the big packing extravaganza, where all the guys packed their bags and learned that they didn't have enough room to hold all their things.  Due to my packing error of not bringing all the clothes I needed, I had plenty of room for my stuff.  The other guys had to get 1-2 things of check-in luggage apiece, one of which was stopped at the airport for being too heavy.  What a pain airline luggage can be; I'm glad I avoided that hassle.

That's basically all that's happened up until now.  I'm on the airplane, and there are about ten hours left before we arrive in San Francisco.  And since I think I'm done writing in this travel journal, I guess I'll have to think of something else to do before the flight ends.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 11) - Monday

I'm on the plane flying home now.  Well, actually, it's the plane flying to Germany, where we will then get on the plane flying hom.

On Monday, the plan was to catch the 8:30 train to Toledo.  We set out early because we had to buy tickets.  It turned out that pretty much all the trains were full, from people who bought tickets in advance.  So we ended up having to catch the 12:30 train, which left us with several hours of nothing to do at the train station.  We decided to wander around the area, and eventually we found a church called St. Jerome's.  We had mass in the side chapel there.  It was a nice place, and it's the only church I've seen with a statue of God the Father.



Lunch was McDonalds.  The price was very cheap, compared to America.  They had a Big Mac, medium fry, medium drink and 4-piece chicken mcnuggets for 6.50 euros.  The other people were saddened to learn that Europe does not have "supersize" drinks and fries; that is just an American thing.  Personally, I'm looking forward to getting home and not eating fast food all the time anymore.

It looks like the plane is landing in Germany now. I'll continue writing later.

----

Germany made us go through three security checks.  I guess they're pretty strict about those sorts of things.

Continuing from where I left off, we had to go to Toledo without Fr. John, our fearless leader.  This is not a recommended idea.  The self-appointed map checker immediately got us lost, because he was holding the map upside-down.

Toledo is on top of a hill, so you have to go up a lot of stairs to get there.  The big things they have there is their special bread, the special Toledo silver they use to make fancy swords, and some connection to Don Miguel Cervantes.  Nobody told us what his connection to Toledo was--maybe he was born there--but there were a lot of Don Quixote things for sale.

We visited the Cathedral at Toledo.  The people there were very strict about not using flash photography.  They didn't want people to take pictures at all, actually.  Pretty much all the tourists ignored this rule, though.  The art was so beautiful that you want to take pictures of it.  Unfortunately, most of the cathedral was very poorly-lit, so it was impossible to see some of the pictures, even when you used flash photos.

For example, here's a picture I took, with a camera flash.  It's still very dark.

El Greco did a lot of pictures for the cathedral.  He's the famous Spanish artist who draws everyone really skinny.  I liked his art better than some of the other art there, in which the people were rather fat.

We wanted to explore other places in Toledo, but everywhere (including the cathedral) made you pay to go inside.  So instead of visiting places like we planned, we had three hours of window shopping.  I found it to be rather tiring.

When we got back home, I rested for a bit, then I began my mission to go to dinner at one of the three Irish pubs I found earlier.


O'Connell was too full, and there was nowhere to sit.  Murphy's kicked me out, because my credit card didn't work.  Appropriately enough, I got completely lost and wandered around Madrid for about a half hour, in search of the third Irish pub...

Getting lost on the way to this bar is a literature joke, come to life.

There was no problem with my credit card there, so I had a pint of Guinness at the bar and watched a Manchester United game with the Irish tourists.  I also talked with a group of people from California, just like me.  It was very nice to be in an all English speaking environment again, right in the middle of Spain.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 10) - Sunday

Today was the mass with the Pope at Cuatro Vientos (Spanish for "Four Winds").  Over two million people attended.  Many of them arrived last night, and they stayed overnight, celebrating a vigil.  I decided not to go, because traffic would have been awful, and I was still tired from the mass with Pope Benedict.  My roommate and I stayed in the room and watched the mass from there.  It was a three hour mass, I believe--longer than the seminarians' mass, probably.

I left to get lunch, when I stopped by a local church.  St. Inez would be its English name.  I saw that they were only having one mass that day, due to the Pope's mass.  The mass was starting in 20 minutes, so I decided to go.  The pastor was extremely excited about World Youth Day and having so many foreigners fill his church to capacity.

I had lunch afterwards.  I'm told that European restaurants are different from US restaurants.  In Europe, the waiter tries their best to ignore you the whole time.  The idea is that the meal will be relaxing if you're not disturbed, and they let you stay as long as you want.  It's nice, but if you don't know about their system, you'll be stuck waiting for the check for a long time.  The waiter will not give it to you until you ask for it.  I found it to be a rather interesting dining system.

The European system for tipping waiters, I'm told, is too complicated for Americans to understand.  Perhaps the metric system is involved.

After lunch, I got lost, looking for a vestments store so I could buy a black cincture for my cassock.  I found three Irish pubs while exploring--I must have a knack for finding them.  I also found a really nice mural of St. Isidore...


...At the St. Isidore bar.  They should comission that artist to make a duplicate picture for a local church.

Dinner was KFC again, at the request of the other guys.  I rested a lot today, because I'm still kind of recovering from yesterday's heat stroke.

Tomorrow, we go to Toledo.  The next day, I'm going to visit the local sites in Madrid which I made note of earlier.  This includes the Cathedral that houses St. Ignatius' relics, some stores, and those Irish pubs.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 9) - Saturday

Today was basically the best day ever.  It was the seminarians' mass with the Pope.  About 5,000 seminarians from all over the world attended.  To get into the mass, you had to apply well in advance.  I had my ticket, my passport and my letter of request signed by my Bishop, all ready to go.

The Cathedral in Madrid doesn't hold 5,000 people, so seating was difficult.  The Spaniards and deacons got priority seating inside.  The other seiminarians who got to go inside were picked by lottery.  We were outside, and we chose to sit in the back row of our seating area, so we were closest to the road the Pope would pass by.

I wish I knew beforehand that I would be outside.  We were there from 5:30 AM to noon, or thereabouts.  Our group went very early to get good seats, and it was a good plan on our part because our seats were probably as good as you could get.  The Pope was only about 5-6 feet away, and he could clearly see us.  I think part of the reason he could get so close to everyone was because we were all seminarians with the proper credentials.  Normally, for security reasons, he can't get that close to the general public.

Here's a video taken by the person standing next to me, to give you an idea of how close we were:



The mass was good.  I think the highlight was at the start, when a seminarian gave a welcoming speech to the Pope.  He did a great job.  The Cardinal's welcoming speech was good, too, but that's exactly what you'd expect from a Cardinal.  It was more surprising to see an unknown seminarian making a great speech, and it truly felt like he was speaking for all of us.  I didn't know all of what he said--he was speaking in Spanish--but I felt duly united with him and his sentiments.

That was also a great aspect to the mass: feeling the strong unity between all the seminarians from around the world.  As St. Ignatius of Antioch teaches us, the Pope is a sign of the church's unity, and such strong unity amongst worldwide diversity is awe-inspiring.

The mass ended with Pope Benedict XVI declaring his intention to make St. John of Avila an official doctor of the church, which all the Spanish people loved.  I was more interested in hearing that St. Ignatius of Loyola's cross is in the cathedral, next to St. John's relics.  Methinks a second trip to the cathedral is in order, so I can see them.

A low-quality picture of a Spanish statue of St. Ignatius. You can recognize him because he's holding up the Jesuit IHS symbol.

The mass was basically my entire day.  I got heat stroke from being out in the sun for 5-6 hours without my usual sunscreen and sun protection.  That, and I only got 1-2 hours of sleep the previous night.  So I went back home after the mass and went straight to sleep for about eight hours, then I stumbled outside for dinner and went right back home again after that.  I made a phone call, and once I've finished writing, I'm going straight to be again.

At the same time as the Pope's mass, the United States put on a mass in an arena, with Cardinal Francis George and Archbishop Timothy Dolan presiding.  I'm slightly jealous that I couldn't attend it, because they are both great speakers and inspiration American Catholics.  However, I wouldn't have missed the mass with the Pope for anything.  It was definitely the highlight of the entire trip so far.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 8) - Friday

As I'm writing this, a marching band is playing in the plaza. They're here for a long procession, which is truly spectacular to see with all the candles lit, but it still kind of irks me that they're playing now, because I have to be up really early tomorrow for mass with the Pope (!). If it was any other night, I'd stay to watch the procession, though.

Today was the Stations of the Cross, which we went to see early in the morning. It was already full of people, wanting to see the huge, life-sized statues of all fourteen stations, with a fifteenth statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. The candles were all there, but unlit at the time, because it was broad daylight. I think the best statue was Jesus being nailed to the cross, and the Last Supper gets an honorable mention for making one of the Apostles blonde. I've never seen a blonde man with a full-grown beard before.

We went to mass at 12:30, and it was a really quick mass, because the priest (and all the locals) wanted to be back at home to siesta at 1:00. There was no homily, and some of the people's responses were said so quickly by the lady behind me that I couldn't keep up. We stayed with a group from a local church, Saint Simon. Er, that's local for us, not for Madrid. So, we were with them until about 4:00, and I rested until 6:00, when we left for the official Stations of the Cross, held by the Pope. After that was dinner with our Bishops, and if it seems like this entry is short, it's because I'm rushing so I can get to sleep for tomorrow's 5:00 AM wakeup call. It is now 1:30 AM, by the way. I can still hear the band marching on, but alas, time is doing the same thing. Good night.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 7) - Thursday

Today, we met for lunch. We went to Foster's Hollywood, a Spain-only restaurant. That was a more authentic American restaurant than the one from yesterday—the hamburger had buns. Foster's had a great pilgrim meal, and everyone ordered a desert.


So, with all eleven us ordering desert, that ended up being an extra $50 that went straight to the restaurant. I mention this, because at the riot/protest rally last night, a lot of the local business owners came together and counter-protested the rally. The way they see it, big riots = no business. Letting 500,000 tourists wander around the city for a week = great for business. It was nice to know that some of the locals really wanted us to stay, even if others didn't.

After lunch, I bought about six souvenirs from an official World Youth Day shop. The tourist shops are the only ones that stay open during siesta time. I'm slightly disappointed that our schedule is too busy to accommodate siestas; it would be interesting to try a set afternoon nap for a week or so. However, I'm not here to sleep, so I can't siesta like the real Spaniards.

We had the mass for our local diocese today, with the bishops and priests from our diocese. It was nice, but I didn't know half the songs. After that, I went with the group from St. Francis parish to a plaza for the Pope's arrival. He was too far for us to see in person, though. We watched on a big screen, and over thirty different groups of people wanted to take pictures with me and the American flag.


The Pope speaks English with a heavy German accent, as you would expect, so he's not the easier person to understand. He spoke in about seven languages, but he spoke mostly in Spanish because we're in Spain. He gave a short speech, after a Gospel reading, after his big introduction.

People from all the continents gave him a gift. Asia made him rice, and Europe, I think, provided him with a large bread platter. The North Americans gave him a Mexican-style cowboy hat. We probably should have checked in with the other continents before making that decision.

Next time, I swear I'll bring my notebook to write down the Pope's speech, although I can probably find it online.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 6) - Wednesday

Today, the US Bishops put on a great event. We had two hours of Catechism and a mass in English. Bishop Smith of Edmonton led this, and I wish I had brought this notebook along with me, so I could have take notes. It was great to be in an all-English environment again, after a week of Spanish. Spanish isn't that bad, though. Madrid Spanish is a lot easier to speak than I expected.  Everyone warned me that I wouldn't be able to communicate with my Mexican Spanish, but that's not the case.

After lunch, we had an eight hour vocations fair, at a local Jesuit building. We probably could have filled a place twice as large. I think everyone agreed that Fr. Robert Barron's speech was the highlight of the event. I liked the speech from the singer woman best, because she was very emotional about God's love for her. I also liked seeing our friends from the Diocese of Orange and talking sports with people from all over the United States.

Of course, my personal highlight was meeting with my dad's cousin, Bishop Tom Paprocki, and talking with him for about fifteen minutes.


During the day, we took a break to find some Starbucks. (The other guys really like coffee.) Along the way, we saw a nun, promoting an exhibition on Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. We went to the exhibit after our work at the US event was over. The visit was unplanned, and it was completely worth it. The Missionaries of Charity nuns were all over the exhibit, acting as guides. They had a duplication of Mother Teresa's room, and I'd say about 100 wall-sized informational plaques, in English and Spanish, which covered her entire life. One room was a video room, one area had her English speeches playing on a speaker, and the entrance room was splendid, but two rooms stood out the most to me.

1. The room with her relics. They had her sandals and sari, the most easily recognizable of all her few possessions. They also had duplicates her handwritten letters, her Nobel Peace Prize and her degree from Harvard. On the wall above, they had pictures from all of her meetings with Pope John Paul II, which was about four meetings over thirty years.

Meetings with Pope John Paul II

Relics

Duplicate of Mother Teresa's room

One of the large plaques about her life

2. The prayer chapel, with a simple crucifix and a statue of Mary. They had a life-size, fully-colored statue of Mother Teresa, praying there; at first, most people thought it was a real nun who was there praying. There was a bench for people to sit and pray, and there were prayer messages. Let me explain. A box was filled with small scraps of paper, each one with a different quotation from Blessed Teresa written upon it. People were invited to take and keep one; they had boxes for English, Spanish, Italian, French, Polish and so on.

Our group was going to return to the hotel after that, but the hostel we're at is outside Plaza de Sol, the Protest Plaza. A protest rally was scheduled against Spain's government for being corrupt and not helping the 20% unemployment rate (for reference, the US' unemployment rate is at 9%). This protest rally turned into an anti-Pope rally, because Spain spent money to help sponsor World Youth Day. You'd think they would be glad that 100,000 foreigners have poured into their capital city, because all the tourist spending must be making the local economy boom this week. In any case, the rally turned into a riot, like many other of the so-called peaceful protests held in Plaza de Sol. The angry rioters started to attack passing Catholics and anyone they saw wearing a World Youth Day backpack.

So instead of returning home, we had a dinner. Then, we met with our bishop in the US Bishops' Hotel, near the US Embassy. I saw Bishop Tom again, and I introduced him to all our seminarians. He introduced us to Cardinal Francis George. Our bishop treated us to a second dinner, which was good, because the first dinner was scarce. (It was a small salad and a glass of water for eight dollars.)

At the second dinner, I had the "American Dinner", which was interesting. This dinner is specifically targeted towards Americans who are visiting the US Embassy. It was a burger, large fries, burnt corn on the cob, and a huge thing of onion rings. It wasn't that bad of a dinner, but I'd lose the onion rings and the corn on the cob. Also, it'd be more "American" if the hamburger came on a bun.

The riot died down by the time dinner was over, partially because there was a big soccer game that was showing on TV. Barcelona is in the playoffs, or something like that. So, thankfully, no one from our group was hurt in the plaza riot, and nobody was badly injured.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 5) - Tuesday

Today, World Youth Day official started at 8:00 PM. Thousands of people poured into the city of Madrid today. Mostly, we spent the day meeting with other groups of pilgrims. Our group just parked ourselves outside Starbucks and watched groups go by.

We have a US flag and a California flag, so people were able to tell where we are from. Most of the foreigners seemed to know how to do the USA chant, and they would chant it at us while passing by. We saw groups from Spain, France, Germany, the UK, the US, Italy, Russian, Mexico, Korea, the Philippines, Prague, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, China, South Africa and more countries that we couldn't recognize just from their flags alone.

A woman from NPR saw me with the US flag, so she came up to me and asked if I'd like to do an interview, because I speak English. It was a nice interview, which was about five minutes long. I was pretty excited about being on All Things Considered, but unfortunately, my interview ended up being cut from the final news report. There were about five names on the interview list; I guess they didn't have enough time in the segment to use clips from all the interviewees.



The group went to Burger King for lunch and VIPS for dinner. VIPS is the Spanish TGI Fridays. I know it sounds weird coming from me, Mr. Picky Eater, but I don't think we should eat so much American food in Spain. Let's try some Spanish food! I'm trying to order something new I don't know about at every meal.

The opening mass had, I would guess, over 10,000 people attending. We got as close as possible to the main area, which was close enough to kinda see all the Bishops. Next time, I say we forget about getting close, and we just park ourselves in front of one of the big TV screens, so we can watch it and see what's happening. One of the screens was right behind/beside us tonight, we couldn't see it.

Mass was two hours long, and it was in Spanish and Latin. That totally threw me off, especially because I tend to mix up those two languages already, when praying the Our Father or Hail Mary. I start off the prayer in one language, and I finish praying it in the other. So eventually, our group decided to say the mass responses in English. Most of the pilgrims who don't know Spanish said the responses in their native languages, too.

All in all, today was a good day, because it was another "off" day, where we got to relax somewhat. The pacing was much different than the hurried trips to Barcelona and the local churches and such. I got to do more shopping, because I realized just now that I should buy things here for my priest friends, not just my family and parishioner friends.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 4) - Monday

Today, we went to Avila, but most of the places were closed, due to a national holiday. The churches there seemed completely unprepared for any visitors, which is kind of odd. I mean, World Youth Day starts in Madrid tomorrow, so thousands of people decided to stop by Avila today.

The cathedral was as closed off as possible. The side entrance was locked with a huge gate, and the cathedral only had a small corner to look at, with everything else roped off. The one picture we could see was kind of nice, though, and lots of groups took pictures outside the gates.

The next closest church was St. John the Baptist. St. Theresa of Avila was baptized there; they have a special display about it at their baptismal font. The priest there was trying to kick everyone out, because he wanted to go home and have a siesta. But whenever the priest opened the door to let someone out, tons of new people would try to get in. I wanted to stay there for a bit, but there was only enough time to pray the Three Hail Marys and to see the baptismal font.




The next closest church is sort of connected to the monastery that St. Theresa went to. The monastery and all the surround buildings—like the museum—were closed. We got to see the church, because they were just finishing with mass, and they opened the doors to let the people out. But as soon as the doors were opened, all the pilgrims poured inside. The communion song was "I am the Bread of Life", being sung in English. I thought it was moving to have a hundred people enter the church at once and respectfully join in the communion song.

Hundreds of pilgrims were at Avila today, like I said earlier. A lot of the groups seemed content just to find out where everyone else is from. So, there was a lot of shouting and cheering about geographical locations. "Conneticut!" "Kenya!" "Viva La France!"

Actually, the French group didn't cheer at all, but we cheered for them when we saw their flag. Here is the extent of the conversation I had with them.

Me: Bonjour!
French Person: Euh.

I think some of the guys want to go back to Avila on our day off, because almost everything was closed, and we didn't get enough time to explore the two churches we kind of snuck into. Also, we didn't get to spend much time in Avila, because the train schedule forced us to leave early. Most of the trains were full, because everyone is headed into Madrid. We went back there and had mass and dinner. And that was basically it for today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 3) - Sunday

Today was a good day. We went to the Cathedral in Seville, which is the second-largest in the world. We kind of got the rest of the day off because everyone was tired, so we got to do a little shopping. Most of the stores in Seville were closed for Sunday and/or siesta, but the tourist places were all open.

The guys are not my ideal shopping partners. Mendie went looting through every single fan in every single fan box, trying to find the best one. He uprooted the 2-euro box, the 2.5 Euro box and the 3-Euro box. Then he ran down the block to another tourist store, so he could do price comparison. That's way too much work for a cheap plastic souvenir fan.

I got two items (religious art), which are about $10 US each. The same items would cost $40-50 back at home, so I saved thirty bucks by buying them here. That's how I do effective shopping.

The cathedral was great, but I still prefer the United States' Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. I like the side chapel of Seville's cathedral more than the main chapel. A crazy old Italian man tried to give me a tour of the place, even though we couldn't understand each other. He would point at something and say its Italian name, like "altare" and "Jesu".

Everyone warns you to look out for the gypsies in Europe, because they're experts at robbing tourists. Well, a gypsy tried to rob me outside of the cathedral, but she did a really bad job. She tried to lure me in by calling me "guapo" (Spanish for "handsome") and giving me a leaf as a present. It wasn't a special leaf; it was just a random leaf she pulled off of a nearby tree. I just walked past her, and that was that. Later, I watched her from a distance, and nobody else stopped to pick up her leaves. What a weird scam, trying to lure people in with leaves in order to rob them.

I took the night off, by staying inside and washing my clothes in the sink. It turns out I made a mistake in packing my luggage. I guess I grabbed the wrong pile of clothes or something like that. Anyway, the result was that I only had one pair of shorts and one pair of black socks. My formal clothes all got packed, though.

We got our official World Youth Day backpacks today. There were a lot of things in the backpack already. Some of them were things I don't need, like the map of town and a small Liturgy of the Hours for the next two weeks. Other things, I decided to keep to give to people at home, such as the Pope Benedict manga, the Youcat and the cheap plastic fan. I feel kind of bad for Mendie now. He put a lot of effort into finding a fan, and nine hours later, we all got free plastic fans.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 2) - Saturday

After visiting two churches yesterday, we had to be up super early to catch the train to Barcelona. I got about two hours of sleep. The train showed "The King's Speech" with Spanish subtitles, but no audio. It was an okay movie, but I would have preferred to sleep.

The bathrooms here in Europe are kind of confusing. The one on the train had a high-tech door with automatic controls, and I could not figure out how to lock the door behind me. I also didn't know how to work the shower head in our hotel room, and as a result, the entire bathroom got covered with water.

Barcelona is different than other cities in Spain, because they speak a language which is a hybrid of French and Spanish. The Cathedral there is hug and old, but most of it was sealed off with thick iron bars. It makes me sad. I'd rather see the displays shiny, up-to-date and being used, rather than blocked off and faded and decayed.

We ran into two groups of pilgrims from California. So many out-of-country people are visiting Spain. I hope the local Spanish Catholics remember to come, too.



Somehow, my train ticket home got lost in the big pile o' tickets for our group. I had to go get another one with Fr. John, while everyone else in the group went to visit Place #2 in Barcelona. That was fine with me, because I was pretty much out of it for the afternoon, as a result of it being too hot and me not getting enough sleep.

On the train back, they showed a Spanish romantic comedy. There were no headphones, but it was pretty easy to follow. Or at least, I found it easy to follow; the other guys must not watch many romantic comedies, because they couldn't follow the plot. The story was that the hero is sad, because the girl he likes is falling in love with Mr. Perfect. So the hero decides to win her back and make her jealous, with the help of his two wacky buddies.

When we got back to the hotel, I tried to sleep. After that, it was prayer time, and we went all over town until we learned that both churches were closed. All the shops were closed, too, which made me kind of upset. After all, this is prime shopping time. Our travel itinerary says that we won't get to shop until the last two days of the trip, but I want to go shopping before the large crowds get here.  If we wait until after they leave, all the good stuff will be gone.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trip to Spain (Part 1)

For the next two weeks or so, I'm going to write about my trip to Spain for World Youth Day. I kept a journal during the trip, so everything is well organized.  To start off, I'm going to reproduce my notes from the first day, Friday.  I didn't write much that day, because I was exhausted.

---

We stopped by the Cathedral here in Madrid. It was nice because they let us in after hours. I wish I had a camera. Everyone else brought cameras, even though the guidebook said not to.  The churches here have beautiful artwork, but I fear people visit them to see the art, not to have a personal encounter with God. The art is very old, and I wonder why so much artwork is up on the ceiling, where no one can see it.

My favorite piece of art so far was an Immaculate Conception located at St. Inez. It looked more like an Assumption, but the piece of artwork obviously predates the papal declaration on the Assumption. My favorite part was the look of joy on Mary's face. In most of the pictures here, she has a more stoic look.

There are street performers here in Madrid, who dress up in costumes. A few random strangers thought I was a street performer, and they took pictures of me. That's because I was wearing a cassock. It's about two to three degrees cooler to wear a cassock instead of a suit, which is why I decided to wear it the whole time. Only a few people recognized it as an old-fashioned priest outfit, but I don't blame them, because I had no idea what a cassock was either, three years ago.



That's me in the cassock, third from the right.  The trip to Spain was pretty much the only time I've ever worn it in public.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WWA, Chapter Four

Here's the fourth chapter in my series about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy.

---

Nancy smiled. She had only been in Waverly for five minutes, and the case was practically solved. The mysterious "Black Cat" only targeted valedictorian candidates. The valedictorian that year would get a huge scholarship. Clearly, someone wanted the huge scholarship, and she was using underhanded tactics to get rid of the competition.

Nancy took a moment to confirm this theory. "You mean the only girls to get notes from this Black Cat person are girls who're in the running to be valedictorian?"

"I hadn't really thought of it that way, but yeah," Corine said. "I guess that's right. Maybe somebody's jealous of us smart kids or something. Or maybe it's one of us. Maybe somebody's trying to scare off her competition."

Hey, I thought of that first! Nancy thought.

"Whatever. It's not gonna work on me," Corine said confidently.

Oh, really? Nancy thought. "Have you ever gotten one of these Black Cat notes?" she asked.

"Yeah, I got one about three days ago," Corine said calmly.

Evidence! Nancy thought. "No kidding. May I see it?"

"Sorry," Corine said. "I took one look at it and tore it up. But if you'd like to see the note my ex-roommate got, that one's right here."

Corine pulled out a note the note. There was a black pawprint on the paper, with blood-colored scratches. The Black Cat is watching. was written on top. All in all, it was kind of creepy.

"When she got this, how did she react?" Nancy asked.

"She tried to laugh it off, but I think she was really scared," Corine said. "She was pretty neurotic."

Um...your roommate gets sent home after having a panic attack, and you get rid of all of her things except the threatening note she received? Who's the neurotic one again?

"What about the second note?" Nancy asked.

"There wasn't a second note," Corine said. "Or at least, if there was, she never said anything about it to me."

"Did she talk to you a lot?" Nancy asked.

"No, not really," Corine said. She tried to fake a laugh. "I mean, you've probably said more to me now in the past five minutes that Danielle said to me in the past month!"

Note to self, Nancy thought. Corine might be a candidate for valedictorian, but she is not a candidate for Roommate of the Year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter (Part 5)

Time to finish my overview of the lastest Professor Layton game.  I'm not sure if I've been explaining the plot of the game very well so far, but that's probably because it's not as plot-heavy as the previous game.

Anyway, we've reached the end of the game, so it's time for Professor Layton to have a dramatic confrontation with the game's culprit.  This culprit is responsible for the evil specter that has appeared all over town and destroyed buildings.  And the culprit is...

...Someone we've never heard of before.  His name is Jean Descole.  I don't want to be mean to the poor man, but he looks like a reject from a Shakespeare play.


It is revealed that Jean has been holding Luke's mother hostage for months.  Also, the specter was really him, using a machine to dig for gold.  Before Layton can question this plotline too much, Jean's digging machines turn into a Super Robot that attacks the town.

Layton is prepared for this, though.  His foolproof plan to destroy the robot?  Destroy its circuitry by getting it wet!  Layton pulls out a garden hose and sprays the robot with water.

No, I'm just joking.  That would be sensible.  Instead, Layton decides to get the robot wet by destroying the town dam and flooding the entire city.  Suddenly, it looks like Professor Layton is more dangerous to the town's safety than the villain is.  The villain realizes this, and leaves.

After Layton's reckless destruction of the entire town, our heroes go north.  Now, try to follow me here, folks.  I know that Layton just destroyed the town dam and flooded the town.  Well, it turns out that the two has a second dam that's connected to the lake.  Loosha the Giant Seal smashes his head against the dam fifteen times, until it breaks.  This means the town gets flooded a second time.  Why do our heroes keep flooding the town?

The second flood reveals the hidden entrance to the Golden Garden, which contains no gold whatsoever.  Loosha the Giant Seal dies, because he fractured his skull while breaking the second dam.  It's rather sad to see our animal friend die, but the good news is that the magical air in the Golden Garden manages to cure Arianna's life-threatening disease.  So, Luke's girlfriend doesn't die after all!  Hooray!  To show her thanks, Arianna kisses Luke, and he suddenly transforms from Timid Prequel Luke to the Confident Luke we know and love from the other games in the series.

That's about it for the game.  Layton becomes a famous archeologist for finding the Golden Garden, Luke becomes Professor Layton's apprentice, the villain swears to return and do evil things in the next game, and Emmy...I'm sure she did something interesting, but they forgot to mention what it was.  Oh well.  Next time, perhaps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WWA, Chapter 3

Here's the third chapter in my series about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy.

---

Nancy hadn't even left her room yet, and already, her cover was blown. Nancy was supposed to be working undercover as a new transfer student named Becca Sawyer. But she didn't have any student supplies, like binders or books or even a laptop.

That was a stupid move, Nancy, Nancy thought to herself. I mean, Becca. Dang, this working under a fake name thing is harder than I thought.

Even if it was kind of difficult, working under a fake name was a great opportunity. Nancy had the rare chance to literally become someone else. She could form a brand new personality and identity. Back home, people called Nancy the weird girl who solves mysteries. But here, Becca Sawyer would be the coolest girl on campus!

"Yeah!" Nancy said. She decided to turn the situation around, with one of Becca Sawyer's trademark sassy comments. "I can't believe my luggage hasn't come here yet! Baggage claim? More like baggage lame! Am I right?"

Corine stared at Nancy with a blank expression, after that bold proclamation. No, wait, her expression wasn't entirely blank. There was something in her eyes...was it a hint of pity? Nancy scratched her head.

"Anyway, what were you saying about this place?" she asked.

"Well, since you don't have a laptop, you can get online by jumping on the computer in the library," Corine said. "Just make sure you read the part in the guide about Waverly's demerit system really well. It's enforced by Paige. Believe me, you do not want to mess with her. Let's see, what else...?"

Nancy wasn't worried about demerits. Sure, Nancy Drew got detention a lot-mostly for not skipping classes in order to follow suspects-but Becca Sawyer never got in trouble. She was awesome that way.

"Oh yeah-this floor's special because only seniors who are viable candidates for valedictorian live up here. Whoever's named valedictorian gets a full ride scholarship to the university of her choice, so it's a pretty big deal. 'Course, the only truly viable candidate is me."

"Wait a minute," Nancy said. "You mean the only girls to get notes from this Black Cat person are girls who're in the running to be valedictorian?"

Can you say 'motive'? Nancy thought smugly.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Poorly-Informed Movie Reviewer

Four times in this blog, I've written about the poorly-informed movie reviewer.  He's a movie reviewer who writes for a local newspaper, and whenever they make him write about videogames, it's hilarious because he has no idea what he's talking about.

Or at least, it was hilarious.  Mr. Movie Reviewer stopped writing about videogames a while ago.  Whenever he does talk about games, all he does is copy/paste press releases that were written by a PR department.  It's no longer fun to read his column anymore.

Let's say goodbye to him, though, by remembering some of the good times with our poorly-informed friend.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Son of Neptune

I finished reading The Son of Neptune, which is the latest Percy Jackson book.  It's a good book.  Percy Jackson fans should check it out.

The story of the book is that Percy makes it to the Roman Camp for demigods.  He and two other characters are given a quest to go north to Alaska, where a giant is keeping Death captive.  Our heroes go there, kill the giant, and return to New Rome in time to stop an army being led by a different giant.

Percy was my favorite part of the book, hands down.  As for the two new main characters, I liked Hazel.  Her backstory was kind of similar to Piper's in the previous book, in that both girls knew information about the giant ahead of time, but they wanted to keep it a secret.  I think it worked better with Hazel than with Piper.  The other new character was Frank.  I wasn't sure about him, because he's sort of a mixed bag.  That's on purpose, though; part of Frank's story is how he works through his confusion about himself and his family.  My other Percy Jackson friend loved Frank, though.

I don't think I'd go so far as to say that it is immensely better than the previous book, which didn't have Percy in it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one outsold the last book.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weirdness at Waverly Academy, Chapter 2

Nancy put her bag down near the bed as she walked into the small room that would be her home for the next few days. Sitting at a desk in the corner of the room was a short black girl, who turned around as Nancy entered.

"Hey, you're the new person," the girl said. "Uh, Becca something. Becca Sawyer."

Nancy nodded. She was working under a false name for this case, partly because it was cool and partly because if she used her real name, she'd end up getting Facebook requests from everyone she met here. Trust me, the last thing Nancy Drew needs is more Facebook requests.

"I'm Corine," the girl continued. "The person who's stuck rooming with you. I mean, you're the person who's stuck rooming with me! Anyway, welcome to my-your-our humble dwelling space."

Awkward much? Nancy thought.

"You don't mind having a roommate?" Nancy asked.

Corine shook her head. "Not at all. The roommate I used to have-Danielle-she and I got along great."

Ah, Danielle. According to the case notes, Danielle was the latest victim in the series of accidents. Nancy decided to casually ask Corine for some more details.

"What happened to her?" Nancy asked.

"She had kind of a bad experience. Got locked in a pitch black closet overnight. See, she was claustrophobic, so when they found her the next morning, she could barely talk, and when I got back from class that afternoon, she'd just...left. No note, no call, no text-nothing. I should probably tell you...

"Some of the kids on this floor have been getting these like threatening notes from somebody calling herself the Black Cat. The first note's a warning, but if you get a second one? Something really bad happens to you.

"And last week, the girl in the room next door, Megan Vargas? She got a second note, and that night at dinner, she ate something she was allergic to, and had such a bad reaction that she had to go home. Somebody's obviously playing a prank, but a lot of kids here are starting to get really freaked out. Anyway. Now that you're here..."

Corine paused for a second, and Nancy wondering if this meant she was going to stop talking. Apparently, this was not the case, as Corine continued.

"First thing you gotta do is read the Waverly student guide, which is online. If you don't have a laptop-it doesn't look like you do. That one little bag is all you brought?"

Crap, crap, crap! Nancy thought. She couldn't have her cover blown this early in the case. Think, Nancy, think!

"Uh...all my stuff's being shipped. From France. Lyons. It'll be here in a couple of days."

Nancy grinned as widely as she could. Maybe acting friendly would convince her new, awkward roommate to believe her.

Great going, Nancy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Professor Layton and the Last Specter (Part 4)

Last time, on Professor Layton and the Last Specter, our heroes were about to solve the mystery, when they got arrested by the corrupt chief of police, Levin "Third Eye" Jakes.  If you haven't been playing the game so far, our heroes are:

1. Professor Layton, the British Gentleman who wears a top hat
2. Prequel Luke, the young boy who is wearing old man suspenders
3. Emmy, the spunky sidekick who knows martial arts
4. Toppy, the Magical Talking Mouse

Chief Jakes puts our heroes in the interrogation room, then he leaves to tell his boss that Layton is under arrest.  The instant that Jakes leaves, Layton and crew break out of the jail.  Their escape is mainly due to the help of Toppy, who is small enough to fit under the door.

Why is a mouse suddenly a main character in this game?  No, seriously.  I want to know.

Things get even stranger, as our heroes go back to Luke's girlfriend, Arianna. Arianna starts to play the mystical Specter's Flute.  Now, I'm not a musical expert or anything, but I'm pretty sure the instrument she's playing is not a flute.  It looks more like the ocarina from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.


When Arianna plays the song, the specter appears.  It turns out the specter is not a monstrous ghost.  Instead, it is a giant happy seal named Loosha. Arianna explains that Loosha is the last survivor of a race of aquatic dinosaurs.  That is clearly a far more logical explanation than the idea that a ghost is haunting the town.

Loosha wins the hearts of everyone with her extreme cuteness, and it looks like we're going to have a happy ending.  Then, the corrupt Chief Jakes shows up.  He arrests Arianna and Loosha.  That's right.  He puts the dinosaur under arrest, using the 50-foot net cannons that he just happened to bring along with him.


So now our heroes have to save Loosha and Arianna.  Oh, and they need to confront the villain of the game, who we still haven't met yet.  This could be exciting, everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Weirdness at Waverly Academy - Chapter 1

As promised, I'm going to try writing a Nancy Drew story.  This one will be about Nancy Drew: Warnings at Waverly Academy.  As a general rule, I'll try to write each chapter in under five minutes.  Oh, and I'll post the story on Fanfiction.net, as a convenient way for people to read it all at once.

---

Nancy Drew read the letter that had been forwarded to her by Mattie Jensen. A school called the Waverly Academy for Girls was being plagued by a series of mysterious accidents. Mattie knew Nancy was good at discovering the truth behind deadly accidents, so she thought Nancy could help the people at Waverly Academy.

Nancy tilted her head as she thought about it. Solve a mystery at a high school? She hadn't been to school in a long time. As in, a really long time. Nancy went on mystery-solving expeditions and vacations so often that she really didn't have time for school. In fact, she was failing half of her classes, mainly because it had been two months since she last stepped foot inside a classroom.

Nancy reread the letter, and her mystery senses started tingling. A student poisoned for no reason? Another student locked inside a closet? An angry floor monitor named Paige? This could be her most interesting case yet!

"Hey, Dad?" Nancy said.

Carson Drew looked up from his legal paperwork and adjusted his glasses. "Yes, Honey?"

"I'm going to need you to write out a form to get me out of school this week," Nancy said.

"Again?" Carson asked.

"There's a mystery for me to solve in New York," Nancy explained.

"Again?" Carson asked.

"Again," Nancy said.