Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three Things

1. My computer died this week.  After about three minutes after startup, the Blue Screen of Death would appear and force a shutdown.  The tech guy says the problem was with the fan, so he ordered a new one.  I hope I get the computer back soon!  It has the next three videos in my Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen walkthrough on it.

2. I went to the library and picked up some books.  They're reprinting the Animorphs book series, which came out in the late 1990's.  Animorphs was the coolest book series ever, until Harry Potter caught on a few years later.  I haven't read the reprint yet, but from what I can tell, it's the exact same book with a new cover and different font.

3. The new Total Drama Island season starts next week!  They have a brand-new cast this season, and everyone already seems to hate the new characters.  I'm not entirely sure why.  Half of the Total Drama fanfics in existence star made-up characters, rather than characters from the actual show.

There have been rumors of a season five, made up of people from both casts. Personally, I'd settle for a spin-off series, which stars all the various characters together in high school.  I'm sure the characters would be just as interesting, in non-deadly situations.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Videogame Cleanup

I had to move recently, and one of the disaster areas I had to clean up was the entertainment dresser.  That's where I keep my videogames and DVDs.  I have a bad habit of keeping games I no longer need, so let's go through them and see which ones I can dump.

In an effort to prevent this blog entry from becoming ovely long, I'll limit myself to DS games.
  • Jumble Madness--Get rid of it.  All I wanted was a game that had Jumble puzzles, but this game has some weird calendar system that ruined everything.
  • The Quest Trio--Get rid of it. Now that I have Jewel Quest on my iPad, I don't need it on the DS. The iPad version's controls are much better.
  • Professor Layton 2-4: No real need to keep them around, now that I've done complete walkthroughs for them.  I think I'll get rid of games 2 and 3, but I'll keep Game 4, so I can unlock the bonus connectivity puzzle when Game 5 comes out.
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon--I like this game, and I'll keep it. I kind of want to do a video walkthrough for it, actually.
  • 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors--Get rid of it.  I bought a second copy of the game to help out the company and encourage them to make a sequel. The plan worked, so I no longer need it.
  • Time Hollow--Get rid of it.  This is another game I saved so I could do a video walkthrough for it. The walkthrough is done, and I don't think I need to revisit Ethan's world anytime soon.
  • Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story--Keep it?  I never finished this game, but I got about 3/4 through it.  I think I just ran up against a tough boss fight and didn't see any reason to continue.
  • Radiant Historia--Get rid of it.  I played it once, and I don't think I need to revisit it again.
  • Megaman Zero Collection--Get rid of it.  I got this collection because I love the series, but then I remembered I can't get past the first level of any of the games.
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin--As I recall, this game was somewhat entertaining. Keep it, for when I go on another Castlevania kick.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia--I never played this one.  Whoops.  Better get started on that.

So, I guess the decision is to get rid of everything except the Castlevania games, Fire Emblem, and Professor Layton 4.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

WWA, Chapter 39

Here's Chapter 39 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy solve the layout puzzle.

---

While Nancy went to the school library, she got a text message, which was sent to all the students.

Mel jst got busted 4 plagiarizing art hist paper!

"Woah!" Nancy said. "Mel is a plagiarist?"

Nancy made her way to the school computer, and logged on. All the pictures were now on the valedictorian page; Nancy just needed to put them in order. There were six columns, one for each of the six valedictorians. There was a section for each valedictorian, her name, her home city, and her subject of choice.

Good News: Rachel had left instructions on where to put everything.

Bad News: Rachel's instructions were deliberately unhelpful.

Nancy read and re-read Rachel's instructions. These included "The biology and psych students are roommates" and "Corine is immediately after the girl who chose bio, but somewhere before Izzy."

WHY couldn't Rachel do this herself, again? Nancy wondered. I don't know where anybody is from, or what they like to study!

"IZZY!" Nancy yelled across the library. "Could you come here for a sec?"

Izzy walked over to Nancy. "What is it, Becca?" she asked.

"Rachel wants me to sort all this info," Nancy said. "But I don't know any of this stuff. I just got here! How would I know everyone's hometown?"

"I know all this," Izzy said. "As Student Body President, it is my responsibility to—"

"Great, you can do this for me!" Nancy said. "Please? I'll call it even between us, since I did your DNA project."

"...Fine, but you'd better not ask me to do anything again," Izzy said, sitting down and typing out the information.

"Deal," Nancy said.

Thus, Nancy joined the proud Waverly Academy tradition of forcing someone else do your work.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Moving

I moved back in with my parents yesterday.  Moving is a pain, because you have to pack up all of your things.  You start off as Mr. Organized, who sorts everything neatly.  Clothes go in one place, books in another, and so on.  After about fifteen minutes, this doesn't work so well anymore, and you just throw all sorts of random things together.  "I'll sort them later," you decide.

So I ended up dumping a bunch of random things, all over my room.  Here's the problem, though: the room was already a disaster.  Somebody left a bunch of girly magazines everywhere, there's a set of records in the closet, and I'm pretty sure that a hungry T-Rex attacked my DVD collection.

For the next week or so, I'll have to go through different things and get rid of the stuff I don't need.  Today, I tried to get started with putting my clothes in the clothes dresser.  Unfortunately, the sock drawer had over 30 pairs of socks in it. 30 pairs?  Where am I supposed to put the socks I brought?

Now there's a large pile of socks, living on top of the dresser.  I guess I'll call that "sock overflow".  Either way, I have kind of taken care of the clothes.  There are at least six other things for me to sort through; I'll do that sometime later on this week.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Translation Work

I usually reserve Saturdays for doing translation work.  I do an hour of Ancient Greek translation and an hour of Latin translation.  I'm just trying to keep myself semi-versed in the languages, so I don't forget them completely.

An hour a week is a very slow pace, so it takes me a really long time to translate anything lengthy.  My last Greek project was five chapters long, and it took me from July to March to finish it.  The Latin project was the six chapter book by St. Patrick, and it took me from July to February to finish it.

I think another reason it takes me so long to translate anything is that I forget to do translating about a third of the time.

Anyway, that's how I spend two hours every Saturday.  Check back in with me in ten months, and I'll have finished my current translation projects!  ...Maybe.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Old Songs

The car I used to have was very old, so it didn't have a CD player.  Instead, it had a tape player.  I wanted to listen to music in the car, so I picked up six or so tapes from a local library sale.  The tape were these:
  • A collection of Disney songs
  • A disco band
  • Vietnamese love songs
  • The Reader's Digest "Classic Memories" collection
I spent most of the time listening to the Disney songs and Reader's Digest collection.  The collection was mostly songs from the 1930's and 40's, like Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You) and The Girl That I Marry.  The songs have invaded my general consciousness, and I usually confuse everyone when I reference them or sing them.

Maybe it's just the collection I had, but most of the older songs had instrumental verses, where the entire band played.  They would put these in, right where the third or fourth verse would go.  I thought that was very interesting, because modern music almost never does this.  The instrumental part of a song nowdays is usually at the very beginning or very end, not right in the middle.  In fact, right off the top of my head, I can't think of a popular song where the vocalist completely disappears for a minute or so.

The instrument selection is also different in the older songs.  They tend to focus on trumpets and other brass instruments.  Wind instruments must have been popular back then.  By contrast, I'm pretty sure modern music almost never focuses on wind instruments.  Instead, the main instrument is usually the drum or the bass.  Those are good for keeping beats, but I find them less exciting.

I lost the tape-playing care in late 2010, and I only just now got around to copying the songs from the tapes onto mp3 files.  It wasn't that difficult; I just played them on an old tape player and put my iPod in front of the speakers to record the songs.

I have no idea how I'm going to sort the old songs.  All I know are the titles. I don't know who any of the bands are, and many of these songs were covered by different bands, so I can't look it up, either.  I'm not even sure if I should sort them alphabetically or not, because that'd be mixing up the three or so tapes in the original collection.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

WWA, Chapter 38

Here's Chapter 38 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Rachel gives Nancy another assignment.  Is it obvious I just post a chapter of this story, whenever I'm feeling too lazy to write a real blog post?

---

Nancy went upstairs and into Rachel Hubbard's room.

"Hey, you got everyone's picture uploaded," Rachel said.

"Sure did," Nancy said.

"Fab. Now I need you to do the layout for me," Rachel said. "Just log on to the computer again, and go back to the 'Meet the Candidates' section. There will be instructions on where to put everything."

"Put everything?" Nancy asked. "I thought I just had to take the photos of everyone."

"And now you have to put them in the right places," Rachel said, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I'll check the page when you're done to make sure everything's kosher."

"I guess I can do that," Nancy said. It was starting to look like Rachel didn't want Nancy to help with some of the project; it was more like Rachel wanted Nancy to finish the entire project.

Rachel must have picked up on Nancy's reticence, because she quickly added, "In case I forgot to say it before, I'm really grateful for your help. Maybe someday I can return the favor."

"Don't worry about it," Nancy said. "It'll be nice just having you as a friend."

Rachel stared at Nancy, confused. "...Right," Rachel said, shortly.

"You...do know what friends are, right?" Nancy asked.

"Of course I do," Rachel said. "It's just—never mind. It doesn't matter."

"You're not going to make friends with that attitude," Nancy said. "I mean, earlier you were avoiding Mel. What's up with that?"

"Nothing!" Rachel said. "I'm really busy now, Becca! I can't talk anymore!"

"Busy doing—?" Nancy began to say.

"Please, maybe later?" Rachel asked.

Nancy frowned. "Fine," she said. She turned and left Rachel's room.

Rachel is definitely hiding something, Nancy thought. And I'm going to prove I'm a good detective by figuring out what it is!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Update on Blog Suggestions

1.  Over a week ago, I asked for ideas about the name and slogan of this blog.  You might remember that I did this once before, and there was suggestion that was incredibly popular.  That was Emma's suggestion of "Calling the Nancy Drew Clue Crew: Check out my Blog for walkthroughs, funny things, and randomosity." Everyone liked it, except me, so I didn't go with that one.

2. Everyone seems to think the slogan needs to have a Nancy Drew reference in it.  No, really.  Everyone.  But if I do that, I'll just have to change it again when the reference becomes outdated.  That's what happened when the blog was called Sassy Detective Central.  It made sense for about six months, and then everyone realized that "Sassy Detective" hasn't been seen in the Nancy Drew series since...what, Game Eight?  It's been about eight years at this point, I think.

3. According to the subjects meter on the right, I write most often about Nancy Drew, videogames and other. Perhaps the slogan should focus on that, but I get the sense that it's easier not to change anything.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen Review

Here's my official review of Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen. The review is going to appear on GameCola.net sometime in the near future.


Her Interactive continues to amaze me. After making 30 or so games in 14 years, you think they’d run out of creative talent and energy ten times over, and that every new Nancy Drew game would be an obvious clone of the previous one. But they consistently deliver new and interesting games, to the point where I preorder every single game they make, and I have yet to be disappointed.

Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen is Nancy’s 26th adventure. This time, Nancy is in Egypt, working as an archaeology assistant for Kingston University. This is about the tenth time in her teenage life that she’s been hired to work overseas; I’m pretty sure that, by now, she has the most impressive resume ever.

The dig team has just found a previously unknown tomb. Could this be the tomb of Nefertari, Egypt’s legendary lost queen? Answer: Yes. Duh. Reread the game’s title if you don’t believe me. Of course, the tomb is full of puzzles and traps, and even a curse which wiped out a previous expedition in the 1940’s. Nancy has to dodge danger, sabotage and hieroglpyh puzzles on her quest to find the sarcophagus of Nefertari.

screenshot2

The first thing about the game that caught my attention was the graphics. The game screen has increased from 800 by 600 to 1360 by 768. The series has upgraded to widescreen HD? Count me in! The change in graphics quality is immediately noticeable, as characters and background art are much prettier and detailed than ever before.

The interface has also changed. Nancy’s inventory is now at the bottom of the screen, as opposed to being in a separate inventory menu. Nancy’s task list and journal have similarly been made more easily accessible. These are small changes that newcomers to the series won’t notice, but they all come across as carefully chosen and expertly utilized, in order to make the gameplay experience go more smoothly.

And what a gameplay experience it is! I had seven hours of fun. Well, maybe more like three hours of fun and four hours of me wandering around, confused. I’m not very good at these games. Still, the various puzzles and things were all nicely planned out, so that the game’s environment got bigger and more expansive, the longer you played. What starts off as “this is kind of a small tomb with nothing inside it” turns into “this is kind of a large tomb” as you discover all the hidden passageways and puzzles.

screenshot1

It seems inevitable that whenever a series goes on for an extended time, the fans start to get nostalgic for the earlier, better games. They stop asking if Game X is good in and of itself; they start asking if Game X is good, in comparison to Game Y. I think Tomb of the Lost Queen does a good job if you submit it to the nostalgia test. If this same game was released ten years earlier, between Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake and Secret of the Scarlet Hand, it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It would fit in quite nicely, and it might even be considered a notch above one or two of the other games.

This game strikes me as the first game of the series after Ransom of the Seven Ships to be mainly puzzle-based, as opposed to mystery-based or horror-based. I’m usually a sucker for puzzle games, but I have to compliment the game on its non-puzzle elements, too, such as the suitable background music, the plot progression and the character interactions. As usual, there is a lot of humorous dialogue in this game. Good and interesting conversations are so prevalent in the Nancy Drew series that it seems the developers would be challenged to write boring dialogue.

All in all, Tomb of the Lost Queen is a perfect example of why the Nancy Drew series is so great. The puzzle/mystery/adventure series keeps delivering one solid game after another. They’re not afraid to try new things, and all the various little improvements spread throughout the game come together to form a superior gaming experience. I know I say this every time, but I can’t wait to see what Nancy’s next adventure will be like.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space

I finally got a copy of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space: The Complete Series.  This overpriced DVD set contains all 16 episodes of the one-season TV show.

This is a bad TV series from the 1970's that I find incredibly amusing.  The original Josie comic books were okay, but the TV show pretty much ruined all the characters by turning them into the cast of Scooby Doo for no good reason.  The spin-off where the band goes into outer space is even stranger.

The DVD set brags that there's a new character named Bleep in this series, "voiced by Hanna-Barbera legend Don Messick".  I find it weird that they're bragging about Bleep's voice actor, because Bleep...doesn't say much.  The only word he knows is his name, so he says, "Bleep!  Bleep! Bleep!" all the time.  It's sort of like a Pokemon DVD, bragging about Pikachu's excellent voice acting.

Anyway, now I kind of want to start a series on my blog, where I watch an episode of the show, then write a recap about it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Newsletter

It's time for the May Newsletter, sent out by Her Interactive.  This newsletter talks about:

  • The newly-released game, Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen
  • The results of the CEO-4-a-day contest
  • The preview for their next game, Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device
  • The merchandise store and other things

Saturday, May 19, 2012

WWA, Chapter 37

Here's Chapter 37 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy uses the school computer.

---

Nancy sadly walked away from the Rec Room. Nancy thought she had the mystery all solved, but Leela proved that Nancy's theory was rather stupid.

Maybe I'm not such a great detective after all... Nancy thought. After all, I'm not even close to figuring out who the Black Cat is. All I've done so far is take pictures for Rachel.

Her mind full of sad thoughts, Nancy went to the school computer in the library and logged on. The home page reminded her that she still hadn't done Snack Shop duty yet, and that the book of Edgar Allen Poe stories was still missing from the library.

More failures... Nancy thought.

Nancy knew she had to upload the pictures to the website for Rachel's project, but she wasn't sure where to upload them. After all, over half the pages on the website were down, due to scheduled website maintenance. The "About Us" section didn't seem useful, and neither did the "Library Page" section.

Nancy clicked on "Student Life". This part of the website was home to "The Campus Word", which appeared to be some kind of news article. The article was about the albino squirrel who had stolen a starburst token from Nancy earlier. Apparently, the squirrel was called "Casper", and there was some concern that the squirrel wouldn't be able to collect enough nuts for the winter. Izzy Romero, the author of the article, proclaimed that her efforts had saved the squirrel from starvation.

That thieving squirrel needs to be locked up, not fed extra food, Nancy thought.

The "Student Life" part of the website was also home to the student handbook (yawn), security blotter (someone broke into their room using a student ID card), and Double Take. Double Take was a very simple matching game, and according to the student handbook, you got credits if you received a new high score on the game.

They give credits for playing games at this school? Nancy wondered. I want to transfer here!

There was no time for playing games, though. Nancy still had to upload the pictures for Rachel. She double-checked the piece of paper Rachel gave her, which said the pictures had to go into the "Valedictorian Race" section of the "Academics" site.

Nancy plugged her phone into the computer's USB port, then opened up the proper website. She uploaded all six photos. She sighed, then crossed "upload the photos for Rachel's project" off her to-do list.

Nancy got up and left the library, still feeling bad that she had made no progress in solving the mystery. Nancy was so depressed that she couldn't even cheer herself up with one of Becca Sawyer's sassy one-liners.

Waverly Academy? More like, Waverly A-bad -emy, Nancy thought. Because I'm bad at solving this mystery...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Handheld Videogame Sales

I finally got around to reading the various sales reports on handheld videogames, which came in during March.

The 3DS has sold 17 million units over the past year or so, following a slow start.  The PlayStation Vita has sold 1.2 million units over the three months it's been out.  Meanwhile, the iPad 3 sold 3 million units in three days, making it better and faster selling than its two competitors.

Reports say that Apple and Android make up about 2/3 of handheld gaming revenue.  This is compared to several years ago, when Nintendo had about 2/3 of handheld gaming revenue.  It's statistics like these that make me think the iPad is the best handheld gaming console on the market right now.

Why is the iPad so popular as a handheld gaming console?  Here are some guesses on my part.

  • iPad games are ridiculously cheaper.  99 cents for Angry Birds, versus $39.99 for Mario?
  • You can download games instantly, which means not having to visit GameStop.
  • Also, there's no hassle about new games and used games, because all the games are digital.  Apple's "back up your games to a computer and/or the iCloud" system assuages my fear that the games will magically disappear someday, because I don't have a physical copy of them.
  • The iPad plays games from older systems.  The 3DS doesn't play GBA games; the iPad 3 plays iPad 1 games just fine.
  • It's easier for game developers to update the game with new material or bug fixes, after the game is made.  I've seen a lot of my apps update. That's got to be near-impossible with handheld cartridges.
  • The iPad does a lot more than just play games.  The 3DS brags about its non-gaming features, like the camera and the Internet browser.  Let's just say that, in terms of those things, the iPad has the 3DS whipped.
I'd still like to see a gaming-exclusive iPad, that is, an iPad with more than one button.  But I imagine that won't be released anytime soon, as that would hurt backwards compatibility.  Or forwards compatibility.  Some kind of compatibility, anyway.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Recording Equipment

When my tax refund of $742 came in, I decided to use it to buy some new recording equipment, for recording videogame footage.

1. The first is Fraps, which is a computer recording program that $34 or so.  It records computer games at high quality, and unlike most freeware screen capture programs, there's no time limit.  I can record for two full hours in one sitting, unless, of course, I start to get slowdown from the computer because I'm running high-energy programs for so long, without any breaks.

The downside is that it doesn't recognize certain programs as "real" computer games, so it won't record them.  Also, I need to use an external microphone.  I should get a better one, rather than using my same headset from 2006.

2.  The second, which I haven't tried out yet, is a basic iPad-to-projector cable.  Whatever is on the iPad screen goes through to the other end of the cable.  Let's hope that's true.  I hear some of the iPad projectors are picky about what they decide to project.

3.  The third is some program I can't pronounce, which records console games.  I needed a new one, because my old one doesn't work with Windows 7.  This one apparently is super-powerful, and it's designed for things like PlayStation 3 Super HD, when I'll probably only use it to record Gamecube footage.  That has to mean it's good enough for my needs, right?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Nancy Drew Email

Nancy Drew fans might be interested in the Youtube email I just got recently, about my blind video playthrough for Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen.

Thanks for uploading your play through, I'm the voice of Dylan Carter but I've never seen the game in action, nor did I get to hear how the lines all came together.

Now... I have.

Cheers and all the best!

- Gabriel
Pretty cool, huh? I should apologize for relentlessly making fun of his character. Well, all the characters, really. They all made the top of my suspect list at one point or another.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trip to Chicago

I should probably write about my trip to Chicago, which I took from April 29 through May 4.  I guess the problem is that I really didn't do anything extremely exciting during the vacation.  In fact, I didn't do much at all, besides relax, read five books and watch the playoffs.

Other people believe that, on a vacation, you always need to be going somewhere and doing something.  I used my vacation for relaxation, which involves not going places and doing things.  The closest I came to actual work was drawing pictures.

I tried to catch up on sleep, but my body was stuck in two time zones.  I woke up in one time zone and fell sleep in the other.  I probably got less sleep than I would have if I had just stayed at home and slept all day.

Three of the days, relatives stopped by.  One day was a large lunch with everyone.  Another day, Aunt Gail, Grandma and I went down to Peoria to see the Cathedral and Archbishop Sheen Museum.  And a third day, the Craddocks came by, and they took me out bowling.  After that, we had pizza and went to the Moose Club, and they commented that the night sounded like something you'd see in a sitcom.

I also got to watch Everybody Loves Raymond for the first time.  The show is pretty funny, although it has a tendency to be kind of slow, seeing as the characters pause after every single line, in order to give the audience a chance to laugh.  When you're laughing along with the show, you don't notice this; when you're not laughing, it makes the show harder to watch.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Arglefumph Blog

I forgot to mention this, but the blog has now gone ad-less. There are no more advertisements on the right-hand side of the screen.

Um...I can't think of anything else to write about, that has to do with this blog.  Maybe it's time for a new slogan?  Can you think of something better than "Ramblings of Randomness and Sometimes Nancy Drew."?

Actually, while you're at it, if you can think of a better blog name that "The Arglefumph Blog", feel free to let me know that, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Animal Love and Human Love

Here's a follow-up to my recent post about love.  There was a question about the kind of love that animals have for humans.

In my experience, dogs are more loving than cats.  My dog Snickers liked me way more than Julie the Cat does.  But then again, Snickers was pretty much controlled by his stomach.  Anyone who had food was his best friend.  He would easily have abandoned me for a bacon-dispensing machine.

I guess that people tend to think animal love is unconditional, but that's not entirely correct.  They have conditions, usually involving whoever gives them food.  It's just that animals have different conditions for loving someone than humans do.  It's more proper to call animal love "simple", instead of "unconditional".

Animal love is emotional, or based on feelings.  Human love is different, in that human love is also rational, or based on thinking.  I know some people say love is all about emotions, but that is wrong.  Love also involves knowledge and thinking.  For example, when you love someone, you naturally want to know more about that person.  In fact, you want to know everything about the person: what their favorite color is, what sorts of things they like, how to best make them laugh, etc.  It's almost like the more you know about a person, the better you can love them.

Animals don't have knowledge, in the same way humans do.  And so, unlike humans, animals don't feel the desire to learn more about the people they love; your cat is never going to care what your favorite color is.  And that's a basic difference between human love and animal love; human love involves knowledge, while animal love doesn't.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

WWA, Chapter 36

Here's Chapter 36 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy solves the entire mystery!

...Kind of.

---

"Did you hear that a book of Edgar Allen Poe stories went missing from the library?" Nancy asked.

"No," Leela said.

"Yeah, me neither," Nancy said, slightly confused as to where she learned a library book was missing.

Suddenly, Nancy Drew was suddenly struck by a burst of inspiration, which contained the solution to the entire mystery!

"That's it!" Nancy said. "Edgar Allen Poe! He's the key to the mystery!"

"What?" Leela asked.

"I just thought up a theory about Edgar Allen Poe," Nancy said. "What if he wrote a book of unpublished stories?"

"...That doesn't make sense," Leela said. "You can't write a book of unpublished stories. If the stories are in a book, that means they're published."

"Well...fine, maybe they're published unpublished stories," Nancy said. "Either way, nobody knew about this book, right? And when he was dying, Mr. Poe gave the book to a nurse at the hospital."

"Why did he do that?" Leela asked.

"Not important," Nancy said. "The important thing is that Nurse Hallowell was so inspired by Mr. Poe that she quit her job and decided to go into education. She was one of the founders of Waverly Academy!"

"I'm confused," Leela said. "Is this story real or something you made up?"

"Not important," Nancy said. "Rita Hallowell knew that the published unpublished book couldn't be found, or someone bad would try to publish it. So she decided to hide the book somewhere inside Waverly Academy."

"There's a book of Edgar Allen Poe stories hidden here at Waverly?" Leela asked.

"But it's well-protected, by a series of puzzles!" Nancy said. "Like...a giant pendulum that hangs from the ceiling and cuts someone in half if they try to read it! And a secret society with a spooky chant that corresponds to the numbers on old blueprints!"

"Becca, maybe you should lie down for a bit," Leela said. "You sound...odd."

"I'm just saying," Nancy said. "What if there's something valuable hidden at Waverly Academy—something like a lost Edgar Allen Poe book—and that's what the Black Cat is after?"

"If that's true, then why is the Black Cat attacking valedictorian candidates?" Leela asked.

"Well, she wants to get rid of the valedictorians, because..." Nancy tried to think of a reason. "They might interrupt her while she's looking for the hidden treasure?"

"The Black Cat is attacking people because they might interrupt her?" Leela asked. "That's a pretty flimsy reason to send someone to the hospital."

Nancy had to admit, Leela had a point.

"Besides, did you forget it's Midterms Study Break?" Leela asked. "People are so busy that they barely have time to leave their rooms! If you wanted to look for something without being interrupted, now would be the perfect time!"

"Well...true..." Nancy said.

"I'm sorry, Becca, but that's the dumbest idea I ever heard," Leela said. "The Black Cat is attacking valedictorians because she wants to be valedictorian, not because she's trying to find a lost book of stories."

"Oh..." Nancy said, sadly. And she was so sure that she had the mystery solved, too. "Guess I'd better go, then."

"Hang in there," Leela said. "And next time, actually think things through before playing detective."

Friday, May 11, 2012

President Obama's Stance on Gay Marriage

The biggest news this week was that President Obama came out in support of gay marriage.  I imagine some people jumped to the wrong conclusion when they saw the words "President Obama Comes Out" and "Gay" in the same headline.

People are wondering if the President's new, pro-gay marriage stance, is going to have an effect on the election in six months.  Maybe it will in some places, but not in my area.  If you drew a Venn Diagram of "people who will vote for President Obama" and "people who support gay marriage", you'd find a huge overlap.  I don't foresee many people here changing their votes away from Obama because of this issue.

To be honest, the state of California rarely matters, when it comes to Presidential elections. Thanks to the time differences, the election usually over by the time our polls close.  In any case, California always votes for the Democratic candidate, who in this case is President Obama.

I've been writing about California's legal debate on gay marriage for a while now.  As I predicted, the latest ruling on the case has been appealed.  The appeal has not yet been processed, even though it's been three months; we'll have to wait and see if the appeal goes to the full Ninth Circuit (of California) or the full Supreme Court (of the United States of America).  So, at this point, it's possible that our state will force a national ruling on this issue within a year or so.  Once the appeal is processed, we'll know for sure.

Either way, it seems to me that when California puts the issue of gay marriage before the US Supreme Court, it doesn't really matter who the President is at the time.  The President can't vote for or against the issue, and he can't veto the court's decision.  So...I don't think the issue of "how the Presidential candidate feels about gay marriage" should have a large effect on the Presidential election, because the Supreme Court will decide the issue, not the President.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Elements of Love

For today's Three Things Thursday, I'm going to talk about three elements of love.  These elements are also found in friendship, because friendship is a type of love.

1. Love is self-giving.  In love or friendship, what you can give is more important than what you can get.  If someone is friends with you because they want to get something from you, it is a false friendship.  For example, if Lily only spends time with me because I have a lifetime supply of free chocolate, she is not really my friend.

2. Love is mutual.  Love that is unrequited or one-sided is not really love.  If I love Lily with all my heart, but she can't stand to be around me, then there is no love between us.

3. Love implies equality.  As the Latin saying goes, friendship either finds, or makes, men equals.  In order for two people to be friends, there must be some equality between them, some common bond of likeness, some shared quality.  Two people with absolutely nothing in common cannot be friends.

Fortunately, it's impossible for two people to have nothing in common.  If they are both people, they must have "being a person" in common.  Our shared humanity is what connects us to every other person in existence.

To put "love implies equality" another way, you can love your dog, and you can love your spouse. But you don't love your dog in the same way you love your spouse.  That's because the difference between humans and dogs is too great; you have more in common with your spouse than you have with your dog.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kappa Mikey

On my flight to Chicago, I watched a lot of episodes of Kappa Mikey.  That was a short-lived Nickelodeon series in 2006; they showed about four episodes, and the rest of the show's run was on the Nicktoons channel that shows Dragonball Z Kai.

Kappa Mikey is about an American guy who gets a job working on a Japanese TV show.  Mikey, the American, is drawn like a Flash cartoon character.  All the Japanese characters are drawn anime-style.  It was always visually interesting to have the main character drawn in a completely different style than everything else around him.


I'm about 90% sure that the only reason I like Kappa Mikey is because I have the same first name as the main character.  Some of my relatives still call me "Mikey", even though I stopped going by that nickname when I was in second grade or so.

The show contains a lot of fast-paced, off-the-wall humor.  And there's a lot of screaming.  And people who know a lot about Japanese anime (i.e. not me) seem to be amused by the various anime parodies.  As for me, I just happen to like it because there are a lot of one-liners.  The show dishes out jokes like these:

Ozu: Lily and Gonard, from now on, you two are dating.
Lily: I can't date Gonard!  He's...Gonard!
Gonard: Yeah, I can't date Gonard!  He's way outta my league!

Guano: You can't expose me as a fraud!  Everyone will know I'm dishonest!  I won't be able to work in anything ever again!  ...Other than journalism or business.

Ozu: If you ever have any questions, please, come to me. I'll always be honest with you.
Mikey: Where do babies come from?
Ozu: ...Internet.

The show isn't perfect, by any means.  I find Yes Man to be much more annoying than humorous.  Guano screams too much.  And after watching five episodes in a row, I found I could no longer keep track of which episode was which, because they're all very similar.  But it was an entertaining-enough way to pass the time during a four-hour flight, and I got to see episodes that I had never seen before.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tomb of the Lost Queen - Walkthrough Update

People are asking me when I'll do a walkthrough for Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen.  I'm not sure yet.

I'm actually thinking of doing two playthroughs of the game.  One will be my walkthrough, where I solve all the puzzles and look smart.  The other will be a recording of the first time I play through the game.  People have requested this; they want to see what it looks like when I play a game without knowing what to do ahead of time.

Spoiler alert: It looks like me being confused.

I recorded three videos of me playing the game for the first time, and I--actually, hold on a second.  Let me explain this in terms of good news / bad news.

Good News: I recorded three half-hour videos!
Bad News: Youtube has inexplicably revoked my ability to make videos longer than fifteen minutes.

So the three videos I made ended up being worthless, and now I'll have to re-record.  I'll try to get a video up...soon?  Maybe?  It'd be nice if I could somehow become super efficient and beat the game within a week, but I don't think I'm that good at videogames.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Airline Stuff

All right, I'm back from my vacation in Chicago (hence, the week-long parade of filler posts).  It was a nice trip, but I'm still a little woozy from the time zone travel.  It felt like I was going to sleep in one time zone and waking up in another, thereby losing four hours of sleep.

I've never been a fan of travelling by airplanes.  In my dream world, airplane travel would be just like train travel.  It takes less than five minutes to board a train, trains don't charge extra money for luggage, and I've never heard of trains purposely selling more tickets than there are seats on the train.

They used to give food and drinks out to people during flights.  Now they just give drinks, with food available if you want to pay extra.  That's kind of a rip-off move, but the joke's on them: normally, people pay money to not eat airline food.  Seriously, it's like a TV dinner without the TV or the dinner.  Either that, or you get a pack of crackers.

Well, the latest rip-off move I encountered is the fact that they no longer show free movies during long flights.  Instead, you have to pay eight bucks to watch a movie on the seats with built-in flatscreen TVs.  They claimed to have a large variety of movies and TV shows, but the "free preview" consisted of a fifteen-minute loop of the Yogi Bear trailer.

I'm not sure if it was on purpose or not, but the plane didn't leave the airport until the free preview was over.  Everyone had to sit in their seats and wait until the fifteen minute preview was over, and then the plane left for takeoff.  Maybe there was a delay and it was just a coincidence, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, I was prepared for the airplane showing movies I don't like, so I brought my iPad and just watched TV on that for a few hours, in between reading books.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

WWA, Chapter 35

Here's Chapter 35 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy plays darts with Leela.

---

Nancy was talking with Leela Yadav. Leela was upset about her roommate, Izzy Romero. If Nancy had to be honest, though, she would say that none of the girls at Waverly seemed to make good roommates. Izzy stole boyfriends, Mel gave out her roommate's cell phone number to strangers, and Corine liked to force her roommate into doing her homework.

Really, the only valedictorian who hadn't yet been disqualified from winning "Roommate of the Year" was Rachel Hubbard, and that was because Rachel was in a single room.

"Anyway, enough about that backstabbing traitor," Leela said. "What's up?"

"I wanted to see if you got that picture of Megan Vargas for me," Nancy said.

"Yeah, I got it right here," Leela said. "But the only way you're getting it is by beating me at Scram."

"Another game, I bet," Nancy said.

"This one is a dart game," Leela said. "One person is the blocker, while other is the scorer. The blocker's role is to take numbers off the board and—"

Nancy zoned out while Leela explained how the game worked. Instead of listening to the sports enthusiast, Nancy tried working out the plot for the latest mystery novel she was writing. It was partially based off a case she solved in Detroit, where the culprit was smuggling diamonds inside the teddy bears at a zoo's gift shop.

"And that's all there is to it!" Leela finished. "Any questions?"

"Yeah!" Nancy said. "Why is the dart board so close to the stairs? If someone was coming down the stairs, they could get hit by a dart, and they'd never see it coming."

"You'd have to have really bad aim to miss the dart board by that much," Leela said dismissively.

"If you say so," Nancy said. "Okay, let's get started!" Nancy grabbed a dart and swung her arm around a few times to build up speed.

"Becca, it's not a softball!" Leela said.

"Bullseye!" Nancy said, letting go of the dart. The dart flew straight upwards and got embedded in the ceiling.

"Whoops," Nancy said. "Let me try again."

Nancy's next throw landed in a plant, and the throw after that somehow went behind her and into the snack shack area.

"On second thought, let's forget about darts," Leela said. "It's too dangerous, anyway. Let me get that picture."

While Leela's back was turned, Nancy threw her last remaining dart at the board and got a bullseye. Nancy smiled to herself. All that dart playing at Castle Malloy had given Nancy good aim, but she knew it'd be easier to pretend she couldn't play darts at all.

Leela got the picture out of her bag, then handed it to Nancy. "Here's the picture of Megan you wanted," Leela said.

"Thanks," Nancy said. "Hmmm. Looks like I'll have to take a picture of a picture."

So Nancy took out her cell phone, and that's just what she did.

Friday, May 4, 2012

WWA, Chapter 34

Here's Chapter 34 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, we have boyfriend drama.

---

"Close call with Paige," Nancy said to herself, breathing a sigh of relief. "But I'm pretty sure she doesn't suspect that Becca Sawyer is really Nancy Drew. That would be—"

*beep beep beep*

Nancy almost screamed, when she realized it was her cell phone. She picked it up and read a text message that was sent to the entire school.

Izzy has date 4 oxbro bash—with Leelas boyfriend! Oops make that ex-BF!

"Uh oh!" Nancy said. "Izzy stole Megan's boyfriend and Leela's boyfriend? Ouch!"

Nancy decided to never introduce Izzy Romero to her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Then, a second text message came in.

New French exchange student Becca S. doesn't seem to know anything about France. Is she an impostor?

"Who is this Becca S. girl?" Nancy wondered. "That's the third text I've gotten about her today."

Nancy decided to go to the rec room, so she could talk to Leela about the boyfriend development.

"It's only fair to warn you that I'm not in a very good mood right now," Leela said, right off the bat.

"Because of the Izzy situation?" Nancy asked.

"How could she do it? Did she think I wouldn't mind if she started dating Jacob?" Leela said. "My gosh, it's all over school!"

"Did you know she was interested in him?" he asked.

"I'm not stupid," Leela said. "I could tell she was on his radar. The way she'd look at him and flirt her brains out with him. I just never figured she'd make a move on him while he was still dating me. I mean, who does that to their own roommate?"

"I know!" Nancy said. "I'd never do that to my roommate! Not that I have to worry about it, because I don't think Corine has a boyfriend for me to steal, but still. Have you talked to Izzy about it yet?"

"No, and I don't think I will," Leela said. "I'm just going to act like nothing's wrong at all. You know, psyche her out a bit. Get her worried about when and how I'm going get back at her. Because, I will definitely get back at her. That's a promise."

And considering that someone here has sent one girl to the hospital and another girl to psychiatric care... Nancy thought. Let's just hope, for Izzy's sake, that Leela isn't the Black Cat.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

WWA, Chapter 33

Here's Chapter 33 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy spends some time with Paige Griffen, the unseen school monitor.

---

"Okay, Nancy, don't panic," Nancy said to herself. "You've deciphered clues left in a crazy person's journal before. You can do it again."

There were about six things in Rita Hallowell's journal which could be clues for puzzles. Then again, they could also be the incoherent ramblings of a madwoman. After all, writing about the kind of music her cat liked? How could that be a clue to a puzzle?

Nancy sighed. At least now she knew what she was doing: collecting golden starburst tokens for...well, for something, at any rate. And Step #1 was getting the starburst token that the squirrel had stolen earlier.

Nancy went outside to the big oak tree. The squirrel was up in the branches, playing around.

"SQUIRREL!" Nancy yelled. "GIVE ME BACK MY GOLDEN TOKEN!"

Someone tapped Nancy on the back. "Becca Sawyer, if you keep yelling at animals, I will give you demerits."

It was Paige Griffen, the building monitor.

"But it took something from me!" Nancy said. "I need to get it back!"

"Yes, I know," Paige sighed. "Casper stole one of my term papers once. I couldn't get it back, so I ended up flunking the class and falling out of the valedictorian race and it's all that squirrel's fault! That's when I decided to take out my rage on all the valedictorian candidates by giving them as many demerits as possible!"

So that's why Paige is always so mean, Nancy realized.

"Unfortunately, the school says we can't touch Casper because he's a rare albino squirrel," Paige said. "And we can't climb the tree, because it's over a hundred years old, or something like that. So that beast gets to do whatever it wants, and it's not fair!"

"YOU HEAR THAT, CASPER?" Paige yelled. "I GIVE YOU TEN DEMERITS FOR BEING UNFAIR!"

"Hey, calm down," Nancy said, putting a comforting arm on Paige's shoulder. "Like my friend George Fayne always says, if you think hard enough, you can come up with a solution to any problem."

"You know George Fayne?" Paige asked.

"Yeah, we've been best friends since we were kids," Nancy said. "How do you know her?"

"We're distant relatives," Paige said. "But...you've known her ever since you were a kid? How is that possible? The file I received about you said that you've been in France for the past ten years."

Nancy was happy to finally learn why Paige looked so much like George, but Nancy was unhappy that, once again, someone was close to figuring out that she was secretly a detective. It was time to avert suspicion with another one of Becca Sawyer's sassy comebacks!

"France? More like dance," Nancy said. "Because...we met at a dance academy?"

"...Right," Paige said.

"It was...ballet?" Nancy said, her ego deflating. "Because...ballet is a French dance? Ballet, more like okay, because dancing ballet is just fine and not suspicious at all?"

"You're acting oddly," Paige said.

"Well, that's not because I'm secretly an undercover detective who has only been to France once in her life!" Nancy said. "Because I'm totally a French exchange student! But in any case, I gotta go now! Bonjour!"

Nancy waved at Paige, then ran back inside the school.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WWA, Chapter 32

Here's Chapter 32 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy solves the Victorian Dining puzzle.

---

Nancy was now ready and prepared to solve the Victorian dining puzzle, no matter how long it took. She had a menu with ten different items on it. According to the placard in the display case, it was the menu used in a traditional Waverly Academy nine course celebratory dinner.

"Crackers? Baloney sandwiches? Consommé?" Nancy asked. "Wow, this is one fancy dinner."

Nancy also had the Victorian Dining book, which listed the eight types of knives, eight types of spoons and eight types of forks. Each piece of silverware had a specific use. For example, the fork with two tines was a cheese fork, and it was used for eating cheese.

I guess I need to figure out which utensil goes with which food, Nancy decided. Then use them in the right order?

After a lot of going back and forth between the menu and the book, Nancy finally ended up with a list of which utensils to use. The display case had all the different types of knives, spoons and forks, so she pulled the pressed correct ten utensils in the right order.

The amazing 1871 technology connected to the display case registered the fact that someone pressed the proper ten items in the correct order. The corner of the case slowly pushed out, revealing a golden starburst token, with a picture of an ape on it.

"Yes!" Nancy said. "I did it! I got...whatever this thing is!"

It's a good thing nobody changed the display case in the past 138 years, Nancy thought to herself. Just think, if only one person accidentally switched two of the forks, it would be impossible to solve this puzzle.

And it definitely was a puzzle. Rita Hallowell's journal talked about eating a celebratory dinner with perfect etiquette. She must have created this device, so that whoever found the journal could get the starburst token.

Nancy scanned the journal again. The clue about the celebratory dinner was on the third page, along with a clue about a Dupin gate and Other Poe Stories. The second page was dedicated to a crow and the reconstruction of the United States. The first page talked about lamps with musical narration for pianos.

Nancy scratched her head. She had no idea what those clues referred to, if they were even clues at all. To be honest, she hadn't even figured out the Victorian dining puzzle on her own. She just let the Junior Detective Task List tell her what to do.

Speaking of which, let's see what else I have to do now... Nancy thought, opening her notebook. It was a rather short list.

The To-Do List

  • Work at the Snack Shack
  • Get the picture of Megan Vargas from Leela
  • Get the gold token from the pesky white squirrel

Uh oh, Nancy realized. None of those things have to do with the clues in Rita Hallowell's journal. That means...I have to figure out the clues myself!

"NOOOOOOOOO!" Nancy screamed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WWA, Chapter 31

Here's Chapter 31 of Weirdness at Waverly Academy. Today, Nancy talks with Leela.

---

"So, Izzy's your roommate," Nancy said. "How's that working out for you?"

"It's fine," Leela said. "She's not the person I would have picked as my roommate, but since all the valedictorian candidates live in the same hall, that's how the room assignments worked out."

"Who would you have picked?" Nancy asked.

"One of my friends from the soccer team," Leela said. "Izzy doesn't like sports. I have no idea why."

She probably likes sports just fine; she just doesn't like them as much as you do, Miss "Let's Play Air Hockey", Nancy thought.

"Would you say you know her pretty well?" Nancy asked.

"I know enough," Leela said. "I mean, she's smart, she's pretty, she's popular, she's always got a boyfriend. That's Izzy. What more is there to know?"

"Well, according to Megan Vargas—hey, wait," Nancy said. "I need to get a picture of Megan Vargas. I was told that maybe you had one?"

"Sure, I have it in my room," Leela said. "And I'll give it to you if you beat me at a game of air hockey."

Nancy dropped her notebook. "Seriously?" she asked. "You want to play air hockey again? It's not even that fun!"

"You'll enjoy it more than you think," Leela said. "Come on, I'll even give you the first shot!"

Nancy sighed. On the first shot, she wound up her arm and hit the puck as hard as she could. It went flying all the way across the room and into the supply closet.

"Darn!" Nancy said. She ran into the supply closet to get the puck, only she tripped on it and smashed into the back shelf. Packs of chips went flying everywhere, juice spilled all over the floor, and a key somehow got stuck on Nancy's earring.

"OWWWW!" Nancy said.

"Becca, are you okay?" Leela asked. "I forgot to mention, there's a trick to the closet. You can't see anything inside, unless the light switch is on."

"It's a little late for that!" Nancy said angrily. "Besides, I don't see any light switch here!"

"The switch is on the outside," Leela said. "That's how the Black Cat was able to lock Danielle Hayes in the closet, then turn off the lights."

"Ugh," Nancy said, stumbling out of the Safety Hazard Supply Closet. You'd think the school would have at least done something to warn people about the closet, after what happened to Danielle.

"Sorry about that," Leela said. "Did you get the puck?"

"Yes, I got the puck," Nancy said, removing the key from her ear and putting it in her pocket. "This time, you take the first shot."

Two minutes later, Leela won the game of air hockey, scoring seven goals in ten shots. Nancy didn't have any shots at all.

"I win!" Leela said. "You have to beat me in order to get the photo, though. Try again!"

"No, I won!" Nancy said. "After I got the puck, we switched mallets. That means you just scored on yourself seven times!"

"That's not how it—" Leela began to say.

"And now you'll get that picture of Megan for me!" Nancy said. "Gee, thanks! You're a friend!"

Nancy ran away before Leela could object.