Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Otherworld: Spring of Shadows

Today, I've got a Halloween video for everyone to enjoy! It's a short video of me playing a horror game.



I had no idea that it was a horror game. The other games I played by that company were all really bright and cheery games, so this caught me totally by surprise.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

World Series

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series!  They're the local baseball team, so everyone is super excited.  They managed to defeat Detroit without losing a single game, too, which is very impressive!

As I mentioned last year, the Giants didn't even make the playoffs.  In fact, here's a chart of their past five seasons:

2007-08: Didn't make the playoffs at all.
2008-09: Didn't make the playoffs at all.
2009-10: World Series Champions!
2010-11: Didn't make the playoffs at all.
2011-12: World Series Champions!

So apparently, whenever the Giants are in the playoffs, they become the World Series Champions.  Good to know!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Road Trip (Part 15): Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri

After going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, I drove south through Wisconsin. The weather turned horrible, and it got very stormy.  While I drove, two towns in Wisconsin caught my eye.  Cheboygan got my attention because that's a funny name.  Milwaukee got my attention because it seemed like a great place.  It seemed about five times better than Green Bay was; if I ever visit Wisconsin again, that's where I'd like to go.

South of Wisconsin is Illinois.  I tried my best to avoid Chicago and its horrible toll roads of doom. They will charge you two dollars to get on the main freeway, and then charge you two dollars to get off the same freeway. That's bogus, Chicago. I had a minor misadventure trying to get Chicago pizza, which was a total failure. As a result, I was hungry AND eight miles out of the way, in Deerfield. It took a half hour for me to get back on track, what with the bad traffic and the toll road avoidance.

So...yeah, it was not a nice day, due to stormy weather, bad tolls, traffic and getting lost.  I managed to find my relatives, however, and we had a nice dinner together.  The next day was slightly better, although it was still quite stormy.

I drove to St. Louis that day, and about the only exciting thing I did was visit an antique market where I purchased four Nancy Drew books.  I also visited the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, in Saint Charles.  The shrine was a huge disappointment; it's basically a small church with her tomb inside. It is completely barren; the clock on the wall is one of the nicest things there.  I did manage to peek into the locked basement area, and I caught a glimpse of statues and an official Vatican declaration.  Why don't they have those interesting things in the shrine itself?

The shrine is connected to Sacred Heart Academy, which St. Rose Duchesne worked at.  It is still a fully functioning school.  The school had much better things to see than the shrine did.  Funny how that worked out.

I spent the night at the Crowne Plaza hotel, which was way too classy for my tastes.  So instead, I wandered around for a few blocks, until I found a sports bar.  That night, the Saint Louis Cardinals (baseball team) were competing in the Wild Card game.  That's a game where the two best teams who didn't make the playoffs compete against each other, and the winner gets into the playoffs.  The Cardinals won, and of course, it was a lot of fun celebrating the big playoff game in St. Louis with actual St. Louis fans.

Tourist warning: Do not get the St. Louis Blues Bleu Cheeseburger, which is tiny, expensive and not tasty.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Road Trip (Part 14): Our Lady of Good Help

I went to Wisconsin, so I could visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, located in an unincorporated town called Champion.  It's about fifteen minutes northeast of Green Bay.  The shrine is built where the Virgin Mary appeared three times to a Belgian woman named Adele Brise.  Adele later became Sister Adele and dedicated her life to teaching children, as the Blessed Mother requested.

This happened in 1859.  At that time, they only had one priest to cover a large area in Wisconsin. There was no way that he could take care of everything by himself. As a result, a lot of the Catholics ended up doing non-Catholic things, like supporting slavery or worshipping saints, simply because they weren't educated in true church teachings.  Therefore, Sister Adele's mission was both noble and necessary.

The problem of people not knowing church teachings happens a lot today, too, even though we have the Internet, and people can easily get information. For example, you'll sometimes hear Catholics complain that they don't know what the word "consubstantial" means; the odd part is that they rarely go through the trouble of looking up the definition.

Even though the apparitions took place in 1859, the local Bishop did not give official approval to it until 2010.  You can't blame the Bishop for taking a long time with the process.  There have been at least three Marian apparitions in the United States which were proven to be hoaxes upon official investigation.  Here is what the Bishop said in his offical document: "I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Road Trip (Part 12): Minneaoplis

Minneapolis has bad traffic.  Seattle's problem was that it had four or five highways converge into a huge mess of crazy.  Minneapolis has the same problem, with a twist.  They purposely tried to get all the highways to intersect and merge.  That way, you won't have a long wait before you reach the highway you want, no matter where you're going or where you start from.

It's a good plan, actually.  The downside is that the roads have more forks than a silverware convention.  It's helpful when my GPS tells me to "take the left fork", but when there are three froks in quick succession, my GPS can't react quickly enough, and I end up taking the wrong one.

The city was also undergoing large construction work that day, so many streets and highways were closed.  I ended up having to take a half-hour detour through the University of Minnesota.  It's a nice-looking campus, but it takes way too long to go through.

In Minneapolis, I drove past all three stadiums.  The baseball one is in a bad part of town that I would never want to visit at night.  The football one seems like it's in an inconvenient location; it feels sort of squeezed into a place near the highway.  The hockey stadium seemed like it had the best location, with plenty of open parking lots and everything.

I think the saving grace in Minneapolis was a great radio station I found called Jack FM.  The gimmick behind the station is that they don't have any DJ banter.  Ever.  I really liked it, and I'm going to start listening to it online.

Once I finally left the traffic disaster of the Twin Cities, I went through Wisconsin. I got some cheese at a local dairy on the way to Green Bay, but I left it alone too long and it spoiled.  Now I don't know what their famous cheese tastes like.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Road Trip (Part 13): Twin Cities Cathedrals

While I was in the twin cities, I visited the two big churches (one per city).  Minneapolis has St. Mary's Basilica, which is the first Basilica in the United States of America.  Unfortunately, it seems to have fallen into disrepair, from lack of use.  For example, the confessionals are used as storage closets, not confessionals.  It kind of depressed me.  The Basilica would be a beautiful place if everything was in use and up-to-date, but I guess they have more tourists than parishioners.

The only part of the Basilica that seemed to be thriving was the basement area, where they have all the paintings and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  One of the women there thought I was a homeless man who came seeking help.  We chatted for a bit about St. Vincent de Paul; the group they have in Minnesota is doing much better than the group we have in Palo Alto (who got evicted from their building a few years back).

This was my favorite of the ten paintings in the St. Vincent de Paul area.

The doors were the most recently refurbished things in the Basilica.

The good news is that the Cathedral of Saint Paul in St. Paul was much nicer (and it has free parking!).  It's located in a much better area, too; it's close to the State Capitol Building.  The only downside to the Cathedral is that the smaller saints chapels were badly lit; I arrived during the week they were changing the light fixtures there.

A highlight of the Cathedral would be the display of the relics of Saint John Vianney, including his clerical collars.  The other highlight would be the four absolutely gigantic statues of the evangelists, one in each corner.

Saint Mark

A copy of Michelangelo's Pieta, but not done in marble

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device (Blind Playthrough)

I've started my blind video walkthrough for Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device! My co-host for the commentary is Phoenix, who worked as a marketing intern for Her Interactive this past summer.


















Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Road Trip (Part 11): Mall of America

Before arriving at Minneapolis, I stopped at the Mall of America, which is about twenty minutes south of the main city.


I almost missed out on visiting the Mall of America, because I had it confused with the National Mall in Washington DC.  It turns out that the National Mall is not a mall at all.  False advertising!

If you haven't heard of it before, the Mall of America is a gigantic, four-story mall.  It's the largest one in the country, with over 520 stores and 50 restaurants.  Basically, they have a store for everything there, and I had fun just wandering around, and seeing all the random cool stores, like the hat store, or the men's shaving store, or the store for crocs.

 
Is there a New Jersey shaving store, I wonder?

The Mall of America also contains a Nickelodeon theme park, and an aquarium, and a few other attractions.  I think I arrived a bit too late to enjoy the park, because it seemed like they were closing down.  But even though I just looked at the park instead of going on rides, I knew I would have loved it if I had visited as a kid.


The stores connected to the park only had merchandise from three shows: Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I was hoping to pick up DVDs of old 90's Nick shows there, but no luck.  Nickelodeon Universe, how could you let me down like that?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recording Plans

Here are my Youtube plans, for the future.  I tried making Youtube plans for the past, but they didn't work out.

  1. Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device.  Phoenix and I will continue our blind playthrough of this game.  Since we both have busy lives, and since we're on opposite sides of the country, we don't have a set schedule for this.  Basically, we'll record whenever we can.
  2. Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch.  I have about 19 videos in this walkthrough, which have not yet been posted to Youtube.  So I'll be throwing those online every now and then, just so people have something to watch while they're waiting for the next Deadly Device video.
  3. The Miles Edgeworth Game.  There's a small, but really dedicated group of viewers who love this game.  Once the two above Nancy Drew walkthroughs are done, I'll post Case #4 of this game online.
  4. Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device.  While the Edgeworth videos are going online, I'll start work on my real walkthrough for the game.  So once Edgeworth is done, I should have the official Deadly Device walkthrough ready, and I'll post that.
That should last me until December, at the least.  So that's what you can expect in the future!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nightmare Before Christmas

I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time yesterday.  I never saw it before, because Mom forced her kids to dislike all Tim Burton movies.

It's an okay movie, but it's kind of short.  I saw it on TV, so I thought that maybe they cut things out due to time.  For instance, it feels like they cut out all the backstory for the girl character.  She was interesting enough, but I kept wondering why she was in the film.  She doesn't affect the plot, and she only talks to Jack twice.  The first time, he's not really paying attention.  The second time, they're soulmates.  That was a bit much for me.

Jack was a fun character, although there were definitely moments when he was ridiculously scary.  I had to remind myself that he's the good guy in the movie, even though he performs villainous acts like kidnapping Santa Claus.  (Why did he immediately resort to kidnapping Santa, again?)  I think Jack scared me more than the villain of the movie did.

The mix of stop-motion animation and traditional animation was great at some parts.  The singing was generally good, although I think there was a tad too much of it.

All in all, I think I'd give it a 6 out of 10.  The film toed the border between "fun" and "creepy", but it fell too close on the creepy side for my tastes.  I honestly think it would be a better movie if it was longer; maybe that means I did see the shortened TV version, after all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Antique Shopping

Today's blog post can be found at Yardsaling to Adventure!  It's about an antique mall I visited, during my long road trip.  As you might expect, I found weird stuff.

An antique mall is basically twenty or so antique stores combined into one, just like how a flea market is basically twenty or so yard sales combined into one.  You can generally count on a good variety of things at an antique mall.  You can also count on a few displays which are just plain weird, like a booth that has nothing but pink cat socks.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nancy Drew Background Pictures

If you've played the Nancy Drew iPad game, you'll know they have pictures in the background of the pages.  I thought that was a cool effect, and it's certainly more interesting than text on a plain white background.  My only question was "Where did they get the pictures from?".

Well, recently, I picked up an old Nancy Drew book and found this on the inside covers:


Those are the same pictures that are used in Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch.  So that's where the pictures come from! They were on the inside covers of some older Nancy Drew books.  It's pretty neat how they reused the book pictures in a game.

I believe some of these pictures were also used as book covers.  See the one in the upper/right corner of the left page?  A colorized version of that picture was the most well-known cover for Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock.  Which version of the picture came first, I wonder...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Road Trip (Part 10): South Dakota

Since I stayed an extra hour in Pierre, South Dakota, I had to change my route that day.  Instead of heading northeast to Minneapolis, I went east and then north.  Unexpectedly, this took me through Amish territory.  It wasn't very exciting; all I saw were grain fields.  I didn't even know it was Amish territory until I saw the signs and things on the way out.

My new route also took me past the Fatima Family Shrine, a place that I didn't know existed.  It's an amazing shrine, considering that it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  The local priest went all the way to Fatima (Portugal) to get the blessing from their Bishop to create the shrine.

My favorite part of the area was the large statue for the 20th century martyrs.  It had a list of when and where Catholicism was illegal (and usually punished by the death penalty) during the 1900's.  Even if you don't count the Nazis and the Communists, who killed more Catholics than anyone else in that century, the list is very long.

The people on top of the statue include Blessed Pope John Paul II, Blessed Miguel Pro, Saint Edith Stein and Saint Maximilian Kolbe

The largest and best Virgin of Guadalupe statue I've ever seen

President Reagan gave his approval to the shrine.

In the nearby Carmelite Monastery, someone took creative liberties with the stations of the cross and replaced Saint John (on right) with Pope John Paul II.

Most Catholic churches have a crucifix on the wall near the altar (as opposed to other denominations, who only have a bare cross). It is rare to see one with such graphic detail.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Road Trip (Part 9): Pierre

You know what I like about my road trip?  For the first time ever, I get to be in charge of what happens.  Man, this sure is a change from the other long trips I've been on.  I can still remember the road trip my family did when I was younger.  Dad was intent on driving 10+ hours a day, and he refused to take any breaks at all.  This included bathroom breaks, which basically made it the worst road trip ever.

But now I can take breaks whenever I want, and I can take detours.  And that's most of what happened on the next day of my trip.  Mount Rushmore was exhausting, and I needed an "off" day to relax and recuperate.  So instead of leaving Pierre early in the morning, as originally planned, I gave myself an hour-long break, because I felt like it.

What did I do?  I went to see the State Capitol Building and the surrounding area, which has a nice lake and memorials for all the veterans of South Dakota.  They also had memorials for the police, fire fighters and emergency meidcal team members who died in the line of duty.

Part of the veterans memorial

The capitol building

They also had the Fighting Stallions Memorial, made in honor of eight people (including the governor) who died in a plane crash. I don't mean to criticize, but when I look at the mouths of the two stallions, I get the sense they're doing something other than fighting.


Nearby was the governor's mansion, which I thought was really exciting, because you could tell a real person lived there.  The owner had a dirty car, a basketball hoop and everything, just like a normal person.  In my home state of California, it is the complete opposite.  The governors have all refused to live in the Governor's Mansion since 1967, and now it's just a stuffy museum.  I'm glad to see at least one governor in the United States lives in the mansion his taxpayers paid for.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nancy Drew Stuff

Let's take a break from the recap of my fifteen-state road trip, and let's confirm some important information.

Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device is being released today, around noon.  At least, this is true for people like me who pre-ordered the digital version of the game.  If you're one of the people who get their games from Target or Wal-Mart or somewhere, you'll have to wait another week.

Right now, my plans are to play the game on Thursday night.  So...maybe I can get the videos edited and uploaded on Friday.  We'll see; I don't know for sure if the Thursday night recording will work.

In other Nancy Drew news, the Nancy Drew newsletter for October was recently released. The video interview with me is in the newsletter!  The newsletter also has info about the Nancy Drew pumpkin carving contest and the contest surrounding the pre-orders for Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Road Trip (Part 8): Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore was the first tourist place I visited which attracted a lot of foreigners. There were German, Japanese and British people there, and probably a few others whose languages I couldn't decipher.  My iPad doesn't do a good job when it comes to taking pictures of far off objects, so I used a real camera at this place.



Mount Rushmore was just as fantastic as I thought it would be, and there was even a nice walking trail for people to use.  I like hikes in the woods, so this was right up my alley, and it gave me a chance to see Rushmore for different angles.

My only real complaint? The place is run by a non-profit organization, that charges an $11 entry fee.  What a rip-off.  National parks should be free; that's why the US Government's National Parks and Recreation Services subsidizes them.  I mean, I paid taxes last year.  That means I helped pay for Mount Rushmore.  I shouldn't have to pay anything extra to a "non-profit" that must make thousands of dollars per day.

You can definitely expect to spend money in Mount Rushmore.  It was built specifically to bring in tourists, which makes me a little sad.  I thought it was built for patriotic reasons, not capitalistic reasons.  So I was a bit surprised to learn that Rushmore and all the surrounding area is a blatant tourist trap.

That said, I would like to go back again and spend an entire day, seeing all the crazy tourist attractions, such as the Presdiential Wax Museum, or the Christmas Village featuring a mastodon.  The dinosaur park looked pretty awesome, too.

Actually, about a half-hour east of Rapid City, there's a town called Wall, with an amazing drugstore. Wall Drug is a tourist's dream stop. It's huge, it's got beautiful artwork, and I really wish I could have spent an hour to explore it fully. I only had time to get a buffalo burger, which is a hamburger made from buffalo meat. It was too dry to be very good, but I didn't want to put mayo on it, because then I wouldn't be able to taste the buffalo.

I mention Wall Drug in conjunction with the cool Rushmore-area dinosaur park, because the store has THIS:



Best drug store I've ever been to, hands down. That was one of about twenty attractions; others included a giant jackalope and an animatronic band.  The life-size animatronic T-Rex wins, though.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Road Trip (Part 7): Bear Country

The next day on my trip was Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. It was a good day, but also a bad one, because I lost two hours of time. Hour #1 was lost, because I had car trouble and had to get a tire fixed. Hour #2 was lost, when I crossed time zones. Why isn't all of South Dakota in the same time zone?

I guess you could say I also lost a third hour, getting to Mount Rushmore. You can only reach it from one direction, and it's about a half hour south of the main highway. So going to Mount Rushmore and then back to the main highway was another hour of lost time that wasn't on my itinerary.

Not too far from Mount Rushmore is a free, drive-through zoo area called Bear Country.  I have 47 pictures from this place, and here are five of them.

Don't you hate it when you're driving, and a bear blocks the road ahead of you?

That bear is dangerous close to my car.

Objects in mirror are greater than they appear.

Cubs

A bear

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Trip (Part 6): Montana

Montana grew on me, the second day that I was there.  True, I spent most of my time driving through it, but the scenery is rather nice.  It switches from grand forests to rocky mountains to yellow plains, and there were a lot of places I wanted to stop the car and take pictures.

There were two rather cool things I saw while driving. The first was a group of feral horses, which inspired me to buy a Montana horse shirt.  The shirt shows the feral horses, galloping majestically across the plains.  The horses I saw, though, were just drinking water from a stream.  Not very exciting, but hey, at least I saw them!  All the other horses I saw--and there were a lot of them--were your typical domesticated horses, in pens.

The second cool thing I saw while driving was a super-long train with over 100 (empty) coal cars.  The train engineer blew his whistle when I bypassed him.  Having a train blow its whistle at you is fun.

My stop in Montana was Billings, which was completely dead when I arrived.  Apparently, everyone in town takes Sunday afternoons off; 90% of the places were closed.  I could take pictures of government buildings and htings like that, but I couldn't actually go inside them.

Billings does not discriminate against people, when it comes to giving haircuts.

I had lunch at a place called Hooligan's, or something like that.  It's a typical Irish-style pub, mixed with a sports bar.  I ordered their signature burger, which was utterly fantastic.  It's too bad that I wasn't also able to try their special Napoleon Dynamite meal:


Unexpectedly, the waitress and I made a real connection with each other.  It's been years since I felt a romantic spark with a complete stranger like that.  If I wasn't from another city, I probably would have asked for her name and number.  Well, okay, maybe I wouldn't have been so straightforward, but I would have done something.  But as it was, I just let her know that I was leaving town in a half hour, and she seemed disappointed to learn we'd never see each other again.

Make of that what you will.  By now, I've already forgotten what she looks like.  Anyway, after my meal, I drove east out of Montana.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Road Trip (Part 5): Washington and Montana

After my fun day in Washington, the next day was driving to Montana, with one scheduled stop at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, the cathedral for the Diocese of Spokane, I believe.  The best parts of the Cathedral are the ornate doors and the stained-glass windows.  The sanctuary is rather bare, and the layout was your typical "Mary on the left side, Joseph on the right, stations of the cross along the walls" setup you see in a lot of churches.

Each of the twelve door plates are about the size of an iPad.  They are individually crafted.

There's nothing to say about the drive out of Washington, except to note that the fog was extremely bad in the mountain areas.  I didn't make any stops in Idaho, as I went through the top part of the state.  In fact, the only stop I made, besides for the Cathedral, was one of the scenic viewpoints.  I stopped there because taking photos seemed like a good excuse to stop driving for a while.

The switch to another time zone caught me completely off guard, and it almost made me late for mass that night at St. Francis Xavier's parish, in Missoula, MT.  This church was a Jesuit artist's dream; over the course of a few years there, he painted all sorts of humongous paintings.  Some were copies of famous paintings, not originals, but that hardly matters.  It's a beautiful church, and it's rare to see a place which is completely plastered with such large and beautiful paintings.


This is about a third of the ceiling.

And here is the top 2/3rds of the right wall, to give you a sense of what the walls are like.

After mass, all I did was find my hotel and go to sleep instantly.  A long day of driving and time zone travel will do that to you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Road Trip (Part 4): Her Interactive

On the morning of my day in Washington, I visited a company in Bellevue.


Visiting the company that makes Nancy Drew games was, of course, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Megan Gaiser, one of the CEOs, personally led the tour.  Someday, I would love to have a massive interview with her, in which I ask her a ton of questions about the series.  There are so many interesting things I wouldn't mind learning more about, such as Hannah Gruen's role in the third game, why the culprit in the fourth game quotes a Madonna song, and the Poppy Dada sequence in the sixth game.  I think I could easily come up with three to four questions per game.

But I was overwhelmed during my trip there, and I couldn't think of any questions.  Well, not true.  The only question I could think of was "Why is Creature of Kapu Cave so much shorter than the other games?".  I didn't ask that question, though, because I thought it sounded kind of mean.

When I saw their awards room, I did ask if all the games in the series won a golden award.  They have, except for Secret of Shadow Ranch, which was disqualified for having a technical glitch.  Megan was instantly impressed (and maybe a bit weirded out) that I was instantly able to tell her what the game-breaking glitch is.  It's a glitch where the game gets stuck on Day 2 and never moves on to Day 3, making it impossible to end the game.

Megan took me around the offices, and she introduced me to everyone.  They all seem like really good people, and Jared in particular seemed rather funny.  It surprised me to learn that some of them really enjoyed my blind playthrough of Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen.  They requested a blind playthrough for Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device when it comes out, so that means I have to do it now.

After the tour, I did an interview with Little Jackalope, in their conference room.  They have a sizeable collection of Nancy Drew books.  I must confess, I haven't see the entire video yet, because I've been too busy, on my road trip.  Plus, I was there when the interview took place, so I kind of know what happened.



After the interview, I joined the staff in an Egyptian-themed board game. I'm not so good at board games, and I lost in the third round when one of the artists called my bluff.  Oh well; it was still a fun trip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Road Trip (Part 3): Seattle

Seattle is a pretty exciting city.  I would like to go back again someday and check out things I missed, like the cool-looking aquarium, the tour of Underground Seattle and the original Starbucks (which I drove past).

The weather in Seattle isn't very good.  I knew that ahead of time, so I brought an umbrella.  It started out with horrible rain, then it went to completely sunny, and then it went to not-so-good.  I prefer places where the weather stays the same all day, so I don't have to do any major wardrobe changes.

The highway system in Seattle is a mess.  If I didn't have GPS, I would be completely lost.  Even with the GPS, I got confused by the thirty-or-so intersecting turnoffs for the four highways.  The part which completely fooled me was on-ramp to Highway 5.  I thought I would have to take a left, which is the simplest and shortest way.  Turns out, that takes you to a different place entirely.  Instead, to go left onto 5, you need to take three rights.

The place I went to was the Space Needle area.  The Space Needle is amazing, and they take you up to the top part, which is 502 feet off the ground.  The elevator ride to the top is pretty much the scariest thing ever, when you watch the ground get farther and farther away at such a fast speed.  Here are some pictures:

You get a free souvenir photo if you buy an elevator ticket.
 
The view from the top.

A flying pig statuette.

The area around the Space Needle is pretty good, too, although I didn't pay to go inside any of the museums.  I was still able to wander around for forty minutes, finding cool things to take pictures of, like that flying pig statuette, the monorail and two life-size dinosaur statues.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Road Trip (Part 2): East Portland

So, Downtown Portland wasn't exactly the best tourist place ever.  Once I made the wrong turn onto the bridge and headed to the ouskirts of Portland, though, everything changed.  For one thing, everyone's hair color changed.  The people downtown were mostly Goths with jet-black hair; the people outside of town all had auburn hair.

I'm not joking.  I saw at least ten different people, with the same reddish-brown hair color.  Maybe Portland segregates its citizens by hair color?

East Portland was pretty fantastic, with a couple of interesting places that caught my tourist eye and demanded that I stop to visit them.  I'm thinking of the rocking antique store, the life-size George Washington statue and the restaurant named after an obscure literary reference.

My first planned stop was the National Shrine of Our Sorrowful Mother, also called "The Grotto".  It's a Catholic pilgrimage site, run by the Servites.  The two highlights would be a copy of Michelangelo's Pieta, and an extremely lifelike statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ.  Someday, if I have enough free time, I'll try to duplicate one of the nice pictures I saw here.



My next planned stop was Grant Park, which was dedicated to author Beverly Cleary a while back.  I turned my car into one of the roads, and started driving through the park.  It took me a while to realize that I was driving on one of the sidewalks, which is completely illegal.

The park exhibit is closed for the winter, it seems, but the statues were still there, along with some faded plaques.  Here's Ramona Quimby, for your enjoyment.


After that, I drove from Portland to the Seattle area.  The traffic is really bad by the state line and the Tacoma Dome.  By "really bad", I mean it's "Oh, now I'm arriving forty minutes late" bad.  I hope I don't run into any more traffic, during my trip.

[Spoiler alert: I do run into more traffic!]

Monday, October 8, 2012

Road Trip (Part 1): Portland

All right, time for me to talk about my road trip through America.  Day #1 (because the first two days don't count) was Oregon to Washington, with a stop at Portland.

The drive to Portland was rather scenic, with nice rivers and forests.  The downside to the scenic forest route is that there are absolutely no towns along the way.  There were a couple of half-dead towns with most of the buildings for sale.  It struck me as kind of weird, to see which companies went out of business, and which ones didn't.  For example, half the gas stations and three-fourths of the diners were closed, but every single Insurance Salesman Company was still in business.

I wanted to see four or so places in Portland.  It turns out that Downtown Portland is not a good place to drive.  Most of the streets are one-way streets, and the pedestrians treat streetlights as mere suggestions.  Retrospect tells me that I should have gone to a parking garage and walked around, like everyone else in the city was doing.

Speaking of everyone in Downtown Portland, 80% of the people I saw were Goths. Not sure why.  Maybe they were having a festival that day.

Anyway, my first destination in Portland was Powell's Bookstore.  Click for the full version of the picture.



Powell's is a gigantic three-story bookstore, which takes up an entire city block.  As it turns out, the bookstore has its own parking lot, so all the time I spent looking for street parking was a complete waste.  I got a decent Latin dictionary, and two out-of-print puzzle books.  It's nearly impossible to find old puzzle books, which don't have the answers written in already.

There were two more sections I wanted to look at, but like I said, the bookstore was gigantic.  I didn't have enough time to find, then go through them, before my parking meter three blocks away expired.

Destination #2 in Portland was the world's smallest city park, which is about the size of a pillow.  It is hidden by an impossible-to-find turnoff, next to the bridge.  When I missed the turnoff, I decided not to turn around and see the park, because I'd probably have to pay for street parking again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Captain Underpants #9

When I was at the Mall of America, I noticed they had signed copies of the ninth Captain Underpants book.  I had no idea this book was finally written, so I purchased it and read it.  Did I like it?

Well, before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story.

Book #8 was a solid book, in which our heroes visited the Evil Universe, where everything is the opposite of what it normally is.  They faced off and defeated their evil twins.  The first part of the book was good, but the second half was kind of...off.

It turns out there was a behind-the-scenes power struggle, or something along those lines.  The author was forced to completely redo the second half of the book, which was deemed "too violent".  The author had said two character would die in this book; all deaths were completely written out.  That explains why the second half of the book kind of feels different from the first half; they were done separately.

The rewrite of the eighth book caused it to be delayed a lot.  Instead of being released a year after Book 7, it was released three years later.  And now, six years later, we have Book 9.  Again, I have to think this book is completely different from what the author originally intended.  That's almost inevitably the case, given that the title was first announced over ten years ago.

Captain Underpants #9 starts out rather interesting.  It makes you think that the book is going to be a wacky time-travel adventure, starring Captain Underpants and the villain from Book #4. But then the story slows down a bit, before making a complete U-turn.  The titular plotline gets tossed to the side, only to be picked up again at the very end to create a cliffhanger.

The majority of the book is a prequel story that takes place four years before the first book.  It's 150 pages about how George and Harold first met, then defeated some bullies.  It's a good story, and the illustrations are particularly well-done.  But it just feels kind of off to me.  Fun story?  Yes.  A Captain Underpants story?  No.  The Captain only appears for a half-chapter, tops, in this book.  Maybe they should have released the prequel story as a separate book, rather than part of the main series.  Or maybe they could have done a better job of framing it as "this book is just a prequel story, not part of the current plotline".

Friday, October 5, 2012

Interview!

Her Interactive posted an interview with a really good-looking fellow.



I think this video is the first time I've ever explained that the name "arglefumph" comes from Duck Tales. It's not actually used in Duck Tales--I just remembered wrong--but I mistakenly thought it was.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three Things Thursday Gets Political

1. Sorry if my blog has been off lately.  I'm in the middle of my road trip, and switching time zones has not been good on me. Also, my usual "writing time" has been absorbed by my travel journal, so I haven't had as much time to blog as I'd like.

I'll start posting entries from my travel journal when I get home, so you'll be able to see my pictures along with the descriptions.

2. The big debate between Presidential hopefuls Romney and Obama took place yesterday.  I mentioned this over a year ago, but it bears repeating: President Obama uses the exact same delivery style whenever he gives a speech.  I know that he doesn't want to mess with his winning speech-giving formula, but come on.  Obama is supposed to be Mr. Change.  Why can't he change vocal cadences once in a while?

3.  I didn't watch the debate for very long, to be honest.  I know how I'm going to vote this year.  I am going to vote against everyone who is currently in office, as a general rule, because I don't like the way the government has been going this milennium.  My home state of California, actually, has had the same politicians running everything since the 1980's.  It is time for them to finally retire and let someone who was born after World War 2 take control of the state.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Chill (Chapter 3)

So here's Chapter Three of my fanfic, Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Chill. Today, Nancy speaks with Detective B, the unhelpful sidekick that she's stuck with for the game.

---

Nancy decided to leave Aunt Eloise's, so she could mail the letter to her dad. As she approached the front door, her phone went off. An anonymous person was calling her.

Probably somebody trying to sell me something, Nancy thought, as she picked it up and answered.

"Nancy? Detective Beech here," a somewhat congested voice said. "How are you?"

"Fine," Nancy said. "I'm kinda strapped for cash at the moment. How are things with you?"

"I'm frustrated, Nancy," Beech said. "I need answers, and you're my man, er...woman, teen, student, whatever."

"I prefer the term 'international supersleuth'," Nancy said. "But you can address me as 'your royal highness'."

"Uh...sure," Detective Beech said. "Anyway, as soon as you find out anything, let me know right away. All contact should be through me."

"How do I contact you?" Nancy asked. For some reason, her phone was unable to add Detective Beech's number to her contacts list. She figured that was because he called from a secure police line.

"I'll be at Maxine's Diner, near the high school," Detective Beech said. "You can come visit me in person."

"Sounds good," Nancy said. "So, what's our cover?"

"Our what?" Detective Beech asked.

Nancy sighed. "Look, Detective B, if you're going to be my sidekick for this adventure, you need to be more on top of things," she said. "I'm going undercover as a new student. Who are you going undercover as?"

"Oh..." Detective Beech said. "I'll be posing as your uncle. Uncle Steve."

"I guess that'll work," Nancy said. "I was just about to leave the house now, so I guess I'll see you soon, Detective Ocean."

Nancy hung up her phone and stepped outside.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sophie Anderson

Randomly, the other day, I discovered an artist named Sophie Anderson, who drew a bunch of fancy pictures of girls, young women and...well, that's about it.  She must have been one of those artist who can only draw one thing.

 
 
 
I am so going to take the last painting, and use it as the starting point for a picture of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation.  ...Which reminds me.  I've drawn four versions of The Annunciation, and I haven't shared a single one with you readers.  Shame on me!

Anyway, that's a taste of Sophie Anderson.  Do a Google Images search on her, if you want to see the rest of the art she drew.  Personally, I like this style of artwork much more than any modern art.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Don't You Want Me

At a videogame store in East Portland (which sells games from all systems, not just the current gen), they were playing this song.  Now it's stuck in my head.



That music video is really freaky. The makeup job on the people kind of scares me. But at least the video explains the song's lyrics somewhat, which most music videos never do. Now I know the song is about a guy who helped a girl become a movie star because he liked her, and then she never talked to him again. Poor guy.

The semi-electronic part at 1:10 and so reminds me of a similar-sounding line from The Brave Little Toaster, but I can't remember what it is.