Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year's Eve!  I don't have any plans this year.

I mean, I was invited to three or so parties, but they're all in Portland, and I'm at my parents' house. We're not having a party, because my dad can't stay up until midnight.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 10

Here is Chapter 10 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. Today, Nancy solves the runes puzzle and meets Mrs. Drake.
 
---

Nancy vaguely recalled seeing runes on the study guide in Jane's room, so she knocked on the door there.
 
"We're in lessons right now!" Ethel called.
 
"I need to borrow Jane's book on runes."
 
"You can get it when the lessons are over."
 
"You have time to do freaky rituals at 3:15 in the morning, but you don't have time to loan me a book?" Nancy said in her sassiest voice. There was a moment of tense silence after this, then the door opened slightly. Nancy smirked in victory.
 
Ethel threw the book directly at Nancy's head, then slammed the door in her face. Nancy fell over when the book smashed into her eyeball.
 
"Ow!" Nancy said. "Thanks for the book, but be more gentle next time!"
 
Nancy picked up the book and flipped to the section on letters. She took it to the hidden gargoyle passageway and spelled out the name "Elinor". This caused a doorway to open on the wall opposite of Linda's room.
 
"There's a hidden passageway in the hidden passageway?" Nancy wondered. She wandered through the doorway and soon found herself falling down several flights of stairs.
 
"Ow ow ow!" Nancy cried.
 
Figuring she was underneath the house now, she got off of the ground and explored. The hallway had smooth blank walls, probably because no one ever visited this part of the manor. Nancy marveled at how clean and dust-free the ancient passageways were, when she came to a dead end.
 
"Huh."
 
In the corner of the wall was a metal plate with a triangle on the cover. She opened the cover to see a series of six triangles. She fiddled around with them until they were all facing upwards, like the triangle on the cover.
 
When she was done...nothing happened.
 
"This is boring," she said. She turned around and climbed the stairs, only falling twice along the way. Soon, she was back inside the well-lit hallways of Blackmoor Manor. Nancy stood up straight. She was finally ready to...to...
 
What was she supposed to do, again?
 
Nancy opened up her task list and started checking off the things she had already done. She stopped when she saw the first item on the list, "Check in with Mrs. Drake once I unpack."
 
"Oh, jeez, I was supposed to meet with Mrs. Drake when I first arrived!" Nancy said. She stuffed her notebook into her purse and ran down to the bottom floor of Blackmoor Manor. She tried the wrong door, before finding the door to the conservatory.
 
Nancy was impressed by the change of scenery. The conservatory was humid and full of plants. It was well-lit, and as Nancy walked down the stairs, she saw an admirable concrete pond with a fancy frog tile decoration above it. On the far end of the room, away from the stairs, Mrs. Drake was watering plants.
 
"Hey, Mrs. Drake!" Nancy said.
 
"All settled in? Good. I know how much you teenagers love your televisions and loud stereos, so I must insist that you act civilly and quietly while you are visiting Linda. Jane is having her lessons, and she mustn't be disturbed," Mrs. Drake lectured.
 
"Got it. Anything else I should know?"
 
"The kitchen is being remodeled, so if you wish to eat something, you will have to order it from the a local pub. The phone line has been set up in your room. Feel free to order whatever you'd like."
 
"Ooo, great, I haven't eaten anything in over two days," Nancy said.
 
Mrs. Drake looked at her strangely.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 9

Here is Chapter 9 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. I am doing a really good job of updating this story twice a week!  I should get a gold star or something. Anyway, in today's chapter, Nancy oversees the weird ritual and explores the gargoyle passageway.
 
---

Nigel's memoirs were the most boring thing Nancy had ever read. At least a third of it was dedicated to the weather, and the middle contained a 20-page digression about the texture of pudding.
 
When Nancy finally finished with her job, she found a note from Nigel, thanking her for her work. Attached to it was a photograph of Corbin's coat of arms, which had marks on the right and left.
 
Those indicate the directions I have to turn the gargoyle, Nancy immediately realized.
 
Nancy's body suddenly made it known to her that it was well past midnight. Yawning, she got up and opened the library doors.
 
She stumbled upon an incredibly strange scene. The manor was darkened, with the only light source coming from a candle in Ethel's hand. Ethel was standing behind Jane, and the two of them were walking down the stairs.
 
Nancy hid behind a pillar to watch. Jane and Ethel were wearing elaborate jewelry, and they slowly chanted, "No key without toil. No fire without oil."
 
They stopped at the center of the room, and Jane said, "My actions ensure that my name will endure...to the end..."
 
Jane's hands moved, and Nancy could see she was pouring some sort of liquid on the ground. "Penvellyn," Jane whispered. Ethel looked on, smiling.
 
The two of them then returned to Jane's room, chatting happily as they did so.
 
"That was the freakiest thing I've ever seen," Nancy said. She checked her phone to see that it was 3:15 AM. When she walked forward, she saw that there was a drain in the middle of the floor she hadn't noticed before. Nancy sniffed; it smelled like the liquid Jane poured into the drain was oil.
 
"In the middle of the night, Ethel and Jane dress up and start chanting, so they can pour oil down a drain," Nancy said. "Forget solving the mystery of Linda being sick and grumpy, this is the real mystery at Blackmoor Manor!"
 
Nancy went upstairs to confront Jane and Ethel, but the two of them had disappeared. Confused and tired, Nancy went to her room and fell asleep.
 
The next day, Jane's room was locked because she was in lessons, so Nancy couldn't get inside. She decided to investigate the gargoyle instead. She spun it according to the directions on Corbin's coat of arms, and a huge section of the wall retracted.
 
"Whoa!" Nancy said. "Pretty complex technology for a guy who lived in the 1600's!"
 
She stepped into the newly-opened area, which was a little dark. She used her phone to light up the area. Along the right wall was a peephole. Nancy peered inside, and it showed her Linda's room. Specifically, it gave a view of Linda's desk.
 
Kind of a pointless peephole, Nancy thought.
 
That's when Linda's hairy hand came into view and picked up her bottle of skin moisturizer. Nancy gave a small scream. Linda was coarse and hairy like a werewolf!
 
Backing away from the peephole, Nancy saw that the only other part of the room was a plaque on the door to the left. The plaque said that something bad would happen to the curious wanderer who was not clever enough to solve the riddle.
 
"Linda didn't tell me about any riddle," Nancy said to herself.
 
The riddle was simple enough: Nancy had to spell out Elinor's name in runes, using the tiles below the plaque. The problem was that Nancy didn't know anything about runes. She took a few pictures of the available tiles with her phone's camera, then she left the hidden room.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nancy Drew Book Reviews

Here are my new Nancy Drew book reviews!  They're for the two-part opener of the 2013 Nancy Drew Diaries series. As promised, I changed the format a bit; they're shorter and no longer contain large chunks of me reading to the camera.

I had a minor Twitter contest to get pictures for these videos.  For example, Nancy's friends Bess and George (below) are actually two of my Twitter followers. Congratulations to all seven winners!








Friday, December 27, 2013

Descendants

Earlier this month, Disney announced a new Disney channel movie for 2015, entitled Descendants.

This live action TV-movie will star the children of famous animated Disney characters. Specifically, the children of Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Rapunzel and the Fairy Godmother will face off against their rivals, the children of Cruella De Vil, Jafar, Maleficent and the Queen from Snow White.

The movie takes place in a high school, and it is, of course, directed by the man who directed High School Musical.  Will our teenager heroes succumb to the pressure of acting like their parents, or will they follow their own hearts?  (I'm pretty sure they'll learn to follow their own hearts.)

So...am I the only person who thinks this premise is absolutely ridiculous?  It sounds crazy to me. What are your thoughts?

Beauty and Beast's son is somehow involved in the movie, but it was unclear to me how he comes into play. Maybe the movie starts with him moving to Disney High.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 8

Here is Chapter 8 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. Today, Nancy meets Nigel.
 
---

Nancy left Linda's room and examined the gargoyle in the corner. She could move it left and right, by 90 degrees. After trying out a few patterns, Nancy decided there had to be a clue for the puzzle somewhere.
 
Nancy decided to ask Loulou for more information, when she made an amazing discovery.
 
"Whoa!" Nancy said. "There's a downstairs part to the manor!"
 
Nancy slid down the banister and examined the lower floor. It had six ornate pillars, a maze design on the floor, and a lot of portraits. One of them instantly caught Nancy's eye.
 
"Ha ha, look at the guy with the funny hat!" she said.
 
Nancy then noticed a portrait of a man standing by the upstairs gargoyle. This was the only portrait without a coat of arms. Nancy figured this was some sort of clue, but she didn't know what it meant. She decided to ask someone for more information.
 
There were four doors in the downstairs area, not including the front door to the manor. Nancy went through the one on the right, and she found herself in a library. A dark-skinned man sat at a desk, typing madly.
 
"Ah, are you from the agency?" he asked. "It's about time."
 
"Agency? What?"
 
"Oh, dear, you're not here to help me," the man said. He adjusted his glasses as he turned his focus from the computer to Nancy. "How do you do, I'm Nigel Mookerjee?"
 
"I'm Nancy Drew. I'm a detective who is here to investigate what's wrong with Linda."
 
"I'm a historian, researching the Penvellyn family history for a new book I'm writing. Mrs. Drake has graciously opened up the library for me. Not much has been written about the Penvellyns, until now."
 
"Oh, neat," Nancy said. "I had some questions about the Pennyvennys. For starters, what's up with the weather forecaster person?"
 
"I'm sorry, to whom are you referring?"
 
"You know, the guy who always predicted when it would rain," Nancy said. "My parents used to sing to me about him, when I was younger. Ranulf the Red knows rain, dear."
 
"Ranulf the Red is the family's progenitor," Nigel said. "It is rumored that he had a magic meteorite, which allowed him to win every battle he fought. The government granted him this land, in recognition of his military accomplishments."
 
"And what about the witch lady?"
 
"You must be referring to Elinor Penvellyn, who was burned at the stake in 1650."
 
"Did she really leave the Curse of Blackmoor Manor?"
 
"Ha ha, no!" Nigel said. "Most historians agree that her death was ordered by Cromwell for political reasons."
 
Nancy smiled. She knew Linda wasn't really cursed. "So she didn't turn anyone into a werewolf."
 
"That is still unclear," Nigel said. "After her husband disappeared, a large beast was seen prowling the moor at night, and she forbade anyone from hunting it. Some say it was her husband, whom she cursed for finding out too much about the Penvellyn family secret. Others say her husband was in France at the time. I doubt we'll ever learn the truth."
 
"I have one last question," Nancy said, not wanting to waste Nigel's time. "Who is the person in great hall with the gargoyle?"
 
"That would be Corbin Penvellyn, Elinor's grandson. It is rumored that he returned to Blackmoor, so he could secretly continue her experiments in the mystical arts."
 
"Why doesn't he have a coat of arms?"
 
"He does. It's in France," Nigel said. "I can get you a copy of it, if you help me out."
 
Nancy frowned. It sounded like she was going to be forced to do someone else's chores again. "Sure, what do you want?"
 
"I'm in dire need of a typist," Nigel said. "I wrote out my memoirs by hand, and I need to have them entered into the computer, so I can send it to publishers."
 
"That doesn't sound so bad," Nancy said.
 
Nigel pulled out a stack of 400 pieces of paper. "Fantastic! You can start now!"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Here are videos of my choir performing at a Christmas concert:



This was a free concert we did at an old folks' home. We did this a week after our big, official concert that people had to pay to go see. I'm told that, eventually, we're getting a free CD of our performance. I would prefer a part of the ticket sales, myself.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 7

Here is Chapter 7 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. Today, Nancy talks with Linda again.  This is pretty much the last time Nancy needs to talk to Linda in the game.
 
---

Nancy headed down the hallway and walked into Linda's room. "Hey, hey!" Nancy said. "Awesome Detective here!"
 
Linda didn't say anything.
 
"I checked out that hidden passageway you mentioned," Nancy said. "I didn't see a cursed plaque, though. All I saw was a parrot plaque."
 
"What?" Linda asked. "How can you call yourself a detective? It was right there, waiting to be found! Wanting to be found! It needed someone to find it!"
 
"Are we talking about the plaque, or my friend George? I know she's been looking for a boyfriend for a while now, but that doesn't have anything to do with this case."
 
"I'm doomed! Doomed!" Linda said. "I knew that curse was from the witch, and here's proof! The plaque disappeared as soon as I left the passageway!"
 
"Calm down," Nancy said. "It was dark in the dragon passageway, and I didn't have a flashlight. Maybe I missed the curse?"
 
"Dragon passageway?"
 
"Yeah, you know, the passageway behind the burping dragon in the East Hall," Nancy said.
 
Linda breathed a sigh of relief. "I was talking about the hidden passageway behind the gargoyle."
 
"So there are multiple hidden passageways," Nancy deduced. "Perfect. When am I going to solve a mystery in a place which is not an architect's playhouse?"
 
"The witch built the passageways, so she could escape in case soldiers attacked," Linda said. "Don't you see? This house is designed to get rid of outsiders. Outsiders like you and me!"
 
"How do I get inside this passageway?" Nancy asked.
 
"You move the gargoyle around. I don't know the pattern. I was just fiddling with it, and I came across the solution by accident."
 
"Hmmm...I bet I can figure out how the puzzle works," Nancy said. "Do you have a flashlight I can use in these hidden passageways?"
 
"No," Linda said. "I never leave my bed. Why would I need a flashlight?"
 
"Yeah, about that," Nancy said. "Why don't you leave your bed? I think you need to get some exercise."
 
"I have been cursed, and I'm turning into a monster! I have to stay far away from other people! It's for their own good! ...And mine."
 
"You're really starting to worry your husband and mother," Nancy said. "But don't worry, Linda! I'll find this plaque thingy and prove that there's no curse! Then you'll be free to leave your room again!"
 
"I wish you luck," Linda said.

Monday, December 23, 2013

More on Populations

Wow, there was actually a reaction to yesterday's blog post.  Craziness.

Like I said yesterday, the inevitable population drop worries me more than it should.  It is almost certainly decades away at this point.  Still, I cannot shake the dread that humanity is going to do a poor job with the population drop, just like it has done a poor job with the population explosion of the 1900's.

For those of you who are interested in population drops, keep an eye on Japan in the future.  Their population is currently dropping at a slow rate, which is expected to increase as time goes on. Not helping the situation is the fact that Japan's birth rate is at a record low.

So here's a question.  Is the population going to eventually level itself out?  In the future, will there ever be a situation where the number of deaths per year is exactly equal to the number of births per year?  Alternately, will we ever have a fertility rate that is the ideal 2 children per every woman?  (That's the ideal, because it gives you one child to replace the father and one child to replace the mother.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Population Decrease

Something which bothers me way more than it should is the population decreasing.  Ever since the 1960's, the birth rate in the United States has been going down.  That means, inevitably, that there will be a time when deaths outnumber births, and the total population shrinks.

Actually, this has already happened for white people, in the United States.  According to the 2012 Census, the overall number of white people is decreasing.  Lots of whites are dying, and not so many whites are being born.  This trend will probably continue for decades, since we've had decades of build-up for it.

Sometime in the future, this is going to happen to the entire United States population, and even the world population, not just the white population in America.  People disagree as to when the population shrink will take place; I've heard estimates from six years to fifty years.

That's what worries me.  I feel like something big and bad is going to happen, when there are suddenly a lot less people alive in the world.  Isn't there a science fiction story about this or something?  We have one where there are too many people alive; where's the one where there aren't enough people alive?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gaming Plans

I did five good game demos over the past two-three days and asked viewers to pick which game(s) they want to see my play. Here are the results of the informal poll:
  • Death at Cape Porto: A Dana Knighstone Novel (31 votes)
  • Nightmare from the Deep: The Cursed Heart (21 votes)
  • Haunted Halls: Nightmare Dwellers (16 votes)
  • Unfinished Tales: Illicit Love (13 votes)
  • Mystery Case Files: Fate's Carnival (9 votes)
The tragic romance story and the pirate game win!  Before I tackle them, I'm going to finish Case 1 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.

But wait, there's more! I'm doing book reviews for the first two Nancy Drew Diaries books, both published in February 2013.  I hope people are interested in seeing what the newest Nancy Drew series is like.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Livestream and Demos

Sorry, everyone! I'll have to cancel the unannounced New Year's Eve livestream, because my backup computer can't handle playing Nancy Drew: Ghost of Thornton Hall in windowed mode, without making the bottom inch of the game magically disappear.  Not cool, backup computer. Not cool.

Instead, I offer you some demos. Feel free to cast votes as to which game I should play in full:











Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Well, looks like I didn't win the $600+ million lottery this week.  :(

2. You know, I've seen a lot of people who like inspirational quotes along the lines of "be independent", "think for yourself" and "never let other people decide who you are".

Those are all fine sentiments, but...isn't it contradictory?  All of those inspirational quotes are commands, which order you to think and behave in a certain way.  If I'm independent and think for myself, I won't follow the advice of an inspirational quote, especially one which is telling me what to do.

3. Recently, all the translations I've seen have been really unforgiving.  These translators seem to care more about sticking to the original language than they care about making sense in English. I'm even seeing what I call a translation "worst case scenario", where the translators leave words in the original language instead of translating them.

I do not care how good of a translator you are; your text will not sound like English if it contains words that aren't in English.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Livestream

I want to do a Nancy Drew livestream event on New Year's Eve this year.

YouTube has a new "live events" feature, and I have no idea how it works.  Is this something worth checking into, or should I stick with the other livestream website I've used in the past?

Once I get the logistics worked out, I'll probably make a video about the livestream, to let people know what's up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 6

Here is Chapter 6 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. Today, Nancy makes progress on the hidden passageway puzzle, and she meets Loulou the Parrot.
 
---
 
Nancy fell over in fright and started crying to herself for nine minutes, until she got the strength to get back up again. That's when she learned the mysterious voice...
 
...was a parrot.
 
"Hahahahahah!" the parrot said. "Scared you, scared you!"
 
"That wasn't very nice, Mrs. Parrot!"
 
"My name is Loulou! Loulou! LOULOU LOULOU LOULOU LOULOU!"
 
"Okay, I get it! Your name is Loulou!"
 
"Loulou. Loulou."
 
"So, Lou, can you help me solve this mystery?" Nancy asked.
 
"NOT LOU! Loulou! LOULOU! Loooooulooooou!"
 
Nancy scoffed. "I'll just solve this mystery on my own," she said, sounding way too confident for someone who had no idea what she was doing.
 
The door to the East Hall had a fancy plaque on it. Nancy examined it, then opened the door. The room itself was rather empty, besides for a gargoyle statue, a hat rack, a framed photograph of Mrs. Drake and her brother meeting the Queen, and a dragon.
 
"Yay, dragon!" Nancy said. She played around with the dragon statuette, and to her surprise, the hands moved. Nancy instantly recognized this as a puzzle, in which she had to position the hands to match the plaque on the door.
 
Nah, I'm just kidding. Nancy played around with the dragon for about twenty seconds, and she stumbled on the solution by pure luck. The dragon growled, and the back wall of the room ascended into the ceiling, revealing a dark passageway.
 
Nancy walked to the edge of the passageway and looked inside. "Hmmm...it's too dark for me to go exploring," she said. "I'm going to need a flashlight."
 
Nancy turned to leave, but she tripped over her untied shoelaces and fell sideways into the passageway. She tried getting back up, but she tripped again and fell down three sets of stairs. When she opened her eyes again, Nancy found herself in complete darkness.
 
"No! How will I escape?!" Nancy said. "I'm going to be trapped in this dark, bottomless pit FOREVER!"
 
Dramatic music played after this dire proclamation.
 
"Oh, wait, I have a cell phone," Nancy said, pulling the device out of her pocket. She used the glow from the screen as a sort-of flashlight, and it let her see the stairs that led to the exit. More importantly, Nancy say a plaque.
 
It wasn't the plaque she was looking for, sadly. Instead of a curse, this plaque had a picture of Loulou on it, with the word "barber" on top. At the bottom were some movable tiles, which allowed her to enter her own word.
 
Nancy left the hidden passageway, walking very carefully up the stairs. When she was back in the hallway, she found Loulou. "Hey, Loulou! What does the word 'barber' mean?"
 
"Get a dictionary! Dictionary! *squawk*"
 
"No, I mean...the hidden passageway has some sort of word thing with your picture on it," Nancy said. "It's currently set to 'barber'."
 
"Loulou's magic word game! Loulou's magic word game!"
 
"Aha!" Nancy said. "How do I play the magic word game?"
 
"Tell Loulou the magic word."
 
"...Please?"
 
"Nope! That is incorrect! Loulou want magic word. Magic word, magic word! A deal's a deal."
 
Nancy sighed. She was used to being bossed around by other people, but being bossed around by a parrot? This was a new low for her. "All right, I'll try to find your magic word..."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Worst of Blackmoor Manor, Chapter 5

Today, we have Chapter 5 of my parody story, Nancy Drew: Worst of Blackmoor Manor. Nancy meets Ethel and gets the key to the East Hall. I'm pretty sure you readers can figure out who is responsible for the cliffhanger.
 
---
 
"I'm Jane's tutor," Ethel said. "Jane is very excited you're visiting. You're all she's talked about for the past month."
 
"Really? I didn't know I had a fan club out here."
 
"Yes, we are very...interested in what you will discover here at Blackmoor," Ethel said. "But a word of caution. Only the initiates are allowed to discover Ranulf the Red's secret."
 
"Ranulf the Red Nosed Reindeer?" Nancy asked.
 
"Keep your search focused on Linda. There is no need for you to go exploring elsewhere. Why, who knows what terrible things could happen to you, were you to venture outside the safety of these halls?"
 
"...Is that a threat?"
 
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Nancy. Our paths will cross again, I'm sure."
 
Ethel then used her creepy ninja powers to disappear in a flash of smoke. In reality, all she did was walk away, but Nancy wasn't really paying attention, so it looked like Ethel vanished.
 
Nancy marched over to Jane's room and threw open the door. "Jane, you have the creepiest tutor ever!" Nancy declared.
 
"Miss Ethel isn't so bad," Jane said. "She's mostly just strict. And she makes me do all this boring homework. I'd much rather play games all day."
 
"Me too," Nancy said. "So I followed up on that lead you gave me, about the Lady in Black. It turns out that she appeared right after Linda explored a hidden passageway."
 
"You mean the one by the East Hall?" Jane asked.
 
"Uh...yeah! The hidden passageway in the East Hall, which I totally know about!" Nancy said. "But, hypothetically, if I didn't know about it, how would I get inside."
 
"You need the key, but if you want it, you'll have to play a game with me. That's the rule."
 
Or I could borrow a key from one of the adults who live here, Nancy thought. "Okay, what's your game?"
 
Jane pulled out a game named Bul, which Nancy played in Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand. "I got this from a neat museum in the states, with this weirdo who was always talking about aliens and diet cola. The goal of your game is land on the other player's pieces."
 
It took three years for Nancy to win the game, or that's what it felt like. The game didn't require her to do anything besides press the "roll" button over and over again. It wasn't very exciting.
 
As a reward for winning, Nancy got the key to the East Hall. "It's not a very interesting secret passageway. You're going to be totally bored," Jane said. "Wouldn't you rather play a game with me instead?"
 
Oh, I'm not falling for that again! Nancy decided.
 
Out of spite, Nancy stole a book from Jane's room. The book was entitled Lycanthropes and You: What To Do When Someone You're Investigating Is Turning Into a Centuries Old Werewolf. Nancy put the book in her bag, and she promptly forgot about it.
 
After that, Nancy walked over the East Hall. As she rounded the corner, a voice cried out, "We're going to hurt you, Nancy Drew!"