Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solar Roadways

Did I mention I'm excited about the solar roadways project? This sounds like a good idea. They're building solar panels into roads, so roads will generate power.

They're also working with various bells and whistles, like LED lights built into the panels. Even if the solar panels don't work out, it'd be nice to have lights built into the roads. Say you want to change from a three-lane highway to a two-lane highway? No need to repaint the road; just reprogram the lights. Theoretically, you could also turn the lights on at maximum power to melt snow...

The solar roadways project is currently on Phase 2. As you might expect, they are starting out with parking lots and sidewalks; solar freeways and highways are a long way off. The group has been working with the Federal Highway Administration, which regulates "things cars drive on", and the FHA has given full support to the project so far!

I'm dreaming of the magical future where all gas stations are replaced by electric car stations. Also, I'd like a future where electricity is free because we generate far more power than we need. The current plan of "use far more power than we can generate" doesn't seem to be working very well.

Friday, May 30, 2014

How I Get My News

I like to get my news by going to a super-conservative website and a super-liberal website, with the idea that they're both going to distort the news equally.

The liberal website spends more time talking about mainstream material, while the conservative site spends more time on smaller stories which could be termed "inside baseball news". I can tell something is important, if both websites report on it. That means it's important to both ends of the spectrum.

The sites have different strategies for dealing with bad news. When the conservative site hates something, they don't bother to hide it; they start off with "this is bad news, and here's why it's bad." When the liberal site hates something, they pretend to be objective for the first half of the story, before breaking down and ranting about how it is the worst news ever.

...I'm trying to think of some news that both sites consider good, and I'm drawing a blank. Hmmm. They're more likely to agree something is bad, than they are to agree something is good. In both cases, they reserve the right to disagree on WHY something is good or bad.

Nancy Drew Book Reviews - Plans

I've been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work with Nancy Drew book reviews. Right now, I have nine review videos all completed. They will be made public...someday.

I'm not sure how to organize my book reviews. So far, they've been organized by publication date, but I feel like I should divide them according to series. The problem with this is that I haven't read equally from all the different Nancy Drew series. I have...
  • One from the Nancy Drew Notebooks series
  • Two from the Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys crossover series
  • Six from the 2013 series
  • Seven from the main series
  • Ten from the 1986 series
  • Zero from the other various series
Any suggestions as to how I should organize my book reviews?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Month of Mary

I'm continuing my recap of a book of daily reflections about the Virgin Mary.

Day Eighteen is about the Holy Family's flight into Egypt, which is an excellent example of having trust in God under difficult circumstances. It is also an example of perfect obedience to just authority, even if it displeasing to us.

Day Nineteen is the example of Mary's request, during the wedding feast at Cana. She did not pray with many words; she prayed with confidence, but not with presumption, in presenting the needs of the people to Jesus.

Day Twenty is about Jesus' response to Mary at Cana--"what does that matter to you and to me?"-- which was harsh. The harsh response in no way diminished her confidence. Like Mary, we should abandon ourselves unreservedly to God, instead of only serving God when it is pleasing to us.

Day Twenty-One is about Jesus' second response to Mary at Cana--"my hour hasn't come yet". But even though Jesus was not ready to begin his public ministry, Mary was able to hasten its coming by her lively faith.

Day Twenty-Two is about Jesus with Martha and Mary Magdalene. Like the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene had only one thought: to remain with Jesus and listen to his words. May we, like her, remain tranquil with God and live in peaceful solicitude.

Day Twenty-Three continues with Mary and Martha. Jesus did not reproach Martha for her good works, but he reproached her for working while disturbed and troubled about how much recognition she would receive. "Let your hearts be untroubled" as you do the work of God, and may you be indifferent as to how much recognition you acquire, because then you are working for your own self-aggrandizement, and not for God.

In Day Twenty-Four, St. Francis of Sales uses some flowery language while talking about the sleep of the Virgin Mary. Sleep refreshes the body, which is good, because we must love our bodies. Mary's body formed Jesus' body, which is why we can refer to her as the True Tabernacle, the Living Arc of the Covenant, the Throne of Divinity, etc.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nancy Drew Diaries 6

My video review for Nancy Drew Diaries 6: Secret at Mystic Lake is now live!



Question: Do people prefer the title Secret at Mystic Lake or The Secret of Mystic Lake? Nancy Drew tends to drop "the" from its titles...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

GameFAQs

After a long delay, I finally wrote a text walkthrough for Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy. Much to my surprise, it turns out that GameFAQs doesn't think the game has been released yet.

In fact, both Nancy Drew #29 and Nancy Drew #30 are listed as unreleased. Silly GameFAQs.

I'm also waiting for GameFAQs to list "Left in the Dark: No One On Board" as a game. The first third-to-half of that game was fun. It was also well-structured, so writing a walkthrough would be easy. But mostly, I like the game because you can press F1 to skip the hidden objects challenges. Ha ha, yes!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Nancy's Breakup

Okay, the Q&A on gay marriage is over now. Past experience has taught me that Q&As get super convoluted, if we stay on the same topic for over three days. Everyone ends up repeating themselves, and we get people who jump in on Day 3, who ask questions that were covered on Day 1.

I will stand by my conviction that marriage should be more than just attraction, emotions, or romantic attachment. My apologies to all Twilight fans.

On that note, I'm working on a little story about 1980's Nancy Drew. It takes place after Ned breaks up with Nancy, at the end of Book 8.

---

Beautiful teenage detective Nancy Drew was used to danger, mystery and intrigue, but she was not used to heartbreak. A fresh sob broke loose from her throat, as she hugged her friend tightly. "What am I going to do now, Bess?"

"You'll get through this, Nancy. You've been in tough situations before, right?"


Nancy nodded demurely. About once a month, Nancy was kidnapped or attacked by criminals. That was worse than losing a boyfriend, right?


WRONG! Ned was her entire life! True, she spent almost no time in River Heights with Ned, because she went on vacation every other week, but he still meant the world to her. She just didn't know how much he meant, until he was gone.


"I don't think I've ever felt this awful, ever," Nancy said. "I'm not you, Bess. I don't change boyfriends every other day. I need stability in my life."


Bess looked offended, and she was going to make a snide remark when someone knocked on the door. "Nancy, I just heard the news," a voice said. "Can I come in?"


It was George Fayne, Nancy's other friend. Bess told George she could enter, and George started when she saw Nancy's red face. "What's wrong?"


"Ned broke up with me!"


"He what?" George asked. "Ned Nickerson? Old Reliable? He broke up with you?!"


Nancy burst into tears. "George!" Bess said. "Be a little more compassionate!"


"I'm sorry," George said. "I heard you solved the basketball mystery. Hannah didn't mention...this." George sat down on Nancy's bed, next to the others. "Did Ned call it off because you cheated on him again?"


"What do you mean, again?" Nancy asked.


"Well, you did kiss that one cop in Fort Lauderdale..." George said.


"That was Spring Break! It meant nothing!" Nancy defended herself.


"You got all flirty with Mick Swanson when you worked for Flash Magazine," Bess pointed out.


"And everyone's seen the way you stare at Frank Hardy," George said.


"I did not cheat on Ned!" Nancy said indignantly. "This time, at least. He broke up with me, because I accused his best friend of murder!"


"Let me guess," George said. "You thought he was guilty, because he gets angry a lot."


"Angry and violent," Nancy corrected.


"Nancy, we've been over this before!" Bess said. "You can't accuse someone of murder based on personality type! You need to have circumstantial evidence first!"


"It's too late," Nancy said. "Why didn't I believe Ned, when he said his friend was innocent? Maybe then we would still be together...Maybe..."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More Questions

More questions! I love questions. It makes it so I don't have to think up a discussion topic.

1. Yesterday, I said, "Personally, my concern is about promoting the idea that marriage is just about adult satisfactions and romantic attachment; a marriage built on passing emotions seems like a good recipe for divorce."

If you are in a relationship, and you want it to last, it must have a stronger foundation than passing emotions. This is true, no matter what gender or orientation you are. Someday, the characters on my soap opera might figure out that love is more than just a feeling, but I doubt it.

2. The Catholic Church believes that marriage is for the sake of uniting two people and for having children. As a result, Catholic law lists "the ability to have children with your spouse" as a prerequisite for getting married. This is not a requirement in any of the new gay marriage laws. Some people are concerned this requirement has been dropped.

Please, please don't confuse "the ability to have children with your spouse" and "the ability to raise children with your spouse". The question is not "Do gays make good parents?". The question is "Can a gay man impregnate his partner?" and the answer is "No, that is physically impossible." As for the question "Can a gay woman impregnate her partner?", the answer is "No, that is physically impossible, without resorting to artificial means".

3. Yesterday, I said there are people who are worried "that legalizing gay marriage will have bad effects on gender relations (since it makes both genders interchangeable)". Yeah...I don't understand this argument, either. I think they're trying to say that "mother" and "father" are two distinct, gender-specific roles, and gay marriage blurs the difference between the two. I'm not sure.

4. I didn't want to get into the topic of lawsuits filed concerning gay marriage, because it's a big topic, but I can talk about it. The big lawsuit was in Hawaii, where a gay couple tried to rent out a Catholic church for a wedding. The church rejected their application, on the basis that the Catholic church does not perform gay marriages. They sued the church, on the basis of discriminating against renters, due to sexual orientation.

I'm not sure how the lawsuit was resolved. It's a tough call. Do you force the church to violate its own principles and beliefs? True, you're not forcing them to have gay marriages, but you are forcing them to hold gay marriages on their property. That's a fine line.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against people with an ancillary connection to weddings, such as public notaries, cake makers, flower arrangers, military wedding officials, etc.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Q&A

Here's a question that I got on yesterday's blot post...

Michael, I'd really like an answer from you to this question...
Why does the Catholic church care about gay marriage? Why are they sticking their nose's in other people's business?
Since gay marriage is against Catholic belief, the church won't perform or recognize the union.
The government isn't going to force the church to marry gay people.
What about all the Catholics practicing premarital sex, using birth control or having children out of wedlock? Are these Catholics turned away at the door? No, because the collection plate would be empty. I guess some 'sins' are more tolerable than others.
For the record I am neither Catholic or gay.

1. For the record, I have never heard any Catholic priest talk about gay marriage, in any of the 2,000+ masses that I have attended. I have only heard abortion get mentioned twice. I know the Catholic Church has a reputation for being obsessed with abortion and gay marriage, but in my lived experience, that is completely false.

I agree that gay marriage should be a non-issue, in a legal sense, as state laws do not govern church laws. However, marriage has great public significance, and changing marriage laws will have effects on society. Some people worry that legalizing gay marriage will have bad effects on gender relations (since it makes both genders interchangeable), while others worry it will eliminate the legal attachment between parents and the children they procreate. Personally, my concern is about promoting the idea that marriage is just about adult satisfactions and romantic attachment; a marriage built on passing emotions seems like a good recipe for divorce.

2. "The government isn't going to force the church to marry gay people." True, but there have been lawsuits and sanctions placed against Catholics, on the grounds that they discriminate against gay people. Some people are worried this will continue.

3. "What about all the Catholics practicing premarital sex, using birth control or having children out of wedlock? Are these Catholics turned away at the door? No, because the collection plate would be empty. I guess some 'sins' are more tolerable than others."

Gonna be honest here. The collection plate is empty, most of the time, no matter what.

The official law about this situation is Canon 915. People should be denied Communion, if it is publicly known that they continually commit grave sins. As Pope Francis pointed out, it is not a sin for gay people to be in committed relationships with each other; therefore, it is illegal for Catholics to exclude gays, on the basis of this law.

In fact, this law is rarely enforced against anyone. In general, Catholics tend to lean on the side of mercy and inclusion, rather than judgment and punishment. Indeed, that is what Jesus did when confronted with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). When I was in training to become a priest, I was told that the important thing was to avoid creating a scene or causing scandal, by denying someone Communion. It was recommended to give out Communion to the person during mass, then speak to them about it privately, afterwards.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gay Marriage in Oregon

In the news this week, the state of Oregon removed its ban on gay marriage.

I'm surprised that people are so surprised over this. I saw this coming three months ago, when they announced the case would go before a judge, and the attorney general decided not to defend it in court. Did anyone seriously expect the judge to rule in favor of the side without any attorneys?

The Catholics in Oregon seem unsure how to react to the news. On one hand, it's good for gay people have to have the same rights as non-gays. On the other hand, Oregon's legal definition of marriage as a contract between two individuals doesn't sync up with the Church's legal definition of marriage. (Not that the two legal definitions came close to syncing up before.)

I actually think the Catholic Church and the United States need to rewrite their marriage laws. In October, Pope Francis is meeting with the Bishops, in order to work on marriage and family issues. I'm interested in seeing what they decide on doing!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. Everyone is getting excited about E3 next week. I know Nintendo is hoping to hit it big with Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart, but to be honest, I never liked either series.

2. I find it a bit odd that Facebook wants me to list my favorite athletes, before any celebrities or politicians. Athletes are more important than politics? Okay, then.

3. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I should attend Vidcon this year. The big question is "What will I get out of it?". Given that I would have to spend hundreds of dollars to attend, what profit will I gain from going there?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Silent Spy Train Trips

You have to take a number of train trips in Nancy Drew #29: The Silent Spy. Here's a list of all the necessary train trips.

Trips to Bearsden:
  1. To meet Moira
  2. To bring Moira food
  3. To get Kate's notebook from Moira
  4. To listen to the Jabberwocky record
  5. To get the ace, by pressing the music themes
Trips to Giffnock:
  1. To get the screwdriver (so you can do the dead drop)
Trips to Loch Lomond:
  1. To see the safehouse and thereby trigger a phone call from Ewan
  2. To get the archery bow
  3. To listen to the bug planted in Bridget's room
  4. To listen to the bug planted in Alec's bag
  5. To get the e-mail from Ewan, which lets you solve the bagpipe puzzle
  6. To solve the fireplace puzzle (after getting Kate's notebook from Moira)
  7. To open the canister (after getting the wheel)
  8. To warn the scientist
  9. To learn about Ewan's special coin

Unless I'm missing something, that's 15 trips in all! The good news is that you can combine multiple trips. For example, on my first trip to Loch Lomond, I usually open up the safehouse and play archery. My personal best is 10 trips, by combining Moira trips 3&4, then combining Loch Lomond trips 1&2, 3&5, 6&7 and 4&8.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Channel Art

It's pretty clear that people want my channel art to be "Hey there, Nancy Drew Clue Crew!".

But what does that mean? Do you want a blank screen, with nothing but those words on it? I've got a professional artist on the line here, and I feel like the prompt I give him should be more than just one sentence. You know?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Channel Art

I got an offer from a professional artist to do artwork for my Youtube Channel. I have no idea what to ask for, so I got some ideas from my friends:

  • A collage of games/screenshots that are featured on the channel
  • Ponies
  • A Nancy drew silhouette
  • Me snooping around with a magnifying glass
  • About five requests for "Hey there, Nancy Drew Clue Crew!", which is my standard video intro.
What do you blog readers suggest?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Recording Plans

I'm finished with my first playthough of Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion! Here are my plans for the rest of the month:

Nothing.

Okay, I'll upload my review of Nancy Drew Diaries #6 because it came out this month, but other than that, I'm not going to upload anything.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Month of Mary

I'm continuing my recap of a book of daily reflections about the Virgin Mary, because it is both informative and makes for easy blog writing.

Day Eleven is about the humility of the Virgin Mary, specifically, the Bible verse where Mary says, "Because he [God] has looked upon the lowliness of his handmaid; from now on, generations will call me blessed". Jesus will later echo that sentiment, saying that "he who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted".

Day Twelve is about the effects of the Visitation on St. John the Baptist. The Church Fathers agree that John was cleansed from original sin at this time, which is why he leaped for joy in the presence of Jesus, even though he was still in the womb. May we also rejoice to receive graces and sanctification!

Day Thirteen is about the trials and suffering that the Virgin Mary underwent. Though much loved by God, the Holy Family suffered much; Joseph and Mary's relationship, and later, they were forced to escape to Egypt to flee the people trying to kill them. Let us learn to be equally stalwart as they were, in the severest of trials.

Day Fourteen is about two titles of Mary: Star of the Sea and Morning Star. These titles were developed by mariners; just as they use stars to guide them safely through the seas, so the Virgin Mary can be used as a safe and sure guide that leads to God.

Day Fifteen is about three types of union, at the birth of Jesus. First, human nature was united to divine nature, in Jesus' flesh. Second, virginity was united to maternity, in that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth. Third, ardent love was united with humility.

Day Sixteen is about the presentation in the Temple, which is a traditional Jewish practice that cleanses a woman and her child after she gives birth for the first time. In their great humility, Jesus and Mary went through this ritual, even though they technically had no need of purification.

Day Seventeen is a consideration of the great obedience shown, during the presentation. Mary teaches "us not merely to avoid sin, but also its very appearance, and the occasions which may expose us to it. Let us learn, also, not to be satisfied with the testimony of our conscience alone, but to try to remove from others every occasion of thinking ill of us and of our actions."

Friday, May 16, 2014

NFL Draft

In the news this week, 45.7 million people watched the NFL Draft. It is the most-viewed draft of all time.

That's pretty crazy. I mean, you're not even watching football. You're watching teams pick players who might play football. I probably wouldn't watch it unless someone I know was being picked.

Then again, I'm not a fan of the NFL draft in general. When I was growing up, the nearest NFL team to me had a strategy of going all-out during the draft. It seemed like, every year, they signed a big name rookie to a 5+ contract. He would then proceed to get injured in the first few games, and he'd watch the rest of the season from the sidelines. The team would still have to pay him millions of dollars during this time. At the end of the year, the contract would be broken, and they'd repeat the process the next year. As a result, I'm highly skeptical when teams brag about a new draft pick who will allegedly turn the team around.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nancy Drew Diaries #6 - Review

Nancy Drew #30 is taking up most of my time now. One project that's getting pushed to the side is my review for this month's Nancy Drew book. Here's the script for the review, which I will eventually turn into a video.

---

I got a special surprise in the mail last week, which means it's time for another book review!

Nancy Drew Diaries #6: Secret at Mystic Lake, was published on May 6, 2014. It was written by Carolyn Keene, who invented the recumbent canoe in 2003 and who is so good at biking that she won the 2002 Tour De France while in Australia.

The premise of the last book was that George hates sports. Well, in this book, George suddenly likes sports again. *CONTINUITY!* For her birthday, George is going on a three day, 105-mile biking trip at Mystic Lake. Nancy and Bess are going too, but Bess is very reluctant because sweating is just not a Bess thing.

The leaders of the trip are a pair of twins named Caitlin and Henry Moorehead. Caitlin is the responsible one, who plans for everything and is going to Yale next year! Henry is the lazy one who screws up a lot. He forgot to print out the maps for the trip, and instead of going to college, he's going on vacation.

Wait, you can go on vacation instead of going to college? Why didn't anyone tell me about this in high school? That would have saved a TON of money!

The other two members of the group are an older hippie named Dagger, and a girl named Zoe Ferullo who loves One Direction and Project Runway. Zoe and Bess become instant best friends and spend all their time gossiping about TV and shopping. This makes George sad, because she was hoping to bond with Bess during the trip.

Hmmm...so this book is about a group of teenagers who are camping in the woods with a crazy hippie. I think I saw this in a horror film once.

When the group stops to have lunch, they leave their gear unattended on the road. Before you can say, "That's a dumb idea", most of the gear gets stolen. Everyone votes to keep going, because common sense would ruin the book.

A rainstorm breaks out that night, so Nancy, Bess and George all pile into Zoe's tent. George argues with Zoe, and she tries to guilt-trip Bess. It's interesting to see George and Bess take pot shots at each other, but...I'm gonna side with Bess on this one. She made it very obvious that she dislikes biking and she only agreed to join this trip for George.

The main plot of the book finally shows up, a third of the way through. Early in the morning, Caitlin and Henry get into a fight over a text message. Not long after, Caitlin screams and disappears. The group searches for her for an hour, and Henry and Dagger get in a minor tiff over what happened.

It quickly becomes obvious that Henry is not fit to be a leader. Not only has all the food disappeared, but Henry has no idea where to find the emergency satelite phone. Henry is the only one with a map of the area, but he gets the group hopelessly lost as they try to reach a ranger station.

At the end of the book, we get told that the culprit switched Henry's map for a fake one. However, I still question the fact that the group got lost, while following bike trails. Are there no signs on the pathways at national parks?

The fight between Dagger and Henry escalates as Dagger pulls out a dagger and demands to have the map. Zoe confiscates the knife, and after biking for an entire day, the group sets up camp by a stream. While they do so, somebody slashes the tires on the bikes.

...This would have been a lot more dramatic if the back cover of the book hadn't spoiled it for us.

More fighting breaks out. Henry and Dagger take the map and go on foot towards the ranger station, while the girls camp here and have a fun karaoke competition. Finally a break from the fighting.

Then, with no prompting whatsoever, Bess and George end their minor fight and become best cousin friends again. That was easily resolved.

Ah, but the culprits have decided that Nancy is too much of a threat! Not sure why. Nancy isn't even close to solving the mystery. Still, the culprits decide to tip their hand and attack Nancy in the dark woods.

Nancy runs for her life, and by huge coincidence, she happens to find a canoe. She paddles from the stream to the lake, and by another huge coincidence, she happens to find a small cabin with the culprits inside.

The culprits are Caitlin and Zoe. Caitlin reveals that she secretly hates her brother Henry. He always gets whatever he wants without trying, while she works as hard as she possibly can, and she gets nothing!

Pretty sure a full scholarship to Yale doesn't count as "nothing", Caitlin.

Caitlin and Zoe met each other at Overachiever Girl Camp--apparently those exist--and they concocted this plan to sabotage Henry's reputation. They purposely ruined the trip, so Henry will be blamed for everything, while they have a cozy vacation in this lakeside cabin.

Caitlin's plan is solid, but the problem is that the entire thing is unnecessary and overly complicated. If the plan was to make Henry look bad, all Caitlin had to do was disappear to her hidden cabin and do nothing. Henry would have messed everything up by himself. There was no need to constantly sabotage the trip and almost kill the campers.

The icing on the unnecessary cake is Henry and Caitlin's fight over the text message. It turns out Henry has a secret gambling debt to the tune of $6000. Caitlin could have easily discredited Henry weeks ago, by making this information public. So why didn't she?

Once Caitlin and Zoe finish explaining everything, they decide to lock Nancy in a shed until the trip is over. What are they going to do afterwards, when Nancy rejoins civilization and tells the police? Dunno. The high achievers don't think that far ahead.

The girls drag Nancy away, but she pinches Zoe in the armpit, which lets her escape. She takes the canoe back to the camping area, where she gets Bess and George.

They run away and luckily find a car belonging to a park ranger. Looks like Henry and Dagger found the ranger station after all!

We get told the culprits were arrested offscreen, while the girls get a pancake breakfast. They decide that George's next birthday should be a slumber party. The End.

---

Post-Book Followup:

After reading this book, my girlfriend went on a rant about how the criminals in this series are huge wusses. They only commit petty crimes, not real crimes, and their motivations and explanations are so haphazard. It feels like the author makes up the motive and explanation as an afterthought, instead of working out the culprit's plot ahead of time.

The book doesn't give a motive to Zoe. In fact, I have no idea why she is Caitlin's accomplice. Caitlin could have easily done everything without Zoe's help. You know what? Let's add Zoe to the unnecessary elements to the plan.

To its credit, the book does a good job of introducing all the suspects and important plot points in the first chapter. It also does a good job with characterization, one of the consistent strong points of the series. Even if the characters tend to be general stereotypes like "hippy, screwup and valley girl", they are still interesting to read about.

I'm on the fence, as to the fight between Bess and George. It's interesting, but it doesn't go anywhere, and it just sort of...ends.

On a side note, this book bears a strong resemblance to Nancy Drew Files #6: White Water Terror. It's a sporting / camping trip, where the equipment is sabotaged and the food is stolen, leaving the group lost in the woods. One of the two group leaders disappears, only to reappear as the culprit. The similarities between the two books are probably just a coincidence, but it's kind of odd that Book #6 in two different series have a lot in common.

I'm giving this book a four out of ten, the below-average score. As always, I'm removing one point, because the book is double-spaced to make it twice as long. Even the Nancy Drew series for eight-year-olds doesn't pull that trick.

So that means my final score for Nancy Drew Diaires #6, Secret at Mystic Lake, is a three out of ten.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shattered Medallion Videos

Here is my playlist for Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion.

The first five videos are below. I'll keep the pace of "about an hour a day" until I'm done with the game. Okay?









Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion

Pre-orders for Nancy Drew #30 are being released TODAY! I'm excited! This is going to be so much fun!

Hopefully we won't crash the website, like we did with Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen. As a Nancy Drew fan, I feel a small bit of pride in helping make that happen.

Here is the game's trailer, along with my analysis:



Monday, May 12, 2014

Nancy Drew #30

People have asked if I'm going to do a blind playthrough for Nancy Drew #30. I'll let you viewers decide! Here are the options:

1. I record myself playing the entire game for the first time. This usually results in a lot of stupid mistakes that take me hours to figure out. For example, it took me hours to figure out where Ryan is, in The Deadly Device. Afterwards, I do an "official" video walkthrough. This results in two different walkthroughs, which is pretty redundant.

2. I go back and forth between playing the game on Amateur Sleuth mode, and recording my walkthrough on Master Sleuth mode. Usually, I do this in one-hour segments (because my computer can't handle recording HD games for much longer than that). This cuts down on 90% of the pointless wandering around and stupid mistakes, and it's how I do most of my video walkthroughs.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Phoenix Wright, Case 3

Here's the first set of videos for Phoenix Wright 5: Case 3:












Saturday, May 10, 2014

Month of Mary

I'm going to continue my brief summary of the Month of Mary book. I find it useful and interesting. I wish the compiler cited his sources, though, because some parts come directly from Saint Francs de Sales, while others clearly do not.

Day Five is about how Mary serves as a model to all religious, especially nuns. The Virgin Mary made strong resolutions, which she renewed regularly. Too often, people will make promises and later break them, or their enthusiasm and resolve weakens over time.

Day Six continues talking about Mary being the standard that all consecrated religious should follow. Her love of solitude and withdrawal from the world was particularly commendable, as it allowed her to better contemplate the beauty of her Divine Spouse.

Day Seven is about the Annunciation (when the angel visited the Virgin Mary and she agreed to become pregnant). Not only did she show great humility united with charity at this event, but she also showed a fruitful virginity which surpasses that of the angels in many ways. It was fruitful, because she was (and is) able to produce many spiritual children whom she purifies, like St. Mary Magdalene and Pope St. John Paul II. It was more excellent than that of the angels, because angels are chaste by nature, whereas Mary is commendable because she retained her purity even though she was subjected to great trials.

Day Eight is about the Visitation (when the Virgin Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth). Despite being pregnant herself, Mary undertook great pains to help others. We should imitate her in laboring for the sake of God and others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves. This shows great humility.

Day Nine continues talking about the Visitation. Saint Luke says Mary went "with haste to her cousin Elizabeth", and we should imitate her in her diligence. Do not delay in doing God's work, but do it with all haste! St. Luke further says that, at the Visitation, St. Elizabeth was further filled with the Holy Spirit, which teaches us that the graces of the Holy Spirit can never be granted to us in such full measure that it cannot be augmented.

Day Ten continues talking about Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit, at the visit of Mary. This had three effects, which we can deduce from what Elizabeth said. First was profound humility, second was confirmation in faith, and third was a complete change of heart. This happened due to the intervention of the Virgin Mary, so we should not be afraid to ask for her intercession on our behalf.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Problem With Professional Sports

The problem with professional sports right now is that most of the teams are very, very good. That makes sports a little boring to watch.

In football or soccer, teams will have really good defense, which results in low-scoring games. Baseball is the same way; if one team is good, no one from the other team will get on base or score a run. But even though "no one gets any points" is a sign of a good team, viewers find it boring to watch scoreless games.

It seems like scoreless games happen more and more often today. In baseball, over a quarter of all the perfect games in history took place within the last five years. I wonder if we're headed for a dystopia, where every team is so good / equally matched that almost every game results in a draw.

Something similar seems be happening in the political sphere. The Democrats and Republicans are so good at blocking each other that fewer and fewer laws get passed each year. And both parties are so good at Presidential elections that they can focus on fewer or fewer states; by some counts, only eight of the fifty states matter in elections today. Are we headed for a dystopia where a Presidential election is decided by only one state?

Oh, wait, that already happened. Florida, 2000.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. This week, they released Book 6 of the 2013 Nancy Drew Diaries series. Of the 5 books so far, only 1 of them is actually good. I hope this one is good, too, but I'm not holding my breath.

After I do a review for it, my book review series is going to go underground for a bit. It'll eventually return, with a bunch of books from the 1980's series. My plan is to post reviews of books 4-12 in chronological order. Books 8-10 are a minor trilogy where Nancy and Ned break up, then get back together. I hope it's worth reading in order.

2. Speaking of books, my latest eBook has been published! It's All the Works of Saint Patrick, in Latin. I'm hoping to publish an English translation of the book, since the current English translation is old-fashioned.

3. Here's a video of me playing The Captive Curse with my girlfriend's daughter. She's adorable.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Nancy Drew Remembers (A Parody)

The other day, I tracked down Nancy Drew Remembers (A Parody), by Bobbie Ann Mason. It's a short story, contained in a collection entitled Murder For Love. An online version can be found here, although I suspect it's an illegal copy.

The premise of the story is fantastic. Nancy Drew is now 39 years old and basically retired from detective work. When her father dies, she decides it's a mystery she has to solve.

The problem is that the story comes very close to being an incoherent mess. It feels like the author tried the "write drunk, revise sober" strategy, but she accidentally sent the unrevised version to the publisher. Nancy goes off on a random tangent almost every other sentence, and the story is badly chopped up into unrelated sections. This makes following the story more difficult than it should be.

There are a few funny jokes, but nothing particularly strong. The only joke I remember is Adult Bess saying something like, "I'm sorry Nancy, but I can't help you with this mystery. I can't just drop everything and run off to another state, like I did when I was a teenager. I've got three kids now!"

Bess is married to Ned, which is an interesting decision. The story has a mysterious handsome stranger named Draco S. Wren (obvious anagram for Carson Drew), and his subplot is wrapped up in a most confusing and unsatisfying way. (Spoiler: Nancy is attracted to him because he looks just like her father, which is creepy. It turns out that he is Nancy's half-brother.) Nancy, lost in the memories of her golden years, doesn't seem to understand or care what's going on.

I was hoping this story would be good enough to do a video review for. It's not. Oh well. Maybe Judy Moody: Girl Detective or Baby-Sitters Club 5 will be worthwhile Nancy Drew-themed stories.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nancy Drew: The E-Mail Mystery

Nancy Drew: The E-Mail Mystery is an awful book. The author knows almost nothing about computers, so almost all of the information in the book is either wrong or badly outdated. For example, the author believes that emails are sent to phone numbers. I have no idea where the author got that idea.

The main mystery is "Nancy must figure out who sent an email". It takes Nancy over a hundred pages to reach the obvious solution: check the "sent from" section of the email. No, really. She checks the "sent to" section in Chapter 2, but no one thinks to check the "sent from" section until Chapter 15.



After writing my book review, I found out two things about Nancy Drew and technology.

#1, Nancy has a personal computer in the 1987 book Buried Secrets. In The E-Mail Mystery, there is no computer at the Drew house, and Nancy has never used one before.

#2. In the 2013 book Strangers on a Train, Nancy is introduced to Internet search engines for the first time on page 149. Her complete ignorance of computers apparently changed very little in the past 15 years.

Monday, May 5, 2014

More Hockey

Reactions to the San Jose Sharks losing the playoffs were rather harsh. I saw a lot of people say things like "What a bunch of losers! Those guys are all worthless. They should fire the coach and the players!"

I don't think the entire team should be fired. They're a good team. They just always lose, during the playoffs. Even if this year's playoff run was a spectacular failure, they can at least feel a sense of accomplishment in making the playoffs ten years in a row.

I don't know how often coaches get fired in hockey. I know that coaches get fired very often in football. Only about 25% of football coaches keep their jobs for five years or more. Hopefully, most of the fired coaches get hired by other teams, because otherwise we're talking about extremely low job security. I'm sure coaches would prefer the kind of job security found in Washington D.C.; I'm told about 20% of Congress have had their current jobs for thirty-five years or more.

The other hockey team I'm following is the Portland Winterhawks, and they're in the final round of the playoffs. Their opponent is the Edmonton Oil Kings. Portland has won two games in the best-out-of-seven series, while Edmonton has won none. Portland is favored to win the series, because they did slightly better than Edmonton in the normal season, with four more wins overall. Portland beat Edmonton last year, but Edmonton beat Portland the year before that.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Month of Mary

I'm trying to get back into the habit of editing e-books, so this month, I'm going to edit a book about the Virgin Mary. It's adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, and there is an entry for every day of the month. Editing a few pages every day shouldn't be too hard, right?

There are two preliminary sections. The first is about proper devotion to the Virgin Mary, which lies between two extremes. One extreme is ignoring her completely, while the other extreme is excessively praising her to the point that she is equal with God. True devotion to the Blessed Virgin is not excessive, and it is geared towards God, because He is the source of her perfections. To use a natural analogy, if she is the moon, it is only because she receives and reflects the light of the sun.

The second preliminary section is about the Immaculate Conception, which means that Mary was born without sin. This also means she was born with the full use of reason, rather than being born with the impaired judgment that is a result of original sin.

Day One is about Mary as a child. Like Jesus, she was humble and purposely denied herself. Instead of demanding special treatment or showing off her divine prerogative, she acted like a normal child. She was obedient to her parents, and her obedience to others continued throughout her entire life. You could say that she never acted out of her own will, but she was always obedient to the will of God.

Day Two is about the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, which is the event in her life when she made a vow of virginity. It was a joyous occasion. Saint Francis makes note of how we should serve God, even from our youth, and we should make the most of our present time, through youthful passion and diligence. Do not walk in the way of perfection; rather, run in the way of perfection, and "run so as to win".

Day Three is a continuation of Day Two. Mary was led to the Temple by her parents; in the same way, God leads us by the hand onto the path of the exercise of virtues, and sometimes He carries us in the arms of divine providence. Also like Mary, we should dedicate ourselves to God unreservedly, holding nothing back, just as He holds nothing back in the giving of himself. You should give your whole heart to God, even if part of your heart is unclean; that is more acceptable to God than if you hold back part of your heart out of fear of unworthiness.

Day Four is about Mary's faithfulness in answering her vocation. She answered the call of God without protracted deliberation or reserve. Be prompt in doing what God calls you to do, and attempt to follow the inspirations of God without holding anything back.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nancy Drew Files #4

Writing blog posts is hard work when I'm sleepy. Let me just share my review of Nancy Drew Files #4. The video will be posted to Youtube someday.

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Today's Nancy Drew book is one of the 1980's romance mysteries, which is supposed to appeal to older readers, but ironically, the reading level of this book is 7+, which is actually for younger readers than the normal series. Does that the romance in this book isn't mature?

Ha ha ha. Yeah, the romance is bad.

Nancy Drew Files #4 is "The Mystery of the 80's Perm", I mean, "Smile and Say Murder". It was first published in October, 1986. The premise of the book is that Nancy has been hired to work for Yvonne Verdi, the co-owner of Flash Magazine. Yvonne is a harsh businesswoman, who likes to have the upper hand in everything. She constantly interrupts other people, and when Nancy mentions mystery books, Yvonne dismisses them as "too predictable".

That's a mean thing to say to a detective you've just hired. Hey, Yvonne, if you hate mysteries so much, why are you IN one?

Yvonne started receiving death threats after a big company offered to buy Flash Magazine for ten million dollars. Yvonne believes the culprit is her partner and photographer, Mick Swanson. Mick is suspicious because he has a horrible, violent temper, but I'm more concerned about the fact that Mick doesn't know the difference between "you're" and "your". That is CULPRIT-level evil, right there. How is this guy the co-owner of a magazine, again?

Nancy worries that she's in over her head, so she calls her boyfriend Ned for help. Ned is a little bitter that she cancelled their Spring Break plans without consulting him, not for the first time, I might add. After giving Nancy a lot of grief, he reluctantly agrees to join the investigation.

Nancy's first job is to help Mick with a photo shoot. Here she meets Mick's younger sister Sondra. Nancy believes that Sondra is incredibly attractive and very nice. No, the author isn't questioning Nancy's sexual orientation; the author is doing a bad job of foreshadowing.

The next day, Mick summons Nancy to his office. It turns out that he is a nice guy under his rough exterior. In fact, he enjoys reading mystery books, like Agatha Christie and the Hardy Boys.

Woah. WHAT? Nancy is on a first-name basis with the Hardy Boys! That means the boys are real, but they still have fictional books about them and...my brain hurts.

After this, Nancy sees Ned talking with Sondra. Nancy has a complete meltdown, because it looks like Sondra is flirting with Ned. ARE they flirting? No. Doesn't matter. Nancy wants to slap that nasty girl. And Sondra, too.

With all the fury of an angry two-year-old, Nancy openly confronts Ned and starts insulting him. He tries to explain that she's jumping to conclusions, but she interrupts every sentence he says, and she has to run away in tears because of her faithless boyfriend.

In the next chapter, Nancy wonders if the situation is related to Daryl Gray, from the first book. Hey, let's talk about that. In "Secrets Can Kill", Nancy talks with Daryl Gray. Did I say "talks"? I meant Nancy MAKES OUT with Daryl Gray MULTIPLE TIMES. This culminates in a date with Daryl, where Nancy purposely decides to kiss him, even though she knows Ned is watching. Yeah. Nancy, you have no leg to stand on. You're a bigger cheater than Ned will ever be.

Back with the mystery, a gun is fired in Yvonne's office. Yvonne says an armed gunman attacked her, and she pretends to faint. Nancy SHOULD find it suspicious that Yvonne is clearly faking, but she's too distracted by the fact that Ned entered the room at the same time as Sondra. Oh, that horrible, cheating man!

A few minutes later, Nancy sees Mick inside his office, with a gun. Mick claims the gun isn't his, and a struggle ensues. The gun goes off just as the police arrive, and they are both taken into custody. After the forensics test, Nancy is allowed to leave, and Mick is formally arrested.

Sondra bursts into tears, because her brother is in jail. Nancy flies off the handle, because Ned tries to comfort her. How DARE he have compassion for someone whose family member was falsely arrested? Nancy decides to never talk to Ned again. That'll teach him to be nice to crying women.

Mick is only in jail for a day, before Nancy clears him of all charges. Not only is there photographic proof of his alibi, but the threatening letters to Yvonne indicate that the writer knows the difference between "you're" and "your". SAVED BY BAD GRAMMAR, Mick!

Nancy returns to the magazine offices, where Yvonne fires her. Aw, poor Nancy.

The next chapter begins with Nancy and Mick inside a limosine, openly flirting with each other. See, I told you she's a cheater. The two of them are dressed up in fancy clothes, because they're attending a magazine awards show. I had to re-read this section a few times, just to make sure this wasn't a dream sequence. It's not; the book randomly jumped ahead a week, to an event that was never mentioned ahead of time.

Mick mentions that Yvonne once wrote a mystery novel, and everything falls into place for Nancy. Yvonne wrote a mystery, so SHE must be the culprit! That...that's an illogical conclusion. Even worse, the book openly admits that Nancy's reasoning here is stupid:

"I see," Yvonne said. "Then it wasn't a flaw in my planning. It was just a silly coincidence--Mick mentioning that I wrote mysteries."

"Silly coincidences are a detective's best friends," Nancy said seriously. "I've rarely solved a mystery without one."

Nancy Drew: solving mysteries through dumb luck since 1930.

When Nancy arrives at the office, Ned is with Sondra. Sondra puts her foot down, and she forces Nancy to listen to them. To Nancy's surprise, and no one else's, there is no romance going on between Ned and Sondra! Nancy would have known that, if she actually bothered to listen to her boyfriend.

I'm serious, this is the first time in 60 pages that Ned has been allowed to speak a full sentence. Still, the book doesn't want to admit Nancy was in the wrong here, even though she CLEARLY was, so the blame falls on Ned, who must have been getting an ego trip from his jealous girlfriend. Right. Because guys LOVE getting yelled at for doing nothing wrong.

Nancy concocts a half-baked plan to get Yvonne's confession on audio tape, but Yvonne pulls out a gun. She explains the clever tricks she used to frame Mick, then she ties up our three teenage heroes in the photography dark room. She starts a chemical fire near the tape, then leaves.

Nancy unties Sondra's hands with her teeth, and once they're untied, they use a sink and a bucket to put out most of the flames. Nancy grabs the miraculously undamaged audio tape and takes it to the police.

The final chapter is Ned and Nancy, together again. They recap what happened at the magazine offices, while happily sharing kisses. It's supposed to be sweet, but it's incredibly unrealistic. Here's what happens:

Ned admits he kissed Sondra offscreen, even though the book already confirmed nothing romantic happened between them (CONTINUITY!). Nancy asks for a kiss comparison. Ned kisses Nancy and confirms that she is a better kisser. Nancy non-verbally decides that she and Ned belong together, but it's still okay if they cheat on each other occasionally.

Seriously people, you can't make this stuff up. For the majority of the book, Nancy is ready to dump Ned because he talked to another girl. But in the end, she does a complete reversal and decides that committing adultery is perfectly fine by her. THIS is supposed to be a successful relationship? No. A hundred times no.

Ned, you need to break up with Nancy immediately. She's cheated on you before, and she's going to cheat on you again. You deserve better than that. The book ends with Nancy deliberately lying to Ned about her future plans, so you know she's not going to change.

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Post-Book Followup.

Normally, I don't like Ned, but I am 100% on his side here. Nancy Drew is a horrible girlfriend in this book. Simply put, she is incredibly immature. As I said at the start of this review, the book has a reading level of 7+, and I concur. Nancy acts likes a seven-year-old, with her constant temper tantrums over Ned.

It's true that the romance drama here is superior to the previous book, but jumping from "awful" to "mediocre" isn't enough to get my approval. I'm getting sick of the way that the Nancy Drew Files series forces Nancy and her friends to act out of character, for the sake of creating romantic drama.

The series also has the bad habit of including unimportant suspects who only appear for two pages. We have two of them in this book: Yvonne's boyfriend and Brenda Carlton, the amateur reporter who usually screws things up for Nancy. It's kind of funny, actually. Nancy spends two whole pages worrying about Brenda, and Brenda only talks for one paragraph. Talk about disproportionate.

I like continuity, so I was happy when they mentioned the love interests from previous books. George has a date with the guy from Book 3, and Bess doesn't know about her relationship with the guitar player from Book 2, because she hasn't seen him since he went on tour. Nancy mentions Daryl Gray from Book 1, but since his name is misspelled, it really detracts from the continuity nod.

All in all, this book probably deserves a 4 out of 10, because it's a tad below average. My final score will be lower than that, since the book is saddled with badly-done romance sections that make Nancy an unlikeable hero. I give Smile and Say Murder a 2 out of 10.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Everything Wrong With

I'm probably not going to make an Everything Wrong With video this month. According to the vote, people would like to see an Everything Wrong With for either Creature of Kapu Cave or The Captive Curse. I guess people dislike games where Nancy Drew goes up against a creature.

So, hey, what would you mention in a video that points out the mistakes of these games?

Captive Curse:
  • Nancy has a map of the castle which accurately predicts where the monster is going to strike, but she doesn't use it until it's convenient to the plot.
  • How did Renate get this map? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Renate wakes up when Nancy drops a pencil. A pencil.
  • Who owns the camp in the woods, anyway? We're supposed to think it belongs to the culprit, but the camp is completely inaccessible until Nancy clears away the burrs. Are you telling me the culprit magically jumped over the wall of burrs every single time?
  • Nancy finds the real necklace, by digging in the spot on the legend page. At the end, the book's introduction says the legend pages are fictional. So...why do they lead to real historical items?
  • If the culprit's plan was to kill Nancy all along, why not kill Nancy from the get-go?
  • Karl: "The monster! It has gotten through the gates! This has never happened before!" You mean the wide-open gates that anyone can get through? Have you thought about closing them? Seriously, Karl, how do you protect yourself from peasant uprisings?

Creature of Kapu Cave
  • There is no creature at Kapu Cave.
  • Actually, Kapu Cave is completely irrelevant to the game until the final ten minutes, when it suddenly turns into an Indiana Jones temple.
  • I can't tell if Joe Hardy is supposed to look like a troll, or if he's secretly a balding 50-year-old.
  • Frass jars.
  • Big Island Mike.
  • Johnny Kuto subplot that goes nowhere.
  • Quigley's mysterious phone number subplot that goes nowhere.
  • Quigley's camp is destroyed, but pretty much everything is intact except for three items. It's almost like the culprit purposely decided to only take the things which would result in puzzles.
  • Really? [Character] tore off the first page of Quigley's notes, then put them in his pocket? Why? WHY?
  • The game forces you to listen to the Hardy Boy's lengthy speech about Three Finger Rock two times in a row.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

San Jose Loses

As I mentioned last year, my favorite hockey team is the San Jose Sharks. That's mainly because when I was nine years old, I got to play at one of their games as the "in-between periods" entertainment. It's always fun when they bring out little kids to play for a bit during the break.

The Sharks are a pretty good team. They've made the playoffs ten seasons in a row, at this point. The problem is that they always lose in the playoffs. I still haven't decided what's worse: if they start losing right away, or if they play well for a while, then start losing.

They started off really well, this year. They scored 17 goals in the first three games! That's an average of 5 2/3 goals per game. If Blogger wasn't being a jerk right now, I'd share an awesome photo of me and my girlfriend at Game 2.

But after Game 3, they lost four games in a row and got kicked out of the playoffs. This is the third time in five seasons that they were ejected after a four game losing streak. In these four games, they scored 5 goals overall, for an average of 1 and 1/4 goals per game. You might have noticed that this is less than a quarter of their scoring average for the first three games. Oh, well. Maybe we'll win next year! Or at least, not lose horribly. I'll settle for not losing horribly.