Monday, June 30, 2014

Actions and Belief

I'm surprised that so many people think there is a huge gap between belief and actions. The two things are not separate, because your beliefs influence your actions. Or as Venerable Fulton Sheen once put it...



...This has been random philosophical thoughts, with Michael, on Monday. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nancy Drew Files 8 - Review

Yes, I know I do cross-promotion of my videos a bit too often here on my blog, but this is a good review! This is the book where Ned breaks up with Nancy.



---

In Nancy Drew Files #8, Ned breaks up with Nancy Drew, because she is a horrible girlfriend. Let me pick the right music for this occasion.

*Now you're just somebody that I used to know* No.
*What about us? What about everything we've been through?* Nope.
*Celebrate good times, come on!* There we go!

Two Points to Murder was written in February 1987. It's the first book in the series to take place in the month it was written. Take notes, Spring Break in October book.

The book begins with Nancy and her friends going to Emerson University. Nancy's boyfriend Ned Nickerson is the co-captain of the college basketball team, and they're hoping to make the NCAA playoffs this year. Sadly, someone has been playing pranks on the team. The coach needs Nancy to figure out who it is!

Oh, and there's an assaulter on campus who is beating up random students, but for whatever reason, nobody thinks this is important.

Also, Nancy's relationship is in a bad place right now, and she's hoping to improve it. Our heavy-handed author mentions this five times in the first chapter. Gee, I sure hope nothing bad happens to them!

Ned introduces Nancy to Mike O'Shea, the other team captain. Mike is very intense, and he needs a lot of alone time. Mike gets especially depressed when the practical joker leaves an effigy hanging from a basketball net. Even worse, during the game, someone attacks the mascot costume. No! What kind of monster would hurt Willy the Wildcat?

Emerson still wins the game, but they lose their big lead. As part of the celebration, Ned takes Nancy and her friends to his frat house, where there is no underage drinking or inappropriate behavior. As long as we're living in fantasy land, I want a pony.

Nancy accidentally enters Mike's bedroom, where she finds evidence that proves Mike made the effigy. Nancy and Ned get in a big fight, over whether or not Mike is guilty. Ned maintains that he trusts his co-captain, and that Mike has no motive! Nancy, meanwhile, has solid evidence.

ROUND ONE
Nancy - 1
Ned - 0

The following day, Nancy overhears a student named "Captain Hook" taking about "the line". Captain Hook later gets attacked by the Assaulter. The main suspect? Peter Pan of course.

Nancy wants to patch things up with Ned, so they go on a date, and she tries to apologize for accusing his best friend. Somehow, the apology morphs into a bold assertion that she will not stop her investigation until Mike is in jail. Ned calls Nancy out on giving the worst apology ever.

ROUND TWO
Nancy - 1
Ned - 1

Nancy investigates the two innocent suspects, and her attention wanders on to the Campus Assaulter. The Assaulter drives a black Camero, and...wow, that's an ugly car.

The assaulter tries to run Nancy over, he shoots out the tires on the basketball team's bus, and there's a chase sequence through a heating plant. All three times, Nancy doesn't remember to get the license plate number until after the car leaves.

ROUND THREE
Assaulter - 1
Nancy - 0

Nancy and Ned have another argument, and she is so mad that she decides to get more evidence! She breaks into Mike's locker, where she finds $2000 in cash, along with a list of opponents and numbers. While exploring the rest of the locker room, Nancy gets trapped inside the sauna. The culprit turns on the heat, forcing Nancy to take off her clothes. Naked Nancy...uh...

*scared kitty*

I'm going to skip to the next chapter, if that's okay with you.

Nancy confronts Mike with all of her evidence. She breaks down his barriers, until Mike becomes calm and determined. He thanks Nancy, for convincing him to do the right thing. "The right thing", in this case, is apparently "go away without telling Nancy anything".

Six hours later, Mike gets pushed off a two-story building. Great, now Nancy and Ned are gonna have to find someone new to argue about.

During the final basketball game, George makes a random comment, and Nancy realizes the culprit is Dr. Riggs.

Who?

The team physician. He appeared on pages 9, 116 and 128. Notice the huge gap in between his consecutive appearances.

Riggs has been running an illegal gambling ring, and he's paying off some of the players. The practical joker was a cover, so the team would have an excuse to play poorly and not beat the point spread. All students who couldn't pay their gambling debts became victims of the Campus Assaulter.

Remember Book 4, when Nancy forced her friends to wait outside while she confronted the culprit? That ended up being a bad move, because it left her alone and helpless when the culprit pulled a gun on her. Apparently, Nancy didn't learn her lesson the first time around, because the exact same thing happens again.

ROUND FOUR

Common Sense = 1
Nancy Drew = 0

Riggs knocks Nancy out with chloroform. When she wakes up, she meets the Assaulter. She tricks him into monologuing, then escapes to the gym. The culprit chases her, and Nancy is forced to hotwire a parade float so she can break through the locked exit doors.

Let me repeat that. Nancy hotwires a parade float, then smashes it into a pair of glass door. I'm surprised I haven't seen that escape sequence in a James Bond film yet.

The book ends with Nancy and Ned having a serious talk. He apologizes for being angry with her, because she was right all along about Mike. She forgives him, and they resolve to be more considerate of each other's feelings in the future.

...That probably WAS the original ending to this book. Instead, we get a one-sided, two-page argument. Ned cannot handle Nancy's constant suspicions, the way she ignores his opinions, and the fact that she also considers random mysteries to be more important than their relationship.

FINAL SCORE

Ned - 2
Nancy - 1

So, it's over. Ned says they should see other people, and he says they can still be friends, maybe.

Congratulations, Ned. Here's your man card back.

The End

---

Post-Book Followup:

To my knowledge, this is the first book in the series which enlisted the help of actual experts. The special acknowledgments section thanks Marvin Kaye, a mystery writer who currently edits the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. Irvin Muchnick also gets thanked; he is a legal consultant and a writer who specializes in sports injuries.

The book doesn't say who did what, but it's probably safe to guess that Marv worked on the mystery elements, while Irv worked on the sports elements.

The fights between Nancy and Ned are realistic and dramatic, except for the final fight where the two of them break up. As other reviewers have noted, Nancy and Ned's breakup is a transparent and half-hearted attempt to shake up the status quo of a stagnant series.

You know how long Nancy and Ned are going to be separated from each other? One book. That's all. This isn't a real breakup; it's a fake breakup, an obvious trap to sell more books.

In regards to everything else, it's a good book. In particular, the suspense building sections were well-done. There is some filler in the book, but it was _interesting_ filler, which is indirectly related to the plot. That's much better than boring, irrelevant filler or relevant filler which is a boring plot recap.

Overall, I'd recommend this book. I just wouldn't recommend the breakup section, even though it's the main selling point of the book. I give Deadly Doubles an 8 out of 10.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saved You a Click

I like this Twitter: Saved You A Click. It takes clickbait headlines, and spoils them for you.

You know, those awful "news" articles with purposefully-misleading headlines? Half of them force you to wade through a wall of boring text to get to the part that's actually important. The other half are non-news stories, where they try to make you think something happened when it didn't.

For example, "Are They Making a Nancy Drew Movie?". They're not. Quit trying to trick me into visiting your website with non-news.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Angry Birds Epic

I just got addicted to Angry Birds Epic, an RPG game based on Angry Birds. It's a pretty good game. It's similar to older RPGs, in that your characters are limited to two possible moves, which are usually an attack-based and a defense-based move.

The thing I like the most is the rating system. After every battle, they give you a score, which is calculated by the amount of HP you have left over and adjusted by how tough the enemies are and how many turns you took. My mission is to get a three-star rating for every battle! Replaying the battles, in hopes of getting a higher score, has proven to be alternatingly fun and frustrating. Either way, I get more EXP, so it's all good.

I'm told that the game will get super difficult later on, in an attempt to get me to pay for healing items and better armor. Phooey!

Anyway, if I'm late with blog posts in the next few months, it's because I'm too busy playing Angry Birds. Sorry in advance.

Man, those Angry Birds people are so lucky! This is basically the only series (besides Mario) that is so successful that they can expand into basically any genre they want, and still make a profit. I know Angry Birds has gone into kart simulators, animation and crossovers; I can only guess sports games are in their future.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sunday Mass

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (of New York) wrote about Sunday Mass this past weekend.

1. He orders priests to give short homilies, multiple times. In this respect, Cardinal Dolan practices what he preaches. The only homily I heard him give was on Ash Wednesday. He started off by talking about the New York Yankees, then he paused for a moment.

I thought, That wasn't a very good introduction. Maybe the rest of the homily will be better.

Then he sat down, and I thought, Wait, that was the entire homily?!

Not to be mean, but Ash Wednesday is kind of important. I was expecting the homily to be longer than a minute. It doesn't have to be longer than the average at-bat time for the New York Yankees, but it should last longer than the time it takes a Yankee to run around all four bases.

2. It is very difficult to provide for ethnic needs. The poor Vietnamese people are my parish are out of luck. They will never hear a mass in Vietnamese, because neither priest knows that language. The same goes for the Filipinos, the Italians and the Africans. That's part of the reason why Catholics used to have mass in Latin; it made it so no one was excluded or given preference, on the basis of language.

If I was a priest, I would probably try having mass in a language I don't know. For example, Tagalog or Japanese. Those languages have regular pronunciations, so as long as they are written in English letters, I can read in them. True, I have a horribly obvious American accent when speaking in other languages, but it's the thought that counts.

3. Cardinal Dolan asks for "trained Extraordinary Eucharistic ministers (where called for and allowed by liturgical law)". Not to be snotty, but 90% of the time, the law does not call for any Eucharistic ministers besides the priest. If Catholics enforced the general rule of "no going to Communion if you haven't been to Confession in the past three months", the distribution of the Eucharist would take significantly less time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nancy Drew Files 5 - Review



Even though Hit and Run Holiday was first published in November, 1986, the premise is that Nancy and her friends are on Spring Break in Florida. Spring break in November? What?

Nancy stops to check up on Kim Baylor, the daughter of one of her neighbors. Nancy overhears Kim having a heated phone conversation with someone named Ricardo. Kim then rushes outside, where she gets hit by an unmarked car.

Kim blames Rosita, then slips into an 60-page coma. After taking Kim to the hospital, Nancy returns to Kim's motel. Someone broke in and ransacked the room! Amid the mess, Nancy finds some things that indicate a second person lives with Kim. She also finds a photo strip of Kim with a Hispanic woman, presumably Rosita.

Nancy's search is interrupted when someone breaks into the room. Including Nancy, that makes three intruders in five minutes. Wow, Kim does not live in a safe neighborhood.

Nancy hides in the closet while the intruder steals a few things. Later on the beach, Nancy sees the intruder again. His name is Ricardo, and he is a lifeguard. Nancy asks him about Kim, but he gets angry and refuses to say anything. Out of spite, Ricardo purposely lets Nancy step on a jellyfish.

That's a weird way to injure sometime. "Here, I'll trick you into stepping on my strategically-placed jellyfish!".

Also on the beach, Bess is flirting with Dirk Bowman, a hunky blonde with horrible taste in swimwear. Dirk works for a boating company that takes people to a nearby island for nighttime parties. The instant Nancy mentions Kim, Dirk attaches himself to her and begs her to meet with him, so they can discuss the case.

Nancy and Dirk set a date, and Bess isn't happy that Nancy has stolen her love interest.

Dirk takes Nancy to Party Island the next day, but they make no progress in the investigation. Nancy sees Ricardo, moments before she is almost killed in a windsurfing accident.

It's starting to sound like Party Island is badly named. Either way, Ricardo is now Nancy's prime suspect.

The owner of Party Island is Lila Templeton. Her family bought the island and party business, with the proceeds from their orange farms. Bess and George accepts Lila's invitation to visit Party Island that night, but since Nancy has seen the movie Pinocchio, she decides to pass.

Instead, Nancy tracks down the Hispanic woman in Kim's picture. Her name is Maria, and Nancy can only half-understand her, since Maria speaks Spanish.

The book takes a surprisingly serious turn at this point, as Maria tells her story. She is an illegal immigrant from an unnamed country which I like to call "Cuba". The Cubans pay a lot of money to be smuggled into America, but when they arrive, they are forced to work as slaves on a farm. The worst part is that they can't go to the police, for fear of deportation.

The slave traders arrive and knock Nancy out. When she wakes up, she's tied to a support beam on the dock. The tide is coming in, and she's going to drown soon. In a more desperate than usual struggle, Nancy manages to escape with her life.

Nancy decides to go the police, but she's interrupted when a corpse is found on the beach. It's Ricardo, and he was also killed by the slave traders. So much for Nancy's theory that Ricardo is the culprit.

Instead of going to the police, Nancy goes to her room and collapses. Bess happens to mention that Lila Pendelton's boat is named "The Rosita", and everything clicks into place. Party Island Boat Tours are just a front, so Lila can bring in Cuban slaves for her family's orange farm.

Great, so NOW Nancy goes to the police and, HA, no. Nancy, Bess and George decide that they're more than enough of a match for the murdering slave traders. Unlike the cover artist, the villains notice Nancy's distinctive reddish-blonde hair, and our heroes are captured and thrown belowdeck.

Dirk is assigned to be the guard, and Nancy escapes from the room by knocking him unconscious with her karate moves. Darn. I was hoping Nancy's magical karate moves from Book 2 would be a one-time thing, but it looks like they'll be a regular feature of this series from now on. If Nancy can easily knock people out in a few seconds, why doesn't she do that to the culprits in _every_ book?

The rest of Nancy's escape goes badly. She swims to Party Island, where she gets chased by Lila's guards. In a surprise twist, Nancy learns that Dirk got to the island before her, even though he was unconscious five minutes ago.

No, wait, that's not the twist. The twist is that Dirk is secretly an undercover cop who is working to bring Lila down. He managed to get Nancy's friends to safety on a speedboat, and now it's time to escape.

But...Dirk was unconscious five minutes ago! How did he have the time to do all of this, and still arrive before Nancy?

Nancy drives the speedboat to shore, while the villains give chase. She escapes by running full speed at a sand bar. The speedboat goes flying through the air to safety, while the villains' boat gets trapped.

In the end, Kim returns to full health, and Maria becomes an American citizen. Dirk visits Nancy before she leaves Florida. Logically, he should be mad because Nancy is an irresponsible teenager who ruined his investigation and blew his cover, but he's actually happy about that. He kisses Nancy twice, before she reminds him that they abandoned a bunch of people on Party Island. Oops!

The End

---

Post-Book Followup:

The first third-to-half of this book is somewhat weak. Nancy's investigation makes very little progress, and it feels like all she does is wander across random tangents. For example, she doesn't look into Ricardo, who is her only suspect. Instead, she focuses on Dirk and Lila, who have no apparent connection to the attempted murder.

The turning point of the book is the introduction of the slave trade plotline. I never expected to see human trafficking come up in a Nancy Drew book, and the topic is handled quite well. It provided what was lacking in the first half of the book: an emotional connection between Nancy and the case.

It helps that the storyline becomes more focused at this point, too.

The quality of the escape scenes varies a bit too much for my tastes, but they're fine overall. The premise of the final third is a little tenuous. Nancy should have contacted the police, like she originally planned to do, instead of charging into a dangerous situation where she once again gets caught and needs to escape.

I didn't mention it in my review, but this book features a lot of random guys hitting on Nancy. As in, at least five different men start flirting with her. I guess they like her 1980's swimsuit or something. Nancy turns them all down, and upon reflection, it's a somewhat odd subplot.

Overall, the book is okay. The good parts sort of balance out the bad parts, and while I wouldn't put it on my "must read" list, it's definitely not on my "must avoid" list, either. I give Hit and Run Mystery--which pretty much ignored the hit and run mystery--a 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Reviews

I made a decision about my Nancy Drew book reviews. Instead of lumping them all together, like I do now, I split them up according to series:
The problem is that I've only read one Nancy Drew Notebooks book, and two Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys Supermystery books. So my next book reading project will be to review more books from those series, enough to have them stand by themselves.

People have also suggested that I read from The Baby-Sitters Club series. I guess that's possible...how bad are those books, again?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Shattered Medallion Bonus Videos

Here are the bonus videos for Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion. That is, the videos showing how to get all the easter eggs, and the videos showing all the various deaths.





I might make a video showing how to get all the various achievements, if people want to see that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sharks' Agony Continues

This year, the San Jose Sharks had a fantastic playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks won three games by solid margins, then lost four games in a row to lose overall. This is a historic loss, in that it's only happened four times in history.

The LA Kings ended up winning the playoffs this year. Congratulations to them!

The schedule for next year has been announced. On October 8th, the Kings start the season by having a huge "we won the playoffs" ceremony. They will raise the playoff banner and basically throw a huge party. Guess who else is going to be there?

The San Jose Sharks.

Yes, due to the weirdness of scheduling, the Sharks are going to have a front-row seat to the Kings' celebration. Poor San Jose Sharks. Haven't they suffered enough? Do they really need an mandatory invitation to the victory party thrown by their hated rivals?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

1940's Comics

During college, I used microfiche machines to read old comic strips. I read the majority of strips from 1938 to 1950. (The newspaper changed the comic strip format around 1950, which is why I stopped).

That's why I was able to notice some historical inaccuracies in Captain America. I've actually read a lot of comics from that time period! There was nothing so bad that it ruined the movie, but I still felt like rolling my eyes every time the female lead had a scene. If you want a realistic portrayal of women in the 1940's, I'd recommend reading Nancy Drew books 17-25.

(On a side note, please tell me the second movie is about Captain America fighting the Japanese. I'm tired of seeing 99% of World War II films being about America VS the Nazis. American fought a second, longer war against Japan at the same time.)

I recently had my two big shoeboxes of 1940's comic strips, shipped out of my parents' house. I now have the project of scrapbooking them all. A good number of them don't have dates, so I have the fun job of figuring out the order they go in. Knowing me, I'll probably make a silly mistake like "miss the strip with the villain reveal" and be confused for the rest of the series.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Captain America 2

I kind of want to see Captain America 2, now that I've seen the first one.

But in order to understand that movie, I need to see The Avengers, first.

Which means I have to watch the Hulk, Iron Man and Thor movies, first, because I know nothing about those characters.

...This is part of the reason why I don't watch superhero movies often. There are too many pre-requisites.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Captain America

Woah, hey, I saw Captain America the other day. This is unusual for me, because I never see superhero movies. The last one I saw was...2003? Like, ten years ago. Here are my thoughts:

  • Historical inaccuracies were everywhere.
  • Remember mutagen, the stuff that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into superheroes? That's basically the same thing that made Captain America a superhero.
  • There were lots of cool fights. Captain America was creative, when thinking of new ways to beat people up.
  • The movie was less creative, with the "best friend" storyline. It was obvious that they only gave Captain America a best friend, so he could be sad when the friend died.
  • I think the general was the best actor out of all the main characters. It's too bad he got the most one-dimensional character in the group.
  • They distorted the color for the entire movie, because it takes place in the 1940's. That's a tad annoying.
  • Captain America's personality is kind of...bland. I understand that's the point--he's supposed to be a generic, all-American guy--but at least give him a hobby or something. Maybe he likes stamp collecting.
  • What is wrong with those army people? They have a superhero who can single-handedly win the war by himself, and they decide not to use him? A five-year-old can come up with a better war strategy than that!
The ending to the movie made no sense whatsoever. Captain America gets frozen in a block of ice, and he wakes up in the 2010's. He walks into Times Square, where a black guy with an eyepatch is mean to him. The end.

Like...what?

There is basically no closure for the characters or storylines that made up 99% of the movie. Presumably, everyone is dead now, and they will never appear again unless we have a time travel plotline. That's pretty lame. And who is Angry Black Guy? I'm sure it makes sense if you've seen The Avengers, but hey, I'm not watching that movie, I'm watching this one! If there are pre-requisites to understanding your movie, you should inform the audience about them ahead of time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cliffhangers

Why do Nancy Drew books have a cliffhanger at the end of every single chapter? Seriously. Every single chapter. I can understand having a cliffhanger or two near the beginning of the book, in order to make things exciting and grab the interest of potential readers. But why continue with cliffhangers throughout the entire book?

I mean, by the time the reader is on Chapter 8, cliffhangers stop working. A smart reader will recognize the fact that Nancy has been put in fake danger seven times already, and they won't be fooled again by another cliffhanger.

At some point, I think it's unnecessary to introduce a cliffhanger to make sure the audience keeps reading the book. For instance, if someone is on Chapter 11, odds are that they will finish the book. You don't need to cliffhanger them, to make sure they keep reading.

Here's what Anne Greenberg, the Nancy Drew editor of the 1980's and 90's has to say: "We've found that the stories are more interesting if they have at least three suspects. If the writer can provide a juicy red herring, so much the better. One element we knew we had to have was the cliffhanger. That tried-and-true device of literary manipulation grabs you by the throat and takes you to the edge and doesn't let go until you have no choice but to turn the page and get yanked into the next chapter with your flashlight batteries running low."

By the way, I'd recommend reading Chapter 7 of this book, if you're interested in seeing how they edited / wrote the Nancy Drew series, after Simon and Schuster bought the rights to Nancy Drew. That particular chapter is available for free.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Final Scene

I've been working on a speedrun for Nancy Drew: The Final Scene. I found an interesting trick, which is probably completely useless.

You are supposed to start the game by finding the hidden passageway inside Brady's room. This is important. If you do not go through the hidden passageway, Joseph and Nicholas do not appear, and you get stuck.

Here's the trick I found. Nicholas automatically appears in the lobby, when you find the letter about Houdini. This means you can skip finding the hidden passageway! Just ignore the hidden passageway, and go straight to finding the Houdini letter. The game proceeds as if you did find the passageway.

It's a nice trick, but the problem is that Joseph won't appear in his area. Also, the door to Simone's room will remain locked. So you're still stuck, if you don't find the hidden passageway. But hey, it's cool that I found an alternate way to make Nicholas appear in the lobby.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Random iOS Games

I figured I would try out some free iOS games the other day.

Addictive Tripeaks is an okay card game, and the best part is probably the fancy backgrounds. I would probably not recommend it, over the free version that the game's inventor has put out. This version has some unnecessary features, like levels and EXP (for a solitaire game?). It also has a "you can only play ten games" limit, in hopes that you will pay money to unlock the "play thirty games" feature. Other standard features, like "undo" and "remove any card" are similarly limited, so you will pay for them.

As You Like is a visual novel. The menus and title screen are all in English, while the rest of the game is in Japanese. It appears to be about a girl with large eyes and pink hair.

Bank Bully is a game where you swipe the screen, in order to throw an ashtray at a banker. Your goal is to hit him many times in a row. That's all. You swipe the screen over and over again.

Bingo-- takes place on a bingo board, but it is not bingo. Instead, it is a game that teaches single-digit addition. I guess it's a clever combination of bingo and math, but I'd rather play normal bingo. Also, I find it a bit odd that there are two hyphens included in the game's title.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hand Holding During Mass

Q: Why do Catholics hold hands while reciting the "Our Father"?

A: Ooo, I actually know the answer to this question! Hand holding during mass is a practice that American Catholics adopted in the 1960's. It was one of many things they did, in the hope that it would make Catholic masses more appealing to Protestants.

Specifically, hand holding comes from the Quakers. They hold hands while they pray, as a symbolic gesture. It indicates that they are all connected through prayer, both metaphorically and physically. The practice developed, as a result of Quakers not having priests. They wanted to have a way to strengthen their prayers, without the use of priests; they decided that hand holding and communal prayer would work.

I should note that only American Catholics hold hands during the "Our Father". Catholics in other countries don't follow this practice. If you try to hold hands with them, they will look at you strangely because they have no idea what you're doing. Also, if you read the Roman Missal (which details the rubrics for celebrating mass), it says nothing absolutely nothing about hand-holding there, either for or against it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nancy Drew Hardy Boys Book 36

Here is my review of Nancy Drew Hardy Boys Supermystery #36: Process of Elimination:



And here is the script for the video.

---

Sometime in 1997, Simon and Schuster made the decision to cancel all their various Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys spinoff series. Only the series for eight-year-olds survived the mass cancellation. Instead of immediately throwing out everything, some of the partially-written books were brought to completion, while others were repurposed into different books.

The Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys Supermystery series officially ended with Book #36, Process of Elimination. This book was published in April, 1998, which technically makes it the last series to die, since Hardy Boys Case Files and Nancy Drew on Campus both ended in January.

Once again, the cover artist is Franco Accornero. That's his Facebook profile picture. It's been over six months since my last Supermysteries review, and he still hasn't added me on Facebook, so I'm going to make him today's victim.

---

The book starts with Nancy Drew and Bess Marvin, along with Anthony Green, Bess' man of the month. The three of them are in a restaurant, waiting to meet with Carl Dubchek. Dubchek is one of the leaders of the environmental conference they are attending in Los Angeles.

Anthony receives the bad news that Dubchek has been murdered. He is incredibly shocked, and he leaves to call the police. Even though he hasn't said more than three sentences, Nancy thinks he's suspicious, so she spies on his phone call. She overhears Anthony tell a person named Cinder that he's quitting the team.

Cinder? Like Cinderella? Oh, man, this plan goes deeper than I thought.

Meanwhile, the Hardy Boys are in the San Diego Zoo. They're about to visit the panda exhibit, when a robbery takes place. A pair of Chinese thieves with guns are stealing a truckload of bamboo. Joe jumps on the back of the escaping truck, while Frank sets up a barricade with picnic tables. It's a close call, but the thieves manage to escape.

Joe and Frank are uninjured, after being shot at six times. Good thing, too. "Killed during a bamboo heist" is an awkward thing to put on someone's tombstone.

Nancy investigates at the police station, then returns to her hotel room and confronts Anthony. He confesses that Dubchek was killed because he's a CIA agent. Anthony wants to protect Bess from Cinder and her evil step-sisters, so he quit and...

Before Anthony can say anything more, there's a drive-by shooting. Nancy dodges out of the way, while Anthony and Bess are shot multiple times. This raises a question. What is a worse tombstone: "killed by Cinderella" or "killed during a bamboo heist"?

Bess survives the drive-by shooting, because Anthony used his body to shield her. However, she is now in intensive care. Nancy does some detective work and confirms that the same group killed both victims.

The Hardy Boys search the Internet for information on pandas and bamboo. This attracts the attention of one of their CIA buddies. Huh? The CIA contacts everyone who looks up pandas on Google? Jeez, I wonder how many third grade research projects the CIA has shut down because of this.

The CIA warns the Hardys to stay off the case. Undeterred, the Hardy Boys enlist the help from their father, AKA the Hardy Man. Hardy Man gets a news report on Carl Dubchek, Nancy's CIA victim.

The Hardys travel to the scene of the murder, where they find a gas canister. An unknown villain attempts to steal it from them, when Nancy arrives. The three teens overpower the villain, knock him unconscious, and steal his wallet out of spite.

More villains arrive, and we have a car chase. Joe loots through the wallet, hoping to find some cash, and he finds the address of an abandoned warehouse. Inside, our heroes find the car from the drive-by shooting, and a glass container filled with the stolen bamboo. The villains arrive, and our heroes spy on them by hiding in the roof beams.

It turns out that the unknown villain is actually Cinder, and the Chinese thieves are the evil stepsisters. They use the gas canister on the glass cage. The deadly gas kills the bamboo in three minutes flat. Uh oh! Bamboo-killing villains!

The villains leave and set the building on fire. Nancy and the Hardy Boys barely manage to escape by climbing to the roof and jumping off the three-story building into some shrubbery.

Our heroes check in with the police and Bess, then they go to Carl Dubchek's home address. Here, they meet the REAL Carl Dubchek. Dubchek is retired, but he has a good idea of what's happening. During the Cold War, he helped the CIA create a gas compound that destroys bamboo. It was going to be used to kill all the panda bears in China.

Poor pandas.

The villains show up at this point, and they helpfully explain how they stole the formula from Dubchek. They tie everyone up and set off a three-minute Grammler bomb.

Dubchek breaks out of his bonds, since he was tied up with only one piece of rope. He frees the others and they escape seconds before the bomb explores. Everyone goes to the police, and Dubchek reveals his plan for stopping Cinder: a $50 million bribe.

In what I like to call "the least believable part of the plot", Nancy and the Hardy Boys work with their parents to get $25 million, in less than an hour, on a weekend when banks are closed. Really? I don't care if Hardy Man has a friend who works for the President. There's no way they can exert that much pull over the government, without the government getting involved with the case.

Nancy and the Hardys decide that Dubchek is secretly working with the bad guys. That house explosion was a setup, since there's no such thing as a Gammler bomb, and there's no reason the culprits would tie up a CIA agent so poorly, unless they wanted him to escape. And since our heroes know Dubchek is a double agent, they can foil his plans.

The villains lead our heroes to a well-hidden dropoff location. A confrontation ensues, where the storyline gets explained in more detail. Joe Hardy gets the last laugh, as opens up the case with $5 million cash. It's empty! Joe threw all the money away earlier!

Cinder shoots Joe, seconds before the police arrive with Air Force. The criminals are caught, and since Joe had a bulletproof vest, the shooting only bruised his ribs. In the end, Joe and Bess are found in the same hospital bed, kissing passionately--I mean, having a pillow fight. It looks like they had a quick recovery!

The End.

---

Post Book Followup

The first two chapters are a bit forced, but other than that, the writing in this book is great. There are many action scenes and the complex plot avoids becoming convoluted, despite some twists and a neat cross double-cross.

My only complaint about the plot is that the criminals put Nancy and the Hardys in a lot of unnecessary danger, considering that they needed the teenagers alive to drop off the money. But that's not much of a problem; you can argue the criminals were just trying to make their fake plan look realistic.

Still, when researching teenagers with access to huge cash, how did they come across our heroes WITHOUT learning that Nancy and the Hardys constantly catch criminals? Even two minutes of research should convince you not to center your crime around them.

I'm glad they published this book, instead of ending the series with the awful book, Operation Titanic. Fans of the series like this book, but they're a tad disappointed the book didn't do anything special to close things off. Specifically, there is no closure to the Joe/Bess and Frank/Nancy romance. That _does_ seem like a missed opportunity, but I've only read the last two books, so I can't judge.

My score is a 9 out of 10, but since this is the series finale, I'll be generous. I give Process of Elimination a 10 out of 10.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Castlevania: Mirror of Shadow: Lords of Fate

I've tried out Castlevania: Mirror of Shadow: Lords of Fate for the 3DS, and I'm not sure what to make of it. I like the 2D Castlevania games for the GBA, and this game is vaguely like those games, mixed with God of War.

If you like fancy fighting games with a bunch of different moves, you're in for a treat. I don't like fighting games myself. There's something about multiple attack buttons and combos that I just can't wrap my head around. I can handle games with different weapons and attacks, but this one passes my tolerance threshold. Metroid Other M was pretty much at my limit of "too many abilities to keep track of".

The graphics are nice, but you can tell that they're supposed to be for Xbox 360, not a handheld device. They distracted me, a bit. I'm still not used to the idea of 2D games with fancy 3D graphics. They're a bit too dark for you see the game well, thanks to how the 3DS screen is lit, compared to a TV screen, but there's an in-game brightness option that lets you adjust this, so it's not too bad.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bible Readings at Catholic Mass

I've mentioned this before, but crazy people kind of took over the Catholic Church in the 1960's, and we're still suffering from the effects of that. They made some good changes, like translating the mass from Latin to English, and they made some bad changes, like changing the "Our Father" into a hand-holding kumbaya fest.

One of the good and bad changes they made was to the readings during mass. They got rid of the second Gospel at the end of mass, and replaced it with a first reading, from the Old Testament. They also introduced a repeating three-year cycle of readings, to replace the one-year cycle. The idea was that Catholics should be more like Protestants, who actually read the Bible.

...That is something you guys do, right? Because we basically skipped over the Old Testament in our masses during that time period (1570 to 1960's).

The Catholics in charge said that the new, three-year cycle would give us a wider selection of readings from the Gospels, which would give us a more accurate picture of Jesus. While it's true that there are more New Testament readings, they are also very selective readings. Not only do they skip over verses here and there, they also skip over entire stories. Here's a partial list of New Testament readings that you will never hear, if you go to Catholic mass on Sundays:
  • Question of Jesus' authority and Jesus' claims of divinity
  • Criticism of the Pharisees and other religious leaders
  • Feeding of the four thousand
  • The third prediction of the passion, and Jesus' prophecies in general
  • Jesus' words on faith on how to pray
  • The life and death of John the Baptist
  • The massacre of the innocents
  • The storming of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 11:12-24, Luke 17:20-25)
  • Various healings and exorcisms (blind man at Bethesaida, Garadine swine, the epileptic demoniac, healing of the woman on the Sabbath, healing of the man with dropsy, and others)
  • The cursing of the fig tree
  • Condemnation of this evil generation
  • Weeping over Jerusalem
  • Calling of Philip and Nathaniel
  • Jesus' appearance to Mary Magdalene, after his death
A full list can be found here, but you can see the general trend. A good amount of miracles are removed, as are the "bad" stories with violence and death. Anything that is generally negative gets skipped over. Basically, it looks like they made the decision of "what parts of the Gospel to include", by following the 1960's "feel good" trend.

Important Note: If you go to daily mass, you'll hear a lot of these omitted passages. So it's not like they never get read. It's just that 90% of Catholics won't hear them.

Personally, I think the Catholic leaders of the time period would have benefitted from hearing those Gospel passages, where Jesus criticizes the false hypocrites who abuse people in order to have a cushy life. That "brood of vipers" (Jesus' words, not mine) serve themselves and their own agendas instead of God.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Zelda 3DS

I finished playing Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds yesterday. It's a pretty good game.

The other day, I complained about the seven sages in this game. They show up, unintroduced, and just as I was saying, "Wait, who are these people?", they get kidnapped. The second half of the game is a quest to save them.

It turns out that the seven sages are not just random people. All of them are characters who appear in the first half of the game. I just forgot about them completely, because they were pretty minor characters. As in, none of them said more than two sentences.

Now I'm a little worried that if I go back and replay my favorite Zelda games on the N64, things will be the same. That is, none of the characters will say more than two sentences. I remember and like most of the characters; it would be disappointing for me to see how underdeveloped they are.

One problem with the game is the fact that the X button doesn't do anything. Ever. You assign items to the Y button, and it's kind of a pain to switch items, because it involves using the item screen or the touchpad. It would have been much better, if you could assign an item to the X button.

One non-problem with the game is the fact that they have a turtle dungeon, which is shaped like a turtle. 10 out of 10, would turtle again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Game Reviews

Q: Do you write reviews of the Nancy Drew (or any other)games that you do walkthroughs for?

A: I don't usually write Nancy Drew game reviews, because I'm afraid of upsetting Nancy Drew fans. I know I disappoint a lot of people when I say things like, "I dislike Secret of Shadow Ranch. It's not fun, you do too many pointless chores, and Dave Gregory is kind of a bland character."

With Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion, most of the complaints are about the mystery. That is, people dislike the game, because they feel like there isn't much of a mystery to it. My honest response is, "I don't care about the mystery." I like George, but I had almost no interest in solving the mystery of who broke her leg. I was having too much fun solving challenges and competing in the TV show! Sorry, George, but your problems can wait until after I win Pacific Run.

At the end of the game, when the culprit was revealed, I had kind of forgotten that there was a mystery to solve. The culprit revelation was a little odd, actually. Maybe I missed something somewhere, because I didn't quite understand what the culprit's motive was. The culprit claims the motive is for revenge, but revenge for what? Nancy didn't really do anything to betray you, culprit!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion

Here's my official video walkthrough for Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion!



Some people are saying the first video doesn't work, but it's working just fine for me. I don't know how to fix the situation, especially without more information than just "it doesn't work".

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

I'm playing the 3DS Zelda game for the first time. I just reached the "halfway" point of the game (section 4 of 12). So far, I'd say the game is okay. I dislike the original SNES game, and I'm sure if I was a fan of the original, I would be dancing for joy at how great this remake is.

And it is a good remake. I wish they did a remake like this for Ocarina of Time 3DS, instead of the lazy "we're just updating the graphics and doing nothing else" remake we got.

The first few hours were a lot of fun. I enjoy wandering around and going everywhere, and the 3D "climb along walls" gimmick is excellent. I like the villain, but I feel that the storyline is leaving things out. For example, the villain has abducted eight people. Five of them are unnamed characters that have never been seen before. That seems like a huge missed opportunity, but perhaps we'll learn who these characters are in the second half of the game.

The concept behind Dungeons 2 and 3 is "you can go through the dungeons in either order", which is a first for the series. The way they did this was by making them both one-item dungeons. That is, every single puzzle in the dungeon focuses on one item (because you might not have done the other dungeon yet, and gotten the other item). It gets a little repetitive to have the same basic puzzle appear over and over again. It was borderline boring for me, since I didn't like the item in Dungeon 3.

Overall, it's been a fun game, and I want to keep playing. I'm a bit worried that more gimmick dungeons await me, but I'll see what the dungeons are like when I get to them.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Donkey Kong Country 3DS

I tried out Donkey Kong Country for the 3DS this week. That's one of the games I asked my parents to get me last Christmas. (I need to ask them for simple-to-find games).

This game is a sequel (port?) of a Wii game. I think they expected players to be familiar with the Wii version, because it feels like this game is lacking a tutorial. It's not so bad that you can't figure out what to do, but I'd still prefer to be told things like "touching the purple stuff kills you" instead of having to figure it out the hard way.

I suspect there is an attack move I haven't figured out yet, because killing enemies is overly difficult. It's one of those games where you have to land directly on top of an enemy to kill it. If you're even the slightest bit off, you take damage. That happens about 50% of the time for me. I'm not good with the 3DS circle pad. Please give me a normal control stick!

Consensus: Instead of moving onto World 2, I'm going to move on to the next game.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jefferson

In the news this week, some counties voted on whether or not to join the proposed state of Jefferson. Jefferson will be made up of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Californians are more enthusiastic about it than the Oregonians are.

In 2013, the Board of Supervisors in Siskiyou, Glenn and Modoc Counties all approved measures to secede from California and form Jefferson. Yuba County did the same thing in 2014. This week, the opportunity to join Jefferson State was on the ballot in Del Norte and Temaha Counties. It passed in Temaha, with 56% of the votes. It failed in Del Norte, with only 41% of the votes.

California Governor Jerry Brown has said that he is officially against the movement to break California into two states. The area in question makes up about 30% of California (it's hard to do the math accurately here, because the proposed state contains part of Oregon), and it has 1% of California's voting power. That's right; they have one senator who covers 11 different counties.

I'm told that seven counties in total are voting on the issue this year, but the news people did not name any of them besides Butte County (which has midterm elections next week). In general, it seems that most news people have been doing a poor job of covering the story, because when they see the word "secession", they think of the Civil War.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Canon of Western Literature

1. I took a look at the complete canon of literature. It's interesting to check up on the list every ten years or so, and to see which books appear on / disappear from the list. It looks like Animal House has vanished this time around, while Herman Melville's non-Moby Dick works have reappeared.

2. It bugs me when the word "saint" is removed from a person's name, as is the case with Saint Thomas More. His Utopia is very much religiously motivated, as is Saint Augustine's Confessions. I mean, sure, you can read their works from a non-religious, humanist standpoint...but why would you want to?

3. It'd probably take at least fifty years to read the hundreds of books on the list. Even if you limit yourself to something like "the complete works of Shakespeare", it has the potential to become lengthy. Does anyone remember the time they decided that poetry can't be accurately translated? The list became a lot shorter when that happened.

4. I notice a distinct lack of Nancy Drew books on this list. Zero out of ten, would not recommend as a list of books that is necessary for people to read.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

3DS Backlog

I'm on vacation for this week and the next week. Part of my vacation goal is to get through my backlog of 3DS games. I have eight new games that I still haven't touched, and I brought four of them with me:


  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
  • Professor Layton #6
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate
I should also try to beat out a few video walkthroughs during my vacation. I wouldn't mind trying a platformer or RPG, since I rarely play those, but the downside is that they aren't very popular with my viewers. Hmmm...


Either way, expect updates on my 3DS backlog as the vacation continues.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frozen - Men Saving Anna's Life

Wait, are people still saying that the moral of Frozen is "a girl doesn't need a man to save her"? That doesn't line up with these statistics:

Number of Times Anna is Saved by a Man
  1. Wolf chase scene
  2. Cliff jump scene
  3. Evil snowman attack
  4. Evil snowman attack #2
  5. Returning to the palace alive
  6. Fireplace scene
Number of Times Anna is NOT Saved by a Man
  1. The Ending
  2. ????
Heck, you could argue that the merchant guy saves Anna's life by selling her winter gear. And Prince Hans saves a lot of lives by passing out blankets and stuff.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Month of Mary

I'm continuing my recap of a book of daily reflections about the Virgin Mary that I've been editing this month.

Day Twenty-Five is about Jesus' death on the cross. In the Gospel of John, the Virgin Mary symbolically becomes the mother of all Christians. This is the main Biblical source for treating Mary as a mother who has spiritually adopted us.

Day Twenty-Six is about the Virgin Mary after Jesus' death. She worked with the apostles, and she helped overcome the first heresy (the one that said Jesus' body was human in appearance only). She died peacefully at the age of 63.

Day Twenty-Seven is about Pentecost. This occurred when everyone was gathered together and praying in the presence of Mary. May we also learn to pray with Mary, because her prayers for us are most effective, and the Holy Spirit is pleased to aid those who are close to his heavenly spouse.

Day Twenty-Eight is about the death of the Virgin Mary. We can say that she died from Holy Love, as she did not die from a result of sin, because she never sinned. She died in her sleep; the death was painless and quick.

Day Twenty-Nine continues speaking of Holy Love. Simeon prophesied to Mary that "a sword will pierce your heart"; this was fulfilled when she saw the brutal death of her son. Her soul was wounded by these events, because love causes us to feel the afflictions of those we love. Saint Paul speaks of being deeply united with Christ, and we can apply these words even more to the Virgin Mary, who knew Christ his entire life.

Day Thirty is about the peacefulness of Mary's death. Love, like rivers, are naturally calm, tranquil and peaceful; they only become violent when there is some opposition. Mary had no opposition to divine love, and therefore, it continually increased in her with the greatest calm and sweetness.

Day Thirty-One is about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which is when she entered Heaven. "O incomprehensible joy! festival of wonders! . . . The entrance of the Most Blessed Virgin into heaven was the most magnificent that ever could or can be witnessed after that of Jesus Christ."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Witches of Abraham Lincoln

Here's my walkthrough for Midnight Mysteries: Witches of Abraham Lincoln. The premise of the game is that Abraham Lincoln's time-travelling ghost needs your help, in stopping a gold heist.



On a related note, check out 6:35 of this old vlog from 2009, in which I came up with the premise of a videogame about Abraham Lincoln's ghost in the White House.