Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I know Spider-Man is popular, but I'm only familiar with newspaper comics Spider-Man. He is an EXTREMELY bad superhero there, and he basically blunders his way through solving every crime. I think it's because the authors are trying to stretch out each story as long as possible. The only way to keep things going is if Spidey screws up a lot.

2. I'm trying to learn tax law, so I can help my wife at her volunteer tax preparation site this next year. I have lots of questions, and it's driving her insane. Apparently, I keep asking questions about complicated things that don't show up until the very END of the book.

For example, there's a chapter on Form 1040 Lines 7-11, which is where you put your taxable income. You do not put your non-taxable income there. So I naturally asked, "Where DO you put your non-taxable income?". The answer seems to be so confusing, it requires a working knowledge of astrophysics.

3. The problem with the tax form materials is that they're written by math people who don't know how to write or organize thoughts in a coherent fashion. The start-of-chapter summaries almost NEVER match up with the end-of-chapter summaries, almost like the author changed their mind about the chapter's topic, halfway through writing it.

For another example, the Obamacare tax chapter is at the very start, before anything else. So newcomers have to learn about Obamacare's special tax penalties, before learning what tax penalties are. Or what tax credits are. Priorities, you know? And this apparently is Lesson 1 of 5, about Obamacare, the other five being located at the end / in another document. Could you maybe put all the Obamacare tax chapters together next time, instead of putting one of the start of the book and the others at the end?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

YouTube Payouts

I'm going over my end-of-year finances, and I thought it'd be interesting to see how much YouTube pays. Here's my pay rate, for the past several years. The formula I used was (total money) / (number of views), and as you can see, it looks like the pay rate is going down!

2012 = 0.003381894 per view
2013 = 0.003310936 per view
2014 = 0.003208519 per view
2015 = 0.002850992 per view

Note #1: This isn't a completely accurate assessment, because 10% of whatever I make goes directly to my network in Canada. And then I have to pay a larger tax rate, as a contractor working for a foreign company. I wonder what percent of my salary goes directly to me...

Note #2: According to my network, I only get paid about 56% of the time. So it's not completely accurate to say I make around three cents per view.

Note #3: Obviously, the numbers for 2015 will change once the year is over, and I have an accurate viewcount. People generally watch YouTube more often in December, with all the holidays and such.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Work Attitudes

I spent Christmas with Katie and her family. They're all professional business people with "real" jobs that include growth potential. That means they can get promotions.

I can't really get any promotions with my jobs; it's more like I go from a YouTuber to a slightly more popular YouTuber.

One relative was saying their work has a lot of 9-to-5 employees, who don't want promotions. They just want to come into the office, work for eight hours, and leave. These people have less than ten years until retirement, so it's understandable that they're not invested in furthering their careers or climbing the corporate ladder. They just want a steady paycheck until they stop working forever.

That's basically how I approach my job as a delivery driver. I come in, I do my job, and I leave. I keep my head down, and I do what I'm told. The boss likes this about me; I'm reliable, and I don't talk back. (Some of the employees like to ditch work and complain a lot.) I also like to think my "just get the job done" approach makes me more efficient than the drivers with a "get as many deliveries as possible" approach. Those guys will totally let your pizza sit in the warmer for fifteen minutes, just so they can make two deliveries in one trip, whereas I prioritize delivering the pizza that's ready, when it's ready. I'm not sure which technique is more efficient for the company.

I find it interesting that my "just get the job done" attitude is helpful for my workplace, whereas with my relative's work, it's a toxic attitude, one that usually results in people getting fired. I guess being average isn't good enough in the tech industry, but it's good enough for a pizza place! Let's just hope my teenage co-workers don't improve their work skills anytime soon, otherwise I might slip from being in the top half of the employee roster. The bottom third is usually filled with employees who have been working there less than a month--there's a LOT of employee turnover in this business--so the odds are in my favor.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cooking Lasagna

We cooked lasagna from scratch the other day. Katie helped out, and it took about an hour with all three of us making various things.

1. Noodles. Like yesterday's recipe, my recipe unhelpfully left out the noodle cooking part. So I just followed the instructions on the lasagna noodle box to cook them. The recipe calls for 7-9 noodles, but we really only needed 6. That could just be because of the pan we used, which is rectangular, not square.

2. Meat sauce! A pound of ground beef and a half pound of sausage. I used elk sausage, since it's been sitting in our fridge for months, and we're never gonna use it because we have no elk sausage recipes. Katie says it tastes like hot dogs. Anyway, you cook all the meat and drain it. Then mix with 16oz can of tomatoes, a 6oz can of tomato past, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and a clove of garlic. It took a really long time to get the garlic done, but it tasted awesome. You microwave the mixture for 7-11 minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

3. Cheese sauce! The cheese is 8 oz ricotta, or 1 cup of cottage cheese. Mix it with an egg, 1/4 cup grated Paremsean, 1 tsp parsley, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp basil. Do this last, because you can easily do it while the sauce is cooking for 7 minutes.

When you're done, you layer everything in a pan. A layer of noodles on the bottom, then a layer of meat sauce, then a layer of cheese sauce, then a layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat this, and you should have three layers of everything. We kind of messed up and forgot to include the mozzarella in the layering process, so we just dumped it all on top, as the final layer.

You cook it in the microwave at 70%, for 12 to 18 minutes, until the sauce bubbles. I don't know how to convert that into oven, so I again went to the lasagna noodle box. It says 425 for 30 minutes. I'd recommend 25, since it was slightly overcooked, but it was still good! Great recipe, 6 servings of food, and it was a nice family night activity.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cooking Mac and Cheese

This past week, I've been watching Mary while she's out of school. One good way to pass the time while baby-sitting is to have a large cooking project that the kid can help with.

So we did lasagna from scratch and macaroni and cheese from scratch.

The mac and cheese has 3 tablespoons melted butter, mixed with 2 Tble flour, 1 teaspoon salt, optional pepper, optional pepper sauce, optional dry mustard. Mary didn't want pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups of milk, then microwave for 4-6 minutes to thicken the sauce. Stir in two cups of cheese and microwave for a half minute to melt the cheese. Then add the already-cooked macaroni.

Wait, what. The macaroni is supposed to be cooked at this point?! Why didn't the recipe mention that earlier?!

Well, stir the macaroni into the cheese mixture for mac and cheese. The recipe went another step and had you mix bread crumbs with melted butter, then you pour that on top of the mac and cheese. Microwave the whole thing at 70% for 5 to 7 minutes. We used the wrong type of bread crumbs, apparently. Like, we took a piece of bread and crumbled it up. You're supposed to buy crumbs at the store. Because some crumbs are better than others?

The recipe ended up being okay, for old-fashioned mac and cheese. I would remove the butter/bread crumb mixture, because there was too much butter for my taste. Also, I'd put the noodle cooking FIRST in the recipe. Other than that, I'd say it's good enough to go into my official recipe book!



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Nancy is the Culprit Chapter 2

Nancy Drew is the Culprit--Treasure in the Royal Tower

Nancy's hand reached out.

"That's the biggest diamond I've ever seen..." a voice said.

Nancy wheeled around to see Lisa standing there. "Where did you come from?" Nancy asked.

"I followed you," Lisa said. "I was worried about you, after I heard you were trapped outside and almost died. And when I saw you sneaking into the locked library..."

Nancy resisted the urge to facepalm. She had faked being locked outside as a ploy for sympathy! Clearly, that plan had backfired. How hadn't she noticed someone behind her, when she crawled through the air ducts?

"Well, this is it! The fabulous Queen's Tower," Nancy said. "Filled with elaborate treasures like this diamond. It used to belong to Marie Antoinette."

"Really?" Lisa asked.

"Really," Nancy said. "Listen, it's good you're here. Why don't you go back and get the authorities? I'll keep searching this room for hidden treasures." Nancy gestured towards the broken rose tiles in the mural. "As you can see, the culprit has already been searching here, and he's starting to get violent."

"He?" Lisa asked.

"Jacques," Nancy said. "His grandfather helped build this tower, and he passed on a few of its 'secrets' to Jacques. I'm almost certain he's the one who knocked me out in the locker area!"

As a matter of fact, Nancy had faked being attacked as an excuse to steal Jacques' medallion for herself, but Lisa had no idea about that. She nodded and said, "Right! Stay safe! I'll get the police!"

I bet you won't be happy to see them, Nancy thought, as she smirked. While Lisa went down the winding staircase, Nancy activated the trick stairs. Lisa fell into the makeshift prison.

"What--huh? Nancy, I'm trapped!"

Nancy leaned over the steps and smirked at Lisa. "Ha! Better get used to being in prison, 'cause you're gonna be there a long time!"

"What are--you're framing me!" Lisa gasped.

"Good," Nancy said. "Usually, it takes people much longer than that to realize what's going on."

"Darn you, Nancy Drew! You're the worst friend a journalist could ever have!" Lisa cursed.

Lisa was arrested, and Nancy was dismayed when Jacques--of all people--got the finders fee for the diamond. Another failed treasure hunt!

All in all, the trip to Wisconsin hadn't been a total loss. Professor Hotchkiss' new book, The Lost Diary of Marie Antoinette was on the bestseller list for over a year, and you know who got 25% of the profits? Nancy. She was the one who found it, after all.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! May God grant us the resolve to run forth to meet Jesus Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, we may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

Let us pray.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word,
the light of faith, which illumines our minds,
may also shine through in our deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

---

Our main Christmas present this year is a puppy named Luna. I wish I could get some good pictures of her with me.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nancy Drew is the Culprit

I always wanted to see a fanfic where Nancy Drew is the culprit...so I figured I would write it! Here's Message in a Haunted Mansion.

---

"I don't believe it! There must be over a million dollars in here!" Nancy Drew said to herself as she knelt down to look at the treasure trove. She grabbed a handful of gold coins and put them into her purse. Reaching for another handful, she stopped. There were too many coins to fit in her purse. She'd have to put them in her luggage to get them all.

Do I have enough room in my luggage? Nancy wondered. Maybe she'd have to cash in some of the coins here. Or mail the leftover coins to herself, disguising them as something else. Theater props, maybe.

The front door opened. Nancy cursed silently. No one was supposed to be back from the Winter Festival yet! She made a desperate grab for the cover, hoping to hide the coins, but it was too late.

"Nancy? Is that--the treasure!" Louis gasped. "You found it! It's real!"

"Yes," Nancy said unhappily. "It was right under our feet the whole time."

Louis ran over and examined the coins. "I don't believe it! I thought it was just a silly story! These coins must be worth a fortune!"

Nancy sighed. "It was going to be my fortune, before you butted in!" she said. "Now I have to take care of you!"

"Huh?" Louis asked, looking up. "What are you talking about?"

"I found the treasure for myself, not for Rose," Nancy said. "A million dollars would look pretty nice, sitting in my bank account."

"Are...what are you saying?" Louis asked. "I thought you came here to help with the house!"

"I came here, in order to scam Rose!" Nancy said. "Thanks to all the accidents that I've created, Rose is almost at the breaking point. She's going to sell the house to me for dirt cheap, and I can immediately resell it at market value! A brilliant boost for the Drew Family finances! But the gold...hidden gold...it's worth so much more!"

"You caused the accidents?!" Louis asked. "But that's impossible!"

"Well, some of the accidents actually were accidents," Nancy said. "But I set the fire in the living room and broke the dumbwaiter. I was going to frame Charlie for it. You know he's living in the basement? Creepy guy. Imagine my surprise when I went up to the attic in order to trash it, and I found clues leading to these secret cache of gold."

"The money doesn't belong to you," Louis said automatically. "It belongs to Rose. This is her house."

"Oh, Louis," Nancy said. "I would have been willing to cut a deal with you. Say, 50% of the profits, in exchange for keeping your mouth shut? But you had to be noble. Now I have to resort to Plan B."

"What's Plan B?" Louis asked fearfully.

Nancy reached into her purse, grabbed the crowbar and smashed Louis in the head. He immediately fell unconscious onto the pile of coins.

"Oh no, Rose!" Nancy pantomimed. "Louis was the culprit the whole time! He was after the treasure hidden under the floorboards! As soon as I found it, he attacked me! But I escaped with...hmmm..."

Nancy looked around and saw the chandelier, almost perfectly lined up above the coins. "I dropped the chandelier on him! It was a daring escape! And it explains that injury on the top of Louis' head. It certainly wasn't from me!"

Nancy quickly set up the scene, disposed of the crowbar, then called for Rose and Abby. The two women were shocked to see Louis' unconscious body underneath the chandelier, lying on top of a pile of gold. At Nancy's request, they called the police and Louis was arrested. He tried to claim he was framed, but no one believed him. Who would? Louis was caught red-handed.

Nancy collected the finder's fee for the gold, but in her opinion, the amount the bank offered was rather pitiful. It wasn't even half of what she wanted! Rose was extremely excited about it, and kept saying that it would be enough to pay for the house renovations. So Nancy cut a deal. She gave the money to Rose, in exchange for 10% of the bed and breakfast's profits for the next fifty years. The business ended up being surprisingly popular, and the deal paid for itself in four years.

Of course, it didn't pay as much as the handful of coins that Nancy had slipped into her purse...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Immortal Love: Letter from the Past

Here's my video walkthrough for Immortal Love: Letter from the Past.



I only played the demo version, which was about 45 minutes long. I thought I had purchased the full game, but I guess not!

Sadly, the response to the game seems to be tepid, so I'll let finances make the decision here. If the walkthrough makes enough money for me to purchase the full game, then I'll do it! I usually wait until Big Fish Games is running a 50% off sale, before I purchase games, anyway, so that should lower the price and make it easier to attain. Because I like the game, and I want to see the rest of it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Synod on the Family, Chapter 1

Now that I've summarized Chapters 2-4 of the document that was produced by the Catholic Church's Synod on the Family, let me go back and summarize Chapter 1. I didn't like it as much as the others, since it's mainly just a list of problems, without any solutions offered.

---

Marriage is a sacrament of love, where two hearts are joined together in an unbreakable bond. "The goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life!". Love can't be reduced to momentary passion or fleeting romance, because love is not an end it itself. Rather, love is geared towards the other person, and it wants to continue until death. When two people freely devote themselves to each other, "God’s love is made present and is experienced. In the Catholic faith, marriage is a sacred sign in which God’s love becomes effective in his Church."

That is the ideal for marriage and family life. Now let's look at the reality of marriage and family life. There are many problems that families around the world are facing.

1. People and families are getting less support from social structures than they have in the past.
2. Some societies are promoting an exaggerated individualism, which causes people to think only about themselves, and to only focus on possessing and gratification. That naturally hurts their families.
3. Other places believe religion is just a private matter, meaning it can't be part of public life. That limits families. Further, the public life in these places seem to be focused mainly on social status and economic success.
4. There are extremist fanatics, both political and religious, whose hostile ways have caused much misery and suffering in family life.
5. Many people are deliberately not getting married, and they avoid starting families for a number of reasons, ranging from fear of overpopulation to not wanting to making a definitive commitment.
6. In some places, the expectations for families are way too high and excessive, which causes tension when people can't live up to an impossible ideal.
7. There is a strain of feminism which believes that women should never have children, ever. On the other hand, some feminist strains believe that a woman should have children, solely for the purposes of self-affirmation. Both viewpoints cause problems.
8. There is a new gender ideology, which threatens to remove the anthropological foundation of the family.
9. Conflict, poverty and migration cause problems for families. In many of these places, family are forcibly uprooted or shattered.
10. Social inequality and burdensome economic policies make it hard to care for children, the sick, and the elderly. These situations can lead to problems with addiction.

---

That's it for now! I might read/summarize the rest of the document someday. Part 2 looks at the concept of the family from a religious standpoint, while Part 3 of the document is about the mission of the family and what the church should do today.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Synod on the Family, Chapter Four

Chapter Four of the Synod on the Family's document is titled "Family, Affectivity and Life".

---

To have a quality, emotional relationship, you must open yourself to others and love them. The church needs to help couples develop the emotional aspect of their relationship, so they can give themselves to each other in mutual self-giving.

Emotional weakness is seen in people who are led by self-centered and unstable emotions; focusing on these things does not help people become more mature. To that end, the church needs to denounce all forms of pornography and prostitution.

Many couples are hesitant and uncertain, and they have trouble getting past the first stages of their emotional and sexual life. They get stuck an emotional rut, which can negatively impact the family and society, and it often leads to separation and divorce.

Artificial insemination (and other new technologies) allow people to manipulate the act of having children. This has had a negative effect, in that it separates "having children" from "having sex". People think having children is optional, something which depends on the wishes and whims of individuals or couples. This has had large effects on social life, legal systems, and how relationships work. In the fact of this, the church affirms that children are a gift from God, to be loved and cherished, not to be avoided.

Humans naturally seek meaning and fulfillment in life. Marriage and the family are a response to humanity's search for meaning. "People ought to be received with understanding and sensitivity to their real-life situations and to learn how to continue their search for meaning in life." Even people in irregular or difficult situations have a desire for belonging, and the church's response to these people should include mercy and truth.

This is to say, the church needs to focus less on imposing general rules, and focus more on the diversity of real-life situations. It's not enough to say, "Here's what you need to do. Here's the way you need to go." We must also accompany people on their journey. Everyone needs to be understood, and the church should not automatically condemn people who are in non-ideal situations. Oftentimes, people and families are in bad situations, not of their own choosing. The Catholic faith demands that no one be excluded, because all people are loved by God, and therefore, all people are important.




Sunday, December 20, 2015

Synod on the Family, Chapter Three

Chapter Three of the Synod on the Family's document is called "The Family, Inclusion and Society". It focuses on the needs of various groups.

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The elderly are more and more often seen as a burden in industrialized societies, especially since low birth rates mean the elderly are a higher percentage of the population than before. The care they require can be a burden, but we must try harder, instead of treating them like aliens. "If we don’t learn how to treat the elder better, that is how we will be treated" when we become elders.

Grandparents are a link between generations, and they help transmit traditions and values. They frequently help their children raise grandchildren, and I think. They often help introduce people to Christian life.

Widowhood can be difficult, but some use it as an opportunity to renew their mission in the family. The emptiness of loss is filled with love of family members. Widowers without family members should be helped by the Christian community. Widowers can be remarried, and the Bible puts special emphasis on caring for the poor and the widows.

Death and dying in the family is important. Today, people try to eliminate every trace of death and dying; they try to sanitize it with euthanasia and assisted suicide. "The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels obliged to assist families who take care of their elderly and sick members, and to promote in every way the dignity and worth of each person until the natural end of life." Also, the elderly are sometimes unfairly exploited for money. We need to emphasize a person's sense of fulfillment and place in Jesus' sufferings.

Disabled people cause mixed emotions and difficult decisions; it changes your family. "Families which lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are to be greatly admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of their faithfulness to the gift of life." The family has to figure out new ways of being and behaving, when it has a disabled member. Sadly, eugenics practices in regards to disabled people are widespread; for example, the New York Times reports that 90% of all babies with Down's Syndrome are aborted. We need to celebrate these disabled people, not kill them. We also need to help disabled people who outlive their parents, as they are especially vulnerable.

Single people are devoted to their family and community. We should not overlook them and make them feel isolated.

Migrants need special attention, and we cannot ignore them. Dealing with a new country or culture is difficult enough, but the problem is exacerbated when the host country rejects them. The effects can last through generations. Our faith teaches us that we are all pilgrims, meaning we should have solidarity with migrants. "In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral programme addressed to not only families in migration but also members of the families who remain behind." There is also the problem that illegal migration is exploited by human traffickers.

"Children are a blessing from God (Gen 4:1); they ought to be of primary concern in the family and society and are a priority in the Church’s pastoral activity". Sadly, children sometimes become a commodity, which parents and family members fight over. Child labor still exists, as does sexual exploitation of minors. Other places have street children or kids raised in degrading family situations.

Women are treated differently in pretty much every country, but everywhere, "the dignity of women needs to be defended and promoted". Bad treatment towards women includes discrimination, penalizing women for having children, violence and abuse, forced sterilization or abortions, and surrogate motherhood. We need to rethink the duties of spouses, and affirm that both parents share responsibility for family life. One way to help the role of women in society is for the Church to give them more decision-making power, to place them into administrative roles, and to get them more involved in priestly formation.

Men need to be like Saint Joseph, who supported and protected his wife and family. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, both parents share responsibility to family life; men should not run out on their families and abandon their children and their mothers. Men should be more committed to their homes and families, and the way this was phrased reminds me of the statistic that women do the majority of the housework, even when they have stay-at-home husbands. Men, that's wrong! Step it up and do your share of the work, especially when your job is to do the majority of the work!

Young people have lots of different attitudes towards marriage. Some greatly desire marriage and starting a family. Too often, people are forced to postpone weddings against their will, and there are a myriad of reasons why young people willfully postpone marriage. The church is concerned that too many young people distrust marriage, and it is alarmed at how quickly people get divorced and remarried. We need to more carefully discern why young people don't want to get married, and perhaps encourage them with the good example of successful marriages.

In addition to saying the issue needs more study, the document lists many reason why young people don't want to get married, which are "the influence of ideologies which devalue marriage and family; the desire to avoid the failures of other couples; the fear of something they consider too important and sacred; the social opportunities and economic benefits associated with simply living together; a purely emotional and romantic conception of love; the fear of losing their freedom and independence; and the rejection of something conceived as purely institutional and bureaucratic."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Synod on the Family, Chapter 2

They finally released an English translation of the final report from this year's Catholic Synod. The topic was marriage and the family, and there were some interesting results!

I don't know if I'll cover the ENTIRE document, but I can at least talk about the first part of the document. I'll start with Chapter Two, because I found it to be more interesting than the first one.

---

The family is the primary good of society, and governments "must provide for and promote family policies which support and encourage families, primarily those of modest means." This document uses welfare programs as an example, but I'm reminded of paid maternal leave, which is still not offered in the United States. That is a prime example of a policy which makes it harder for people to have families!

In fact, Katie and I are running up against this problem, because we're thinking of having a child together. There is only a limited amount of time she can spend with her newborn baby, before going back to work. Most likely, she'll have to sacrifice some sick/vacation days, just to spend time with the child.

Not only does government corruption result in bad policies that harm families, but government corruption undermines people's hope for the future and trust in each other. This has had the effect of people being reluctant to raise kids, and people thinking the elderly are a burden. In some places, people are filled with crushing loneliness and emptiness, due to oppressive situations. Only God can sustain people in this emptiness.

Economics play a role in the family, and many times, money is the deciding factor in a family's access to schools or social events. Today, many young people are forced to take jobs with long hours, jobs that are far away from home, jobs which keep them away from their families for extended periods of time, because the job market is so bad, there are no other options. When family members are kept apart due to economics, the family has a hard time growing together.

Excluded groups include "immigrants, gypsies, the homeless, displaced persons, refugees, the untouchables in the caste system and those who are suffering from diseases which carry a social stigma". Jesus himself was excluded from general society, and he put great importance in how we treat other people, especially the excluded. Today, we have social exclusion, which often makes the poor invisible to society.

The ecology is important to the family, because, as Pope Francis teaches, the environment and everything is interrelated. Environmentalism is founded on the idea of people being connected to a larger whole, an idea that we first learn with our families. The family is also where we first learn to love.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Technical Issues

I've been having technical issues with two of the games from my Twitter poll. Immortal Love and Burnt Dreams both work fine on my older computer, but they refuse to work on the computer that I use to record HD gameplay footage.

Both games are made by the same company, 4 Friends Games. So I think it's just a company-specific problem. For whatever reason, their game engine just doesn't work with my computer. I guess I could record the games on my older computer, but it wouldn't be in HD.

So I'll be playing something else, besides those games.

EDIT: Hey! Someone found a solution to the problem! If you're playing the game on Windows 10, change your display settings to 125%. That fixes the problem! So look for me to play Immortal Love tomorrow!

The release date for the two other games I was planning to play this weekend--Miss Clue Peril in Pemberley and Aviary Attorney--both got delayed to "after today". Sad.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

New Star Trek Series

CBS has announced they're making a new Star Trek series, which will debut...next year? Or maybe in two years, since "next year" is really "next month", at this point.

The TV series won't be related to the ongoing movie series, although some of the production-type people will work on both projects. I haven't seen the current movie series, but I understand it's a reboot of the original series, with lots of drama and lens flares. Hopefully, there's still room for jokes, though. I like how pretty much every Star Trek episode ends with a joke.

What do I want to see from the new Star Trek series? Here's an answer that I don't other people are saying. I want them to go back to classically-trained, Shakespearean actors, like William Shatner and Patrick Stewart. My wife says all the more recent Star Trek shows use Hollywood actors. That makes sense, because they probably filmed in Hollywood. But the Shakespeare guys definitely have a different acting style.

And it kind of fits with sci-fi, because in both cases, the actors have to say a lot of things and mean them, even if the audience has no idea what they're saying, whether it's "I'm calculating the reversed polarity of the positronic network" or "The most peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is, to let him show himself what he is and steal out of your company".

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Next Catholic Synod?

In the news last week, multiple conservative Catholic websites (but no liberal ones) have reported on a rumor that Pope Francis intends to hold a synod, on the topic of married priests. The idea is that Pope Francis will announce it when he visits Chiapas, Mexico this February.

Chiapas is a place with a few dozen priests, and hundreds of married deacons. Church authorities thought it was weird that the Bishop there was basically only ordaining deacons for forty years, and so they suspended all deacon ordinations from 2000-2014.

The issue of married priests is an interesting one. Unmarried priests have been around since the time of Jesus, and in many places, it was the standard practice for Bishops to never ordain married men to the priesthood. The general standard of not ordaining married priests became a universal standard, during the reforms of Pope Saint Gregory VII (around 1050 AD).

Obviously, the issue has come up in the past 1,000 years, and there have been times when married men got ordained. The church's general response in these exceptional cases has been mandatory continence. Continence is basically celibacy for married people, the idea being that if a married guy wants to be a priest, he has to be like all other priests and abstain from sex. They use the different word "continence" for this situation, because it's lawful for a married man to have sex with his wife, whereas it's unlawful for a celibate priest to have sex with anyone.

Can the Catholic Church go back to the practice of ordaining married men to the priesthood? Yes. But the next question is whether or not there will be mandatory continence for these priests. People assume the answer is "no", because married deacons aren't required to be continent. Tradition, on the other hand, says "yes". Also, Canon Law 277 says, "yes".

I assume the second question will be, "Can current priests get married?". That answer is no. For one thing, all current priests have sworn an unbreakable promise of celibacy. For another, the order of events has been set in stone, so to speak, by Saint Paul in the Bible (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3). You have to be married before becoming a priest. Someone who is already a priest can't be married, and if you've got a widower priest (or deacon), they can't remarry.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nancy Drew: Codes and Clues

Last week, they announced a new Nancy Drew game, for younger kids!

Game Website
Press release
Newsletter

I made a video, which recaps most of the information.



I'm interested in seeing more about this game, and I'll probably get it for Mary when it comes out.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Reviews

Here are some Nancy Drew Files reviews! My plan is to keep reviewing the books, until Book 24. That's the one where Ned proposes to Nancy! Or maybe Book 27, which I wrote a review for in May, 2014. Then I'll switch to Baby-Sitters Club and do a huge chunk of those.









Sunday, December 13, 2015

Twitter Poll

So here's something different! I did a Twitter poll, asking people which game I should play next!

29 votes for Pokémon Yellow!
6 votes for Immortal Love, a game that came out last week. I dunno, I thought it looked cool, even though I haven't actually played it.
4 votes for Awakening 7
2 votes for Bridge to Another World

The last two are games from my backlog.

So I guess that means I'll play Pokémon Yellow this week, in between bouts of playing the new Miss Clue game. Another game I'm interested in, Aviary Attorney comes out this week, too. Playing three games at once might be a bit too much, though. I guess I'll make a decision later.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Backlog

Here are the videoogames I have in my backlog right now. I intend to do video walkthroughs for all of them.
  • Awakening 7: The Golden Age
  • Book of Legends
  • Bridge to Another World: Burnt Dreams
  • Detective Barbie 2
  • Grammar Games
  • Nancy Drew: The Haunted Mansion for the DS (or whatever the final Nancy Drew DS game is called.)
  • Pepper's Adventures in Time
  • Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon
  • Spy Fox: Dry Cereal
  • Spy Fox: Operation Ozone
  • Spy Fox: Some Assembly Required
If I do these games at the rate of one per week, I'll be done...um...around the start of March? Maybe I should take some games off the list.

I also have some games in the "possible contenders for video walkthrough" category.
  • The DLC case for Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies
  • Miles Edgeworth 2, which is ridiculously long, so I keep putting it off.
  • Fire Emblem Gaiden, which is a game I like, but no one else seems to like it.
  • Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon, ditto.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. I have no idea how people would respond to this.
  • Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies. Again, an RPG that I like, but none of my followers enjoy.
  • Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective for the iOS. I have completed this walkthrough, and it has 74 videos. Help!
  • Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull in French
  • Nancy Drew: Kapu Cave in French
  • Nancy Drew: Phantom of Venice in German
  • McKids for NES
  • A speedrun for Treasure Mathstorm. Actually, just wondering if I should still do speedruns in general. They require so much effort, and I'm not sure it's worth it.
  • Puzzle Quest
  • Puzzle Quest 2

Friday, December 11, 2015

Follow-up to Yesterday

Yesterday, I wrote about my YouTube Channel, and I read all the responses. Here are my thoughts.

First, there's the problem of how much I should post per day. The summer marathon this year was ridiculous, with 2-3 hours per day. That was ridiculous, no one likes that, and no one can watch all that. I keep telling myself to slow down, and then I keep not doing it.

This week's walkthrough is a prime example. I'm doing the second case of Miles Edgeworth 2, and it's being posted at the ridiculous rate of 5 videos per day. Partially because it's very long, and if I did a more acceptable pace like two videos per day, it'd take ten days. Is that too much for people to swallow, if they're not interested in the game?

Someone suggested having alternating walkthroughs, where I switch back and forth between games, each day. That sounds like a good plan to try out! I also want to go back to my old system of having a one or two day break in between walkthroughs.

Another reason I'm rushing the current walkthrough is just bad timing. They announced a new Nancy Drew game this week, and I feel compelled to do a video about it before the end of the week. I'm aiming for Sunday.

On Tuesday, I'm going to play the new Miss Clue game, and that was another thing which was brought up. I rarely play NEW videogames, as in "games that are less than six months old". Is that something people want me to focus on, again? I kind of fell away from doing that, because of my huge videogame backlog, and because whenever I tried to be the first to walkthrough a game, someone else always beat me to the punch.

Fortunately, I'm getting CLOSE to clearing out my backlog. That's a good thing you can say about the summer marathon. It brought by backlog down from 80 games to 15. I'll write about the backlog tomorrow.

---

Also, to the person who wants me to play the Dark Parables and Mystery Case Files series: To be honest, I don't really like those series all that much. They're all right, but only about a third of their games make me go, "This is really fun! I like this game!". So when I did some Dark Parables walkthroughs this year, I brought Mary to do commentary with me, to hopefully make things more interesting.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

YouTube Viewcounts

Here are my lifetime YouTube viewcounts:

Year-----Views
2007-----2,465
2008-----400,316
2009-----3,886,603
2010-----7,573,684
2011-----9,156,120
2012-----7,382,842
2013-----6,461,119
2014-----5,807,094
2015-----5,189,200

2015 isn't over yet, so that number is just an estimate. I'm currently at 4,822,171 views this year.

Clearly, I peaked in 2011, the year of Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse and Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes. Ever since then, I've been steadily getting fewer and fewer views. I'm not sure where the dust will settle. Maybe things will stop at four million views, and my channel will hover there in perpetuity.

I dunno! I've tried stuff to turn things around, like branching out to book reviews and livestreaming for the 2014 Nancy Drew Games Mega Marathon. That marathon is STILL the most-watched thing on my YouTube channel, even though it's a year old now. But it wasn't enough to stop the general fallout.

Any suggestions as to what I should do? My subscriber count, interestingly enough, keeps increasing and has never gone down. So there are more people following my channel, but I guess they're watching fewer videos.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pro-Life Mercy

One suggestion I've gotten for the Year of Mercy is for Catholics to stop holding prayer vigils outside of abortion clinics. Although it's not the intention, those prayer vigils come off as harsh and judgmental, which doesn't help the pro-life cause. It would be a better use of our resources to help volunteer at women's health clinics and rape prevention centers and other such places. The goal is to be the face of mercy in the world, not to stand in condemnation of the vulnerable.

My particular church has a giving crib every November. It's like a giving tree, if you've heard of that. They set up a large baby crib inside the vestibule, and everyone is encouraged to bring in baby supplies like diapers and wipes and blankets to help fill the crib. At the end of the month, all of the baby supplies are donated to a local pregnancy resource center. It's not a perfect setup, but I wish more churches would try things like that. Helping new mothers is a good cause to support.

We also do a meal train, where we deliver free meals to sick people and women who have recently given birth. I'm going to try to help with that more often, especially now that I work at a food place with a 25% employee discount.

My wife says it costs about $10,000 to have a baby. There should be some way that we pro-lifers can help drive that cost down! Sadly, I'm told giving out free pregnancy tests is not an option. If you're going to have a baby in a hospital, the hospital needs to perform its own pregnancy test, usually a blood test. Maybe that's just a state-specific rule, though.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared that, starting today, the Catholic Church is celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy, lasting until November 20th. You can read his papal bull on the subject, entitled "Face of Mercy".

I'm not sure what things will be happening, in order to celebrate the Year of Mercy, but it's recommended that people perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Those are always recommended, but they're especially recommended now.

Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Admonish sinners
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Forgive offences
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Pray for the living and the dead

As my first act of mercy this year, I will not make any snarky comments about the official logo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Star Trek: Wrath of Gems

I tried out the Star Trek: Wrath of Gems game, which is okay. It's a match-3 game, and they did an okay job making the show fit match-3 battles. Match three yellows to increase shields, match three reds to shoot phasers and so on. I actually would prefer it, if the game used an RPG battle system. Far too often, the match-3 board was set up against my favor, so half the time I wanted to make a particular match, I couldn't. The other half of the time, whenever I tried to set up a good match, my AI opponent stole it away from me.

This is why match-3 battles aren't part of Candy Crush.

I reached the paywall VERY early on. The game caps your characters at level 3, unless you buy enough coins to upgrade them. I got as far as the second chapter, where the enemies are level 6-8, and that was it. No way to progress against them. "Sensors indicate implementation of free-to-play model, Captain."

There are three different types of battles in the game, but they're all basically match-3 battles. "Avoid making matches of these three colors" isn't different enough to be considered a completely different type of battle. The third battle involved cards, but...yeah, it was just match-3.

The game itself looks great, and the storyline was moderately interesting. Or at least, I'm sure it would have been more interesting, if I had gotten more than 10% through it. But still, I would have preferred to see the game in RPG format. I'm not a huge fan of Match-3, and I especially don't like Match-3 battles.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More on Pokemon

Thanks to all you Pokémon People, for trying to help me. I really like the chart, which is a great mixture of "looks super useful" and "I have no idea what it means". If I'm reading it right, it's saying that fire Pokémon do lots of damage to bug Pokémon. I'm stuck against a meteor enemy, which I'm guessing is a Rock creature, so I should use a Ground or Grass Pokémon.

Is this information in the game manual or something? Or did people just figure out the "which creature beats which creature" rules, after playing over and over again?

I hope that the modern Pokémon games come with this information. Like, at the start of the battle, you get a mini status screen which says, "Your opponent is a Level 4 Rock type! It's weak against Ground and Grass types!" And that way, you can more easily pick which of your five characters is best equipped for the battle. They've got something like that in Fire Emblem. It helps a bit. Or at least, it lets you know ahead of time that Character A is useless for this particular battle, so don't even TRY using them!

I will get back to Pokémon next year, after Winter Break. My channel gets way more views than normal, during Winter Break, and I need to capitalize on that by doing walkthroughs for popular stuff. Pokémon seems popular enough to continue the walkthrough--it's my most popular RPG walkthrough to date--but it's not popular enough to justify doing it during the busiest time of the year, when I get the most views, and advertisers pay the highest rates. I need to try something more popular, a walkthrough that gets views in the thousands, not the hundreds!

So Pokémon is on hold until next year, at which point, I'll check the viewcounts and decide whether or not to continue it. I'll be doing the same thing with Miles Edgeworth 2, Case 2, which is debuting next week.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pokemon Yellow

Sick Michael did a walkthrough for Pokémon Yellow! More like a playthrough, really. I played the game for the first time, while sick, and I got all the way to Brock before I hit the wall where none of my characters did any damage.

Having never played Pokémon before, I'd say it's okay. The main problem is that the game clearly expects you to know everything about Pokémon ahead of time, which is massively unfair. The game punished me for trying to break trainer battle rules, and I have no idea what a trainer battle is or what the rules are, why is there no tutorial on this?

I'm sure I made a bunch of bone-headed newbie mistakes, like pick the wrong Pokémon to be on my team, just because I don't know any better. In my defense, it's kind of hard to pick what Pokémon should be on your team. Like, obviously you want the best team ever, but you don't get to see character stats until AFTER you recruit them. That's not very fair! Then again, I don't really understand the stats anyway, so...whatever! I think I got a good team.



EDIT: I'm told the goal of the game is to collect all five badges, from the various gym leaders. That way, you can enter the tournament and face off against the Elite Four, the best Pokémon trainers in the entire world. That sounds kinda cool! Too bad that wasn't explained in the game itself.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sick

I've been kind of sick for the past two weeks, so I haven't been able to get much work done. I'm still playing catchup with my YouTube channel and my writing and stuff.

This stinks, because I was hoping to be done with Cat President by now. As you can maybe, kinda tell from my writing stats, I stopped writing two chapters a day at the end. I was totally going to catch up on everything on my day off on Wednesday, but I tried some new medicine for my stuffy nose, and I slept the entire day. I did some work on Nancy Drew reviews, but that's about it.

Today (Friday) is another day off for me. I hope I'll get more work done! The idea is to FINISH those Nancy Drew reviews, if possible. Then write descriptions for a bunch of YouTube videos. (I'm playing Case 2 of Miles Edgeworth: Prosecutor's Path, and man, it's a long game.) Then I'll either write more for Cat President and record more YouTube videos. (The next games on my to-do list are Bridge to Another World: Burnt Dreams and Detective Barbie 2. Doing more of the artwork for Francy Droo is also on the to-do list.

Or I'll collapse from sickness again. We'll see.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. Every day, I read some newspaper comics in Spanish, to help me remember the language. Currently, the re-runs for Calvin and Hobbes are getting close to the end of the strip. Hindsight is 20/20, but I can say that it's no surprise Bill Watterson quit the strip, in order to become a virtual hermit. He spends a LOT of time complaining about modern technology and modern society.

2. In Haunting of Castle Malloy, Ned says it's around 2 PM. Doing the math, that means the game takes place around 8 PM, Ireland time.

3. I haven't watched SpongeBob Squarepants in many years. I stopped watching around the time that the Mr. Krabs / Plankton rivalry stole the show and became the focus of pretty much every episode. When this happened, Mr. Krabs a meaner, nastier character; he does a lot of horrible, awful things. But he's the hero, so he's allowed to get away with it, scot-free.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Colony

On Thanksgiving, Katie had us watch The Colony, because she likes sci-fi movies. The premise is that, in the future, humans invent weather machines. The machines screw up, somehow, creating a horrible ice age. Most of the surviving humans are in underground bunkers, trying to wait out the endless storm.

(The obvious solution to the problem is to disable the weather towers to turn off the snow, but only ONE group of humans thinks of this. This plan works, so good for them. Let's hope they spread that information to the rest of humanity.)

The movie takes place in Bunker 5, which has been ravaged by a flu that killed 20 people. Quarantine isn't working very well, and some people think they should just kill all sick people outright, for the good of the colony. In the middle of this, they get a distress signal from Bunker 7.

Three people make the two-day journey to Bunker 7, and at this point, the movie completely switches genres. It's not sci-fi anymore! Now it's a horror survival film! The people in Bunker 7 are basically zombies, intent on eating our three heroes. There's a huge fight and escape sequence, which ends with the bunker exploding.

The zombies give chase, and there's another huge fight/escape sequence by a bridge. Only one of our heroes survives this. He goes back to Bunker 5, where he has some minor conflict with the "kill all sick people" faction. Then the zombies attack, and we have the largest fight/escape sequence of the movie, which ends with our hero killing the zombie leader in a gruesome way. The end.

In general, the movie has gotten bad reviews. I think it's because of the abrupt and unexpected genre shift. I wanted to see them follow up on the subplot about the one colony that turned off the snow machine. My wife wanted to see more about the moral dilemma of whether or not to kill quarantined people. But those things weren't actually intended to be part of the focus; they were just a setup for zombie attack. Kind of disappointing.

I haven't seen any other modern zombie attack movies, so I don't know how to classify this one, in comparison to them. I'd say the fight scenes were pretty good and suspenseful. The special effects were good; there were only two points where our reaction was, "Oh, that is so obviously fake!", those points being a badly-done CGI shot by the bridge and the gruesome death of the zombie leader.

Overall, I'd say it's an okay movie. I would have liked it better, if it didn't pretend to be a sci-fi movie for the first third. I probably will never watch it again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Barbie Princess Power

Did I mention Barbie Princess Power is an amazing movie? It's way better than all the other Barbie movies that the six-year-old has made me watch this year. I think I like it, mainly because it's a comedy. There's a lot of slapstick and good one-liners.

Take the main villain, for example. He's an evil Baron, and he's angry because his great-great-grandfather lost the kingdom in a ill-fated game of rock-paper-scissors. That is literally his entire motivation for conquering the kingdom. I laughed.

The story is pretty standard superhero stuff. Girl gets superpowers, girl has to learn how to use superpowers, girl struggles to hide her secret identity from her family and an obsessed reporter. Her jealous cousin finds out her secret, and then the cousin gets superpowers of her own. Barbie and her cousin fight constantly, until they're forced to team up and stop the main villain. Throw in a moral about "working together", and you're done.

Of course, the movie contains a lot of stereotypical Barbie elements, like mandatory cute animals and little sisters that don't really affect the plot. Oh, and she's a princess who dresses in pink all the time. Obviously! Some of those things felt like a parody of typical Barbie movie elements, while some felt like demands from the marketing department. "Sorry, guys, you need to have a scene of her trying on different outfits, so we can sell multiple outfits with the toys."

The main complaints about this movie are the violence. Yeah, there's a lot of danger and fighting in the movie, compared to other Barbie stuff. She's a superhero! I would be disappointed if there wasn't a superhero duel between her and the main villain. Also, people dislike the character design. Barbie looks less realistic, and you might go so far as to say her face looks like it's collapsing in on itself. Maybe that's why they have a hand-drawn picture of her on the DVD cover.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

One of the recipes I tried out last week was a chicken and rice casserole. My casserole book says it was made by Helen Watts. The Internet tells me that she died last year. Now I'm hesitant to look up any more of the names in my old cookbooks.

You're supposed to mix a can of mushroom soup, chicken soup and celery soup, along with a lot of butter. As in, more than a stick. I just used whatever butter was left over in the fridge. Also, I don't have celery soup, so I used about a quarter can of chicken broth. You cook all them together in a saucepan, until they're smooth.

Then you add a cup of rice. This is basically your dipping sauce. Not really. I messed up the recipe. I thought you were supposed to dip the chicken breasts in the sauce mixture, then cook it in the oven. Turns out, you're supposed to fill the casserole dish with the soup stuff, then put the chicken on top of it. That makes more sense, because otherwise, you've got a lot of leftover soup.

You coat the chicken tops with butter and paprika. I still don't know how to sprinkle with paprika. It came off in huge globs.

You cook the thing at 275 degrees for two and a half hours.

The casserole ended up being kind of bad, in that the chicken had no taste to it whatsoever. I guess I cooked it wrong. The soup mixture is good, though. If I wanted to make soup by itself, that would not be a bad way to go about it! It's too bad the chicken didn't absorb the taste.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Land Before Time: Good Times & Good Friends

My library has some DVDs for the The Land Before Time TV show. I didn't even know there was a TV show. Apparently, the show aired in 2007, the same year as the thirteenth movie. The first DVD I got was Good Times & Good Friends, and it has four episodes.

The Star Day Celebration is all about Ruby. Who is Ruby? I have no idea. She wasn't in any of the movies. Fortunately, the episode briefly delves into her backstory. One year ago, on her birthday, Ruby's family was attacked by carnivores. To keep her safe, her parents sent her to live with Littlefoot in the Great Valley, so she could learn about sharing and friendship.

I don't understand that explanation. What does "learning to share" have to do with "protecting yourself from carnivores"? Why did Ruby's parents only send HER to safety, and not her siblings? Heck, why did Ruby's parents not move to the safe area? Instead, they asked Chomper to guide her there. Chomper, the baby T-Rex. It's cool to see Chomper again, but maybe the BABY isn't the best choice for a guardian.

Anyway, Ruby is sad because it's been a year since she last saw her family. Our heroes decide to cheer her up with a surprise birthday party. They get her some special berries, and they help her when she's caught in an unexpected landslide. That's basically it for the episode. I didn't like it very much.

The animation quality was okay, but definitely not as good as the movies. The main problem was consistency. Cera's pupils kept changing shape from shot to shot, and Littlefoot's cheeks occasionally ballooned out, like he had gained several pounds. And when characters turned around/to the side, their faces got a little weird.

The Brave Longneck Scheme is a follow-up to the fourth movie. Littlefoot's love interest, Ally, returns to the Great Valley with her herd. But, uh oh! She's got a new boyfriend! Rhett is a phony braggart, who pretends that he's a brave hero. He tells several tall tales, about how he fought dozens of villains and saved everyone.

Our heroes are pretty sure that Rhett is lying about his adventures. So they decide to test him, by setting up a fake emergency. Rhett screams and runs away, exposing him as a liar. Our heroes triumph for a while, but then Rhett tells the adults about the emergency, resulting in a minor uproar. In the end, both Rhett AND our heroes learn that it's wrong to lie and create fake situations. I liked that moral, and how the show didn't let our heroes get away with acting like jerks, in their quest to stop a villain.

I also liked how they sang Friends for Dinner from the fifth movie. The lyrics were changed slightly, and they made it as short as possible, but I think I liked this rendition better, because they had a better person doing Littlefoot's singing voice.

The animation was good for this episode. It was different, though. Compared to the movies, the characters were simpler and less detailed. Littlefoot's head lost the lines on the top of his muzzle, while Cera's eyes and forehead became larger. It didn't bother me, because it was very well-done; the characters' faces were interesting and expressive, even if they were different from normal. I actually would like to see more of the series, done in this different style.

The Great Log Running Game is a Cera episode, and storylines with her are usually my favorites, because she's an interesting character. To be honest, only the Cera and Littlefoot storylines interest me. The other characters are mostly comic relief, and it's hard to take their problems seriously. Whereas Cera and Littlefoot have struggled with real, heavy problems, ever since the first movie.

In this episode, Cera's father gives her a big pep talk about how she can do anything she wants, because she's a triceratops. Good advice for your daughter, but she takes it too far and insists that she can win a log-rolling game that's designed for two-legged dinosaurs. Cera injures herself, which convinces her to try harder, and then she gets caught in a dangerous current. Everyone works together to save her.

This episode wasn't the greatest, but I liked the scenes of Cera and her father. It's interesting to see him try to help his daughter, only to cause more problems for her. Poor Mr. Three Horn. For someone who was introduced as a one-note villain, he's sure taken on a lot of depth.

The Bright Circle Celebration is a straight up WEIRD episode. It's about religion, which has never been mentioned before in the series, because all the characters are dinosaurs. I mean, dinosaur religion?

Well, it turns out that the dinosaurs are nature worshippers. Petrie goes on and on about appeasing the sun god, because if the sun isn't happy with them, it will make the days shorter and shorter until they all die. Cera rightly notes that the sun doesn't CARE what they're doing, because it's a ball of gas in the sky. But Petrie insists, they have to make the sun god happy by fixing up his sacred clearing and having a traditional ceremony there. The episode doesn't go into much detail, but the ceremony appears to be something of a mix between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The dinosaurs argue whether or not to celebrate the ceremony. Some of them think it's nice to do the ceremony and have a big feast, even if it's not necessary. Cera gets angry at them and storms off, complaining that they're all a bunch of idiots. After that, Cera and her father sing a song called "My Reality", where they boldly proclaim that they don't believe in anything supernatural. No, they only believe in things they can SEE. As a result of this worldview, they believe the Earth is flat, and that the sun rotates our planet. Uh...okay.

The ceremony is interrupted by a volcanic eruption. The nature-worshippers freak out, but it seems like their sun god is trying to kill them. Everyone works together to put out the ensuing fire. In the end, Cera and her father decide to celebrate the ceremony, even if they're skeptical about its purpose and origins.

I think the moral of the story is that religion is a bunch of baloney, but it's still a good idea for atheists to celebrate Christmas, because it's fun. Also, atheists are stupid for believing science is the end-all and be-all. Whether you're on the side of science or religion, you can find something that insults you in this episode. Thank you, dinosaur show, for perpetuating the myth that science and religion are incompatible!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden

I'm doing a walkthrough for Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden.



Strictly speaking, it's not a full-length game like the previous one. It's more of a mini-adventure, released for Halloween. It's three chapters long, and it should be finished in under two hours.

My main gripe with the previous Miss Clue was the episodic format. This game is a large improvement on that front, simply because it's short. Backtracking at the start of every chapter is a pain when you do it fourteen times in a row, but it's not so bad when you only have to do it twice. Plus, the backtracking isn't as much of a hassle, because there's a lot less area to cover.

That said, it still looks likes the programmers were forced to release the game, before it was finished. There are two spots where an area is closed off, because the programmers haven't finished it yet. In later chapters, these areas are opened, and the game acts like you could explore them the entire time. These two areas being the haunted garden, unlocked in Chapter Two, and Miss Clue's bedroom, unlocked in Chapter Three.

Actually, there's a third area which seems like it was originally intended to be part of the game. It's the locked door upstairs. You can interact with this locked door, unlike all the other locked doors; Miss Clue has a line of dialogue about needing the key to open the door. There's also a cutscene where she overhears people talking behind the door. That certainly makes it seem like you were intended to go through the door at some point, but no. The door remains forever locked. This, and some unused inventory items, makes me think that perhaps the programmers weren't able to finish everything on time.

Speaking of inventory items, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a particular puzzle which had me stumped. That would be the music puzzle. The puzzle itself is really simple; you use the sheet music on the piano, then play the song. The tricky part? This is the only puzzle in the game where you ABSOLUTELY MUST take the inventory item back, after using it. You have to pick up the sheet music, because it triggers a conversation ten minutes later. The conversation has nothing at all to do with the music, and indeed, you never use the music for anything again. But it HAS to be in your inventory, or else the game won't progress. It's a completely non-intuitive puzzle, and I'm pretty sure it's NOT supposed to be a puzzle. It's just weird programming. Unless there's a reason why you're expected to pick up used inventory items?

I'd say this game on par with the previous game, in terms of puzzles. The puzzles make sense, in general. The only one that gave me trouble, besides the unintentional puzzle I mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the big finale puzzle, and I'm willing to let that slide, because it's perfectly fine to have the finale puzzle be extra-difficult. Still, I can easily see some players getting stuck on puzzles, and wishing that the game gave you an explanation of how the puzzles work, at any point.

The storyline in this game is...okay, I guess? The problem is that there's only one character, Mrs. Danforth, and she sounds super-bored the entire time. She could not care less about her tragic family backstory. The two other characters are a ghost cat and the ghost of Mrs. Danforth's sister. Neither character talks; they're just there to wander around in the night and make the game spookier. At one point, the ghost possesses Mrs. Danforth and writes a note, but when she talks about it, she sounds just as uninterested as ever.

The culprit of the game is Kenny. You catch the culprit, and Mrs. Danforth--trying her hardest to sound like she cares--says, "It's Kenny!". She then proceeds to explain who Kenny is, because he's never been mentioned at any point until just now. That was frustrating and unsatisfying. There's a REASON it's against the rules of detective fiction to have a culprit who isn't introduced until the end.

The only other thing I have to say about this game is that the navigation is improved, through the use of larger hitboxes. "Improvement" is probably the best word to describe this game. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. I hope the series continues to improve. The next game is allegedly NOT episodic, which means that maybe, just maybe, the programmers will have completely finished the game BEFORE release!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stock Trading

I started doing some stock market trading in September.
I learned a lot about the stock market from the experience, and the good news is that I haven't lost any money yet, since I started buying at the perfect time! The market crashed in mid-August, so prices were low.

The main thing I learned is that trading on the stock market is not for me. There are basically two strategies for making a profit on the stock market. #1, Trade with huge amounts of money. #2, Do a huge amount of trading. If you can do BOTH strategies at the same time, it's the best recipe for success.

I can't do that. I don't have huge amounts of money, and I don't have the free time to do hundreds of trades per day. So those options are out.

Once I've sold my current stocks, I'm going to switch from short-term trading to long-term trading. That means I'll buy stocks, and I'll hold onto them for at least a year, before selling. If the price hasn't gone up enough, then I wait another year. This is a good general strategy, because stock prices usually go up from year to year. The price of EVERYTHING usually goes up. That's called "inflation".

The long-term stocks I have right now are Disney and Wells Fargo, because...I dunno. They both seem like companies which will exist and be successful, ten years from now. Unless there's a market crash or something, their stocks should be in good shape in the distant future.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

I might spend the holiday watching football. At the last big family gathering, my wife tried to explain the rules of football to me, before she fell asleep. I now know the rule that the clock stops, whenever the ball goes out of bounds. (Usually.) I'm still not sure why time-stopping quarterbacks never throw the ball directly out of bounds, though. They seem to always throw the ball out, at a slim angle. If your only goal is to get the ball out of bounds, it's more efficient to turn 90 degrees to the side and throw directly ahead.

Maybe this time, Katie can explain the rules on catching. Specifically, when multiple people are jumping to catch the ball. Sometimes, it's against the rules for the two players to even touch each other. Other times, I see the two players more or less slapping each others' hands and punching each other, but the referee doesn't call a penalty. I'd like to hear an explanation for that.

(Hopefully the explanation is not "the one player is a rich, famous superstar, and the other player is a nobody, so we'll let them break the rules". I hate it when they do that in sports.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Putt-Putt Travels Through Time

This week, I'm doing videos for Putt-Putt Travels Through Time! It was one of my favorite games in high school. I suppose it says a lot about me that I spent more of my high school days playing games like this, than I did studying for the SATs.











Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nancy Drew Rival

I've read two Hardy Boys books, where the Hardys have to go up against rivals. In the one Hardy Boys book, the rivals were basically social rivals. That is, they were just like the Hardys, only cooler and more popular. All the Hardys' friends started hanging out with the new guys; Frank and Joe got sad and lonely, and they felt like they were replaced. It was a good premise, but badly written; everyone in that book comes off as a huge jerk, EXCEPT for the rival characters.

The other rival Hardy Boys book I read was one of the supermysteries, where two teenagers frame Frank and Joe for bank robbery. The teenagers were more or less evil clones of the Hardy Boys. They looked and acted like the Hardys, and they were just as obsessed with being strong and manly.

Yesterday, I talked about Nancy Drew's rivals, who are basically more nasty, incompetent versions of Nancy. And I wonder, why do the Hardy Boys get competent rivals, while Nancy Drew doesn't? It would be interesting to see Nancy go up against a competent rival. I can think of some possibilities.

#1. The smart girl. Nancy's rival is smart, and she notices clues before Nancy does. Or she notices clues that Nancy overlooks, much to Nancy's chagrin. But Nancy is still a better detective, because she does a better job of fitting clues together and figuring out the big picture.

#2. The tough girl. Basically, 1980's Nancy Drew. I want see her be the rival of 1930's Nancy Drew.

#3. The clone. Just like those Hardy Boys rivals, a girl who acts disturbingly similar to Nancy. I don't think I've ever seen Nancy interact with someone who's just like her. If I was writing a book like this, I'd have Clone Nancy become friends with Bess and George, but I'd make it so she hates Ned with a passion. I think that could be interesting.

Do you readers have any ideas for a Nancy Drew rival? Or do you think Deirdre Shannon is good enough competition for our detective hero?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Brenda Carlton

I've been reading the Nancy Drew Files series recently, and I just realized that Brenda Carlton hasn't shown up in a long time.

Brenda is supposed to be Nancy's big rival. She's basically the 1980's equivalent of Deirdre Shannon; both of them are selfish, spoiled rich brats who mess up Nancy's investigations. They're the same age as Nancy. Brenda was in Books 1, 4 and 10. She also appears in some of the 8-year-old Nancy Drew books.

I find it interesting that both of Nancy's rivals are incompetent. Brenda is a bumbling idiot, who likes to think that she's a great detective. Deirdre couldn't detect her way out of a paper bag. I guess the series didn't want to give Nancy any legitimate competition, when it comes to mystery-solving.

Kind of a lost opportunity there. I mean, half of Brenda's storylines are her, challenging Nancy to a mystery-solving competition. You know, "I bet I can solve the mystery before you do!". But outside of issuing challenges, Brenda doesn't seem interested in solving mysteries. Neither does Deirdre. What's the point of having a rival, who doesn't actually compete with you? Seems strange.

Book 20 takes place at the local newspaper, and I kept expecting Brenda to show up, 'cause that's where she works. Nope, she's not in the book at all. I sure hope they haven't written her out of the series. She was an interesting character. Well, kind of.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Reviews

I mentioned book reviews two days ago. Well, here are two more book reviews! As kinda promised, the one is shorter than the other. That didn't work out so well, actually. Having a short recap just means there's more stuff I want to discuss in the post-book followup.





I've written reviews for Nancy Drew Files 16-19, but I haven't turned them into videos yet. The plan is to stick with the original Nancy Drew series for a while, before going back to 1980's Nancy Drew. How many of the original Nancy Drews should I review, before switching to another series?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

I saw Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. It's a lot better than the first Star Trek movie, which is not saying much, considering that the first movie, you know, didn't have a full script.

The premise is that Captain Admiral Kirk is going through a midlife crisis, now that he's fifty years old, and he's basically working a desk job instead of exploring space like a bold hero. Around this time, his arch-nemesis Khan escapes from exile and launches a grand scheme to take over the universe. Kirk is forced to fight Khan one more time, even though he hasn't piloted a ship for decades.

Khan is...well, I saw the original episode with Khan, and it's a bit of a stretch to call him Kirk's arch-nemesis. He's more like "the guy who caused Kirk a minor inconvenience". The premise is that Khan is a genetically-enhanced superhuman who took over the world back in the 1990's. That was a good premise, and it set him up to be a great villain. However, the episode didn't follow through on the premise. Khan acted like a normal person, not a superhuman. He spent most of his time seducing a random woman, not plotting to take over the universe.

I preferred the 39 Clues Unstoppable series, which has a relatively similar premise. That is, the villain is a genetically-enhanced super-villain, who is plotting to take over the world. It's near-impossible to stop him, because he has super-intelligence and super-strength.

Like the episode, the Khan movie overlooks the premise that Khan is a super-genius. But unlike the episode, that's okay! Khan is still a good, interesting villain, even if he's not the genius he's supposed to be. He comes off as a legitimate threat, who has an intense rivalry with Kirk. The acting and solid script completely sold me on the big rivalry, even though, in reality, these are two guys who met each other once, fifteen years ago, not life-long rivals. Heck, Kirk even admits he hasn't thought about Khan in years, that's how little of an impact he left.

I liked almost the entire movie, except for the part where Kirk escapes from an underground trap, by using an emergency transporter which didn't get mentioned until just now. That felt like cheating, on the scriptwriter's part. But hey, one of the characters calls Kirk out on being a cheater, so at least they're aware that Kirk likes to bend the rules in order to win. Plus, the movie ends with a legitimate victory for Kirk in the battle of wits, so I'm willing to overlook the time he cheats his way out of an inescapable trap. After all, it is totally in character for Kirk to do something sneaky like that.

My wife liked almost the entire movie, except for the casting of Kirstie Alley as "Hot Mr. Spock". Or should I call her "Mrs. Spock"? Either way, it was completely unnecessary to have a sexy Vulcan in this movie, and borderline out-of-character for Vulcans to do things like try out a cute new hairdo. Spock is only half-Vulcan, and he would NEVER do that, so it's hard to picture a full-Vulcan doing it. I much preferred the random Vulcan woman in Star Trek: The Next Generation who didn't do much besides stand around, looking bored. That's way more in line with the Vulcan mythology that the original series built up.

All in all, good movie. Good writing, good acting, and the ending was extremely powerful. Apparently, the movie is really popular with non-Star Trek fans, and I'm not surprised. It's that good. Not the best movie ever, by any means--I'd rather watch Indiana Jones than this movie, any day--but it's still enjoyable and worth watching. I cannot say the same for the first movie, which deserves the condescending title of "Star Trek: The Slow-Motion Picture".

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blogging Followup

So here's a comment I got on the post I made two days ago.

I'll be blunt with my OPINIONS.

I read your blog because some of the topics are interesting.

My biggest issue is that you very rarely engage with the commentators. Occasionally you'll ask what your readers think of a topic but you never interact. Occasionally someone will ask a specific question and you never answer. I realize that you can't spend all day responding, but it appears that you're not interested in what your readers think.

I don't care for your 'here's the videos of my walk through of blah, blah, blah game, because with the exception of Nancy Drew, I don't play games. But - I know that that's your thing so I get it.

Your book Nancy Drew book reviews are too long and I suspect that there are few people who are really interested.

I enjoy your blogs on religion, cooking, daily life and general topics. I really like Katie and Mary and enjoy when they pop in.

I think Stephanie's got a point. I'm more interested in hearing what people have to say, than I am in having a conversation. I know a few years ago, I tried to have a series of response posts, and it just turned into a mess, because there were response posts to response posts, and people who jumped in halfway through the conversation, and I dunno. Blogger is NOT the ideal forum for having a conversation.

Livestreaming sometimes works for a Q and A--I did one of those recently--but there are problems with that, too. Like when someone spams the chat with the same question twelve times, even though it was already answered. And if there are too many people in the chat, conversation is impossible. And it looks like the livestream chat STILL doesn't get auto-saved by YouTube. Sad.

The "here's the latest video walkthrough I did" posts can be boring, but they're here to stay. Mainly because it's super-easy to write those posts, but also because that was the original purpose of the blog: cross-promotion.

Book review blog posts--again, that's something I do because it's easy. I mean, I have the review written out for the video. It's super easy to just copy/paste them as blog posts. I agree that they're super-long, compared to all my other blog posts. I dunno. Maybe it's my background as an English minor, but I'm inclined to write a TON of stuff for book reviews. My first draft of every book review is usually 2-3 times as long as the finished copy, although I'm getting better at summarizing, instead of mentioning every single little thing that happens.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game Endings

I'm still working on Cat President, my dating sim that focuses on cats and Presidential elections.

I'm not an expert on dating sims or anything, but I think it's standard for games to have three endings per pathway. You have the bad ending, the good ending, and the special ending, which is the exact same thing as the good ending, only they added a second scene at the end.

I don't like it when a game has multiple, near-identical endings. So with Cat President and the other games I've written, I'm making an effort to have every ending be different. It was easy to have unique endings with Francy Droo. Each of the four suspects got one ending, where they were the culprit.

With Cat President, it's more difficult. It feels like I have to write the same ending, three times in a row. Now, it's relatively simple to write a bad ending where things end poorly. But as for a "good" ending and "special" ending...what's the difference? They're both good endings, it's just....one is better than the other? How do you qualify what counts as "better"?

The more different two endings are, the harder it is to make a judgment call. For example, I like the bad Dr. Nom-Noms ending best, and I prefer Thunderpaw's good ending to his "special" ending.

I think I want to imitate the Sushi Rangers dating sim, where if you unlock an ending, you unlock all the easier endings. That is, if you get the best ending, you automatically unlock the other endings, too. I went through all the trouble of making multiple endings; people should be able to see them all without having to repeat the entire game.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blogging

I feel like I've been neglecting this blog, recently, because of all the writing I've done for Cat President. Have you readers felt that way? Is there anything I can do or write about, to improve things here?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Supreme Court Abortion Case

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit about abortion. The lawsuit is a result of the controversial Texas abortion law I mentioned two years ago. The law in question says that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics must meet certain ambulatory standards. Depending on the definition of "nearby"--remember, Texas is a HUGE state--it's possible that Texas could be left with ten or fewer abortion clinics, whereas they had 46 abortion clinics before the law got passed.

In 1992, the Supreme Court had a case called Planned Parenthood VS Casey. The topic of that lawsuit was whether or not states can impose restrictions on abortion. The Supreme Court decided that it's legal for states to impose restrictions on abortion, provided that said restrictions do NOT place an "undue burden" on women, or block them from obtaining abortion services.

There have been arguments ever since, over what meets the Casey standard and what does not. Common restrictions that states place on abortion include waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and parental consent or notification for teenagers. Does the new Texas law constitute an "undue burden"? The lawsuit claims it does, saying that it forces women to travel over a hundred miles, in some cases, just to get an abortion.

The Supreme Court last heard a case on abortion in 2007, where they decided that states can ban partial-birth abortions. Justice Kennedy was the swing-vote in that case, and he's likely going to be the swing-vote in this case. The Supreme Court will hear the case in March, and their decision will come in June.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Professor Garfield

One of my most popular videos is Professor Garfield: Fact or Opinion?. It consistently gets over a thousand views a month. Why? I'm not sure, but I'm told that it's on some standard elementary school syllabuses. I find it AMAZING that kids are watching this for school, considering that I insult the false fact/opinion dichotomy that the game promotes.



So I played the other three games in the series. They aren't as popular, but maybe they'll get put on school syllabuses too, someday.






Sunday, November 15, 2015

Social Security

Some people my age want the government to cancel social security immediately, not because it's too expensive, but because it's probably not going to be around when we retire in 30-40 years. It's unfair to us, if we have to pay a bunch of money for social security, when there isn't a reasonable chance for us to ever collect on that money.

Social security works, when the population is steadily increasing. That way, the amount of money going into the system is greater than the amount of money going out. But ever since the invention of birth control, the birth rate has gone down.

Japan is used as a prime example, since the majority of Japanese people have had less than two children, ever since 1975. As a result, that generation is smaller than the previous generation. Today, forty years later, they're dealing with the inevitable fallout. The elderly make of a third of the population, and the percentage of elderly non-workers is expected to increase in the future, because the average lifespan keeps going up. Social welfare keeps taking a larger and larger percentage of the government's budget, from 6% in the 70's to 18% in the 90's. To make matters worse for them, the government budget is expected to decrease, since there are fewer workers than before.

At some point, there is the very real possibility that Japan will give up and stop spending money on social welfare, because they can't afford it. More likely, though, they'll increase the minimum retirement age. That will help a little, but...well, their population crisis is expected to continue for the next eighty years, which is the average lifespan in their country. That's definitely a long-term problem.

The United States, on the other hand, is not Japan. Their birth rate has been steadily falling; ours has not. We went under the "two kids per family" average in 1973. But then the birth rate was above "two kids per family" from 1989 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2010. Those bumps in the birth rate means there are more taxpayers than expected, to help fund social security. Some people think that we're in the middle of another baby bump, but we'll have to wait until the 2020 census to know for sure.

There's also the fact that, unlike Japan, the United States has a large immigrant population. Immigrants, no matter what country they move to, tend to have more children than the natives do. That is helping to keep our population numbers high, and our population is increasing. Japan's population peaked in 2007, and has been going down ever since. We are a lot bigger than Japan, in terms of geography, too, so there is plenty of room for more population growth, although I suspect that the new populations will continue to flock to overcrowded cities, instead of filling in the large, empty parts of the country.

Obviously, we're still facing a potential crisis when all the baby boomers retire, and social security / medicare costs will go through the roof. But there are reasons to believe it's not as bad as it could be. But if you're really worried that nobody will be there to support you when you retire? You should ensure that doesn't happen, by having lots of kids.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris

I feel like I should write something about the situation in France right now, but I don't know what to say.

Paris was attacked yesterday. The news first broke during my soap operas, with a World Special Report saying that gunmen had attacked restaurants near a soccer stadium, before attacking people in the stadium itself. Over ten people died.

The news reports kept getting updated, as the day went on. More attacks, in different places. The estimated death toll went from ten, to twenty, to dozens, to a hundred, and last I saw, it's at a hundred and fifty. I hope the number doesn't get any higher.

I don't know what I can say about the situation, because I'm still kind of in shock at the unexpectedness of it all. I guess I'll just share what Pope Francis said on the situation: "I am shaken and pained. I don't understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying." "This is not human." There can be no "religious or human" justification for such actions.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Retired Baby Boomers

Continuing from yesterday, the social security crisis is expected to hit, when the baby boomers retire.

Based on the baby boomers I know, it's about half and half. Half of them are retired. Half of them can't retire, because their savings are too small, social security isn't enough of a safety, or they're dealing with their parents. Either the parents are moving in with them, the parents are dying and have huge hospital bills, or they're in elderly care. Either way, the boomers are paying a lot to take care of their parents, so they can't retire yet.

I feel bad for these people. They expected to have a long, healthy retirement, by themselves. But now they're reverting back to the retirement plan that has been in effect for the majority of human history: work until you die, or until you're so frail you have to move in with your kids.

With the boomers that have retired, I'm told that the majority of them retire as early as possible, instead of staying with their jobs until they hit the "maximum benefits" range. Granted, if you don't expect to live more than ten years, there's no reason to work an extra ten years to ensure the best retirement possible. But if you live to be 100, you'll probably regret not working a little longer in your 60's.

Katie and I have a retirement plan that centers around a 2050 target date fund, but ha ha, no way are we actually going to be able to retire by then. Not unless we have a relative who wins the lottery, then dies right after signing us into their will.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo

Most of my writing efforts this month will be focused on Cat President, not this blog. A tragedy, I know.

As of my writing this, I've finished the opening scene and the first pathway. I'm at 22,600 words or so. However, I'm writing the game in script format, so a LOT of those words are just character names, and not, you know, part of the actual dialogue that will appear in the game.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Current Political Mood

I've been following the political moods, for my Cat President game.

I think one of the major political moods is "angry and frustrated". People are unhappy with the government, for a lot of reasons. The economy is bad, college is expensive and increasingly less useful, it's hard to find jobs, and wages have been stagnant for decades. The politicians in the government are too busy fighting with each other, to address the country's issues. For the past few years, Congress has been setting new records for "least amount of work done in a year". Whenever one party tries to get something passed, the other party immediately blocks it. The problem is exasperated, because more politicians are voting along party lines all the time, as opposed to working with the other side and reaching a consensus.

I think the budget problems this year are the perfect example. It was a huge, drawn out production, in which both sides threatened to shut down the government, multiple times, because they'd rather see the US Government crash and burn, than let the other party write a budget. President Obama gave them an emergency ten-week budget extension, and what was the final solution? "Eh, we'll just copy/paste the current budget for two years and let the next Congress deal with it."

Yeah, all that fighting, for nothing.

So people are kind of mad at the government right now. I think that's why the non-politicians are doing so well in the current Presidential election. Donald Trump, Ben Carson (and Carly Fiorina, to a lesser extent) are the candidates with no political experience. They are outsiders, in a field of lifetime politicians. That's normally a recipe for disaster, but in this case, it's great news for them, because people are sick and tired of politicians. Put their poll numbers together, and those three have the majority of the vote, in addition to a commanding lead.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is riding the same wave of "frustrated with the government" popularity. Like Trump, he's anti-establishment, and he's not afraid to break the norms and standards of his political party. For example, they both want to go after the billionaires on Wall Street. They refuse to be funded by super-PACs and influenced by lobbyist money. They're considered to be "tough guys", not huggy, friendly folks. They also both have crazy hair and say outrageous things that politicians normally don't say, but that's probably a coincidence.

Trump and Sanders are currently dominating, when it comes to support from young voters, because they're different from the others. Another Bush/Clinton election means business as usual; they pretty much have the exact same policies as their relatives did in the 1992 Bush/Clinton election. If you want to see something different from what we have now? Trump and Sanders are your best bet.

There's been a lot of backlash against the anti-establishment candidates. The media keeps trying to portray Ben Carson as a liar and an idiot, while Bernie Sanders is portrayed as a crazy old man who doesn't understand economics. Donald Trump is getting the worst of it, since mainstream Democrats AND Republicans want to see his campaign crash and burn. Of course, he kind of makes it easy for them to insult him and his campaign, but all the criticism in the world doesn't seem to be working. His campaign is still chugging along, at the top of the race.