Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Land Before Time 5

Land Before Time 5 is called "The Mysterious Island", and it restored my faith in the series. After movie #4, with the villains who waste a third of the movie arguing about pointless things, we got a movie with an actual plot that moves at a brisk pace! Also, villains who don't talk. Yes!!! It's like the opposite of the arguing villains.

The movie starts with the kids having fun while eating. Then a swarm of locusts appears, and they eat all the food in the Great Valley. The dinosaurs hold a conference, and they decide to migrate. Tensions run high, as it takes a long time for them to discover food. Meanwhile, I'm struck at how much food dinosaurs have to eat, because they are MASSIVE creatures. When you're bigger than a car, you have to eat a LOT. It's amazing they have time for anything else. Speaking of which, the running joke that Spike loves food was pretty well done in this movie, considering that "the fat guy loves to eat" is a joke that can become tedious.

The herd decides to split up, but the kids are having none of that. So they all run off together, to find food themselves. The food is on a mysterious island, in the ocean. They travel there through a land bridge, but the bridge is destroyed when the tide comes in. Meaning our heroes are temporarily trapped on the island, oh no!

The island ends up being home to large meat-eaters, including Chomper. Chomper is the baby T-Rex from the second movie. He recognizes our heroes as his friends, and he tries to protect them from being eaten. Our heroes wobble between gratitude and general distrust of Chomper, but Chomper proves himself a loyal friend when a gigantosaurus attacks. There is an AWESOME dinosaur battle between the two tyrannosaurus rexes and the gigantosaurus, complete with blood and dinosaur sounds (since none of these characters can talk). I have no idea how they managed to maintain a G rating, when you see one dinosaur draw blood with the intent to kill.

Our heroes learn a lesson about respecting and understanding people who are different from you, and a swimming dinosaur takes them all the way to shore. They reunite with their families and go back home. The end.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for dinosaur battles, but I really liked this film. The songs were fine, although it's really obvious Littlefoot's singing voice is not the same as his speaking voice. Unlike the two previous movies, nothing was dragged out too long. I mean, I guess you could argue it took too long for our heroes to reach the island, but that didn't bother me, since there was more to the first twenty minutes that "this is all an excuse for our heroes to reach an island".

Monday, June 29, 2015

Laudato Si, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment is called "The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis". He discusses human mindsets, which are to blame for the current ecological crisis.

Technology has improved a lot, over the past two hundred years. That is good; it has improved the quality of life in general, it has created many things of beauty, and it has given us great power. However, our leaps in technology have "not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience". There are plenty of times power and technology have been abused, through atomic bombs, concentration camps, and the murder of millions in communist and totalitarian regimes.

Pope Francis talks about two different mindsets, which are both destructive.

First is the technological mindset, which is not aimed towards understanding things. It is more aimed, towards controlling, mastering and transforming things. When applied to humans and social life, the conclusion is "other people don't really matter". Especially in economics, the conclusion was "profit is the only thing that matters".

Technology has led to specialization, which makes it harder to see the larger picture; people have lost an appreciation of things as a whole. It is harder for people to understand the depth of life, and so life becomes more shallow. The truth is that problems cannot be solved from a single perspective or set of interests; you can't have one thing (be it science, technology, economics, religion, the government or whatever) go unchecked, without any input from others. We need a bold cultural revolution, which we look at the progress we've made, where we recover the values and goals of humanity that have been lost.

To counteract this mindset, it is not enough to make a list of things to do, which solve the ecological problem. That would be reducing the problem, when the solution is to expand. We need to change our way of looking at things, our way of thinking and our lifestyles. We can do it; there are examples of companies that take more ecology-friendly policies, even if they are more expensive. There can be genuine human development, which is not dominated and destroyed by technology.

The other destructive mindset is one that says "humans are the ONLY things that matter". This rejects nature as worthless. When humans put themselves at the center, everything else becomes secondary; humans focus only on immediate convenience, and they disregard all else. Hence, we have a culture that sees everything as irrelevant, unless it serves your immediate interests. This mindset allows humans to treat each others like objects, things that are only worthwhile if they are useful. And so, there has been a huge rise in sexual exploitation, elder abandonment, drug trafficking, human trafficking, willingness to let other people suffer, organ harvesting, abortion and eugenics.

Political efforts and new laws aren't enough to counteract this mindset. In a corrupt culture, where nothing is seen as permanent or absolute, laws are seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided. People need to be taught that there are absolute truths, things which they cannot change or control.

Work is important, and jobs should be protected. It is through work that people grow; work is a necessary part of human development and personal fulfilment. It also makes them more protective and respectful of the environment. Humans have a vocation to work. And so, businesses should not have the goal of replacing human works with robots or machines. Government assistance to the poor should not be limited to giving people handouts; the goal should always be to give people the opportunity to live a dignified life through work. As part of ensuring that people have jobs, small and local businesses should be respected and protected. There should be limits, so giant companies don't bankrupt smaller companies.

Pope Francis also talks about genetic modification at the end of this chapter, but I don't really understand that part.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Laudato Si, Chapter 2

Chapter Two of the Pope's letter on the environment is about religious views on the environment. Pope Francis believes that science and religion can be mutually enriched by each other, since they have distinctive approaches to understanding reality. Neither side should reject the other, out of hand; "If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it."

He begins by discussing the creation narrative in Genesis. God created everything out of love, which means everyone and everything has an immense dignity. There was harmony between humans, God, and the rest of creation. Original sin shattered the bonds between humans and God, as well as the bonds between human and nature. The murder of Abel also highlights the connection between humans and nature. As God says, "What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground" (Gen 4:9-11).

The creation account says that humans have dominion over the earth; they must "till and keep" the garden of the world (Genesis 2:15). It is incorrect to say that this gives humans free reign over the planet. The Hebrew words here mean "cultivate, plough, work" and "care, protect, oversee, preserve". You don't just take what you want from the earth. You take what you need, and save the rest for future generations. In the same way, it's incorrect to say that the Bible is giving humans free reign to conquer the animal world. Indeed, the law books have many laws, focused on protecting animals. "Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures."

The Psalms exhort all creation to praise God, especially Psalm 138. The prophets draw a connection between God the Savior and God the Creator, who intervenes to save his people during their captivity. Pope Francis also talks about the Sabbatical year, which was designed to let the land rest and rebuild after years of harvest. At the same time, it was designed to share the fruits of the land with everyone, especially the poor and the widows, because the earth belongs to everyone, not just the rich.

"A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality."

"Creation" has a broader meaning than "nature". Nature is a system that can be studied, whereas creation is a gift, freely chosen by God, which calls us into universal communion. Even the least being of nature contains God's love. The early Jews had to contend with people who falsely believed nature was divine, like the Egyptians who worshipped Ra. We must contend with the modern myth of unlimited material progress, by recognizing the value and frailty of nature.

God can bring good, out of evil. Many things appear to be evil, but they are actually a way for God to bring us closer to himself. Humans have a uniqueness, which presupposes a direct relationship between people; the creation account lets us know that humans can't be reduced to objects. Neither should we reduce other creatures to objects. It is wrong to say "might makes right", and besides, we know that perfect fulfillment can not be found in this world.

"Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God." The universe, in its complexity as a whole, shows the inexhaustible riches of God.

It is wrong to but all living beings on the same level as humans, and it is wrong to prevent humans from working on and protecting the Earth. But sometimes, we see people who are more concerned with protecting animals, than protecting humans. We should be particularly indignant at the great inequalities among humans; we should not tolerate people who place themselves above others. Without compassion for other human beings, our compassion for nature is hollow. That is because humans are connected to each other and nature. Everything is related, and no humans should be rejected or discarded.

Creation is a shared inheritance, as everything is related and all humans are united. Therefore, any ecological approach needs to take the poor and underprivileged into account. This trumps all other rights, including the right to own private property. The right to own things is NOT more important than a person's right to live. This is especially important, as many people are robbing poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.

Finally, the Pope discusses what Jesus said on ecological topics. Jesus emphasized the paternal relationship that God has with all creation, and that God does not forget them. (Luke 12:6, Matthew 6:26). Jesus often retreated to be alone with nature, he used nature-based images frequently, and he worked a simple job with his hands. The prologue to John's Gospel is about Jesus entering the created world, and the New Testament letters confirm that even the resurrected and glorious Jesus is connected to this world; "he came to reconcile all things, whether or earth or in heaven, to himself" (Colossians 1:20).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Barbie: Fashion Fairytale

Barbie: Fashion Fairytale begins with an extremely meta scene. The made-for-DVD movie begins with Actress Barbie, filming a scene for a made-for-DVD movie. That's like a Nancy Drew book, where she reads a Nancy Drew book. I mean...in the Barbie universe, all the Barbie movies are fake. That's crazy.

The movie is The Princess and the Pea. It gets ruined, when the director decides to turn the peas into zombies. Also, he gives them a rap scene. Barbie nicely tries to tell the director he's crazy, and she gets fired. Moments later, Ken calls Barbie and tells her that he wants to break up.

(The opening was interesting and different. Everything else in the movie is pretty bland. Also, I don't know what was up with the lighting in this film, but Barbie's skin regularly turns red. It's like she has a bad sunburn.)

Barbie decides to visit her Aunt Millicent, in Paris. Millicent is a fashion designer, but she's going out of business. Barbie finds some fashion fairies, inside a closet in the attic. The fairies help save the business, by making the dresses sparkly. That's pretty much the entire movie. There's a minor subplot where villains temporarily kidnap the fairies, but that doesn't last long.

Meanwhile, a French dog falls in love with Barbie's pet poodle. He makes dresses for her. During a fashion show, he dances to the tune of Who Let the Dogs Out?. I have no idea why these scenes were included.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that Ken did NOT break up with Barbie. That was a trick by Raquelle. I don't know who Raquelle is, but Katie and Mary identified her as the main antagonist of the online Barbie series. Ken decides to win Barbie back, by travelling to Paris. His journey is pretty rough. Like, his plane is grounded, he misses his train, his taxi gets a flat tire, and a pig eats his jacket.

He arrives just in time for the fashion show at the end of the movie. Ken and Barbie are reunited, and the movie director from the start of the film shows up. He begs Barbie to direct the next movie in the Barbie series.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Land Before Time 4

Land Before Time 4 is called Journey Through the Mists. It's definitely better than the third one, but it's still a little all over the place. Like, Littlefoot makes friends with an old turtle named Archie, who drops out of the movie after ten minutes. And Spike gets a pet rat, who drops out of the movie after ten minutes. And Grandma gets a somewhat strange musical number. None of these things are bad, but they don't have much, if anything, to do with the main story.

I don't think I explained that well. Okay, how about this? There's a scene where the bad guys argue, because they're tired and they want to sleep. The next time, they're walking around awake in the middle of the night. No explanation is given, as to why they decided not to sleep. It's like their earlier argument was included just to take up screen time, and not because it's relevant. That's what a lot of the movie feels like. Things keep happening, and they're somewhat entertaining, but they don't feel super necessary or even all that thought out.

The story is that Grandpa Longneck is dying from a mysterious disease. Littlefoot has to find the golden night flowers, to save him. Also, Littlefoot gets a love interest, a girl named Ally who looks EXACTLY LIKE HIM. Ally is shy and doesn't like Littlefoot's friends, but eventually she comes to realize they aren't so bad.

Our heroes sneak out into the dangerous outside world, for the third movie in a row. I swear, they spent the first movie getting into the Great Valley, and they spend every out movie trying to get out.

The villains of the movie are introduced rather late. They're a bird and a crocodile, who constantly insult each other. The musical number is pretty good, but after the fifth or so scene of the villains trading insults, I got a little bored of them. There's also the problem that the villains constantly switch back and forth between "legitimate threat" and "goofy non-threat". That makes it a little hard to take them seriously. Like...here's what happens in their final scene. "Oh no, the bad guys found our heroes! Wait, that was just the setup for a joke. Oh no! They're going to eat Petrie! Wait, that was just the setup for a joke. Oh no, they're going to eat Ducky! ...I don't need to pay attention anymore, because I know it's going to end up as a joke."

This is also the movie where Spike talks for the first time! He shouts, "Ducky!", which wakes her up and saves her life. (And results in the bad guys getting whacked on the head multiple times.)

The movie ends with Ally going away. The narrator promises that Littlefoot will see her again someday, but that's another story. The narrator LIES, because she does not appear at all in the next ten movies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Hollow Planet

We recently watched Episode 13 of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, which is called "The Hollow Planet". The premise of the episode is that the main characters are turned into little kids, and they have to find a way back to normal.

(There's a Star Trek episode with the same premise. Mary wanted to watch it, but we couldn't find it. So we watched the Josie and Pussycats version.)

The villains in this episode are robots, who built the planet Metallis. It operates mainly by pneumatic tubes and moving sidewalks, and I wouldn't be surprised if the scenery from this episode was taken directly from The Jetsons. The age ray that the villains have is actually a missile, which lets out circles. It operates in either direction; that is, it can make you younger or older.

I'm not sure if the age ray lets you keep your memories or not. When Alexander got turned into a kid, he seemed to forget everything. When Alexandra got turned into a kid, she still remembered who everybody was and what was going on. Maybe she has a better memory than he does. Either way, it's an interesting concept. An age ray that will make you young again, at the price of all your memories. Is that worth using?

Our heroes throw out the age ray at the end, because it's too dangerous. No! What are you thinking?! You could use that device to live forever! You could also make a fortune off of it, by making old people young again! I'm sure there are some young people who'd like to become older, as well.

All in all, it's a pretty standard episode. Some of the dialogue was funnier than usual, and the idea behind the episode was neat, even if it was just an excuse to have our heroes become cute children. I liked it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Perfect Mystery Trilogy

Here are my reviews for the Perfect Mystery trilogy. "Perfect" might not be the best name for it, since the entire mystery hinges around tingly face cream. Also, it's clearly a two-book story, not a three-book one. It does have Nancy Drew entering a pageant, though!







In between books 2 and 3, they wrote Girl Detective Ghost Stories. My current plan is to review Ghost Stories 1 and 2, then do the Girl Detective version. That'll be it for book reviews for a while. I might do a review when I'm in California for the wedding, if I have enough free time (which I won't), since I think their library system has books that aren't available in Oregon.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sea of Darkness - Lighthouse Lights

Speedrunning the lighthouse lights puzzle was a NIGHTMARE. I spent hours, trying to get a good time.

My best time on amateur sleuth mode was 33.63 seconds, which equals out to getting a light every 6.726 seconds. On master sleuth mode, my best time was 47.27 seconds, which equals out to 6.75 seconds per light. Yes, I was slightly faster on amateur sleuth mode, but the time difference is pretty negligible. If you do the math, I would only save .188 seconds, if I did master sleuth mode on my optimal speed.

I am NOT going back and trying again. Getting optimal speed on randomized puzzles is rough.

To get a white light, you must make fifteen different combinations. That is, blues combine eight times, greens combing four, reds combine twice, and tri-colors combine once. So on amateur mode, you make 75 combinations. On master sleuth mode, you make 105. That's the minimum number of combinations needed. If you do the math that way, I made a combination every .4484 seconds on amateur sleuth mode, and every .45 seconds on master sleuth mode.

Amy Christine's trick of constantly doing "down, left, down, right" works relatively well. See, if you play the game like that, all the white light matches are in the bottom row. That way, they're not in the middle of the playing field, messing you up. However, that is not always the fastest way to get through the challenge. You'll definitely encounter times when it's better to go "down, left, left, down" or such.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sea of Darkness Speedrun

My summer marathon has taken away time from my speedrun for Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness, but I did a little more work on the speedrun today! I'm running the game on both amateur and master sleuth modes.

To win the game, you need at least 2050 Kronur, which you get from the vocabulary challenge, or by making borromatur trays. I decided vocabulary would be easier, since it's available at the very start of the game. Also, borromatur is difficult.

If you do the vocabulary challenge to get money, it takes ten minutes and twenty-four seconds to reach the lighthouse lights puzzle. That's the first point where the game changes, depending on the gameplay mode. I'll talk more about that puzzle tomorrow.

The game has Easter eggs. You can use an Easter egg to buy whatever you want from the gift shop. I figured that I could save time by getting Easter eggs, to cover the cost of the two items I have to purchase! Sadly, when I tried this out, it didn't work. Darn!

The last time I blogged about making money in this game, an anonymous commenter suggested making borromatur trays. To trigger the borromatur trays, you need to talk to Gunnar the first time, then leave and re-enter the pub. You need to go into the back room and flip through the book, then the trays are available to fill.

...Turns out that anonymous commenter is right. At top speed, you can have three borromatur trays filled, in 50 seconds. Whereas with vocabulary, you can have four rounds complete in about 90 seconds. I guess this means I'll have to learn the borromatur tray puzzle, and then re-record my speedrun. Ugh...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Praised Be

Yesterday, Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment. It's called "Praised Be" or "Laudato Si'", in the original Italian. In Latin, that's Laudato Sit". In case you were wondering if Latin and Italian are basically the same, they are.

Here's how the encyclical goes. He starts by summarizing what the various Popes since 1963 have said on the issue, as well as what Patriarch Bartholomew and Saint Francis of Assisi have said. Pope Francis gives an urgent appeal "for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

Then we have Chapter One, "What Is Happening To Our Common Home", which lays out all the various ecological problems that the world is facing. There is a huge amount of pollution and trash; "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth." Products are not being recycled. Even if humans haven't caused global warming, they have certainly helped it along. Stopping global warming, by replacing dependency on fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, is of paramount and immediate importance.

People are depleting natural resources, especially water. Not only is the amount of water going down, but the quality of that water is going down, too. Poor people do not have access to clean water, and forcing people to pay for water is not an acceptable solution. "Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights"

Forests and woodlands are being destroyed, for the sake of economy and industry. This has resulted in mass extinctions. We have no right to destroy species that give glory to God, by their very existence. "Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation." Creating land and ocean sanctuaries is important, and efforts to replaced destroyed habitats have fallen short.

This affects human lives, as well. Cities "have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature." Nicer areas of cities, with more green spaces, tend to be in the "safer" areas, where the poor and homeless are excluded.

"The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity." The media and the digital world help isolate us from other people, their problems, and experiences, which can be called a sort of "mental pollution".

The poor are most affected by environmental problems, especially people in fishing communities or costal populations with nowhere else to go. They are the majority of the planet's population, numbering billions, yet they are most often an afterthought in international/political discussions. "This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population."

Some people believe the "solution" is to reduce the human population, usually through inhumane methods, like forced abortions or international political pressure (usually in the form of "we won't give your country economic assistance, unless you do x, y and z first"). That is wrong. To blame population growth is to refuse to face the real issue; this is a result of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of a minority. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded; changing the methods of food distribution is a much better way to address the issues of a large population.

On the international scale, there is a huge imbalance between the global north and south. The north likes to use foreign debt to control the south. The north creates horrible pollution and ecological devastation in the south, as well as physically importing waste and toxic liquids to those locations. The Bishops of the Pope's home country, Argentina, “note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals. They do here what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called first world. Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable”.

"It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been." Repeated international failures have proven that people care more about technology and money than about the environment. "There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected." A simple example would be air conditioner companies. They really WANT global warming, because that way, they will sell more product and make more money. And so, they will go to great lengths to prevent any changes in the current system; their efforts have been successful.

This reminds me of oil companies, in particular, who are funding Presidential campaigns of both Republican and Democratic candidates. If you bet on every horse in the race, you'll end up with a winning ticket; no matter who becomes President, they'll likely have a debt to big oil, meaning their policies will favor big oil, ahead of the environment.

In the end, we have two extremes. One extreme thinks all environmental problems will be solved by technology, so there's no need for ethical considerations or deep change. The other extreme thinks humans are a huge threat, so we should eliminate humans as much as possible and prohibit all forms of intervention. The true solution to our environmental problems lies between those two extremes.

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That was all a summary of Chapter One. There are six chapters in total. Should I continue summarizing the letter? The Pope also Twitter-quoted himself at least fifty times yesterday, in case you want an idea of what else he says in the encyclical.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Catholic Wedding Stuff

I recently read an article, complaining that the Catholic Church is really bad at weddings. I agree that it can be difficult to get all the paperwork filed and squared away, but pretty much everywhere requires paperwork before a wedding.

So today, I thought I'd discuss three requirements for Catholic weddings, which the author complained about.

1. "You must be a registered member of a church, in order to get married there." I'm going to file this complaint under debunked. Katie and I aren't getting married in our home parish, and this hasn't been an issue in the slightest. Our priest gave it a thumbs-up, and that was the end of that.

2. "You must have a recent copy of your baptismal certificates." Katie and I had a problem with this, actually. We got our baptismal certificates printed off in September. That was easy; we just called our respective churches and asked them to send a copy.

It turns out that "recent" means "within six months". That's six months before the wedding, not six months before the paperwork is processed. So we had to call our respective churches again, and ask for a second baptismal certificate. Kind of annoying, but not a huge deal.

3. "You must be confirmed, before you can be married." Um...no. You must be baptized before marriage, and that's it. Confirmation is recommended, but it is not necessary. If you're in the rough situation where being confirmed will delay the marriage by at least two years--like the person in the article talked about--consider filing an appeal to the people at the diocese offices, downtown.

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Overall, I'm guessing that the article's author just had bad luck, and had to deal with a really hard-lined priest. Or maybe the priest hit the author with a ton of rules and requirements, since the author is the kind of person who writes online articles that bad-mouth priests.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Land Before Time 3

I rewatched Land Before Time 3, and...wow. This movie is a LOT worse than I remembered.

The story is that the Great Valley suffers from a drought, after a landslide cuts off their water supply. The movie stretches out the drought story, for at least a half-hour, without any interruptions at all. It is tedious. First, they start conserving the water. It gets progressively harder to find good food, so they ration the water. Then, everyone starts squabbling over the water rationing measures.

The solution to the problem is "send someone upstream, to move a few of the rocks that are blocking the river". The movie took WAY too long, to reach that point.

The main subplot of the movie is about some bullies, who harass our heroes. They show up before the drought story, and they show up towards the end of it. The movie would have been so much better if it put a scene with the bullies, somewhere near the middle. You know, something to break up the thirty minutes of water rationing. I don't know why the movie makers thought kids would be that interested in water rationing.

The other subplot was about Cera's father, slowly learning that he shouldn't be such a jerk. That one wasn't so bad, except it was directly tied into the water rationing storyline. So it felt like more the same, as opposed to a break from the water story. Still, Cera's father becoming a nicer person at the end felt a lot more realistic and natural than the bullies suddenly becoming nice.

The very, very end of the movies is the dinosaurs having the first Thanksgiving dinner together. This gives the movie its name, "The Time of Great Giving". That scene came out of nowhere, and I kind of face-palmed when I saw it.

When I watched the movie, I could remember the first fifteen minutes or so. I didn't remember anything else that came afterwards. Now I know why! Nothing beyond that point is really worth watching! I would give this movie a low score, but maybe I'd give a free point for naming the bullies after their species, like Nod the nodosaurus and Mutt the muttaburrasaurus. I wonder how many viewers understood that dinosaur joke.

Mary still seems interested in the Land Before Time movie series, so I guess we'll keep watching them! If rumors are to be believed, Movie #15 in the series is being released this year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Land Before Time 2

I watched The Land Before Time 2 with Mary, recently. The movie catches a lot of flak for being awful, and being a Disney-style ripoff of the original film. I agree that it doesn't have the same emotional impact as "young children dealing with the death of their parents". Still, I think it's pretty good. The characters are the same, the pacing is improved, and it has more story. When I rewatched the first movie, I was surprised at how many of the scenes have little to no dialogue, whatsoever. In contrast, the second movie has dialogue in pretty much every scene.

The story is that the children are feeling angry, because the adults treat them like little kids. They find and start to raise a baby on their own, when they realize they're being just as overprotective as their parents. There's also a minor racial undertone to the story, since all the characters are different species. They learn to overcome their differences, for the good of the group.

I'm guessing the villains are the least popular part of the film. The villains are two egg-eaters, who act and sound like Pinky and the Brain. They were rather goofy, and I think they were Mary's favorite part of the movie. Myself, I'm just trying to get the villains' egg song out of my mind.

The musical cues in the movie are pretty good. I didn't notice it as a kid, but some of them are taken directly from the original movie. We have the scary music, the sad/emotional music, and the music that plays when Cera and Littlefoot are arguing, and they're only two steps away from hitting each other. I have no idea why I remember that last, oddly specific, piece of music, but I did.

Overall, I'd say the movie is okay. A bit of a stylistic change from the first movie, but not the worst ever. If it had been super-awful, I expect the series would have ended here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Marathon Schedule

Hey, everyone! Here's the schedule for my big summer Marathon!

Game 1: Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch
Game 2: Grim Facade: Sinister Obsession
Game 3: Samantha Swift 3
Game 4: Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies
Game 5: Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty
Game 6: Cadenza: Music, Betrayal and Death
Game 7: Blackwell Unbound
Game 8: Love and Death: Bitten
Game 9: Dracula: Love Kills
Game 10: Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse
Game 11: Dark Tales: Edgar Allen Poe's Red Masque of Red Death
Game 12: Spirit Walkers
Game 13: Fire Emblem Gaiden, Chapter 2
Game 14: Tales of Terror
Game 15: Redemption Cemetery
Game 16: Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (Demo)
Game 17: Spirits of Mystery: The Dark Minotaur
Game 18: Nevertales The Beauty Within
Game 19: Samantha Swift 4
Game 20: Midnight Mysteries 3: Mark Twain
Game 21: Sable Maze: Forbidden Garden
Game 22: Haunted Legends: The Bronze Horseman
Game 23: Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the Black Water
Game 24: Haunted Legends: The Queen of Spades
Game 25: Nick Chase and the Deadly Diamond

Here's a tentative schedule for the remaining weeks. Basically, I bought some games that people requested, added them to the list I had, and sorted them randomly.

Week of July 20
Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty
Dark Parables: Ballad of Rapunzel
Age of Engima: Secret of the 6th Ghost
Enigma Agency
Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride

Week of July 27
Ominous Objects: Family Portrait
Grim Tales: The Vengeance
Otherworld 1
Otherworld 2
Royal Trouble

Week of Aug 3
Mystery of the Ancients 2
Tiger Eye 1
Agatha Christie Demo
Fiction Fixers Adventures in Wonderland
Grim Facade: Wealth of Betrayal

Week of Aug 10
Drawn: Trail of Shadows
Book of Legends
Reveries: Soul Collector
Unfinished Tales
Azada 3

Week of Aug 17
Sable Maze 1
Grammar Games
?????
Pepper's Adventures in Time
Tiger Eye 2

Week of Aug 24
Grim Facade: Artist and the Pretender
Dark Parables: Sand Queen
Campfire Legends 1
Blackwell Legacy
Love Chronicles 3

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New York Geography

It always bothers me when Nancy Drew books assume you know the geography of New York City. Like in Stage Fright, where one of the cliffhangers is "Oh no, the villain called us from Manhattan!". I don't know where Manhattan is, relative to Broadway. So that cliffhanger left me confused, instead of scared.

Actually, let me look that info up now...

Ah. The two places are fifteen minutes apart. I guess that's close. Still, that's like me talking about Portland, and saying a call from the Pearl District arrived in Lloyd Center. Nobody but the locals will understand what I mean.

Of course, the Nancy Drew publishers live in New York, so they have no problem with this stuff.

There's also New York geography in the Perfect Mystery trilogy, although it's easier to understand. Nancy Drew is a tourist, so she has people explain the various landmarks to her. Like...Soho is the shopping district! And it's really hard to get from the east side to the west side, quickly. The third book in the trilogy does a slightly worse job of explaining the geography to outsiders.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Marathon

Here's the announcement video for my summer marathon!



The marathon starts on Monday!!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nancy Drew Ghost Stories

Here's my review for Nancy Drew Ghost Stories.



I'm pretty sure this review was requested, because the second story is the basis for Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake. In the game, the dogs are real dogs. In the story, they are grown men in costumes. It's kind of silly, but at least it's not as bad as Ghost Jogger! Let me just copy/paste my Ghost Jogger review on here...

The Ghost Jogger

This is the shortest, and worst, story in the book. Nancy is out jogging one night, when a guy dressed up like a ghost jogs next to her and hands her a mysterious note. The note says "You'll find them in the barn with the horse on it."

Nancy goes home, where Hannah is watching TV. Hannah saw a news report about kidnapped children, and Nancy decides this must be the mystery she has to solve. Before you can question this decision, Nancy and George search the countryside at random. They find the correct barn on their very first try, but the kidnappers escape with the children when Nancy's car runs out of gas.

The next day, the ghost jogger gives her a note, saying to search a riverboat. I'm sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of riverboats in Illinois, but just like with the barn, Nancy finds the right one on her first try. Because she's perfect.

By coincidence, Mr. Drew has rented a speedboat for two months. And by another coincidence, Ned knows a famous riverman in the area. They both guide Nancy to the boat where the children are being held captive. Ghost Jogger is there, and Nancy works with him to save the kids.

The story ends with Ghost Jogger giving an explanation. The kidnapper is his uncle, and he overheard Uncle brag about the crime. Instead of going to the police, like a NORMAL person would, he decided to stop the kidnapping by dressing up like a ghost and handing vague notes to Nancy Drew.

The End

There are so many problems with this story. Why does Ghost Jogger give Nancy vague clues, instead of exact addresses? Why does he ask her to solve the mystery, but forget to tell her what the mystery is? If he's on the boat to save the kids anyway, why does he need Nancy's help? Any seriously, why the ghost get-up? There are other ways to send anonymous notes than by dressing up like a ghost and showing up at jogging time.

Fortunately, Nancy Drew is perfect and she bypassess all of these problems, with the power of huge coincidences. Whenever she doesn't know what to do, the solution is handed to her on a silver platter. Sort of like the Harry Potter movies. I sincerely hope they were never any plans to make this story into a full-length book.

I give this story a 1 out of 10.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I've noticed that every time a sports player gets penalized, they always argue with the ref about it. The referee never decides to change the call. I wouldn't, either. One of the core parenting principles is "don't let the child get away with bad behavior, just because they yell at you when they get caught". Maybe someday, players will calmly discuss things with referees, instead of screaming at them.

2. As of my writing this, I have written 1,974 blog posts. That's a lot of writing. I feel like I should do something to celebrate, like take a month off. Ha!

3. Mary's school gets out for summer, tomorrow. I have no idea how I'm going to survive with a six-year-old girl in the house. I probably won't be able to record (m)any videos...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Zelda Videos

Here are three new Zelda videos!







This could be the last set of Zelda videos for a while! I don't know if I'll play Zelda (or Fire Emblem 2), as part of my summer marathon. It seems weird to have some days be "a little bit of Zelda", when every other day is "play a game from start to finish".

Edit: I recorded a big chunk of Fire Emblem stuff today. I only did about a quarter of Chapter 3, but it took me an hour and a half. So...if I do decide to do Fire Emblem, it'll have to be in small chunks, rather than in "a complete chapter by itself" chunks. Because the later chapters are apparently 5 or 6 hours long. Augh!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

TV Show Movies

How do hour long shows like Law and Order or Star Trek have movies? Like...the show is an hour long! Isn't a two hour movie basically the same thing as a two part episode? Because both those shows have two part episodes already. I'm sure the movies have better special effects and scripts and such, but I'm also sure some people prefer just watching a two-parter.

I think the idea of a movie works better with shorter, half-hour shows, like DuckTales or whatever. That way, there's more of a difference between the movie and normal episodes. A full-length movie of a half hour show is like getting four episodes at once, with no commercial breaks, which is sweet.

I'm not sure how to feel about shows like SpongeBob Squarepants, which has full-length movies and made for TV movies. The more recent SpongeBob movie felt just like a made for TV movie to me. That didn't mean it wasn't enjoyable. I just don't know if it was different enough to justify the switch from TV to movie theater.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sea of Darkness Amateur Sleuth VS Master Sleuth

The speedrun for Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness is coming along smoothly. I decided to do TWO speedruns: one on Amateur Sleuth mode and one on Master Sleuth mode.

Here are the puzzles that are different, between the two modes:
  • The heater puzzle. You have to put the pieces in different places, but the time difference is minimal. In both modes, your solution is to put six pieces on the board.
  • Lighthouse puzzle. You have to make two extra lights on Master Sleuth Mode, which will probably take an extra 20 seconds. This puzzle is super tough on Master Sleuth mode...
  • Lighthouse Numbers Puzzle. The numbers are different, but the time difference is minimal. In both modes, your solution is to put ten numbers on the board.
  • Crystal Puzzle. Again, the time difference is minimal. You have to click the same number of crystals on both modes.
  • Dog Toy Puzzle. The solution is the same on both modes. In amateur sleuth mode, three toys are already in place. In master sleuth mode, no toys are already in place. That is a minor timesaver.
  • Bilge Pump Puzzle. The master sleuth solution is a tad longer, since you have to spin the wheels 3 or 4 more times.
  • Music box puzzle. Twice as long on master sleuth mode, since all the teeth are split in half.
  • Archery puzzle. You have to click on the board ten times in both modes, so the time difference is negligible.
  • Fish puzzle. I find the Master Sleuth solution easier to memorize, even if it's slightly longer.
  • Shapes puzzle. In both modes, you put 25 shapes on the board, so the time difference is negligible.
I'm about halfway through the speedrun. That is, I saved shortly after the bilge pump puzzle, but before the wheel puzzle. (I always get stuck on that puzzle, for some reason). The time for my Amateur Sleuth run is 20:04. The time for my Master Sleuth run is 20:44. Most of the time difference is the lighthouse puzzle. It takes me about a half-hour of trying, before I can get a Master Sleuth lighthouse puzzle done, in under a minute.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Biographies

The school wants kids to read a lot of non-fiction books, so we read a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt to Mary. It was a little above her comprehension level, but the story was interesting, so she liked it. I like Eleanor Roosevelt myself, and she got my vote in the "which woman should be on the $20 bill?" poll. The majority of people voted for Harriet Tubman, but I think Eleanor is a better choice, because she had more of an impact on the United States and the world at large.

Since Mary liked the Eleanor Roosevelt biography, I got one about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The biography was not very well-written, and it ignored things like the existence of Susan B. Anthony. Also, the author was clearly uncomfortable with the fact that Mrs. Stanton got married and had seven children. I don't see why having lots of children is a problem, but the author felt the need to discuss birth control and a woman's empowering right to not have children. I thought that entire segment was really out of place.

We also got Mary a biography on Sacajawea, which was a lot better. It kind of overplayed Sacajawea's role in the Lewis and Clark expedition--there were other people in the expedition besides for her--but it also had a lot of action and adventure scenes. Mary liked it. I wonder what other biographies we should get for her from the library.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Wedding RSVPs

Funny thing I've noticed about RSVPs to the wedding. The people I know write two sentence notes, like "Sorry, I'm busy that day. I can't make it." The people I don't know / the people I've never met write full page notes, explaining why they can't attend.

Either the people I know are either jerks, or they hate writing long messages. As for the people I don't know, they're super polite! It seems like they're worth knowing. Although I won't get to know them, since none of them can make the wedding.

We'll see what happens. There are at least ten people on the wedding list who are my parents' friends, who I may or may not recognize. It could be awkward, going around from table to table at the wedding reception. I think I'll use the "have Katie make the introductions" trick, since all of them know me, and none of them know Katie. That way, I can learn their names while pretending I knew their names all along! I'm sneaky like that.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mary's Pony Reviews

Mary is not doing her My Little Pony reviews anymore. Basically, I decided that they were cute for a while, but they went on long enough.

The main problem is that she can't remember what happened in an episode. So her reviews are mostly her, trying desperately to remember the storyline. I'm sure she does remember, but she can't articulate her memories. The school system says it's still trying to teach the kids how to summarize things.

It's been about a month since her last review, and no one really noticed the series has ended. So I guess ending it was the right decision.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Here's the start of my video walkthrough for Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess!







The next set of Zelda videos goes up on the 9th. It goes all the way to the end of the second dungeon. I haven't recorded anything past that point yet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Marathon

Later this month, I will announce my big summer marathon! The idea is that I'll clean out my backlog, by playing a bunch of games for the first time. I'll play one game a day, for fifty days.

Or until I collapse from exhaustion.

As of yesterday, here are all the games I've recorded...

Game 1: Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch
Game 2: Grim Facade: Sinister Obsession
Game 3: Samantha Swift 3
Game 4: Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies
Game 5: Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty
Game 6: Cadenza: Music, Betrayal and Death
Game 7: Blackwell Unbound
Game 8: Love and Death: Bitten
Game 9: Dracula: Love Kills
Game 10: Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse
Game 11: Dark Tales: Edgar Allen Poe's Red Masque of Red Death
Game 12: Spirit Walkers
Game 13: Fire Emblem Chapter 2
Game 14: Tales of Terror
Game 15: Redemption Cemetery

I might not be able to do fifty games, but I should be able to do at least twenty! I feel slightly bad about Games 5 and 15, though. I activated a game-breaking glitch for both of those games, about 70 minutes in. Which resulted in an abrupt end, to those particular walkthroughs. Let's hope I don't glitch out any more games!

[Edit: Today, I re-recorded the end of Game 15. So Game 5 is the only one with a game-ending glitch.]

And yes, I'm taking game suggestions, so feel free to comment with any games you want to see me play. They'll be added to the already-long list!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sherlock Holmes in Orbit

Recently, I read Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, a collection of science fiction Sherlock Holmes stories. Here are my thoughts. The four stories I particularly liked are marked with stars.
  • The Musgrave version / by George Alec Effinger -- I didn't understand this one. It's about Sherlock meeting Fu Manchu, an evil genius I've never heard of.
  • The case of the detective's smile / by Mark Bourne -- This is Sherlock Holmes meeting Alice in Wonderland characters. So far, this book is more of a crossover than a science fiction book.
  • The adventure of the Russian grave / by William Barton and Michael Capobianco -- Moriarty predicts the date/time/location of a meteor crash, fifteen years in advance. He lures Sherlock to where the meteor will crash, in an attempt to kill him. The story was kind of strange, and I didn't understand what was happening until the very end.
  • *The adventure of the field theorems / by Vonda N. McIntyre -- Finally, some legitimate science fiction! There are alien crop circles appearing in wheat fields, and Sherlock is hired to figure out what really made them. His client is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who humorously refuses to believe that aliens aren't involved.
  • *The adventure of the missing coffin / by Laura Resnick -- A parody story, where a vampire asks Sherlock Holmes to help him stop Dracula.
  • The adventure of the second scarf / by Mark Aronson -- There are aliens, living on the moon. There is a murder shortly before an intergalactic conference, and Sherlock is hired to find the real killer / prevent the assassination of one of the ambassadors.
  • *The phantom of the Barbary Coast / by Frank M. Robinson -- Sherlock goes to San Francisco, in search of Irene Adler's missing sister. He uncovers a mysterious crime ring.
  • Mouse and the master / by Brian M. Thomsen -- A parody story. Watson is a bungler who is hard of hearing, so all the Sherlock Holmes stories he wrote are big mistakes. For example, the time Sherlock talked about repainting his office because the story A Study in Scarlet. Holmes hires a private eye to protect Watson, on the way to the retirement home.
  • Two roads, no choices / by Dean Wesley Smith -- In an alternate universe, the Titanic didn't sink. Time travelers want Holmes to figure out what saved the ship, so he can restore the original timeline.
  • The Richmond enigma / by John DeChancie -- A mysterious manor ends up belonging to the Time Traveler, from H. G. Well's Time Machine.
  • A study in Sussex / by Leah A. Zeldes -- After retirement, Sherlock Holmes becomes a beekeeper. He tries to make a longevity potion, from bee material, but instead of making him younger, it turns him into a giant bee.
  • *The Holmes team advantage / by Gary Alan Ruse -- A criminal mastermind has created a duplication machine. Holmes is forced to make twelve duplicates of himself, to stop the fiend.
  • Alimentary, my dear Watson / by Lawrence Schimel -- Sherlock Holmes meets Alice in Wonderland, again.
  • The future engine / by Byron Tetrick -- Moriarty gets a supercomputer that can predict the future with great accuracy. Holmes has a hard time stopping Moriarty and dismantling the computer.
  • Holmes ex machina / by Susan Casper -- A regular guy works at a company that converts old movies to 3D holographic films. He makes an interactive Sherlock Holmes holo, to find a lost item.
  • The Sherlock solution / by Craig Shaw Gardner -- Samantha Wilson returns from vacation, to find out that everyone in her company has been turned into Sherlock Holmes.
  • The fan who molded himself / by David Gerrold -- Dr. Watson makes a dramatic confession. Holmes is not a detective. He is a time-travelling actor, and that's how he solves all his cases.
  • Second fiddle / by Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- There is a serial killer in modern Southern California. A time machine brings Holmes to investigate, and the police detective on the case isn't very happy about going from lead detective to Holmes' new sidekick.
  • Moriarty by modem / by Jack Nimersheim -- Sherlock is a computer program, and he must search the Internet to find his Moriarty subroutine. This could be interesting, except all of his Internet searches happen offscreen.
  • The greatest detective of all time / by Ralph Roberts -- A time-travelling man from Mars wants Sherlock to solve a series of murders, which has all the stench of a Moriarty trap. Watson is just as smart as Sherlock in this one.
  • The case of the purloined L'Isitek / by Josepha Sherman -- On the planet Shrr'lok, an artifact is stolen from an excavation site.
  • The adventure of the illegal alien / by Anthony R. Lewis -- Again, Sherlock is a computer program, called in to help solve a murder. He is too clever for his creator, and saves a copy of himself on the Internet.
  • Dogs, masques, love, death: flowers / by Barry N. Malzberg -- This one is hard to understand. It seems like people are in deep sleep, as part of a long spaceship journey. Four people are murdered, so they use a Sherlock Holmes hologram to solve the case. His programming has started to malfunction after a hundred years, so he does not do a good job.
  • You see but you do not observe / by Robert J. Sawyer -- A scientist in the future uses a time machine, to get Sherlock Holmes. He wants Sherlock to solve the Fermi Paradox. Sherlock uses the Schroedinger's Cat paradox on his death in The Final Problem, to ensure that he dies. That means aliens can contact Earth. I don't really understand the logic here.
  • Illusions / by Janni Lee Simner -- Arthur Conan Doyle attends a séance, where his dead uncle harasses him about abandoning the Catholic faith, and about killing Sherlock Holmes. Doyle decides to bring Sherlock back to life.
  • The adventure of the pearly gate / Mike Resnick -- Jack the Ripper's soul has snuck into Heaven somehow. Saint Peter asks Holmes to find and capture Jack. In exchange, Holmes can magically come back to life after dying at Reichenbach Falls.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sea of Darkness Speedrun

I played Sea of Darkness some more. In the second half of the game, the major puzzles are getting all the photo scraps, getting the sound depth numbers figured out, and getting all the gears.

Our good buddy Gunnar keeps throwing off my strategies, because he has some photo scraps that you can't get until you visit the hold (after searching Dagny's luggage). Among other things, that means you'll either have to take a second trip to the hold, or you'll have to take a second trip to the pub (to change the tides).

There are thirty things you need to do, and there is no way I can keep track of all of them in my head. So I made a bullet list of everything you need to do, and I ordered them as best as I could. As I said, there are two main routes. Route #1 is "do all the sounding depth numbers before finding Dagny", which isn't so bad. Route #2 is "do all the sounding depth things after saving Dangy". That means you finish the photo scraps puzzle as quickly as possible, but you get slowed down when you need to take an extra trip to change the tides.

It looks like Route #1 is about a minute faster than Route #2, so that's the one I'll use.