Saturday, October 31, 2015

Politics

I've been trying to follow the current political climate, for the sake of the "Cat President" game I mentioned yesterday. It's making me wish that they taught students about politics in school. Maybe they cover modern politics at the end of history textbooks? None of my history classes ever got close to the end of the book, so none of the students got to learn anything that happened within 40 years.

Apparently, both the Democrats and Republicans are made up of three big groups. The Democrats have ideological liberals, rich establishment people and minorities in their camp. Bernie Sanders is popular with the ideologues, while Hilary Clinton is popular with the establishment people. The Republicans have ideological conservatives, rich establishment people and evangelicals in their camp. I don't how the Republican Presidential candidates fall along their party lines, just because there's so many of them.
Bush is popular with their establishment, Trump and Carson are popular with ideologues, and there's no clear front-runner with the evangelicals.

I'm not sure if my information is correct, since it says the rich establishment people fund both groups. Maybe the rich Hollywood types fund the Democrats, while the rich Wall Street types fund the Republicans.

Anyway, the current political climate seems to be one of fear. Both Democrats and Republicans are afraid of their party splitting up into its component groups, and ending up like England where they have 6+ political parties. The Republicans have worries about the Tea Party or Donald Trump spinning off and forming their own separate group. On the Democrat side, the minorities are clashing with the other groups, since they don't have a major candidate. In August, they came out very strongly against Bernie Sanders, and even today, he only has 4% of the black vote in most polls, whereas Clinton has 70-90%.

And that's the sort of thing I've been reading. Polling numbers and analysis! Maybe I should just forget it, and wait until there's only two candidates left.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Synod on the Family

I'm eagerly awaiting the English translation of the Catholic Church's final report on family life and marriage. They've been working on it for two years, finishing with a big three-week gathering of 270 Bishops. I want to know what they decided!

I can't trust the news, because they're biased. For example, liberal news places say the document is a victory for them, because it opens the door to divorce. Conservative news places say the document is a victory for them, because it confirms that the door to divorce is still firmly closed, in fact, it's not even a door, it's a brick wall, that's how hard it is to get through it.

I think I know what the problem is, here. The Catholic Church sometimes picks a "middle of the road" agreement. That is, instead of going with one particular side in a debate, they take the middle ground and come up with something that vaguely appeals to both sides. (Then they wait for 400 years, until the debate is long dead, before making an official decision.)

So I'm waiting for the document to be released in English. Then I'm going to read it myself, and I'm probably going to analyze it to death.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Nanowrimo

I kind of want to do Nanowrimo this year. That's a competition-like thing, where the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. So that's...1,667 words per day.

Here's the thing, though. I'm writing a visual novel right now, for a project that is tentatively titled "Cat President". I don't want to put the project aside for a month, to work on a book. Can I use "Cat President" as my writing project? I mean, it's a visual NOVEL, so I say it should count for a novel-writing exercise.

I've already outlined the entire game. It will have six different pathways, and each pathway is ten chapters long.

I don't know how long chapters should be, but five pages seems like a good length. Checking what I've already done so far...I average 350 words per page, usually. Which means I write about 1,750 words per chapter. So if I write one chapter a day, for every single day in November, I'll have the Nanowrimo challenge finished!

But I'll only be halfway through the game. Ten chapters times six characters is sixty chapters. Writing a chapter a day will take two months. Um...uh oh.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Copyright Strike

Last year, I got two copyright strikes against my channel. YouTube said the strikes would expire on October 26th.

As of my writing this, 5:52 PM on the 27th, the strikes are kind of expired. On the copyright claims page, the videos in question are listed as "Removed (copyright strike expired).". Phew, that's good! But on the channel page, my channel is listed as "in bad standing", like I still have a copyright strike.

Other things that can trigger "in bad standing" are breaking YouTube's community guideline rules, or a video that Content ID has blocked globally. I don't think I've done either of those things.

I'm not sure what to do about the situation. I think I'll wait several days, until November, and hopefully, the situation will resolve itself. That is, YouTube will restore my "in good standing" status after the year of waiting. If not...I guess I need to play around with the videos that got the strike. (Delete them? Submit as finished? I'm loath to touch them at all, in case it causes another strike.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jeans

I work as a pizza delivery boy, and my work recently changed its uniform. The new uniform requires us to wear jeans, and I haven't worn jeans since I was four. I know jeans are popular, but they always feel uncomfortable to me, and I don't like how they have tiny pockets. I prefer big pockets to hold my books and things.

I still haven't figured out how to get jeans to rest comfortably on my hips; they always feel like they're going to fall down. So I wear them with a belt. What I really need are Nancy Drew-style MOM JEANS, that hike up super high.

I have no idea what to do with my old uniform now. I used it for three weeks, and now it looks like I'll never use it again.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Muppets

I've been watching The Muppets show. It's an okay show, I guess. I think it would be funnier if it was a live-action show with people, instead of puppets. The show is filmed in the shaky camera style of The Office and Modern Family, and it doesn't always work. Specifically, it fails on the extreme close-up shots that show the characters' expressions. That works fine with humans, but not so much on puppets whose eyes don't move.

It didn't take long for me to realize that the show isn't trying to stay faithful to the original characters. If you're expecting them to be the same as normal, you'll be disappointed. Just like modern Nancy Drew, the best way to enjoy it is to ignore all your reasonable expectations, like "Nancy will be smart enough to solve mysteries on her own".

In the case of The Muppets, the expectation you should ignore is "this is family-friendly entertainment". They make dirty jokes and swear occasionally. I'm not a huge fan of that. I'm also not a huge fan of Kermit's new personality, which is "timid guy who can't make anything work correctly". I prefer the Kermit who's a competent leader.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cooking

Sorry, everyone! I haven't had any updates on cooking in the past few weeks, because there aren't any updates. My wife bought the groceries, and that totally threw off my plans to try new meals, since she didn't buy any of the ingredients I needed.

I guess from now on, I'll have to start making my grocery lists in advance. Ugh, work!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Racism in Nancy Drew

As you can tell from yesterday's post, I'm going to review the sixth Nancy Drew book. One of the culprits is an "Oriental" who is described as "squint-eyed".

How should I discuss racism in my Nancy Drew book reviews? The official rule is that I can use offensive terms while summarizing the book, but not while commenting on it. For example, I can say, "Nancy meets a drunk negro in the first book", but I can't say, "It's racist that the negro is a drunken buffoon". I have to replace "negro" with a modern term like "black" or "African-American" when describing that character.

I don't remember where this rule comes from, but that's the one I use. It's convenient to me, because I normally keep the book summary and the book commentary in separate parts of reviews, anyway. I haven't gotten any complaints about it so far, but I figured I might as well outline the official policy I'm using, in case anyone is curious.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Nancy Drew: The Secret of Red Gate Farm - Review

If you've seen my reviews for Nancy Drews 4 and 5; you'll know that the original editions and the rewrites are completely different books, with separate storylines and characters. With Book 6, the publishers finally realized that making up a new story from scratch is waaay too much work, so they're just gonna copy/paste the storylines from here on out.

I also don't like doing way too much work, so I'm going to follow the publishers' lead here and discuss both versions of Nancy Drew 6 in one video, as opposed to making a separate video for each one. I read the 1931 version, written by Mildred Wirt and her editor, Harriet Adams. The 1961 rewrite was done by Lynn Ealer.

And with all that background info out the way, let's start the review!

The book begins with Nancy and her friends finishing a large shopping trip. Bess ducks into a nearby shop, where she meets an unpleasant woman. I'm sorry to say it, but we have another racist stereotype as the culprit. Darn it, 1930's Nancy Drew, why are you so racist?

The woman is Yvonne Long, who is described as a squint-eyed Oriental. Nancy instantly recognizes her as half-Chinese and half-French. Wow, that's an oddly specific racial profile for Nancy to be familiar with.

Bess wants to buy some perfume, but Yvonne refuses to sell it. In order to get rid of Bess, Yvonne makes up a ridiculously high price for the perfume: three dollars. Phew! Three whole dollars! That's a little too rich for my blood!

The girls pool their money and buy the perfume, much to Yvonne's displeasure. On the train ride home, we get the series' first appearance of George the Terrible. You wouldn't know it from any of the other Nancy Drew series, but original series George is super clumsy and awkward. She tries to get a hat box, which is too heavy and too high up for her to reach. It falls to the ground the perfume smashes all over Nancy.

Darn it, George.

The perfume causes weird reactions with the other passengers. One woman collapses outright. A shady man checks Nancy out, sniffs her, and asks if she's heard anything from the Chief.

Well, looks like Nancy has stumbled upon a perfume-based crime ring.

The unconscious girl is today's victim, Millie Burd. In the rewrite, she's Joanne Byrd. Millie is timid, sickly, and since this is the Great Depression, she's really poor. If she doesn't get a job soon, her Grandma is going to have to sell the family farm.

By huge coincidence, the only place in town that's hiring right now belongs to the perfume criminals. The man doing the interviews offers Nancy the job, because she's better-looking than Millie. Sleaze. He does a really bad job of hiding secret numbers, right in front of Nancy where she can see the entire thing. "Oh, hold on a second, I'm going to do something suspicious in front of the criminal. Hope this doesn't cause us any problems later."

Nancy walks away with the secret code. 1960's Nancy Drew is perfect, so obviously, it only takes her a few pages to figure out the code and learn about the culprits' plans. Original Nancy Drew tries her hardest, but she can't crack the code by herself, which is a lot more realistic.

Yvonne gets the job that Millie was hoping for, and Millie's job search goes so badly that she's forced to return to her grandmother at Red Gate Farm. Nancy, Bess and George decide to go with Millie and live at the farm for a few weeks.

On the way there, they stop off at a gas station and have another run-in with the culprits. In the rewrite, Nancy recognizes the gang because Yvonne is with them; in the original, Nancy recognizes the men from their perfume. That is a really, REALLY memorable perfume scent.

Once again, the gang does a really bad job of hiding their criminal activities, as they pull out hundreds of dollars and wave them in the air for everyone to see.

There's a storm after this, and Millie mentions that they rent out part of the farm to a weird nature cult called the Black Snake Colony. Every now and then, the cult members dress up in white robes and dance around like maniacs.

There's a CULT on the farm? That's creepy and weird, and I find it funny that Millie doesn't mention the cult until it's too late for Nancy and her friends to leave. *suspicious face* That's the sort of thing you're supposed to tell boarders ahead of time.

Things are generally peaceful in the next section of the book, where the girls live at the farm. They have a few encounters with the cult members, who warn the girls to stay away from them, or else!

I liked this section, because it built up a lot of suspense about the cult and its activities, but it's still a five-chapter chunk where not much happens in terms of the storyline. The rewrite spices up the section a bit with a fake letter from Nancy's father and a pushy man who tries to buy the farm.

The girls go back into town for a day, and they stop at the same gas station. Inside are some government agents, who are trying to find a gang of counterfeiters. The owner of the gas station remembers seeing Nancy that day, so he accuses her of being the culprit. The agents prepare to arrest Nancy, but she gets out of trouble by saying her dad is the famous Mr. Drew.

That's not the first time she's gotten cooperation from the authorities by mentioning her dad. I wonder when she'll switch from saying "my dad is famous" to saying "I'm famous".

Nancy gives the secret code to the government agents, which shows a lot of trust in these guys who just tried to arrest her for no reason.

Nancy and her friends make costumes and infiltrate the cult. After dancing around for a while, the group goes into a cave, where we learn that the cult is just a front for a counterfeiting ring. The idea is that the culprits created the fake cult to divert suspicion away from themselves. Um...hate to burst your bubble here, culprits, but if your plan is to AVOID getting attention, maybe you shouldn't throw huge dance parties in weird costumes. That's the sort of thing people tend to notice.

All the culprits from earlier in the book are here, along with their leader, Maurice. In the rewrite, only the women wear perfume. In the original, Maurice wears perfume all the time, and it's not completely explained why. I guess it's done partly as a way for people to recognize him, but mostly because he likes the smell. I bet the other crooks wear it too, because they're trying to kiss up to their boss.

Nancy and her friends are discovered. They try to escape, but they get caught. The culprits tie them up and plan to leave them in a shed to starve. That's when the government agents appear to save them! Yes, the agents cracked the code, just in time to save everyone!

Great, except Nancy first got that message a month ago. And the message is only 25 letters long. I don't believe the message went into that much detail about this specific meeting.

The book ends with Nancy turning the counterfeiter's cave into a tourist trap, which makes so much money that Red Gate Farm goes out of bankruptcy. Forget detective work; Nancy's talents clearly lie in running tacky roadside attractions!

The End

Post-Book Followup

Nancy's romantic interest in this book is Karl, the son of one of the farm's tenants. Karl is a flat love interest, because he doesn't really talk to Nancy. All he does is help Nancy with the government agents. He gets more attention in the rewrite, which is an interesting decision, because Nancy gets her permanent boyfriend in the next book. Not sure why they decided to emphasize Nancy's final proto-boyfriend.

[I should probably write more here.]

Overall, this is a good book. I enjoyed it, especially the heavy suspense where Nancy is almost arrested, and the exciting ending sequences. I would give it a perfect score, but I'll take away a point for heavy plot coincidences, like the fact that Nancy is always in the exact same area as the crooks. Also, I'll take a point away for the fact that the crooks are really stupid and obvious about everything they do.

8 out of 10.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday - Synod on the Family

The Catholic Synod on the Family ends on Sunday. Nobody knows what's going to come out of it; people are either excited or worried about the results.

1. Several people at the Synod say that the church needs to update its language. For example, "indissoluble" is too harsh and legal-sounding. We should replace it with "unbreakable". That sounds like a good idea, provided that nobody makes any bone-headed mistakes about which words to use. "Strong" is a synonym for "indissoluble", but it means something totally different when you say "a marriage is strong" and "a marriage is indissoluble".

Also, as you can see in politics, whoever controls the language controls the debate. It's possible the church might weaken itself, by using different terms. For example, if they use divorce terms to speak about annulments, everyone's going to falsely assume annulments and divorces are the same thing.

2. Archbishop Culpich of Chicago gave an interview about the role of conscience, saying that "the conscience is inviolable" in matters of gay marriage and divorce. This generated a huge response, and it resonated with a lot of Catholics who agree that the conscience is supreme in all moral matters.

The problem is that too many people today abuse conscience rights, and they use conscience as a blanket excuse to justify their bad behavior. I also see a lot of people use conscience as a "loophole" to go against the church. "I don't have to go to church or pray or anything, because I feel like I'm a good person, and that's all God cares about." In the case of divorce, Culpich's insistence that conscience is more important than church teachings comes dangerously close to saying, "If you think divorce is okay, then it's okay."

3. People keep bringing up the idea of decentralization. That is to say, they want to take power away from Rome and give it to either local Bishops or local Bishop's conferences. I don't think this will happen completely. The Catholic Church has a long memory, and there have been too many times where a particular country's Bishops have "gone rogue", so to speak. Just like with any government bureaucracy, there needs to be a healthy balance between the local authority and the centralized authority.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Chicago Cubs

In Back to the Future, Part 2, there's a joke about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2015. This is a humorous joke, because the Cubs are the worst sports team in the history of the world.

I am not exaggerating. Every year I've been alive, the Cubs have broken their world record for "most years without a championship". The last time they won the World Series was 1908. The last time they even made it to the finals was 1944.

Everyone was super-excited this year, because they made it to the playoffs. Will the Cubs break their 107-year losing streak?

Answer: Probably not.

They're currently playing the New York Mets, in a best of seven competition. The Cubs lost the first three games, and tonight is game four. If they lose again, they're out of the playoffs.

In other bad sports news, the Columbus Blue Jackets have fired their coach, after losing the first seven games in the season. Their eighth game is tomorrow. Hopefully the new coach can get a victory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Detective Barbie

My family and I recorded some videos for Detective Barbie!



The full playlist is here. I'm trying out the end of video advertisement thing, which will link to the next and previous videos in the series. I hope it works.

Ribsy

I've been reading Ribsy to Mary, and it's so weird, reading it as an adult who knows where everything is located. Like, in the first chapter, they stop at the intersection of 82nd and Klickitat Street, in Northeast Portland, OR. That's where the Original Taco House is located. On the other side of the intersection is a mostly abandoned strip mall. The only things there besides empty buildings are a porn rental store, strip clubs, a marijuana shop, a gas station and McDonald's.

Pretty sure that wasn't the case when the book was written in the 60's.

They go to Clackamas Town Center, which is the big mall in the southeast area. Then Ribsy gets taken to the western edge of Portland, into the Beaverton/Hillsboro area. Again, the book was written in the 60's, so the western edge of Portland is only ten miles away from the starting point. Today, the western edge of the city goes much, much farther. When you're driving through the area, you can immediately tell when you've hit the city border, because the scenery instantly changes from cityscape to farmland. There are some heavy-duty laws in place to prevent the city from expanding any more in that direction.

After that, the book's geography gets a little vague, as Ribsy travels east. He visits an unnamed elementary school and the fictional Zachary Taylor High School. All the high schools are named after presidents in that school district, so really, it could be any of them. In the end, Ribsy arrives at an apartment complex, which could be pretty much anywhere. No mention is made of the giant river that bisects Portland.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Nancy Drew Game Delay

I want to talk more about the next Nancy Drew game being delayed. The company says they delayed the game because they're switching to a new game engine.

I personally suspect that the game's delay is due to the fact that Her Interactive had to let a number of employees go in May this year. We don't know how many employees are still at the company. The outdated Linked In profile page for the company only lists ten employees.

Another possible reason for the delay? Changing priorities at the company. The first two websites I linked to both mention that the company wants to switch to the mobile games market. My wife says that makes sense; she thinks PC gaming is a dying market, and mobile games are the future. We're told that Her Interactive is working on a new Nancy Drew app, for iOS and Android, to be released in Spring 2015. So maybe Midnight in Salem was delayed, because their major focus is on the upcoming mobile game, not the upcoming PC game.

Her Interactive has tried mobile games before, with limited success. Secret of Shadow Ranch was a text-heavy gamebook. Ghost of Thornton Hall was a port of the PC game. In both cases, the hope was that the games would be super-popular and get followed up by a gamebook based on The Captive Curse and a port of The Silent Spy, respectively. Both those follow-ups were shelved. I didn't think much of it at the time, as this was the fourth attempt to port Nancy Drew games to different gaming systems (DVD, Wii and GBA).

I'm also wondering what will become of the Hardy Boys game. As hinted at in Labyrinth of Lies, Her Interactive got the rights to make a Hardy Boys PC game. If the company is having financial troubles, this game might not live to see the light of day. They made a Hardy Boys game for the DS in 2009, which isn't the greatest game ever, but it's leaps and bounds better than the Nancy Drew DS game made around the same time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Unity Platform

I know I'm a couple months late to this party, but there was big news from Her Interactive. Namely, the next game is getting delayed until next year. In part, this is because they are switching from their current game engine to Unity. Then-CEO Stuart Moulder talked about switching to Unity in March 2014, so this isn't a complete surprise.

Her Interactive did a video, showing off what the new system will look like, compared to the old one.



What do you readers think? I think the new system is smoother and allows for more exploration. I can also understand some complaints that Nancy's walking animation is too bouncy, and it causes motion sickness. It should be pretty easy to eliminate Nancy's bouncy walking...I think. The only frame of reference I have for full first-person 3D is the Metroid Prime trilogy.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Nancy Drew Girl Detective - Series Recap

Now that I've finished the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series, I thought I'd talk for a bit about the series in general. It was the first _official_ reboot of the Nancy Drew series, not counting the unofficial reboots in the 60's and 80's. The idea was to update and modernize the Nancy Drew series for a new generation of young girls and 20-something YouTube reviewers.

Modernizing the series was a failure, in my opinion. Sure, it was nice to see George work with computers, but most of the writers clearly have no idea how computers work. If computers are a selling point for your series, you should at least TRY to make sure most of your computer information is accurate. Also, computers and cell phones are NOT new to the Nancy Drew universe; pretending they are is just silly.

The updates to series are more interesting. The biggest change is that the books are now in first person. The next biggest change: Nancy is a klutz. The series goes out of its way to portray her as a minor airhead; she constantly loses her phone and forgets to put gas in her car. The idea is that this makes Nancy a more relatable character, but a lot of readers felt that all it did was make Nancy look bad, for no real reason. People prefer having a competent heroine, a Nancy Drew who is a more positive role model. The series eventually realized its mistake and removed Klutzy Nancy entirely. Nobody was sad to see her go.

Bess and George were mostly unchanged; they're still a giggly girly-girl and a semi-grumpy tomboy. George was given an interest in computers which I already talked about, and Bess was turned into a mechanical genius. I liked the new Bess, but the books had a hard time balancing girly-girl Bess with Mechanic Bess. Most of the time, Mechanic Bess fades into the background, and it only gets brought up whenever Nancy feels the need to show her friend isn't a total stereotype.

The character who most needed changing was Nancy's boyfriend, Ned. In the previous series, he is a bland, boring character. He doesn't have much of a personality, and his only purpose in the books is to be Nancy's boyfriend. There was a LOT of room for improvement, when it came to Ned Nickerson. So what did the series do to update his character? Nothing! He's still a bland, generic nice guy who serves no purpose beyond being Nancy's boyfriend! His vague affinity for sports was changed to a vague affinity for journalism, and that's about it.

Considering how often he appears in these books, it's amazing how undeveloped of a character he is. I think the series would have been improved if they drastically changed Ned, or if they got rid of him completely. The Hardy Boys lost their girlfriends in _their_ series reboot, so why couldn't Nancy also become newly single?

Nancy's father and Hannah Gruen were also not changed, probably because they're absent for most of the series. Hannah had a subplot in Book 15; Mr. Drew had a subplot in Book 4. That was it for them. The rest of the time, they ocassionally hover around in the background of Nancy's house, but they never affect the story.

Nancy's dog Togo was written out of the series, but the dog appeared so rarely that getting rid of him was not a loss.

Now for the minor characters, which is another big change that the series introduced. There are 6 to 8 minor characters who regularly appear in the series, as opposed to the previous series, where none of the characters appeared in more than one book.

This was definitely a good idea, but the problem is that Deirdre Shannon completely dominates in this aspect. In almost every book, Deirdre Shannon is there. Deirdre Shannon is always there. The series goes out of its way to awkwardly shoehorn her into stories that don't need her. Most of the time she's interesting, and she's better than Nancy's previous rival, Brenda Carlton, but it was still overbearing to have the series be all Deirdre, all the time.

Besides Deirdre, Chief McGinnis is the minor character who appears the most. I have nothing to say about him, because his personality changes from book to book. He's rarely the same character twice, and Nancy switches from liking him, to hating him, to feeling sorry for him, to thinking he's a humorous joke.

Which is one of my main problems with the Girl Detective series, and Nancy Drew in general: continuity! The series has almost no continuity at all, and that makes me sad.

The other minor characters appear in about 3 to 4 books each, and they're mostly one-note characters. Harold Safer is comedy relief. Mrs. Mahoney is a nice old woman who serves as a victim. Luther Eldridge gives exposition on old, hidden treasures. Evaline Waters exists. Charlie Adams has an awkward crush on Nancy, and I think he would be a more interesting boyfriend than Ned. Then again, sometimes a block of cheese would be a more interesting boyfriend than Ned.

Originally, I was going to discuss every single book in the series at this point, but that would make this a huge blog post. So let me discuss the books by year.

The first part of 2004 was strong, as it introduced the new series and scenarios. The second half diverged into weird territory, with a two-part story written by two people who clearly didn't talk to each other, and books that were clearly written for a different Nancy Drew series.

2005 also had a strong first half, with a weak second half. The spa book, the civil war book, and the book narrated by Bess and George are memorable and popular. The second half of the year focused on Nancy Drew's 75th anniversary, and I did not like those books.

2006 was probably the best year, in my opinion. The series became more consistent from book to book, probably because the authors had the earlier books to use as a reference.

2007 was also a strong year, but after the second book, the publishing schedule got turned upside down. I get the sense they cancelled the series at this point, and the rest of the year was an attempt to rush all the half-finished books through production. The quality of the books started to fluctuate, between good and the worst book of the series.

2007 was also the year the Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys Supermystery series started. I mostly dislike this series, because half of the time, Nancy and the Hardys don't interact with each other. Also, they swear a lot, and the series sticks to the stereotype that the Hardys can do dangerous things but Nancy can't, because they're boys and she's a girl. Watch my reviews for those books, if you want to learn more.

2008 brought an end to the first half of the series. Starting with Book 29, the series got a new editor. I talked with the editor for a bit on Twitter; I was kind of hoping to interview them for this book review project, but I majorly messed things up, and they don't like me anymore. Editor, if you're reading this, I'm sorry for offending you.

The new editor brought a greater emphasis on things that interest middle school girls, which is exactly what the series needed, in a sense. More importantly, the series changed from being standalone books to trilogies.

The Perfect Mystery Trilogy was strong overall, but I greatly disliked the final book. Everything that happened in Book 3 could have been done in one chapter, at the end of Book 2. This is the main problem with the Girl Detective trilogies; they ALL would be better off as duologies. If you have three books of material, great! If you only have two books of material, please don't stretch that out into a trilogy.

The Identity Mystery Trilogy was a cyberbully mystery, which felt new and different. I liked it. This time, the second book of the trilogy is the bad one, with a culprit whose motive is ridiculous. The final book is fantastic, which more than makes up for the minor failings of the other two books.

The Model Mystery trilogy was just plain awful, and it had nothing at all to do with models. It was all about fake wedding drama and a reality TV show. The second book is a repeat of the first book, and the culprit doesn't show up until Book 3, so really, the first two books didn't matter. Ugh.

The Eco-Mystery Trilogy is more of the same. That is, it has the exact same plot structure as the previous trilogy. Which is a problem with the trilogies; they're too similar. Before even starting this trilogy, I correctly guessed the culprit was the rich business person, because that's who it was in the first two trilogies.

The Sabotage Mystery Trilogy highlights another problem with the trilogies: *continuity!*. Two different authors worked on this trilogy, and it's so obvious they didn't consult with each other that TV Tropes uses this trilogy as their example of flip-flopping ghostwriters.

The final trilogy is Malibu Mayhem Trilogy, and it was surprisingly good! Nancy meets a bunch of celebrities, with a focus on the Kardashian sisters. The celebrity stuff was tacky at times, but the main mystery was about a cult leader named Roland, and it was fantastic. The problem that this trilogy highlights is Nancy's willingness to overlook obvious clues, in order to have a surprise culprit at the end of the book. Authors, it's okay for Nancy to suspect the culprit before the final chapter.

So that's it for the Girl Detective series. Overall, I'm not a big fan of it; I prefer the 1980's Nancy Drew reboot. The changes they made to the series were not as good as they could have been; specifically, they shouldn't have had Klutzy Nancy, and Ned should have been changed. Some readers felt the series was dumbed down, to fit a younger target audience, but the series definitely has its moments.

I'd say about a fourth of the books are great, a fourth are awful, and the rest fall somewhere in between.

Unless I made a mistake with the math, my average score for this series is a 5.57 out of 10. The score raises to a 5.7, if you don't include the trilogy books.

The trilogies had their problems, and considering how unpopular they were with readers, it was inevitable that the series would be cancelled and rebooted again.

Will this series be remembered 50 years from now? No. The only Nancy Drew series that has stood the test of time is the original series. It's only been three years since Girl Detective ended, and most libraries have gotten rid of their copies of these books.

Besides for the 25th Nancy Drew game, everything from the Girl Detective series has been officially eliminated from the Nancy Drew franchise.

With ONE exception. When they started the third "Nancy Drew for eight-year-old series this year...Deirdre Shannon was there. Deirdre Shannon is always there.

Stay sleuthy, detectives!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Disney Descendants

I watched the Disney Descendants movie. Here are my thoughts.
  • The world did not need a hip hop remix of Be Our Guest.
  • The adult villains were the most entertaining part.
  • Nobody in this movie knows how to lip-sync during songs. Nobody. It's so incredibly obvious they're not really singing, it's embarrassing.
  • The moral of the story is that you don't have to be like your parents. Katie commented that this is a reoccurring theme in children's entertainment nowdays. Specifically, you see that lesson get hammered in over and over again, in Ever After High.
  • This movie is basically live-action Ever After High. Or a variant of Once Upon a Time. Or one of the many modern/updated fairy tales that have been popular recently.
  • The premise is that Jafar's son is super-buff and violent. I found that odd, because I get the sense that Jafar never works out, ever.
  • Katie noted that the costumes in the movie were super-unique and different. I agree that they were fancy.
  • The sequel fodder at the very end of the movie was super blatant. The movie's getting a sequel, so I guess it worked.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Speedrun News

1. My amateur sleuth speedrun for Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness was accepted by Speed Demos Archive. Hooray!

2. The next speedrun on my list is Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy, but I don't have any free time to record it. I keep thinking, "Oh, I'll just get up a half-hour earlier each day and work on it then," but that keeps not happening.

3. The other speedrun I have on my list is Reveries: Soul Collector. It should be a single segment run, under a half hour. I'm not sure what game I'll tackle after that. I want to try one of those casual hidden objects games that I play a lot. Maybe one of the Haunted Halls games? Or Living Legends: Frozen Beauty?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Awakening Speedrun

Yesterday, I said "I also tend to screw up, when I'm under a lot of pressure." I was thinking of my speedrun for Awakening: The Dreamless Castle, which I've been working on for about two months.

The final speedrun will be under 26 minutes (hopefully), so it's kind of ridiculous that I'm taking so long on this run.

When I started, I figured I would play the game in five segments. Each segment would cover one hidden objects challenge, since those are randomized. But then the mah-jong puzzles started to get so difficult that they need their own segments. Certain jigsaw puzzles also got difficult.

Now I've got a fourteen segment run.

With this game, you can do some puzzle skips. For example, you're supposed to do a jigsaw puzzle for the safe code, 2134. If you know the code ahead of time, you can open the safe without doing the jigsaw puzzle. That saves you about 50 seconds. In general, if a puzzle gives you a diary entry, you can skip it. If it gives you an inventory item, then you can't skip it.

That jigsaw puzzle skip I just mentioned? I missed that, during my speedrun. So I had to go back five segments and re-record everything. It was a huge hassle to redo half the run, when you're 75% of the way through.

The speedrun is done now, and it'll be uploaded sometime within the next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hockey Games

Hockey season is starting up again. My team of choice, the San Jose Sharks, are celebrating their 25th year of never making it to the finals!

...They started things off by getting one of their better players benched for 41 games. Ouch. But hey, they've got a new team captain! Maybe that will help them do better, since the old captain, Joe Thornton, has been widely criticized for playing badly whenever it was important. I like him, and I think he's a great player, but he has an admittedly bad playoff record. I can sympathize; I also tend to screw up, when I'm under a lot of pressure.

I've got a 20-game pack, to watch the Portland Junior Team, which is the 21 and under league. I usually take the bus to games, which takes me about 40 to 45 minutes. I use this time to read books; when I'm working at my best, I can read 2 books in one night. When I'm not working at my best, or the books are bad, I either get carsick or I put the book away to play on my phone.

I'm looking forward to the games, but I've got a problem now that I'm working as a delivery boy. I signed up for a bunch of weekend games, but I'm scheduled to work a lot of weekends. That's when you make the most money as a delivery driver. Also, it's the best time to work, because that's when you're least likely to get pressed into doing other people's jobs. (Kitchen services loves to make non-kitchen people do their jobs. I'm okay with dish washing, but all the others? Not so good.)

I'm not sure how I'm going to juggle a hockey game every weekend (or so) with work every weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day

Columbus Day is traditionally the second Monday of October. It's a celebration of the founding of the Americas. The only places I know that celebrate this holiday are the federal government and Wall Street. My work, the school system, my church and the local government all ignore the holiday. I more or less get the sense that the feds made up this holiday, as an excuse to get a day off in October.

A lot of places are trying to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day, under the premise that Christopher Columbus was a horrible person who never set foot in the United States, and the colonization of our country was a complete human rights disaster involving slavery, genocide and other evils. Sarcastic people are saying White Guilt Day would be a more appropriate name.

I'm rather indifferent as to what the holiday is called, since I don't get to celebrate it either way. I'd say it's a nice gesture to name it after the natives.

The Columbus myth says that he was a heroic, bold explorer who wanted to prove the world was round. This was made up by Washington Irving in 1828. In reality, people officially knew the world was round, ever since the time of Aristotle (330 B.C.). I don't like this myth, because it usually puts the Catholic Church in the role of "illogical, science-hating villain who believes in a flat Earth". If getting rid of Columbus Day gets rid of this false myth, I'm all for it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Laudato Si, Chapter 4

Here's something I wrote four months ago but never posted. It's my summary of Chapter 4 of Laudato Si.

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Chapter Four of the Pope's encyclical on the environment is called "Integral Ecology". This is an ecology that respects its human and social dimensions.

Everything is interconnected, so we cannot consider nature as something separate from us. Society affects the environment and vice versa. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and if a society has injustice, violence or lack of freedom, that can harm the environment. For example, there are some governments that sit by and do nothing, as environmental laws get broken; this leads to a lack of respect for the law, in general.

Culture should be preserved and incorporated; we should pay more attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems. Culture is a living reality, which cannot be excluded from our considerations. Some people believe "one size fits all", and so they think that one particular environmental solution will work everywhere, at every time. This is not true; a blanket method like that can overlook local problems. A framework from the outside doesn't always fit on the inside; in fact, we've seen this when foreign environmental exploitation has destroyed local cultures, as well as the structures that support those cultures.

"Authentic development includes efforts to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life". That is because people use their environment to shape their identity; if you came to my house, you would definitely see things which identify the area as belonging to me. When the local environment is disorderly or chaotic--like at college!--it makes it hard for people to be integrated and happy. This especially hurts the poor people, in areas with extreme poverty and overcrowding. Their hostile environment has a negative affect on them, and what they desire most is good relationships and communities, to combat the harsh realities of their lives.

People's behavior is affected by their living spaces; people who design buildings and cities should take this into account. They should consider the views of the people who will live in the area, and they should desire to offer people a greater quality of life. We also need to protect common areas; we don't want a segregated city, divided into separate parts. We want it to be well-integrated, so people feel that they belong everywhere; this gives them a sense of the whole and a caring for all.

Lack of housing is a major issue for human ecology. Destroying slums or razing poor neighborhoods is not a solution; we must develop those areas. Developing public transportation is also important, as private transportation causes more pollution and waste more energy. Currently, the public transportation system forces citizens to put up with "undignified conditions due to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service and lack of safety". In rural areas, a more common issue is a feeling of abandonment or disconnection from others, as well as harsh conditions that reduce workers to near-servitude.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

This week (and last week), I've only done videos for Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This will take me all the way to the end of the game!

I'd love to do the next game in the Zelda series, Skyward Sword, but that would involve taking my Wii out of storage. By "storage", I mean "the box under the stairs". Maybe I'll save it for later.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Angry Birds Movie

They released a trailer for the Angry Birds movie!



The trailer has several long, slow jokes like "pig takes a minute to go to shore" and "bird takes a minute to punch a sign". I wonder if it's easier for actors to do these jokes in animation or live action. With animation, it's easier to change the timing of a joke in editing. With live action, the actors can see the entire scene as it's being filmed.

I say the movie looks okay. I'm not a fan of the Frozen snowman reprising his role. I dunno, as I grow older, the "wacky character who says wacky things all the time" trope in children's animation has gotten less and less amusing.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Things Thursday - Internet

Comcast sent us a letter, saying how to get the best Internet speeds from our router.

First, don't put the router by a window. Half of the Internet goes out the window and doesn't help you. So...routers send out Internet signals in all direction? Is there any way to set up my computer as a beacon, so it sends all the Internet in that direction, instead of sending it out equally in all directions?

Second, don't put the router by a TV. The TV will interfere with it. That's great advice, Comcast, but you drilled the special Internet router hole right next to the TV so we could get digital cable. Or something like that? Anyway, the point I'm making is that every house I've seen with Comcast (all two of them) has the specially-installed router hole right by the TV. Why would you do that, if it makes Internet slow?

Third, don't use your computer in a room other than the room with the router. Internet slows down, if it has to go through walls. Again, that's great advice, if I wasn't forced to keep the router right by the TV. Most people don't keep computer desks under their TV. If I could move the router, I'd set it up on the end of my computer desk, to get maximum Internet speed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Love Chronicles: The Spell

Hey, Mary and I played Love Chronicles: The Spell for a livestream!



The last livestream was Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers. The game is okay, but the hidden objects challenges are a bit too tough for me. Sadly, I don't have a copy of that livestream available; the game recorded without my audio commentary.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cooking

The new recipe this week was Broccoli-Mushroom Scallop. It's basically cooking mushrooms in butter, then adding milk, flour, and onion powder. My thing of onion powder is all hard and stuck together. Is there a way to fix that? I tried stabbing it with a knife, but no dice.

Once you've got the mushroom mix, you pour it over the broccoli, then cover it with cheese. It basically tastes the way you'd expect: broccoli mixed with cheese and mushrooms. My family didn't like it.

The other recipe I made was enchilada casserole. I've made it three times now, and my family likes it, so I'm adding it to my official cookbook. Katie was surprised that she liked it, even though she's had it twice before. Shows how much faith she has in my cooking! The other repeat recipe I'm doing is sour cream chicken. I keep messing up the cooking time on that. This time, I'll try baking it for 30 minutes. Maybe that is the ideal cooking time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth is the first book in a Fancy Nancy spinoff series, aimed towards older readers. It's about 125 pages, with black-and-white illustrations.

Nancy has decided she's a huge fan of Nancy Drew books, and of course, she's talking about the original Nancy Drew series. Nobody ever talks about the modern Nancy Drew series in that context. She starts a detective agency with her friend Bree, and they solve two mysteries.

The first is the mystery of the twins next door. Nancy and Bree spy on the twins, while they're fighting. One twin gets mad and says, "I'm going to tell Nancy what you did!". The mystery is, what did she do? Nancy goes completely off-base for a while and deduces that the twins are building a giant pit to trap detectives, but eventually she figures out that the twin left a huge, dirty fingerprint on her Nancy Drew book. Nancy figures this out, by using a magnifying glass and fingerprinting kit; it was a pretty good chapter of her being clever and hardworking.

The other mystery is at school. Everyone brought a keepsake to school, for a display during parent day. The teacher's marble goes missing, and Nancy is falsely accused to stealing it. She tries to solve the mystery, with the help of some photographs. I won't spoil the ending, but I'd say it's about as good as can be expected. It's possible to solve the mystery before Nancy does, and there's a joke about how in Nancy Drew books, the culprit is always the mean, ugly person. There's also a somewhat grim joke, about Nancy's investigations never getting interrupted by Mom, because her mother is dead.

Overall, I'd say it's an okay book for third graders. There's a lot more to it than the third-grade Nancy Drew books, because it's longer. The story meanders a bit at parts, but the book definitely falls in line with the Fancy Nancy books for younger readers. Mary wants to read the other books in the series now.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Synod on the Family

The Catholic Church is having a Synod on the Family this year, from today to the 25th. It's more or less a continuation of last year's synod, with a lot more people attending.

For a long time now, people have been trying to hijack the Synod and change the agenda, so it focuses on their particular issues. Common topics people keep bringing up are divorce, adultery, polygamy, gay marriage, birth control, and...yeah, mostly things dealing with sex. People seem preoccupied with getting the church to change its rules on sex.

Last year, the first week of the Synod was an open discussion with everyone, and there were many presentations. They wrote up a midterm report over the weekend. The second week, they broke up into small groups, based on language, and discussed the midterm report / made changes to it. In the end, everyone voted on what the report would say. I believe this is the final copy of the report, although, it's obviously going to become outdated later this month.

This year, they're going to have an open discussion on Monday/Tuesday, with small group discussions for the rest of the week. Each small group will write observations/summaries, which will be released publicly. They will repeat the process for three weeks in a row, tackling a different theme each week. I wonder what the themes will be!

In the end, everyone votes on the final document, paragraph by paragraph.

There will be 13 different small groups. We know German, English, Spanish, Italian, and French are five of them. I couldn't find anything which said what the other 8 languages groups will be. In the past, the Church avoided language barrier problems by doing everything in Latin. It's a shame they're not doing that now, because I can kind of understand Latin.

Last year's synod was kind of messy, in that there was an ineffective media ban. Also, someone robbed the Vatican mail office to prevent Synod attendees from receiving books. The media ban has been partially lifted, in that Bishops are now free to talk to the press at the end of each day. And we're getting more regular reports, so that's good. The discussions are still going to happen behind closed doors, so it's not completely transparent.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

YouTube Schedule

This week, I'm releasing more videos for Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I've recorded videos 14-20. I think I'm six videos away from finishing the game, so I might just go ahead and do a second week of videos. It depends on whether or not I can record the videos in time.

After that, I've got a walkthrough for Miss Clue: Formula for Danger. That's 27 videos long, so I'll probably release three videos a day, for nine days.

Next on the list is Detective Barbie and one of the Nancy Drew DS games. I figured out how to record Detective Barbie! Kind of. Only the video will record. I'll have to record the audio separately, which will hopefully not be a problem.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Castle Malloy, Speedrun 4

Does anyone know a fast way to get coins, in Haunting of Castle Malloy? From what I can tell, these are the various ways.

1. One next to the Madame Isbael machine
2. One after solving the leprechaun puzzle
3. One after moving the rocking horse = about ten seconds to get
4. One from doing the first doll puzzle = about eight seconds to get
5. Two from the slots of the machines in the pub = about ten seconds to get
6. Playing mix maid

Is there one I missed? Maybe there's one in the bog hut, or in the sheep-shearing area? I dunno.

You need three coins, in order to get a weight from Madame Isbael. Right now, it looks like the fastest way to do that is to play mix maid, which you have to do no matter what. If you get the coins from other locations, you can put off seeing Donal until 40 minutes into the game or so. That's a minor timesaver; it saves you an extra trip to Donal's place.

The first two coins on the list are easy to get. They only take about a second, because they're in areas you'll already be in. Coins 3-5 require you to go slightly out of your way. I wonder what takes more time: getting the coins from playing mix maid (and therefore taking an extra trip to Donal's) or getting the coins from other places?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Message in a Haunted Mansion Speedrun

I need to redo my speedrun for Nancy Drew: Message in a Haunted Mansion. My original run has become...outdated! Shock, gasp, this was probably inevitable.

There are three main reasons why it's outdated.

#1, someone discovered you can skip the opening cutscene!

#2, someone discovered you can skip talking to Abby about gum bo fu.

#3, there's a route improvement! My route was centered around only using Nancy's alarm clock once. It's about seven seconds faster to use the alarm clock twice, with the second time setting the clock to 5:00 to make Louis disappear.