Monday, November 30, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Land Before Time: Good Times & Good Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stock Trading

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Putt-Putt Travels Through Time

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











Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nancy Drew Rival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Brenda Carlton

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Reviews

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





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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blogging Followup

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

I'll be blunt with my OPINIONS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game Endings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blogging

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Supreme Court Abortion Case

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Professor Garfield

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



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






Sunday, November 15, 2015

Social Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Retired Baby Boomers

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Current Political Mood

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

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

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

Yeah, all that fighting, for nothing.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Reviews

Here are book reviews for Nancy Drew 6 and 7.





I have written reviews for Files 16 and 17. Reviews for Nancy Drew 8 and Files 18 are on the way.

Monday, November 9, 2015

US Bishop Elections

In Catholic news, I'm still waiting for the document on the family to be translated into English...still waiting...still waiting...

Okay, fine, let's talk about something closer to home. The US Bishops have their annual meeting this month. The new Bishops appointed by Pope Francis are running for office. Specifically, the Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut is running for the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, the Bishop of Sand Diego is running for the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the Archbishop of Santa Fe is running for the Committee on Migration, and the Bishop of Youngston, Ohio is running for the Committee on Catholic Education.

What's going on here? Is this the start of a Pope Francis United States Bishops revolution?

I think it's business as usual. When I was a seminarian, Bishop McGrath of San Jose told me that when he was first made a Bishop, he was more or less pressured into joining 2-3 national committees, because they don't like to see the young, new guys standing around doing nothing all the time. If that's true, I guess it makes sense that all the young, new guys are trying to join committees.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

German Potato Salad

Hey, here's a winning recipe I tried! It's German Potato Salad, which is basically "potato chips before potato chips existed".

First, you peel six potatoes and cut them into slices that are a fourth of an inch. Basically, the same size as potato chips. Put them in a bowl with 1/4 cup of water, then cook them in the microwave for 10 to 15 minutes.

Then you cover them with a mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. The recipe says to add chopped green onions and chopped bacon, but I don't know how to cook bacon, so I left them out. Toss the food to get it coated with the mixture, and you've got homemade potato chips! With real potatoes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Meatloaf

The recipe I tried this week was microwave meatloaf. Meatloaf was always simple in my house, growing up. You take a thing of ground meat, and you put it into the shape of a bread loaf. Put it in a pan, and then cook it in the oven until it's done. Most oven pans are shaped like a loaf of bread, so it's very simple.

When I tried cooking that meatloaf for my family, Katie said it was tasteless.

It turns out that other people usually make meatloaf with lots of ingredients, not just meat. Chopped onions, oats, bread crumbs, crushed cornflakes, eggs, tomato sauce and ketchup can all be added to the meat to make it taste different.

The recipe said to mix up the raw meat with the other ingredients, then put it in the microwave. You could make it in loaves, or in a circle like a cake. Mary wanted us to make it like a heart, which worked moderately well. Then, you cook it in the microwave for fifteen minutes or so.

The bottom of the tray wasn't completely covered, since we did the heart design. So the fat drizzled out to the empty sides, where there was no meatloaf. That made the sides of the dish all greasy and disgusting. Still, the cooking experiment was a success, because I know what stuff I can put in meatloaf to make it more than just meat. I'll try again someday, cooking it in the oven next time. (Or maybe not. The microwave cookbook has two other meatloaf recipes, so I might want to try them first.)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Miss Clue: Formula for Danger

I'm doing a walkthrough for "Miss Clue: Formula for Danger". This game is a very blatant knockoff of Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake.



Miss Clue is an okay game. There are some fundamental problems that prevent it from becoming great.

The main problem is that it's an episodic game. Not the good kind of episodic, where all the episodes were planned in advance, like Life Is Strange. It's the bad kind of episodic, where the programmers weren't able to finish the episode in time, so they said, "Uh...let's just end it here and add another episode later." Expect to see episodes end in awkward places, like the middle of a conversation or the start of a puzzle.

Rumor has it that the game was originally intended to have 10 parts. The final game has 15. If you do the math, that means they missed their episode deadlines about half the time.

There are two problems that arise as a result of the fact that the programmers made up the game as they went along. First, items will magically appear out of nowhere. The worst offender is the battery in the downstairs closet. The closet is completely empty for the first nine chapters of the game. In chapter ten? A tiny hitbox appears at the top of the closet, which gives you a battery. Good luck trying to find THAT on your own. The location was empty for the past two and a half-hours, and now it has new items, even though literally nothing has changed? Ha ha, it took me twenty minutes of going through every screen before I found the one item that was blocking my progress, aren't videogames fun?

The other problem is that every chapter begins, by forcing the player to backtrack and revisit all the areas of the game. That's fine, if you haven't played the game in a week, and you need to remember where everything is. But if you're playing the game in one sitting, it is a humongous chore to do a thorough backtrack every 10 to 20 minutes. It would be so much better, if the main character could read all four library books at once, instead of having to make four separate trips to the library to read them at various points in the game.

I should also mention a game-breaking glitch I encountered on the final chapter. The game expected me to have some inventory items which I didn't have. Maybe I missed them, earlier. You're not able to leave the area, without having solved the puzzle, so I was stuck. It turns out the solution is to quit and reload the game. The required items magically appear in your inventory. It's not a problem if you play each chapter separately, but it's kind of counter-intuitive to expect players to quit, right when they've reached the end of the game.

Okay, so those are problems that come with the episodic format. They could be easily fixed, if the game was released as a single entity. I kind of wish they did release it as a full game by itself; that'd improve things a good deal. But there are also some problems that exist, outside of the format.

#1. Voice acting. The voice actress made an honest effort, but all of her characters (besides Aunt Ellen) sound very similar. You can easily tell it's a person talking to herself, when a conversation is between Jane and Jane with a lisp, or Jane and slightly higher-pitched Jane.

#2. The premise. The premise is that you are Jane Darcy, the daughter of the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice. This interesting premise is introduced, then immediately discarded. There are no Pride and Prejudice characters or references anywhere else in the game. In fact, the game takes place at least 150 years after the book does. It's weird to introduce such a specific premise, then completely ignore it.

The end of the game kind of returns to the premise, by saying two characters got married at Pemberly Estate. The highlight of the wedding? Two girls singing a duet about their hot surfer boyfriends. Because that's totally something Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice would put up with.

I should note that the hot surfer boyfriend song comes out of NOWHERE. Singing and surfing aren't mentioned anywhere else in the game. Also, it's out of place for a bride to singing about her bodacious boyfriend, at her wedding. He's your husband now, Jane with a Lisp. Stop calling him your BF.

#3. Hitboxes. The hitboxes in this game are a tad too small, and they're easy to miss. Twice, the only reason I found a hitbox was because it was mentioned in the walkthough. (Yes, I used a walkthrough; I'm a cheater!) This problem could be resolved by making the hitboxes bigger, or otherwise making it a little more obvious when your cursor is hovering over an area you can click on.

#4. Speed. Since it's an online game, it has a tendency to lag. More often than you'd like, you'll be forced to sit still for a minute and wait for the loading screen to finish.

The two main areas of the game are twenty screens apart, with most of those screens being scenery. If you're caught in a bad lagging time, it'll take you a minute to get from Location A to Location B. That only makes the backtracking worse, since there is literally nothing to do on the screens besides click to go forward.

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Is Miss Clue a good game? I would say, "kind of". If you're a fan of the older Nancy Drew games, you could probably get into Miss Clue. If they resolved the problems I talked about--most of which stemmed from the episodic format--then I could see it fitting in with the rest of the Nancy Drew series. It'd be a below-average entry in the series, but it would fit with the others. Which was probably the point, because the game is a Nancy Drew knockoff.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pizza Delivery

Pizza delivery on Halloween was kind of a mess, because everyone and their mother tried to get pizzas. The average wait time for pizza delivery morphed from forty minutes, to an hour, to an hour and a half. The pizza oven was running at maximum capacity for a few hours straight, but still, it can only cook so many pizzas at a time. Eventually, the store ran out of small pizzas and had to upgrade everyone to a medium, for free.

The number of delivery orders hovered around thirty, for the majority of the night. I got totally gypped for the first hour, and only got assigned single deliveries. All the other drivers got double deliveries at that time.

The weather turned awful, and it started to rain heavily. As in, the main highway flooded in three places. The corner of the block had to be cordoned off by the police for forty minutes, until they were able to drain it. It's not good for drivers, when the police close the main exit to the area.

I was assigned to work from 5 to 8. Around 9, things started slowing down. The list of deliveries was down to ten, but the bad news is that most of the deliveries were refunds. As in, the pizza was too late, so the customer got it for free. I think what happened is that the supervisor got fed up, dealing with complaints. So he just shouted, "FORGET IT! EVERYONE GETS FREE PIZZA! JUST STOP YELLING AT ME!". Then he hid in the corner and cried for a while.

I got to delivery five free/refund pizzas, and it was pretty much the opposite of fun, because you don't get paid tips or reimbursement for those. Plus, there was no attempt to sort the refund pizzas in a logical order. As in, the two out-of-town deliveries were not put together; they were separated by a delivery to the exact opposite end of town, putting an extra forty minutes onto the delivery time.

I finished around 10 PM. 54 miles of driving, but only six deliveries registered in the system, since the refund orders didn't count. Bleck.

The good news is I got some free candy, from the house that got no trick-or-treaters. I also got leftover pizzas, from B----. He ordered pizza for 4:00. He didn't pick it up. At 6, he called and asked to change his order. He didn't pick up his new order, either. So at the end of the night, we had three pizzas for B---- that had been sitting in the warmer for a few hours. I took the pizza home, and I gave it to the teachers at Mary's school. That's what I usually do with leftover pizza. The people at the office love me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

More on the Republican Primary

All the stuff I got about the Republican primaries yesterday came from a conspiracy theory website, which believes that the primaries are fixed. That is, the Republican party is cheating; they purposely changed the rules in order to favor their particular candidate. Sort of like a reality TV show, that messes around with things so the producer's favorite can be the big winner.

I don't believe that's the case, but the way the Republican primaries are now...well, it very much favors the top 2-3 candidates. The other 12 candidates are pretty much out of luck; none of them have a realistic chance of winning the nomination. Even if a third of the candidates dropped out of the race tomorrow, their chances of winning are nil.

In general, having a lot of other candidates is good for the top three. The minor candidates end up splitting the vote amongst themselves, which makes them weaker and easier to beat. Let's say 30% of the voters are up for grabs. What's a bigger threat: 10 people who get 3% each, or 1 person who gets 30%? Clearly, the latter.

Conceivably, a candidate could get 10% of the vote in every state, then win the nomination, because everyone else split at under 5%.

The conspiracy theory people went into detail about Ohio and Florida, which were changed into "winner take all" states. Now it's a lot easier for one candidate to win those important states, provided that the vote splits up equally among their opponents. And wouldn't you know it? Ohio and Florida have vote-splitter candidates: Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

In the rest of the country, John Kasich usually gets 3% of the vote, tops. In Ohio? He gets 27%. He more or less splits the Ohio vote in half, making it much easier for one of the top three to win that battleground state. If you were a rich, evil genius like Lex Luthor, and you wanted to make sure one particular candidate won, you would secretly fund campaigns for hometown heroes in all the battleground states, just to split the vote. And you'd make sure those states were "winner take all" states, so your candidate could get the maximum benefits.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Republican Candidate Rules

I did some research. In 2014, the Republican party changed the rules for how they elect Presidential candidates.

First, they changed how state's delegates are portioned out. If a state's primary is held on or before March 14th, the votes are proportional. If a state's primary is held on or after March 15th, the contest is "winner take all", as the majority runner gets all the votes.

Certain states were switched around, as a result of the rule change. Ohio and Florida, which usually play a big role in the general election, were delayed to the "winner take all" time period. Texas, North Carolina and Virginia were pushed forward, to the proportional time period.

Political analysts say this will stop a movement or momentum candidate. You know, one of the people who gets a lot of attention and popularity at the start, but then fizzles out of the race and disappears.

The other major rule change is that a candidate must win eight or more states, to be eligible for the Republican nomination. In 2012, the requirement was five. Someone like Ron Paul, who won six states in 2012, no longer qualifies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nancy Drew Files 17

I'm writing a review for Nancy Drew Files 17: Stay Tuned for Danger, and for the life of me, I can't think of a delicate way to describe.

Handsome soap star Rick Arlen has sex with Nancy's friend Bess.

One of the publisher's rules for 1980's Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys was "no sex". The closest we get are scenes where two characters start to make out, and then the book mysteriously skips ahead a few hours, which happened in Casefiles 127 and Files 4. But in Files 17, the ghostwriter is pretty blatant about Bess and Rick's physical relationship. She spends the entire night with Rick, coming back around 5 AM, and she's gushing about how great it was and how his muscles are rock hard.

I suspect that the only reason this scene got past the censors is because Bess mentions one or two of the places Rick took her. That way, the author could hide behind the excuse of "all they did was visit places together!". But given Bess and Rick's steamy kiss, and the fact that Bess spends the next ten hours asleep with a cheese-eating grin on her face...yeah, I'm pretty sure Rick did more than take Bess to see the Statue of Liberty.

I don't know how to discuss this in my review, without explicitly mentioning sex, so I'm just going to gloss over it. Sort of like the scene in the rewrite of Nancy Drew 3, where Nancy and her friends get their clothes wet. So they break into someone's house, strip down and chat for a few hours, while their clothes dry.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Copyright Update

Update: I got the copyright strike removed from my YouTube channel! My account is now in good standing. Woo hoo!