Friday, September 30, 2016

Tax Avoidance

I got a question from Elizabeth on my blog this week:

I was wondering something today after thinking about the debate. There was a point when Clinton said Trump doesn't pay his taxes, and his responses were "That makes me smart" and "It would have been squandered too, believe me." What does/can the IRS do when someone doesn't pay their taxes for so many years? And if he hasn't been somehow made to pay his taxes, why?

Clinton was referring to "tax avoidance", which is the term for when someone legally lowers their taxes. One popular way to avoid paying taxes is to give a lot of money to charity, then claim it as an itemized deduction. The money you give to charity can't be taxed; therefore, by giving money to charity, you pay less in taxes! Both Clinton and Trump have done this in the past, by giving money to the Clinton Foundation and Trump Foundation.

When you're as rich as Trump or Clinton, you can afford to hire the best accountants, who will get your taxes as low as possible. Mitt Romney's accountants were able to lower his effective tax rate from 35% to 14%. That's a lot of tax avoidance! Some people think lowering your taxes is a smart thing to do, while other people think that it's dishonest and cheats the government. Clearly, Clinton was accusing Trump of avoiding taxes in a dishonest fashion.

"Tax evasion" is the term for when someone doesn't pay the taxes they legally owe. The government uses a procedure called "garnishment" when someone owes unpaid taxes or unpaid child support. First, they send you a bill for the money that you owe. You can pay the bill outright, or you can set up an installment plan to pay it. If you don't, the government has the right to garnish your wages. That is, they will take a percentage of every paycheck you receive, until the debt is paid. In more extreme cases, they work with your bank and get money straight from your account. In the most extreme cases, they seize your assets and sell them to settle the debt.

Tax evasion is a crime. The statute of limitations changes, depending on the particulars of the crime. As a general rule of thumb, the limit is three years. If the case involves a large amount of unreported taxes, then the limit is six years. If the case involves tax fraud, there is no statute of limitations at all. The IRS can prosecute you for tax fraud, even if it happened a hundred years ago. So make sure to pay your taxes!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Quick Book Reviews

1. Nancy Drew Files 38: The Final Scene. I'd say the game is better than the book. The book kind of dragged out a bit, with several scenes that were near identical, and Chapter 12 (of 16), where they introduce a new suspect. It was pretty obvious that this was a fakeout, because the book isn't going to introduce the REAL culprit at the very end. I think the best part was the ending sequence, where there is a SECOND kidnapping.

2. Nancy Drew Files 39: The Suspect Next Door. This book is fantastic! I especially liked the scene with Nancy and Chief McGinnis debating the case. Clearly, they gave this book to their best writer and/or put a lot of time and effort into polishing it, because this book is the starting-off point for the River Heights spinoff series. TV Tropes says that this is a "poorly-disguised pilot", but it's not poorly-done at all.

3. River Heights 1: Love Times Three. I'm only partway through this book, and it feels like it wants to be Sweet Valley High. It's setting up for a big love triangle between Nikki Masters, Brittany Tate and Tim Cooper. I'm waiting for the shoe to drop, when it comes to Nikki, because she isn't aware that she's in a love triangle yet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Teams of Our Lady

My wife and I are part of a group called "Teams of Our Lady". It's basically a Catholic marriage support group. We have five couples, and every month we have dinner together. We talk about our highs and our lows from the previous month, followed by some prayer and reflection. It's nice, and after the last meeting, everyone gave us a surprise baby shower! That was a very nice surprise!

There are some ancillary things that Teams members are expected to do, like a monthly sitdown. Each month, Katie and I put an hour aside so we can talk about us, our relationship, how things are going, what's happening with the kids, and so on. It's been very useful and helpful, and besides, sometimes it's nice to get an hour alone with my wife without Mary or the puppy bothering us.

From reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I can tell Harry and his wife do not have a monthly sitdown. In fact, it's clear that they almost never talk about their problems. It was kind of awkward and painful, for me to read Harry and Ginny talk about Harry's problems with his son. Like, this is a conversation they should have had YEARS AGO.

And that's part of the idea behind Teams of Our Lady. They have regular discussions, because it's too easy for something to slip through the cracks and get ignored for months, causing huge problems down the line. Hopefully, unlike Harry Potter, the problem doesn't end up being "our son stole a time machine and tried to change reality forever."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Videos This Year

On my blot post last week, someone asked, "Which videos are getting you views? Is Miss Clue filling the ND gap?"

Let's see! My top ten videos this year, in terms of views, are Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew (all six videos in the playlist, minus the one that went up last week), 2014 Nancy Drew Mega Marathon (For Secrets Can Kill and Danger by Design), Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None and Miss Clue: Peril in Pemberley Part 1.

So, 8 of the top 10 videos are Nancy Drew videos. She's still pretty dominant! But it looks like one out of the four Miss Clue games slipped in somewhere. The next Agatha Christie game is going to be finished this week, and I wouldn't be surprised if that ended up replacing Miss Clue on the top ten list, by the end of the year.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Presidential Debate

Tonight is the big Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! My wife says she's not going to bother to watch it, since it'll be nothing but the two of them insulting each other, instead of going over policy details. That prompted me to write this tweet:

Political analysts agree that the debate will not be very interesting, because the standards are ridiculously low. Hillary needs to be energetic, to combat the rumors of her dying of a mysterious illness. Trump needs to be calm and collected, to combat the rumors that he's too emotionally unstable to be President. So the focus is all going to be on how they act, not what they say.

I'll probably watch the debate, but I'm not expecting much out of it. That's because in 2012, the Obama/Romney debates weren't very interesting, and they didn't seem to make a difference in the election. With my circle of friends, all the debates did was provide fodder for "binders full of women" jokes, because we all decided who we're voting for, months ago.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Miss Clue Cruise Most Deadly

Miss Clue: Cruise Most Deadly finishes today! If previous weeks are any indication, the final chapter goes live at 6 PM PST.

I will probably upload the video of the final chapter tomorrow. I've got a hockey game I'm going to, tonight.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Games to Record

Here's my current list of games to record. I have all of these games already, and once I finish them all, I'll probably buy more.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Harbinger
Detective Barbie 3
Captain Warlock
Love Chronicles 2
Agatha Christie Mysteries
Maestro: Dark Talent
Spirit of Revenge: Cursed Castle
Spirit of Revenge: Elizabeth's Secret
Spirit of Revenge: Florry's Well
Dark Parables: Swan Princess
Christmas Eve: Midnight's Call
Miles Edgeworth 2, Case 3.
DOS games. Seriously, I have over a gigabyte of files in my DOS folder.

Let's do the same thing we did yesterday! If there are any games you want to see, leave a comment here, and I'll adjust the list accordingly. That way, the more popular games are recorded first.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Unposted Walkthroughs

Here is the chronological list of video walkthroughs which I have recorded, but not posted yet:

Paper Mario N64 (42 videos)
Awakening 7 (13 videos)
Spy Fox 3: Operation Ozone (10 videos)
Animorphs GCN (2 videos)
Grammar Games (2 videos)
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (74 videos)
Royal Trouble: Honeymoon Havoc
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Nuzlocke
Campfire Legends 2: The Babysitter
Campfire Legends 3: The Last Act
The Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft
Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice - Case 2

Recently, I've been letting Twitter decide which walkthrough I should post next. That is, I have a poll, with the first four games on the list. People vote on which one they want to see. Poor Awakening 7 has been on there since January.

I feel like you blog readers get neglected with the Twitter poll setup, so leave comments on this blog, saying which games you like. I'll adjust the list accordingly. For example, if you're all big fans of The Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft, I can bump it up to the top. There's no need to let a popular game sit at the bottom of the posting schedule, just because I recorded it later than the others!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. A random story idea I had is that someone relives every other day. Like, they go through every second day twice. There's no apparent reason; it's been like that their whole life. I feel like that would be an interesting twist on "someone relives a day over and over again" story, because there are multiple days being relived, not just the one.

2. I am so glad that the current election will be over in less than two months. I'm sick of politics now, and I wish we could go one day without one or both sides saying, "Your candidate is Literal Hitler".

3. My wife thinks that her real due date is December 24th, and the people at the women's health center said the due date was Christmas, just because. She could be right! Either way, that means the third trimester starts this week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Time Travel in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I know I talked about time travel yesterday, but let me talk about it some more! There was some neat time travel in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I'll try not to spoil the story.

Part 1 has a Time Turner, which lets you travel to any point in time within the past 50 years or so. The play isn't specific about how far back it can take you. But the play is specific about the five minute time limit. You can spent 5 minutes in the past, at maximum, before getting sent back to the time you left from.

That's a really neat idea! You can only visit the past for a brief period of time. So if you're trying to do something specific, you have to move quickly! I don't think I've seen that before. Sure, Back to the Future has something similar, where Marty has to do something before he disappears, but that's more of a general time limit, not a specific five minute limit. I could imagine someone building a good story around this.

Sadly, the play doesn't have much use for the five minute time limit. Both times our heroes time travel, their mission is very specific: cast one or two spells, without being seen. So really, they're in and out of time in under a half-minute anyway. They never even come close to reaching the five minute danger zone.

Of course, both times they time travel, they end up making a big mistake that drastically changes the future and sends them into bad, alternate timelines, like Back to the Future Part 2. In the first bad timeline, Harry and his friends all kinda hate each other. In the second bad timeline, Harry failed, and Voldemort conquered the world.

There is a final time travel episode, one where Harry and friends get in on the time travel fun, but I'm not sure how to describe it without spoiling things.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Star Trek Voyager

My family finished watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so now we're moving on to Voyager. The pilot episode was pretty good, and it did a nice job of introducing the various new characters. I like the premise that our heroes are lost in space, trying to get home, even if that premise was already used on Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. I also like the premise that our heroes are forced to join forces with pirates, in order to survive.

If I could make a comment on Star Trek in general, though, their strategy seems to be "throw a bunch of characters and things together, and see what sticks". They don't seem to get the characters nailed down, until Season Three. At that point, they figure out what they want the characters to be like, which characters are best for which situations, and which actors have chemistry with each other. (Examples: Wesley Crusher leaving the series, Beverly Crusher returning, Quark changing from main villain to nice guy, Dr. Bashir and O'Brien going from office enemies to best friends.)

The second episode was not very good. It felt like a rehash of the cool time loop episode from Next Generation. The premise is that our heroes are trying to save a ship that's being sucked into a collapsing star. But it turns out the other ship is THEM, from the future! They're caught in a time loop. This particular time loop is one-time-only, so they have to escape from the star before they die.

I think I mainly disliked this episode, because at one point, Paris asks what started the time loop. The loop has a specific end, so why doesn't it have a specific beginning? Captain Janeway handwaves the time loop's creation, by saying that effects happen before causes, with the result that effects BECOME causes. What? That's not how "cause and effect" works! That's when the episode lost me.

The best part of the episode was the B plot, which is the two captains trying to figure out who should be the ship's main engineer, after the two engineers get into a fistfight.

The third episode is also a time travel episode. Two in a row? This one was better, because they were sent back in time (not forward in time), to prevent a planet's destruction. It was neat, seeing them try to figure out what causes the planet's destruction, then seeing them trying to stop the disaster.

Still, the episode has the same illogical explanation that their time travel caused their time travel. Argh!

I did like the ending, where Janeway realizes that the crazy time travel is the catalyst for the planet's destruction. So instead of travelling through time, she sits back and does nothing. That completely erases the timeline. I don't think I've seen a time travel story before use the solution of "sit and do nothing" to change a timeline.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Channel Views

We're coming up on the end of the year, kind of, so I figured I'd do some math with my YouTube channel. I had 352,8797 views from January to August. Divide that by eight, multiply by twelve, and that means I'll have an estimated 5,293,196 views this year, provided things remain steady.

This is super-good news, because last year I had 5,173,034 views. I could have more views this year than I had last year! The last time that happened was 2011. My channel peaked that year, and every single year, the view count has gone down. (That's bad timing for me, because YouTube didn't allow monetization on my channel until 2012.)

I'm kind of amazed that THIS is the year I'm getting more views, because there wasn't a Nancy Drew game released, outside of Codes and Clues. And while that's a fine game, it got about a tenth of the views that I got for Sea of Darkness, the last Nancy Drew game.

Sadly, the 2% increase in views isn't leading to an increased paycheck. It looks like I'll be making 96% of what I got last year.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Indian in the Cupboard

We watched "Indian in the Cupboard" the other day. It's an okay movie, although I don't think it has a cohesive plot. It's more like a series of smaller stories about Omri and the Indian, loosely put together.

The actors playing the Indian and the Cowboy were both very good, and the special effects for them were great. I'm impressed at how realistic it is! The scenes of Omri picking up the Indian were much better than, say, the scene where Grawp picked up Hermione in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You don't always need CGI for fancy special effects! It looks just as good if you greenscreen two things together!

Sadly, the worst part of the movie is Omri, the main character. He's not a very good actor. My wife kept making fun of how it looked he wanted to eat the Indian. It's true! His "I'm amazed" face involves having his mouth open wide enough to show all his teeth. He also does a large amount of nostril flaring.

(It should be noted that these shots are all done from below, so the camera is looking up at Omri's face. It's a nice visual which lets us see Omri from the Indian's perspective.)

Overall, I'd say the movie is okay. When I was a kid, my favorite part of the book series was imagining what I'd do, if I had a magic cupboard like that. I'd definitely use it for something other than playing with an Indian, that's for sure. And now that 3D printing is a possibility? Wow! The options are pretty much limitless!

Nerdy possibility: I'd use the cupboard to get the complete works of Julius Caesar. He wrote dozens of books, but only two have survived to this day. Imagine all the lost historical documents we could get with the cupboard!

I'd also use it to get myself some winning lottery numbers. I might be a large rapscallion and get 300 winning tickets for the "set for life" lotteries and send one to every Catholic Bishop in the United States, just to see what would happen next. Of course, it'd probably be impossible to win 300 lotteries without getting arrested.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Scarlet Hand Speedrun Planning 3

Joanna's start-of-game conversation may be a pain to navigate, but the start-of-game conversation with Alejandro del Rio is a snap. He will say the same thing, no matter which conversation options Nancy picks. So, to get through the conversation quickly, just pick the shortest conversation topics.

Taylor's conversation is mostly the same, except occasionally, you have to avoid the conversation options that lead to tangents, like the one about the Board of Directors and the one about the monolith agreement.

Henrik's opening conversation was easy to figure out, because you only have two conversation topics with him. I just recorded all four possible conversations. It turns out that 1-2 is about 0.2 seconds faster than 1-1, so that's the one I'll pick.


That's going to be it for my speedrun, for now. Maybe I'll resume the project sometime in the future, when I'm done with the "Everything Wrong With" series.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Trump's Maternity Leave Plan

In the news this week, Donald Trump announced his maternity leave plan. Hillary Clinton's maternity leave plan is here. I'm glad to see both Presidential candidates support paid maternity leave, but is there any chance we could get this legislation enacted before my child is born?

The main difference between the two plans is that Trump offers six weeks of paid maternal leave, whereas Clinton offers twelve weeks of paid family leave. Obviously, Clinton has a better offer, but since Trump's plan is less expensive, it's more likely to get through Congress.

Both candidates have plans for childcare, which is a whole 'nother beast. Clinton wants to cap childcare costs at 10%, while Trump's plan seems to give a 15% tax deduction for childcare. Obviously, childcare costs vary from place to place. Personally, I'd like to see a childcare plan which covers stay at home parents, like me. Sure, I'm not hiring a professional to watch my stepchild, but it's not like watching the kid is 100% free for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scarlet Hand Speedrun Planning 2

The game begins with a cutscene with Joanna, followed by a long conversation with Joanna, which has 6-8 points where you pick from 2-3 dialogue options. There are over 100 ways the conversation can go.

A lot of the same options reappear, so by replaying this part of the game a lot, I was able to get a sense of how to go through it quickly. For example, it's faster to talk about Henrik than it is to talk about glyphs, and it's faster to talk about the monolith directly, as opposed to talking about Alejandro or buying the monolith, which are both conversations which circle back to the monolith.

Joanna has TWO conversations about the monolith, actually. The shorter one is "It's a massive pillar of stone, nearly 1500 years old..." while the other one talks about the excavation team, and it's usually paired with Joanna's "in addition to our permanent collection..." line.

If you start with Option 1, Joanna will always say "Anyway" as a transition to the end of the conversation. That doesn't happen if you start with Option 2, about Nancy's father.


I think the fastest way through the Joanna conversation is to pick options 2-1-1-3-1-1.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Adventure Game Writing

I'm going to try my hand at writing an old-style adventure game, and I think I've got a good mystery! It'll be a riff on The Eight Strokes of the Clock by Maurice Leblanc, a 1922 book. It has the bonus of being a French book, so not many English readers are familiar with it.

The mystery is that two people break into an old, abandoned house. No one has been inside the house for twenty years. As soon as they enter, a grandfather clock strikes eight. And that's a mystery! How could the clock still be going, after all this time?

The solution is that there was a telescope hidden in the clock, which blocked the pendulum from moving. When our heroes smashed the door open, they unknowingly dislodged the telescope. I hope this will translate into a logical chain of adventure game puzzles. That is, you've got the puzzle of entering the house. The clock sounds, leading the player to the "search the clock for a telescope" puzzle. Getting the telescope leads to the puzzle of figuring out where the telescope can be used.

I have no idea how to format adventure game scripts, though. I looked online, and one person said that you have to use Excel. That seems overly complicated, but then again, I usually write everything in Notepad. My wife makes fun of me for not using Microsoft Word like a normal person, but I can't seem to use Word without my laptop fan going on full blast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Midnight in Salem Pictures

We've got more pictures for Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem! Here's a link to them! (I don't know how to get picture URLs from Twitter.) It looks like we have an all-female cast for this game.

Sadly, we don't know the release date yet. All we have is the tentative date of 2016.

Someone on Facebook pointed out that, in the past, the release date generally gets announced two months in advance with pre-orders starting one month before the release date. It'd be nice if they could get the game released in time for the holiday season, but if we don't get a release date by Halloween, that might mean it's not going to be released this year.

Long time fans will remember that they only released one Nancy Drew game a year, when the series was getting started. They began releasing two games a year, starting with Game #7. So far this year, the only game they've released is Nancy Drew: Codes and Clues.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Another Miss Clue Update

The Miss Clue people made an announcement at the end of Chapter 13. They've hired Lani Minella, the voice of Nancy Drew, for their next two games. Combine this with the fact that their next game has the same premise as the upcoming Nancy Drew #32, and it feels kind of like a slap in the face to Her Interactive.

I mean, Miss Clue started life as a Nancy Drew knockoff, hosted by a knockoff of Disney's Magic Kingdom MMO, but there's a difference between "we're riding on the coattails of Nancy Drew's success" and "we want to replace her completely".

Either way, it's good that the Miss Clue people have finally decided to hire a voice actor, because the voice acting in their games is not good. It's obvious they only have 3-4 people doing all the voices, especially when they reuse the same voices for every single game. The one actor, in particular, delivers every line with all the enthusiasm of someone reading the dictionary.

Thankfully, they seem to have given up on having extended conversations between two characters with the same voice actress, like they did in the first game. In the current game, Miss Clue occasionally lapses into a Midwestern accent. Maybe her voice actress is from the Midwest.

As I said earlier, they announced that they're hiring Lani Minella for their next two games. Game #2 is another Regency-era game. I'm wondering if they'll sell that game for money, like they did with Peril in Pemberley. Maybe that's the company's plan? Every year, they release two Miss Clue games for free, but the third game is always a Regency-era game that you have to purchase to play. It would explain their outright weird decision to tie this series to Pride and Prejudice, if only the Regency-era games are sold in stores/online.

On a final note, Chapter 13 was originally called "Chapter 12 Part 2". That's the main reason why I don't like the episodic nature of "Miss Clue". The developers clearly don't finish every chapter, before the intended release date. Sometimes that means chapters get split in half, sometimes that means chapters are released with game-breaking glitches, and it always means that certain items and areas are off-limits to the player because they haven't been programmed yet. The name of this chapter has since been changed to "The Capture, Part 1", which makes me think it's finale time.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scarlet Hand Speedrun Planning 1

I figured I might as well try to route a speedrun for Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand while the game is semi-fresh in my mind.

The first part of the game is pretty easy to route, because Nancy is given a literal task list. You need to do everything on the task list, and talk to Taylor Sinclair at his office, in order to trigger the robbery scene. Triggering the "Henrik gets amnesia" scene is pretty simple, too. Just investigate the scarlet hand and learn about cinnabar. You can do that in under five minutes.

Once Henrik gets amnesia, routing the game becomes a nightmare, because you have multiple storylines to juggle, and if you do things in the wrong order, phone calls don't work. My last time around, Mr. Daddle refused to pick up the phone, ever. There's even a glitch, where if you wait too long to call Prudence Rutherford, you can't call her, ever. I'm sure there's an ideal order to do the storylines in, but I'm not sure if I have the patience to figure out what it is.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Job Result

Bad news, everyone! The IRS decided to classify me in Group B, for the call center job position. They said outright that the job will be offered to everyone in Group A, and if there are any jobs left over after that, they offer the job to people in Group B.

So now I just get to sit and wait and hope enough people turn down the job offer. *sigh* At least I didn't get classified as Group C, which stands for "cut", because they won't get offered jobs, even if Groups A and B die from the plague or something. The IRS will just restart the hiring process again, if that happens.

The good news is that Congress will maybe get their act together this month and pass a budget! (The deadline is the end of September.) That way, the IRS will have actual funding, and they can afford to hire more than the bare minimum staff Woo hoo! My wife says the likelihood of me being hired goes up a lot, if Congress passes a budget. Sadly, I expect that Congress will just put the current budget on repeat, and schedule the next round of budget deliberations after the November election.

The IRS actually sent me the job followup email a while ago, but I didn't get it until just now. My mail system is smart enough to know that IRS emails are usually scams, since they normally don't contact people via email.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Three Things Thursday

1. I sometimes see people use Carl Sagan's quotation, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", as proof for atheism. As a philosopher, that makes me facepalm. The truth is that "there is a god" and "there is no god" are both extraordinary claims by definition, since they deal with metaphysical realities and the supernatural realm. If you truly take that quotation seriously, you will require a good deal of evidence, before accepting either position.

2. I keep seeing news stories about the health risks of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Trump is overweight and eats too much junk food, while Clinton sounded like she had a respiratory disease last week. I remember when John McCain ran for President in 2004; they were a lot of news stories about his health risks, too.

I don't want to be ageist here, but if political parties want to avoid health problems with their candidates, then they should probably stop nominating senior citizens. I'm sure that when I'm a senior citizen, I'll be looking to retire, and not looking to grab the most high-pressure job in the entire country. Not unless I plan to be a mostly hands-off President like Eisenhower.

3. In "behind the scenes" Catholic news, Pope Francis is continuing his reform of the Roman Curia. He recently shut down four Pontifical Councils, combining them into a new dicastery, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

What does this mean in layman's terms? Well, he combined four different departments that traditionally are run by Cardinals. So now three fewer Cardinals are needed, to run things in the Vatican. Pope Francis has been cutting/changing a lot of jobs that require Cardinals.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock

I got to watch the third Star Trek movie recently. It's a direct sequel to the second movie. With the TV show, you can watch episodes in any order. With the movie series, you have to watch them in order. It's probably for the best, that way. Giving the movie series some continuity somewhat avoids the problem of "this movie is basically a two-part episode" or "this movie just an extra-long episode".

At the end of the second movie, Spock died. But it turns out that all Vulcans have a "get out of death free" card! Convenient. When nobody was looking, Spock uploaded his brain into Dr. McCoy. We all know Spock's brain is magic, after all. So they just need to download his brain back into his body, and he'll be as good as new!

But obviously, it's not going to be that simple. McCoy is suffering from mental health issues, as a result of having Spock trapped inside him. Everyone is being retired or transferred elsewhere. And the planet where Spock was buried just got classified as Super Duper Off Limits, so no one can go there. And just for the heck of it, there's a group of renegade Klingons hanging around, waiting to kill our heroes and provide a climactic final battle.

I liked the idea of our heroes being forced into retirement. I don't want to be mean, but most of the actors in this movie look extremely old. Granted, it was twenty years after the TV show first aired, so it totally makes sense that everyone has aged. But still, it's extremely rare to see a main cast with so many wrinkles in a summer blockbuster. So the idea of "our heroes want to avoid retirement" works well with the movie. It's a solid premise to have our heroes go out for one last adventure, before they stop for good! (Although I wouldn't rule out three more movies before they OFFICIALLY stop for good.)

It helps a lot that getting the gang back together leads to the best part of the movie, where our heroes have to break into headquarters, steal their old ship, and escape before the authorities stop them. Every character gets their own chance to shine during this action sequence.

So our heroes go to Planet Genesis. The two new characters from the last film, David and Saavik, are exploring the planet for scientific purposes. And here's where things get weird! Spock's body regenerated on the planet, for some reason. Now he's a baby again. That's not the weird part. He needs to go through some extremely accelerated aging in order to get back to his normal age, right? So his age is tied to the planet's age. He and the planet get older at the same rate. This has the unfortunate side effect of him going through painful, rapid alien puberty, while the planet crumbles from accelerated growth.

So our heroes show up on the planet, at the same time as the villains. Captain Kirk and the Klingon leader have a big battle, as the planet is exploding. It looked a lot like the Frieza battle on DragonBall Z, and the special effects were pretty neat. Of course, Kirk is able to kill the villain, because there's no way that a main character is going to die in a movie that's all about hitting the reset button on a main character's death.

The end is an extended sequence, where they do the ritual of putting Spock's brain/soul/whatever back into his body. He wakes up with mild amnesia, but he remembers Captain Kirk, so I'm pretty sure his memory will be back for good by the time the next movie rolls around.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Unfinished Hardy Boys Book

In 2011, they announced an upcoming Hardy Boys book which quietly disappeared when both the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were cancelled in 2012. Here's the description:

"Frank and Joe's latest case involves the dangerous underside of social networking. A football friend from a nearby school contacts the Hardys when a team member goes missing! One minute he was at a massive beach party that everyone from school was invited to via MyFace; the next moment he was GONE! The MyFace parties continue, but so do the crimes: robbery, kidnapping, car theft...can murder be far behind? Is MyFace a social network of friends or a network of something far more sinister?"

That sounds like it could have been an interesting book! Too bad it never got finished.

The Nancy Drew books that got cancelled at the same time were rewritten into the two-part "cruise ship in Alaska" books, which started the Nancy Drew Diaries series. It's probably for the best that the trilogy was cut down into two. Most of the trilogy stories were two-parters that did not need to be spread out to three books.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cooking - Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

My wife found a new stuffed mushrooms recipe that she wanted me to try.

1. Remove stems from the mushrooms and set them aside. (I don't know why you put them aside, because you're not going to do anything with them later.)

2. Make the filling. This is 8 oz softened cream cheese, 6 oz bacon bits, 1 bunch of sliced green onion, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper. I didn't have THAT many mushrooms, so I went with half of the cream cheese. Also, no green onion, because Mary would refuse to eat it. Also, I don't have garlic powder, so I used garlic salt in place of the garlic powder and salt.

3. Put the filling inside the mushroom caps. Back at 375 for 15 minutes.

I thought the recipe was okay, but the cream cheese was a little overpowering. Everyone agreed that it is too salty. The bacon makes it taste even saltier than it is. I might try this recipe again, but I think my family would prefer my cheesy microwave stuffed mushrooms.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Political Question

What happens if one of the Presidential candidates dies, in between now and election day? I can think of three logical replacements.

1. Their vice-president candidate (Kaine or Pence)
2. The runner-up candidate from the primaries (Cruz or Sanders)
3. The highest-ranking member of their party (Ryan or Biden)

I know the VP takes over if the President dies after election day, but what about before election day? What if the candidate dies, after the primaries but before announcing a VP?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Secret of the Scarlet Hand Problems

I'm working on Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand! Any suggestions?

After recently playing the game with my stepdaughter, I think one problem is that the mystery doesn't appear until an hour through the game. Jeez.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Five Minutes Late

One problem with Nancy Drew: The Final Scene is that Maya's kidnapping takes place by accident. She enters the room, seconds before the culprit's pre-planned time. If she had been just five minutes late, she would have missed the entire thing.

I posted this story on


Two teenagers were having a minor argument as they walked from the parking garage to the theater.

"I can't believe you made me stop to get some fast food," Maya said. "Now I'm going to be late to the interview!"

"I needed some snacks!" Nancy defended herself.

"What if Brady Armstrong gets tired of waiting and decides to leave? I won't get the interview, and I'll look like an idiot in front of my professor!"

"Calm down," Nancy said. "I'm sure you're not missing anything important."

In the Royal Palladium, caretaker Joseph Hughes was waiting inside the hidden passageway. He checked his watch. 2:29 PM. Almost time for the kidnapping to start.

At precisely 2:30, Joseph's voice was projected through all the speakers in the building. "Testing. Testing. 1 2 3 Testing. Is this thing on? Hello?"

Joseph grinned. Hooking up the tape to the speaker system was a brilliant idea, one that would give him the perfect alibi. He adjusted his ski mask, threw open the secret door and burst into the room. "Brady Armstrong, prepare to--"

No one was there

"Brady?" Joseph asked.

He looked around. The room was empty.

"Well, shoot," Joseph said, scratching his head. "What do I do now?"

Two minutes went by. Three. Joseph grew antsy. Too much time had passed, and his alibi wouldn't work any more. Worse yet, he couldn't reset the tape player and try the kidnapping again. Nicholas would definitely notice if the same tape played twice. Then it'd be goodbye alibi, hello prison.

Joseph sighed. "I guess I'm not cut out to be a kidnapper," he said. He turned around and sadly went back into the hidden passageway.

Outside the room,

"We're doing the interview in the men's dressing room," Maya said.

"Where's that?" Nancy asked.

"I don't know," Maya said. "We'll have to look around for it. Which is why I wanted to get here early."

"All right, already, you can stop complaining about it!" Nancy said. "I'm sure that...hey, isn't that Brady Armstrong? Hey! Brady!"

The actor turned to them, looking surprised. "Oh, hi!" he said. "I'm looking for the men's dressing room. I'm supposed to be doing an interview there."

"That's me!" Maya said. "I mean, I'm the one doing the interview. Maya Nguyen."

"Hi, Maya," Brady said, giving her one of his best smiles. "My agent said the room would be somewhere in the back of the theater. Let's talk while we find it."


Nancy smiled as Maya and Brady walked off together. She knew there was nothing to worry about. Maya had gotten all worked up over nothing!