Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 19

The boring part of speedrunning is doing the same conversations over and over again, to find the fastest way through them.

Nancy starts the game by talking to Jane. Jane says, "I bet my bloomers you're Nancy Drew." If Nancy says, "That's right. Are you Emily's guardian?", Jane says, "You got it. I'm Jane Willoughby." If Nancy says, "Emily told me your name. It's...", Jane says, "I'm Jane Willoughby." It's about a second faster to pick the second option, the one where Jane says less.

Then Jane and Nancy talk about pies and Nancy's father. Jane says Emily didn't say anything about Nancy's arrival. Nancy can ask, "Is it okay that I'm here?" or "She didn't?". Jane's response is the same either way. So again, it's about a second faster to pick the second option.

The third choice is trickier. If Nancy says, "Is she all right?", Jane responds with, "Well, now, that's hard to say. She misses her mom...". If Nancy says, "Maybe she's just...you know, still thinking about her mom.", Jane responds with "She misses her mom...". That is, Nancy's shorter option is paired with Jane's longer response, while Nancy's longer option is paired with Jane's shorter response. It's about 0.4 seconds faster to pick the first option, where Nancy says, "Is she all right?".

With the fourth choice, Nancy can ask about Emily's father, or say "It was nice of you to say yes". It's about three seconds faster to say, "It was nice of you to say yes," because otherwise, Jane talks about Mr. Crandall for three seconds.

With the fifth and final choice, Jane's response is the same either way. She ends the conversation and tells Nancy to go upstairs. It's about 1.5 seconds faster to pick the second conversation option, "Help her do what?".

So overall in this conversation, there are two places where it doesn't matter which option you pick, because Jane has the exact same response either way. There are three places where Jane has the same response either way, but she says an extra sentence if you pick a particular option, so you have to pick the option that avoids the extra sentence.

Does that make sense? The fastest way through the conversation is to avoid having Jane say extra sentences. If you've got a place where she doesn't say extra sentences, then pick the option which is shorter.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 18

Nancy's father calls her in this game, to ask her to visit the telegraph office, and to talk about the mystery. You can call him at the very start of the game, when you haven't met Emily yet. It's impossible for Nancy to talk to him about the mystery at this point. Does that save time?

Let's see. If you call at the start of the game, there are two breaks in the conversation. First, Nancy can say, "The car ran like a top" or "I thought I'd call you first". It's 4-5 seconds faster to select "I thought I'd call you first", because Dad has a shorter response to that.

With the second break in the conversation, you can choose "not yet" and "I wanted to call you first". Dad has the same response to both. So the only difference between the options is how long it takes Nancy to say them. "Not yet" is shorter, by less than a second.

Overall, if you pick the fastest options, the conversation takes about a minute and twenty four seconds. Maybe faster, if you can click on the phone and put money into the slot very quickly. If you do call him, Nancy will mention this in her opening conversation with Jane. That is, when Jane mentions Nancy's father, Nancy says, "I already talked to him, but thanks for the message." So that's about another three seconds added if you call dad first, bringing the total time to 1:27.

If you let Dad call you and end the conversation as soon as possible, the total time is around 1:24. So it's about three seconds faster to not call Dad. Plus, you save some money!

Well, boo and bullfrogs. If you call Dad first, the conversation is faster. But the time you save is cancelled out by the time spent waiting for the operator to connect the call and the time spent talking to Jane. So

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 17

It's been about a week since I last worked on this game, although here on the blog, it's only been a day! The wonders of writing blog entries in advance. Well, here's everything I found out today.

1. You have to have the trivet, in order to open Josiah's journal. I figured as much. It would have been a big timesaver, if you didn't HAVE to get the trivet.

2. You can look at the sewing machine at any point in the game, but in order to zoom in on the sewing machine--and notice it needs a needle--you have to have the dress in your inventory. So looking at the sewing machine earlier doesn't really save time.

3. If Nancy runs out of gas, then she's transported to Zippy's, where she has to do a sorting puzzle. It was long and complicated, and there's a conversation between Nancy and Zippy the precedes it. In the interest of beating the game quickly, I'll try to avoid this. The good news is that you can't run out of gas, during the endgame challenge.

4. Nancy's dad will automatically call you, if you ignore him long enough. You can also call him at the very start of the game, before meeting Jane and Emily. If you call him early on, the conversation is shorter; Nancy doesn't talk to him about the mystery or the characters, because those things haven't happened yet.

So I guess I have to test out those two Dad conversations and figure out for sure if one is shorter than the other. I bet when you call Dad also affects a few dialogue options with other characters, like when Jane tells you to call Dad. Maybe?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 16

Getting close to the end of the game now, I realized I forgot all about getting the cue for Bottom.

I tested it out. What you need to do is look at the picture, from Jane's podium. No big deal, you have to do that anyway, to get her to reappear after solving the pie puzzle. Once you've seen the picture, you can pull a lantern in the hidden passageway. That leads to Emily's room, and Emily isn't there anymore! You can then break into her room and read the note with the cue.

Obviously, I've got to put this into my speedrun route somewhere. Maybe right after finding the picture? That way, you go to Emily's room for sewing and note stealing.

Or I could completely reshuffle everything around, so that trip to the hidden passageway happens at the same time I do my initial trip to the hidden passageway. So that'd be...

1. Go to the upstairs carriage house. See clue for Marcel.
2. Get key from Marcel. Go to Jim Archer and use the key to trigger the sewing challenge.
3. Go to Lilac Inn. Learn you need a sewing needle.
4. Talk to Jane. Get assigned the pie puzzle.
5. Once you solve the pie puzzle, check the podium.
6. Enter hidden passageway for the first time. Learn it leads to Mr. Topham's, take money from the piggy bank, solve Creepy Corner's puzzle for a record AND spy in Emily's room to make her disappear.
7. Get needle from Jane.
8. Go upstairs. Sew, listen to the record and see the cue for Bottom.

Oh, wow, that would be combining a lot of things. That's super efficient, compared to my original plan of combining "find hidden passageway in den" with "find mirror in bird clock in den". Then again, you have to do all these things anyway, so maybe it only saves five seconds (or however long it takes to enter the hidden passageway and go back upstairs.) Either way, I'm making this my new route!

...Which means I have to go back and double-check everything along the new route. The joys of speedrunning!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 15

I played some more of Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock this morning. Here's what I discovered:

1. You do NOT have to ask Jane to sew the dress. Hooray, a minor timesaver!
2. After doing the pie puzzle, you have to go back inside and get the picture from Jane's podium. Go out the front door and immediately go back inside to have Jane reappear.
3. In order to ask Topham for the Shakespeare book, you have to read all pages of Josiah's journal (after using the trivet to open it)
4. You need to spy on Topham in the hidden tunnel, before you can break into his house and steal the Shakespeare book.

So, not much to say. You pretty much do this portion of the game, as the game designers intended. I've got a few more things to check, but I'm fairly sure. I have the route down. Now that I've been posting about it for two solid weeks, you understand how speedruns can be tough to route, right?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cadenza: Fame, Theft and Murder

Here's my video walkthrough for Cadenza: Fame, Theft and Murder. It's a fun game, with a pretty neat premise. Your character is a famous rock star named Mike Valance. An evil culprit switches bodies with Mike. Can Mike stop the culprit and get his body back?

The game first came out on March 5 this year. So that's recent! I recorded the walkthrough on Saturday, April 29th. Basically, I convinced my wife to give me the whole day off, so I could play through the game multiple times and do the walkthrough. It worked, and I dunno. Maybe that's how I'll have to do walkthroughs from now on. Recording 1-3 videos in one sitting doesn't seem feasible right now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Books to Review

I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which ends in early July. Only 53 more days, before it runs out!

According to my count, there are 37 or so books on there, which I can't get for free from a library. I'm pretty sure I can't read them all in time, so let me know if any stand out to you, so I can prioritize them. So far, the only ones people have requested are The Evil Twin and A Date with a Werewolf.
  • In Love With A Prince (Sweet Valley High Book 91)
  • Are We In Love? (Sweet Valley High Book 94)
  • Beware The Babysitter (Sweet Valley High Book 99)
  • The Evil Twin (Sweet Valley High Book 100)
  • A Date With A Werewolf (Sweet Valley High Book 105)
  • Jessica's Secret Love (Sweet Valley High Book 107)
  • Double Crossed (Sweet Valley High Book 109)
  • Death Threat (Sweet Valley High Book 110)
  • Jessica Quits The Squad (Sweet Valley High Book 112)
  • "V" For Victory (Sweet Valley High Book 114)
  • The Treasure Of Death Valley (Sweet Valley High Book 115)
  • College Weekend (Sweet Valley High Book 118)
  • Jessica's Older Guy (Sweet Valley High Book 119)
  • The High School War (Sweet Valley High Book 121)
  • Meet Me At Midnight (Sweet Valley High Book 124)
  • Tall, Dark, And Deadly (Sweet Valley High Book 126)
  • Dance Of Death (Sweet Valley High Book 127)
  • Kiss Of A Killer (Sweet Valley High Book 128)
  • Cover Girls (Sweet Valley High Book 129)
  • Model Flirt (Sweet Valley High Book 130)
  • Fashion Victim (Sweet Valley High Book 131)
  • Once Upon A Time (Sweet Valley High Book 132)
  • Happily Ever After (Sweet Valley High Book 134)
  • Fight Fire With Fire (Sweet Valley High Book 137)
  • What Jessica Wants… (Sweet Valley High Book 138)
  • Please Forgive Me (Sweet Valley High Book 140)
  • A Picture-Perfect Prom? (Sweet Valley High Book 141)
  • The Big Night (Sweet Valley High Book 142)
  • Party Weekend! (Sweet Valley High Book 143)
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 8. Maggie, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 9. Amalia, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 10. Ducky, Diary Two
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 11. Dawn, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 12. Sunny, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 13. Maggie, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 14. Amalia, Diary Three
  • CALIFORNIA DIARIES 15. Ducky, Diary Three

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Written Book Reviews

I have some book reviews that have been written, but not recorded!
  • California Diaries 1: Dawn
  • California Diaries 2: Sunny
  • California Diaries 3: Maggie
  • California Diaries 4: Amalia
  • California Diaries 5: Ducky
  • California Diaries 6: Sunny, Diary 2
  • California Diaries 7: Dawn, Diary 2
  • Little Sister 107: Karen's Copycat
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 1: Extreme Danger
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 2: Running on Fumes
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 3: Boardwalk Bust
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 4: Thrill Ride
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 5: Rocky Road
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 6: Burned
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 7: Operation Survival
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 1: Ocean of Osyria
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 2: Identity Theft
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 3: Mad House
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 4: Malled
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 5: Sea You, Sea Me
  • Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers 6: Hyde and Shriek
The California Diaries series started, at the same time as Baby-Sitters Club Book 110. I'm not sure if I should post those reviews now, or hold off on them.

I also have no idea when to start the Undercover Brothers review series. I've got enough review series going on, as it is. I'd like to finish some before starting others.

There were two Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series that ran at the exact same time. One was normal books, the other was graphic novels. I think they should have come up with different titles for these two series, just to avoid confusion.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Recorded Book Reviews

Here's a list of the book reviews that I've written, but not turned into videos. I recorded the audio for them. The next step is finding pictures for my glorified PowerPoint presentations.
  • Baby Sitters Club 37: Dawn and the Older Boy
  • Baby Sitters Club 38: Kristy's Secret Admirer
  • Baby Sitters Club 39: Poor Mallory!
  • Baby Sitters Club Super Special 5: California Girls
  • Hardy Boys Casefiles 6: The Crowning Terror
  • Hardy Boys Casefiles 17: The Numbers File
  • Little Sister 11: Karen's Prize
  • Little Sister 17: Karen's Brothers
  • River Heights 9: Lies and Whispers
  • River Heights 10: Mixed Emotions
  • Sweet Valley High 51: Against the Odds
  • Sweet Valley High 52: White Lies
  • Sweet Valley High 53: Second Chances
  • Sweet Valley High 57: Teacher Crush
  • Sweet Valley High 59: In Love Again
  • Sweet Valley High 67: The Parent Plot
  • Sweet Valley High 79: The Long-Lost Brother
  • Sweet Valley High 81: Rosa's Lie
  • Sweet Valley High 83: Steven's Bride
As you can see, I put an emphasis on doing the Sweet Valley High reviews. Which of these should I focus on finishing first?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Finished Book Reviews

Since I've been watching Rosie, I've gotten pretty far behind on doing book reviews. Here are all the reviews I currently have finished:
  • Sweet Valley High 45: Family Secrets
  • Sweet Valley High 50: Out of Reach
  • River Heights 7: Cheating Hearts
  • River Heights 8: The Trouble With Love
  • Little Sister 8: Karen's Haircut
  • Little Sister 9: Karen's Sleepover
  • Little Sister 10: Karen's Grandmothers
Which, if any, do you want me to upload? They're basically done. I just need to upload them.

(As a heads up, I'll be writing about book reviews for the next three days.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Rosie Sleeping

I got some victories with Rosie sleeping this week! On Monday...

Uh oh, there's a grammatical error in that Tweet! ("to the first time"?) Why didn't anyone tell me about that silly typo?

Well, the book review I did was Sweet Valley High 83: Steven's Bride, which is an awful book where Steven and Cara decide to get married for bad reasons, and they decided to stop the wedding, for more bad reasons. Also, everyone ignore the fact that the plot is impossible, because Cara is 16 years old, too young to get married.

On Tuesday, I got Rosie to fall asleep in the front pack, after dropping the other daughter off at school. I can work at the computer with her sleeping in the front pack, but I have to semi-constantly sway back and forth, to simulate movement, otherwise she wakes up. She wakes up after about an hour, no matter what. Still! Getting one hour or so to do work is better than nothing!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Midnight in Salem

As I said earlier this week, it seems like people have been asking about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem recently. Maybe that's because a week from today is the two year anniversary of the previous game in the series.

Well, Her Interactive posted about the game on their Facebook page. Let me quote the post verbatim:

Despite our best attempts to answer everyone's emails, posts, tweets, blog posts, etc. about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem...we admittedly do miss some. And hey, we’re only human, so sometimes we inadvertently miss responding to a post. Hence, we felt it would be appropriate to post the attached message. Our goal is to have a more substantial update for you very shortly. We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented shift at HeR Interactive. Please know that we are not ignoring you but we are a very lean team and simply can't respond to everything. We are doing the very best we can. Also, please know that just because we offer a new Nancy Drew puzzle or start a new Nancy Drew contest, that it has no impact on the development and progress of our next title. Our fans mean the world to us and we appreciate you sticking by us during this longer than usual wait time between titles. As always, we thank you for your support and stay sleuthy!

This came along with a picture which reads:

Dear fans--

Please know we are still in the process of developing Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem but do not have any additional news or a release date to announce at this time.

We apologize for this delay, as we are updating the game engine, UI, graphics and more to improve the overall quality of the games. We thank you for your patience.

Stay tuned!

Her Interactive

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Randomly Generated Visual Novel

Yesterday, I came up with a general template for Sweet Valley High novels. My friend Paul tells me that the videogame equivalent of this is called "procedural generation". Some computer games work like that. They have a basic template with different options, and the computer randomly picks which options pop up. That way, the game is different each time.

A simple example is the password to open the gate in Nancy Drew: The Final Scene. It's randomly determined. Each time you load the game, you get a different password. There are something like 350,000 possible variations.

I haven't seen a visual novel try something like that, probably because it'd be difficult! But I was thinking about writing a visual novel called Love on the Oregon Trail a while back. Is there some kind of template I can make for that? Like...
  • The man is [widow/single] and the woman is [widow/single]. They are [same age] or [man/woman] older by [1-4 years]
  • They [want to be together and are kept apart by circumstances/are total strangers who are forced together by circumstances]
  • The villain is [man's relative/woman's relative/third party]
  • The villain wants to keep them apart because [they are nasty in general/they think the other person isn't good enough/they want to date the other person themselves]
Some of the circumstances can be Oregon Trail specific, like "lack of food", "wagon accident", "crashed while trying to ford a river". Going through the list of storylines from the Oregon Trail romance books I looked over, it seems "hero wants to escape a bad marriage" is the most common circumstance to bring the strangers together, followed by "tragic disaster".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sweet Valley High Special Episode Books

I'm reading Sweet Valley High books right now. I don't know why, but I seem to be getting all the "special episode" books. That is, all the books which deal with heavy topics, like racism, drugs, alcohol, runaway teens, criminals, and others. This is opposed to the series' standard faire, which is high school dating and drama.

After reading enough of these books, I've come to the realization that they're all basically the same. A few of the details get changed around, but they're mostly identical. They're so much alike, I could make a template. Just like this:

The main character is a [boy/girl] who is a [junior/senior] and [new in town/a longtime local]. They have a [good/bad] [boyfriend/girlfriend/crush]. They are hiding a secret about [themselves/family member/friend/romantic interest]. They spend five chapters, lying about the secret over and over again, until things reach the breaking point. The secret is revealed, and there is a big fallout. The character has a change of heart, and a happy ending ensues.

The character's age determines which of the main cast members they'll interact with. If the romantic interest is a good crush, the happy ending is them becoming a couple. If the romantic interest is a good boyfriend, the secret reveal results in a temporary breakup, which is resolved at the end. If the romantic interest is a bad boyfriend/crush, the happy ending is the hero breaking up with them or telling them off.

Not EVERY special episode book follows this template, but enough of them do for me to notice it. If I had more time, I could probably make up a simple computer program that randomly generates a storyline based off this template. There's something like 100+ combinations here, especially if you add more details like "main character has [zero/one/two] siblings and [divorced/married] parents."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

First Week with Rosie

What did I do on the first week as a stay at home dad? I'm already starting to forget. Mainly, I'm forgetting due to lack to sleep. I haven't sleep the whole night through in a long time now.

Rosie doesn't have a regular sleep schedule. On Monday/Tuesday, she woke up around 7:45, which was great. I was able to do a little bit of computer work before she woke up. But the rest of the week, she woke up at 6, and didn't go back to sleep again. Like, at all. She'd fall asleep for ten minutes, at most, which is just long enough to trick me into thinking she's taking an afternoon nap. But no! She wakes up again.

Katie says Rosie is pretty good about falling asleep in the front pack, provided that you're walking around. If you sit in place, she wakes up. She's like that with her car seat, too. She'll sleep in the car, but when we get home and put the car seat on the floor, she quickly wakes up. I'm going to try walking and reading, with her in the front pack. Maybe that'll work! Pacing while reading seems odd, but if that's what it takes to keep the baby asleep...

She fell asleep on car rides, when I did errands. That's the worst. She has nap time, when I am physically unable to get any computer work done. Oh well.

We had some plans to make the week easier on me. In addition to "microwave lunch every day", I got Tuesday night off, and Katie did all the cooking. Only it didn't work out that way. Katie's bus was 45 minutes late twice, so I ended up doing the cooking after all. And on Tuesday, my night off was cancelled, when I had to take the other daughter to gymnastics class, because Rosie was busy eating.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Being Mean to People

Yesterday, I said being mean to people for something they have no control over doesn't help anything. Boy, is that true!

It happened to me all the time, when I was in training to become a priest. People held me personally responsible for everything the Pope/Bishops said or did. It wasn't me! Don't yell at ME because you dislike the Pope! And hypothetically, let's say I agree with you. So what? I can't change Catholic doctrine, because someone on the street yelled at me.

The same thing happened when I was at the IRS. I got blamed for both President Obama and President Trump, as if I personally swore them into office. Okay, so you don't like the President. Yelling at me about the President doesn't help the situation. That doesn't change any tax laws! And besides, the IRS doesn't make tax laws, to begin with! If you don't like the current tax laws, contact your Congressman and tell them to write some new ones!

The silly part is that we pay taxes a year behind, and Congress makes laws in advance. So all the new laws that went into effect this tax year? They're from the PATH Act (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes), which Congress came up with in 2015. Blaming prominent politicians from 2016 is not only pointless, but factually inaccurate.

Are there people who do this all the time? Like, they yell at strangers when things don't go their way? Do they yell at the McDonald's drive-thru and expect that McDonald's is going to change their recipes? Do they post angry things on Twitter, and expect celebrities to quit? Do they write passive-aggressive blog posts months after the fact, and--uh oh, I've become one of them! Noooooooo!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Midnight in Salem

I've gotten an uptick in questions about Nancy Drew: Midnight in Salem recently. By "uptick", I mean three questions about it, in the span of a week. There hasn't been any information released about the game. Some people are worried, some people are confused, and some people are angry.

I understand and accept Her Interactive's decision not to release any information on the game, until it's almost ready for release. I feel like, if they did anything else, that would be stirring up the hornet's nest.

There's also the fact that the art and dev is being outsourced, so maybe they just don't have day-to-day updates. Sort of like with the game I'm making now, The Pizza Delivery Boy Who Saved the World. My status update is "I sent everything to Paul the Programmer, and I'm waiting for him to finish". That's been my status update for a few months now. I guess I could bug him for daily statuses like "today, I tested out all the variables in the map puzzle", but that wouldn't do much besides annoy Paul and hinder his progress.

Speaking of Paul, we do a monthly podcast on gamedev! Check it out!

There's also the fact that the people who interact most with the fans are from the marketing department. You know, not the people who are directly responsible for making the game? Hassling them about the game is like hassling the finance department for the way the website looks. Being mean to the people about things they have no control over doesn't help anything.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Being a Parent

I was going to write more about President Trump's tax plan, but I'm pretty angry and frustrated with politics right now. Too many news reports from people who a) are clearly biased and b) don't know much about the topic they're discussing. So I'll do something different! Here's a comment I got on my blog:

What surprises you most about being a parent?
What surprised you most about Rosie?
What brings you the most joy about Rosie?
What is the most difficult part?

1. What surprises me most about being a parent is the way other adults treat you. Other parents will treat you differently, if you're a parent. I got a little bit of that, when I became a stepfather, but when I became a biological father, it was a huge change. It's like I'm a cool kid, a member of the exclusive adult club, someone who gets to sit at the adult table on Thanksgiving.

2. Rosie's eyes surprise me the most, to be honest. I don't know who she got them from.

3. The most joyful thing about Rosie is her smiles. She is very social and quick to give smiles. She only did a little bit earlier, but now she does it all the time. It's great!

4. The most difficult thing about raising Rosie was this past Monday. I started being a full-time stay-at-home parent this week. If I can, I'll write a blog series about it. Maybe? I don't have free time to write much, anymore. Maybe a vlog series would be more appropriate. Anyway, Monday was my first day on the job, and it was the worst, because Rosie now has to get used to drinking from a bottle full time. The entire day was this, repeated on endless loop:

Rosie: I'm hungry! Feed me! Waaaaah!
Me: Here's some food.
Rosie: Bottle food? Ew! No thanks!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Trump's Tax Plan - Part 2

Some people are saying Trump's tax plan will eliminate the "Head of Household" filing status. Some say it won't.

In general, I don't think "Head of Household" is the best term to use. That phrase has implications which have nothing to do with taxes. A lot of people think "head of household" means "who makes the rules in the house" or "who makes more money". Nope! Neither of those definitions have anything to do with whether or not you're a Head of Household.

So there are a lot of people who falsely claim to be "head of household", simply because the term doesn't mean what they think it means. For tax purposes, "head of household" is more like "single parent". It's for someone who's single and who paid over half the expenses for a qualifying person that lived with them. At least, that's the general idea. The rules are way more complicated than that. It's the most complicated of the five filing statuses, for sure.

The most common abuse of Head of Household status is a married person claiming Head of Household, or a single person claiming a child that never lived with them. I personally would want to keep this filing status, because it's good for us as a society to support single parents. However, I would try to do something to cut down on potential abuse.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trump's Tax Plan - Part 1

I know I just did a long series about speedrunning "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock", but would you mind if I wrote a series about President Trump's tax plan? I feel like I actually know something about the topic of taxes. Maybe?

One of the ideas is to double the standard deduction and get rid of dependents.

The way taxes currently work, you have to figure out how much money you made that year. Then you subtract $6,300 for yourself, and $6,300 for your spouse, if you have one. Then you subtract $4,050 for every dependent you have. That gets you the amount of money you pay taxes on.

The proposed plan is that you figure out how much money you made that year. Then you subtract $12,600 for yourself and $12,600 for your spouse, if you have one. That gets you the amount of money you made that year.

The good part of this plan is that it makes the math much simpler. Also, getting rid of dependents would reduce a TON of headaches. There are a lot of divorced or separated couples that have fights over who gets to claim the kids for tax purposes. Sadly, there are plenty of mean-spirited people who will claim a child they're not eligible to, just to cause problems for their ex-spouse. The IRS has procedures for what to do in this case, but they sometimes get ignored.

The bad part of the plan is that it doesn't work for everyone. If you do the math, a single person with two dependents ends up getting a smaller tax break. Same goes with a married couple, with four or more dependents.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 14

Hey, the hiccup I had with Topham's logic puzzle ended up NOT destroying the speedrun. I just reloaded a save and tried it again.

Today I played for about 45 minutes, without making TOO much progress. I did the puzzle to get the trivet-journal from Jim Archer.
  1. Read the note about Marcel's band
  2. Ask Topham about Marcel
  3. Ask Topham where Marcel is
  4. Ask Emily where Marcel is
  5. Get key from Marcel.
  6. Take key to Jim Archer. He tells you to sew a dress.
  7. Go to Lilac Inn. Ask Jane if she will sew.
  8. Go upstairs. Discover the sewing machine has no needle.
  9. Ask Jane for a needle.
  10. Do the pie challenge. Leave and return.
  11. Get the needle from Jane.
  12. Sew the dress.
  13. Go to Jim Archer's for the trivet-journal.
And then I did the "open the journal" puzzle.
  1. Enter hidden passageway. Solve Creepy's Corner puzzle for a record.
  2. Play record in Emily's room.
  3. Open journal with the password "goodfellow"
I checked pretty much everything, and none of it can be skipped. Darn. I've got two more things to check, though! First, I need to see if you have to have the trivet, to open the journal. Most likely yes, because there's no way they'd make the long fetch quest optional. Second, do you have to ask Jane if she'll sew in Step 7 above? Because she says no, and you go upstairs to Emily. Maybe you can skip Jane and go straight upstairs to Emily. Minor timesaver!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 14

You have to do a lot of driving in "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock". Not only is there the trivet fetch quest, but you have to visit Waddell's twice, Jim Archer's four times, and the endgame challenge is driving. My goal with the speedrun is to combine these trips as much as possible, that way you don't have to buy gas or do the lengthy telegram delivery puzzle.

Combining the Waddell trips with the Archer trips is easy enough, as they live next door to each other. With the trivet fetch quest, you visit a lot of spots. Titusville Telco is the only one close to Lilac Inn, and Twin Elms is the one farthest from Lilac Inn, so I'm thinking something like this:

First trip to town: Travel to Twin Elms to start the trivet quest, visit Waddell/Archer on the way to Titusville Telco. Go to orphanage twice, print shop, fishing, then print shop.
Second trip: Go to Titusville Telco, visit Waddell/Archer on the way to Twin Elms to finish the trivet quest.
Third trip: Archer
Fourth trip: Archer

In my practice run, I got to the point where I finished the first trip into town and got to the ham radio. But then my game came to a grinding halt, when I did Topham's silly logic puzzle of "dry up", "big cheese", "all wet", etc. I have the right answers, but Topham won't accept them. So I can't talk to him and progress. I'll have to restart. *grumble grumble*

Monday, May 1, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 13

I played more of "Secret of the Old Clock". It turns out that you don't have to solve Topham's logic puzzle, in order to search his house. You have to solve the puzzle, so you can talk to him. Well, you don't need to talk to him, until you need the quartz for the ham radio. So you can totally put off solving the logic puzzle for a while.

To trigger the trivet fetch quest, it looks like you can check the notebook at Topham's OR you can read the typewriter ribbon at Archer's. It takes about 13 seconds to get it at the notebook, and about 30 seconds to get the typewriter ribbon. That's mainly because Nancy reads every part of the note off the ribbon, where she just comments on the note off the notebook. And you have to open the notebook to trigger "ask Emily about her mother's middle name", anyway, so let's go with checking the notebook as the faster way to start the trivet quest.

I also learned you don't have to play the golf flag game! If you know the answer ahead of time, you can just input it into the clock in the carriage house.

When I finished my first trip into town, Nancy's dad called, and I could find the hidden passageway in the den. So maybe "get the mirror from Jim Archer" is the trigger for this. Or maybe "make a trip to town and back" is the trigger. Either way, I can put off solving the bird clock puzzle, until after the first trip to town. That way, I can get the mirror in the den at the same time I find the hidden passageway. I have to go into the passageway to get a dollar. The next step is testing the triggers for the Creepy's Corner puzzle in the passageway, to see if any can be skipped.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 12

Yesterday was the good news that minigolf is optional. At least, it's optional as far as the carriage lock puzzle is concerned. Is it optional when it comes to saving money? Sadly, no.

Nancy starts the game with $3.50. That perfectly matches with Mr. Waddell, who charges her $3.50 for the key and quartz. Those two things cancel each other out.

Nancy gets $1.00 from the underground passage. She has to spend money, to get five toys. She can get a toy for 10 cents, through golf. She can get a toy for 25 cents, through the store. Math dictates that Nancy must play miniature golf 2, 3, 4 or 5 times, to keep the cost of toys under $1.00.

If not, you have to deliver telegrams, which takes time, and should be avoided in a speedrun.

So...this means my speedrun route will include playing miniature golf twice, the fewest number of times possible. I will have to change the route, if it turns out that it's impossible to beat the game without delivering telegrams or paying for gas, because both of those things affect the finances.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 11

Okay, I played a little bit of "Secret of the Old Clock"! Just a little, because Rosie woke up and needed me to play with her.

I found out that it's possible to go through the opening scenes without talking to Emily about Jim Archer. This is not a timesaver, as you HAVE to do that, in order to proceed. I found out that you don't have to play minigolf in this game. WHAT. NO WAY.

Yeah, the only reason you play minigolf is so you can beat the carriage lock puzzle. There are four things for that puzzle: bard bounce, the poetry book in Emily's room, mini-golf and Gloria's middle name. The first three are entirely skippable. If you know the answers to those questions ahead of time—"keen", "omar" and "pony"—you can put them, and the game accepts it.

The game does force you to learn Gloria's middle name. In order to get that, you need to read Josiah's book of clues and talk to Emily. So, yeah! You can skip the other stuff involved with the carriage lock puzzle. Timesavers!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 10

Here's my general outline, for how I would speedrun "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock". I haven't tested anything out yet, so a lot of items are marked "if you have to". Maybe some can be skipped.

1. Go inside the Lilac inn
2. Talk to Jane
3. Solve the bard bounce puzzle in the den, if you have to.
4. Solve the clock puzzle in the den, if it turns out you can't do it later.
5. Go to Emily's room. Look at the poetry book, if it turns out you have to.
6. Talk to Emily. This triggers the kitchen scene, which includes a conversation with Jane and a conversation with Emily.
7. Go to Topham's. Get the paper on the way.
8. Find the mouse for the cat.
9. Talk to Topham. Solve his puzzle so you can search the house.
10. Solve the clock puzzle on the mantel for a mirror.
11. Read Josiah's notebook of clues, if you have to.
12. Do minigolf. Do it multiple times, if you have to.
13. Do the golf flag puzzle, if you have to.
14. Drive to town. Get the key from Waddell.
15. Meet Jim Archer. Use the key on his clock for a mirror.
16. Start the trivet puzzle. Finish it it completely if it's fastest to do so here. Otherwise, split it in half.
17. Back at Lilac Inn. Discover hidden passageway in the den, if you can. If not, do this step as Step 26. Solve Creepy's Corner puzzle and get record, if you have to. Play record in Emily's room, if you have to.
18. Ask Emily for her mother's middle name.
19. Enter carriage house.
20. Solve clock, dominoes and mirror puzzles. Go upstairs and read the two notes.
21. Go to Topham. Solve his puzzle for quartz and ask him about Marcel.
22. Go to Emily. Get the key from Marcel.
23. Back to town. Do the rest of the trivet puzzle here, if needed.
24. Get the quartz cut by Waddell.
25. Go to Jim Archer. Get the dress.
26. Go to Lilac Inn. Talk to Jane, do pie puzzle, do sewing puzzle. Read the note to Emily's mother, if you have to.
27. Back to town. Do the rest of the trivet puzzle here, if needed.
28. Give dress to Jim for trivet. Open trivet for ham radio numbers.
29. Go to Topham and learn he won't give the Shakespeare cues, if you have to.
30. Break into Topham's and get the Shakespeare cues.
31. Use ham radio to call everyone and give them Shakespeare cues, if you have to.
32. Series of puzzles.
33. Endgame challenge.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 9

Solving the long trivet puzzles gets you the ham radio numbers. I think what you do at this point is talk to Topham, and he refuses to give you access to the Shakespeare book. Maybe you can do this earlier? I'll have to double-check what the trigger is, for asking about the book.

I believe that asking Topham about the book triggers the scene, where you can use the hidden tunnel to break into Topham's house. Again, that's a trigger I'll have to research. It could be that there's another trigger entirely, like getting the quartz from Waddell.

So you break in Topham's, give the mouse to the cat, and get the cues. At this point, the game is linear. You give the cues to the correct people, so you can solve the hobo sign language puzzle, which is followed by another puzzle. This gives you a golf ball. Use the golf ball to get the key. This triggers the endgame challenge.

And that's it! That would be my speedrun route for "Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock"! It requires a lot of work, as I determine what triggers what, and change the route accordingly. Also, there will be a lot of work, determining the fastest way to do all the driving challenges.

Tomorrow, I'll have a big bullet list, just as a general outline.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 8

I talked about the trivet yesterday. I forgot, the trivet puzzle has some more complications.

When you have both halves of the trivet, you enter the password "GOODFELLOW" to get the numbers to call on the ham radio. You're supposed to listen to the Creepy's Corner record, before solving the puzzle. I'll double-check to see if you DO have to listen to the record, but if you do, that means Nancy has to go to the hidden passageway and get the record and listen to it, before she can open the trivet.

Does Nancy have to listen to the whole record? Because it's long. Maybe you can get away with only listening it, for a few seconds. And maybe you can get away with NOT listening to the record. Maybe the game only checks to see if you have it in your inventory.

Also, getting the trivet half from Jim Archer requires a few more hoops to jump through. Once you get the key from the hat, from Emily, you go to Jim Archer. He gives you the sewing puzzle. You go back to the Lilac Inn, and talk to Jane. She gives you the pie puzzle, in exchange for a sewing needle. So you do the pie puzzle, so you can do the sewing puzzle, so you can get the trivet half from Jim Archer. I believe that you can check the note to Gloria, at this point. I'll have to check if it's necessary to read the note to Gloria, or if you can skip it. I bet you can't skip it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 7

As I said yesterday, the first major part of "Secret of the Old Clock" is getting the mirrors and reaching the upstairs area of the carriage house. This area has two different notes. One is about Marcel's band, and the other is about the piece of quartz for the ham radio. Both of those are longer puzzles, and I'm fairly certain you HAVE to read the upstairs notes to trigger these puzzles.

Both puzzles involve talking to Topham, so that's nice. You can kill two birds with one stone that way.

With the quartz, you ask Topham for it. He makes you do his psychic puzzle. Then you take the quartz to Waddell to be cut. He charges you a lot of money for it, the greedy jerk.

With Marcel's band, you ask Topham what Marcel is. It's a hat that Emily has. You go to Emily and get the key from the hat. Then you go to Jim Archer's and use the key for the second half of the trivet. Obviously, I'll want to arrange things so I have both halves of the trivet at this point. So...I'll have the trip into town, where I get the quartz to Waddell, get half of the trivet from Archer, and solve the second half of the trivet puzzle, if necessary.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 6

The first major part of "Secret of the Old Clock" is finding all four mirrors. You use them inside the carriage house, so you can go upstairs and start with the next major part of the game. The mirrors are...

1. Inside the den. You can get it at any time.
2. Inside Topham's house. You have to solve Topham's word puzzle, before you can get it.
3. Inside Jim Archer's area. You have to get the key from Waddell before you can get it.
4. Inside the carriage house. You have to solve the golf flag challenge, in order to get it, I think. Maybe the game lets you enter the right solution, without having beaten the golf flag challenge.

As I said when I started the speedrun routing, I don't know what the trigger is for "hidden passageway in the den can be found now". Hopefully, the trigger is early on in the game, so I can get the mirror in the den and discover the hidden passageway on the same trip. If not, I'll have to take two trips to the den, one for the mirror and another for the passageway. I think you have to use the hidden passageway twice regardless, but I'm not sure.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 5

As part of the trivet challenge, you need five toys for the orphans. You can buy toys at the general store, which is near Twin Elms. You can also win the minigolf challenge multiple times for toys. Minigolf is cheaper than buying toys, although it takes longer.

It all comes down to money. Nancy makes money in this game, by delivering telegrams. That takes a long time, and it would be ideal for the speedrun if I could avoid it.

The only other time Nancy gets money is when she goes through the hidden passageway. I think there's a dollar or so, there. Nancy spends money to play minigolf, buy toys, use the phone, get the key from Waddell and get the jewel cut by Waddell. Buying gasoline also costs money.

I guess I have to do math here! Calculate how much money Nancy earns, versus how much money she has to spend. Hopefully the math will NOT work out to "play minigolf five times in a row for five toys", to save enough money to avoid delivering telegrams.

I will also have to time how long it takes to win mini-golf, compared to how long it takes to get toys at the general store.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 4

Josiah's notebook gives you the carriage lock puzzle AND the trivet puzzle. It's a long puzzle.

There's also a clue about the trivet, in Jim Archer's typewriter. I'll have to test that. Do you need the typewriter or the notebook to start the trivet puzzle. Do you need both? If I only need one of those clues, then I'll skip getting the other one.

The trivet puzzle is long. What you do is go to Twin Elms, then to Titusville Telco, then to the orphanage, then to the printer, then to the fishing hole, then to the printer, then to Titusville Telco, then to Twin Elms.

Maybe you could split the puzzle in half, as a timesaver. Titusville Telco is the spot that's closest to the Lilac Inn. So one of the trips there can turn into "visit Titusville Telco, go back to Lilac Inn and do stuff there, finish trivet puzzle the next time you go to town". That's not the worst idea ever, since you have to visit Jim Archer two more times, before you get the second half of the trivet, at which point, you DO have to finish the trivet puzzle.

So...I guess I can chart out routes, time them, and determine what's fastest.

What happens if you run out of gas? Does the game automatically send you to the gas station? If so, maybe you could plan things so you run out of gas at a certain location, then get warped to the gas station. That could save time! Obviously, it'd save time if you never have to get gas.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 3

You readers are fine with me plotting a Nancy Drew speedrun for a week, right? This is kind of a Nancy Drew blog.

Josiah's notebook gives you the carriage door puzzle. The carriage door puzzle has multiple parts.

1. Bard Bounce. Play this in the den.
2. Favorite poet. Look at the book on Emily's bed.
3. Mini-Golf. I hate this puzzle.
4. Gloria's middle name. I'm pretty sure you have to ask Emily for this.

While speed running, I'll have to test all the various combinations, here. Maybe it's like "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time", where the game SAYS you have to get all six medals, but really, the game only checks to see if you got the first and last medals. You can technically skip the others.

So I'll see if any of these four things can be skipped. Hopefully one or more can! I doubt that all four can be skipped. The route will have to adjust, accordingly. Like, if Bard Bounce can be skipped, I won't ever do that. If Gloria's middle name can't be skipped, I have to plan to go back to the Lilac Inn and do that. I have to go back to the Lilac Inn at SOME point, so maybe I can combine two trips?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 2

Continuing from yesterday, the next part of the game is either "go into town" or "go to Topham's area". I'm guessing we go to Topham's first, because that unlocks some things in town.

1. Call Nancy's dad and learn about telegrams. I'm pretty sure if you ignore this, he's going to automatically call you at one point. That would mean it's faster (and cheaper) to NOT call Dad at this point, but maybe I'm forgetting something that makes it advantageous to call now.
2. On the road to Topham's, get the piece of paper about the key at Waddell's. That way, when you go into town, you can get the key appraised and solve the clock puzzle at Jim Archer's.
3. Find the mouse for the cat.
4. Talk to Topham. Solve his puzzle. I'm pretty sure he won't let you explore his house without solving his puzzle.
5. Solve the clock puzzle on the mantel for a mirror.
6. Read Josiah's notebook of clues. I'm pretty sure you can't solve some of Josiah's puzzles, without having read the notebook. The big puzzles would be the trivet puzzle in town and opening the carriage house door.

I said "I'm pretty sure" multiple times. When routing the speedrun, I'd have to test it and make 100% sure. Because if it turns out I can solve the carriage door puzzle without getting Josiah's notebook? Pfft, I'm not doing steps 4-6. I'm skipping those.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Old Clock Speedrun Planning 1

I played Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock and you know, that's one of the games that I don't have any speedrun strategies for. I guess it's a little difficult to route because it's non-linear.

Well, the first part of the game should be easy enough to route! You have to...

1. Go inside the Lilac inn
2. Talk to Jane
3. (Solve the bard bounce puzzle in the den, or save it for later?)
4. (Solve the clock puzzle in the den, or save it for later?)
5. Talk to Emily. This triggers the kitchen scene, which includes a conversation with Jane and a conversation with Emily.
6. Now you can go to other places and do things! All other locations are closed until the kitchen scene.

Lots of conversations, I see. So that means I'd have to replay this section over and over, in order to find the fastest conversation routes.

I don't know if I have to solve the two puzzles here at the start, or later. Later on, you have to visit the den and find a hidden passageway. It'd be a timesaver to solve the den puzzles while finding the hidden passageway, as opposed to making TWO trips to the den. I guess it all depends on what the trigger is for "hidden passageway in the den can be found now". I think the trigger is meeting Mr. Archer? Maybe?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How Language Is Learned

One of the things philosophers talk about is how language works. Are there limits to language? Does language affect understanding? How do people begin to understand the concept of "language"? Can we have a scientific-based approach to language?

I mentioned this to my wife, and she said it sounds like all of these so-called "great philosophers" are single men who never had kids. That is pretty much true. Socrates is basically the only great philosopher who had a wife.

Saint Augustine had a son, and he wrote some basic philosophy on "how language works". Babies and little kids learn words through repetition and example. If you point at a chair and say "chair" 100 times, the baby will eventually learn that the thing you're pointing at is called a chair. Our baby Rosie is coming up on four months now, and that's how she learned words. Granted, her vocabulary is super-limited. She knows "Mom", "Dad", "Rosie" and "play". She might know "hello"; Katie and I disagree if Rosie knows "hello" is distinct from "play", as she makes the same sound in response to both.

Kids grow a vocabulary as time goes on, and they speak in sentences which aren't sentences, like "Rosie bottle" for "give me the bottle". Once the concept of sentences clicks, their vocabulary explodes, as they can start deducing words from context, without having to be physically shown something to know what it is.

At least, I'm pretty sure that was Saint Augustine's theory of language. It's pretty much "this is how babies learn how to talk". I like philosophies that are grounded in reality, myself.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Teenager Taxes

I sometimes interact with people who say they're doing their kids' taxes. Whenever I ask, it turns out that they're NOT kids. They're adults, 18 or older, and in college. If you're old enough to vote, I say you're old enough to do your own taxes, without Mommy's help.

I can understand a parent trying to help out their kids, because the kids are busy. With me, it was different. Dad figured I was too stupid to do taxes on my own, so he took my tax forms and filled them out for me. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad!

So, yeah, I was also the college kid who didn't know how to do taxes, because I wasn't allowed to. I'm mad about that, because it made me completely unprepared for real life. To make things worse, my teenager taxes were easy. Literally. I would have done Form 1040 EZ. "EZ" for "easy", because it's about a third as long and cuts out the tough stuff that doesn't apply, like stocks, dependents, etc. 15-year-old Michael should have been given that and told to do his taxes. He totally could have figured it out in under a half hour.

I can't use the 1040-EZ anymore, because I get YouTube money, and I'm partnered with a Canadian network, so it's foreign-filtered self-employment income. It's about as complicated as it sounds.

Well, I'm going to learn from my parents' mistakes. Rosie and Mary are doing their own taxes, as soon as they start making money. Which is now, actually. Mary's YouTube channel has made about ten cents. Not enough to meet a filing requirement, but it might be best to have her do the simple tax return now, just for practice.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Tax day is coming up. Normally, Tax Day is 4/15, but it was delayed this year because of the weekend and holiday. Make sure to file a tax return, either electronically or by mail!

I recommend saving a copy of your tax return. You don't know if identity thieves will attack you next year, and you'll need a copy of your prior year tax return to prove your identity. There are other situations where you might need a copy of last year's tax return, like for mortgages or college scholarships, but identity theft is the big one. Keep a copy of your prior year tax return, just in case.

Another tip: don't put the wrong address on your tax return. You should never do that, as a general rule, but you especially should avoid doing this, if you know you're a potential identity theft victim. Say, someone stole your wallet or hacked your office mainframe. As you can probably guess, "totally different address" is a huge red flag for identity theft. So keep your address current and correct!

The sad identity theft cases are ones which are obviously NOT identity theft. Say your bank rejects your refund, because the refund was in the name of "Donald Trump" and your bank account is in the name of "Don Trump". As you can probably guess, it's a huge red flag for identity theft if the bank rejects money due to name mismatch. So make sure your bank account is in your legal name, i.e. The name on your social security card. Don't use your YouTube username for this!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I saw someone playing the new Zelda game on the bus yesterday! I couldn't tell what was going on, but then again, I was busy trying to watch the game while pretending I'm NOT watching the game, because it's creepy to lean over someone's shoulder on the bus to watch their game screen.

From what I can tell, the game looks like it's filled with a lot of open-world exploration. And I don't want to sound mean, but that's one of the things I disliked about the GameCube Zelda games. Yes, it's neat to have a large open world with beautiful graphics and fancy stuff to look at. But I don't like looking at scenery! As I talked about last week with adventure game design, I'd rather have one screen with six things to do on it, as opposed to six screens with only one thing to do.

That was Wind Waker to a T. It has 49 islands, but the vast majority of them are oneshots, with only one thing to do, like a minigame or a puzzle for a piece of heart. I prefer something like Majora's Mask which tried to jam-pack a ton of stuff into one area, or something like Ocarina of Time which makes you redo areas twice or more. (Yeah, that was probably due to hardware/space limitations, but maximizing the use of a game location isn't a bad idea!)

I'm going to guess that the new Zelda game is like the others, and about halfway through, you unlock the ability to warp from one location to another, cutting down on all the "walking through large, empty fields" time. Because we were on the bus for over twenty minutes, and that is literally all the guy did. He was going through large fields, with occasional trees. At one point, he found a wooden structure and at one point, he found a lake with rocks. I wanted to see dungeons and puzzles and monster fighting!

I know I might sound negative in this blog, but I still want to get the game and play it myself. Just...I might skip over the exploration parts and get to the action/story/puzzle parts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April Fools Suggestions

Oh, hey, I forgot to post my other April Fools Day jokes. I wanted to write something about the upcoming Nancy Drew game.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rosie Smiling

Here's a picture of Rosie smiling!

Rosie's facial muscles have improved, to the point where she can smile on purpose. It's not just her smiling, because she's copying the facial expression of someone who's looking at her. In this case, she was smiling because she recognized me. It sometimes can take a while for her to see a person, remember them, remember that she likes them, and then starts smiling.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Now that Rosie is over three months old, her face is changing. She used to look just like my clone, and now she looks like her own person. Kind of. She still looks a lot like me, to the point that you'd pick me as her father in a police lineup.

Note to Nancy Drew authors: Include baby daddy police lineup in the next book, okay?

I'm told it's normal for babies to completely change their appearances. She'll probably look different at six months, and different again when her permanent hair comes in. It's similar to how older children change. The way you look at 8 can be totally different from the way you look at 16.

Monday, April 10, 2017


I read a lot of books from the 80's and 90's, and I always get sad when I see the books mention Planet Pluto. As you may know, Pluto isn't a planet anymore. Poor Pluto.

From what I can tell, a bunch of scientists got together and decided Pluto isn't a planet. Is that all it takes? A bunch of scientists agree on something, and that makes it true or false? What about situations where scientists disagree? Does that make something true and not true at the same time?

Or when scientists change their minds, like they did with Pluto? Does that mean something can be true one week, and false the next? It seems kind of crazy that truth can be so malleable. I always through of truth as firm and unchanging, as in "something is true, even if no one believes it". Like, Neptune was a planet in 1500, and that's true, even though no one believed it.

I feel like this is partly why there's a problem with fake news. If your definition of truth is "[x] is true if a lot of people agree on it", that can cause problems. A lot of people think the world is flat, but that doesn't make it true!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mystery Tales: The Hangman Returns

My walkthrough for this week is Mystery Tales: The Hangman Returns!

And in case you missed it, here's my walkthrough for the previous game: Mystery Tales: Her Own Eyes!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Adventure Game Design 2

The adventure game I'm writing has puzzles. Since I'm basing it off casual adventure games, I tried to have puzzles in the vein of casual adventure games. You know, puzzles like "use watering can on a flower", "pop a balloon for an item" or "bribe a squirrel with walnuts". I've seen many games where you have to feed a cute animal or cook food to progress; those are pretty standard.

But then there are weird puzzles, like "put a smiley face sticker on the can of soda, so you can use it", even though it's 100% possible to use the soda the way it is. I wanted to include some of those, too. So I threw in some oddly specific puzzles, as a genre parody. And I also made puzzles out of whatever random items popped into my head, like a baseball.

In addition to inventory item puzzles, casual adventure games also have more traditional puzzles, like "jigsaw puzzle", "matching puzzle" and "sorting puzzle". Sticking with the genre, I decided to add a puzzle like that, after every fourth inventory item puzzle. My friend Paul, who made "The Beard in the Mirror", came back to me and said, "Michael, puzzles are hard to program. Can we get rid of these?"

So we went back and forth on the puzzles, figuring out which ones can be programmed, which ones are interesting and which ones are relevant. We got rid of the ones that are hard to program, that aren't relevant and that aren't interesting. Hopefully, this means we have a better end product!

I should note, we haven't done any work on the game yet, outside of finishing the script and outline. We're busy with our other games, like "The Pizza Delivery Boy Who Saved the World" and "Francy Droo 2". Please vote for them on Steam Greenlight!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Adventure Game Design

Yesterday, I said I've kind of written an adventure game. It's an escape room game, and I tried doing level design, following the casual adventure games that I play a lot.

Generally, these games will made up of a series of areas, which are three to six screens long. Like, the first area is the park, which is three screens. The second area is the hotel, which is four screens. The third area is the school, which is four screens. The final area is the cheese factory, which is six screens.

(Obviously, it varies from game to game. Some companies like having fifteen screens, with two things to do on each, while others would rather have be five screens, with six things to do on each.)

I decided to go with two areas. Area 1 has four screens, while Area 2 has three screens. Each screen has 4-6 items/puzzles. I knew I wanted one overarching puzzle, requiring an item from each screen. I also wanted one item on each screen to be used to solve a puzzle on a different screen.

So I scripted out the game like that. "Screen 1 has items a, b, c and d. Item a is used on item b. Item c is used on screen 2. Item d is used for the overarching puzzle." That worked for about a minute, until I realized the items for the overarching puzzle have to come last, otherwise someone could get them right away and skip everything else. I tried to fix that, and got myself confused as to how the overlapping items/puzzles interacted. In retrospect, I should have made a separate list for that topic, but I tried building it onto my other list, which made things even more confused.

Oh well, at least the game is more complicated now!

Thursday, April 6, 2017


This month, they're release Yooka-Lalee, the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. I loved the original Banjo-Kazooie, which is a funny and challenging game.

The first level, Mumbo's Mountain, is particularly well-designed, and now that I've kind of written an adventure game, it makes me wonder if I can translate that level design into an adventure game.

I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think that level has three main areas. Each area has two puzzle pieces for you to get, along with a new move. The new moves interlap, so that the new movie in area 1 unlocks a puzzle piece in area 2, new move in area 2 unlocks a puzzle piece in area 3, and new move in area 3 unlocks a puzzle piece in area 1. So you're encouraged to visit each area multiple times to get everything.

That could work in an adventure game, right? You have three different screens. Each screen has two self-contained puzzles and an item that's used to solve a puzzle on a different screen. Maybe throw in a final puzzle, which requires an item from all three screens. That would be an okay setup, right?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

I got to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie recently! I'd say 2/3 to 3/4 of the new material was good, but...only 10% of the movie is new material. Pretty much all of it is recycled from the original. It's like one of those videogame "enhanced remakes", where they change as little as possible.

Granted, the original film is fantastic, but when I'm able to quote the movie's dialogue before the characters do, that's not a good sign. It sort of reminds me of when The Three Stooges movie came out, and all my friends who were fans of the Three Stooges just shrugged and decided to rewatch the original instead.

The CGI and special effects are all fantastic, except during "Be Our Guest", which went a little overboard with the CGI, making it less impressive than the original. The songs were good, especially the Beast's new song. I noticed the timing was different on some of the songs. I don't know if that's them purposely trying to be different, or if the actors needed to pause and take a breath in between lines. I saw Frozen; I know Josh Gad can sing fancy!

As I said, the new material is good. Mostly, it explores the character's backstories, like what happened to Belle's mother or the Beast's parents. They explain that Gaston was a Captain in a war, which is why he's so bloodthirsty and why pretty much everyone in town follows his orders. And the rules of the curse are explained in more specific detail, helpfully closing up the plothole of "why doesn't anyone in town remember the prince who lives close by?".

But as I said, it's only about 10% new material, nowhere near as much new material as there was in Maleficent or Cinderella. (That's what my wife says. I'm trusting her on this, as I didn't see those movies.)

Overall, a good movie. I liked it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April Fools

My April Fool's Day joke this year was "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock".

I originally had a typo in the video's title, listing it as "Secret of the Od Clock". I changed it to "Secret of the Odd Clock". Several people didn't notice the typo when clicking on the video!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jewel of the Nile

Jewel of the Nile is a 1980's movie, the sequel to Romancing the Stone. The series is about an author, who writes ridiculous action romance novels. Thanks to convoluted events, she ends up living out a real-life action romance adventure.

It's not really a movie series. It's just one movie and a sequel. They were clearly hoping to turn it into a franchise with this one, but things didn't work out. I suspect it's because this movie was not as good as the first and it was clearly more expensive. There are numerous, gratuitous crowd scenes that just scream "lots of money". I can't help but feel they should have cut back on one of those scenes and put more money into the climactic "person walks through fire" scene, which had some awful green screen.

The story is that our heroes have to stop an evil dictator in North Africa by smuggling a religious leader across the country. The leader's title is "Jewel of the Nile", hence the movie's title. He is also fantastic in this movie and steals the show. So much that I looked him up, only to be disappointed he didn't do anything else.

This movie could not be made today. There is some racist material against North African Muslims, mostly coming from Danny DeVito's character. Danny DeVito plays a New York thug who hates everyone, and there's a lot of slapstick comic relief where he gets hurt. He's basically Joe Pesci from Home Alone, only he's allowed to swear. There is also an extended scene of native North Africans, which feels racist. The primitive people put on a tribal dance for the amusement of the white people. The dance includes twerking and full frontal nudity. My wife and I fast-forwarded through it, as well as the sex scene which followed.

The movie is rated PG, but it should be rated R for violence, swearing, sex and nudity.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Crazy Death Trap

Katie and I watched Jewel of the Nile the other day. I'll review it tomorrow, but today, I'm going to talk about the crazy death trap in the movie. It's probably the one thing in the movie that will stick with me after a few months.

The evil villain captures our heroes. He wants to kill one of them, but he doesn't know which one. Flipping a coin would be too easy, so the culprit makes an elaborate death trap.

He ties the heroes up onto a giant pendulum device, overhanging a well. The ropes are connected to the sides of the room. On side one, acid is slowly dripping on the ropes. On side two, rats are slowly eating through the ropes. There's no way to predict which rope breaks first.

As soon as a rope breaks, the one hero falls to their death. Since they're connected to each other, that means the other hero will be pulled up and away to safety. That way, one hero lives, the other dies, and it's random as to which one is which.

Both the heroes escape, when Danny DeVito places a ladder over the well. They fall and land on the ladder, instead of falling to their deaths.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Nancy Drew and the Generic 1980's Mystery

I was planning on doing a book review for Nancy Drew and the Generic 1980's Mystery today, as an April Fool's day joke. The idea is that I would make up a silly plotline and pretend it was a real Nancy Drew Files mystery.

The plot ideas I had include...
  1. Bess has a boyfriend who looks like Michael Douglass.
  2. Brenda Carlton meets Detective Ryan and dates him. Maybe they meet at Pancake City.
  3. Nancy makes out with the hot cover guy, and later on makes out with Ned, with no regrets.
  4. Nancy makes incredibly stupid choices that put her in obvious danger, just so we can have cliffhangers.
  5. The villains easily defeat Nancy several times, but at the end, she suddenly remembers that she's a karate expert, and she knocks them all out with one punch.
Oh well, maybe I can recycle this joke idea for next year!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Slower on Holidays

The first two weeks of April are projected to be the busiest of the year for the IRS, and for good reason! There's normally a big rush of people who are trying to get their taxes done, right before the deadline.

I wonder how holidays will affect it, because April 15th is Easter. Are people going to try to get taxes done right before Easter? Or will they use the three-day Easter weekend to do their taxes? Not everyone is getting a three-day weekend, though.

I do know that Saint Patrick's Day was slower than normal at the IRS, because it was on a Friday this year. Pretty much everywhere was slow that day; people want to spend their Friday holiday partying, not working. People joked that we'd get a lot of drunk taxpayers at the call center on Saint Patrick's day, and...well, I can't say if we did or not! That would be breaking privacy rules!

(But seriously, don't do your taxes while drunk. Drunk math is usually bad math. As they say in algebra class, don't drink and derive.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Katie and I are in a Catholic marriage group called "Teams of Our Lady". The group meets monthly, and I really liked the reading for last month. It was all about living proactively, deliberately changing your behavior to achieve great results.

Like Fulton Sheen says, if you don't live what you believe, you end up believing what you live. People need to take responsibility for their own lives. The way you act is determined by your decisions, not by your conditions. By making a conscious choice based on your values, you can change your behavior.

This is why Teams of Our Lady has certain rules, or endeavors, that members are expected to live up to. It's not because we're a bossy organization that likes telling people what to do; we're trying to help the members have a positive behavioral change.

The one endeavor that has been most helpful is a monthly sit down, where Katie and I take an hour or so to sit down and talk about our lives, our relationship, our family, where things are going. I think it helps avoid a lot of problems, by having this forum where we can be present and listen to each other. It's too easy to get wrapped up in your own stuff and neglect your spouse, and I'm glad we have regular sit downs to avoid that.

Another endeavor is called the "rule of life", which can be as complex as St. Benedict's rule of life, or it can be as simple as "I'm going to smile at everyone I meet". I've been in Teams for over a year, but I haven't really had a rule of life yet. So I decided to tie my rule of life in with Lent and made it my Lenten promise to read a chapter of the Bible each day. I pick up my New Testament during my first work break, I read a chapter and reflect on it. I've only missed a few days so far. I hope that I can keep it going, even after Lent is finished.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Soap Opera Relationships

I've always been a little skeptical, when people say relationships or marriages are all about feelings or emotions. In general, it seems like a bad idea to base something on a feeling, because feelings are temporary and fleeting.

You see this in soap operas all the time. The characters have superficial relationships, built on passion and romance. Six months later when their feelings change, they decide, oops, guess they weren't really in love after all. So they break up or get divorced and restart the cycle all over again.

When I was still watching "General Hospital", Sonny and Carly were getting married for the fourth or fifth time. That's a lot of breaking up and getting back together.

So I don't like the idea that marriage and relationships are all about feelings. I want a higher standard than that. I happen to like the Catholic idea that love is an action, a conscious decision, an act of the will.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I saw "Already spent my refund on" was trending on Twitter the other day. As an IRS employee, that hashtag makes me nervous. I would strongly advise everyone to NOT spend your refund, until you actually get it. Okay?

Don't say, "I'm getting a $2,000 refund in two weeks, so I'm gonna spend the money now." Your refund could get held up because you're missing a form. Or because there's a typo with your bank account number. Or you could be the victim of the Identity Theft Case From Hell.

The most painful reason that a tax return can get held up? The taxpayer forgot to sign it. If you don't sign your return, you can't get a refund.

People will occasionally ask, "I don't have a pen on me right now. Can I sign my return in pencil?". There are currently no laws, indicating what you have to sign in, so you can use pencil, pen, sparkly glitter crayon, etc. As long as the signature is valid, that's all that matters. I wouldn't recommend signing in invisible ink, though.

Monday, March 27, 2017

California Diaries

I'm feeling pressure with my book reviews, because I've got over thirty Sweet Valley High books available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. My subscription runs out in June or July, so there's a time limit! I think it comes out to one book every two days, so I can get to them all? I'm not sure.

The California Diaries series is also on Kindle Unlimited. That is a spinoff of the Baby-Sitters Club series. It's the "mature spinoff for older readers", which seems just as common as the "lighter spinoff for younger readers". That is, Baby-Sitters Club, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys AND Sweet Valley High all have both spinoff of those types.

California Diaries never caught on, for two main reasons. First, the timing was off. It premiered so close to the end of the main series that they didn't have much time to get many books out. Three books per narrator, that's all. The same problem occurred with Nancy Drew On Campus and the one Nancy Drew manga series.

Second, the series is handwritten. As in, the font they used looks like an eighth-grader's handwriting. I had a hard time reading the one book from the series I own, just because of that. I don't know if other readers had the same problem, but that was a major downside for me. If it is difficult to read the book because of the handwriting, I'm less likely to read it!

Thank goodness I've got the eBook version. That has the downside of editors who did a sloppy job getting the text into eBook format--some sentences are cut off halfway through, that sort of thing--but as least I can read all the words.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Games on Steam Greenlight

"The Pizza Delivery Boy Who Saved the World" is on Steam Greenlight. Please vote for it, so it can get released! I'm told that Steam is revamping its procedures in the near future, so the sooner we get the game pushed through, the better!

We also have "The Francy and Friends Collection", which has "Francy Droo 2", "Trapped in a Soap Opera" and other games. Vote for that, too!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Runes Puzzle

I was playing "Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor" the other day. I wondered why Nancy never told Linda about the runes puzzle, which is right below the plaque with the curse. The curse itself tells you to solve the puzzle, after all. That is relevant information which Linda should know.

"Linda! Linda!" Nancy cried, bounding in the room. "I figured out how to undo the curse!"

"You have?" Linda asked. "But that's impossible!"

"It's not," Nancy said. "It's right there, in the third paragraph of the plaque. 'Prove thy worthiness and memorialize here the innocent one so wrongly condemned for saving lives. Else consider thyself right and truly cursed.' See? You're only cursed if you DON'T prove your worth!"

"And how exactly do you 'prove your worth'?" Linda asked sharply. "I have no idea what that means!"

"It means all you have to do is put Elinor's name into the puzzle, to avoid being cursed," Nancy said. She pulled out a piece of paper with a grin. "And I've got Jane's papers on Norse runes."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Linda said. "Puzzle? Norse runes? Have you been cursed, too? A curse that prevents you from making sense?"

"No," Nancy said. "The picture slides open. Didn't you notice that?"

"It WHAT?"

"You just put your fingers into the little hole where the eyeball is, then you slide the picture away to reveal some Norse runes," Nancy said. "Then you spell out 'Elinor' in runes. It's pretty simple."

"Why did you stick your fingers in the eyeball--whatever," Linda said. "I'm going to see this for myself. Only..."

"You don't want to be seen. I understand," Nancy said. "I'll leave the rune alphabet stuff here, then I'll play a game in Jane's room to distract her. Will ten minutes be enough?"

"That would be wonderful, thanks."

Nancy went to Jane, and they played a game of Bul together. They had been at it for less than ten minutes, when Linda entered the room, looking happy, healthy and a tad hairy.

"It worked!" she said. "The curse is undone! I'm no longer turning into a werewolf! And solving the rune puzzle opened a secret passageway!"

"That's wonderful! Did you explore it?" Nancy asked.

"No way! I've had enough of hidden passageways to last a lifetime!"

Jane was confused. "Huh?" she asked. "There's a rune puzzle near the curse?"

Linda's eyes narrowed. "Jane, what do you know about this curse?"

"Uh oh," Jane said.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Eyeball Picture

I'm working on "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor". It's going to take a while, since I did a four hour livestream of the game. I'm in the process of rewatching every minute of those four hours and taking notes.

Something which always confused me about the game was the LouLou word puzzle. Where did it come from? As Jane says, she explored the hallway and only found "a funny picture". It's some weird eyeball thing. But when you click on it, suddenly, there's a parrot puzzle. And when you back away, the eyeball picture is there again. What's up with that? There is a sliding sound when Nancy zooms in on the picture, and I guessed it was Nancy sliding the picture aside? Like, the puzzle is on the backside of the picture?

Well, I finally figured it out. It's not obvious with the LouLou word puzzle, but it's obvious with the eyeball picture on the runes puzzle. The picture itself slides open. As in, Nancy puts her fingers in the eyeball and spreads the two halves apart, revealing a puzzle underneath. You can see the sides of the eyeball on the far left/right edges of the runes puzzle.

I'm still wondering how Nancy knew she had to pull the picture apart to reveal a puzzle. That's not intuitive.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I saw a YouTube video by Bishop Barron last week, about tolerance and inclusivity. He mentioned that every society has certain fundamental values, which people prize. In our society, we prize things like tolerance and inclusivity, freedom and liberty, and love and truth.

Sometimes, the different values can come into conflict. We've seen this recently, with some people saying hateful, intolerant things. Does that trump their right to free speech? If we decide to censor someone or not, that's making a judgment call over whether we prize freedom or tolerance higher.

A moral dilemma that I've seen people propose is whether or not you should tell your best friend that their new haircut looks awful. People say that's making a judgment call over whether we prize love or truth more. I've never quite understood that conflict; it always seems to me that you should tell your friend the truth because you love them. Love and truth don't have to be in conflict, in that case. It seems more to me that the truth flows from love, as opposed to love being against truth.

Bishop Barron makes the point that if love is your highest virtue, there are times when it will come into conflict with tolerance and inclusivity. You can think of a teacher who loves their students, but isn't going to tolerate misbehavior in class. And that's good; it's better for the class overall, if misbehavior and distractions are eliminated. Does this mean the teacher is an oppressive bigot? No, because the teacher is operating out of love, wishing the well-being of the students.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Everything Wrong With Suggestions

As usual, I've got some "Everything Wrong With" suggestions that I'm not sure whether or not to include. What do you think?

1. Who is the woman on the cover of the box? There's no one in a red robe in this game.
2. "There's something out there!" It's pretty out of character for Nancy to shriek in terror at a scary noise.
3. The hand cursor in the opening scene, on the door knocker, tricked me into thinking I have to click in order to proceed.
4. How did [culprit] do the voice and growl at the start of the game?
5. Just like "Danger on Deception Island", this game has a Russian expert who left their phone number in a textbook.
6. Why did Elinor forbid people from hunting the Blackmoor Beast? That was never explained.
7. "Refrain from mucking about with items that aren't yours". Nancy follows Mrs. Drake's orders to stay inside, but she totally ignores Mrs. Drake's orders to not
8. "And then...and then what? And then she changed the subject." Nancy's heavy-handed dramatic cliffhanger.
9. How does using the computer open up hidden panels all over the manor?
10. Nancy types of Nigel's memoirs, but where did she get them in the first place? Is she copying off of handwritten pages? Because there are no pages in this scene.
11. After the chanting scene, the lights turn on, the second Jane's door shuts. How does THAT work?
12. How does solving the door puzzle cause the well to be filled?
13. Why does Ethel make such a big deal out of the fact that only the initiated can find the forge? Nancy is uninitiated and has no problem solving the mystery.
14. Nancy should still be able to move the statue, after Nigel puts a cloth on it.
15. Nancy is forced to solve the dragon and gargoyle puzzles every time she enters the hidden passageways, but with all the other puzzles, she only has to solve them once.
16. You can play the game through and win without finding the letter about the hair cream, which makes things a bit confusing.
17. Someone said "airport codes" in the game were wrong. What does THAT refer to?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Wizard of Oz Argument

My friends had a pointless argument over "The Wizard of Oz" the other day! Normally, the pointless argument I hear about that movie is whether or not it's an extensive metaphor for World War Two or the Great Depression or something. It's not. The book was written in 1900; therefore, the author was not lampooning events which happened decades later.

No, this argument was over Glinda. She asks Dorothy, "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?", later adding "only bad witches are ugly".

The first person says this is an insult, suggesting that Dorothy is ugly. Dorothy is clearly pretty, and since bad witches are ugly, Dorothy can't be a bad witch. Why would Glinda ask that question.

The second person says "only bad witches are ugly" does not mean "if you are a bad witch, you are ugly"; it means "if you are an ugly witch, you are bad". It is possible for there to be a bad witch who is incredibly gorgeous. That doesn't contradict the statement "only bad witches are ugly". Glinda's statement is about all ugly witches, not about all bad witches.

Who wins the argument? Should we go back in time and correct the movie script, to make it more clear? Do my friends have too much free time?

Monday, March 20, 2017


I was wondering about cliffhangers the other day. It's pretty standard for Nancy Drew to run into several cliffhangers per book. She always seems to get herself into danger and get right out of it, that Nancy Drew.

Sometimes, I feel kind of sarcastic with cliffhangers. Like, I feel they're a total waste of time, a cheap gimmick to keep readers' interest. I know that Nancy isn't ever going to be seriously injured or die. Quit pretending otherwise, books.

I think it annoys me more when the cliffhanger is quickly introduced and immediately dropped. Like, Nancy is walking around, and there's a GUNSHOT! Oh no! Cliffhanger! Next chapter, the first paragraph says the gunshot was just a car. Nancy continues on, like nothing happened. There's no real need to interrupt the story with a fake scare like that.

I dunno, I was just wondering why I dislike some cliffhangers, and other cliffhangers I'm okay with.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rosie Update

Rosie is two and a half months old now*. She can smile more easily now, and she most often smiles when she's looking at someone who's smiling at her. The doctors call it "social smiles". She gives social smiles much more often than she smiles of her own accord.

Her facial muscles are still developing at this point. She can make the "m", "g" and "w" sounds more clearly now. She can do two syllable words now, too! It's all unintelligible things like "wa-ga", but that's a step up from doing "waaa" "gaaaa" in separate breaths.

This past week, she seemed less social than normal to me. She sometimes does the baby version of conversations, where she coos at you. If you respond to her, she'll give you a different coo. It's incredibly cute. But sadly, I must be coming home from work too late, because all I get is grumpy nighttime Rosie. She gets grumpy around 8 PM every night, before going to sleep.

She's still not sleeping the whole night through. We are trying to get her used to sleeping in her crib, instead of sleeping with one of us on the couch.

*She'll be three months by the time this posts. I wrote this over a week in advance.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

DBZ Fanfic

I just wasted a whole bus ride, trying to write a DragonBall Z fanfic. If you've seen my DBZ fanfics, you'll know I'm particularly fond of Season Seven of the show. That's the season with comedy and high school romance, the one where Gohan goes to high school and starts a double life as a superhero.

Sadly, the show quickly goes back to being a serious action show, and Gohan's brief moment of being the official main character disappears.

Gohan has a secret identity, like most superheroes. I've seen dozens of fanfics where his female love interest tries to expose his true identity. My fanfic idea was the reverse. What if SHE was a superhero with a secret identity, and he's trying to expose her? She occasionally fights crime as herself on the show. What if she did it as a disguised superhero? They could have superhero fights, trying to expose each other's identities, and stuff.

I didn't get very far, in writing the fanfic. All I did was have the idea of reversing the standard story, because I'm tired of seeing the standard story. I'm also tired of seeing the standard reverse of that story, which is "exact same thing happens, except Gohan is dark and serious instead of a comedy goofball".

Friday, March 17, 2017

Paper Mario 64

It feels like my Paper Mario (N64) walkthrough has been going on forever at this point. The good news is that the end is near! I'm going to post Paper Mario videos for the next two weeks, which will take me to the end of the game.

Editing the videos proved to be more difficult than expected, because my recording equipment shrunk the game screen. Like, the title screen of the game is a full 640 by 480, same size as a Wii game. But the rest of the game is smaller, with black bars about 40 pixels wide on all sides. I don't know if it's a Wii emulation issue or what, but I started cropping the black bars out of every video, which doubled the editing time.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Backlog Clearing

I did a series of backlog clearing videos last week, when I noticed there are about ten games that have come out this year, which I'm interested in.

I'm hoping to use these videos to gauge people's interest in these games, because I personally like all of them, and if it were up to me, I'd do walkthroughs for all of them.

Wait. It IS up to me to decide which games to walkthrough. Well, then. It'd still be nice to know which ones are popular, so I know what games to start working on first.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile

Walkthrough progress is slow, because I'm playing "Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile". I talked about it last week, and I'm sad to say I've only progressed about 1/6 of the game since then.

The problem is that the hidden objects challenges in the game are incredibly slow. Each one is supposed to take a half-hour. You're challenged to find about forty items, over five different screens. The game keeps a helpful tally for you, on each screen. For example, it will say "31 items left to find" when you've got 31 items left.

The problem is the game is a BIG FAT JERK, and so "one item" doesn't mean "one item". Pretty much every room has multi-object puzzles, like "you have to find five brushes". All five brushes, together, count as one item on the tally list. But all five brushes are counted separately, for hint purposes. So really, the tally is useless and doesn't indicate the true number of items left.

The only way I can get through the game is by cheating. I take a screenshot of the challenge, then I go into the game files, which have pictures of all the possible hidden objects I might find. This works some of the time. Half of the file names are in Russian, so I have to guess what the items are.

So each level starts with me taking pictures of the hidden objects challenges, then I close the game and go through each challenge one by one, until I've found all the objects. This takes a long time. I return to the game with my solution, only to find out that my solution is wrong because of something ridiculous, like the game thinks the "picture" is actually a "photograph", so it doesn't count.

The sections in between the hidden objects challenge are okay, but I'm really getting bogged down by the hidden objects. There are twelve challenges that you have to get through. I'm on #7 right now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Theology of the Body

The conference I attended was about Pope Saint John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Theology of the Body is interesting in general, but it seems even more interesting today, with all the discussion of transgenderism and gender dysphoria.

The Catholic view of bodies is colored by the theological battle against Gnosticism in the first century. The Gnostics were spiritually-minded, and they said the soul is more important than the body. There were several variations of this, ranging from "the body is evil while the soul is good" to "the body is unimportant" to "my body is not part of me".

Catholics countered with a dualism, saying that humans are both body and soul. One of the speakers at the conference explained this, by saying the correct terminology is "I am a body", not "I have a body". "I have a body" implies that I am somehow separate or different from my body, in the same way "I have a wristwatch" implies that I am not the wristwatch.

Further, Catholics believe in the resurrection of the body, where the physical body literally rises from the grave. Based on some Scripture passages I can't look up right now because I'm on the bus, people generally agree that this will be a "perfect" body, the perfected version of the body. This has meant different things to different people. To C.S Lewis and the last Narnia book, this meant everyone is in their 20's again. To Saint Augustine, this means a body that you have complete control over; no more unconscious physical reactions or unwanted thoughts. To some artists who have drawn pictures of saints in heaven, this means the body you had during the pivotal or crowning moment of your life; to other artists, this means the body you had during the majority of your life. I have to wonder if, for transgender people, this concept of "perfect body" would involve being the opposite gender.