Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nancy Drew Game Titles

I seem to remember a blog entry, where Her Interactive explained how they come up with titles for their games. Each game starts with a placeholder title, and partway though development, they do a title workshop.

They make a list of words that describe the game and try to come up with good combinations. They end up with a list of all the possible titles that the employees like, and then they vote on the best one. Paul and I basically do the same thing with our games, except there's only two of us, so each vote ends in a tie.


Sometimes, the process results in descriptive titles ("Danger on Deception Island"), and sometimes this results in titles that are more dramatic than descriptive ("The Captive Curse"). And obviously, sometimes they make games that are based directly on books. They just reused the book title, for those.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Newark Bishops

There was news with two of the Catholic Bishops for Newark, New Jersey this past weekend. First, Bishop Cruz was celebrating mass at the cathedral on Saturday, when someone got up from their pew, walked to the altar and punched him in the mouth. The suspect was arrested and charged with assault, while the Bishop was hospitalized. On Sunday, Bishop Cruz gave a statement saying he's doing better and hopes to be out soon.

No one is sure why the attack happened. The mass in question was in memory of baseball star who died in 1972, but that doesn't seem to be a reason for punching a Bishop.

The main Bishop of Newark is Joseph Tobin, who was made a Cardinal in October. As you may know, every Cardinal is given their own church in Rome. This is more of an honorary thing than a managerial thing; Cardinal Tobin doesn't live anywhere close to Rome, so it's kind of hard for him to be involved in the day-to-day running of a parish there.

His church is Saint Mary of the Graces, and Cardinal Tobin got to visit it for the first time this past weekend. He said mass there, and he gave a homily about the first reading. The people were impressed to see him wearing a ring he got as a gift from the pastor, in place of a ring that he received from Pope Francis.

Newark's third Bishop avoided making headlines this weekend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Philosopher's Stone VS Sorcerer's Stone

Someone asked how I feel about the title of the first Harry Potter book. In America, it was called "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". In the UK, it's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

I think "Sorcerer's Stone" makes for a better title, because it has alliteration, and it lets you know that the book is about wizards. But then again, I never heard of the Philosopher's Stone before. The only time I've heard it referenced outside of Harry Potter was a random one-sentence thing saying Saints Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas were rumored to have made one together, because they were both super-geniuses. And I only saw that, because I was researching Thomas Aquinas, so I could give a homily at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

I am forced to conclude that the philosopher's stone is not known in America, much less well-known, so it was probably a good idea to avoid confusion by giving the book an alternate title. It'd be like me writing a Greek mythology book called "Achilles and the Son of Laertes". People would not instinctively know who the second character is, and confusion would ensue.


Of course, now the Harry Potter series is well-known, and there's confusion over how the one book has two titles. I guess there's no winning! The title would confuse people, no matter what.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Attitude Towards Mysteries

In the current Nancy Drew Diaries series, Nancy is reluctant detective. Each book generally features her friends making jokes about how she's mystery-obsessed, or Nancy herself will complain about how she dislikes mysteries. Well, maybe she doesn't complain as much as she thinks something like, "Oh jeez! Please let this incident be an accident! I don't want this to turn into a mystery! I'm trying to take a break from mystery solving!". (Book 12) And so, 2-3 sabotage incidents have to occur, before Nancy will admit there's a mystery here that needs solving.

This is in contrast to the original series Nancy Drew, who was sometimes so obsessed with mysteries, you could say she actively sought out mysteries where there were none. "The doctor looked angry as he drove past me? That's a mystery!" (Book 10) That Nancy will sometimes complain, when there aren't mysteries to solve. Usually, that happens at the end of the book, and the author says something like "Nancy's wish for another adventure would be fulfilled sooner than she expected, with [THE NEXT BOOK IN THE SERIES IN ALL CAPS]!". I've seen it happen at the start of a book though, and the author will use it as a springboard to talk about an earlier book.

Which personality is better? Reluctant Nancy Drew or Overeager Nancy Drew? I'm more used to Overeager Nancy Drew, myself, but I prefer a Nancy who's more in the middle, as opposed to being one of these two extremes.

The Nancy Drew videogames tend to have a fair mixture of Nancy's attitudes towards mysteries. Sometimes, she gets summoned to a place to solve a mystery. Other times, she stumbles upon a mystery by accident. Although at some point, you have to wonder if she can go on vacation anywhere and not have it turn into a mystery!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was the first Harry Potter book I read, as soon as it came out. By then, the series had made it big. Everyone was talking about it, there were midnight release parties, and there was even talk of a movie series in the work. Anticipation was extremely high for this book, and it definitely delivered.

The first thing that surprised everyone was the book's length. It is a brick, longer than the first three books put together, almost. And as I read, it became obvious that the book was long, because the editors refused to cut anything out. They kept everything, even the chapters where absolutely nothing important happens. I'm thinking of "Mr. Weasley and Percy have a hard time at work after the World Cup" chapter and the chapter called "House Elf Liberation Front". I remember reading that and thinking, "boy, that title doesn't fit the chapter at all; it's just a throwaway joke that Ron made". Then I realized that there isn't really a good title to fit the chapter, because nothing much happens. They go to the kitchen, and that's it.

Yes, it was good that JK Rowling had unlimited space to work with, and she could put in a bunch of small, neat details, talking about interesting things that came along. But it also resulted in a long, unfocused book. It takes Harry ten or so chapters to make it to school, and in one of the earlier books, school would be half-over at that point.

Or maybe 14-year-old Michael was just grumpy with the lack of editing, because they didn't replace British-specific words with American-specific ones, like in the earlier books. Either way, it took some getting used to.

I think the house elf subplots and the Rita Skeeter subplots would probably not have been in the book, if it had been edited down like the other ones. I mostly didn't like those. The exception is that the scene with Winky and Dobby together; that was the best part of the house elf subplot. With the Rita Skeeter subplot, the only part I liked was Harry and company talking to Hagrid, after Hagrid got upset and locked himself in his house. That was an emotional, moving scene.

And now I'm remembering blast-ended skrewts. Now THAT was a weird, pointless storyline.

Another problem with the book is the title. I remember when they first announced the title as "Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament". They should have stuck with that title, because "Goblet of Fire" is SO not descriptive of the book at all. It shows up in one chapter and never again.

I'm sure I sound like I hate the book, and I don't. It's great! Harry competes in a deadly international tournament! It's a lot of fun, although the second task takes place underwater and the third task takes place in a maze. I'm sure it wouldn't have been fun for the audience to watch those tasks. They must have been sitting in the stands, just waiting for it to be over.

Not sure why they had to cancel Quidditch all year long, for the tournament. Quidditch is only 8 games over the course of the year, right? It surely can't be THAT hard to reschedule.

Just like the last book, the ending sequence was fantastic, a real page turner with great plot twists. It made me want to read the next book in the series right away!

There was one thing which always bugged me during the endings, though. Prime Minister Cornelius Fudge becomes a jerk and refuses to believe that Voldemort is back. We know now that was setting up for the next book, where Fudge and Ministry are pretty awful to Harry. But reading it for the first time, I didn't get why Fudge's personality changed so dramatically, or why he refused to believe Harry. I went back and checked book 3; in the scene where Fudge talks to the teachers at the bar, he says something like, "Give [Voldemort] his most faithful supporter back, and I shudder to think how he'll rise again." Harry should have thrown Sirius under the bus here and blamed everything on him. I know that's a jerk move, but I think that would have convinced Fudge.

Overall, great book! I kinda wish it had been cut down to a normal sized book, but hey, that's what the movie did. Although if they made the movie series today, I'm sure this book would have been at least two movies. There was a lot of talk about that, when the movie was in pre-production, but it didn't pan out like that. I kind of wish THIS had been the book split into two movies, not the last book, because the first half of this book is way better than the first half of "Deathly Hallows".

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" was a fantastic book. It was very interesting and moving. There are two things I liked in particular. First, the opening chapter. It was a GREAT recap chapter. It's not like Animorphs or Baby-Sitters Club, where the author just gives a huge exposition dump on you. The book actually worked the recap into a short story of Harry opening his birthday presents. It was nice.

The other thing I liked was the sequence in the Shrieking Shack, which was extra-long and extra-good. I reread it so much, the pages of my book fell out. Unless I'm remembering wrong, we have a chapter where our heroes confront Sirius Black, a chapter where Snape appears, a chapter with Sirius after that, and a fourth chapter, where the real culprit is revealed. Four chapters, which was mostly characters standing around and talking. The conversation was super interesting, with all of its twists and turns, and it's a shame the movie cut out pretty much all of it.

But then there was another twist: time travel! I liked that idea, of going back through the interesting stuff. Sadly, our heroes decided to play it safe and NOT change the timeline at all. I didn't like that so much, because the way it played out, they spent most of the three hours sitting around, waiting for everyone to leave the Shrieking Shack.

I liked Professor Lupin. It was good for Harry to have a new teacher who isn't crazy for once.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is an okay book. I didn't like it as much as the original, and that's because of the Polyjuice Potion subplot. I really didn't like that. I wasn't comfortable with the idea of using someone else's body to begin with, and our heroes more or less wasted the potion in an incredibly stupid way. Plus, that subplot seemed to take up way more time than necessary.

The book's saving grace, for me, was Gilderoy Lockhart, the hilarious new Defense teacher who is self-centered and incompetent. I liked how his class was basically him acting out scenes from his books.

I'm not sure how much detail to go into, for these book reviews. Most people have read the books, right? Or at least seen the movies.

The story is that a monster is turning everyone in the school into stone. The ending reveals that the monster kills everyone who looks at it directly; you only get turned into stone, if you look at it indirectly. I thought that was a weird cop-out, to avoid killing anyone. Why didn't they just say the monster turns people to stone normally? That would have worked better. It doesn't really make sense to me how seeing the monster's eyes through a reflection doesn't count as seeing the monster's eyes.

I also didn't like the other subplot in the book, where everyone hates Harry and thinks he's suspicious. This subplot is reused in book 4 and 5, but I thought it was better done in the later books. Here, it's more like the students are being jerks for no particular reason.

The ending of the book was neat, when Fawkes the phoenix shows up to save the day, and Harry defeats the villain by destroying a diary. It was a neat idea, to have the villain be a magic book which is _so real_, it's coming to life in the real world. I also liked the idea of the book character, switching places with a real-life person. I kind of wish that the series had stuck with this idea, instead of changing this into a Horcrux later on.

I've seen other other books and TV shows use the same general idea of "fictional person comes to lie", but I think it worked better in this book, because the explanation is "real magic" and not "fake technobabble". It fit in perfectly with the series. And I'm sure some parents liked it, because it teaches kids a good lesson about avoiding phishers and creepy people on the Internet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I first read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 1999. It was amazing, and I loved it. It's a very imaginative book about a boy who goes to a wizard school. There's all sorts of fun magic, clever details, and I highly recommend it.

Looking back now, it seems kind of quaint. Like, there's a chapter where Harry learns the rules of Quidditch, the wizard sport. A full chapter, just for that! It's kind of cute, especially since the movies more or less cut out all the Quidditch.

Most of the book is like that: introducing things and world-building. I liked the various teachers and how the school was set up. The ending to the book is particularly good. Harry and his two friends have to go through a magical obstacle course, and each character gets a chance to shine. Even poor clumsy Neville gets props at the end. I liked it.

The only part I didn't really like was the first chapter, which is more like a prologue to the entire series. When I loaned the book to my family members, I told them to skip over the first chapter and get to the interesting part with Harry.

If you have any questions about Harry Potter, let me know. I feel like this review was pretty generic.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tax Day

Happy Tax Day! You can officially start filing your taxes for the year! The deadline to finish is about three months from now, on April 15th.

Some new tax laws take effect this year, thanks to Congress passing the PATH Act in 2015. The big change is that all refunds with the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit will not be released, until after February 15th.

Those two credits are refundable credits, which means they can give you a negative tax. If you owe negative taxes, then the government gives you money. It's pretty sweet. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these credits, they are sometimes abused. That's the main reason for this new policy; Congress wanted to give the IRS a few more weeks to examine those returns and cut down on abuse.

Before filing taxes this year, please double check that you got your kids' social security number correct! Otherwise, the IRS automatically takes away your child in processing. In order to get your kid back, you'll have to call the IRS, and some poor person there will be forced to math verify the return before going back to your original figures.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Guardian Angels


The Catholic Church believes in the existence of guardian angels. Here is the official teaching, paragraph 336 of the Catechism, at the end of a chapter on angels:
From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." (Saint Basil) Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

Our priest mentioned guardian angels in passing the other day, and I had the amusing mental image of Rosie's guardian angel arriving at the hospital and having to introduce itself to Katie's and my guardian angels.

Also, when I was at work learning about how to find missing payments, I had the amusing idea of a prayer limbo, like huge filing cabinets filled with prayers which weren't able to be assigned to anyone or got rejected by their recipient.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Baby Talk

Katie and I don't use baby talk around Rosie. We talk to her normally, mainly because that's better for children developmentally. Another reason we don't use baby talk is because it's annoying. I occasionally will use a cutesy tone of voice when talking to Rosie, because she's sooo cute, but other than that, I abide by the "no baby talk" rule.

Rosie makes some noises which sound like real words. Mainly, it's the standard "wah-wah" cry. If her tongue is on the top of her mouth when she does that, it comes out like "mwa-mwa", which sounds like "mom". If her tongue is on the bottom of her mouth, it comes out like "nuaa-nuaa", which sounds like "no".

Obviously, this doesn't happen all the time. But if she just happens to emphasize the correct part of the "wah" sound (the one sounding like "oa"), with a slight "m" or "n" in front, it sounds like "no" or "mom". It's kind of fun to pretend she is saying those words on purpose, and not by accident.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sweet Valley High #14: Deceptions

As I mentioned last week, Kindle Unlimited lets me read a lot of Sweet Valley High books. Hooray? I read Book 14. Here's my review for it, which I'll post in video form...eventually.

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The premise of the series is that Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are two gorgeous high school twins. They're throwing a party, to celebrate the fact that Elizabeth was safely recovered from her kidnappers. The book doesn't go into any details about her kidnapping, which is kind of a big thing to gloss over, but Jessica can't help it. Who can talk about something boring like kidnapping, when she can talk about Nicholas Morrow? *sigh* He's rich, he's charming, he's so wonderful.

Nicholas instantly falls in love with Elizabeth, and she's too nice to mention she has a boyfriend already, so she lets him follow her around, talk to her, flirt with her, dance with her, that sort of thing.

Jessica is angry that her crush is dancing with her sister. She steals Nicholas away and distracts him by introducing him to her super-hot mother. Yeah, the book goes into detail about how attractive Mrs. Wakefield is, and how she could easily pass as their sister. It's awkward.

Nicholas doesn't care about Jessica, though. He only has eyes for Elizabeth. Jessica gets really nasty and snaps her fingers in front of Nicholas' face, to get him to pay attention to her. Then she storms off angrily.

Before leaving the party, Nicholas goes to Elizabeth and confesses that he's fallen in love with her. She points out that this is the first time they've ever met, but he doesn't care. He pressures her a lot, tells her to dump her boyfriend, he pressures her some more, and she eventually agrees to have dinner with him on Sunday.

Elizabeth tries to tell her boyfriend Todd about the date, but he's too grumpy about Nicholas to want to hear more. She tries telling Jessica, but Jessica is too much in love with Nicholas to pay attention. So Elizabeth decides to keep her date with Nicholas a secret from everyone, which is a dumb plan that's sure to backfire in the worst way possible.

Speaking of bad plans, Jessica starts dating computer geek Randy Mason, so she can learn about computers and impress Nicholas. We get to hear Jessica's inner monologue during the dates, and all she can think about is how he's a stupid loser. Granted, his pickup line is "Oh, boy, want to run a program?", but still. Jessica is super mean for no reason, and I don't like her now.

Jessica convinces Randy to hack into the school's computer system and change her grades. They get caught, and Jessica tries to pin all the blame on Randy, because he's a nerd. It doesn't matter what happens to nerds. Elizabeth forces Jessica to confess to the principal, and Jessica starts crying when they get suspended.

I'd be happy if the story ended here, with Jessica getting punished, but no. Elizabeth can't stand to see Jessica cry, so she begs the principal to give them another chance. He agrees, and he even agrees to not tell their parents. So Jessica gets away with everything, scot free, because she cried a little. On the way home, she thanks Elizabeth--no, I'm lying. Jessica doesn't care about what just happened. She only cares that she messed up her makeup. I don't like her.

I also don't like how Elizabeth goes through a lot of fake drama, wondering if she should cancel her date with Nicholas. She gets a chance to call off the date, but she doesn't, she gets a chance to tell her boyfriend, but she doesn't, and she gets a chance to tell Jessica, but she doesn't. Bleh. Elizabeth complains about everything to her best friend, as if the entire situation isn't her fault.

The big date ends up being rather nice, or at least, Nicholas stops acting like a sleazeball for the first time in the book. They bond over their love of literature, but even though Elizabeth likes Nicholas a lot, she doesn't love him the same way she loves Todd. She explains this to him, and the two of them agree to be friends. Which is what should have happened in the first chapter.

Of course, Todd just happens to be at the same restaurant and sees the two of them together. Elizabeth pretends to be Jessica, to get out of trouble. But then Todd learns the truth, when goes to the Wakefield house and the REAL Jessica answers the door.

It's a pretty gross scene, actually. Jessica just got out of the shower, so she's wearing nothing but a loose robe. He grabs her arms and starts making out with her. And when he's done, she compliments him in a sultry voice, before he realizes which twin she is. It's all completely unnecessary. I guess the author really wanted a hot accidental makeout scene with these two.

Jessica is furious that Elizabeth went out with her crush, and there's a big confrontation scene, as if Jessica is totally above lying and boyfriend stealing. Jessica quickly gets over it and decides she didn't want to date Nicholas anyway.

Todd isn't over it. He avoids Elizabeth at all times, and he plays badly at the championship basketball game. But Nicholas and Todd have a heart-to-heart talk in the locker room, and Todd is elated to hear that Elizabeth still loves him. He starts playing like a pro again, and he wins the big game. Hooray!

Todd and Elizabeth kiss and make up, and they go to a party together. As an end of book cliffhanger, the twins get bad news! Their brother's girlfriend is dying!

Wait, they have a brother?

The End

Post-Book Followup

I haven't read any Sweet Valley High books before. I read the Nancy Drew knockoff of this series, and I have to say, I like the knockoff better, because this book is pretty awful.

Jessica is horrible, shallow human being who hates everyone for not being her. She has no redeemable qualities whatsoever. I can see how the book is _trying_ to have the dynamic of "Jessica is the bad twin, Elizabeth is the good twin", but Elizabeth is just as bad. She lies to her boyfriend and everyone else multiple times, she has plenty of opportunities to get herself out of this mess of her own creation. I feel no sympathy for her at all.

Maybe these books were recommended to me, because I like soap operas. Even by soap opera standards, this book kind of falls flat. The love triangle doesn't work, because there's no chemistry between Elizabeth and Nicholas. They don't come across as a good potential couple; he comes across as overbearing and kind of sleazy for dumping all this pressure on a girl he just met. Todd was the best one in the love triangle, as he perfectly falls into the role of the jealous boyfriend who hates the new guy.

At least, Todd was good, up to the point where he made out with Elizabeth's sister. Sorry, Todd. You can't criticize Elizabeth for cheating on you, now. You're even more of a cheater than she is. So...gosh, all five main characters are horrible people, each in their own way.

Overall, it's characters I don't like, tied to a fairly simple plot I've seen before. I wouldn't want my daughter reading this and looking up to these people as role models. I can only hope the other books in this series are less awful than this.

I give Sweet Valley High #14: Deceptions a 1 out of 10.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

River Heights Series

Here are my reviews for the first two books in the River Heights series. It's a Nancy Drew spinoff series, which is meant to imitate the Sweet Valley High series. So, mostly teen romance drama.





I think the series would have been been improved, if Nancy had more of a role in it. She pops up every now and then, but not as a major character. I'm sure they could have come up with romance drama for Nancy! Or at least, some romance drama with Nancy's friends, Bess and George. As it is, we've got a Nancy Drew series without any mystery and hardly any Nancy in it. It's almost like they took a series and slapped the Nancy Drew onto it without much thought.

I still like these books, so I'm gonna read 'em! Just ordered four more, with a gift card I got for my birthday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Great Divorce

I recently read The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis, which is a really interesting book. It's about a man who takes a bus tour through the afterlife. He goes from Hell to Purgatory, and he catches a brief glimpse of the Heaven before waking up and discovering it was all a dream.

At first, Hell sounds like a paradise, because people can get whatever they want just by wishing for it, and they don't have any material needs for food, water, clothing or the like. But since people have no need for each other, they all end up fighting and hating each other. They start wishing to be alone and isolated, and the result is that Hell ends up being a big, mostly empty city.

Napoleon is used as an example. He wishes to be a year's distance away from everyone else, because he's tired of being harassed. His grand house is a tiny speck in the distance, and he spends all of his time pacing the living room, blaming other people for what happened. "It was the Russian's fault! It was the English's fault! It was Josephine's fault!" all day long for the rest of the eternity, because he can't let it go.

The majority of the book takes place in Purgatory. Various angels come, to help guide people to Heaven. A lot of the people argue with the angels, and it is fascinating. One woman refuses to go to Heaven, if her husband is there. One man is a scholar who only cares about asking questions, not having them answered. One man is an artist, who cares more about depicting beauty than appreciating beauty. One woman had a baby who died, and she twisted her mother-child love into a sick obsession that ruined her family's life.

I feel like this would be a good response, for all the people who didn't like how Susan was excluded from the final Chronicles of Narnia book. She could easily fit in with all the other characters in this book, as the woman who started ignoring her family and friends, and now the thing she cares about most is how she looks.

Overall, it's a book with a lot of interesting ideas, and it really makes you think. Plus, it's a short read. I'd recommend it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Year's Eve

Katie's family doesn't have any New Years traditions at all, so when I joined the family, I made up our own tradition. Everyone gets a soda, junk food and a movie. We have a movie marathon, while eating and drinking. That way, we can make it all the way to midnight.

Last year, Katie picked 2001: A Space Odyssey as her movie, and that was a cinematic filibuster which put both Katie and Mary to sleep. The movie is mostly music and scenery, without dialogue. I made the executive decision to turn it off, after the five minute scene of an astronaut going around the outside of a ship to check a circuit. It's five full minutes of a guy breathing! You could never get away with that in a modern film.

This year, the movies we picked were Space Jam, Brave and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Mary really wanted to sleep, but she wanted to see the end of Homeward Bound more.

At midnight, Mary was excited to see the ball drop. But she was disappointed to see that they didn't actually drop anything. All they do is lower a ball on a stick, on some random building in New York. Myself, I was disappointed when they replaced "Auld Lang Syne", the traditional New Year's song, with "New York, New York". I was all ready to make a reference to Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy, too!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Captain America 3: Civil War

I finally got to see Captain America 3: Civil War. It was okay. I liked the first two movies better.

Just like the second movie, it jumps ahead in time a few years and assumes you're already caught up with what's going on in superhero world. I'm not, because Captain America is the only Marvel superhero series I've seen. So I spent the start of the film, wondering who all the new characters were. I also wondered what happened with all the stuff from the previous film, like Hydra, the guy with the eyepatch and Black Widow. (It took me way too long to realize that Black Widow is in this movie. She just changed her hair color, and she's no longer Cap's main confidant. I wonder why they drifted apart.)

The story is that Captain America and the new superheroes are stopping terrorists from getting chemical weapons. A big fight scene ensues, and buildings are destroyed. That's pretty typical in superhero world, but this time, everyone is shocked that innocent bystanders were hurt. So the United Nations decides to set up an international superhero oversight committee, which is heavy and restrictive. They don't go into too much detail about this, but I'm betting our heroes have to fill out paperwork every time they use their powers, ever. "You used super speed to cut ahead in line at the mall? That's be a $10,000 fine!"

Someone bombs the United Nations before they ratify the superhero treaty, and the culprit has framed Bucky Barnes, Captain America's best friend. There's a big fight scene, where Bucky is attacked. Cap and his friends try to help Bucky escape, but they all get captured, arrested, and sent to some kind of superhero jail that Iron Man and the United Nations set up. I'm guessing Iron Man is the leader of the Avengers? He's kind of grumpy and mean in this movie. He and Captain America argue for a bit.

In the background of everything, a shadowy Russian villain is murdering people. He's trying to get a special code book, he's got bombs, and he's looking into a project from 20 years ago. In my opinion, this was the weakest part of the film. They kept cutting to scenes of this guy, and for the life of us, Katie and I couldn't figure out what he was doing or why. Obviously, they wanted to keep the audience in suspense by not explaining everything, but it just ended up being confusing.

Russian Villain poses as a psychologist in the superhero jail, and he reads the code book to Bucky. Bucky becomes hypnotized and turns evil. He breaks out of superhero jail, while all the superheroes fight to stop him. Again, Captain America decides to side with Bucky, instead of the world police. So they're both fugitives now. Together, they discover the truth: Bucky is one of 20 supervillains the Russians created/brainwashed. The Russian villain is trying to get the others and control them. Oh no!

Iron Man sets up a team of superheroes to stop Captain America. Captain America sets up his own superhero squad. Instead of talking through things like normal people would, they have a long, extensive fight with a lot of CGI and "Spider-Man is a nerd" jokes. It was pretty exciting, although it obviously would have been better if I knew who half of these characters were, and what their superpowers are. I liked it, but Katie thinks the fight scenes are "too Mortal Kombat".

Only Captain America, Bucky and Iron Man make it through the fight, because they're the main characters. Iron Man does some research and learns all about the Russian villain brainwashing scheme. He really should have done that earlier, instead of jumping to conclusions. Of course, Bucky and Cap never saying a word to defend themselves didn't help, but still.

They all reach the Russian compound, where they learn that the 20 supervillains all died decades ago. That's when the evil villain reveals his trump card: video footage from 20 years ago. The movie intends the audience to instantly recognize it, but Katie and I had to look this up on the Internet to understand what was going on. It's a video of Iron Man's parents being killed by the brainwashed Bucky! Faster than you can say "Martha", Iron Man flies into a fit of rage and beats up Bucky. There's an extended three-way fight with our heroes, and Captain America is the only one left standing at the end.

The movie ends on a downer note, as all of Captain America's friends are in jail, and Iron Man is still the grumpy guy in charge. Cap sends Iron Man a letter, saying that he's going to disappear for a while, but he's not opposed to helping out in the next Avengers movie.

I'm told that there will not be a Captain America 4, so this will be the last I'll see of this character. That's kind of sad.

Oh, and I forgot to mention! There's a short subplot, where Captain America gets his second-ever girlfriend! She's the niece of his girlfriend from the 1940's. That was creepy. There were also subplots with the two superheroes I've never seen before: the red guy and the teenager with out of control magic powers. Those flew over my head completely.

Overall, the movie was okay. The action scenes were nice, but the story needed some work. I would have preferred more interpersonal drama. You know, more of Iron Man and Captain America arguing and debating each other, not just hitting each other. Also, it would have helped if Captain America ever stopped and explained what was going on, instead of running away and becoming a fugitive. That just made him look super guilty. I've never been a fan of movies, when people don't bother to explain obvious things, just so there can be a misunderstanding to move the plot along.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nancy Drew Graphic Novels

The other day, I mentioned reviewing the Nancy Drew graphic novels. Here's some backstory on them.

They decided to reboot Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in the early 2000's. The Nancy Drew Girl Detective series started in 2004, while the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series started in 2005. Both series had a spinoff graphic novel series, with the exact same title.

In 2008, both book series got a soft reboot when they changed editors. The graphic novels also did a reboot in 2010. When the book series was cancelled in 2012, they also cancelled the graphic novel series.

You can imagine my surprise, when I learned they're releasing new Nancy Drew graphic novels, under the Nancy Drew Diaries moniker. Why did they cancel Hardy Boys graphic novels forever and keep going with Nancy Drew?

Well...turns out they didn't. The "new" graphic novels are just reprints of the old ones. All they did was change the name. They also happen to be double books. That is, new book one is old book one and old book two, put together. New book two is old book three and old book four, put together. It's a real moneysaver, if you want to buy the entire series.

Someone posted on my blog that there is a real new Nancy Drew graphic novel series coming out this year. It's a crossover with the Hardy Boys. The premise is that the Hardys are accused of killing their father, so they have to turn to deadly beauty Nancy Drew for help. It takes place in the 1930's. I might pick it up, when it comes out in book form.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Book Suggestions

To continue from yesterday, I'm pretty disappointed that Kindle Unlimited doesn't have any mainstream or popular books available. Besides for Harry Potter, all the books people suggested aren't on Kindle Unlimited.

  • Agatha Christie books. I liked the Agatha Christie games well enough, but for some reason, I just can't seem to get into the books. I've checked out one or two of her books from the library, and I ended up reading barely anything and letting the book just sit on my desk until I had to return it. I dunno. I know she's a good author, but her books come across as a tad too British for my tastes, and I'm also not a fan of how every book has a big "twist" ending. That comes across as gimmicky to me. Then again, maybe that's just the games, and the books do a better job with the twists. Sort of like Phoenix Wright? The twists make sense in context and work well, but if you explain them to an outsider, it ends up sounding ridiculous.
  • The Tale of Desperaux. Oh, yes, Kate DiCamillo is a fantastic children's author, although she came onto the scene past my time. I can add this to the list of books to keep an eye out for.
  • The Alchemyst series. I've honestly never heard of it before.
  • 39 Clues. I liked the second and third 39 Clues series. The first one was merely okay, in my opinion. I tried to start reading the fourth series this year, but I could not get past the first book. I've thought about reviewing them, but they might be too heavily-plotted for it to work well. Each book usually juggles 3-4 completely separate stories that all converge in the end.

Then there's Harry Potter and Series of Unfortunate Events. I can do reviews of them here on this blog, if people want to see that. I don't think I'll do video reviews for them, though. They're so popular, they've been reviewed to death. The same can probably be said for the other books that got suggested, though.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Reviews Schedule

A new Nancy Drew book was released this month, which is probably going to throw my review schedule out of whack. Here are the reviews I've currently finished:

  • Boxcar Children 10
  • Boxcar Children 11
  • Nancy Drew Files 39: The Suspect Next Door
  • Nancy Drew Files 40: Shadow of a Doubt
  • River Heights 1
  • River Heights 2
  • Sweet Valley High #14: Deceptions
Any preferences as to which reviews I should post first? I'm guessing people want to see the new Nancy Drew book review as soon as possible.

I'm toying with the idea of doing a review series for the Nancy Drew graphic novels, just because I've been able to make it through the Hardy Boys graphic novels. But I dunno. I'm reviewing, like, five different series at once now. Maybe I should hold off on doing more.

As a followup to Wednesday's blog post, there were some excellent suggestions as to what books I should/could read, but I'm afraid that 98% of the content on Kindle Unlimited is Amazon's self-published books. Blech. I think I'm mostly going to use it, to read the Sweet Valley High series. Again, blech. The one book I read was REALLY TERRIBLE.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Brave

I saw Brave again on New Year's Eve. I think I like it more now than I did when it first came out, five years ago. According to my old blog posts from the time, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the angry people on the Internet who were shouting, "You MUST love this movie, because it's a metaphor for destroying the patriarchy!". I prefer my children's movies without them being hyper-politicized, thanks.

Katie likes this movie, because the main characters are a mother and daughter duo, which is pretty unique for the Disney universe. "Freaky Friday" is probably the only other Disney film with a similar setup.

I still dislike the central plot point that Merida gets a free wish, and she wishes for something that will change her fate. That's ridiculously vague and open-ended. She should have said something specific, like "I don't want to be forced into an arranged marriage" or "I wish for something which will help my mother understand me better". But no, Merida holds the Idiot Ball at this point, and wishes for pretty much anything, as long as it's different.

It's weird, because the witch's response is incredibly specific! I wonder if Merida's wish was different, in the original version of the film. I know the movie switched directors halfway through production, and the witch scenes certainly felt like they were done by someone different. I mean, a parody of automated telephone systems? That came out of nowhere.

To be honest, I don't quite understand how they undo the spell. They have to "mend the bond that was broken", which refers to a specific tapestry. In Mordu's lair, we see that the artwork piece he had to restore was a big stone carving. Jeez, no wonder her ended up being a bear forever. How do you repair something like that? You'd need superglue.

Also, if I'm nitpicking, I don't understand why Merida's mother fixing the tapestry undoes the spell on Merida's brothers. Don't they have their own piece of artwork they need to fix? Seems unfair that they get out of the requirement for undoing the spell.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kindle Unlimited

For my birthday, I got a six-month subscription to Kindle Unlimited! That's Amazon's fancy system, where you pay $10 a month and you can download whatever eBooks you want! To prevent abuse, they only let you have ten eBooks at a time.

I was super excited about this, because they've got all the out of print Nancy Drew / Baby-Sitters Club books in the Kindle store. What a moneysaver! But it turns out, none of those books are part of Kindle Unlimited. They're only available for individual purchase.

I am seriously questioning the "unlimited" moniker now.

There is a singular Boxcar Children book, which is Book #75: The Mystery of the Empty Safe. I have no idea why THAT is the one that got accepted. They've got the entire California Diaries series, which was a Baby-Sitters Club spinoff meant for older readers. And they've got a fair chunk of the Sweet Valley High series. I think I might read California Diaries / Sweet Valley High, simply because the opportunity has presented itself.

So, are there any books you readers would recommend? 'Cause now I can get a bunch of books for free!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Birthday

It's my birthday today! I have no real plans to celebrate, beyond going out to eat. If I wasn't working during a critical season, I'd be tempted to take the day off!

So I'm 31 years old now! Oh boy.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sleeping with a Baby

People say that you don't get any sleep with a baby in the house.

It's not the baby's fault. They are physically incapable of sleeping for more than 3-4 hours in a row. And that's mainly because of babies' digestive systems. They have small stomachs that can only process liquid, so food goes right through them. The baby eats a meal and poops it out in 3-4 hours, then it cries because its diaper is wet and its stomach is empty. The cycle repeats all day long.

A baby doesn't usually start sleeping all through the night, until they double their birth weight. I guess the stomach is twice as big at that point, so it can hold food twice as long.

Rosie is doing pretty well with feedings and sleeping. She lost about 30% of her weight in the first two days, but she's gained it all back now that it's been three weeks. It's good to know that she's retaining at least some of the nutrition from her meals, instead of pooping it out and spitting it up.

Katie sleeps in the same room as the baby, while I sleep in my normal bed. Katie says there's no reason for both of us to have our sleep schedule disturbed, especially now that I'm working full time. I'm still tired most of the time, and I wake up a lot anyway, but I sincerely appreciate Katie's attempt to be nice to me. She's a wonderful person, and I love her. I don't know what hours Katie and Rosie keep at night, but I can definitely confirm that they're normally both passed out cold from 6-8 AM. It makes me sad when I don't get any Rosie time before going to work.

Rosie's behavior isn't regular yet. Sometimes, she'll immediately fall asleep after eating. Sometimes, she'll go into her quiet, alert state. Other times, she'll be half-awake and half-asleep and do a lot of grunting. And sometimes, she'll alternate between eating and sleeping, where she eats for a while, then sleeps for a while, and then goes back to eating, and it annoys Katie when Rosie stretches out a feeding to two full hours, because she fell asleep ten times.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Deception Island Problems

I'm still compiling the list of problems with Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island. As usual, there are some things which I'm not sure should be included on the list or not. Check them out!

1. Nancy doesn't notice the card until all the pipes are in place, meaning she solved the puzzle without looking down once.
2. Katie keeps ice cream in her fridge.
3. Katie makes a special note of Benjamin Hawkins on her calendar. People don't use calendars for research notes.
4. How does Katie have enough time to be a full-time marine biologist and tour guide?
5. Andy's head is too small for his neck.
6. When the eye on Nancy's punch card appears or disappears, it has the same sound effect as Nancy picking up an item from her inventory. That confused me a lot, the first time I played this game.
7. The rock-skipping puzzle reuses the control scheme from the squid toss puzzle in the last game.
8. If you enter the tunnels through the lighthouse, you can't go out the exit that leads to the rest of the town. So how did the culprits use these tunnels to rob stores?
9. How do they move the whale from inside the ship to outside the ship? Does the ship have a retractable bottom?
10. Nancy put it in a lot of work to find the culprits, but Katie came across them by pure chance. Just think. Nancy could have spent the whole day napping on Katie's boat, and the outcome would have been the same.
11. Culprit goes out of their way to keep Katie alive, but they try to kill Nancy as soon as possible.

Let me know which ones you think I should keep or get rid of. Or help me reword them, so they make more sense!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Watching More than Whales

I was supposed to work on Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island. But instead, I wrote a fanfic about it.

I always wondered what exactly happened at the end of the game. After Nancy sees the orca, Katie's boat leaves, which more or less makes it impossible for Nancy to ask Katie about the orca. Also, I thought Andy and Katie would make a good couple, because there is pretty much nobody else in the game that you can ship, besides Jenna/clam chowder and Holt Scotto / male Dungeness crab.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Politics

Now that I work for the government, I can't talk about politics anymore. I have to be impartial towards everyone and all political views.

Not dealing with politics anymore is actually a huge relief. Sure, I sometimes see political conversations that I want to participate in! But it's a lot easier to avoid that mess entirely. Saves me a lot of heartache, too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Baby-Sitters Little Sister Review Series

I finally separated the Baby-Sitters Club review series into a different playlist from the Baby-Sitters Little Sister review series. Starting with Little Sister 8 (and Baby-Sitters 35), Little Sister jumps from being an occasional series to a "one book a month series" which ends up outlasting the main series.

This is also the point where author Ann Martin gives up the ghost...or should I say, picks up the ghostwriters?





With both series, I'm three books away from reaching a book that I don't have. I'll either buy more books to build up my collection, or just read whatever books I have and stop the reviews there.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Danger on Deception Island Problems

I'm now accepting suggestions for Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Over the Break

I only got one question yesterday! Elizabeth wants to know "What did everyone get for Christmas and how was your Holidays?"

My first present was a breast pump. I'm pretty sure the present was intended for Katie. The rest of my gifts were clothes. Mary got a lot of presents, because there aren't any other kids in her extended families, so her relatives are more than willing to get her multiple gifts. Rosie got mostly clothes, too.

I messed up on Katie's gift. She lost [obscure novelty item], and she was kind of disappointed, since she had it since high school. I got her a replacement, but about a week later, she found her real one in a drawer. It wasn't lost, just misplaced. So I got her a replacement for something which didn't need replacing. Oops.

My favorite part of the holidays this year is working at a place which actually celebrates the holidays. Having a full day off of work is pretty nice, especially since it feels like I don't get much time with Baby Rosie.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

Happy 2017 everyone! Wow, it feels like that end-of-year blog break was nowhere near long enough. I've kind of got my life back on track! I still haven't had a full night's sleep since the baby was born.

The good news is, I've finally got my bus schedule figured out! And I finished writing all the videogame scripts that I started in November. So now my commute to and from work is just going to be me reading books and watching videos. That's a lot more relaxed than writing! Although maybe I'll write some blog entries, too.

So! Do you have any questions for me about the baby? Let me know! I'll answer them here.