Monday, February 20, 2017

Rosie at Two Months

Rosie is two months old now! Here's a video I did with her:

She seems to be developing well, although I have no frame of reference for two-year-olds. Her muscles are forming, in that she can roll over to her side sometimes. It's easier for her to smile, and just yesterday, she made a "g" sound for the first time. Her neck muscles are more developed, so her head flops around less.

I'm still waiting for the day her neck fully develops, so her head doesn't flop around at all. I"m told that happens around the same time babies start crawling. You can't crawl, if you're incapable of holding your neck up. Every day, we try to give Rosie some tummy time. That's what you call it, when you put a baby on their belly. They normally HATE it and try to get out; it's good for developing neck muscles. One time, Rosie pushed her head an inch off the ground, along with part of her torso. That only lasted a few seconds.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Star Trek Voyager Season 3

My wife and I have been watching "Star Trek Voyager", and I think it's an okay series. Definitely not my favorite, which was Deep Space Nine.

One thing that bothers me about "Voyager" is how nothing that happens on the show ever matters, because they hit the reset button at the end of every episode. Did the Doctor get amnesia? Reset button! Did the Captain get killed? Reset button! Did Chakotay have a baby with his arch-nemesis? Reset button! Did the Captain and Navigator turn into space slugs because they tried moving the ship too quickly, then they had a baby together? Reset but--wait. That actually happened? What a weird episode.

Granted, the original "Star Trek" series also hit the reset button at the end of every episode. I think it bothers me more with "Voyager", because the series has selective continuity. I'd say 20% of material does come up again in later episodes. It's just enough continuity to irk me over the fact that the majority of episodes have no continuity. And, sadly, the stuff that I'm really interested in doesn't seem to get picked up again.

I'm told that part of this problem is that the series did a soft reboot in Season Three, as a result of the negative reaction to Season Two. But I liked Season Two! So they're rebooting the stuff I liked, and it makes me kind of sad. For example, they got rid of the Janeway/Chakotay romance subplot, the main villain Seska was killed, the billiards hall holodeck is gone, Kes broke up with Neelix, Janeway no longer role plays as a British nanny holodeck character, and I haven't seen the orange aliens in a while. Actually, the last one was a good decision; I support getting rid of the orange aliens as villains. Anyway, the point is that they changed a lot.

So that's my main problem with the series right now: adjusting to the continuity reboot. The show hasn't lost my interest, and I like some of the new stuff like the Borg and Kes being more interesting. I just hope that all this new stuff won't get rebooted next season, like all of last season's new stuff.

As long as the next season has more of the Doctor, who is clearly the best, most interesting character on the show, I'll be fine!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Movie Previews

I went to see "Lego Batman" with Mary, and it was awesome! It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Really, all I wanted was for the movie to mention King Tut, my favorite Batman villain. King Tut was mentioned, so I was happy. The rest of the movie was pretty entertaining and hilarious, too.

There were a lot of previews before the movie. Here are my thoughts!

"The Emoji Movie" looked kind of interesting, but it lost me when they made a poop joke. I don't watch movies with poop jokes in the trailer. Personal policy.

"Beauty and the Beast" looks amazing, but it also looks, um...exactly like the original. I would be tempted to rewatch the original, myself. I'd be willing to take Mary to this, if no one else wants to.

"Power Rangers". At first, I thought this was the Animorphs movie, and I was psyched. I was disappointed to learn it was Power Rangers instead. The movie looks interesting and intense, and it promises to have nostalgia trip moments. It should do well.

"Boss Baby" looks interesting. I'm not going to see it, but it seems like a neat enough premise, designed to appeal to kids and adults.

"Despicable Me 3". I hate those minions.

Friday, February 17, 2017

River Heights

I'm doing reviews for River Heights series. That's a Nancy Drew spinoff series; it mostly follows Nikki Masters and romance drama at her high school. Nancy occasionally appears as a background character.

Now that I've read "Sweet Valley High" books, I can see that this series is a VERY direct copy of Sweet Vally High. The main difference is that the two main characters, Brittany and Nikki, aren't twins. Other than that, Nikki acts a lot like Elizabeth and Brittany acts a lot like Jessica.

I like Brittany more than Jessica, because Jessica is 100% selfish and cruel, whereas Brittany often feels bad when she does nasty things. I like Elizabeth more than Nikki, because Nikki is pretty bland, whereas Elizabeth is...well, okay, she's bland, too. Oh well.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Spirit of Justice Case 2

This week, I'm posting videos for Case 2 of "Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice". I'm super-excited, because this will finish up the case.

As my New Years Resolution, I decided to NOT post multiple long walkthroughs at once. I'm defining "long walkthrough" as 20+ videos. So with this case out of the way, I've only got one long walkthrough in the works: "Paper Mario (N64)".

In other words, I won't move on to a different long walkthrough, until I've finished all of "Paper Mario". The other long walkthroughs on my list are "Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice" Cases 3 and 4, "Star Trek Deep Space Nine Harbinger" and "Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective". I figure I'll let Twitter decide which of these four long walkthroughs will be the next one I'll go through.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Baby Acne

I've noticed TV shows and movies don't talk about baby acne. Yeah, babies sometimes get acne, just like teenagers. Adults get acne, too, but I've noticed TV shows and movies don't talk about adult acne, either. They only talk about teenager acne. Like teenagers don't have enough to deal with, society pretends they're the only ones with skin problems! That's not fair.

With Rosie, her acne has been at most two small bumps, sort of near her eyes. The doctors say to not to do anything with the baby acne, just leave it alone. And it clears up and goes away on its own.

I feel like baby acne would be a great topic for a sitcom episode. Also, filing tax returns! I could see the gay couple of "Modern Family" having an argument over who's the primary spouse and who's the secondary spouse on the tax return.  That's totally the sort of thing that I could see people getting really worked up over, even if it doesn't matter all that much in the long run.

I like it when comedies do "people overreact to unimportant things" storylines. I guess I should watch "Seinfeld" more often. Although I have to say, I don't like it when the news networks run "people overreact to unimportant things" stories, like "Pope Francis is Catholic!". Then, it's more irritating than amusing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Update on Rosie

Rosie is going through a growth spurt, or at least, it feels like it. She's definitely gotten taller, to the point where I can no longer carry her with a one-arm football hold. I like that she's growing, although sometimes, she'll kick the seat if I'm holding her while sitting on the couch, then she'll hurt herself.

She's still kicking. The other day, she was cuddling up next to Katie and kicked me away when I got too close to them. It was just like when she was in the womb. She grunted while she kicked me, so I know it was deliberate and not just a random startle reflex.

I don't know if this is normal or not, but she doesn't always have her eyes fully closed when she goes to sleep. It can be freaky to see her go through REM sleep with her eyes partially open. It's especially freaky to see the whites of her eyes, where her pupils normally are.

Her digestive system is still working itself out. She has trouble burping and farting, and I know that sounds like a second-grader joke, but it's true. She will cry out in pain for about a minute, if she's having trouble getting a fart out. Burping is easier, because then you can burp her like normal. Just make sure you have a burp cloth in case she throws up. But there's no way to get her to fart, so if she has farting pains, you just have to wait until they're done.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ten Kids, No Pets

"Ten Kids, No Pets" is a book that Ann Martin wrote in 1988, right around the time the Baby-Sitters Club was taking off. I got it from the library, thinking I might do a video review for it.

Well, I decided against doing a video review, but I think I'd still recommend the book. It reminds me of "Cheaper by the Dozen". It's about a family with lots of kids and a parent who has strict rules.

Each chapter is about a different kid, and a lot of the ideas were later recycled into Baby-Sitters Club books, I noticed. We have a girl who finds a hidden passageway, a boy who makes up stories because he wants to make friends, the older sister who feels dragged down by all her younger siblings, twins who speak their own made-up language, etc.

I only read the first three chapters. The thing that stands out about this book is the word choice. They were very deliberate, and there's some nice world-building. It is NOT like the "one book a month" Baby-Sitters Club, which I assume were written more quickly, with less time for revision.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was a fine book, and I think it works better as an ending to the series, rather than as a standalone book. I remember being happy to read it, and liking the familiar writing style and characters, while still being sad because this was the end of Harry Potter forever.

(Boy, was I wrong about that last one.)

The common complaint about this book is that nothing happens; it's nine months of Harry camping in the woods. And yeah, that's true, but there was character drama during those nine months, and I love that kind of drama. I also really liked the chapter where Harry spies on Dean and Tonks' father and a goblin. That was a nice chapter, even if it was mostly "people are giving important exposition right next to Harry without knowing it".

The premise of the book is that Harry has to destroy all of Voldemort's Horcruxes, only Harry has no idea what the Horcruxes are, or where they are. He just sort of aimlessly guesses things like, "Uh...maybe there's something at my parents' old house that I've never been to."

I was NOT a fan of the Bathila Bagshot sequence. Harry falls into a super obvious trap, and he wastes the perfect opportunity to kill Nagini the Horcrux, without Voldemort learning he is Horcrux hunting. Ugh, Harry, not good. I did like the sequence inside the graveyard, and I liked the sequence at the Malfoy's, even if that was just setting up for a very convoluted "Harry now has power over Voldemort's wand" twist at the end. Seriously. Harry has power over Voldemort's wand, because Voldemort killed Snape, who killed Dumbledore, who was disarmed by Malfoy, who was punched by Harry. That was pushing it.

I liked the Deathly Hallows plotline, although I don't think it really fit with the book. It was almost like they dumped a huge fetch quest on Harry at the very end of the series, right when he was already busy with a different fetch quest. At best, it's only ancillary to the book as a whole; "Harry Potter and the Horcrux Hunt" would have been more accurate. But hey, at least the Hallows were more relevant to the book than the Goblet of Fire was to its book.

The big ending to the book was great, and it was also great how they had an entire movie of basically nothing but the huge battle, starring all the characters ever. Great job! I was kind of hoping the movie would show a scene with Neville and Ginny's secret Hogwarts resistance group, which we heard about in the book, but alas, it did not. That would have been a good thing to include, to break up the long camping sequence.

Ever since book 4, I had decided that eye color had SOMETHING to do with the finale, because people won't shut up about Harry's green eyes. The killing curse is also green. Meanwhile, Voldemort has red eyes, and the disarming spell is also red. In the final battle, they use those spells; each person is casting a spell that's the same color as his opponent's eyes.'s just a coincidence. I read too much into things. Oops!

Oh, yeah. The only thing I didn't like about the big ending was the Snape redemption scene, which everyone already guessed at. I don't buy it. Snape was the main antagonist for the first five books in the series, and he was constantly awful to Harry. Just because he had a schoolboy crush on Harry's mother, that doesn't redeem him and make him a hero. If anything, that makes him obsessed with the past.

Complaints aside, it's a good book and a great way to end the series. I liked it!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I did not like "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". It is my least favorite book in the series. It feels a little like a placeholder book, where not much happens. It's kind of telling that the movie glosses over a lot of the plot, in favor of making it a romantic comedy.

There are a number of little things in the book that rub me the wrong way, including...

  • I feel that this book ignores a lot of the established characters. It's the least we see of the Dursleys in the series. Neville only gets mentioned twice, when he used to be a character who shows up every 1-2 chapters. Luna gets three appearances. And Professor Snape! He's been trying to get the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position for at least 20 years. Now he's finally achieved his life's goal, and...the book does nothing with him. He teaches one class, and that's it.
  • Non-verbal spells are now standard? What?
  • Harry becomes completely obsessed with Draco Malfoy's scheme. I didn't like that much in book 2, and I don't like it much here's. I thought it was weird and creepy for Harry to use the Marauder's Map to spy on Malfoy constantly, and Harry escalates it by ordering Dobby to spy on Malfoy all the time. Harry, jeez, calm down.
  • Harry's major infatuation with Ginny was sudden and came out of nowhere.
  • Can I just say that Malfoy's plan to bring Death Eaters into Hogwarts was long and convoluted? Yeah, I know, that's par for the course for Voldemort's team, but still. His plan to kill Dumbledore was also pretty half-hearted. He could have easily asked for a private meeting with Dumbledore, since he's a prefect, and killed Dumbledore directly.
  • Dumbledore is supposed to give Harry lessons on how to defeat Voldemort, but really, all he does is show Harry some of Voldemort's old home videos. Don't get me wrong; it was interesting to learn all about Voldemort's backstory. But it didn't seem particularly relevant to the problem of "Voldemort is trying his hardest to kill Harry". As we'll see in the next book, the lessons were utterly useless and did not help Harry in finding or destroying Horcruxes.
  • I think one unavoidable problem with this book is that it takes place at school, where everyone is totally isolated from the war. I wanted to hear more about the war and stopping Voldemort; I'm not as interested in hearing about Quidditch practice. The book starts with the two prime ministers meeting each other, which set up false expectations for me; they end up being unimportant characters who never appear again.

It's not necessarily a BAD book. I'm just saying, a lot of little things bugged me, and overall, it felt sort of like a placeholder book.

I wrote a chapter-by-chapter parody of this book. I thought about doing one for the other books, but that would take too much time.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Light of the World

The other day at mass, they sang We are the Light of the World by Jean Grief. That's a folk song, based on the Beatitudes. It's a pretty nice one. I like it.

Call me crazy, but I could swear that when I was growing up, it was sung "you are the light of the world". I kept on unintentionally slipping into the second person, while singing it. Hearing it in the first person for the first time...well, it sounded a little braggy, like we're singing about how amazing we are. I wonder if it was just my church growing up that changed the lyrics, or if I'm remembering it wrong.

Also, the Biblical passage which the lyrics are echoing are mostly in second person; "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:11)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Interactive Tax Assistants

The IRS website has a bunch of Interactive Tax Assistants. They're basically a Q&A thing with tax questions like "do I have to file taxes this year?", "can I get an education credit?" and "can I claim moving expenses?". The system will ask you a bunch of questions and then give you an answer. They are very helpful.

Let me use "when are my taxes due?" as an example. For almost everyone, taxes are due on April 18th this year. It's normally April 15th, but this year, it's delayed due to a weekend and a holiday.

There are extenuating circumstances that can change your due date, like if you were in a military combat zone or if you were in a Presidentially-declared disaster area. My personal favorite is if your calendar year doesn't end in December. There are some finance people--called "fiscal year filers"--who have different calendars, due to the nature of their business. I had no idea that was the case!

So in order to be 100% accurate about your due date, the Interactive Tax Assistant has to check to make sure you don't fall under the extenuating circumstances. I know some people just want to hear the general due date and be done with it, but this is definitely a case where you want accuracy over speed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is another great Harry Potter book that I loved a lot. I know some people think Harry is too angry in the book, but it didn't bother me. He was constantly in tough situations with basically no help. I'd be angry, too.

The villain of the book is Dolores Umbridge, and she was really good. I think part of the reason she's so great is because she's nuanced. She's not portrayed as 100%, flat-out evil like Voldemort is. Some of the things she does make sense. Like, yes, Hogwarts DOES need someone to supervise and monitor the faculty! Hagrid and Trelawney are both incompetent. Snape knows his material, but he's a horrible teacher who treats students like garbage, and he only got the job because of a personal favor to the Headmaster. In fact, "personal favor to the headmaster" is the only reason Trelawney got her job. Sorry, Headmaster Dumbledore, teaching positions are not trading cards. You can't give them out like lemon drops. There should be a vetting process.

Also, Hogwarts has standardized testing at the end of years 5 and 7. They really should have standardized lesson plans. It's not helpful if Professor Hagrid makes things up as he goes along. He should teach to the test.

I guess I'm trying to say that Umbridge is misguided, more than evil. Also, Dumbledore is a bit misguided in this book. His strategy is "keep everything a secret from Harry", especially all the important stuff that Harry NEEDS to know. If Dumbledore had been honest with Harry from the beginning, hey, the big fancy ending sequence would never have happened. Harry would have seen through the villain's trick instead of falling for it.

Another thing I liked about the book was the plot. It felt like there was more plot than normal, and things were constantly moving and happening. That was nice, and major props to the movie for keeping a lot of the plot elements instead of eliminating them wholesale. I thought Luna Lovegood was an interesting new character, although sadly, this is pretty much the only time we'll get to see her.

Oh, and romance! Harry gets his first kiss in this book, and all the fans went crazy.

Overall, a great book.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New York Cities

Hey, I have an answer to the question I raised a while ago, about how to refer to areas of New York City. It turns out that the US Postal service classifies certain parts of NYC, like Staten Island or Brooklyn, as separate towns, even if they're technically still part of New York.

So maybe that's why people will say, "I'm from Brooklyn" in place of "I'm from New York City."

I wonder if other big cities also have neighborhoods that are classified as their own cities. I know that's not the case with Portland or San Francisco. Sometimes, you'll hear them mention a San Francisco neighborhood on "Full House" or "Star Trek", but it's usually pretty clear that the Marina District or Chinatown or wherever is still part of San Francisco proper.

Monday, February 6, 2017

War Videogames

For the past six months or so, I've been majorly into playing war games on my phone, like Mobile Strike and Game of War: Fire Age. The games are pretty much "FarmVille in a war setting", but I like them anyway!

The only downside is the social aspect. Yeah, I know, the whole point of the game is so you can build up a fancy army and fight with your friends. But in reality, what happens is that a bunch of jerks who are level 20 go around, destroying all the level 5 players, just because they can. Ugh. Plus, there are other jerks who will foul the public chat with vulgarities.

I quit playing the two games I mentioned above, because I got to the point where people attacked me constantly, and I had to spend all my effort and resources rebuilding, rather than progressing in the game.

If I made a game like that, I'd keep it mostly the same, but change the battles to RPG-style battles, so players could have the option of NOT getting dragged down and destroyed by them.

Currently, I'm playing "Vikings: War of Clans", which has been working out pretty well for me. That game has a slightly different setup than the other two, and I like it, because you get more tangible rewards for leveling up your character. In the other games, leveling up doesn't do anything, not really. In "Vikings", you get level up points, which you can use towards stuff like "increase food production by 1%".

Katie says I've played the game long enough, and I guess she's right! It's one of those games that'll go on forever, so I've decided that I'm going to stop when I reach level 45. After that, I'll just convert my town into an inactive account. That is, I'll get rid of my army and stuff, so the town is 100% maxed-out resource production. So people can feel free to attack my town over and over again, for free resources. I figure it'd help out someone!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Shadow Ranch Suggestions

I'm now taking suggestions for "Everything Wrong With Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch"!

I'm pretty sure I wrote "vegetable picking challenge" on my list three times.


Rosie the baby is at the point where she has a few different cries. One is the cry she gives when she's hungry, one is the cry she gives when she's cold, one is the cry she gives when she's fussy, and so on. Katie claims to be able to tell the difference between all the different cries, but I don't. I can recognize her dirty diaper cry, and that's about it.

Rosie knows the difference between me and Katie. Or at least, she knows enough that Katie is the one she bothers for snacks, while I am the one she bothers for walks. She likes it when I carry her in my arms and walk around. If I stop walking, she starts fussing or crying. She immediately stops when I resume walking.

Rosie doesn't force Katie to walk her. Just me. Also, Katie has said Rosie will only use the baby carrier if I'm the one using it. So I guess Rosie has decided I'm the pack horse.

Just yesterday, Rosie was throwing a fit which didn't stop, until I walked her. That was around the time I walked her, every other day this week. So I guess Rosie has gotten herself into the schedule where she must get dad walks around 8, or else everything is wrong with the world.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Nancy Drew Diaries Titles

Yesterday's post made me think of the Nancy Drew Diaries series. The titles for those books almost NEVER match up with the books themselves. There are no red slippers in "The Red Slippers", no roulette in "Riverboat Roulette", no sign in the smoke in "The Sign in the Smoke". I don't like that. The first Harry Potter book avoids this problem, with a title that's different, but one that still describes the book.

I wonder if the Nancy Drew titles are made, independently of the author? It definitely seems like the same person writes all the chapter titles for every book--they like puns and movie references--while the author for every book changes. Maybe the title person and the author should be in contact more often.

Or maybe we have an author who heavily revises books and changes things around, so the original title doesn't apply anymore. I dunno! I wish the ghostwriter process was more transparent, if only because I would totally apply for the job if it was.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Book Titles

One complaint I've heard about the Nancy Drew Files series is that the titles are awful. They're all generic titles with dramatic words like "sabotage", "murder", "danger" or "death". Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you the difference between "Deep Secrets" and "Buried Secrets".

Occasionally, you have a title that kind of describes the book. For example, "Stay Tuned for Danger" takes place on a TV show, and "Two Points to Murder" is about a basketball mystery. You can kind of recognize the book by its title that way. The titles are definitely not as on the nose as "Soap Opera Sabotage" or "College Basketball Murder".

The Boxcar Children series is the one with straightforward titles. Each title is basically "The [Location] Mystery". You can instantly know where those books take place. Occasionally, they have mysteries named after a certain thing, like "The Mystery of the Locked Safe".

Animorphs and Sweet Valley High both have one-word book titles, which worked well for the start of the series. Then, around Book 30, they ran out of good titles. For example, "The Deception". That works for multiple books! But it was already used, and they couldn't reuse it. The later books had to pick less descriptive titles (or just use a thesaurus!).

The Baby-Sitters Club always puts the narrator's name in each title. That seemed to work fine, although with some books, the narrator's name seemed to be an afterthought, like "Little Miss Stoneybrook...And Dawn". The California Diaries spinoff didn't even bother with titles, really. Every title is "[Narrator] Diary [Number]," like "Ducky Book Two" and "Maggie Book Four". I'm sure that when I read these books, I'll have a hard time keeping them straight.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

YouTube Plans

I'm posting Paper Mario (N64) videos this week, because it won the "what should I post next?" Twitter poll. It actually won the poll two weeks in a row, so I'm going to leave it out of the poll this next week.

At the end of this week, the walkthrough will be on video 26 (of 42). It goes to the start of Chapter 6 (of 7). So theoretically, I'm close to the end of that walkthrough! That should clear up room for something else. I feel like the Paper Mario videos aren't popular--they consistently get under 200 views--but they keep winning those Twitter polls! Maybe Twitter is trolling me.

This week, my "what should I post next?" options will be Phoenix Wright 6, Awakening 7, Immortal Love 2, and probably Royal Trouble 2. Besides for the first choice, those are all short walkthroughs, under 20 videos long. The last time I posted a short walkthrough--one that was started and finished in a week--was December 19th with Christmas Eve: Midnight's Call.

My general plan was go back and forth between shorter walkthroughs and longer walkthroughs. You know, rotating between them every week. Now that I have a baby, recording short walkthroughs is less feasible, because I don't have the time to play through an entire game in advance. So the short walkthroughs are all going to be blind playthroughs, making them longer than they otherwise would be.