The Waltons: Trouble on the Mountain by Robert Weverka

For generations, people have asked the question “What if two episodes of The Waltons, namely “The Typewriter” and “The Separation”, had happened at the same time?” and in The Waltons: Trouble on the Mountain, Robert Weverka answers that question. Okay, to be honest, nobody ever really asked that question before (probably not even Waltons fans) but I still thought that this was an enjoyable read.

So, for those who don’t know the synopsis of every single episode of The Waltons (like I do) the plot is as follows: John-Boy secretly borrows a typewriter from the Baldwin sisters so that he can make a typed submission to a publication he wants to have a story published in.  The reason he has to do it secretly, is that his mother and grandmother both dislike the Baldwins for unknowingly brewing a recipe which is actually bootleg whiskey. Meanwhile, the family are experiencing money troubles and there’s a very real risk of their electricity getting cut off. As a result of all this, certain tensions build between Esther and Zebulon.

I think a part of the reason that these two episodes were merged into one story, was that it meant that this book focused on all of the Walton family (rather than just two or three of them.) The way the two plots are woven together is quite clever and, at times, fills in small gaps in the plot which were left unfilled on the TV. It also provides us with an opportunity to see into the heads of the characters and know their thoughts, something which I really appreciated.

Overall, it’s a nice story which gives all of the adult Waltons a chance to do what they do best. If you’re a Waltons fan and would like to see a new take on these two stories, I suggest giving this book a try! If you kind of like The Waltons, but wouldn’t quite call yourself a fan, this is a chance to read a potentially new (for you) story about the family and if you’ve never heard of The Waltons, it’s quite a short book so you wouldn’t have much to lose by giving it a try. I certainly enjoyed it (though I do take issue with it being described as a “brand new adventure” in the blurb!)

Rating: 7/10

Buy it here.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is what it’s called when your mind wakes up, but your body remains asleep. You’re conscious, but you can’t move. It’s something which has always fascinated me, so I felt very fortunate when I experienced it for the first time recently.

Apparently, it’s an experience which can be quite distressing for a lot of people, but I was quite excited the entire time – perhaps because I was completely aware of what was happening. I guess it’s yet another case where knowledge is power.

I’m sure I opened my eyes and I was looking down at my body stretched out down the bed. I tried to move, but soon realised that I couldn’t. I tried sitting up, but it was as if I had a great weight pushing me down. I tried to resist it a few times, but I really couldn’t move at all.

What was most interesting for me, was how it felt when I tried to move my arms and legs. It felt just like I was moving them, but I could see that I was not. I suppose the easiest way to describe that would be to say that it felt like my soul was moving while my body remained still. Curiously, the further I moved these phantom limbs from their actual locations, the colder they felt – and I was feeling properly ice cold sensations when I really tried moving my hands.

Were I not familiar with sleep paralysis and the strange tricks that the human brain can play, this could have been quite a spiritual and life-changing experience for me. I can easily see how somebody might go through that and then be completely convinced about the existence of a soul and some spiritual level of existence.

Having said that, I’d hate to imply that the experience was cheapened for me at all by it not being at all spiritual. It was interesting and exciting! It opened my eyes to new things that a person can experience. I hope that I’ll have it happen again one day.

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Job Interviews

I’ve had a handful of job interviews recently – one of which was successful. What surprised me, was that while I thought that a few of them had gone well, many didn’t even respond to tell me I’d done badly. I thought that, at very least, a stock rejection email would have been appropriate. I was disappointed that so many of them had just left it up in the air and not given me a response, even after they’d told me that they would.

But today I was given what I would call the golden standard of interview responses. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get the job (which is a shame) but I was very pleased with how they let me know. I was left a voicemail, where they told me that I’d been unsuccessful, but that I’d come across very well in the interview and they said that they didn’t think that I should be disheartened. They said that I could call or email if I wanted some more detailed feedback on the interview and sent me an email just in case I didn’t get the voicemail.

I feel like once an employee has been interviewed, the employer should really do them the courtesy of giving a proper response. This was the best response I’ve ever had to an unsuccessful interview and it left me with a very positive impression of the business. It’s good to know there are businesses like that out there.

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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The Mysterious Murasame Castle games:

1986: The Mysterious Murasame Castle
2012: Nintendo Land ¹
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ²

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. A new game called Takamaru’s Ninja Castle is included.
  2. Takamaru appears as a non-playable character.
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My Pokémon Ranch

My Pokémon Ranch is one of only a few games that were exclusive, WiiWare games. This means that it was downloadable via the Wii Shop Channel and nowhere else. Sadly, the Wii Shop Channel is due to be discontinued soon and so I thought I had better review this game while it is still available! If you’re reading in the future, this is sadly probably going to be a game that has been lost to the ages.

Now, I know there are a lot of people who would claim that that is no real loss, however I would heartily disagree. The most common criticism directed at this game, is that it’s not really a “game” and that it, therefore, is not worth your money. I do actually kind of agree – as a standalone game, it doesn’t really work. The way I see it is that My Pokémon Ranch is an expansion to Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version and in that regard, it has a very high level of value.

The titular ranch is run by a woman named Hayley and she’ll ask you for specific Pokémon that she’d like to see added to the ranch. You transfer these Pokémon from either of the DS games mentioned above and they come through in very cute, miniature forms. You can then use toys to play with the Pokémon or add your Miis so that they can interact with them too. Watching the ranch fill up and seeing all the Pokémon playing together is very rewarding and it gives you a good incentive to keep playing Diamond and Pearl. It also provides you with a method for obtaining certain legendary Pokémon, such as Mew, which is pretty cool.

In essence, yes, it is a glorified expansion of the storage boxes in the main games, but I think it’s actually very cute and very nice, so I like it a lot. If you’re going to play either Diamond or Pearl then I recommend downloading this too. When Hayley requests specific Pokémon, she’ll tell you where you can find them and I find her guidance very useful for finding rarer Pokémon. Plus, various people can store their Pokémon in the ranch, which helps to further strengthen the social aspect of the series and lets you see your Pokémon interacting with those of your friends in a non-fight setting.

While it may be quite a simple game, it never cost very much money and I’ll always have fond memories of my many Pokémon marching past in their very cute ranch parade. I recommend it (but only to Diamond and Pearl players.)

Rating: 8/10

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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Call Centre Christmas Connections

I recently started working in a call centre – it’s okay. It’s definitely not the best job I’ve had, but it’s also definitely not the worst. It’s good, simple, stress-free work and I can’t really complain about that. For today’s blog post, I’d actually like to talk about one particular positive aspect of my call centre experience.

What I do all day, is take customer orders from a catalogue. What has recently brought some small joy to my life, is the fact that they have been ordering Christmas related items. There’s a Christmas tree here, a set of fancy cutlery there and other times they order lots of presents for child-relatives.

Every time they order their Christmas products, I feel quite happy. I start imagining how they’ll be using them on Christmas day. I start thinking about how much people will love certain gifts and how the decorations will help to set the tone perfectly. It’s nice to think about people having a nice time and it’s nice to know that I will have had some small role in that – no matter how small and insignificant that role may have been.

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Public Tragedy

The other day I was riding along on the train. I had spent quite a number of hours riding on buses and trains in order to have a quick ten minute meeting (which felt really pointless.) I was standing up on a particularly busy train, when all of a sudden there was a big bump and the train came to a rather an abrupt stop.

I thought for a second, that the train might have ran over an animal. Then I thought that would be quite sad and hoped it wouldn’t be the case. The conductor gave an announcement and said he was going to ask the driver why they had suddenly stopped. I heard a few people tutting and sighing. A few seconds later, the conductor gave another announcement and revealed that somebody had been run over.

I was pretty shocked, because I never could have imagined that that would be what had happened. The idea that the train I had been riding on had caused the death of somebody was very sad. The thought that somebody had died a few feet away from me and that I knew more about it than the actual people who cared about them was even more distressing.

Over the next hour or so the train stood still as the emergency services arrived and did their best to get the person out from under the train. This was something that was very unpleasant to experience – but what I found even worse, was the response of the other people on the train.

People were complaining and moaning about how it would personally cause them some minor inconveniences – mostly along the lines of being late home and feeling tired. Others were taking photos of the emergency service people to post on their social media accounts. Some of them were even making extremely tasteless jokes about it. None of them were talking seriously about the tragedy that is the loss of human life.

While riding on a train that ran somebody over alone would have been a saddening experience, all of the people on the train made it much, much worse.  Their total lack of compassion was something I found very disturbing. Is that how self-absorbed the average person really is? No, is the answer I need myself to believe. A good friend of mine told me that the other people were probably putting on a front because they were very upset and I hope that they were right.

After the emergency services had left, the conductor announced that the person had survived and was taken to hospital. This, at least, got a mild cheer from the crowd. I didn’t really think it was very good news though, because I wondered how long somebody would really survive after that. I remember thinking in the evening, how awful they must feel – both physically and emotionally. When I checked the news, I found they had indeed died shortly after. I hope that the rest of the passengers checked. I hope that they cared.

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Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Genesys by John Peel

When Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, there was international turmoil. Nobody could accept that what might possibly be the best television programme ever made had just been taken off the air. It pushed the tensions of the Cold War to the extreme as more and more people adopted the stance of “Life is no longer worth living, so we may as well all be blown up.” Naturally, there was only one solution: to bring back Doctor Who, but it returned in the form of a novel series…

Anyway, enough of being silly – Timewrym: Genesys is the start of a long series of Doctor Who novels which continue the adventures of the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace after the ending of the final TV story. A lot of people were disappointed that the series was cancelled when it was, because it had started to adopt a more serious tone and had included a stronger focus on character development.

The good news is that this shift of tone continues. I felt like Ace in particular was characterised well in this book. We get to find out how she feels about travelling with the Doctor – both the good and the bad. The insights into her mind that this book provides, make her feel even more real and likeable. She was definitely the point of connection for this book. But, really, pretty much every character in this book was really well defined and I think it’s a definitive strength.

The bad news is that it kind of goes too far in some respects. The story has the Doctor getting involved with characters from The Epic of Gilgamesh as well as setting up a new villain. This is all fine – but they used the historical setting as an excuse to go a bit over the top with the sex and violence. I guess John Peel just got carried away by the idea of writing Doctor Who without constraints.

People have their entrails cut out all the time, a teenage prostitute spends a lot of the time walking around topless (with attention drawn to her breasts a large amount of the time) and even Ace has a couple of nude scenes which felt quite awkward and out of place. The Doctor is also particularly cold and uncaring – for example, pressuring Ace to spend time alone with a known, armed rapist and then getting annoyed with her when she doesn’t want to, because it would ruin his plans. All of it feels like a conscious attempt to make the story be “adult.”

But other than the Doctor’s behaviour and the silly levels of sex and gore, I still consider this a good book. As well as the great character development, I was also quite pleased with all the fan service. There are quite a few references to old Doctor Who stories and a few small cameos which probably wouldn’t have been done on television. I think if you’re a fan of the show, you should give it a try as it’s a well told story if you ignore the flaws.

Rating: 8.7/10

Buy it here.

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Candles That Burn Twice as Bright

I remember once, as a young child, I was talking to my mother about school friends. She told me how she didn’t see hers anymore and that that was just something that happened as people became adults: they drifted away from their childhood friends. It was a thought that made me quite sad and something which I hoped would never happen to me.

Today that is still a thought that makes me very sad. I am still in touch with my friends from primary school and secondary school and the idea that a time may come where I do drift away from them still makes me quite sad. Thankfully, I have been able to keep in touch with (almost) all of the friends who were most important to me, so the chances of us drifting apart from them now seem pretty low.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that conversation with my mother is one of the early childhood memories which stuck with me, because the idea of become separated from my friends has always been something that causes me worry and concern – perhaps to an undue or irrational extent.

University was the first big “new start” for me because primary school, secondary school and sixth form had all merged into one another quite seamlessly. It was the first “mass exodus” of people from my life and I remember it being something which I quite dreaded, because I wasn’t sure how I would handle the loss of friends. I remember saying, semi-jokingly, to one or two people, that it would be nice to stay in school forever.

I’d built up strong bonds with quite a lot of people by then. I remember lots of the nice things they said to me; “You’re a good man, Adam. I hope you know it.” “Knowing that there are good people like you in the world makes me cry with happiness.” “Of course I trust you – because it’s you.” Words which still give me confidence to this day. The experiences which I shared with people back then (school trips, visits, long walks etc.) are memories I shall cherish forever.

Knowing that I would soon be separated from all of these people, I intentionally started to isolate myself from them. I reasoned that, if I got used to not seeing them in advance, it wouldn’t be so sad when they were suddenly gone. It’s a decision that I consider unwise and regret as I believe it made it harder to properly get back in touch with certain people later in life – but to the teenage version of me, it seemed perfectly rational.

Thankfully, making new friends was never too difficult for me. Before long I had two new friends at university with whom I was very close. I think, perhaps, that having now experienced friends moving on in their lives, I was keen to make things even better with these new friends. I felt much closer to those two friends than I had done with anyone else in the past (thanks in no small part to being much more emotionally open.) But, naturally, I still missed my old friends a lot and I even wrote about it here on this blog!

Foolishly, I made a little promise to myself that I’d be sure to always keep those two friends in my life. There was a short time, in fact, where I actually considered my life to be perfect. But this attitude of mine was unhealthy and was not compatible with the ever-changing nature of life.

As I had made the effort to become much closer to those two and much more emotionally invested in my friendships, their departures from my life were even more difficult than when I had left sixth form. One of them move out of my life so slowly, that I never really saw it coming and I never really had a proper “goodbye day”, while the other I ended up having a few goodbyes with – at the last of which, I made sure to say “Never forget that I love you and will miss you very much.”

So is my conclusion that deeper connections through friendships are not worth the heartache? Absolutely not. I suppose going to university was a time of emotional development for me and, after having those two very good friends, I decided to be as open and as close with all friends going forward – and backward. I guess loss was important when it came to appreciating people (no matter how much I felt I already did) and so I made the effort to be more open and affectionate with all of my older friends too, which I find very rewarding.

And, of course, there’s the fact that (in most cases) people don’t really disappear from your life. To make a television comparison, it’s the equivalent of a leading character being reduced to an occasional guest star. The transition can be difficult, but the significance and influence that each person carries is never really lessened. That’s the important thing to remember.

This is a subject that has been troubling me recently. I feel as though a lot of my friends are simultaneously making the transition to the “occasional guest star” status. Which is difficult for me, as I always like to see people. Of course, I know, I will make new friends and the cycle will begin anew, the problem is that it sometimes feels a little tiring. I just need to remember that, yes, it is all worth it and, yes, it’s always better to be happy that something happened, rather than sad that it’s over.

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Nintendo Badge Arcade

The Nintendo Badge Arcade is a free downloadable game for Nintendo 3DS consoles. Basically, it’s a set of crane games, where you have to pick out badges (which are all based on various Nintendo characters.) These badges can then be used to decorate the home menu screen on your 3DS. To some people, I am sure that that sounds really boring, but personally, I loved it.

Every time you play the game, you’re greeted by a pink rabbit who’s only ever been called “Arcade Bunny.” Until they stopped adding new badges, he’d have something new to say every week. He’d introduce the latest set of badges, talk about offers and make lots of hilarious jokes about the games the badges were based on. He would also transform into various other forms too – like a realistic rabbit and an enormously muscular version of himself. He was very amusing and he made playing the game regularly quite entertaining.

The badges themselves were pretty great too. Pretty much every major Nintendo franchise was included in some way (but there were one or two exceptions.) I was most pleased whenever completely new artwork was used to make badges. For example, one set had WarioWare characters dressed as characters from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – needless to say, I loved it! It was also nice to see even obscure things like BoxBoy! getting their own badges.

What’s even more impressive is that some characters even received some level of development through these badges. For example, Nikki. Nikki had previously appeared in the Nintendo Letter Box but had never really done very much. In this game, we get loads of badges showing her doing all kinds of things, like having a day out on the beach with her animal friends or celebrating Christmas. We even got to see a nice sort of friendship blossom between Nikki and Ashley (from the WarioWare games) due to the fact that several of the sets depicted the pair of them having different adventures together.

One set of badges in particular (which had me very excited) was Nikki, Ashley and the Arcade Bunny visiting Inkopolis (from Splatoon.) Another great one had Nikki trying on the hats of several well known characters (like Mario and Link.) I think a lot of it was made to please the fans and I certainly was pleased. It wasn’t just the “cute” Nintendo characters, either. There were several sets made using artwork from Fire Emblem Fates and another using artwork from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Although I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed some weeks. For example, they made badges for every single Pokémon, which is impressive, but it also got repetitive. There were an awful lot of sets which were just items of furniture from Animal Crossing or things from mainline Super Mario games. Meanwhile, there were barely any Donkey Kong badges (Dixie Kong never got one!), not a single Mother badge and no Super Smash Bros. badges.

Also, while the game was free to play, you had to pay if you wanted more than a few tries at catching the badges. This was mostly fine, because I felt like you were given a generous amount of free tries and I barely ever had to spend money. However, some of the badge catchers were laid out in such a way, that you couldn’t hope to get certain badges without paying, which did get frustrating sometimes.

But, overall, I loved Nintendo Badge Arcade and consider it a very nice addition to the 3DS library.  There are some really great, unique pieces of artwork to be unlocked and you can then use it to make your home menu screen a lot more personal – I wouldn’t have been able to turn mine into a little Donkey Kong shrine without it. Be sure to play it while they’re still cycling through the old badges and before the service is discontinued.

Rating: 9/10

(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)

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