Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunshine Harvest

I slept longer than I'd planned on. It was nearly 10:30 before I had breakfast. Ran another episode of The Backyardigans while I ate my cereal and peach. The kids are cave people who spend their time inventing everyday things and thinking of names for them. Tasha and Austin invent the "Cave Party" and invite valley cave dwellers Uniqua, Tyrone, and Pablo up to their cave to dance and howl at the moon. The other three have to invent ways of getting up the snow-covered mountain.

It was past quarter after 11 when I finally made it out to this week's Collingswood Farm Market. It wasn't quite as busy so late in the morning. A lot of the produce was already gone, but I did grab a few things. Berries are gone, but I did see grapes, potatoes, and Gala apples for the first time today. I ended up with nectarines (the small peaches were gone), tiny green apples, Chinese beans, mushrooms, and corn. At least it was a nice day for it, hot but not humid, with a very blue sky and a little breeze.

Put on The Good Dinosaur and had Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins for lunch after I got everything put away. Pixar once again gives us another odd premise - what would have happened if the dinosaurs never became extinct? Apparently, the answer is "go west, young dino." An Apatosaurus family lives on a small farm near a river. Arlo desperately wants to prove to his parents that he can overcome his fears and be worthy of a mark with the rest of them, especially after his father dies trying to save him from the raging waters. He finds a small feral human eating his family's food and tries to get rid of it. After the two get lost, they have to find their way home, meeting a variety of dinosaurs (and western cliches) on the way.

I get the feeling people were expecting a lot more of this after Inside Out was such a revolutionary hit. This is no masterpiece, but it is a very pleasant cross between Old Yeller, The Land Before Time, Bambi, and John Ford's westerns. (The Tyrannosaurus ranching family were my favorite characters.) Be warned that there is some violence and at least one death onscreen - you'll want to have a hand to hold for little ones. Mostly, this was a very sweet coming-of-age tale that deserved far better than it got in theaters and is recommended.

Work was a pain during the first half. It was really crazy, with very long lines. Every time I tried to shelve items or bag or help with carts, I'd get called right back in to the registers. Thankfully, it slowed down enough by quarter after 4 that I was able to finish out the carts and work on the returns with fewer problems. I was able to grab honey (which I forgot yesterday) and hurry out.

Did an episode of Danger Mouse as I ate leftovers for dinner. "150 Millions Years Lost" is actually one of the ace rodent secret agent's less-strange adventures. Penfold is accidentally sent back 150 million years by resident scientist Dr. Squakncluck. Danger Mouse first follows him into the past, then has to figure out what to do when the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square is accidentally replaced with Penfold and a Dipldocus.

Finished the night with a little writing. Ben tells Luke and his other surf-crazy buddies about the Jedi, the elite group of surfers he and Luke's late older brother Adam once belonged to. They were considered legends in the surfing culture who won every local tournament and helped keep the town safe from trash like the Imperial Gang. Luke and his buddies want to learn their moves. Tomorrow, Ben says, when he's up to it and the waves are better. Someday, Luke thinks, I'm going to be that good. I'll be legendary, too.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Return of the Crystal

Spent most of the morning writing, and actually getting somewhere this time. Luke and Ben hit the beach to meet his buddies Wedge and Deak for some surfing. (Hobbie took Biggs in their cottage to get him cleaned up after the fight with the Imperial Gang.) The boys admire Leia as she heads down to the docks. (Luke doesn't get it - she's just his sister.) Ben used to be a part of an elite group of surfers known as the Jedi in the 50's and 60's. The group disbanded in the late 60s, but Ben says he might be able to teach Luke and his buddies some of their tricks now.

Ran Backyardigans tales of adventure and exploration during breakfast and while getting ready for work. "High Tea" has Tyrone, Pablo, and Uniqua unable to decide on an exciting thing to do, so they let Tasha choose the activity. She goes with a tea party. This elicits groans from the other kids...until they realize that Tasha's idea of a "tea party" involves trips to Borneo, the Gobi Desert, and a meeting with the Emperor of China (Austin) for the ingredients for the perfect cup of tea.

Uniqua heads to "The Heart of the Jungle" to return a wormen, one of the bright-colored worm-like critters that appear on the show from time to time, to its home. Tyrone, Pablo, and Austin all represent facets of Tarzan's character or personality over the years - Tyrone talks to animals, Pablo is super-strong, and Austin doesn't talk much. Uniqua insists she's a scientist, and scientists don't believe all that pulp fiction mumbo-jumbo.

Work wasn't too bad when I got in. I did returns right when I arrived and around quarter after 3. It started to pick up shortly after...and got to be a pain. I got stuck in the register at least three times. The manager told me to do returns instead of going on my break, which was a half-hour late. When I tried getting out there again, they put me back in the registers because the lines were so darn long. By the time I made it back outside, I only had ten minutes left. And I was alone for my last hour there, which was probably a mistake.

Pretty decent schedule this week. Thankfully after all the trouble today, the latest I work is 4 on Sunday. The rest of the week is all morning work, Tuesday and next Saturday off (the former for counseling). Nothing abnormal for the time of year, and slightly more hours.

I didn't really need all that much this week, especially since I planned on doing my produce shopping at farm markets. Restocked sugar, canned chicken, tomato sauce, crushed pineapple, chocolate chips, skim milk, and buttermilk. The clearance shelves are still full - I grabbed more vanilla extract and Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread mix to stock up for the holidays, along with tomato soup and chicken and dumplings soup. They really didn't have too much in the way of meat on good sales. I bought chicken sausages with a manager's coupon on them and beef hot dogs I'll cut up and make into my own home-made beans and weenies.

But mostly importantly, I saw a display for Crystal Pepsi in the front of the store. Matt at Dinosaur Dracula mentioned last Christmas it was coming back, but I hadn't seen it around here yet. I had to buy a bottle. It didn't disappoint. It was just as sweet and good as it was when I used to drink it occasionally in the mid-90's.

When I finally made it home, I changed, put everything away, then went right back out. Today was Oaklyn's Final Friday Festival, aka their Farm Market and food booth block party. This time, they had three farm booths. They had a small selection but good prices, and even a few things I'd never seen before. I went with a tomato, two leeks, an eggplant, two small green peppers, and a new one on me - a white cucumber. Stopped and admired kids scribbling on a long piece of white sketch paper to make a unique banner at Studio LuLoo's booth.

Bought a gyro from one of the food trucks for dinner. It was very tasty, but soo messy! I had a hard time finding a place to eat. It was still packed on West Clinton at quarter after 7. I finally sat down across from a family with a baby and an older boy who looked like they were just about ready to leave. Bought a sweet and butter slice of pound cake from Viola's International Deli's booth on the way home.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rainbow Flight

Once again began the day with work. Work was more-or-less the same as yesterday, and even less busy. By the time it started picking up, I was done. I rounded up carts when I arrived and after lunch, did a few returns, and gathered trash. (And I found out what all the secrecy was with not telling me why I can't do returns yesterday. I'm guessing someone saw me peeking at the books in the magazine aisle. I really, really wish they'd tell me this stuff when it happens and not wait.)

One of the customer service mangers called me up as I was leaving. The union the Acme belongs to was giving out money leftover from its strike fund. Did I want my share? Uh, yes! She let me call them in the office. It amounts to about $230 and will be here in a day or two.

Had lunch when I got home and finished out My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. "Testing, Testing, 123" has Twilight Sparkle trying to help Rainbow Dash study for her entrance exam to get into the Wonderbolts, an exclusive flying squadron. Rainbow just doesn't seem to pick up any history from Twilight's endless flashcards and notes, or Rarity's historical fashion parade, or Pinkie's rap. She thinks she's stupid...until she discovers her own method of learning. She finally makes the cut in "Newbie Dash," but messes up badly her first day in the Wonderbolts. The other members of the team dub her "Rainbow Crash." She loathes the nickname and tries to find a way to out-fly it.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders have finally earned the symbol on their rears that represents their talents by the time of "On Your Marks." They want to continue to find other ponies who need help understanding their Cutie Marks, but they can't find anyone together. Apple Blossom is upset when the other two leave to pursue separate interests. She can't find anything for her to do on her own, until she takes up tap dancing and meets a young male colt who wants to dance more than anything, but has horrible stage fright. She corrals the other two to help make his dreams come true...and show her that we can expand our horizons (and our pool of friends) when we break out of our shells and try new things.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my fanfic. Luke eventually joins his friends at the beach. The guys tell him about their summers and how they're hoping to help stop Empire Industries from buying the Cottages. Meanwhile, Leia decides to go for a walk down to the docks, where she meets a certain fisherman and his big, hairy English buddy...

I had just enough time to throw together a summer vegetable casserole from ground turkey and various old veggies I had in my refrigerator for dinner. Ran an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre while I cooked and ate. "The Emperor's New Clothes" is an adaptation of the comic Hans Christian Anderson tale about a ruler (Dick Shawn) who is more obsessed with his clothes than anything else. He constantly taxes his subjects to finance his wardrobe. Two con men (Art Carney and Alan Arkin) invent an "invisible" cloth that fools can't see and use it to take the whole court, including the vain Emperor himself, for a ride.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Modern Musical Mayhem

Began a hot, sunny day at work. Which was a pain. It was fairly dead all morning. I did carts and returns during the first half of my shift. We were so quiet that the carts didn't really need to be rounded up later. I did gather baskets, but they wouldn't let me do returns again. Why, I asked. "No reason," they said. "The manager said." I cleaned up the back room, gathered trash, and wiped up a spill in the bakery instead.

I was so frustrated when I got home. My bike didn't help. I thought the brakes weren't working, but it turns out the back wheel is loose again. I'll just have to ride it like that until I can get to the bike shop in Haddonfield next week.

Relaxed and had lunch when I got home while listening to the Hamilton original cast album. This musical adaptation of a recent biography of the "ten dollar founding father" introduces us to a tenacious young man (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who comes to New York after surviving a rough childhood and early adolescence in the Caribbean. He went on to become George Washington's (Christopher Jackson) "Right Hand Man" during the Revolutionary War and marry one of the wealthy Schuyler Sisters, Eliza (Phillipa Soo). He'd keep going on after the war, becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury, writing most of the Federalist Papers, and helping to create the US' financial plan. Alas, his later years were marred by his son's death in a duel, affairs, and rumors of embezzlement. He, too, would die in a duel at the hands of rival Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.). Meanwhile, King George III (Jonathan Groff) gloats that the US will return to him, then tear each other apart.

I'm not normally a fan of rap, but the music here is surprisingly thoughtful and well-written. I can understand why this has become wildly popular, especially with people who aren't normally musical fans. While not 100% historically accurate (starting with the diverse casting), the story is compelling and even thrilling, kind of the flip-side of the political wrangling in Broadway's other major Revolutionary War musical 1776.

(Warning - do heed the "explicit content" label on the CD. There's a bit of nasty language and minor sex in the second half.)

Teenagers and college students in particular seem to have fallen in love with this show (it's sold out at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York for the foreseeable future), but if you have a taste for rap and/or Americana and don't mind the rough language, you might be willing to enjoy this little-known slice of history, too.

Did the laundry around 3 PM. The laundromat wasn't busy when I left or when I came in, but it did get pretty crazy in between. Good thing I had a small load anyway, mostly clothes from vacation last week.

Tried to concentrate on writing, but I was too tired. Leia and Luke listen to Ben as he explains what's going on. I'm still stuck on this. I keep looking up stuff on the 80's at the Jersey Shore and getting distracted.

I finally gave up around 7:30 for a late dinner. I just had a quick tuna salad on red-leaf lettuce with tomatoes and radishes. Watched a couple of episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as I ate. Resident flyers Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are in the spotlight in these flight-themed tales. Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are having fun with pranking their friends until Rainbow Dash's buddy Griffon arrives in "Griffon the Brush Off." Pinkie doesn't like Griffon's grouchy attitude or her bullying, especially of Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash inadvertently turns the tables at a party for her new friend.

"Hurricane Fluttershy" is one I can definitely relate to. Rainbow Dash is training all of Ponyland's Pegasus to fly as fast as they can, in order to create a hurricane that'll bring Cloudville its annual water supply. Flutteryshy is terrified of flying. She isn't very good at it and was teased mercilessly about her slowness as a colt. Rainbow Dash just wants to beat last year's speed record. Rainbow discovers how important even the smallest contribution can be when Flutteryshy finds a way to help after all.

Returned to Lego Indiana Jones 2 to start the "treasure"  (aka Free Play) levels. These are the rounds you do to collect more "artifacts" after you've finished the regular story rounds. Did a very short level in the diner where the brawl occurred in the regular story mode. During the night, you have to have Mutt repair a jukebox, then break things and have a College Girl jump for beads and smack rats to get the artifacts. No sweat.

The treasure mode bike chase round was even simpler. It was an urban version of the jungle bonus round Lauren and I did in the second part. Thankfully, except for a few by the library and in the park, the balloons were much easier to see! I'll move on to more treasure levels the next time I play.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Scent of a Summer Day

I slept in this morning and didn't get going until past 10. I couldn't believe how much cooler it was when I finally started breakfast. It had to be in the 70's, at least, sunny and breezy. It was a great day to bake. I hadn't baked in ages. Added some of that canned pumpkin and maple extract I got on clearance and the last of the chocolate chips to Alton Brown's Old School Muffin recipe and created Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Oh yum, they came out so nicely, wonderfully moist and flavorful.

Finally headed out to run errands around quarter after 1. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were surprisingly busy for a nice day and them being so close to closing. There were several people on the computers and a mom helping a little boy with his summer school lessons. I worked on organizing the DVDs. They were a mess! You'd think people would be able to figure out where to put things by now.

Stopped at Capitol Pizza really quick for lunch. It was 1:30, and they were just a bit past lunchtime. There were two other guys watching The Chew when I arrived. By the time I was eating my slice of mushroom, slice of cheese, and drinking Diet Pepsi, I had the place to myself.

Dodged the traffic on Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike as best I could as I headed for Westmont. I checked out Rite Aid first. They weren't having good sales on pads or ibuprofen. Thriftway's pads were a decent price, but they had practically no stock of almost any medicine in their small pharmacy section. I settled on the pads and their 75 cent toilet paper, which I ran out of this morning.

The Haddon Township Library was even busier than the Oaklyn Library. Their return carts, for books and DVDs, were overflowing! Everyone must be coming back from vacation, or returning items they took out during the recent heat waves. It took me almost an hour to shelve the piles of titles. The only title I couldn't get in was an E, Ex Machina. Everything else went in, even foreign films and kids' titles. I never even got to the audio books or CDs or new releases.

I took a couple of things out this week. After I've enjoyed all the other obscure comic book adaptations I've seen this year, I was definitely willing to give the irreverent Deadpool a shot, despite its R rating. They had one of Disney's most recent films, The Good Dinosaur, as well as the latest release for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Digging around in the Library's electronic card catalog website uncovered Five Minute Star Wars Stories, a collection of easy reader adaptations of famous moments from various Star Wars movies (including The Force Awakens), and a gathering of the novelizations of the first three Indiana Jones movies.

It was too nice of a day not to ride across Newton Lake Park on my way home. I'm surprised it wasn't much busier. Maybe the fact that I didn't get out until past quarter after 4 had something to do with it. There couldn't have been a nicer day in late August. The sun was shining, the river was sparkling, and the flora seemed a little bit perkier than it was the last time I was in the park. The humidity must have vanished with the torrential rain on Sunday.

Stopped at Phillies Yummies for a treat. I've been wanting to try their ice cream sandwiches all summer. They're a pretty decent price, compared to the rest of their stock. I tried the chocolate. Not bad. I suspect it may have come from a store, but it was very big, cool, sweet, and quite messy.

I ate a very quick dinner when I got home. Finished up the Pepe Le Pew Looney Tunes All Stars DVD as I did. Although Pepe's various attempts at wooing female cats could be formulaic, unlike Wile E and Road Runner, they did try to switch things up with different settings (Old New Orleans, modern Paris, the Louvre, the French Foreign Legion, a French movie studio, the Alps) and young "ladies" to be wooed (domestic cats accidentally doused with paint, a chihuahua trying to impress her friends with a fluffier coat, a wild panther who escaped the zoo, even a male cat trying to avoid dogs and people's boots). One cartoon even had Pepe mistaking Sylvester for a skunk in a gag in the very end of what was otherwise a Sylvester/Tweety romp.

The only cartoon to not have him chasing some hapless "beautiful young lady skunk" was "Odor of the Day." Here, Pepe vies with a dog for the bed in a warm cabin. It was kind of odd and really seemed more like a Daffy or solo Sylvester outing than a Pepe short.

Finished the night with writing. Ben says he and the other residents of the Cottages are trying to figure out what the Empire Industries wants with all the beachfront property they're buying. Leia and Luke agree to help figure out what's going on.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Coyote, the Road Runner, and the Secret Agent

Slept in a bit this morning. Started the day with breakfast and Wile E Coyote/Road Runner shorts. Most of the cartoons in the All-Stars set were from the mid-late 60's, shortly before the Warner Bros Animation Studios shut down for good. My favorites, though, were the modern shorts. The first three all looked pretty recent, given their well-done CGI animation, and they all captured the flavor of the original shorts very well. Two shorts from the 90's were also fun (especially "Chariots of Fur"). I know most Tunes fans are down on the Baby Looney Tunes series, but the short "Little Go Beep" was hilarious. I loved mini Wile E using toys to trap mini Road Runner.

Spent most of the morning writing. I didn't get far. Ben tells his adopted niece and nephew that Empire Industries is buying up as many properties as they can. They've offered to buy the Cottages, but he declined. Leia thinks there has to be more to this than dominating business on the island and is determined to find out what.

I had a quick chicken salad lunch before heading off to work. My first day back at work was mostly very busy and very annoying. I ended up in the register a lot more than I would have liked. I would rather have been doing returns, or at least spending a nice day outside. I rounded up carts for about 10 minutes before they pulled me back inside to take customers again.

Did a little grocery shopping after I finally got off. I mostly needed fruit - grabbed peaches, the cheapest fruit I could find. The Acme's huge clearances continue. I picked up the Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread Mix Dad loved for Thanksgiving, a dark chocolate cake mix, and something called "Perfect Portions," a small cake for one or two people, complete with frosting and cake mix. I went with Lemon Bliss.

Got my schedule for the rest of this week as well. I have tomorrow off, then work more four-hour shifts either early in the morning or in the mid-afternoon. All fine and fairly normal for this time of year. The later shift on Saturday will allow me to get to the Collingswood Farm Market.

Since I didn't get to have my usual Sunday pancakes, I made Maple-Chocolate Chip Pancakes for dinner. I wish I hadn't burned one side of the first one. The second one was amazing, just sweet enough and very fluffy.

Ran The Man With the Golden Gun while I ate and cleaned up from dinner. The title character in this mid-70's James Bond outing is Scaramonga (Christopher Lee), a very elegant assassin who is so good at what he does, he asks for a million dollars per kill. Bond (Roger Moore) is worried that he's after him. Scaramonga's real target is the creator of a solar device that helps to create a solar ray that could end the (then) current energy crisis, or become an efficient laser gun. Scaramonga has something of an obsession with taking down Bond, whom he sees as his equal. Bond has to make his way through the back streets of Bangkok and a karate school in Hong Kong in order to find the world's most dignified killer, with the (dubious) aid of fellow secret agent Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland).

Lee's presence as one of the best Bond villains elevates this rather strange outing. My biggest complaint was too much padding. The whole solar subplot was unnecessary, as was the goofy sequence with the schoolgirls and the martial arts school. (As much as I loved seeing two Asian schoolgirls able to kick butt even better than James.) They did NOT have to bring back the annoying hillbilly sheriff character from Live and Let Die, either. Britt Ekland's Mary Goodnight was both useless and dumb - getting stuck in the trunk of a car while she was planting a bug was especially stupid. Also not a fan of the derivative theme song, which sounds like a very bad imitation of the theme from Goldfinger.

Though I've heard this doesn't usually rank very high with hard-core Bond fans, I did end up enjoying it. For all the goofiness, it has a surprisingly gritty feel, with Moore's Bond acting far tougher than usual for his movies. He very nearly breaks the arms of the Bond villain woman (Maud Abrams) at one point. Lee's Scaramonga is terrific. He's a man who loves what he does, makes good money off of it, and is glad to meet someone else whom he thinks of as an equal. He's not a showy or obvious villain, but Lee makes him elegant and effective. His dwarf sidekick was pretty awesome, too.

If you're a Bond fan, particularly of Moore's run, or want to try a slightly outside-of-the-box Bond, this is far better than its reputation suggests and is recommended.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wait For It

It was still relatively sunny when I heard Lauren's parents moving around 7:30. I read, wrote, and packed until Lauren emerged at 9. We spent our last hour together playing more Rayman Origins. She'd already been working on the first level of the next world, your basic ice world. We did another ice world, then finished with the fire levels. We got one level in the ocean-themed fourth world in before Lauren realized it was time to go.

The clouds were starting to gather as we headed through the countryside of western Massachusetts and upstate New York, but they still weren't really threatening at that point. There was no traffic, and we arrived at the Albany-Rensslauer Train Station with enough time for me to buy a Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch, and for us to watch some of the Team Rhythmic Gymnastics finals, one of the last Olympic competitions. Incidentally, we did see Russia's eventual gold-medal-winning performance. I thought the crowd seemed to like the routines from Israel and the Ukraine (the latter did theirs to Madonna's "Vogue") better.

The train had no trouble leaving the station on time, around 12:05. They were crazy-full. I was able to eat my lunch before I was joined by a young man who spent most of the ride either sleeping or messing around with his phone. I listened to music on my iPod and enjoyed the spectacular view. The view going to New York is glorious, all shining lakes and green mountains dotted with mansions and cabins. It's so postcard-worthy.

We were a little late getting into New York, but it wasn't a big deal. The trouble started after we finally made it to Penn Station. I kept checking the departure monitor every few minutes. The train with my number on it was coming to Boston, and it was 50 minutes late. It took them nearly 20 minutes to figure out that the same train on its way to Washington DC was not going to be on-time. It first said 35, then switched to 45 around 4 PM. I spent most of the time reading Lando Calarissian and the Star Cave of the Thromboka, using the bathroom, and constantly checking either the monitor or the main board. When the train did finally arrive, it was so full, the line had to be split into two entrances just to get everyone on.

By the time we finally rolled out of Penn Station at nearly 5, the rain that had threatened in the New York suburbs was now coming down in torrents. The train was so darn full, I grabbed one of the last seats in the very back of the car, next to the bathroom. I was initially joined by an older woman and a man and his adorable daughter. The woman got off at Elizabeth; the man and his daughter eventually joined the rest of their family. I finished the ride with two teen boys in goth dress and a college-age girl, all of whom spent the ride playing with their smartphones and hand-held video games

Didn't make it to Philly until 6:30. I just barely had enough time to grab a hoagie at Jersey Mike's, eat it fast, and dash to the NJ Transit train. Thankfully, by this point, the rain had stopped. In fact, there was a rather nice sunset. Also, once again, we left on time but were late arriving in Cherry Hill, thanks to stopping to let another train go past. Dad picked me up at the platform and drove me home.

I called the Acme as soon as I got in, even before I unpacked everything else. I'm working 1 to 5 tomorrow. Good. That'll give me time to get organized and do some writing, and it's not too hard for my first day back in over a week.

And yes, today ends my vacation. I'm glad I did it in August this year, instead of waiting for the fall. I had an even better time with Lauren this year than I did last year. We're talking about Lauren coming to New Jersey earlier next year, in May instead of June. It's too hot in June for all the walking we do, not to mention to keep the air conditioning off. (Lauren doesn't like air conditioning. Her family has no air conditioners.) The kids will still be in school, and a lot of the places we frequently visit here will be quieter.