Sunday, July 31, 2016

Those Oldies But Goodies

Started off a partly cloudy morning with some quick Blueberry Pancakes before hurrying off to early work. It wasn't bad when I came in. I did get stuck in the register once, but I mostly did returns. I had plenty of help, too. There were at least two other baggers there for most of the morning. It picked up by 11:30-noon. I spent the last hour and a half helping with carts. It was hot and humid, if not quite as hot as it has been the last few weeks. The heavy clouds above me would look threatening for a few minutes...then the sun would emerge.

It was still on-and-off cloudy when I got home. I changed, had a quick leftovers lunch, then packed up my laundry and headed back out again. I heard it was supposed to rain tomorrow. I wanted to get my load done now, before Mother Nature figured out what she was doing. It's just as well I had a very small load. They were busy as heck. I got one of the last remaining washers when I arrived. There were lots of families and couples getting their weekly load done, too. Thankfully, by the time my clothes were in the dryer, it was starting to clear out.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on writing. I eliminated the need for Jabba to drug Leia. He uses Han's siren voice to put Leia in a trance. He wants her to agree to kiss him and marry him - it'll turn her into his slave and leave Han as a beast forever. A certain dogfish and Leia's beloved brother crash the party and attack Jabba, breaking his hold on her.

I'm still having problems with Windows 10. The start menu wouldn't work again. Getting off "selected start-up" helped there...but then my computer crashed again. I have no idea why Windows 10 won't work on my computer. I was really hoping to not have to fiddle with drivers, especially since my computer says mine is fine...but if this keeps up, I may have to uninstall and reinstall an updated one.

I listened to my Golden Treasures oldies record set while eating more leftovers from yesterday's party for dinner. I totally forgot I had this set. I need to listen to it more often. Not only does it include old favorites like "Five O'Clock World," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey," and the original "Rockin' Robin," but it (inadvertantly) came with a bonus. I bought this set from an estate sale several years ago. Two more oldies collections must have been put into the wrong album sleeve. I didn't realize it until I was long home. Oh well, more for me to listen to.

Finished out the night with more Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. I was looking forward to the next rounds. Last Crusade has been my favorite Indiana Jones movie since it came out in 1989. Like the second Lego Indy game, we skip the "Indy as a kid" opening in favor of going right into the story. The first one takes us over, above, and under Venice in search of Sir Richard's tomb. Building that infamous "X" in the library (that Indy claims never marks the spot) is especially fun. The boat race is more challenging - it's hard to catch the man in the speedboat long enough to ram him!

"Castle Rescue" is a bit easier. You first have to get Indy and Elsa Schinider to where Dr. Jones is being held, then get the Jones duo out of the castle. The last part with the bazooka that shoots missiles (that often blow up your character along with what they're aiming at) was the toughest to figure out.

"Motorcycle Chase" is harder. You are on motorcycles, but this is no crash-and-bash. You have to get off of them to hit officers, steal their hats, and convince the Nazis to let you pass. It took me a while to figure out the part with the bridge, too - you have to shoot the lenses to get the material to raise the bridge. And the end, where you have to use the bazookas to blow up mounted guns (and more often than not, get blown apart yourself) was more than a little frustrating.

Hopefully, things will be better the next time I play - it'll likely be moving on to an airplane chase and a zeppelin ride.

(Oh, and to date, it still hasn't rained. We'll see what happens.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pool Party In the Rain

Began today with an early work shift. Did carts for about two and a half hours on and off. It wasn't quite as hot as it has been, but it was very, very humid. When I got tired of sweating, I did returns, tended to the women's bathroom, helped a lady in and electric cart outside, and got stuck in the registers for a little while. It had been cloudy all day. It spit briefly when I was outside in the morning, but it didn't amount to anything. I picked up sugar (which I forgot yesterday) and got home dry.

When I arrived, I worked on my fanfiction. Jabba, now a handsome merman who calls himself Lord Jasper, is doing his best to seduce Leia. His voice has hypnotic qualities, thanks to Han being a real merman. Coupled with a drugged drink, it's easily luring the princess into his arms. But help is on the way....

Unfortunately, when I went to turn off my computer, I found I couldn't. The Windows 10 shut-down button wouldn't work, no matter what I pushed. I had to shut it off manually. All the messing around made me much later than I'd planned for Dad-Bruce's birthday party. And of course, it finally started raining hard the moment I came out. I arrived very wet.

Everyone was just starting to eat when I arrived. Jodie cooked tons of food. She thought it was too hot to barbecue, so they made ordinary indoor banquet items - baked ziti, roasted potatoes, Chicken Marsala, asparagus cooked in garlic sauce, green beans, shrimp scampi, hot sausage with peppers, and meatballs. There were tiny tarts and eclairs from Desserts by Design in place of the usual cake. I had everything but the sausage (too spicy), green beans (the salad and asparagus was enough), and meatballs (I didn't realize they were even there until I was already too full). I took a ton home, too.

Jodie said it was just a small thing, but nothing is ever small in my family. I saw Jodie's parents, Rose and Khai, friends of the family and their children, and Jesse, Dana, and their dog Helio. Jessa, Joe, and Joe's kids came shortly before I left.

After I ate, I hit the pool with the kids and their moms. Wow. The water was so amazingly warm. Rose was right that it felt like bath water. I was in for over an hour and a half and finally only got out because it was getting late. It had started to rain again after we came out, but that was actually kind of fun. The rain felt nice on my face as I floated around the kids, watching one of the moms teach them how to dive.

When I finally got in, I hung everything up to dry, took a shower, and then went on the Wii to play Lego Indiana Jones. The last two rounds of Temple of Doom were far shorter and quite a bit easier than the preceding ones. The only problem I had with "Escaping the Mine" was the mine cart ride. You had to hit levers from red to green in order to complete the course. I couldn't do it fast enough! Every time I hit one, it would take me forever to find another, and the last one I did would blink out.

The last round was "Battle on the Bridge." Once you got to the bridge and figured out you have to cut the ropes on the bridge to get rid of Mola Ram, this one was a piece of cake.

Next time I play, I'll be beginning Last Crusade. If I finish this before vacation, I'll double back to Lego Indiana Jones 2 and see if I can get closer to 100% on that.

I had less luck on the computer. It opened in safe mode. It took me forever to figure out how to switch back to regular mode. At least the start bar is working now. If it's still giving me trouble after a week, I'm rolling back to 8.1.

Oh, and I got my schedule at work. Pretty much the same as last week, other than early hours on Sunday and Saturday off instead of Wednesday. Not that I have much planned. I'm broke and need to start cleaning and getting ready for my vacation.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Final Friday Harvest

Though it rained early in the morning, by the time I got out of bed, it was sunny and bright. I watched a couple of episodes of Danger Mouse from the second season as I had breakfast and got organized. The entirety of England has been cursed with bad luck by "The Bad Luck Eye of the Little Yellow God." Danger Mouse and Penfold travel to Australia to figure out how to end the curse. The duo have a "Close Encounter of the Absurd Kind" when they're kidnapped by aliens while chasing Baron Greenback over the Bermuda Triangle.

Headed out for a little grocery shopping around 11. I heard it may rain later, so I figured I'd get everything done as soon as I could. The clearance shelves are groaning with products the Acme is either phasing out, or were a part of their previous generic brand. I bought butter yellow cake mix, batteries, aspirin, cranberry-almond cluster cereal, and rum extract. Found Purdue ground chicken that was on sale and had a dollar manager's coupon. Restocked diced tomatoes, brown sugar, spiced wafers, skim milk, and peaches. Thought I'd try more of those frozen juice bars Lauren and I tried earlier in the summer. All they had left were Jolly Ranchers and sour flavors. I grabbed the former.

Went home, put everything away, then went right back out. First stop was Common Grounds Coffee House. I had a quick sweet spicy tea and an "Orange Creamcicle" Muffin. It was a little disappointing. Other than the orange-white chocolate on top, it didn't taste very citrus-y. The tea was as tasty as ever, though. It was around 1. There were a few people there, mainly local office workers looking for peace and quiet.

I rode by Dad and Jodie's house on my way to Haddon Township, but there was no van in the driveway, and it appeared that no one was home. Headed across the Newton River Park instead to the Haddon Township Library. Neither the library nor the park were busy. There wasn't a whole lot for me to do at the library. I shelved the few children's DVDs and new releases and the one audio book sitting in the stacks.

Did take out a few movies and another cartoon set. Renewed Ant-Man, which I still haven't gotten around to. Rose recommended The Box Trolls when we were talking about movies on the way to Anny's house on Wednesday. I've seen it at both libraries and have been meaning to take a look at it for a while now. Goldie & Bear is another Disney Junior show, this one with a fairy tale theme, that looks like it'll be fun. Found a lovely picture-book version of Beauty & the Beast (one of the inspirations for my current fanfic).

Made a quick stop at a very quiet Thriftway for Gatorade and a gift card before dodging the early traffic on Cuthbert and riding over to Dad and Jodie's. Jodie was there when I arrived; Dad came later. Jodie was making tons of food for Dad's birthday party tomorrow. I said "hello" to both and told them when I'm leaving on August 15th for vacation. Sounds like Dad will probably drive me to Cherry Hill that Monday, and Rose may pick me up on Sunday evening.

Spent the next few hours writing. Leia appears in a beautiful old sunken castle, dressed in fine clothes in a dining room with a table laden with seafood goodies. Her host is a handsome blond merman with Han's voice. He's charming and witty, but something seems very off about him...especially his large yellow eyes...

Today was Oaklyn's second Final Friday Food & Farms Festival. It was even busier than the first one last month. I didn't run into Rose and her family this time, but I did see one of the managers at work. (She apparently had off today, too.) As the farmer told me last month, there were two small farm stands this time. I'm glad. It made up for me not being able to make it to the Collingswood Farm Market this week. I was able to buy two perfect red tomatoes, two leeks, and a nice, small head of red-leaf Boston lettuce. The cheapest food I could find was the $3 hot dogs, soda, and chips deal from Viola's International Deli. The other food booths all sold fancy salads, crepes, or gourmet sandwiches that cost an arm and a leg. I ate the hot dogs, then strolled home with my soda.

Finished the night with a tomato and Boston lettuce salad and the first episode of Goldie & Bear. The title characters are Goldilocks and Little Bear, who are now best friends who happily play and romp with other fairy tale characters.  "The Birthday Chair" has Goldie repairing the chair she broke for Little Bear's birthday. Big Bad Wolf tells her it's not much of a gift. She tries to get the Three Little Pigs to make her something fancier, but they keep arguing over what to make it from. In the end, Goldie discovers that the simplest gifts are often the most appreciated.

Little Bear wants to be a "Big Bear" when Papa Bear tells him he's too young to do many things. He learns a lesson when he eats Jack's magic bean, which makes him grow into a huge, monster-sized bear! Though he can scare away villains from the gnome's magic tree, he's also too big to fit into his own home or really play with his friends anymore. It'll take a wish from the grateful gnome to set things right.

Windows 10 just doesn't seem to like me. It crashed twice tonight, once while I was working on my story. It hasn't done it in a few hours. If it does it again within the next two to five days, I'm going to start looking around for a patch or update or something that'll fix it.

Oh, and as you may have guessed, it never rained today. Never even came close. There were clouds off and on, but they were never that bad. It was actually really nice by 6 PM, perfectly blue and windy (if still very humid). Tomorrow, however, is supposed to get messy. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What Goes On in Vegas

Started out the day at work. Despite it being hot and humid again, I spent the majority of my shift, especially later, rounding up carts. I also had to help pick up the pillow-absorption things used for the leaks (the managers are using paper towels now, too) and ended up in the register a few times.

Dark clouds had been building up as early as eleven. I was finishing my last round of carts when I heard thunder. It started to shower, even as I was pushing carts to the front. By the time I'd gotten off work, we were in the midst of a full-blown monsoon. I waited fifteen minutes, but it didn't stop, or even really slow down. I ended up just riding home and getting soaked.

Maybe it's just as well. When I got home, I went right in the shower (after hanging up my dripping clothes). After I got out, I worked on writing. Leia, Luke, and Chewie pass through a cave made of beautiful crystals and glass. Though they enjoy admiring their reflections, when they try to leave, they become trapped in fishermen's nets. One net is glowing, and it makes Leia disappear....

When I broke for dinner, I threw together most of my remaining leftovers, then watched Viva Las Vegas while I ate. Mechanic and race car driver Lucky Jackson (Elvis Prestley) is in Vegas trying to win enough money to buy a new engine for his race car. He meets a swimming instructor (Ann-Margaret) in a car on the way to Vegas and is instantly smitten. She needs more persuasion - she doesn't like him racing cars and wishes he'd just settle down and give up gambling. He has no desire to do either. It's not until he makes it into the race that she discovers just how much the sport means to him...and how much they mean to each other.

I'm really not a big Elvis fan, but I do like this one. Maybe it's because it feels more like a real musical than most of his movies, with several plot numbers along with the usual performance solos. I especially love the hilarious number early on where Lucky tries to woo the girl of his dreams with a guitar and a duet, but her half of the song indicates she definitely isn't buying. (The title song is justly famous as well.) It helped that this was directed George Sidney, who did many of MGM's better musicals of the 40's and 50's, and that Ann-Margaret has some great chemistry with him.

If you love Elvis, Ann-Margaret, the musicals of the swinging 60's, or want to see a vintage view of Vegas, you'll be saying "viva!" to this one as well.

(Oh, and it's a good thing I didn't wait any longer to go home. The rain ended nearly an hour after I got in.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Family Affair

Rose said she'd pick me up between 9:30 and 10 today, so I got up early. Had breakfast and did some chores around the apartment while watching Sabrina. The title character (Julia Ormand) is the shy daughter of a Long Island chauffeur. She's had a crush on the son of her father's employer, the playboy David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear), all her life. After she goes to Paris to study photography, David finally becomes engaged to the pediatrician daughter of the owner of an electronics company. David's workaholic brother Linus (Harrison Ford), who runs the family business, is hoping their union will help with a major merger he's planning. When Sabrina comes home a Paris sophisticate, she turns David's head...and convinces him he's in love. Linus doesn't want this deal to fall through, so he "takes Sabrina off his hands." Everyone thinks Linus is married to his job, but to his surprise, Sabrina helps him discover his hidden romantic side.

As much as I enjoyed the 1954 version, I really like this one, too. Ormand is no Audrey Hepburn, but Kinnear is at least on a par with William Holden. The biggest improvement is in the leading men. I love Humphery Bogart, but he's out of place in a romantic comedy and looked uncomfortable with Hepburn.  Ford's rugged sweet-tough guy fits in much better. He worked well with Ormand and was absolutely hilarious with Kinnar and Nancy Marchand as their mother.

This is one of the rare times I equally recommend both the original and the remake. If you love rags-to-riches romantic comedies, both versions are just as much fun.

Rose finally picked me up around 10. It was her, me, and Khai heading down to Cape May County for our oldest nephew Skylar's birthday party. Khai played games on Rose's iPad...until he started to complain about being car sick. Rose had to drive off the highway and pull in at a bank. Thankfully, he was fine; napped the rest of the way.

Rose reminded me that I really need to talk to Dad-Bruce. I haven't been over there in a while. I come home, and I'm dead tired. Not to mention, it's been too hot for a ton of running around. Though his cancer's in remission, there's still a distinct possibility that he may only be around for a few more years. I'll try to get over there tomorrow or Friday.

We got into Cape May County around 11:30. My sister Anny, her sons Skylar (12) and Collyn (7), her baby daughter Lilah (1 1/2), and her boyfriend JJ live in a tiny square-shaped house in the Villas. For a dwelling that would be barely big enough for me, much less five people, it has a good-sized back yard. They have two baby pools, a fire pit, a small patio table, a picnic table, and a nice shed. Our brother Keefe got leave from the Navy and is visiting, too.

Anny found a really cute idea on Instagram - sponge water bombs. You cut cheap dollar store sponges into strips, tie them together with floss, and fill them with water. Voila! You have a way to get wet without the mess (and potential choking hazard) of a balloon. The kids loved them. We got a nice sponge bomb war going for a while. Even I got in on it.

After the kids finally got out, we ordered pizza. Anny lives just a few minutes' walk from a local deli that doubles as a popular pizzeria. JJ and Keefe didn't even need to drive to bring it home. They got cheese, pepperoni, and bacon pies. Yummy. Maybe more delis should sell pizza. I had a slice of the cheese and two slices of bacon while chatting with Keefe, Anny, and the kids.

(And I did give the boys the Charlie Brown books. Turned out Collyn already had the animal one, so that went to Khai by default. Khai also got the "people around the world" book. Collyn and Skylar will share the Earth and space book.)

(Collyn mentioned that a kid who used to live across the street from my family in North Cape May had a crush on me in the 90's. Aw. Considering I thought most of the boys in Lower Township outside of my family hated me, I'm very flattered.)

(I can't believe how big Anny's kids are getting. The last time I saw them was at Thanksgiving. Lilah was just learning to walk and talk. Now, she talks very well for her age and walks fine on a her own, though she still needs help with steps. Her brothers are getting taller, too. Skylar is looking more and more like an adult every time I see him.)

We headed over to Mom and Dad's around 2. They had the 1983 version of Annie on when we arrived. While we watched and sang along, they got the cakes they bought from their local Acme out, along with Blue Bunny chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The boys played with their iPads while Rose and I watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Miles from Tomorrowland with little miss Lilah. Lilah just wanted to jump on the inflatable mattress Mom had for Keefe in the den/laundry room.

It was about 3 when we sang "Happy Birthday" to Skylar and he got to open his gifts. They were all video games of one kind or another, or video game tip books, or controllers, or a gift card to Game Stop...because his big present was a new XBox 360, one of the latest systems on the market. He was absolutely thrilled and swore he'd set it up as soon as he got home. I gave him 10 dollars - he can save up for another game, or a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book (his favorites).

We finally left around quarter after 4. Khai wasn't very happy about it. He wouldn't say good-bye to anyone or hug anybody but Collyn. He must have been pretty tired from all the running around with his cousins. He and I both passed out shortly after leaving the Villas. I didn't get up until we were just going by the exit to Deptford. He got up 20 minutes later.

Rose cheered Khai up by promising to take him to the Audubon Game Stop for a new video game of his own. I was just happy to do something to keep me awake. Khai finally chose Lego The Hobbit for the Wii U. I considered Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, but decided to save my money for vacation next month. We made a very quick stop at Tu Se Bella's next-door so Khai could go to the bathroom before they dropped me off at my place.

I spent the rest of the night playing Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. I had a lot of trouble with both "The Temple of Kali" and "Freeing the Slaves." Some of the puzzles here were really hard, and there was a LOT of jumping involved, especially in "Temple." And it took me forever to figure out you had to free Short Round in order to defeat the big slave master at the end of "Freeing the Slaves."

Oh, and I finally updated to Windows 10. I originally upgraded last year, but it kept causing my computer to crash. I returned to Windows 8.1 and decided to wait until Microsoft addressed the bugs. It's been on 10 for a few hours now, and there's been no problems, so, hopefully, they've worked everything out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dog Days of Summer

Slept in this morning. By the time I got up, the sun was already beating down, drying us out from yet another round of storms. I ran an episode of Max & Ruby while eating breakfast. "Ruby Delivers" flyers for the Bunny Scouts Bake Sale to her neighbors. Max wants to use his own "flyers" to help her out. The two are "Getting Crabby at the Beach" when they create a tidal pool...with a little surprise aid from a real crab. Ruby thinks "Max's Toys" are too noisy for Baby Huffington to play with. Max knows better.

Headed out for an errands run around 11:30 (passing by Charlie painting a table while his poor, tired dogs lounged in the shade and the breeze of a huge fan). First stop of the day was the Oaklyn Library. They were pretty quiet, with a couple of people on the computer and not much else. The TV wasn't even on. I looked at the DVDs and organized the kids' picture and board books and left.

Made a great find at the Oaklyn Library. They have a bin of free books, mainly kids' books, under the magazine holders as you come in. I dug three hardback vintage Peanuts titles out of the bin when I arrived. Kids in the late 70's and 80's grew up taking out the Charlie Brown 'Cyclopedias from local libraries. For many of us, they were probably our first encyclopedias. I think what I found were three collections of those, Charlie Brown's Super Book of Questions and Answers. The one with the white cover deals with animals of all kinds (including humans); the blue cover showcases information about the Earth, the planets, and outer space; the red cover deals with people from around the world and the jobs they do. The books are in perfect shape, too. The cover of the animals book is slightly yellowed and the spine is a little creased on the edges. Otherwise, they look brand-new. I think I'll give them to my nephews tomorrow. They might get a kick out of them.

Rode down Newton Avenue, over to CVS. Bought buy one-get-one-free GUM toothbrushes, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and a get-well soon card for my friend Linda Young's husband James, who is currently in the hospital with heart problems. Also took out 10 dollars to put in my nephew Skylar's birthday card. (His birthday is technically Sunday, but I'm going to bring his card down with me tomorrow and give it to him early.)

Stopped at Viola's International Deli for lunch. They were even quieter than CVS. I was the only one there. The lady behind the counter didn't even have the TV on. One guy came in and out to pick up an order. Otherwise, it was just me and my Caesar chicken wrap - grilled chicken and romaine lettuce in a whole-wheat wrap, with slices of Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing. Not bad. The dressing made it a little messy, but it did taste like a wrapped-up basic Caesar salad. The chicken was just seasoned enough.

Went home after lunch, then right back out. I needed to get the laundry done. I picked the right time. The laundromat was empty when I arrived, and didn't get much busier throughout the hour or so I was there. I had a big load, too, partly due to putting it off a day to avoid yesterday's extreme heat. Listened to talk shows and read the Charlie Brown animals book while the load was washing.

When I got in for good, I put everything away, then worked on my story. Leia awakens from her nightmare to find Luke and Chewie there with plankton  and shrimp for breakfast. They reassure her that she's ok and they'll find Han and escape soon.

The maze continues to be treacherous. A mound of coral blocking their way turns out to be a living creature...and they woke it up! Luke plays the flute and Leia sings to it to lull it to sleep, so they can pass. A steep cliffside is too high for merfolk to swim up...but humans can climb it. Leia and Luke get half-way before boulders start falling. Boba Fett was ordered by Jabba to stop the trio in any way possible. The shark-finned bounty hunter attacks Leia when she gets to the top, intending to kill her. She, Luke, and Chewie get the better of him instead and send him back to Jabba.

Jabba is absolutely furious. He dispatches Fett, then decides it's time to take care of this princess himself. He transforms himself into a handsome blond man, taking Han's voice as his own. The wicked sea-slug warlock is hoping he can seduce the girl away from her lover long enough to take her soul...

I got so into writing, it was quarter after 7 before I broke for dinner. I had a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich while watching an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. Babs, Buster, Plucky, and Hampton discover that "No Toon Is an Island" when they set sail to Booty Island in search of treasure. Plucky is determined that he'll get the rich stuff first...but they all learn a lesson in jealousy when "the green eyed monster" gets to them.

Tomorrow, I'll be joining Rose and her family for a brief trip down to Cape May County for  a party at my sister Anny's house.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Between the Storms


I shot up in bed as the loudest thunderclap I'd ever heard shook my apartment. The noise seemed more like a sonic boom than thunder. More heavy rain like what we got on Saturday followed. It was 5 AM. I was tired. Rain or no rain, I finally fell back asleep.

Finally got up around 9 and finished out The Finder's Keeper's Rule. The Haddon Township Library finally got in the newest American Girl mysteries. I went with Maryellen's and Josefina's. Maryellen Larkin finds a barnacle-crusted ring on the shore at her native Daytona Beach. She's excited, until she realizes that there's a lot of people out there who want her ring, and not all of them are trustworthy. I really enjoyed this one. I grew up by the beach, hearing tales of pirates and sunken treasure, just like Maryellen. My sisters and I used to go treasure hunting on the beach, too. We never found anything resembling Maryellen's treasure, but that didn't stop us from trying.

Ran another Sailor Moon summer-themed episode while I had breakfast. This one was from the fourth season. The girls are all enjoying a relaxing day ogling boys at the beach and watching out for Chibi-Usa and Usagi's little brother Shingo. Shingo has a bit of a crush on smart Ami, which becomes awkward when aggressive Tiger's Eye goes after her. Ami's not really his type...which he discovers when he attacks Shingo, and Ami teaches him about friendship.

Spent the rest of the morning working on fanfiction. Leia and Han dream about dancing at the ball in the start of the story together. Han and Maz are both hopeful that Leia will finally kiss Han...for if she confesses her love to him and kisses him, it will restore his merman form. Jabba, however, has no desire for this to happen and sends magic that turns their dream into a nightmare. Water pours into the ballroom, turning Han first into a merman...then into something very different. Leia is surrounded by the seaweed-and-barnacle-covered slaves, including Luke. They're about to attack her when she wakes up...

Finally broke for a quick lunch around quarter after 1 and to get ready for work. Another summer-themed episode in Sailor Moon's season four is a riff on the Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday. A princess has escaped her confining world tour for some fun in Tokyo. Usagi and Chibi-Usa think she may be a prime candidate for the Dead Moon Circus - she's naive about how the real world works - and they're right. When Hawk's Eye goes after her, the girls and Mamoru come after him to make sure the princess gets home safely.

It was still insanely hot, hazy, and humid when I went to work. While I did get to spend the first hour or so doing returns, and I gathered baskets a couple of times, I was once again mostly doing carts. (There was another bagger, but she was busy mopping up the mess from the freezer leaks.) This time, the excitement was inside. I came in just as a frozen food stock person and two managers were helping the self-checkout cashier get ice on her arm. Apparently, she'd tripped over her feet and landed on her head. She'd tried to stop it with her wrists, and may have ended up breaking them. I have no idea what happened to her later. I hope she's ok.

Dark clouds had been gathering for nearly two hours when I finally got home. I'm glad I got in when I did. I had finished dinner and was just putting on Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures when it started pouring again. There was thunder, too, though not anything near as loud as this morning.

Finished out Raiders this evening with "Opening the Ark." The first two rooms were fairly complicated, with a lot of build-and-jump that I couldn't get the timing right for. I did manage to find two "artifacts" that hadn't been mentioned in the YouTube videos I watched for this, both in extra rooms opened by passing Indy off as a Nazi officer. Chasing the villain was only a little more troublesome - it involved a LOT of jumping and back-and-forth. (And unlike the second Lego Indy, this one does keep the original "melting faces" ending.)

Lauren wasn't coming online until later. I had plenty of time to move onto Temple of Doom. "Shanghai Showdown" took a little while. You have to toss diamonds to Lao Che's goons, like you toss bananas to the monkeys, to get an antidote for the poisoned Indy. Things went quicker after that, especially once I picked up Short Round. He's the only character in the game small enough to crawl through the little swinging squares in the walls that lead to hard-to-find pieces or treasures.

"Pangkok Secrets" started out tough. I actually messed up at one point and had to start over. Thankfully, I didn't get very far. You have to use elephants and a lot of jumping and whip-swinging to get past several spiky obstacles (and crush the bugs and snakes Willie and Indy fear). The palace itself was much easier and just required taking out a few guards and bugs and a little book-reading.

Next time I play video games, we'll be in the infamous Temple of Kali, rescuing Willie and Short Round.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Too Hot to Handle

Started a very hot, hazy morning with Blackberry Spice Pancakes and the Malt Shop Memories Time-Life CD set I picked up last month. I bought this specific one because it had a couple of songs I hadn't heard of before, which doesn't often happen with oldies collections. My favorite of the numbers I didn't recognize was "Just One Look" by Doris Troy. Also liked "Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby" by the Cookies and the original version of "Hey Girl" by Freddie Scott.

Spent the rest of the morning writing. Jabba has turned Han into a hideous sea monster and is keeping him at the center of the maze. The slug insists he's a stupid beast who is supposed to obey his commands and kill the girl who wants his treasure. Han knows there's something wrong, but he's too confused to figure out what.

Meanwhile, Maz the beachcomber witch has been watching all from her shack by the waters. She mixes up a powder to mix with the water that will give Han and Leia much-needed good dreams.

Had a quick Peanut Butter and Jelly for lunch before heading to work. Work was very tiring. I was outside doing carts for almost the entire 4 hours I was there. I did gather baskets a few times, and I changed the trash bags outside towards the end of my shift, but it was mostly carts. We were still busy with Sunday shoppers when I came in. By the time I left, it had slowed down considerably.

There was a kind of scary incident in the early part of my shift. I think what happened was one guy was driving fast and cut the other guy off. Shortly after, two men were standing on the patio, yelling at each other about bad driving and waving their arms. It got to the point where they started shoving each other. A lady told them to knock it off. I reminded them as I gathered carts that, first of all, they were acting like silly little boys in a public parking lot, on a Sunday. Second, there's a police station next-door to Applebee's, and people do have smart phones. The cops arrived seconds after the altercation started. Needless to say, I got out of the Acme as soon as I grabbed my favorite Honey Chex Mix on sale for a dollar.

I went right in the shower when I got home. I needed it badly. I was a sweaty mess after gathering carts for hours. A long cool shower never felt so good.

When I came out, I had leftovers for dinner while listening to one of my oldies records. I forgot I had 1950's Treasures of Love, a collection of rock ballads. "Sea of Love" is my personal favorite here. That was one of the songs Mom used to use in her oldies exercise classes when I was a kid in the late 80's - early 90's, and I still think it's just as romantic today.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Loved By the Sun

I got up earlier than usual on a day off, around 7, to get to the Collingswood Farm Market before it became too hot to do so. I did two travel and summer-themed first season episodes of Sailor Moon as I had breakfast and got organized. A trip to a local amusement park turns into a "Nightmare In Dreamland" when Rei, Usagi, and Ami discover that many people have vanished from the park grounds. Usagi just wants to have fun, but Rei suspects the Negaverse may be involved.

Usagi is feeling those "Cruise Blues" when Rei wins tickets for a romantic cruise and invites Ami instead of her. She stows away, hoping to encounter cute guys in nautical uniforms...but she and Luna make a far more serious find when they discover it's a Negaverse plot.

Headed out to the Farm Market around 9. After looking for a yard sale on Reading in Oaklyn (and failing to find it), I rode down to Collingswood. Considering the temperature was supposed to get into the upper 90's, I didn't expect it to be as busy as it was. I guess I wasn't the only one trying to get their produce as early as possible. The summer harvest is in full swing now. I saw eggplant, beans (including Chinese and cranberry), apples, melons, and peppers for the first time this season. Since I'm not going to be able to get to either Farm Market next week, I stocked up as much as I could. I ended up with a tomato, blueberries, blackberries, Chinese beans, little yellow apples, a lavender-striped eggplant, three cucumbers, a small onion, two zucchini, a small melon, and two ears of corn.

Went straight home after I left Collingswood and went nowhere else today. This was no day to be running around, even if I'd had any major plans. Despite a lovely, cool breeze, the heat was heavy and steamy. It felt like it was wrapping around me like a wet blanket. This was supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far, and while the breeze kept it from feeling as bad as it could have, it sure wasn't overly pleasant.

After I got everything put away, I played Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures for a few hours. I had no problems in "City of Danger." That was mostly running around in (and over) the Cairo marketplace, getting shovels from silly monkeys by tossing them bananas and avoiding the Nazis and local thugs. No sweat.

I had more problems with "The Well of Souls." It's a long level to begin with. I got to the second-to-last room...and realized I didn't have something I needed for it. I got so frustrated, I finally decided I'd figure it out later and turned it off.

Switched to The Backyardigans while having the last leftover turkey burger and making Persian Cucumber Salad for lunch. Tyrone, Tasha, and Pablo "Follow the Feather" to the Polka-Dot Pony in the Tibetian mountains. Uniqua gains "Flower Power" when she touches an unusual bloom and becomes Flower Girl, defender of Garden City. She uses her newfound abilities to fight of the Gloom Meister's (Austin) Gloomsday Machine.

Spent the next couple of hours working on my story. Leia swims through the maze, holding onto Chewbacca's fin, when they're trapped in a low-lying cold-water coral reef. Even after they escape that, they fall into the tentacles of a giant squid. Leia cuts through that, rescuing not only herself and Chewie, but the slave who keeps following her. The slime has been slowly coming off of him...revealing a silent Luke. Leia's delighted to have her brother back with her, even if he can barely talk or remember who she is.

The next part of the maze takes the trio into a deep, dark cave. It's so deep and dark, Leia becomes separated from the other two and gets lost. Not knowing where she is, she decides to settle in and get some sleep. But even as she falls into an uneasy slumber, the second shell on the necklace Maz gave her blinks out, a reminder that she doesn't have much time to fulfill her mission...

Broke around quarter of 5 for dinner and a movie. I wanted to have a decent dinner, for once, after eating out of the fridge all week. Made Skillet Chicken and Tomatoes, one of my favorite quick dishes. It's just chicken breasts marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and spices (it's supposed to be Italian dressing, but I make my own dressings), pan-fried in olive oil, and then cooked with canned diced tomatoes. It's quick, simple, and very tasty. I tossed in brown rice and steamed Chinese beans while the chicken was cooking.

As dinner cooked, I decided to do something I'd been putting off for a while. I organized as many of the random recipes I've gathered (from work, from the tops of whipped topping canisters and the backs of bottled flavoring boxes) into my cooking recipe book. My recipe book is actually a photo album I found at a yard sale a few years ago that came with clippings of retro recipes going back to the 70's. Some of the recipes were too folded or heavy to fit, but I got most of them in.

Ran Legend as I worked and ate. This 1986 fantasy takes us to a mystical land far away. The innocent princess (Mia Sara) is in love with a free-spirited wood's boy named Jack (Tom Cruise). He takes her to see a unicorn, a magical creature. When she wants to touch it, all literal hell breaks loose. Unicorns are sacred - no mortal is supposed to lay a finger on them. Her playful request turns into a nightmare when evil creatures kill one unicorn and capture another for the Devil himself (Tim Curry). While the Devil pursues the Princess, Jack joins a group of elves, fairies, and dwarfs in an attempt to save their land from eternal darkness.

I had a soft spot for this one in the 80's, maybe because I love fairy tales. I thought it was pretty weird then, and it's still strange today. While some of the effects have dated, one thing that hasn't is the amazing makeup work, especially on Curry. The script is silly and the performances range from wooden (Cruise) to over-the-top (Curry), but somehow, it mostly works. I don't think people knew what to make of this in the mid-80's. It's since become something of a cult favorite, especially among fans of fantasy and fairy tales. If you love fantasy, you may want to give this one a look as well.

(Oh, and while I watched the "Director's Cut" with the original Jerry Goldsmith score, I have to admit, the next time I watch this, I may do the theatrical version. I always liked the Tangerine Dream score, especially the appropriately mystical "Loved By the Sun.")

Ironically, just as the world onscreen plunged into darkness and snow, so did the world outside my apartment. It had been on-and-off cloudy as early as noon, and the wind had picked up considerably since this morning. They finally broke around 6-ish...and when it rained, it monsoon-ed. The first one was especially bad, with hail the size of golf balls. The sun finally came out shortly before 7. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since.

Returned to Lego Indiana Jones after dinner and vanilla ice cream for dessert. To my embarrassment, I looked "The Well of the Souls" round up online and discovered the room I was having problems with wasn't necessary to finish the round. (I did get an "artifact" piece from it.) Escaping the Well was a little simpler, more build-and-jump. "Finding the Ark" was even less difficult. The only real problem I had was with trying to jump from platform to platform. I had to get Indy onto the platform to send Marion over on a rope. First, one kept following the other, and I couldn't always get them where they needed to be. Second, I'm still having a hard time with the jumps. It took me forever to get Marion to a certain spot.

On the other hand, the three levels I did today represent the most beads I've ever gotten in any Lego game. I picked up at least 65,000 from "City of Danger," 90,000 from "Well of Souls," and more than 115,000 from "Finding the Ark." I never did collect much in the way of beads in Lego Star Wars because I kept falling or dying in jumping or flying rounds.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hot Fun In the Summertime

Started off a sunny morning with breakfast and Kingsmen: The Secret Service. The Kingsmen are a private spy organization with code names based around Arthurian legends. Harry, aka "Galahad" recruits a young street punk named Eggsy (Taron Egerton), to take part in a rigorous spy youth training program. While Eggsy trains with the cream of the upper-crust crop (and deals with their taunts over his lower-class status), Harry tries to convince his superior Arthur (Michael Caine) that the Kingsmen have to keep up with the times. Meanwhile, billionaire software creator Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) has come up with a new microchip that can instantly cause anyone who accesses their smart phones to become a killer. He's implanted microchips into hundreds of world leaders as well...including ones at Kingsman. When their leaders are killed, Eggsy, his fellow trainee Roxy, and their teacher have to infiltrate Valentine's secret lair and stop the genocide from taking place.

2015 was a great year for fun spy movies. This is the fourth spy-themed film I've seen in the past month that I really enjoyed. Kingsman is sort of a blend of Spy and Spectre - a dark comedy that spoofs the more over-the-top aspects of the James Bond movies and other spy-based media. As such, it's occasionally too dark and a bit too violent for everyone. It's not overly bloody, but there's a lot of comic shooting, fist-fights, a full-on brawl, etc. And I had no idea this was originally a comic book, The Secret Service. I love all the obscure comic books that producers have been adapting lately. I didn't know there were so many I'd never heard of. (See also Big Hero 6 and Guardians of the Galaxy.)

For teens on up, if you love the campier tone of the Roger Moore Bond films or some of the stranger action movies of the 80's and 90's, this darkly humorous bit of camp is recommended.

Headed out around quarter of noon for a major errand run at the Audubon Crossings Shopping Center. Stopped at Applebee's for lunch first. Considering it was the lunch hour, they were surprisingly quiet. I only saw a few families and groups of office workers, along with the patrons at the bar. I enjoyed the lunch combo. Had the house salad with bacon, honey crusted chicken fingers, and fries. The honey crusted chicken fingers were a little more crusted than I thought they'd be, but they weren't bad. The fries were divine, hot and salty, with the skins on the ends. (And they tasted good laying in pools of the honey glaze from the chicken, too.) Treated myself to a strawberry lemonade and a brownie bite with vanilla ice cream.

Went to the main mall area next. I needed a few clothes items I couldn't put off anymore. My errand-running sneakers are literally falling apart. That's what I get for buying cheap Champion sneakers from Payless. Found a pair of Easy Spirit running shoes on sale for $29.95 that were exactly what I was looking for. Avenue was also having huge summer sales. The thighs of the work pants I bought at Macy's a little over a month ago have already blown out. I don't like the satin finish or the straight-up-and-down design of the ones I bought today, but at least they're heavier and may last a bit longer.

Didn't have a ton of grocery shopping I needed to do. It was more expensive stuff than lots of it. Restocked tuna, cooking spray, peanut butter, jam (Smuckers was on a good sale - grabbed their Natural Orange Marmalade), honey, milk, eggs, chicken, and cereal (used another Grainberry coupon - got their version of Honey Nut Cheerios this time). They had a rare good sale on Fig Newtons - went with Triple Berry. Raided the clearance spices and flavorings again to stock up on ginger, cloves, and parsley flakes.

My schedule next week is more-or-less the same as this week, only with Wednesday off instead of Saturday and two 9 to 3 days. While this does mean I'll have to miss the Collingswood Farm Market next week, I'll also be able to attend both family functions. My sister Anny is having a double birthday party for her son Skylar (he's 12) and get-well-soon party for Dad-Bill after he goes into chemotherapy (while he can still eat anything) on Wednesday. It's pure luck that I happened to get that day off this week. (In fact, I called Anny while I was at the Acme and told her I was free to go.) Jodie's birthday party for Dad-Bruce is Saturday evening.

I brought everything home, put it all away, then went right back out. Despite the mid-90's heat and heavy humidity, I really needed to get to the Haddon Township Library. I had movies to return. Even Newton River Park seemed to wilt in the heat. The grass is looking brown and brittle, and algae is spreading across the lake like a noxious green cloud. I saw a few devoted fishermen and one walker, and that was it. Didn't even see any Canadian geese.

The Haddon Township Library was fairly busy when I arrived, probably with people looking for things to do while weathering the heat wave this weekend. I mostly stuck to organizing the kids' DVDs. I had no idea if they wanted someone to do the adult titles.

Took out a few movies this week. I didn't get to the 1995 Sabrina last week, so I thought I'd try again. Ant-Man is the only movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on DVD I haven't seen yet. I'm not generally fond of Elvis movies, but I do have a soft spot for Viva Los Vegas, mainly because Ann-Margaret is a perfect partner for him.

Made one last stop at Dollar Tree on the way home. I picked up birthday cards for Skylar and Dad-Bruce and a get-well-soon card for Dad-Bill. Grabbed water to help with the heat on the ride home as well.

When I got in, I worked on writing for a few hours. Leia has ridden Chewie into a maze of close-together deep-see reefs. Too close. Leia is nearly trapped in them...until Chewie gets scared and crashes a hole through the brush.

Finished out the night with leftovers for dinner and a quick episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. "Toon TV" from the fourth season was their second spoof of MTV and music videos. My favorite shorts this time around were Elmyra's hilarious version of "The Name Game" and Plucky's "Yackety Yak."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Little Bit of Faith and A Whole Lot of Hope

Began a clear, sunny day with work. I wish I didn't. We were on and off busy for most of the morning. I did manage to get the carts done when I arrived, but then I got stuck in the register because the manager saw two people on the ends of lines and panicked. And today was inventory day, so I couldn't do returns. I ended up bagging, dusting, and shelving boxes with bags in them. Naturally, when I wanted to go on break, the manager announced "Oh, go get carts, there's no carts out there." She ended up sending out a cashier to help me, or my break would have been a lot more than 40 minutes late. Thankfully, it slowed down considerably after lunch. I did end up in the register one more time, but I was mostly outside with the carts. I treated myself to half-price Acme bakery cookies after I finished and headed home.

When I got home, I changed, turned on the air conditioning, and worked on stories. Leia does finally get Chewie out of the flowers, only to run into the lizard-like bounty hunter Bossk. She, Bossk, and Chewie fight. Leia manages to unleash a pile of rocks on his head and knock him out, enough for she and the dogfish to escape. Meanwhile, Jabba is still watching. Boba Fett wants to take Leia on, but Jabba is sure the next round of traps will do her in.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. I made scrambled eggs with escarole, cheese, and mushrooms for dinner while watching Jack and the Beanstalk. This lively 1967 TV musical features Gene Kelly as the crafty peddler who sells Jack the magic beans. Jack throws the beans out the window...and discovers the next day that they've grown into a huge beanstalk. Jeremy joins him for a trip up the beanstalk and into a castle inhabited by a greedy ogre. Jack tries to get his gold-bearing goose and encourage the mice in the castle to help. Jeremy falls for the beautiful princess who has been bewitched into a harp and tries to rescue her. Very cute live-action animation hybrid from Hanna-Barbara.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cool Down

Started a late morning with breakfast and more Rick Steves. We move inland from Scandinavia to the Swiss Alps for an episode on Switzerland's picturesque Jungfrau region. It looks like something from out of a fairy tale, with majestic snow-capped mountains, green rolling hills, and lovely little towns filled with cheese makers and one room-schoolhouses.

Headed to work after Rick ended and I got organized. Work was on and off busy. It would quiet down, then we'd get lines for two minutes. I think finally figured out why we've been so busy, far more so than usual for this time of the year. Some folks may be preparing for the Democratic Convention in Philly next month. I have no fondness for politics and completely forgot about that. At any rate, though I did end up in the register three times, I mostly rounded up carts and did returns. It was a nice day for carts. It's still hot, but not nearly as hot or humid as it has been (or as it's supposed to be later this weekend) and nice and sunny, with a cool breeze.

Picked up blue corn chips (the Acme's organic brand is on sale again) and a drink and headed home as soon as I was done. Spent an hour or so writing when I got in. Leia manages to free herself from the flowers. As she fights through the vines and snapping plants, she hears the call of a larger fish. Turns out it's Chewie, who has gotten caught in the tentacles as well. Leia frees him. He manages to mime to her with his fins that he's looking for his friend. They agree to help each other out.

Broke for dinner around 6:30. After I ate, I began Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. This time, the game started right with the opening to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, including dodging (well, sort of) the famous boulder. After you return to Barrett College, where Indy teaches, you head off to Marion's Tibetan bar. Attacking the Nazi in the bar is a lot more complicated this time. He keeps jumping away! You have to throw bottles and chairs at him to get him. The constant arrival of local thugs makes this a little difficult.

After Marion's burns down, you diverge from the movie canon to explore the Tibetan mountains, including a temple. This was a pain. I couldn't figure out how to build the bridge. It took me forever to realize you need to use the bazooka to blast open the metal crate by the cliff. And then, I didn't realize you had to completely blow up the car on the other side to get any further.

At any rate, next time, Marion and Indy will be meeting Sallah in the Arabian market square and dealing with some very mischievous monkeys.

Oh, and Jodie invited me to their house on the 30th to celebrate Dad's birthday with a barbecue. It's too late to ask for the time off, but their barbecues usually don't start until late afternoon anyway. Hopefully, I'll be able to get over there after work. I need to tell them when I'm going on vacation, anyway.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

She Blinded Me With Science

I awoke late to a beautiful, sunny day. Started out this morning with some Good Eats while I ate breakfast. Blueberries are currently in season, and they're one of my favorite fruits. Alton shows how they make excellent baked goods and syrups for drinks in "Kinda Blue."

Headed out around quarter of noon for today's errand run. First stop was the Oaklyn Library. They were surprisingly busy for a nice day, with several people on the computers, chatting about the Republican Convention talk on CNN. I got fed up with listening to it (and the gossip about it) and left after twenty minutes.

I had other things to do today, anyway. Good thing it was a gorgeous day for a ride up to Haddonfield. It was hot and humid, but not nearly as much as it has been, and the cool wind felt wonderful. I took the long way past the junior high school and down Crystal Lake Road, into Haddonfield's back roads. There was a little bit of traffic on the main highways, but it wasn't really that bad.

I came out next to the Bistro at Haddonfield, which is where I ended up having lunch. Since it was almost 1 by that point, they were very busy. I was too hot for anything but a salad. I tried the Bistro Waldorf. This turned out to be apple chunks in a thick sour cream dressing with Romaine lettuce in raspberry vinaigrette, Craisins, mandarin oranges, and candied walnuts, and a big scoop of chicken salad on top. Not bad. I wish the apples had been mixed in, instead of covered in sour cream, but otherwise, it was pretty tasty.

Explored Inkwood Books, a small bookstore a few blocks away, after I ate. They were surprisingly busy. I guess a lot of people were still on their lunch hour. I looked, but I didn't see anything I wanted.

Got into counseling right on time...which was a moot point. Mrs. Stahl was 10 minutes late. When we got in, we talked about my writing, the trouble at work, my vacation with Lauren next month, and how I so badly want to get out, but don't know how or where I'd go if I did. I've done the same boring, thankless job for 20 years. It's only part time, but it's all I can get. The health insurance is the only reason I'm still there.

I wish I knew how to be myself. I spent a lot of my childhood being driven to this child psychologist and that doctor, in the hope that someone, anyone could figure out why I wasn't getting along with my peers and doing what they did and why I needed to eat so much and gained weight so rapidly. Neither my parents nor the teachers nor the psychologists meant any harm, but it was confusing and frustrating as an 8-year-old. I internalized that nothing I did was ever good enough for anyone, that what I was wasn't good enough, and that being quiet, shy, and weird were the worst possible things anyone could be. It's not that easy to let go of that internalization.

I thought about it as I headed down Haddon Avenue after I left. Though it wasn't as hot, it was still pretty warm, probably in the mid-80's. I needed a treat at Primo's Water Ice. The line was long when I arrived, but it went fast. I got a medium cup of Peach Cheesecake. It was a bit disappointing. It tasted a lot more like cheesecake than it did like peach, and there were no real peach pieces. At least it was nice and cooling.

Went straight home after that via Newton Lake Park. It was a glorious day for a ride in the park. I saw lots of kids out fishing and sunbathing as I went by. Dodged lots of walkers and other bikers, too. The park is at the height of its summer greenery now. The grass is still a little brown, but the trees are vibrant. The water sparkled on the bottle-green lake.

When I got home, I wrote for a little while. I didn't get much further than having Leia hack her way out of the carnivorous sea flowers. I get so easy distracted when I'm writing. I'll look up photos or something for inspiration...and then I'm done for hours.

After I got off, I ate leftovers for dinner while watching Ex Machina. This British sci-fi-thriller takes us to the very modern home of the eccentric owner of a popular internet search engine (Oscar Issac). He's invited Caleb, one of his computer workers (Denhall Gleeson) for a week to test out his newest creation - Ava, a robot that looks, walks, talks, and thinks like a real woman (Alicia Vikander). Ava insists that her creator isn't telling the whole truth about his creations or the blackouts the place is constantly having. Caleb finds himself falling for the beguiling female droid, but looks can be deceiving, and his boss isn't the only one telling lies...

Wow, was this one weird. In some ways, it reminded me a bit of a less showy Blade Runner - a normal guy falls for a robot while dealing with a creep. And, like Blade Runner, it was really far too dark for my taste, including a rather frightening downer ending. Nice performances, though, especially from Vikander as the electronic human who may not be as innocent as she seems.

If you're more into the darker side of sci-fi than I am, this is a tense little tale of robotics run amok that is well worth seeing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sudden Summer Storms

It was sunny, hot, and humid outside when I got up this morning. I ran more of the Scandinavian Rick Steves episodes during breakfast. As lovely as modern Oslo is, I enjoyed Rick's trip into the Norwegian countryside and the fjords even more. That's some truly amazing scenery right there.

Did the laundry around 11. I got there at the right time, too. Shortly after I put my load in, people came in and used every other available washer. It was probably just as well that I had a really small load, the smallest I've had in weeks. I was out of there in less than an hour.

When I got in, I put the laundry away, then worked on writing. (I also did some writing later this evening. Lauren takes a self-defense course on Mondays and Wednesdays that runs late.) I doubled back to Leia leaving the cave with the unstable rocks. She emerges in another shipwreck...but she recognizes this one. It was once the Twin Sunset, her brother Luke's vessel. Most of it has been stripped, but thanks to a trick with books and a moving bookshelf, she finds a beautiful sword, knife, and several instruments. She keeps the sword, knife, and a flute, hoping they'll be helpful to her later on.

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich really quick for lunch, then rode off to work. Work was very busy, especially during rush hour. I got stuck in the register more than I would have liked. In fact, the manager sent me in for someone when I was about to go on my break, then forgot I was there until I finally saw the lines weren't as bad and finally just shut the register down. The manager also just had to send me out to do carts 20 minutes before my break, when it was obvious to anyone with eyes that there was a storm brewing. I got a rolling cart inside and pulled some up front before I hurried in for my break (that I wasn't going to be able to take anyway). I got in just in time. It started crazy-storming not two or three minutes after I rushed in the door. Thankfully, it was done by the time I was sent out to do carts again.

The clouds were starting to build up, even as I finished work. I hurried home as fast as my legs could take me. Had leftover tuna salad for dinner while watching the last of the Rick Steves Scandinavia episodes. Rick finishes out his tour around Northern Europe with a ride around lovely Stockholm and a cruise to Russia-influenced Helsinki.

Finished out the night by finally finishing off Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. "Jedi Destiny" was the Luke/Vader duel in the second Death Star. Well, sort of. Actually, you use both Skywalkers to fight Palapatine. This is cool, because for the first time, you get to use the red Sith magic. I did have a few problems figuring out where I was going. Otherwise, this was a fairly simple build-and-solve round.

The finale of Jedi was also the last flying round. The Millennium Falcon first takes down four Imperial Star Destroyers, then has to blast its way into the Death Star's main reactor. Getting to the main reactor was a lot harder than actually destroying it. Getting to it involved retrieving those lavender plasma bombs and trying to blow walls to smithereens while a billion TIE fighters are buzzing around.

At any rate, that's it for the story rounds of Lego Star Wars. I'll more than likely return to see if I can get 100% later in the summer or in the early fall. For now, I'm going to move on to Lego Indiana Jones 1 the next time I do video games.

Oh, and to my knowledge, it hasn't stormed again since 4. It's just looking cloudy, and even that was breaking up when I was on the computer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hot Enough For Anyone

The heat wave continues, at least for the foreseeable future. I cooled off this morning with Blueberry Brown Sugar Pancakes and lots of Sinatra. (Songs For Swinging Lovers is probably my favorite Sinatra LP.)

Worked on writing for a little while after breakfast. Leia has made her way past the falling rocks. She's now in another aquatic garden. This one isn't nearly as pleasant as the first. A beautiful pink flower's wavy tentacles and glowing colors lure the princess into its tentacles...but she discovers it's far from harmless when it starts to wrap around her and force her into its mouth!

Work was a pain again. It was still hot as heck. I did do a little cashiering and put a few returns away early on, but I was mostly outside. I didn't have a choice. I was the only bagger there during the second half of my shift. It got so hot, I had to run inside and get water.

On the other hand, I was able to pick up a few things I forgot yesterday. I just realized this morning while making the pancakes that I'm almost out of cooking spray. I meant to get imitation maple and hazelnut flavorings from the clearance racks, but either I put then back, or I left them in the cart.

When I got home, I listened to Barbara Streisand's Back to Broadway album while making dinner. The shrimp I bought yesterday turned out to be tiny little popcorn I made shrimp salad, on a bed of escarole, with some of the radishes I've had around forever. Not bad at all. The radishes gave it a little zing.

Finished off the night continuing Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Ventured deep into Endor for "Speeder Showdown" and "Battle of Endor." Both were very long and very complicated. The speeder level had Luke and Leia chasing down Imperials on speeder bikes, then using AT-AT walkers to blow up barriers. The end of the round involved capturing a large walker to destroy an Imperial compound.

"Battle of Endor" was only slightly less complicated. This one had three distinct parts. You start out in the Ewok village, navigating around the wooden walkways with the help of Ewok warrior Wicket. The ramps from the village let out on the forest floor, where you have to fight guards and use the Ewoks' catapult (and buttons and levers) to remove obstacles. The third part takes you into the Imperial base, where you have to destroy first the bolts guarding the main generator, then the generator itself. It was fun, but it took so long, especially in the generator. (It took me forever to figure out Artoo had to use his rocket boosters for one part.)

I should be doing the last two rounds early this week. After I finish Lego Star Wars, I'm going to move on to the original Lego Indiana Jones, then double back to the second one to finish out the bonus rounds.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hot Hot Hot!

Began the day with early work. It was already hot and humid when I headed to the Acme. I rounded up carts for 40 minutes when I came in and helped other baggers outside for an hour after lunch, but I mostly stuck to doing returns and gathering baskets inside.

I got off around 1. I was so hungry, I went straight to lunch. Despite a line going around the store, I decided to brave Chick 'Fil A. Turns out the line was for the drive-through window. It was busy inside, but not horrible. I had a grilled chicken meal with a Coke Zero and their big, solid Waffle Fries.

In good news, I have three days off next week (Tuesday for counseling). My hours were cut, but that's pretty common at this time of  year. We're just not that busy. I'm surprised at a few late afternoon days after all the morning work I've been doing. The big concern are the two long days in the middle of the week, especially since the heat wave is supposed to continue. We'll see how things go.

Had a huge grocery order this week, especially for the summer. I wasn't able to make it to the Collingswood Farm Market today, so I bought peaches, escarole, blueberries, and cherries (the last-named on sale). It's too hot to bake. I bought whole wheat bread from the bakery for sandwiches for work this week. The clearance shelves groan with fancy flavorings and seasonings after the baking aisle was reorganized earlier this week. I bought lemon and maple flavorings, the previous version of the Acme generic vanilla, the McCormick Bourbon Brown Sugar seasonings, and a box of Kashi Dark Chocolate Granola Bars. Restocked relish, mustard, peanut butter, navy beans, skim milk, and ground chicken. Found a small container of cooked shrimp with a manager's coupon and thought it might be nice for dinner tomorrow.

When I got home, I finished Sheriff Callie's Wild West. This was a really cute show. You don't often seen western-themed kids' programming anymore. "The Pie Thief" had Petunia, the pink-loving skunk, fibbing about having seen a bandit when she eats all the pies for a contest. She regrets her lies when a real bandit comes to town, and she has to stall him long enough for Callie and Peck to appear. The rabbit who runs the general store is a "Fool for Gold" when he finds a huge gold nugget and thinks he's struck it rich. He gives away everything in the store to the others, to their delight. When the miner pigs tell him it's fool's gold and not worth a penny, he has to figure out how to get his stuff back, without offending anyone. "Mustache Toby" is the tough image Toby the Cactus tries to present when he buys himself an oversized handlebar mustache. "Bob's Cheated Chili" isn't the best recipe around. That goes to an old Spanish turtle whose hot peppers make the perfect pot of chili. When Bob steals the peppers for his own, he overflows the pot and floods the town with chili. "Toby the Cowsitter" offers to take care of a whole farm's worth of bovines in order to earn nickles for a milkshake. Trouble is, he knows nothing about taking care of animals, and the cows cause trouble when he doesn't pay attention to the.

Spent the next few hours, and a couple of hours around 8 PM, working on my story. I didn't get far. I was tired and easily distracted. Leia barely manages to escape falling rocks with the help of one of Jabba's slaves, a slender sludge-covered creature with blue eyes. Jabba sent one of his bounty hunters after Leia. Now, he's sending another in the hope to keep her trapped in the maze forever.

Ran an episode of The Backyardigans while having Bourbon Brown Sugar Turkey Burgers and the last of the steamed snap peas for dinner. Uniqua has "Blazing Paddles" when the Bandit Pablo wins hers and the other kids' ping pong paddles with his amazing Bandit SlamIt move. Vowing to hone her skills until they beat his, Uniqua goes out to the desert to turn herself into the most incredible ping pong player ever!

Finished out the night with Lego Star Wars. The last two rounds of Empire Strikes Back has Luke fighting Vader (before the big revelation), and then Lando getting Chewie, Leia, and the droids out of Cloud City. The Cloud City round was a basic build-and-collect, no sweat. Fighting Vader was more complicated. You often have to use the steam of Cloud City to get him down from high perches. My timing is terrible. I often couldn't time things so the steam was under him.

The opening rounds of Return of the Jedi were less difficult. The two Jabba's Palace levels were both basic building rounds. The first has Leia, Luke, Chewie, and the droids defrosting Han, then the guys and the droids fighting the Rancor. The second brought the entire crew in to blow Jabba's Skiffs to smithereens. That was tougher. You had to jump at just the right times in some places and use Luke's Force skills a lot.

Incidentally, it's a really good thing I worked early today. I was writing when it started thundering the first time. That was just a small storm, but the second, which came in while I was playing the Empire rounds, was far noisier, with lots of rain and pyrotechnics. Good. We haven't had much rain lately. We could use it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wild Wild Heat

It was another hot, bright day when I got up this morning. I finished Star Wars Rebels: A New Dawn, then had breakfast. Ran an episode of The Backyardigans while I ate. Uniqua, Tyrone, and Pablo are on a "Secret Mission" to a museum to return a triangular piece to the object it belongs to. They have to use their spy gadgets (including Tyrone's maple syrup) and do a little limbo to get past the traps and laser beams.

Headed out to run a few errands I couldn't put off around 11:30. First stop of the day was Rite Aid. I saw a new L'Oreal curl conditioner in a tube container at the Acme. Rite Aid had it on sale a bit cheaper. After I bought it...I went right back in because I forgot brush picks. I only have one left.

Went down Cuthbert and crossed over, passing the Shell station on the corner and the car repair shop to the Haddon Township Library. They were busy with kids and parents who were renting DVDs and playing with toys while avoiding the heat. I had lots to do and lots of DVDs to shelve. All of the kids' titles fit just fine, but the adults were overflowing. There were a few that didn't make it in. The stack of CDs and audio books was pretty tall, too.

I did take out some movies and books to amuse me while I also escape the heat. Having enjoyed the spy comedies from this week, I decided to give Kingsman: The Secret Service a look. Finally took out Ex Machina, a darker sci-fi movie from last year featuring some of The Force Awakens' cast, after having eyed it several times. I saw the 90's Sabrina when my mom rented it after it came out on video, but I haven't seen it since then - thought I'd give it another go. (Especially since I've seen the 1954 Sabrina since then and can now compare the two.) Sheriff Callie's Wild West, another Disney Junior show in the vein of Doc McStuffins, had a really cute design on the front cover that reminded me of the Richard Scarry books of my childhood that might be worth a watch.

Also grabbed a couple of books. Heir to the Jedi is another new Star Wars title released in the wake of the retirement of the "Legends/Expanded Universe." Was glad to see that the adorable The Penderwicks has two follow-ups. I took out the first of those, The Penderwicks On Gardam Street. The Dark Frigate sounds like an exciting pirate tale (and was a Newberry award-winner). Also grabbed a collection of the three recently-released Star Wars Original Trilogy kids books for fanfic inspiration.

Hit Phillies Phatties for lunch. It was too hot to eat my slice of cheese and slice of mushroom outside. I plopped at a table with my Mountain Dew Pitch Black and pizza, watching the groups of kids and their parents enjoy a late lunch (and ignoring the chatter on ESPN). I did eat a quick cup of cinnamon bun ice cream from Phillies Yummies outside, mainly because they don't have a seating area and it's kind of hard to eat ice cream on a bike.

Spent the rest of the afternoon hiding from the heat at home and working on my story. A lot of the early parts got some heavy revision to indicate that Luke isn't as dead as his father thinks. Leia discovers that, too, as she enters the maze. She first passes through a beautiful underwater garden before coming to a fork in the road. I originally was going to have her directed by a cute little angelfish, but that didn't seem to have much to do with the story. Leia is now being helped by the mysterious seaweed-covered servant she saw at Jabba's ship palace. Though he directs her to the path that's dark and scary, she suspects he has her best interests at heart.

Finished the night with Tuscan Tuna Bean Salad and Sheriff Callie. The title character is a calico cat who runs the town of Nice and Friendly Corners and has the most unique deputies in law enforcement history - a woodpecker named Peck and a small cactus named Toby. Although the first story, "Train Robbers," had Callie and her boys rescue the afore-mentioned vehicle from bandits, most of the episodes were far tamer. Callie has to coax "A Dusty and Dirty Apology" from a pair of miner pig brothers who are feuding over sharing their equipment. Callie's horse Sparky gets encouragement to try barrel jumping again after an accident via a lucky scarf in "Sparky's Lucky Day." And everyone learns not to judge by appearances when a wolf who just arrived in town isn't nearly as scary as he seems in "Peck's Bent Beak."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Live and Let Laugh

Began the day at work. Thankfully, it went far better than yesterday. I rounded up carts when I arrived and for about an hour after break, but I mostly did returns and mopped. It was just as well. We weren't really all that busy, never more than steady. (Though surprisingly the carts were low at noon.) It started out cloudy, but by 12 PM, the sun had come out, and it got beastly hot and humid.

I went straight home after work and spent the rest of the afternoon writing. Leia is escorted to Jabba's ship palace by two of his shark men guards. After she insults him, he gives her a task. If she can get through his maze, he'll let her and Han go free and restore Han's human form. He tells her that a fearsome Beast guards "her heart's desire" in the center. She must kill the Beast to complete the maze and rescue Han. She agrees to it - she only wants her father's treasure back and to see her lover again.

The nasty sea slug has a platoon of slime-covered creatures surrounding him that attend to his every whim. One watches Leia the entire time she and Jabba talk. Leia sees a flash of sandy gold hair under the muck, and thinks he seems familiar...

After I broke for dinner, I had leftovers while watching Spy. Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a CIA analyst and computer specialist. If that sounds glamorous, she also works in the basement and deals with an infestation of bats on a regular basis. She mostly gives back-up to her partner on the field, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When he vanishes on what seems like a routine mission and other agents are compromised, Susan steps up to take their place. She may be plump and quiet, but appearances can be deceiving. She's far tougher and more resourceful than she looks. A rather ditzy rogue agent (Jason Stratham) refuses to believe anyone can be as cool as him at anything and continues to dog Susan and make quite a mess of things. What starts off as a decidedly non-glamorous surveillance mission turns into something far more complex as Susan pursues an arms dealer (Rose Byrne)...and discovers just how hard a spy's work really is.

This is the second spy comedy I've watched in a row that I ended up really enjoying. It reminded me a lot of the raunchy slobs vs. snobs comedies of the 80's, with a far sharper script than most of them had. (Also like that both the heroine and one of the main villains were women, not to mention the tough martial artist. You don't often see that in these kind of movies.)

Major warning that, cute though this is, it's not for little kids. Blood, violence, some sex, and a ton of swearing makes this for teen comedy lovers on up. If you're a fan of the cast or love action comedies, this was a huge hit last summer and gets a hearty recommendation from me as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Woman From Oaklyn

Began a cloudy, thickly humid day with work. It's the middle of the week and the middle of a month that, other than the 4th of July, doesn't have much going on. There were barely any carts to round up this morning. I ended up inside for most of the day.

I was doing returns when an old man in a plaid shirt asked me where the tomatoes and fruit were. I directed him to the produce department. Went back to doing my job until I strolled to the bakery department to give them some smashed dessert sponge cakes. He was there, looking for the tomatoes again. He demanded that I do his shopping and bring him cat food. I asked him what kind. He said "any kind, just bring cat food." I didn't see why he couldn't do it himself - his arms and legs weren't broken - but I grabbed a bag of the Acme's generic dry cat food anyway. When I returned to the produce department, he was gone.

Found him in one of the frozen food aisles, talking to a manager. I tried to hand him the cat food, but the bag broke, spilling hard bits all over! Not only was I embarrassed, but he called me an idiot! I was so upset.

(I later discovered I wasn't the only person he was rude to. The floral department manager said he'd tried to demand that she do his shopping, too. She couldn't. She had balloons to fill and organize. The customer service manager who helped me clean up the cat food mess also admitted he'd tried to get her to find things for him, then complained about me when she wouldn't do it.)

I spent the next two hours mopping up the many leaks around the freezers. There was a huge puddle in aisle 11 again. (Which is, ironically, the cleaning supplies aisle.) I had to remove the long pellet-filled bags that had absorbed all the water they were going to, replace them with dry ones, and mop up the mess.

First of all, I had no idea where the bags were. The manager who helped me with the cat food had to show me to the receiving docks, where they were drying on a rail. Second, cleaning up the previous ones was a lot harder than it looked. They were so sodden with sour water, they were hard to lift and dripped horribly when I did. By the time I got back to the receiving docks, it was showering. While the rain hopefully washed that sour smell off the bags, it meant I got wet.

I was never so happy to get home. Thankfully, the rain had taken a temporary leave of absence by 2 PM. I arrived sweaty but not soaked. As soon as I got in the door, I opted to take a rare mid-day shower to get all that dirty water and the sour smell from the leaks off.

Went into writing after my shower. I took out my frustrations over the customer at work in my story. Lando's ship is driven by a very pompous old retired admiral. He assumes Leia, who has changed into simpler clothing, is a servant and orders her to bring him his lunch while he's steering. Leia does what he asks, but the boat is riding over bouncy waves, and she spills his meal. He yells at her, telling her that she's incompetent and stupid. She counters by yelling that he's an ignorant jerk who should get his own meals. She's a princess, and she won't put up with his obnoxiousness.

Lando stops as close to the ship's graveyard as he dares. He tries to talk Leia out of it, but she's adamant. Han did her a favor by not turning her over to Jabba despite his orders. Now, she wants to do him a favor. She dives into the water and swims to Jabba's "palace," which is in an especially palatial ship on the bottom of the ocean. She's met by two mermen with shark's tails who are some of Jabba's guards, who bring her to the throne room.

 Broke around 5:30 for a quick dinner of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cheddar cheese. After I ate, I finished the cleaning. I vacuumed, did the windows, and quickly dusted around all the objects in this apartment. (I reserve really heavy cleaning for the spring and the fall before Christmas.)

Ran The Man From U.N.C.L.E while I cleaned. It's the early 60's, and the height of the Cold War. Debonair CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavil) and dedicated KGB agent Illya Kurakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to work together when their countries discover that a criminal organization lead by nefarious Victoria Vincigurerra (Elizabeth Debicki) that has access to nuclear bombs that could destroy the balance of power in the world. Their only lead is Gaby (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of a missing German scientist. As the two men learn to put aside their differences and work together, they also begin to realize that Gaby isn't what she seems...and neither is their mission...

Ooh, I liked this one. This was really cute. Cavil, Hammer, and Vikander all played well off each other as the mysterious trio who are never quite sure if they can trust the other two. Hugh Grant plays against type as Gaby's nerdy boss, and Debicki makes a delicious villain. Like The Fugitive, I haven't seen the 60's show this is based after, so I really can't compare them. I suspect that the differences may be part of why this movie was a flop last summer.

If you like light crime caper films or light-hearted action movies (and are willing to take it on its own terms), this is a stylish treat that deserved far better than it got in the theaters.

Finished the night with more Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. "Falcon Flight," the Millennium Falcon's trip through the asteroid field, was a bit more complicated than the previous Original Trilogy flight rounds. You had to blow up asteroids...some while they were still moving! "Dagobah" was even harder. Some of the puzzles here were really complicated, and others involved that dreaded Jedi double jump that I still can't master.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

In the Heat of the Day

It was sunny and hot when I finally got up this morning. I ran an episode of Rick Steves' Europe as I ate breakfast. The Scandinavian episodes are some of my favorites. Today, I did the Copenhagen show from 2007. I've been wondering why I feel so at home while watching the Danish episodes. It might be because I grew up among Scandinavian influence. What's now Cape May was originally settled by Danish explorers in the 1600's. One of the bed-and-breakfast inns downtown is called Captain Mey's Inn, after the explorer who discovered the town. Cape May celebrates its Danish heritage every year around April during its Spring Festival. (Originally the Tulip Festival, until it occurred to someone that the tulips rarely came up on schedule and were usually out after the event.) There's even a store on the Washington Street Mall called Swede Things In America.

Headed out around 11:30 to run a few errands. Started at the Oaklyn Library. I'd never seen them so busy! I guess the heat scared everyone indoors. Almost every computer terminal was taken, and there was at least two families reading books. I was able to duck around folks long enough to organized the DVD's and work on the board books. By the time I headed out, so had the families (though some of the people on the computers remained).

Headed across the White Horse Pike to Family Dollar for sugar after leaving the library. I also saw they had their own generic versions of some of the most popular Girl Scouts cookies, including the lemon iced shortbread. I've never seen anyone else try to recreate that. Went back across the Pike to WaWa for a roast beef hoagie and a black cherry Sparkling Ice. Had those at the picnic tables on West Clinton. Other than one worker, I was the only one there. It was too early for Phillies Yummies to be open.

After I ate, I went straight home, put the sugar and cookies away, then went right back out to get the laundry done. I wanted to do it yesterday, but I didn't want to chance it with Willa's bike. They were fairly busy, but not enough that I wasn't able to get a washer and a dryer. I worked on story notes while half-listening to a re-run of The Chew and the families around me.

Spent the rest of the afternoon (and some of tonight) working on fanfiction. Maz gives Leia some exposition as she almost jumps in a trunk. Jabba wrecked her father's ship and stole his gold, leaving the kingdom in difficult financial straits. He uses merfolk, Han among them, to salvage the treasure and lure the humans to their deaths. But now, he wants living human souls, the stronger, the better. He's hoping to become human himself and dominate the trade routes, so no one will be able to get any money back and forth without going to him.

Maz gives Leia a necklace with three shells. She has to come back within twenty-four hours, before the last shell darkens, or she'll drown. (It may expand to two days if I really get into the second half.) She also gives the princess a bracelet with her magic to protect her. Jabba has a huge maze he sends enemies and friends alike into in order to find their heart's desire. None have ever come out alive.

Leia makes her way to the docks. Lando is already there. He waylays her the moment he sees her. Her father is looking for her and the thief from the ball. Leia convinces Lando to help her get out to where Jabba's shipwreck home is, despite Lando's misgivings about it being a ship graveyard.

Put on Patriot Games while making pan-fried salmon cakes with corn on the cob an cucumber-tomato salad for dinner. Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is a history professor on vacation with his wife and daughter who gets caught in the middle of a terrorist attack on a lord (James Fox). He's hailed as a hero for saving a member of the Royal Family. One of the terrorists whose brother he killed (Sean Bean) doesn't think he's so wonderful. While the rest of his team trains to kidnap the nobleman, the terrorist goes on a personal vendetta again Ryan, including nearly killing his daughter and pregnant wife. Ryan's angry enough to jump back into his old CIA job, alongside his former boss (James Earl Jones). He's determined to make sure nothing else happens to those he loves, no matter what it takes...

This one has some things in common with Air Force One - terrorists once again hijack Ford's family and makes things personal. I think I enjoyed this a bit more, though. The villains were somewhat more fleshed out (I've read they were even more-so in the book) and the plot makes slightly more sense, even if the finale in the lightning storm was over-the-top.

If you're a fan of the cast or of political thrillers, this is a (mostly) tight tale that's worth checking out.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Playing the Lego Game

I spent most of a lovely summer morning writing. I figured I'd get out later at work. (I added a little bit more later tonight.) After she awakens, Leia stumbles to the shack where Ol' Maz lives. Maz mostly sells crafts, but she's said to be a witch...and one who might be able to help Leia get to her true love.

Watched more public domain shorts during meals. "It's a Greeks Life" is a real rarity, a Silly Symphony-esque musical short from RKO's Van Beuren Studios. Hephaestus is asked to repair Mercury's sandals. He takes them for a flight, but when they vanish, his duck friends come to his rescue against the God of Flight's wrath. "Once Upon a Time" is an animated PSA that shows what happens when fairy tale characters neglect car and road safety. "The Enchanted Square" is one of two Famous Studios shorts featuring Raggedy Ann. Ann helps a little blind girl "see" the grimy New York square she lives in as a place of beauty and wonderment, thanks to her imagination.

Work was a bit of a pain. Two cashiers called out, which means I was stuck inside behind a register for almost the entire afternoon. There were a lot of grouchy people, too. I did get a chance to do some returns for a half-hour after I arrived and right before I left, but I was mostly cashiering. I never got outside or around to doing carts.

I ducked out the moment I finished. I deserved dinner at Sonic. It was still a nice evening, sunny and windy, if much warmer than earlier. It was only about 5:30 when I arrived, and they were fairly quiet. I had a burger, tater tots, and my favorite cherry limeade. I timed it right. Both the patio and the parking lot were getting much busier by the time I finished and headed home.

Finished out the night playing video games. I did finally get through "Death Star Escape." Perhaps making up for the difficulties I had there, the video game version of the trench run on the Death Star was surprisingly easy, the least trouble I've had with a flying round so far.

In fact, it was so easy, I went right into the first two rounds of Empire Strikes Back after finishing the flying round. "The Battle of Hoth" was another flying round, this one slightly more complicated than the trench run. In addition to the usual shooting, you have to use your cable to do what Luke, Wedge, and Rogue Squadron did in the film and use cables to wind around the larger walker's legs, then drag bombs over to blow them to smithereens. Tough, but fun, a lot more than any of the prequel flying rounds.

"Escape From Echo Base" is a little simpler. It's just Han and Leia (and later, Chewie and Threepio) fleeing the doomed Rebel base, figuring out puzzles that melt the ice or break down barriers on the way. No problems there. We even got some adorable cut shots of Leia ending up in Han's plastic arms (and one where she slaps him for being fresh).

Oh, and Richard called later in the evening. I passed him in his garage on my way to the apartment to leave him Willa's bike. He was able to finish my bike. Apparently, she's ready to go. Good thing, too. I have laundry I can't put off any longer tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Trouble at Home

Began the morning with some very quick Blueberry Pancakes before rushing off to work. I began and ended the day gathering carts. It wasn't a bad day for it, sunny, warm, and a bit humid, but not to the degree of last week. Spent most of the morning doing returns and restocking rolls of register receipt tape. The coupons on the back of the old rolls had apparently ended. (I had no idea anyone even paid any attention to the random coupons on the back of the receipts. Evidently, there's a coupon for a car wash down the street on it that's very popular.) It was busy, though not quite to the degree it frequently is on Sundays.

The gears on my bike had been making a strange grinding noise for the past few days. It got louder as I arrived home. My neighbor Richard was outside when I got in. I turned the bike over to him to take a look at, then went upstairs.

Worked on my story for the next couple of hours. Jabba brings Han to his "palace" in a well-preserved royal shipwreck. His men toss him in the brig with his friend, the dogfish Chewbacca. Han can't talk - he gave his voice to Jabba for legs - but he can still try to flirt with the female guard. When that doesn't work, he gets the keys off her when she's distracted by Boba Fett, a bounty hunter with a shark's tail. Han does get Chewie out, but Fett catches him again. He punishes Han by forcing a foul-smelling potion into that will change his shape and put him fully in the evil sea slug's control.

After a really quick leftovers dinner, I tried to play Lego Star Wars again. I didn't get very far. There's one room where you're supposed to build a wall while fending off stormtroopers. You can close the blast doors to keep them out, but it doesn't last for very long. I spent a hour and a half getting more and more frustrated as I tried to keep stormtroopers off my tail and build at the same time. It got so late, I finally gave up on it. I'll try again tomorrow.

Things didn't go much better with my bike. Apparently, the ball bearings on the gears broke. Richard says he can take the ball bearings off my own bike, but he doesn't have the tools to do the job properly. I'll have to borrow his wife's bike for tomorrow...which is a gear bike. I hate those. I'm no good on them. I appreciate the offer, but it's going to be such a pain.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Welcome to the Summer Harvest

Began a cloudy, windy, killer humid morning with cartoons while I ate breakfast. Dug into my public domain collection for a couple of Popeye Famous Studios fantasy tales. "Ancient Fistory" is actually a take on "Cinderella," with Fairy God Pappy helping Popeye get to Princess Olive's ball. Olive wants some "Parlez Vous Woo" when she falls for a debonair TV star. Bluto does his own version of European smooth, which prompts Popeye to prove he's a lot more elegant than he appears.

I didn't make it to the Collingswood Farm Market until quarter of 11. Despite the cloudy day, the crowds were still pretty thick. The summer harvest continues to roll out. Snap peas, lettuce, and spinach are gone, replaced by peaches, corn, eggplant, summer squash, and turnips. I made my way around the crowds well enough to pick up small peaches, blueberries, two ears of corn, a tomato, mushrooms, and an apple cider donut.

Did a few more cartoons really quick when I got home. "Greek Mirthology" has Popeye telling his nephews the story of their ancestor Hercules (Popeye) and how he ate spinach to become strong. "Betty In Blunderland" takes Betty Boop into a musical world, where every character pops out of a hat and dances and sings for her...until the Jabberwocky arrives and takes off with her!

Headed to the Acme around noon to pick up my schedule and do this week's grocery shopping. Not too bad. I have Tuesday off this week along with Friday, and a later day on Monday will give me the chance to get the laundry done that morning. I do work early next Saturday and will have to miss the Collingswood Farm Market. I'm also off early on Wednesday. If I'm up to it, I may try to get to the Westmont Farm Market.

In any event, I didn't need a whole lot this week. Found a three-pack of salmon cakes with a manager's coupon. I'll have them for dinner later in the week. Restocked olive oil, coconut milk, chocolate chips, mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, peanut butter, yogurt, Irwin spice wafers (ginger snaps), and milk. The Acme generic brands were the cheapest cereal on sale. I kept things simple with bran flakes. I try to buy the McCormick seasonings when they're on sale; went with Montreal Chicken. Chobani had watermelon yogurt among their flavors. I've never seen that before. I thought I'd try that for a quick lunch.

It began to shower rather hard just as I was arriving at the Acme, Thankfully, by the time I got out, the rain was gone. It wouldn't return until late that night. In fact, the sun came out briefly later in the evening.

Between the humidity and the iffy weather, I wasn't going to chance any more running around. I was in for the rest of the day. I had my watermelon yogurt with strawberries while watching Wakko's Wish. The entire cast of Animanics takes part in a fantasy tale that has everyone rushing to a star when it falls to Earth after Wakko makes a wish. The first person (or animal) to get there will get their wish. However, in addition to regulars like the Warner siblings and Pinky and the Brain, an evil king is also after the star...and he'll do anything, including torture the Warners, to get that wish!

Fun for Animanics fans and lovers of 90's animation, this one was finally released on DVD last year.

Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my fanfiction. Leia follows Han out to the beach. She overhears him tell his boss he has the jewels he stole from the ball. Jabba, an evil sea slug, wants more. He wants the lovely Leia and her human soul. Han refuses to hurt her.

Leia rushes out just in time to see Jabba force Han into the water. The moment the waves hit him, the moonlight transforms his legs into a fish tail, and his voice cuts off. Leia's able to distract Jabba long enough for her and Han to flee across the water to a sheltered cove. She's hoping to get to Old Maz, the eccentric lady who tells fortunes and sells crafts nearby, but Jabba circumvents them. He's able to capture Han, telling Leia that if she wants him, she'll have to come to his palace in the reefs to get him. Han's disconsolate expression is the last thing she sees before she passes out on the jetty.

Broke around 6:30 to make chicken sausage in wine sauce with steamed snap peas for dinner. Ran a few Hello Kitty Furry Tale Theater shorts as I ate. Tuxedo Sam, the action-loving penguin, is the lead in two out of three of these stories. He gets to play "Peter Penguin," with Catnip as his Captain Hook and My Melody as Tinkerbell, and goes native in "Tar-Sam of the Jungle." Hello Kitty is his Jane, who wants him to return to civilization, but he can't leave his ape family to the schemes of poachers Catnip and Grinder. Chip the Seal gets a turn in the spotlight as a young King Arthur in "Paws of the Round Table," who must go on a quest to rescue Lady Bunnyvere (My Melody) from a fearsome dragon.

Lauren usually spends weekend evenings with her folks, so I finished out the night with Lego Star Wars. Running around Mos Eisley is fairly complicated, especially since it's in two parts. The first half follows Luke and Obi-Wan as they search the town for a good pilot and try to avoid stormtroopers. After they find Han and Chewie, the two smugglers have to get back to their ship the Millennium Falcon and chase after a spy. There's a lot of building required in this round, including making an Imperial walker that was required to finish the first part. It was more of a pain than anything. I kept getting shot out of it.

The first half of Leia's rescue was a lot easier. It was pretty much just running around the Death Star, shooting stormtroopers and getting to Leia's cell. Next time, I'll do the second part of Leia's rescue and see if I can finish New Hope.