travel

My Most Memorable Moments on a Girl Scout Trip to London in 2008


Many years ago, when I was 14, I went on a trip with my Girl Scout troop to London for 5 days. I enjoyed it, except where we stayed. But I am not going to talk about that here.
Instead, I will focus on a few memorable moments that happened there. So, without further ado, let me get started.

1: Mature t-shirts in an outdoor flea market 

On our last day in London, we toured more sites and then shopped at a flea market. I noticed some t-shirts with naughty language, but there was one word I didn’t know the meaning of. So, I  asked my mom loudly what it was. But she whispered me the definition. I will stop there on that.

2: Low-quality fish n’ chips

I know, the UK is known for having awesome fish n’ chips. I did have good ones, too. However, the first night there, my troop ate at a restaurant where the food quality wasn’t what I expected. I even told my mom the fish tasted like a frozen kind.

3: Excitement on Legoland 

On our way back from Stonehenge, we passed a park called Legoland, and everyone got excited. But the guide said, “We’re not going to Legoland.” Not only was it not part of the itinerary, I think it was also closed.

4: Touring the London Dungeons 

Although it was memorable, it was far from my favorite. It scared me and I experienced haunting effects in my room at night. I might have had trouble falling asleep. I don’t remember. But visit that at your own risk, no matter how brave you think you are.

I don’t know when international travel will be safe and normal again. But when it resumes, be careful. Also, keep in mind that some of the places might have gone out of business either recently or a long time ago, whether related to the pandemic or not. Discovery Times Square in New York City is an example.

If you choose to go to London when it’s safe again, you can consider these places and activities I’ve listed. Just check to see if they still exist.

fiction, movie

I Want to Make Comic Book Adaptations of My Books

Who wouldn’t love to see visual versions of their novels? Many writers dream of their books becoming movies. But only a handful of books get adapted to films, and the authors usually don’t have any creative control whatsoever. Only big names, like J.K. Rowling, may be allowed control. The filmmakers often say that what looks good written on paper may not necessarily translate well to the screen. They also worry about their chances of success if they permitted the author creative control.

Regardless of what movie crews claim, I notice that it often backfires. Many film-adaptations of books where the authors were completely left out of the projects have mixed or negative overall reactions. Those, such as ” Harry Potter”, do better. The books already sold well on their own prior to the movies being optioned.

I, too, have dreamed of my books being movies. In fact, I used to try and sell film rights through certain sites many times. But it was too premature and no one would accept them. And I am quite glad that they didn’t.

I’ve gotten to know myself better and how much of a control freak I am over my work. So, now I realize how much I would hate film versions of my novels. I feel the need for input and having things happen exactly how I envision them. In fact, I am teaching myself to have a new mindset, where certain publicity services should be avoided because they will mess with my ideas.

Okay, that may sound crazy. I am not necessarily saying this is a good mindset to have. But for me, it’s realistic. I get very annoyed when people do things to my work that aren’t how I intend or envision them. So, no selling film rights, traditional publishing rights, or foreign language rights, is a message to me.

I did once consider animating my books into movies myself. But, of course, that would be a huge overkill, even if I worked with others. So, that is why I want to make comics of the stories instead.

Yes, the characters won’t move. Yes, no one will hear them speak out loud like in cartoons. But it would be far less work than animating. I would just have to practice my illustration skills over time. Then I would maybe test them by offering them as free downloads from my website. If they succeeded, I would then sell them.

travel

If I Went to Puerto Rico, This is What I Would Want

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been to Puerto Rico when I was 12 during a school break. I had a good time. I also considered going back there in 2017… until they experienced a hurricane.

Of course, now that we’re living in a pandemic, I won’t plan any trips as of now. I probably won’t even go to New York City, which is about an hour away from where I live, until we’re back to typical life. 

But this is just a game of make-believe (sort of). Maybe I will think about visiting Puerto Rico again when it’s safe. For now, though, I will just list the things I would want to do if I traveled there. I’m basically just using my imagination.

Let’s get brainstorming!

Duration: a week

How to get there? Obviously, I would take a plane to Puerto Rico. I would likely want a flight in the morning on the way there and an afternoon one on the way back to New York. I would want a comfortable seat and a plane where they serve food. Sadly, many flights have removed food service, but some brought them back in recent years.

Where would I stay? in a hotel! Hands down. I would never consider a hostel or even a motel in Puerto Rico. One, I am a little bit spoiled with places to stay. Two, cleanliness and quality may make the place safer. 

That being said, I would not mind an apartment-like suite or even an Airbnb. As long as they have enough amenities, are comfortable, and clean, I would be happy.

What would I do? Go to the beach, kayak, hike, zip-line, snorkel, swim, ride horses, watch wildlife, maybe raft (if it’s an option there), and visit a cave (if they exist there). 

I know that when you are older, trips shouldn’t necessarily be all about fun. I understand that. However, I wouldn’t go on any educational tours in Puerto Rico. I would save that for places in Europe or Asia. Plus, I strongly prefer active vacations more.

Where would I eat? If I stayed at an all-inclusive resort, probably the restaurants within the place. Otherwise, I would go to different places, depending on what I craved. I might not necessarily pick somewhere fancy, though, unless I was with others.

How would I get around? Walking or car service. I wouldn’t feel comfortable renting a car. I would also stay somewhere where I could walk around easily and safely. I like to go out a lot.

What would I pack? Summer clothes, of course. Puerto Rico usually does not get hotter than 80’s, though, due to their winds. Maybe I would also pack cardigans and long pants, like if it gets cold at night or if I go to a fancy restaurant for dinner.

So, that is my ideal plan for if I went to Puerto Rico.

movie

Let’s Get Kicking with This Critique of “Early Man” (2018)

I’ve always wanted to watch this film as the trailer engaged and cracked me up a lot. Then I saw it recently on my computer and really enjoyed it.

So, without further ado, let the critique begin. I’ll start off with the strengths.

1: The humor

I cannot keep track of how many times I’ve laughed throughout this movie. It was made by the same company who did “Wallace and Gromit”. The characters were fantastic, especially the main one, Dug, who was voiced by Eddie Redmayne. You probably know him from the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.

Some of the funny moments include the giant duck, the rabbit, and the characters’ actions.

2: The rabbit

I can’t skip this one. The rabbit acted silly and excited, even when over a bonfire. It did a hokey pokey move while tied to a stick. Even though it’s a minor character, I still enjoyed the bunny.

3: The twists and turns

This film brought a lot of surprises. One example includes the giant duck. A not-so-bright member of the cave people tribe sees a duck from a distance, wants it for food, and hits it with a rock. Little does he and the others know that it’s a giant duck, which becomes of use later. I won’t say how.

Another surprise was when Dug is lost in the civilized village near a stadium, he sees an attractive girl named Goona, who ends up helping him and his tribe win the soccer (or football outside the US) tournament. I predicted Dug and Goona would become a romantic couple. Well, barely at most, which I admire since that feels a little cliched to me.

4: The importance of teamwork

When the cave people have to win a soccer game with the civilization nearby, after being banished from their valley, someone (I don’t remember whom) points out that what they possess is togetherness. I considered that a great moral.

Now onto the parts that I felt could have been better:

1: Chief is only in his early 30’s—about 32

What?! He looks so much older. I thought he was no younger than 60 at first. I get that the creators probably wanted to emphasize on how cave people didn’t live very long. I’m not sure if it’s prehistorically accurate for early 30’s to be elderly with old age signs during the stone age. But for today’s standards, it’s way too awkward.

2: Why are there cave people during the time the dinosaurs went extinct?

This, for sure, is prehistorically inaccurate. Humans didn’t come about until millions and millions of years after the dinosaurs perished. In the movie, though, unlike the tribe Dug belongs to, the humans during the dinosaur times had no speech. Still—I hope this doesn’t mislead children into thinking cave people and dinosaurs co-existed together. Nope.

3: Why does Dug’s pet pig sound like a dog?

He howls and barks, but never oinks. Unless that’s prehistorically accurate, it looks kind of sloppy. That being said, he and Dug do share a sweet bond.

4: Some hidden (or not-so-hidden) adult content

This movie is rated PG and is supposed to be family-friendly. However, there were a few moments that shocked me, such as when Dug slipped into the shower under a naked man’s legs. Of course, they don’t show anything that would make parents forbid their kids to watch it. Still, as an adult, I was pretty astounded by this. Hopefully, it glossed over children’s heads. There were a few other subtle, but mature moments as well.

Regardless of the even amount of strengths and weaknesses, I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. The humor is what really drew me in. And I would still gladly recommend it to everyone of all ages.

Writing

Want to be a Serious Writer? Be prepared… it’s Expensive, But There are Some Tricks to Save Money

I have been honing and practicing my writing skills for nearly a decade. Along the way, I’ve had to spend money on editing, cover design, and marketing services. It cost a lot. I am not kidding.

I also fell into the trap of using “self-publishing” services, which were actually vanity presses. They offer publishing packages from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. And those books sell few to no copies. I would avoid those at all costs. And not just because of the pricing, but because of how they treat authors, take their money, and result in poor sales of their books. Try to use legitimate services where you just upload your materials, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital. Both are free to publish on.

But it’s more than just that. I will return to the publishing and marketing topics after I discuss editing and cover design.

Editing can be pretty expensive. Some editors will even charge thousands of dollars for their services, especially if they’ve worked with big-name, bestselling authors. So, unless you already have the money, I would suggest avoiding those. There are editing services that charge moderate amounts. There are also beta readers, who are usually quite affordable. Many don’t price their services over $100. It may be worth using them for content editing.

Also, a lot of editors will be willing to split the payment plans. That might be useful if you don’t want to spend too much money at once. Another approach is not to get every single draft of your manuscript edited. I don’t just mean the sloppy first draft, but any draft you may feel needs more work… from you.

Everyone’s writing process differs, so the editing necessities will vary, too. If you’re new to writing, it may be challenging to improve your writing abilities without customized feedback. You can read books on the writing craft and more, but they could only take you very far. My suggestion would be to spend less on any unnecessary items outside of your writing time. Or take a side job and save your earnings for book production service.

Which brings me to the next part: cover design. Unless you have a great reputation in graphic design or illustration, it’s best to hire someone. But like editing, some may split the payment segments. Keep in mind your book’s genre and what cover design would be appropriate and attract more people. Regardless of that saying, everybody judges books by their covers.

Now back to marketing. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can price your book as low as 99 cents. If you do the select program, you can run a free promotion for up to 5 days. However, if you do KDP select, your eBook can’t be available anywhere else digitally, like your website or blog. You can also ask Amazon to make your eBooks perma-free by publishing them on sites like Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and making them free. This is an option if you publish through Draft2digital. Amazon may or may not price-match your book to other retailers. If you write a series, Amazon might be more likely to allow you to make the first installment free.

There are a lot of eBook promotion sites that will share free and 99-cent eBooks. And they usually cost less than $100. Maybe even $50.

So, there you have it. While being a writer won’t prevent you from spending a lot of money, you can still use these techniques to pay less.

travel

Is DisneyWorld Worth it for Every Disney Fan?

Like many, I absolutely love the Disney franchise, from the classics, such as “The Little Mermaid” to the kinds like “Hocus Pocus” and just about every Pixar film. I’ve even been to Walt DisneyWorld twice in my life. Once when I was 5 (almost 6) and once when I was 13.

Unfortunately, when I went to DisneyWorld the second time, I didn’t really have fun. My family went to the Magic Kingdom and my dad, then 11-year-old brother (he’s now 24), and I just walked around. We had gone to other parks, such as Hershey Park, where there were lots of roller coasters and rides friendly toward adults and older kids. At the Magic Kingdom, there were mostly smaller rides. There was an indoor roller coaster, I believe called “Space Mountain” (I don’t remember 100%). However, you had to get a special pass and come back later. So, basically, the experience wasn’t the best for me.

But that was back in 2007. DisneyWorld has changed drastically since then, excluding the restrictions put in place due to the covid-19 pandemic. At that time, checking in was simple. You just paid your ticket, went through those wheel turners (I’m not sure what they’re really called), and you were all set. It’s not like that anymore, though.

Despite not going to DisneyWorld since 2007, I know how their check in-process has changed, based on research and what others have told me. It is now like going through security at the airport in a post 9/11 time. Bags go through scanners, people go through metal detectors, and get patted for anything unsafe.

Another aspect to be aware of is that the prices are drastically expensive. I think each ticket is now at least $100 per adult, and maybe a little cheaper per child. During this pandemic, the park has removed a lot of special amenities, features, and more, including what people usually go for. Those are the parades, character-meet-and-greets, dining, and possibly others. Not suprisingly, many folks are not visiting. But it could be more than just the removed specialties. DisneyWorld has to limit the capacity, reduce hours, and enforce things like social distancing and mask-wearing. Some people might not go because they’re concerned for their health and safety. It also may not be worthy, especially for families with young children. They can’t meet Mickey, their favorite princesses, or any other characters. I have to agree with one of my Facebook friends when he said that going to DisneyWorld now is worthless.

Don’t let this discourage you, though. At some point, those limits mentioned will go away, and DisneyWorld will return to normal. While I personally wouldn’t want to pay $100 for a day to one of their parks, others will. There are also items the parks do not allow, such as selfie-sticks (I don’t own or know how to use them, anyway), lounge chairs, and wrapped gifts. So, if you’re attending an occasion, such as a birthday, put the presents in a gift bag instead. These guidelines don’t bug me, though. I don’t carry those things regularly, anyway.

So, as long you’re okay with the airport-like check-in process, price, and rules, you could go at some point. But I would not recommend visiting DisneyWorld until the pandemic is fully over in the US, or in your country if you’re don’t live in America. I’m hoping that’s by summer of 2021 for the USA. Hang tight.

movie

I’m Going to Review “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” from 2009 Right… Now!

Warning: contains spoilers***

The items at the Museum of Natural History in NYC are being packed away to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, night guard, Larry Daley, is promoting something to a live audience.

Not long after, though, Larry is whisked away to Washington D.C. for the museum figures. The enchanted tablet brings the things in the Smithsonian to life, including a villainous Egyptian Pharoah named Ahkmenrah. Danger begins from there.

Like the first and third films, this movie had great humor. One of the funniest moments was when the other bad guys on Ahkmenrah’s side asked about his “dress,” which it wasn’t. It was a tunic. I laugh at when another person asked if he and everyone had to wear that, too. Lol. 

Another amazing aspect was when Oscar the grouch and Darth Vader tried to convince Ahkmenrah that they could be bad, but Ahkmenrah calmly turned them away. There was also a clever twist where Sacagawea made a point about how alerting the dark side about their attack could endanger them. So, when the time came, the good guys yelled, We are not going to attack right… now!”

Let’s not forget about the thinker and when he went “Fire power,” while developing strong feelings for a nearby female statue. Which brings me to the romance between Larry and Amelia Earhart. It wasn’t conventional at all. Amelia wanted leadership and helped Larry a lot. I found that to be fantastic since it was quite unique.

That being said, when Larry told his son, Nick, about her, his reaction was a little too casual. He asked in a neutral way, “You found Amelia Earhart?” 

Aside from that, though, everything else ruled. The Einstein figurines and their little song as well as their advanced knowledge cracked me up. I also appreciate the twist where Octavius encounters a squirrel on the white house property and then rides it.

The review ends here. I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars.

fiction

Review of “A Horse to Love” by Marsha Hubler

I haven’t read this book in years. However, I do remember enough to review it. I must also admit that I loved horses as a child and still do. In fact, I used to ride regularly from ages 8 to about 14.

Anyway, let me get to the review.

Thirteen-year-old Skye Nicholson is in court for something. She is assigned to a foster mother named Mrs. Chambers, who makes Skye do farm work, go to church, and has many rules about her home facilities. On the bright side, Skye develops a passion for this horse called Champ.

This book has a lot of memorable moments. Aside from the strong and engaging writing, many scenes stand out to me, such as when Mrs. Chambers comforts Skye and when Skye and Morgan, a physically disabled girl, ride horses together. Another moment that I have strong feelings about is when Skye hurt another girl at school, ran away, and got punished by her foster parents, where she couldn’t use any of the facilities or see Champ the horse. This was obviously wrong for Skye to do.

There are also some parts that I felt were flawed. One is how Mrs. Chambers only allows Christian music and makes Skye go to church. What if Skye were another religion? I considered that insensitive of Mrs. Chambers. It would have been better if the music allowed was something else, such as clean music with no explicit lyrics. 

Another moment that stood out to me was when when Mrs. Chambers first met Skye and said, “You can call me Mrs. Chambers or Mrs. C, but never Eileen.” The third part felt unnecessary to me, especially when an adult talks to a thirteen-year-old. 

Speaking of which, Skye won’t join a teen club Morgan offers her since she still thinks she’s only a kid. But thirteen is a teenager. Plus, most thirteen-year-olds are excited to finally be teens and not younger children anymore.

Other than those issues, I really enjoyed the story and would rate it 4 out of 5 stars. 

cooking

Very Delicious Oreo Pudding

I’ve wanted to make an Oreo dessert for a while. In fact, my first idea was to make a no-bake Oreo mousse pie. The recipe sounded promising. However, something about the steps in that formula made me too lazy to start. So, I kept postponing until I decided on something simpler. That is what you see in the picture above: Oreo pudding.

There were a bunch of exciting recipes in the Google results. But I desired something quicker. I chose the option where the preparation time was 30 minutes. I made a cream cheese frosting with more cream cheese than butter, which the instructions called for, anyway. Then I made the vanilla pudding from a mix, followed by the whipped cream. I then crushed thee Oreos in a bag. At some point, I removed the cream filling from the inside since it was kind of interfering with the smashing of the cookies. After that, I mixed the cream cheese icing with the pudding and placed it in a pan. I then covered it with the crushed Oreos, and repeated the process until I topped it with the whipped cream and sprinkled the remaining cookie crumbs on top.

After chilling it for a half hour, I took it out and ate some. It tasted good, but not as delicious as the next day. I guess it needed more time to be in the refrigerator.

One thing I used less of was sugar. Not that it was a choice, but because I was low on the powdered kind. Therefore, I had to made do with what I owned. Despite that, it still came out great. The Oreos already contained lots of sweetness to begin with. What also matters is that I came back for more. That is a sign of success.

I don’t remember what site I got the recipe from, but if you do a web search for “Oreo pudding,” just look for the one that says it’ll take 30 minutes. If you make it, I would recommend chilling it for at least an hour or 2. That way, the ingredients blend better. I hope this helps.

movie

I’m Spelling Out This Evaluation of “Hocus Pocus” (1993)

Warning: contains spoilers***

There are so many aspects of this film that stand out to me. It begins where a boy named Thackary is looking for his younger sister, Emily. He finds her being cursed by three witches, Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. They turn Thackary into an immortal black cat, but are then executed by the community shortly after. Three hundred years have passed (which surprised me) and the focus is now on a teenage boy, named Max, in his history class at school. The Halloween adventure begins.

I found Max to be very believable, especially since he moved to a new town from Los Angeles and really missed his old home. The bullies who picked on him made me feel even more sorry for him. However, at some point, the bullies were in danger, and Max wouldn’t save them, which was irresponsible. Just because someone is not nice to you, that doesn’t mean you can leave them in peril.

That being said, Max was a good guy. Although he resisted taking his eight-year-old sister, Dani, out to trick-or-treat at first, and she even screamed about it at some point (which was also irresponsible and could have misled her parents into thinking she was getting hurt), he did it and showed loving care with her as the movie progressed. He also dressed as a “rapper.”

Speaking of loving care, it was so sweet how Dani developed strong feelings for Thackary in his cat form. She even held him while sleeping and fed him cat food. During the part where the curse got broken and the witches perished, unfortunately, Thackary passed on, too, and his last sound was a meow. However, he returned to Dani in his human form as a ghost and comforted her until he was reunited with his sister, who also came back as a spirit. This happened at the very end, and I was expecting Max, Dani, and Max’s love interest, Allison, to get in trouble with their parents eventually. Instead, the adults are partying somewhere, unaware of what the kids did to save the day.

Earlier, though, after the witches have been revived and are performing at the Halloween bash Max and Dani’s parents attend, Max, Allison, and Dani try to tell them that the witches have been resurrected and are dangerous. But the mom and dad won’t believe them, which I didn’t expect. In fact, everybody found the children crazy when they attempted to warn them about the witches. Even a bus driver acted casually with the sorceresses when encountering them.

Even though this is just a movie, I found it odd that the witches were able to function okay in modern times after being dead for centuries. They should have been confused like crazy. Another flaw is how they broke into Max’s school and no one caught them. Yes, it was 1993, when school security was likely more relaxed. But shouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras or even a guard?

When Max, Allison, and Dani celebrated the witches’ “deaths”, I figured that it was the midpoint and knew that they hadn’t really been defeated. This was based on how I studied story structure for years and past movie-viewing experiences.

A couple of moments that also shocked me were when Max was willing to sacrifice himself for Dani when the witches tried to jinx her with a potion and a clueless zombie who had no idea what to do. I have to admit, the zombie who didn’t know much felt more credible to me. It also satisfied me since it was a way to stray away from the traditional approach for zombies, where they’re scary and try to eat peoples’ brains.

I would rate “Hocus Pocus” 4 out of 5 stars.