Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

A Sunday afternoon bike ride to U.S. Joint Base MDL

While Saturday was pretty overcast (and threatened rain), Sunday was beautiful. I made some time for myself, got on the bike, and decided to challenge myself to find out how far I could go. Along the way heading south, I decided to veer southeast, and try to make it to the outskirts of Joint Base MDL (used to be Fort Dix – McGuire AFB – Lakehurst Naval Base.) Now it was far, and I had a single bottle of water. However, I persevered, and 22 miles later, I made it all the way to  the Wrightstown Gate entrance. I couldn’t believe it.

[BTW, the town of Wrightstown ain’t so pretty.]

Before I started my return trip, I stopped at a nearby Wawa for a quick snack, a Diet Coke (naturally), and two large fresh bottles of water. Around mile 24 or 25, I realized how far I really was from home, and started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. It’s been a long time since I’d ridden 40+ miles in one day. However, I’ve never shied away from a challenge, and besides, what choice did I have at this point? I pedaled around 14 MPH instead, kept it slow and steady, and made it home in slightly under 3 hours total ride time.

Reached a new milestone. Burned over 2200 calories. I’d call that a win.

We celebrated Livia’s Hawaiian-themed 1st birthday — “Aloha!”

Our friends Kanishk and Sofi had a 2nd child, a baby girl, about a year ago. This past weekend, they invited friends and family to celebrate Livia’s 1st birthday. They did a really nice job decorating the backyard with a Hawaiian Luau theme. Aloha!

The HVAC project is all done

That’s right, folks. We’re all done. We spent over $20K but at least we’re done. A tech came last week to finish up the last of the project – installing a vent and moving the downstairs thermostat.

Overall, both systems are working well. We’ve noticed both systems are much quieter than the original systems. Also, we don’t have to put the AC all the way down to 72 degrees to get comfortable – 75 is plenty comfortable now.

I hope we’ll be all set for a while. This was an expensive unplanned project for 2017, but good for the long haul.

Went back to Asbury Park last Sunday

Last Sunday, we hung out in Asbury Park, on account of the good weather. We didn’t account for the humongous number of people, as I spent an entire hour searching for parking. I eventually parked near what I think was Sweden, and walked 25 mins to the beach. In any case, it was a quiet simple day at the spray ground, an hour at the Silverball Museum, maybe 30 minutes on the beach after 5:30 pm, then dinner at Langosta Lounge.

I went to Kansas City Missouri for the first time and I thought it was a nice place

At the beginning of the month, I flew down to Kansas City Missouri and spent a week there for work. While it was my 2nd trip to Missouri (I think I want to St. Louis in 2003 or 2004), it was my first time to Kansas City. Due to crazy pricing, my best option was to fly out of Philadelphia. I had a gym class early Sunday morning, had to fill the gas tank, and that left me 60 mins to get showered, dressed, and packed up. In hindsight, I should have skipped the class. I ended up running out the door around 10:45 AM, drove rapidly to Philadelphia, grabbed the shuttle bus from economy parking, and got to the terminal in record time. The TSA Pre-check line was empty so I breezed through security. Awesome. I ate a mediocre cheesesteak from the airport Geno’s, and boarded my 2 hour flight to KC.

After arriving, I was dismayed to learn my luggage was unfortunately delayed but American promised to deliver it by 1 AM Sunday evening. I took a cab to the Residence Inn Downtown Marriott, and checked in. It’s a brand new hotel (10 months old), and very nice. I ended up taking a walk around town while the sun was still out. Sadly the city is dead and deserted on Sundays, with most stores and restaurants closed, and I encountered only a handful of people while walking. I was surprised. I ended up grabbing dinner with a colleague at Yard House. Excellent food BTW.

The rest of the week was sorta typical for an audit. I would say it was nice to be able to walk 10 minutes to and from the hotel and the office when we could, or if we could the street car. In the evenings, we as a team tried to eat out and explore the nearby Power & Light District. On Thursday night we had some time to have dinner, then attend a mini country concert featuring Corey Smith at Kansas City Live!

The trip back was uneventful, which is a good thing. Overall, I thought Kansas City Missouri was an interesting town. The architecture was intriguing — it was mostly early 20th century. As I understand it, the city lost a lot of its population in the 20th century as residents moved outside into the suburbs. Since then, the city has been working hard to convert old commercial buildings into residential lofts, and add many restaurants and other activities, in order to draw people back to live and work in the city. While I saw a lot of interesting sights in the Power & Light District, it still seems as though many people live outside. I wish them best of luck.

I watched Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium (2013), and I wished it made more sense

It took me 4 years to get around to watching Neill Blomkamp’s film Elysium (2013) starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alica Braga, and Sharlto Copley.

In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

Okay, can I summarize with spoilers? Some apocalypse has occurred resulting in the poor and middle-class living on Earth, while the filthy rich have moved to an orbital space station paradise. While the poor toil away on earth in poverty in menial jobs (or stealing), the rich have mansions and water and grass and miraculous bio-beds that can heal any ailment. And people down on the planet can’t have access. The rich control the lower classes using robots. And people do try to sneak onto the station but station security usually shoots them down. Because they’re evil.

Now I get the class warfare, but the bio-beds don’t make a lot of sense. People aren’t trying to sneak onto the station to pretend to be “citizens.” They only want access to a bio-bed to get healed. It doesn’t seem to cost anything, so why are they hoarded? It’s a plot hole a mile wide.

Matt Damon’s character gets a terminal dose of radiation, and agrees to participate in a heist, in order for a ticket to sneak onto the station and use a bio-bed. During the heist, we get introduced to Sharlto Copley’s Kruger, who morphes from being a hired thug to the major villain. I don’t know why he became more than a hired goon. It didn’t make any sense.

There are other characters who seem to change their complete motivation when the plot requires them, which also didn’t make any sense. There are a number of interesting ideas in this film, but too many interesting ideas.

Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)

After all these years, I finally watched The Godfather: Part II (1974)

All these years, here’s what I’ve heard about Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films (Anthology? Trilogy? Trilogy.)

1. The first film is fantastic (and highly quotable.)

2. The sequel The Godfather Part II is supposed to be even better.

3. The third film is terrible, and Sofia Coppola’s acting allegedly didn’t help matters.

I recently watched (2nd attempt) the original film – The Godfather (1972), and yeah, it’s pretty good. An interesting story about characters within the fictional Corleone Mafia family during the late 1940s and early 1950s. And the original film featured some famous (and young) actors and actresses, such as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, etc.

So…. Part II. I don’t quite the big hub bub. I thought the film was too divided between multiple plots. The story takes place between two timelines:

1. The early 1950s where Al Pacino’s Michael has continued to reign as the head (or “Don”) of the Corleone crime family. This is despite promising his wife Kay that he would make the family’s business completely legitimate. While the family still appears to have some business in NY, they’ve relocated to a large estate on Lake Tahoe, Nevada, as much of their income comes from their casinos and some other dealings with Hyman Roth, a Jewish mobster. Michael is also working to expand the business through some dealings in Cuba (prior to Fidel Castro taking power.)

2. A flashback to Vito Corleone’s life as a young boy immigrating from Italy to America in the early 20th century (after his family is murdered) and building a new life in Little Italy around the 1920s. The older Vito (aged somewhere in his 20s or 30s) is played by a young Robert De Niro, if you can believe it. Here we also meet a young Clemenza… played by Bruno Kirby!

Among all this, Michael is trying to figure who is trying to kill him. And dealing with his wife Kay. And deciding if he should be involved in this Cuba deal. There’s multiple story elements all rotating into focus during the film.

By the time the film concluded, we both sat during the end-credits trying to digest what we watched. What we agreed on was Vito was a better head of the family. During the course of the flashbacks, the audience leaves with the impression that Vito is respected by the Italian immigrant community.

Meanwhile, Michael is in quite a different situation. He is struggling to keep the family together, surrounded by enemies, and isolated. What he does as the Don doesn’t engender respect, and his world is crumbling around him.

Overall, I found the flashbacks scenes to Vito’s early life the most interesting aspects. There was nothing wrong at all with Al Pacino’s performance, but I was not engaged in that story as it developed, especially with the multiple plot elements that make the story drag for me.The Godfather Part II

Our new Sonos Play:5 arrived

After waiting five days for shipping time, our new Sonos Play:5 arrived at our local Target store for pick-up. It came packaged in a large fancy box with a carrying handle and two sliding locks to keep it secure. Very fancy.

After some discussion, we finally agreed on where to place it – on top of the kitchen cabinet above the fridge. It’s out of the way but can cover the kitchen and family room. After tuning it, we tested it out and it sounds nice. I especially like how we can group it with the Lounge speakers for a consistent sound.

Josh survived his week at Forestburg Scout Reservation and we’re all happy to be back together again

We drove up late Friday to Forestburg in order to make it in time for the flag ceremony and to see Joshua. There was a lot of traffic on a summer Friday, but we made it in time. The other good news is that the new car didn’t break down, so the drama was kept to a minimum. The other other good news was Joshua was cleaner than he was last year. After hearing that the meals this week have been fairly awful, we said our good byes to Josh, and told him we would meet him in the morning. Namita, Lily, and I drove the 40 minutes to Montgomery / Maybrook, grabbed dinner again at The Main Line Diner & Pizza Co. It’s a nice family-run diner. Afterwards, while I considered the logistics of clubbing in the rural NY countryside, we simultaneously drove to the hotel. Again, we were staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Montgomery. We relaxed and watched Modern Family.

20170722_092232_resizedIn the morning, we got a phone call / rude awakening, and learned the boys were almost packed, and would be ready to go in 20 minutes. Mind you, we were still getting ready and packing, then supposed to enjoy the free hotel breakfast, and drive 40 minutes back to Forestburg! We packed and loaded the car quickly, scarfed down breakfast quickly (while standing), and made plans to instead race to meet them at the Dunkin Donuts in Monticello. Thankfully, they took longer to pack up and get on the road, and we beat them to Monticello.

After a quick breakfast for the scouts (and more coffee for me), we were on a way home via Route 17. Along the way, we found out our friends Doug & Kathy were free, so we made a quick U-turn, and drove to their place to meet them and hang out for an hour. Back on the road, we drove for a while, then grabbed some lunch at Annabella’s House of Mozzarella gourmet deli. Excellent food.

We got home around 2pm. It was good to be home. The kids and I spent 2 hours weeding the front yard and backyard, so it was a pretty good day.

Josh is at Forestburg Scout Reservation this week

Last Sunday, Josh left with a large number of other boys from his Boy Scouts troop to spend a week at Forestburg Scout Reservation.  Last year’s Boy Scout camp was the first time that he ever went away on his own for an entire week, so it was pretty momentous. I mean, it was momentous for him, and the trip up there was harrowing for us. Listen, if you don’t remember, check the link. We never got a sense that he had this awe-inspiring time, but we now believe it was due to:

  1. He was away on his own for a week (but the good news was that he wasn’t homesick enough that he felt a need to call us.)
  2. Most of the other kids from his troop were older boys.
  3. He only had one other friend his age that attended scout camp with him.

wp-image-1349002338.jpgThis year, he was much more excited. We also noted that there are a lot more boys his age (and that he’s also good friends with) that are coming along, so we think there is a direct correlation. We’re driving up in the new car Friday afternoon in order to catch the Friday evening closing ceremony, stay overnight in Montgomery NY, then bring him home Saturday morning after breakfast. And we hope the drive there (and back) is smooth sailing (with no breakdowns on the highway.) The good news is that, as of Tuesday, he looks happy,

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