I finished watching Blade Runner 2049 over the course of a week — why did it take me that long?

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

I watched the original Blade Runner (1982) film years ago. Directed by Ridley Scott, I remember thinking the film was pretty interesting. Fascinating cinematography, design, etc. I don’t remember the story being all that amazing — I thought it was alright at the time, but maybe I should give it another chance.

This time around, Denis Villeneuve is in the director’s seat. I loved what he did with The Arrival, and I wasn’t disappointed with that aspect of the film. The cinematography of the film, the set design, the world-building were all pretty amazing. Ryan Gosling plays “K”, a replicant who is a blade running who is out “retiring” older-model rogue replicants 30 years after the events of the first film. By this time, Tyrell Corporation has been bought out by… the Wallace Corporation. Wallace CEO Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto), wants to discover the secret to replicant replication, so he’s got his agent chasing after K. 

I’d tell you more, but… honestly I lost interest. The film is about K going to all sorts of places to figure if replicants are reproducing on their own, the secret about his own history, and eventually, finding Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, who has been missing for the past 30 years. I didn’t find the plot all that clear or interesting (a little plodding), so I kept watching this film in short bursts over the course of a week.

Sorry, I don’t have much else to say. The film looks great, but the plot is a bit threadbare.

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Friday night date night with my wife, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and takeout sushi

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

My wife and I went out Friday night after work to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, Marvel’s latest MCU film. We originally planned to watch it with the kids, but they were repeatedly difficult this week, and took away movie night as punishment. Why do kids have to ruin things? We turned lemons into lemonade, and made it a date night instead.

The first thing we did romantically was go to Lowe’s to check out kitchen backsplash options. Let a playa play, homey.

We caught the 7:15 PM show (thank goodness for the era of reserved seats) with enough time to grab a snack and drinks. The film takes place about 3 years after Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang has been on house arrest within his San Francisco home since violating the Sokovia Accords. Hank Pym and his Hope Van Dyne have been in hiding as they are wanted as accessories to Scott’s crimes.

Hank and Hope believe that, based on Scott’s experience in the Quantum Realm during the first Ant-Man film, Janet Van Dyne may be alive. They hatch a plan to use Scott to find Janet’s exact coordinates in the Quantum Realm. I’m not sure that’s even remotely possible, but eh, movies. If they movie was about them quickly finding Janet, it wouldn’t be much of a movie. Throwing up obstacles along the way are

  • Sonny Burch (played by Walton Goggins), a shady businessman who wants PymTech — “Who doesn’t?!”
  • The local San Francisco FBI, led by Special Agent Jimmy Woo (played by Randall Park), which was more for comedy.
  • Ghost (played by Hannah John-Kamen), a villain who can phase in and out of solid form.

The rest of the first film’s supporting cast returns, and they’re all good. The film is decent overall, with lots of funny jokes. If you’re an MCU, go see it. It won’t change your life, but it’s decent entertainment.

Oh, afterwards, we grabbed some takeout sushi from a local Japanese restaurant before they closed for the night. That’s how we roll. I won’t make the obvious sushi roll joke.

 

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We renewed our contract with Verizon and upgraded to the FiOS Gigabit plan

We’ve been out of contract with Verizon for their FiOS service for maybe two years now. Every time I went online to check their plans, any renewal would require me to increase my monthly spend for TV-internet-phone service another $30 a month. For the same service I have now! Are you crazy? Why should I do that?

We were content to run with this until recently, when Verizon threatened to take away our HBO and Showtime. Surprisingly for my lovely low-maintenance wife, this was a bridge to far for her, and told me to renew our contract. I renewed it online, and agreed to pay the extra amount. However, we looked at the budget and decided to bump up the broadband speeds from 75/75 Mbps to 150/150 Mbps for the nominal increase. This would require a truck roll — a Verizon tech had to come out to replace our BPON Optical Network Terminal (ONT) on the outside of our house, with a GPON ONT, which would be able to handle the increased speeds.

Due to a rescheduled meeting, I had to try to move around a bunch of doctor’s appointments, and the Verizon truck roll and install planned for Tues afternoon. I called up to reschedule, and the representative worked with to not only reschedule the install for Sunday morning, but:

  • Kept the same phone and TV plan
  • Upgraded to the Gigabit Internet broadband tier (up to 940 Mbps up and down)
  • Free Samsung Chrombook
  • Savings in monthly fees in what I recently signed up for — net increase of about $9 from what we were paying out of contract.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a good deal. We would also be required to get one of their Quantum routers, so we’re renting that for now. What I was worried about was whether the Verizon tech would do the required steps for us to achieve that level of speed. For most speeds, your existing coaxial cable can support enough throughput for both the TV signal and broadband internet. At a certain level, you max out on being able to do that. Verizon could install the new terminal and router, but you have a bottleneck as soon as you hit the coaxial cable. Would Verizon wire the outside, then leave it to the customer to figure out how to resolve the run Cat6 Ethernet cable in the house for me?

Happy to say, I spoke to the tech when he arrived Sunday morning, and yes, he would be running Cat6 cable for me through my basement ceiling. Awesome, but in hindsight, I should have asked him to help me run additional cable while he was at it. I tried hinting, but he wasn’t going for it. Overall, the tech (Greg) was very knowledgeable and professional. Within two hours, the job was done.

Unfortunately, the backend at Verizon wasn’t updated yet, so we didn’t see upgraded speeds until late Monday afternoon. So far, it’s been useful for uploading videos. I’m still exploring the benefits of gigabit-level speeds. I checked this 2017 article from Digital Trend on”5 things to do before upgrading to Gigabit internet” and I’ve completed most of them recently, including hard-wiring four rooms for gigabit ethernet. Still need to redo the connections for some of the wires, and need to fish network cable through the basement ceiling for devices down there.
We’re almost there. Next year, I’d like to see us invest in a 4K TV, and these speeds would be very helpful when streaming 4K media.

In any case, check out the speeds below. Really interesting!


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Landscape lighting refresh project – Phase 2

Phase 2 is halfway done. The kids and I went out in the hear this afternoon to add a new line of landscape lights to the side of the house. We added two wall wash lights and a spotlight on a small tree. We finally have some proper lighting on that side of the house. Woohoo.

Phase 3 is patio lights and the other side of the house. Where it’s dark and there are wolves.

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Landscape lighting refresh project – Phase 1

For four years, I have been vexed by landscape lighting. The original owner had this mix of older style lights dotting the front and back yard. Some worked, a bunch didn’t, and there no lights where I wanted them. I also couldn’t understand the arcane timers on the power packs governing when they all turned on and off. The backyard patio lights that didn’t function at all bothered me the most, but the whole setup was annoying. 

I’ve called a number of companies for quotes, but they have all told me labor and parts would be in the ballpark of $6,000. I mean, really? I’ve tried to enlist friends to help me, but they’re all too busy for manual labor of that magnitude at my house. 

Screw it. Let’s just do it. They sell this stuff at the improvement stores. Anybody should be able to learn it and do it. I draft my son Joshua to help me figure it out, go to the store with me to select and purchase the parts, and to help me install.

Phase 1 – pathway lights. 

We went to Lowe’s on Saturday evening to select & buy new modern pathway lights (Josh’s style selection), wall wash lights, 14 AWG gauge low voltage landscape wiring, some flood lights for trees. We opted for Lowe’s Portofino line. I wanted to get a headstart Saturday, but it got late by the time we got home and it was so bloomin’ hot outside. We had spent all day in the heat and sun washing cars for a charity event at church, so I said we would try to get the front yard done on Sunday. Total cost of parts so far = $750.

It took me over two hours to get everything outside, start planning the layout, measure, confirm we had the right wiring gauge, to find and rip out all of the old equipment and buried wiring. I didn’t budget the extra time it would take to prune bushes in order to get to everything, to remove all the old wiring buried under soil and roots. I even found an old unused ring of landscaping wiring around some small trees that connected one single spotlight. I considered keeping it, but they were all the wrong gauge, and who knows what wasn’t damaged somewhere? I wanted a fresh start by unskilled labor. 😉

By 1PM, I removed mostly everything legacy, but it was hot as Hell. I took a lunch break to cool off. The kids came home from church, and I enlisted them to help out with burying wiring, assembling lighting fixtures, placing them, testing, and cleaning up after. I had to make two pit stops in the early evening to TWO different area Lowe’s stores to buy 5 more pathway lights so we could space them all between 6-8 feet apart.

I also installed one out of two new Kichler power packs. We had working power packs, but this had a higher 200w capacity, and had a digital clock. Oooh aaaah.

Around 8PM, we finished phase 1. Success! We left them on manual for now until I have time to figure out proper times, or to install the optional photo light sensor. We ran out of time to install the 2nd power pack, or to run the 2nd line (under and around the pathway for wall wash lights), or the 3rd line (around the side of the house for lights to shine on small trees or the side wall.) 

My objective is to complete phase 2 and 3 by Wednesday July 4th. We have some extended family guests coming over for lunch/dinner. It’s not required, but it’s better to set deadlines. Otherwise this may take another four years. 

Phases 4 will be to install new working backyard patio lighting. It’s pretty dark out there, so I’d like to finish these soon after. I don’t know if I’ll be able run low voltage lighting around the entire patio area, or if solar lighting is better and cheaper. I’ve used them in the past but they’re always getting damaged (wires cut or run over) by landscape crews. I’d also like to hang up string lights. I might go with landscape lights, string lights, or both.

Phase 5 will be to replace the existing backyard lighting that does work, but it’s not a good layout. Lower priority. 

I’m hoping we get an early dismissal from work Tuesday afternoon, and have Wednesday morning available to work on these other areas this week.

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Josh and I helped out at the church car wash to support this year’s youth mission trip

As part of the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church youth group, for the first time, Joshua is going on this year’s youth mission trip in mid-July. They will be traveling to Harrisburg, PA, with other youth to clean, build, etc. To support each mission trip, there are a few fundraising events each year. We helped out on the car wash at the church parking lot, and even brought along Josh’s friend Noah from his Boy Scout Troop to help.

We got there at 9 AM to help set up and learn how to work at the various stations. We had a steady stream of cars come in throughout the day, and we had a break for pizza midday. A number of companies in the area donated gift cards and food to help support the event. Overall, we raised over $700 for the trip. Pretty big success.

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Family over for Friday night dinner at our house

My sister and her family came over for dinner Friday night. We were in a mad rush before they showed up trying to get ready – installing new tiki torches, getting the grill ready, prepping dinner, etc. Even had to go to Home Depot 3x to get a propane tank. What a day, what a week.

It all worked out in the end. We grilled up chicken & brats, and roasted brussel sprouts & potatoes. We played a little badminton, played a lot of freeze tag, and everyone tried to keep cool.

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Watch out, his wit and hands are dangerous weapons – our son Joshua earned his 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo

We have some big news. Our 13 year old son Joshua earned his 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo on Sunday! The kids have been attending CMB Karate for a few years now, and they have have been progressing through the ranks. There was white, yellow, blue, purple, and brown, including some degrees within some of the ranks. I forget when they started – I’ll have to ask my wife.
In any case, Josh has been practicing for, I think, about months now. The testing took place over two days. On Saturday afternoon, Josh went in to demonstrate some of his forms. On Sunday morning, he and many other students demonstrated the rest of their self-defense forms, weapons forms, sparring techniques, and gave their memorized speech on what being a black belt (and karate in general) meant to them.

Big day for sure. We finished up after noon, then we went to a local Chinese restaurant for lunch. In the evening, I went biking, then we grilled up mini steaks for dinner.

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We had a busy Saturday – black belt testing (day 1), a birthday party, the gym, and a high school graduation party

Ooof, Saturday was busy. 

  1. In the morning, the kids had karate classes. 
  2. I also had to catch up on paying bills.
  3. Took the kids to get a quick slice of pizza before Josh began part 1 of testing for his 1st level black belt.
  4. With the large number of kids testing this month, the head of the karate school had students come in on Saturday afternoon for the 1st half of testing, then Sunday morning for the 2nd half (and hopefully passing.) Josh did well during part 1.
  5. We ran to get a birthday gift and card, for a party at 3 pm.
  6. I went to the gym for a pretty good 45 minute run on the treadmill. 
  7. The kids walked down the street for a birthday party. 
  8. I came back, picked up the kids, then we got cleaned up and drove up to Rockland county in NYS for my cousin’s daughter high school graduation party. I can’t believe Marissa was so young and somehow 18 years flew by.

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    Annual beach day after the end of the school year

    We took Friday off for the annual beach day at Point Pleasant. As I’ve been told, this is the 6th trip now in a row. Hang out at Point Pleasant on the first Friday after the school year ends. Last year was my first first time. Like last year, it was overcast, but cooler and windy with impending showers. If it rained, we planned to hang out somewhere indoors like the aquarium or the arcade.

    I had a few meetings Friday morning (starting at 6:30 am) and Nums also had work to finish up. We got on the road after 10 am, but we made good time down there. Unfortunately it was still cool, cloudy, and windy. One other family made it it out sometime later.

    Lily was the only one of us brave enough to jump into the water. For the most part, we hung out at the beach drinking and watching the kids. Oh, and also watching these three young women (exact age undetermined) spend a good 60 mins each posing for the camera holding a drink and trying to look carefree, fun, and glamorous. I mean, a lot of posing, primping, adjusting, angling, etc. Who knew sitting at the beach could be so much work?

    We had lunch on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, went back out for another three hours, but then finally said it was time to go home. After we got home, we showered, watched some old Star Trek episodes, and went out to dinner for Korean cuisine at Soonja’s Cafe in Princeton. Fantastic food. Really hit the spot.

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