Follow-up on the new master bedroom closet

Quick follow-up on our master bedroom closet and the renovation that started last December – we started organizing and hanging up our clothes last month. Still working out what makes the most sense, but so far, so good.

Still need to change out the existing lighting for new recessed lights, but the budget isn’t there yet. So glad we finally got this done.

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The 2019 cycling season has officially begun. Find your cycling buddy!

I had a practice solo ride about two weeks ago on a lovely 70 degree Friday after work. It was the first nice day in months after months of cold weather. When you see an opportunity, I say take it. I ended up riding a longer-than-expected 22 mile ride after making a few wrong turns. Turned into a long tiring ride, but I made it back in one piece no worse for wear.

Last Saturday, I reached out to a bunch of guys in town and organized a group ride. My son Joshua was camping last weekend, so we turned a joke about riding out to see the Boy Scouts into reality. I mapped out a 24 miles roundtrip route for us, dropped off the bike for a tune-up, clean up, and brand new tires. I also ordered a new Camelback insulated water bottle and new Rokform rugged case for my Galaxy S9+, and the Rokform PRO-LITE bike mount.

Let me explain the last two items – my CatEye cyclocomputer stopped working earlier, and I decided to toss it. No more computer, no more wires and sensors on my front wheel. I decided to mount my phone on the handlebar and use the Polar Beat app to monitor my performance, and the app can use my phone’s GPS to track speed and distance and route. When I picked up my bike from my local bike shop, I asked them to install my new mount.

The only real monkey wrench I experienced was the weather forecast. It wouldn’t reach 70 degrees until the afternoon, and would only be 50 degrees in the early morning. I ended up making a pit stop at REI in Lawrenceville to pick out a cycling jacket to help me keep my upper body warm. I think it looks snazzy.

We met up in Hightstown, and rode out. Josh was surprised to see us walk our bikes across the lawn, and only slightly embarrassed. He said “very” embarrassed, but he’s lying.

After chatting with the other Scout leaders, we took on the 2nd half of the route with no muss or fuss. 25 miles in the can, saw some new interesting housing developments along the way, and caught up on what everyone has been doing these past few months.

This was my first time organizing a bike route, and it wasn’t bad. I can do it again.

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I picked up a new pair of running shoes – Brooks Revel 2

I’ve been using a pair of Brooks running shoes for about two years now. I’ve never been a fan of their blue/green color scheme, but they seemed decent for running. One of my former colleagues who is an avid runner informed me at the time that Brooks makes very good running shoes (in his opinion.)

I read somewhere that you should replace your running shoes every 12 months or 500 miles (whichever comes first. I don’t know how true that is, or if it’s something shoe companies want you to do. I do know that my left foot has been aching recently, and my wife had a $20 off coupon to Dick’s Sporting Goods. so it couldn’t hurt to check out my options.

After about an hour of thinking and trying on shoes, I settled on a new pair of Brooks Revel 2 sneakers. Neutral shoes. In speaking with a sales rep, he noticed that my left foot pronates (leans inward a bit) so I thought that was funny. The arch in my left foot aches at times and he picked up on that without me telling him. Funny. I’ll give the company credit for hiring someone knowledgeable.

I took his advice and picked up some special insoles that would replace the ones in my sneakers, and provide more arch support.

I took the sneakers out for a long workout on Tuesday night, and I’m still getting used to them. They feel very cushioned. I still need to break them in. Wish me and my stupid feet good luck.

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We Will Rock You – Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Last Friday night, Nums, Josh, and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) at home. We borrowed a disc from a neighbor a while back, and now had a chance to sit and watch it. Lily wasn’t particularly interested so she did her own thing instead. She’s also not a fan of Queen – no one is perfect. 😉

In case you weren’t aware, this is a 2018 dramatic / biographical film about the 70s rock band Queen and its flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury. I thought it was a decent film, but felt it got rather slow towards the 3/4 mark, before the big finale. This was around the time Queen has seemingly broken up, and Freddie has gone solo.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

The music is good. I thought it was interesting that Mercury was an Indian immigrant (with extra teeth), who was strange and flashy and weird and talented. The world is full of so many different types of people – many would find odd and weird and unusual – but there may be a lot of life and creativity beneath the surface.

I was also reminded that human beings are a lot like the stars in the sky. Some burn slow and bright for a long time and blend in with all the others. A few others shine brilliantly white hot for only a short while before they burn out.

Interesting side note – Freddie Mercury lived in two areas of Kensington right near where we were staying last summer. We walked right by both homes multiple times without even know it.

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I purchased and installed a Nest Protect – it’s okay but doesn’t integrate with Google Assistant

I’ve been exploring life with the Google Assistant and comparing it against the Amazon Alexa AI. We have many products in our integrated with Alexa, and only a few devices integrated with Google Assistant. While I’ll admit that the Assistant is smarter, it doesn’t integrate with as much as I want.

I have been pretty curious about the Nest Protect. I wouldn’t mind a smarter smoke and carbon monoxide detector rolled into smart device. It’s a Google product. When we paint the interior and replace our existing lighting with recessed lights, the walls and ceiling will be cleaner with fewer devices.

I picked up a wired Nest Protect from Lowe’s over the weekend as a test subject. I would replace one of the wired smoke detectors on the first floor near the kitchen. The kitchen should see more activity. This should be interesting.

I removed one detector, and was surprised that it was battery operated. Weird. I removed the detector next to it, and yes, it was wired. There was a black (hot), white (neutral), and a red (connects to ADT alarm system.) Hmmm.

I installed the Protect somewhat easily enough, with some minor hiccups. Got it on the wireless, set up the Nest app.

And that’s it. It was very anticlimactic. I did trip the alarm system because now ADT could not reach the 1st level smoke detector.

Here’s the rest of the bad:

  1. Annoying but I can live with it – It won’t integrate with your existing home alarm system. I spoke to ADT, and they helped me disable the current alarm, but I will need someone to come out to reprogram the loss of a dumb detector.
  2. More infuriating – The Nest Protect does not integrate with Google Assistant. Say what? Some Nest products do, like the thermostat or some cameras, but not others. Why wouldn’t Google integrate their smart home products to work together?

The Protect is doing its job, but without integration with the Assistant, and no strong interesting benefits, I’m not sure replacing your existing smoke & CO detractors at $110 a piece is worth the cost.

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I watched cheesy comedy Blockers (2018) but I’ll admit that it brings up an important topic: women have their own agency

Blockers is a raunchy 2018 comedy that I didn’t find terribly funny or realistic. Despite all that, I thought the film brought up an important topic.

Blockers (2018)

Blockers (2018)

The film stars Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz as three parents, and each has a daughter in the senior year of high school. Those three actresses are played by Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon. All three young women have entered a pact with each other to lose their virginity later that night after senior prom. The parents accidentally catch wind of the sex pact, and spend the entire evening running around town, trying to find their daughters all, and stop them before they lose their virginity. Their reasoning is that they don’t want their daughters to make a “huge mistake.”

(Fun fact – Gideon Adlon is Pamela Adlon’s real life daughter. Talented family.)

Lots of hijinks ensue. I wouldn’t say it was hilarity that ensued, because I thought it was a cheesy unrealistic comedy. It wasn’t smart funny, and the unrealistic gags didn’t work for me.

* minor spoilers of a dumb gag ahead *

There’s a scene / gag where the three parents have tracked down their daughters to a vacation cabin or house. To get inside, the straight-laced John Cena character agrees to stick a tube up into his rectum and chug beer through his rear end. Yes, I have heard of this. But it’s so ridiculous for his character to agree to this that I found it dumb.

* end of minor spoilers about the aforementioned dumb gag *

I normally enjoy a good raunchy comedy as long as there is some thought put into writing it, or the comedy is believable. The last raunchy comedy I watched was 2017’s Girl’s Trip. Was it completely realistic? No, but it was smartly written for the most part, and the four actresses made the film characters interesting.

I clearly didn’t enjoy this comedy, so why did I mention there was an important topic? I thought the film brings up that women young and old have their own thoughts and desires, even though I personally thought it was handled in a ham-handed manner. How many comedies has Hollywood put out about teenage guys desperately trying to lose their virginity? How many films or TV shows have featured this idea that we as a society need to stop women from having sex? The young women in this film are about 18 years old, going off to college in the fall, and should be allowed to make their own decisions about their careers, life decisions, and love life. Women are also sexual, and to ignore that they have their desires is…. hypocritical and frankly wrong.

Which goes back to adult women of any age really — they have their own hopes, dreams, desires, etc, and there are all of these people out there who tell them they’re “wrong.” They should want to have sex. They shouldn’t. They should date that person. They shouldn’t. They should want to live life this way. They shouldn’t. It has to be exhausting to be treated this unfairly.

I won’t even go into the fears of violence against women by men, as that’s a whole other topic.

In summary, I didn’t find the movie all that great of  a comedy, but I appreciated what they were trying to do.

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The CMB Karate Demo Team half-time performance – Princeton University

Last Saturday night, the kids and their karate demonstration team performed at Princeton University during half-time for the Princeton-Yale basketball game. First time for them doing this at Princeton, and first time the Ipes have been to a Princeton game. It was cool. Poorly shot video embedded below. Apologies for the background conversations behind me, and the so-so angle and shaky camera work. I didn’t have a great angle and couldn’t move to the next section due to security.

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It was a good run – Lily at the 2019 NJSFWC State Spelling Bee

Ah, it was a terrific run, but it’s over. 🙁

This weekend, Lily competed at the 2019 NJSFWC state spelling bee. About 20 kids were there from all over the state to compete, and it was fierce. Right out of the gate, they giving the kids some really tough words. Lily made it to the final round with about 6 kids remaining. When it was her turn, she struggled with ‘decelerate’. 

Still, she walked out a champion. We cheered her up and joked that the Ipes don’t know how to decelerate – we only accelerate! 

That’s it for Lily and spelling bees. Like Josh 3 years prior, they both made it to the state competition with this organization, but didn’t place in the top 3. 

Afterwards, the kids took pictures, then the Ipes met up with my in-laws at Ninja Sushi for lunch.

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I thought Captain Marvel (2019) was a solid film

For our son Josh’s 14th birthday, we invited a bunch of his friends to go see Captain Marvel on the Friday of the film’s opening weekend. We had to purchase and reserve the tickets a month in advance as the seats were rapidly filling up. We saw in at an AMC theater here in NJ, with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. I think this is our 2nd film with Dolby Vision and/or Dolby Atmos. I couldn’t tell  you specifically how it’s an improvement over regular….. whatever, but Atmos appears to be consistently loud and makes your theater seat vibrate. For someone like me who finds audio and video quality to be important, I don’t find Dolby Atmos especially memorable. I do like going to AMC theaters, as I noticed a huge difference in picture quality and overall brightness when I saw Ant-Man & The Wasp last summer at two different theaters within the span of a week. Maybe it’s the Dolby Vision?

Anyway, this post is not about Dolby products — it’s supposed to be about Captain Marvel. This is the 21st MCU film, the 2nd-to-last film in Disney/Marvel’s Phase 3, and the first featuring a female superhero… Carol Danvers. Formerly known as Ms. Marvel for most of her superhero career, Carol is the most recent to hold the mantle of “Captain Marvel” since 2012. The film skips all of the other Marvels, and jumps straight to Carol.

The film was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (two indie filmmakers), and features a large cast of stars — Brie Larsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, and even Jude Law. Crazy, no? With Pace and Hounsou, we have small roles / cameos with characters we first met in Guardians of the Galaxy five years earlier, which is interesting.

I won’t go into too many spoiler details. The film itself starts off Carol on Hala (the Kree homeworld), and she’s a member of StarForce. She’s fighting to help the Kree defeat the evil Skrull Empire. She will eventually “land” on Earth circa mid-1990s, and try to defeat the Skrulls there, and solve a mystery of how a human pilot like her ended up working with the Kree.

I thought it was a solid film. The kids all appeared to like it, including Josh and Lily. My wife still has problems with how Brie Larsen’s character Carol didn’t demonstrate enough personality. She compares it to how Gal Gadot did such an amazing job in Wonder Woman two years prior. While I would agree that Carol seemed slightly like a blank slate to me, I attributed it more to a soldier’s stoicism, as well as Carol’s character trying to remember and make sense of her past. I personally thought I saw enough of her personality come through to see her as interesting character.

I wouldn’t say this film was as though-provoking as Black Panther or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Those are both in my top two favorite MCU films. But I thought Captain Marvel is a sold superhero film with lots of interesting moments, characters, plot twists, and decent action.

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel (2019)

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Happy 14th birthday, Josh!

Our son Joshua turned 14 this week. Serious. If you look away for too long, your kids will be taller before you know it. They have their own tastes in music. They make their own decisions on who they want to hang out with, or don’t want to hang out with. They have their own sense of humor. Their own feelings.

But mostly, they get taller. And their clothes don’t fit.

I’m proud that he’s coming into his own, and slowly figuring things out. He had a rough start to middle school 3 years ago, but he’s quietly improved and figured out better strategies. He starts high school in September with all honors classes. He’s also a patrol leader in his Boy Scout Troop, and has met almost all of his Eagle Scout requirements. In the past year, he also became a black belt in Tae Kenpo.

To celebrate his birthday, we took him to his first concert at the beginning of the week. To close out the week, we took a bunch of his friends to see Captain Marvel on Friday evening, then to Uno Pizzeria & Grill for dinner. (Didn’t it used to be Pizzeria Uno?)

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