Tales From The Ipe!

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

Month: July 2017 (page 1 of 3)

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,

The “Lounge” is almost done

The “Lounge” is almost done. Throw pillows coming this weekend or early next week. Still need to find window treatments.

HVAC Replacement Project – Phase 1 is 85% complete

Oooooh, is that…. air conditioning? What a nice feeling to walk upstairs and not crash into a heavy later of hot and humid air. First time in 2 two weeks.

It was a hot day so the technicians couldn’t finish the entire project. What’s left is to install the attic fan (“powered attic ventilator”), and to fish an additional Y2 wire down to our 2nd floor thermostat so you all can witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!  

Our new Trane XR17 condenser (1 of 2) is huge compared to the old equipment

I mean, two-stage condenser. Nah, I meant battle station. I hope we can get the other 15% completed next week. 

After that, Phase 2! 

Then the first monthly bill!

HVAC Project – Phase 1 began at 5:30 AM today

The technicians arrived at 5:30 AM this morning. Today’s weather forecast is a high of 94 degrees, and add 25 degrees to any attic. They wanted to start early to avoid as much of the heat as possible. If it gets too hot, they will postpone installing the attic fan for a later date. 

Works for me. It was hot last night!

Joel’s review of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

It’s been two months but I finally finished watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The 2016 film was adapted from the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir by U.S. journalist Kim Barker about her experiences reporting in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and published in 2011.

Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels produced the film, and Fey stars in the film as Kim Baker, a cable news producer who decodes to become a war reporter in 2002. She heads to Kabul, and slowly transforms while living in the “Ka-Bubble”. Living in guarded guest quarters, she meets various soldiers while being embedded, fraternizes with the various ex-pats and other journalists, and keeps searching for her next big story. 

The film is interesting to a degree, because you see Afghanistan as this entirely different world, and the American soldiers who were off living and fighting in this forgotten war that the American people lost interest in. I was interested in watching the Kim Baker character adjust to life in this crazy dangerous world as her normal office environment. The supporting cast is also interesting – Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Abbott, and Alfred Molina.

After finishing the film, I’m still not sure if there was a message or theme to the film. It helped you realize that Afghanistan the troops that America sent over were forgotten over time. It was a semi-interesting story about Kim Barker / Kim Baker in her time working in Kabul. The film also briefly touches upon life for women in Afghanistan, but very lightly. I don’t think there was an big message. At times it was serious, while at other times it was comedy. A little odd. It was a little all over the place. 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

Brief update on our HVAC woes

When we last saw our Dynamic Duo, Mr. Freeze had fiendishly aged and deteriorated the condenser fan for their upstairs HVAC. The Ipes were sweating it out upstairs, desperately researching options to fix the unit, replace one system for the cost of one Batmobile, or to replace the equipment for both zones (at the cost of two Batmobiles plus some new costumes.)

Would they find a solution before the Joker sweated the citizens of Gotham to the Oldies? Stay tuned!

We ended up having two companies come out to diagnose the issue over the past two weeks. Both companies determined the condenser fan for the upstairs system had died an ignominious death. Replacing it alone would be $800, and one tech also recommended replacing the starter unit for additional $200. Both firms recommended against repair, since both systems are 19 years old and way past their prime. That’s right – our two HVAC systems are original builder-grade from when the house was built. Most systems have an expected life span of about 15 years. While we would painfully pay for the $800- $1,000 break-fix repair, no guarantees that we wouldn’t need additional repairs. In fact, we could expect them.

Acknowledging that every HVAC company would prefer selling a $22,000 job versus a $1,000 job, I did my online research and speaking to friends. The online research confirmed that we were likely best to replace one or both systems if possible. In speaking to friends, the consensus was to replace both systems if possible. A number of our neighborhood friends had purchased homes all built around the same time, and their HVAC systems had all failed recently. Of course, many of them have single zones (one system for the entire house), while we have two zones.

As I’ve stated before, we’re in the house long-term, and we’re okay with home improvements that will benefit us for a long horizon. 18 or 19 year old systems past their prime are a veritable minefield, and neither of us wants to keep applying band-aids if we don’t have to. Finally, one of the companies was very willing to smooth out the financing process for us (always a plus) so that was a big help to have them work with us to find a solution.

So here’s what we’re getting done within the next few weeks:

  1. July 20th – Rip out old 2nd floor equipment and outside condenser, replace with new Trane XR17 3-ton two-stage condenser and a Trane XV80 variable-speed two-stage gas furnace. New systems have an up to 18 SEER rating, but improvement over the late 90’s equipment. We’re downsizing the 2nd floor furnace to 60,000 BTU unit, based on 2nd floor square footage and attic insulation. Interestingly enough, the old condenser was only 2.5 tons so we’re bumping that up to 3 tons.
  2. July 20th – Install a new attic fan to help cool down the attic, and keep the system from working too hard in the hot summer months.
  3. August 8th – Rip out old 1st floor / basement equipment and outside condenser, replace with new Trane XR17 3-ton two-stage condenser and a Trane XV80 two-stage variable-speed gas furnace. These also have an up to 18 SEER rating. The new furnace provides 100,000 BTUs, same as current.
  4. August 8th – Install three new vents in the basement so we can have hit or cold air as needed.
  5. August 8th – Move 1st floor thermostat to central location.

A keep element of the decision-making process was determining what kind of equipment we wanted. How efficient we wanted to be was based on how much we want to spend. After much research and discussion, we opted for variable fan speed blowers and two-stage AC condensers. Our current Honeywell Total Comfort thermostats support this, and our systems can run at lower speeds (with reduced energy usage) when possible.

Still, it’s a lot of money to spend at one time, but we’re also saving 10% by getting everything completed at one time. That’s hard to pass up. Tomorrow is the big day for phase one, and we can’t wait. It’s been so hot and humid in the house.

A 30 mile Saturday afternoon bike ride 

Not bad. Not bad at all. And it was fun too.

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