Tales From The Ipe!

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

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Joel’s review of Hidden Figures (2016)

On a recent business trip to Dallas this month, I had an opportunity to watch Hidden Figures, a film my wife and I had attempted to see in theaters last year, but were highly unsuccessful.  With four hours to sit and stare, I kicked off Hidden Figures on my in-flight entertainment (Thanks, American Airlines!)

The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, as three  African-American women (and skilled mathematicians) who worked at United States NASA organization during the 1960s. At this time, they’re working in their respective divisions (within segregated “Colored”) departments behind the scenes, out of sight. NASA is in the midst of the 1950s and 1960s “space race”, as the US and USSR raced to make achievements in getting to orbit.  These women are friends, but also each working independently to gain respect, further their careers, and fight against the challenges holding African-Americans back at the time.

The film also stars Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali in key supporting roles.

Um, so the film….. I thought the acting was pretty good from the major stars, and the supporting cast. I liked how the film brought the 1960s to life, including NASA at this time. The film seemed a little heavy-handed with the whole RACISM thing. It wasn’t Crash-level heavy-handedness, but at a few points in the film, I’m say, “Yeah, I know, we get it.” Overall, I thought the film is a good rental, nothing earth-shattering.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016)

Business Trip to Dallas Texas

Last month I traveled to the Dallas area for two days worth of meetings and tours.

The flight inbound on American Airlines was pretty uuneventful apart from the middle seat. The plane offered in-flight entertainment so

  1. I watched the first half of Arrival, but the audio was bad. (Update – Luckily I was able to re-watch it through Netflix later. Excellent film.)
  2. I watched Hidden Figures in its entirety, and I thought it was alright.
  3. I watched a portion of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but ran out of time when we began landing procedures.

After picking up my rental car (a Kia from Hertz), I made my way up to the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre. Most Dallas city hotels were booked up this week, so I was staying on the outskirts. It’s a decent hotel with nice rooms, one restaurant, and a lively bar. Unfortunately the small gym is more of an afterthought with missing equipment, and the outdoor pool (from what I saw) was rather tiny.

20170507_210531After I arrived, I worked out in the gym  (ran a 5K), then showered and made my way to see my Sandhya and family for dinner. She moved to Dallas maybe 2-3 years ago after getting married and had 3 kids in the interim. Life does move fast. I had a great evening chatting with them all, but then had get back to catch up on work and prep for Monday.

Monday itself was a blur with consecutive meetings all day. In the evening, I ran another 5K on the gym treadmill, cleaned & dreasesd up, then drove back into Dallas to meet up with an old friend, Paul. He’s a long term Dallas resident doing comedy in the DFW area, plus touring colleges and clubs in the U.S. We met up at a nice restaurant near his neighborhood for dinner, then walked across to a bar for drinks and to finish chatting.

20170508_222607Tuesday was another blur and then a mad rush to return the rental car, and catch my 5pm flight. I ended up getting home around midnight.

Amid all the meetings and topics covered, I finally made some time to visit some area friends, see a little bit of Dallas, and work out…. two days in a row. Amazing.

Call me crazy, but I think Casa de Ipe is looking good

With the flowers blooming, I thought to myself, “Hey, Casa de Ipe” is looking good!”

I should hope so, because not only have we been cleaning up and renovating the interior of the house, I’ve been working to ensure the outside is looking good too. Lots of elbow grease and personal checks were key to the current results.

  1. We changed our general property cleanup company this year back to Garden Artisans. I used another local company in 2016 for lawn cutting and cleanup but didn’t find them easy to reach for questions and concerns. I also requested their assistance to fix our outdoor lighting but they never did, and tried to charge me for it. We got that charge corrected, but still couldn’t get them to fix it. Don’t need that. Apart from the recent herbicide leak, Garden Artisans seem professional and easy to reach.
  2. I looked at both TrueGreen and Lawn Doctor last year for lawn, tree, and shrub care, and ultimately contracted with TrueGreen. I had high hopes, but they were terrible. That’s the nicest way I can describe it. While there was no discernible improvement to the shrubs, bushes, and trees, our lawn took a beating. We had large areas infested with crabgrass. Dead patches of lawn. Ridiculous. Based on a neighbor’s recommendation, we are using  a company based out in Hamilton named Stirling Lawn Care.
  3. Concerned about our trees, including a dying white pine tree in our backyard, I used a friend’s recommendation to hire Princeton Tree Service to remove three dying trees, and to prune a number of others. I liked them so they will be out later in the year to provide nutrients and healthy mulch for the trees.
  4. We’ve decided to try gardening again this year, which I’ve posted about earlier.

That’s what we’ve got going on. It’s a lot, but I’m proud to see the improvements. Still gotta get the backyard patio working. Dang it.

Joel’s review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

After running a few errands on a Saturday, we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opening weekend. This is the latest MCU featuring this version of the Guardians. Once again directed by Peter Gunn, the film follows up with the self-styled Guardians on what they’ve been doing for the past six months. It seems they’ve continued on this “Heros for Hire” mercenary line of work, still living on the Milano, and the film begins with them working a job for the Sovereign. The film features a large cast, and at least two plot lines that diverge during the film, and merge at the end.

The film brings back:

  • Chris Pratt (Peter Quill / Star-Lord)
  • Zoe Saldana (Gamora)
  • Dave Bautista (Drax)
  • Bradley Cooper (Rocket Racoon, still funny as ever)
  • Vin Diesel (Groot, in baby form)
  • Michael Rooker (Yondu)
  • Karen Gillan (Nebula)

The film adds Kurt Russell (Ego) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis), two other Marvel Comics characters.

Without revealing too much, the film is entertaining, but there is a long stretch in the middle which talks about emotions. In fact, the film talks about emotions a lot. Listen, a good action film should balance character development and action. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s imbalanced, but the film runs quite long (2 hours and 16 mins), so after you’ve watched 30 minutes of trailers, then sat for nearly 2.5 hours to watch the actual film, and then sat for 5 end-credits scenes…. wow, you could have trimmed some of that emotions stuff.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

Living Room / Den renovation – Day 2

Bench is done(ish) and new bookshelfs are getting marked out.

Living Room / Den renovation – Day 1

Thursday was day 1. Window bench is coming together.

We gone country – Soul2Soul

Namita and I bought tickets to see the Soul2Soul World Tour 2017 concert with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. It’s one month shy of an entire decade since we last them in concert. Seriously, it was June 30 2007 to be exact.

I changed at the office, hustled to Newark to drop off my bags at the parking lot where I left my car in the morning. Namita used my May monthly pass to take the train to Newark. Most restaurants and bars were filled, but we grabbed dinner at the bar over at Taste across from the Prudential Center. Judging by the crowd and their clothes, looked everyone was there for the concert.

We paid the bill and made way to our seats up in the nosebleed section for the 7pm show, but Tim and Faith didn’t get on stage until 8:30 pm. What the heck? We did like the opening act, a Tennessee band named The Shadowboxers. They were pretty good.

Overall, decent show, but it seemed awfully short. The concert ended quietly, and then the house lights went on.

Herbicide leak

Two weeks ago I was working from home and I happened to look out of the home office window to the backyard. I was surprised to see this long tendril of dead grass stretching towards the house. We had issues with TrueGreen where they killed patches of our lawn last year, but this seemed….. new.

I walked out in the rain and followed the trail of dead grass to a large area of dead grass, and a dead white pine tree. This couldn’t be possible.

I spoke to our new lawn care and tree care folks, and they both guessed it was a leaking can/pack of herbicide. I spoke to Garden Artisans, who I contracted with earlier this year to perform a spring cleanup and lawn cutting for 2017. They now believe that a portable herbicide sprayer leaked when they were on site for the big cleanup in April. Crazy.

Anyway, they came back this week to mulch, to dig up and replace all of the contaminated soil, reseed the lawn, and cover it with hay. I’m glad they did all that, but would have preferred some money back. Let’s see how the lawn comes back.20170501_183521

Testing out my new Polar H10 heart rate monitor & chest strap

I mentioned previously that my wife bought me a new Polar H10 heart rate monitor and chest strap for my birthday. I’ve gotten used to chest strap heart rate monitors over the past 3 years. While I’m sure wristbands are more portable and convenient, the chest strap models are more accurate. If I’m exercising, I value accuracy over mild inconvenience. I use a heart rate monitor at the gym.

Speaking of which, it’s been a year since I purchased one of these for when I go to work out at Orangetheory Fitness. While it works well in the gym, the complimentary OTbeat that would allow one to monitor their out-of-the-gym workouts has always given me trouble. Outside of the gym, I always have trouble pairing the HRT to my phone, and the app has a tendency to crash mid-workout, irrevocably out your session data. This happened most recently during my bike ride to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It’s also happened when I’ve attempted to use the monitor and app at a gym during business trips or on vacation.

71FiFWJYl7L._SL1500_The Polar H10 is the latest version of Polar’s chest strap monitor, replacing the H7. The strap has been improved, and the pod is slimmer. It still supports Bluetooth but it seems Polar dropped ANT+ support so you can’t synch this with some gym equipment. Not important to me. Here’s a nicely detailed review at The 5K Runner. Part of the purchasing decision making process was a product that worked with good apps. The Polar H10 worked with a bunch like the Polar Beat, UA Record, etc. That’s good because I need good app options.

Polar apparently offers two apps, Polar Beat and Polar Flow. The Polar Flow app is the smartphone gateway to the internet for Polar’s sports watches. The Flow app doesn’t record a session itself, but seems to be for overall fitness monitoring like UA Record app. The Polar Beat app uses your smartphone as a recording device and you pair the H10 within the app. Apparently, the H10 also caches data. It says it will cache one exercise. That one exercise can be 65 hours long and data is stored on a per second basis. I guess you can pair it with your phone, kick off a workout, then leave your phone in the hotel room?

I tested out the Polar Beat app last Saturday during a bike ride. It paired effortlessly. I mounted my phone to my bike, started the app, and I was off. Now the only hiccup I encountered was that I didn’t change the units from Metric to Imperial, and you can’t do that during a workout, oddly enough.

I warmed up, stopped my parents’ house to check in on them, then restarted my workout again, without the metric system. The rest of the ride went well, except I felt sluggish. The app and the H10 did great. I especially like the little GPS map that records your workout route

Folks, we have a winner.

Embarking on our latest home project – renovating our living room

We’ve been in this house for slightly under three years, and we consider the living room a minor eye sore. We have the previous owner paint colors, worn-out window treatments, and original carpeting. We’ve got still-comfortable furniture purchased back in 2003, but it’s been twice slip-covered. We’ve got tables that we picked up second-hand. Two old table lamps light the room. The kids primarily use the room for reading, and we celebrate Christmas in there annually. It’s more of a “spare” room than a “living” room. I do think the cats spend more time in there than we humans do.

Time for a change.


After a few weeks of discussions, we’ve committed ourselves to making it a real room. We’ve been consulting with an interior designer, and turning it into a library or den where you can also hang out and relax. It’s going to be a few weeks before it’s closer to the future state, but here are some ideas of what we have scheduled, planned, or still considering:

  • Hardwood flooring (Purchased! Measuring and installation to be scheduled)
  • Area rug (We have something in mind.)
  • Paint (Color selected)
  • Built-in bookshelves (To store our favorite books to curl up and read)
  • Furniture (Still deciding, but looking at one loveseat, two comfy chairs, an ottoman / table, a built-in window bench, and maybe a bar)
  • New window treatments
  • New artwork
  • Recessed lighting (and a new ceiling mount/box for when we eventually find a really cool light fixture)

It’s all exciting and expensive, but long overdue. And I’m glad we’re not waiting 10 more years to get it done.

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