Guttentag! 1st stop – Frankfurt!

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After 2+ years of planning, we’re on our way to India

More than two years ago, we started thinking about a big trip to India. While the details and dates changed over time, the general outline was that we would time the trip to coincide with the extended David family in the US also going to India, visiting my relatives in Kerala, and sightseeing in the north. It’s taken this long, and lots of discussions, and finding the money needed to pull this off. I didn’t know this was ever going to work.

But the day is finally here. :

The minor details and dates have changed, but the general plan held on:

  • Three days in Bangalore to hang out with the extended David & Philips clans.
  • Three days in Kerala, staying at a Kumarakom backwaters resort, and visiting the Ipe side of the family tree.
  • Three days visiting Agra and New Delhi (plus travel time
  • Three days of international travel time.

It’s nearly two weeks, but really only nine days with boots on the ground. It doesn’t seem like an awful lot of time considering the travel costs to get there and back again, but it’s all we could afford to be away.

Namita and I have been racing to get our work stuff all situated so that we can be gone for those two weeks. We’ve also been ordering new clothes and new suitcases and supplies for the trip. The cats were taken care of, airport parking reserved, car loaded up, and we eventually got on our way.

Much later than planned? Yeeeeeesssss, but we checked into our flight before the 1 hour mark. We went right through security and grabbed a quick snack while standing on line at the gate. Talk about efficient!

The overnight flight (7 hours) went well enough, but the kids couldn’t sleep so they mostly watched movies and played games on their devices. We landed in Frankfurt and spent our six hour layover hanging around and trying to catch a few short winks.

The 2nd leg of the journey was all afternoon and evening (8 hours) and we’re scheduled to arrive around 2 AM in Bangalore.

I hope we can get some rest tonight (and stretch out!), and adjust to the jet lag relatively quickly. It’s a short visit in Bangalore with lots to do Friday and Saturday.

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Found an old photo of the kids and their Dubai cousins

Going through my iPad and I found this photo they took a few years ago when my wife’s cousin & family came to visit the States. They will get to hang out again next week. I hope they’re looking forward to seeing them again.

Only a couple days to go and we depart for the big India trip.

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Trying out my new Nikon 35 mm lens, WD My Passport Wireless SSD, and Adobe Lightroom for iOS

For the upcoming India trip, I wanted to get some additional photography gear. For one thing, I’ve had my eye on a 35 mm fast prime lens for street photography and headshots. I’ve been using a 50 mm prime lens for headshots, but I learned later that particular lens is best suited for full frame cameras, or headshots in certain specific conditions. For one thing, you need to stand back pretty far to use it, and that’s not often an option.

With a 35 mm Nikkor prime lens, I plan to use that for days when we’re walking around. With a prime lens, there’s only one zoom level, so it’s important for the photographer to move around when composing his or her photo. This should be an interesting experience while in India.I only had the one 64 GB SD card, so I bought a second one as a backup.

Lastly, I needed something for backing up photos off of SD cards. I could use a simple card reader, but I don’t have a laptop. I’ve looking at the WD Passport Wireless SSD device for a while now. It’s one-stop upload – insert card, press the button, and it backs up all of your content to folders organized by particular SD cards and dates. Lastly, you can access it wirelessly. Seemed interesting, so I picked one of these too. Lily swore she would be vlogging on the trip using her little digital camcorder, and she could back up content to this device too. The first drive I received was defective, but Amazon was able to send me a new one overnight.

See the gallery above. I took pictures of the girls using the 35 mm lens, and I like the quality of the shot and the bokeh effect. The SD card…. worked (no surprise there). The 2nd WD Passport Wireless worked, but it’s a little slow. Is it the drive, or the iPad?

Using Lightroom for iOS was fine though, and you can see above that I did some post-processing on these two photos. However, I found trying to save and later export photos using the iPad a little cumbersome. I blame iOS and it’s secretive inner workings. I had no idea where photos were getting stored on the iPad. I had to take multiple steps to export photos to the Camera Roll, to my Google Drive, then pull down again. Oye ve. I kinda want a Windows 10 2-in-1 laptop now.

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The spring and summer of Broadway shows

Namita has been on a lucky streak this summer. For some time now, she’s been playing these mobile app-based lotteries daily to perchance win discounted tickets to see various musicals on Broadway. Last year, she won two different pairs of tickets to see Hamilton. Namita & Lily went in February to see Hamilton (I thought it was suspicious, and then she won again in August and took Josh the night before our London trip. Crazy, but that lucky streak had to end there, right? Nah!

I went to see Hamilton in late June. Now that I’ve seen it, I understand what all of the fanfare is about. It’s a very good show! I was impressed by how they created such a modern show about events and characters from the 18 century.

Lily and Namita saw Frozen in July. They said the show was very good and the special effects were fantastic.

The girls also saw Pretty Woman. While Lily was entertained, my wife said the show was basically a retelling of the film, and there was no added value.

We won tickets to see Oklahoma and that was interesting. It’s a much different take on the original Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. It’s very avant-garde, less lighthearted, and a little off putting. Also, they gave out free vegetarian chili and cornbread during intermission. I thought it was so cool to see the award-winning cast up close and personal too.

Finally, we went to see Be More Chill. A very interesting and entertaining show about a nerdy socially inept high school kid who takes a special pill from Japan to make him cool. Would definitely recommend seeing it as it’s closing at the end of August.

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With the kids away, the adults went out to play… and watch The Farewell (2019)

Last Sunday with both of the kids away for a week at their respective summer camps, we had some free time to ourselves. We wanted to watch The Farewell (2019), starring Awkwafina.

Oddly enough, the film isn’t playing anywhere near us! We could only find it playing at theaters in NYC. After we dropped off Lily to the Crossroads camp, we drove all the way east on I-78 to Newport in Jersey City, parked the car at the mall, took the PATH and then subway to the Lincoln Square to catch the showing. We didn’t have too much time for dinner, but we were able to grab a quick bite and drink at a Shalel Lounge on West 70th St.

In the film, Awkwafina portrays Billi, a Chinese-American writer who, along with the rest of her relatives, tries to shield her grandmother from the news of her terminal illness. The entire extended family travels to China under the pretense of a family wedding. In reality, they are all attempting to bring her whole family together before she passes.

I found this Awkwafina quote from a recent interview, and I thought it best summarized what the film was about:

“So much of what the film is about what the characters are going through, it’s all a way for them to manage their grief,” she said. “The thing that none of us can control is that we have to say goodbye and I think that’s the thing that people probably resonate the deepest with.”

I thought it was interesting to watch the family dynamics, dealing with loss of a parent and grandparent, and seeing what looked like a realistic view of China. And the characters! The actors and actresses did such a nice job portraying the characters as real people. Not cartoons.

And the character of Nai Nai was cool. I hope we can be beloved grandparents like her one day…. in the far, far future.

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July 4th Fireworks…. Take 2!

I mentioned that we missed out on seeing the July 4th fireworks (on the actual July 4th) in Jersey City. It turns out our township’s planned fireworks display got postponed due to the weather forecast not looking promising. It was postponed to the following Saturday night, and we were free. Hey, that worked out well!We invited our friends the Winters over for dinner beforehand, then we all went over to the park. The weather was great, and the display was quite nice.

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Our extended July 4th weekend in NYC

Well, it’s been quite a busy year so far, and the Ipes collectively agreed that we needed at least a short vacation or time away. Why? How so?

The kids graduated from their respective schools and are now heading off to the big leagues – middle school and high school. Josh especially had finals and final projects and he was stressed out and tired.

Nums has had a busy year so far at work, and ‘graduated’ recently by finishing all of her physical therapy after fracturing her arm in a slip back in late January. It was a long painful road for her.

And as for me? I had multiple projects and audits to wrap up, and I was starting a new job without a decent break in the middle.

The Ipes were sorely in need of a vacation, but how would we do it? All of our 2019 vacation time was locked in for India in August. I started a new job and you can’t take a day off after arriving for an extended family getaway. We decided on making use of the July 4th weekend for an extended weekend in NY. We stayed up at the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, and we planned to explore new areas, but focused on relaxing. I’d meet them at the hotel after work on the Wednesday that week, we hang for July 4th, I’d work on the Fri, and rejoin late Friday for the rest of the weekend.

It was crazy hot that weekend, but we survived! And we did a bunch of fun new things. Let’s see, there was:

On Wednesday, I ended up getting out of work later than planned, but still earlier than the rest of the family. I took the light rail north to Weehawken, checked into the hotel, and chilled out for a while. Once the rest of the family arrived, we went out to dinner at Rumba Cubana in Guttenberg.

On Thursday, we planned to check out Roosevelt island for the first time, and even take the tram. Josh & I hit up Hoboken to get breakfast for everyone. Afterwards, we took  the NY Waterway ferry across the river to the West Side.

The ferry service includes bussing across town, uptown, and even downtown, but there was limited service July 4th weekend. We waited 15 minutes for the next bus to arrive, and take us as close to the East Side as possible, then we jumped off and walked the rest of the way.

It was very hot outside, but nobody melted. We grabbed picnic lunches from Whole Foods and a deli, then we took the tram over the Harlem River onto Roosevelt Island. I’ve never done any of this, so this was all new to me. Fun fact – the tram service accepts Metrocards!

Once we got onto the Island, we walked along the river, enjoyed lunch on a park bench, then did some more walking southward to check out the old smallpox hospital and the FDR Memorial.

We freshened up, then too the light rail down to Exchange Place. There tons of people around, carnival rides, and lots of food trucks. The lines were obscenely long so I took the family to a food hall near my office, and that was nice. Indoors (with air conditioning), no lines, and plenty of seating. 3 of us got Korean food, and Josh got a pok├ębowl.

There were too many people there for us to get close to the stage. We stood nearby a large screen to watch the show, but Lily could not see anything. You could say we sorta saw Pitbull performing at the Jersey City 4th of July festival.We sorta did not see the fireworks as they were very obscured due to the tall office buildings.

On Friday, Namita and the kids explored Hoboken while I was at the office.

Checking out Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken after brunch

On Friday night, we met up with friends John and Barbara (who were visiting from Virginia) for dinner and drinks on the Village.

On Saturday, we explored Greenwich Village. The Villlage was interesting, but the heat and humidity was mildly oppressive. We went through our checklist of famous sites in the Village, and tried to get lunch at a hole in the wall Ethiopian basement, but they were too disorganized for us. We left and got lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant instead. We found it humorous when a woman took our order on the sidewalk as we waited 15 minutes for an open table.

In the afternoon, we did a little more walking, reloaded our coffee reserves from Porto Rico, hung out at the Strand bookstore, then we took the subway to 34th St to see Spider-Man: Far From Home. After the movie, we walked back in some slight drizzle to catch the NY Waterway bus and then the ferry. We didn’t plan to take the ferry back, but it was hot and we were tired. Once back,  dinner at the fancy shmancy Weehawken Houlihan’s.

Sunday morning, we packed up, checked out, then drove out to Brooklyn to check out the DUMBO area (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). We walked around for a while, took pictures, and got lunch at a nice place along the water.

After that, we picked up the car, and went home.

I’ll admit the extended weekend blew the budget a tade, but I don’t think vacations are ever going to be cheap. Hotel rooms, food, transportation, and activities will all cost more than you planned. If you go back to the original requirements, we needed to get away for a few days to relax, and that mission was accomplished. You could stay home all day, but you miss out on the family bonding time, and enjoying each other’s company.

It was nice to walk around (even in the sweltering heat) with the family, picnicking along the Harlem River, eating cookies together, walking around together. That’s more important than checking off items on a list, or catching up on work at home.

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Toasty is in time out

He knows what he did. He can come out when he’s reflected on his behavior

He can come out when he’s reflected on his behavior
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Spider-Man: Far From Home

While we were out and about during our extended July 4th weekend in New York, we made plans to watch the new Marvel-Sony Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) film after hanging out in Greenwich Village. Since we knew it was going to be super hot that day and raining in the afternoon, we would hunker down inside where it should be cool and dry. We made our way to the East Side and 34th St, stopped to pick up some cookies to eat during the film, and went to the AMC Kips Bay theater. We soon settled in to eat some delicious cookies and watch the show.

The film is the last one of Marvel’s Phase 3. It takes place about eight months after everyone comes back in Avengers: Endgame. I still think it’s awkward that half of these kids are 5 years older than the others, and now they have to figure out how to handle it. It kinda gets glossed over in this film, but Aunt May mentions how when she came back, someone had moved into her apartment, so she had to move out. I don’t get how the whole thing works. Wouldn’t people who disappeared while flying on airplanes suddenly reappear in mid-air?

Moving on — Peter’s school organizes a two-week field summer trip to Europe, and Peter and his friends go. Peter clearly wants a vacation to forget about getting erased from existence, forget about fighting for his life against monsters and aliens, and to focus on unwinding and wooing MJ. Fury does try to get in touch with Peter before the trip, but he avoids it. Meanwhile, these ‘Elementals’ begin to show up in various locations and wreck destruction.

As you could tell from the trailers, the Elementals show up in Europe as well. Fury finds Peter and co-opts him into the battle. Peter joins with Quentin Beck, AKA Mysterio from the comics. Now, Mysterio had been a founding member of the Sinister Six, so long-time fans and readers are well aware of this. The writers can change lots of things, like whether Peter has mechanical or organic web-shooters. But Mysterio is a villain. It’s only a question of time before he reveals himself.

What did I think of the film? It was pretty good. They did a nice job of demonstrating that Peter is struggling whether he wants to be a teenager that occasionally fights crime, or he is a superhero battling to save the world. Lot more pressure in the case of the latter. I also thought they took an interesting take that Peter may eventually replace Tony Stark as the brains of the next version of the Avengers. He doesn’t officially inherit everything, but he’s clearly comfortable at the end using Tony’s technology.

I’ll also go out there and say I really liked how they demonstrated the dangers of Mysterio’s power of illusion. He can easily kill you.

Two post-credit scenes at the end – stick around and don’t miss either of them.

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