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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For his 14th birthday, we treated Josh to his first concert

Josh was turning 14 this week, and there is this band named Set It Off that he’s really into. Nums looked into it and found out that they would be performing at Union Transfer (a small venue / hall in Philadelphia) on Sunday March 3rd. She made a strong case that this was important to him, so we made it happen. There was a strong winter storm warning in effect, and I had a fire drill going on, but we still made it happen.

We met up with the Josephs earlier in the day to do an escape room and then lunch, and had considered staying all day in south Jersey. With the impending snow storm, I didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls to hang out at a mall until 11 PM at night. Which also wasn’t feasible. So we drove back home after lunch, chilled for 30 minutes, and then Josh and I took my wife’s SUV to drive back down to Philadelphia in the snow.

We lucked out, because although the weather was pretty annoying on the way down to PA, it wasn’t terrible. We made it with plenty of time for the show. I’ve never been to Union Transfer, and it’s basically standing room only. Really? I convinced a bouncer to let us stand in the bar area as I wasn’t comfortable with us standing so close up front next to massive speakers for 4 hours. There were apparently 3 opening bands (3?) performing before the main act, and we stood there for about 3 hours before Set It Off went on stage. We hung out listening to the 3 bands, and I kept an eye on the weather by looking out a nearby window.

After the concert, we walked back to the car and got back on the road. The roads were not bad, so I think we lucked out that the snow turned to rain earlier than planned. We got home late, and ate some leftover Wegman’s frozen pizza. Overall, Josh had a really good time, and he was very appreciative of the opportunity to be at the concert.

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We escaped…. an escape room…. at Exit 4, which has different escape rooms…. in Glassboro

Big news, everyone! The Ipes and Josephs were somehow trapped in a police precinct, and we had 60 minutes to get into our own police station evidence locker. Don’t worry though. Using some ingenuity, cunning, skills, and 2 out of 3 clues, we were able to open the evidence locker and save the day with 10 minutes to spare.

To celebrate our successful escape from Exit 4, we had lunch at a Tex Mex place where the food was good, but the service was lousy. At least the company was good.

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News flash! Lily wins her 2nd Spelling Bee with the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs 2019 District Spelling Bee

I gotta give the girl credit – she can be cool and calm under pressure. On Saturday Feb 23rd morning, we drove up to the headquarters for the
New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs 2019 district spelling bee.  There were about 15 kids (including Lily) who had won at various spelling bees organized by clubs within the “College District”, and now they were here to compete. 

I won’t give a detailed rundown, but I was very nervous for Lily each time when went up to the podium. I generally kept my head down, and only looked up when it was her turn. Every time, she was cool and collected. In the end, she won 1st place again. We couldn’t believe it! She won another gift card as a prize, we took pictures, and we went out to lunch at Panera. She will come back here to the headquarters in a few weeks for the this organization’s state level competition.

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The Ipes stayed overnight in Manhattan to see Waitress on Broadway, but the Universe desperately tried to throw roadblocks every step of the way

I don’t know what our deal is. Nothing is ever simple. Is it us? Is it life? Is it random? Let me take a breath before I get into it.

For Christmas, we bought tickets for the four of us to see Waitress the Musical on Broadway. We’ve been taking advantage of the ‘Kids on Broadway’ promotion for a few years now in a row, and it’s been a fun experience. For the past two years, to make up for the invariably long day, we started staying overnight in Midtown. It’s easier than trying to come home by train exhausted by 1 AM.

The original plan was for me to come from the office, meet the family uptown, grab dinner at Serendipity 3 on the East Side, then hit the show, then go home by train.

Then we added back the hotel idea, and booked a room last minute at the Millennium hotel on Broadway.

Then I ended up WFH because how are we going to pick up the kids early and drop off the suitcase, and make a 5 PM dinner reservation?

Then I was working later than planned from home.

Then we decided trying to make the original dinner reservation was ludicrous and we decided to eat somewhere near the hotel.

Is everyone caught up?

Eventually caught a train, and I got a call about a mini fire drill. Somehow, I needed to get back to the office this evening after the show. We walked from Penn to the hotel, dropped off our stuff, sat for 5 minutes, then grabbed dinner downstairs at a restaurant in the lobby called
Bugis Street Brasserie and Bar. It featured Singaporean cuisine, with a smattering of American options in case people were scared of Asian food. We stuck with Singaporean dishes and it was all very tasty. I didn’t like that my one mixed drink was $19. That was a ripoff.

We made it to the show, and our seats were pretty good – left center. The show was entertaining for sure, but not deep enough mentally for my wife. We were surprised to learn that Joey McIntyre was in it! Really? As soon as the show was over, I left the family, ran to the hotel to grab my office badge ID, took the 3 train downtown, did my work, then came back to the hotel around midnight.

The next morning I was up early and gone around 6:45 AM so I could be in the office for a 7:30 AM global call.

The rest of the family slept in, grabbed breakfast somewhere nearby, and hung around some more. I met them for lunch at Serendipity 3 (apparently lunch reservations are easier to make than dinner reservations?), and the food was okay. I suppose the restaurant is popular for the tourists.

And that was it for our big crazy 24 hours in NY. I went back to the office, and they took a cab back to Penn and took the train home.

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