“Form feet and legs! Form arms and torso! And I’ll form the head!”

The kids started assembling the Voltron Lions this week. I thought I’d be working alongside them but I’ve unfortunately been extremely busy with work. They’re doing a pretty good job on their own. Red and Green lions are done, and they’re working on the Blue and Yellow lions now.

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Time for new eyeglasses

It’s time for new eyeglasses. I’m opting for a little red to spice up my life. I know, it’s crazy.

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Our next project – Lego Voltron

Our next fun project – a Lego Voltron. There are 2,321 pieces, people!

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Weeknight jigsaw puzzles

We had some time Thursday night so the kids and I had fun putting together a 300 piece jigsaw puzzle sitting around. We’re not Rick and Morty watchers, and I’m not personally a big jigsaw fanatic, but it’s nice to accomplish something.

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The Ipes had a busy weekend doing all sorts of things

The kids went away to stay with my in-laws for a few days as their cousin Sophia was visiting. They came back Friday afternoon. After that, the busy weekend began in earnest!

Friday Night Dinner Party

  • Dinner with neighbors down the street. That was low key and fun. 

A Hot Saturday

  • Picked up my niece Sophia from in-laws and brought her back to the house. 
  • Kids hung out all day.
  • I had a long distance bike ride in my mind despite the high heat and humidity. Ended up riding 33 miles round trip down to Laurita Winery in New Egypt. Woohoo, 33 miles! I used to have free time to ride up to 50 miles on a good day, but I’ll take what I can get now. I’m happy to report that I was in good shape without any pain afterwards.
  • After I got back, I cleaned myself up, and the five of us drove to Bradley Beach for dinner at Fins, then mini golf on the boardwalk, and finally ice cream for the kids from Dairy Queen.

Sunday Funday

We were up early and spent a good part of the day at Point Pleasant Beach from 10 AM – 2 PM. We even surprisingly ran into some friends maybe 30 feet away. In the late afternoon, we dropped off my niece back to my in-laws, then met up with some friends at Havana Central in Edison for dinner.

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And the kids are home again after all of their summer camping adventures

We picked up the kids on Saturday July 28th. First we drove up to the Lebanon NJ area in the morning to Crossroads Bible Camp to attend a mini morning worship service at the camp, then bring Lily home. Josh arrived back in town around 2:30 PM, no worse for wear. By 4 PM, both kids had been hosed off and smelling decently again. 
To celebrate their return, we drove out to Bradley Beach for dinner and some time along the water. Beautiful moonlit night too.

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I’m building a new Plex / media server using a Synology DS918+ and Seagate IronWolf NAS drives

We have a primary media / backup storage model, but I don’t like it. If I had a million bucks, I’d structure things differently. Wouldn’t we all? When you have needs but finite resources… what to do?

[Trigger warning – if nerdy discussions about computers and other technologies makes you uncomfortable, please stop reading now.]

For the past few years, we have stored all music / documents / photos on our primary home PC (not usually used by the kids) on a internal hard drive and backed up to a 2 TB Seagate USB 3.0 external hard drive. Our movie and TV shows were stored separately on a 4 TB Western Digital MyCloud network attached storage (NAS) device. I use Norton Backup to back up music and docs etc yto the external Seagate drive, and we had no back up for movies and TV shows. All geographically located in our house.

A few problems with this setup:

  • The backup Seagate drive had reached max capacity.
  • The WD MyCloud had also reached max capacity.
  • These were all single drives with no redundancy.
  • All copies of our data are in our house. One disaster and we’re screwed.

Step 1 in all this is to add some redundancy and capacity for primary data use. After many moons spent thinking and thinking…. and more thinking, I purchased a Synology DS918+ 4-bay NAS box. I can add additional hard drives (up to four) as needed to increase capacity.

The DS918+ offers a number of interesting features, but I was mostly interested in the Intel Celeron J3455, Quad Core CPU inside. Supposedly, according to the research, it should be able to perform hardware-based transcoding of my movies and TV shows through Plex Media Server. It’s not a powerful CPU, but I didn’t want to spend oodles of cash, and I can always add a separate spare laptop or NUC as a dedicated Plex Media Server in the future.

It also supports Gigabit Ethernet, which is another reason I had the network jacks installed last year. It’s all coming together, people.

To start, I purchased two 6 TB Seagate Ironwolf NAS drives. I had planned on 8 TB WD Red drives, but these are slightly cheaper and I can add more capacity later.

I’ve been installing and migrating data over the past week. I’m still messing with it as well. The Celeron chip can’t transcode all that fast, but dialing down the bitrate seems to make it better.

I’ve also found that trying to copy files to the drive using the built-in File Station app sucks. Terrible transfer rate at 11 MB per second. I was perplexed, but later I created a network share and used Windows File Explorer to copy files over. 115 MB per second. Much better.

The next phase is to finish researching and find a better backup solution outside of my house. I’ve been looking at Amazon Web Services Glacier, Backblaze, and other external cloud providers, but I have 6 TB of data, and the cheapest options are either to:

  1. Purchase another NAS device, set it up as a private cloud, and host it at my parents’ house.
  2. Copy everything to a large capacity external drive, and lock it up at the bank.
  3. A mix of these two solutions above.

Stay tuned.

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With the kids away at their respective summer camps, that means more time for ourselves

While the kids are both away, my wife and I have plenty of free time to…. catch up on work. We did find some free time together later in the week.

Wednesday night – we met up for a rainy evening in Midtown, and went out for drinks and dinner at Butter on West 45th. Food Network star and Executive Chef Alex Guarnaschelli manages the restaurant. Drinks were expensive but the food was very good.

Thursday – I worked from home waiting for a delivery, biked a fast 19 miles around the area, then met up with Nums, and friends Lenny & Evanessa for Happy Hour at the Mercer County Park Boathouse. The place was packed!

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After a brief 48 hours, the kids are off (separately) for a week away at camp

In the 48 hours since he returned from Harrisburg, Joshua and Lily had time to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp with me (my 2nd time), attend karate classes, get a haircut, spend family time together, and pack for their next set of adventures.

Joshua was once again heading out Sunday morning for Boy Scout summer camp for a week away out in the wilderness. This year, it is Camp Keowa out in Sullivan county, NY.

Two years ago on the way to picking up Joshua from summer camp (same uneventful trip where the old Toyota Highlander engine oil caught fire), we made a slight detour to check out Crossroads Bible Camp for an hour. Up near Lebanon NJ (northwest NJ), it’s a scenic sleepaway camp with cabins, meals, activities, worship stuff, etc. Seemed nice. Lily loved it and very much wanted to stay there that exact summer. However, we already had made arrangements for summer camp that year. She was still talking about two years later (our daughter is persistent), so we made it happen for her this year.

After dropping off Josh, we grabbed some breakfast on the road, and drove north. We got there in time for check-in, got her settled in, drove out again to find a small portable fan for her bunk bed, then she promptly shooed us away. 
Wow, 10 years old and she’s already trying to get rid of us.

Namita and I don’t have any major plans without the kids this week. We have a lot of inglorious work to do, but hopefully we will see each other at least once or twice.

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Josh spent a week in Harrisburg PA on our church mission trip

The kids have spent the summer home this year so we could save a little money, and limit the hassle of trying to coordinate drop off and pick up of the kids to various camps without being late to the office. On July 15th, Josh departed after Sunday’s church with a few other teenagers on a youth mission trip. Through YouthWorks, they and 70+ other teenagers would spend a week in Harrisburg PA doing various tasks in the community. As I understood it, this included picking up trash, weeding garden beds, working in a food pantry, etc. Our church’s youth stayed at an area church.
While Josh was away, we couldn’t leave Lily at home unattended, so we enrolled her in an acting day camp. Each day, my wife handled drop off and pick up. Lily and the camp attendees filmed portions of a movie, and we’re supposed to be able to download the finished product sometime.

(We’re still waiting.)

We never got a chance to speak to Josh while he was gone. We kept track by texting the adult leaders from our church chaperoning our kids, or viewing pictures posted to the church’s Facebook page. On their last day, they all checked out Hershey World before leaving Pennsylvania. He came back last Friday afternoon safe and sound with a brief break before leaving for Boy Scout summer camp on Sunday.

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