Tales From The Ipe!

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

Category: Personal (page 1 of 50)

Personal stuff about me.

Saturday Date Night at Midori Japanese Restaurant in Princeton

After a long day of shuttling the kids around to their various events around NJ, Namita and I enjoyed a little romantic time for ourselves that night. As a gift from my sister Julie and her husband Robbie, we got treated to a dinner for two at Midori Japanese Restaurant in Princeton (though I think it’s really Skillman, NJ.) The restaurant is a little far from us, and it’s BYOB, but the food was absolutely excellent.

Afterwards, we walked over to YoFresh Juices & Smoothie Bar, Frozen Yogurt & Bubble Tea Cafe. It’s been a while since I’ve had frozen yogurt, and it certainly hit the spot.

Have you ever had a vacuum cleaner emergency, and had to run out to buy an emergency vacuum cleaner? Just me?

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Dyson Big Ball Animal+Allergy

Have you ever had a vacuum emergency, and had to run out to buy an emergency vacuum cleaner? Because I did one fine Wednesday night. Our amazing handy dandy Electrolux Precision Brushroll vacuum cleaner, purchased less than three years ago, was having issues. The power button was either always stuck in the ON or OFF position. I’ve been fiddling with it, took it somewhat apart, and fixed it temporarily. Now, it was acting up again, and the woman who cleans our house now was really struggling with it.

Now it’s Wednesday, the vacuum cleaner is still misbehaving, and won’t turn on unless you crouch down and hold it in the ON position. After work, I rushed home, and then ran out to our nearby Lowe’s to buy a Dyson Big Ball Animal+Allergy vacuum cleaner before the store closed. We had a Dyson in the past, and it was pretty good, and lasted about eight years.  This one has about 47 different attachments, and 512 mini cyclones, each one dangerously close to escaping and terrorizing the world.

So far, it’s been pretty good. I don’t quite know what happened with the Electrolux. It’s an interesting vacuum cleaner with a cool brushroll cleaner (that easily cleaned the brushroll of hair), but I didn’t think the overall unit was durable. I had two attachment things that hold the actual two attachments on the vacuum break on me. Also, the cord was rather short.

The Dyson seems pretty good so far. And that’s all I’m really gonna expound about regarding a vacuum cleaner.

Lily and I picked up our pottery painting projects from Art Around the Corner

Last month, we all went to Art Around the Corner in Freehold NJ to paint on canvas and pottery. Lily and I had a chance to pick up our pottery projects this weekend, and I think they came out pretty well.

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Our pottery from Art Around the Corner in Freehold

Celebrating a belated Valentine’s Day

We celebrated Valentine’s Day a few days later on Saturday night. Filet mignon, roasted potatoes, and asparagus with bacon. Kids played video games in the basement and we enjoyed a candlelight dinner together.

Beautiful weather so we went to hang out the local winery

Beautiful weather today, so hung out in the afternoon at Working Dog Winery.

Happy New Year 2017!

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My reflections on the year that was 2016

Before I summarize 2016, let me bring up what I mentioned last year when I asked myself what I was looking forward to in 2016:

Next year? No one knows what will happen next year. I make no predictions, and I don’t even know what to say about it. In the past few years, each new job turned into something not at all expected or promised. Last year, we were happy leaving in a townhouse, and ended up in a brand new single family home…….. I have no idea what to say about 2016. I could get laid off. Someone may have a health issue. Who knows, but God. In 2016, I hope my family continues to “steadily progress upwards”, that we’re all healthy and happy, and we get to travel more. I think that’s really all we can ask and hope for.

Yup, that was awfully prescient.

What a friggin’ year it was. I know, many of us are still asking ourselves, “What the hell was that, 2016?” Indeed, between the never-ending U.S. Presidential Election drama, all the political talking heads on TV, the Syrian civil war, the unending parade of celebrity deaths, cyber bullying and online trolls, Internet comments, I had all this drama and stress at my workplace that resulted in our entire group getting laid off. What a crazy, effed-up year. Let’s break it down.

Life, Love, and Family

Where do I begin?

Me

  • I turned 40 this year, and had two parties to celebrate.
  • I’m all done with the Cub Scouts. It was a good run, I got an award for running popcorn sales, and now I’m taking a break from all the extra-curricular activities so I can focus on career and home.
  • I got into photography this year in a big way. No, I’m not sitting in a duck blind in the woods, but I’m studying better ways to compose my photos, I bought a new 55 – 200 mm zoom lens, and a new speedlight for better flash photography. I even had my first official paid gig taking photos at a birthday party held at a hotel.
  • With all my birthday well wishes, I was able to trade in my old Fuji bike and buy a new Bianchi carbon fiber road bike.
  • I’ve been focused on career this year. It took a backseat for a few years, but now I need to play catch-up.
  • I’m getting some serious grey hair these days. No reading glasses yet, so I’m not that old.

The Kids

  • The kids are still taking karate, and have gone from green belts, to blue belts, to purple belts.
  • Josh did his spelling bee thing again. He made the top 3 in both a town and regional competitions, but the other state finalists were too good. He’s also relieved to be done studying spelling.
  • Josh left the Cub Scouts behind, and became a Boy Scout in January. It’s a different experience, but I believe he’s enjoying it. He also went away for a week to Boy Scout camp this summer.
  • The family ran in our first ever 5K race. Wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
  • Josh graduated from 5th grade and now goes to middle school. It’s a world of school lockers, going to class every period, and managing increased homework workload.
  • Lily is all by herself at her elementary school, and is well on her way to becoming town librarian or mayor.
  • Lily has decided she’s done with dancing. So, after five years of dance classes, she had her last dance recital.
  • Lily is also really good at softball. Another season completed.

The House

Career

Ugh, what a strange year.

I spent most of Q1 at work going bananas. Can I say that? Sure, why not. That’s the technical term, isn’t it? By the end of 2015, I kinda knew that things weren’t looking good for our department and/or group. New senior management had arrived about 5 seconds after I joined AIG, and between all the “Hey, feel good!” rah rah, you knew something was up. They kept bringing in new management. They wouldn’t tell anybody anything. People sat around wondering why we weren’t working on audits. We began to have layoffs and mass exits.

By January 2016, I was starting to reach out to recruiters, but didn’t have any luck. All the 23-year-old recruiters had nothing but entry-level jobs. In the meantime, I plugged along at work for long hours. In my team, we kept performing QA reviews of audits but nothing was getting published. I mean, nothing. They had new audit methodology developed outside of our group, and our only job was to create presentations and present this new way of doing things to the department. We weren’t developing it? Senior Management didn’t want the Audit and Strategy group to provide input? Not good signs. By March, I had spent even more late hours working on management reports that were never published. By March 8th, we were all invited to a team meeting and surprised to see HR there to ambush us with our packages.  I had started to empty out my desk in the weeks prior, so I didn’t have to carry too much home in a box.

In the meantime, I had begun interviewing at a few firms in Feb and March, and really ramped it up in April and May. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun. It was weird. It was quiet. It was discouraging. Thankfully, through the magic of good friends, I was able to find a wonderful job at Deutsche Bank. I’m auditing again. I’m traveling again. I work with some really nice people. Manager is great. Color me happy.

The other big career news for me is that I decided in Jan 2016 to obtain a new certification. I obtained my CISA certification in 2013, began studying for the CISSP exam in 2008, but was too intimidated to take it. Then we had Lily, the financial crisis of 2008,  new jobs in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015…. it’s been crazy. By 2016, it’s been 14 years since I took a rigorous certification exam that costs a lot of money. What to do? I decided to ease myself into it. I signed up in Jan for the June CRISC exam, studied on the train, studied in my free time, and studied when I was out of work. It all paid off, I got my certification officially this fall, and now I’m feeling good about myself.

So yes, it’s been a strange year. I started the year still working at AIG under the threat of layoffs for months, got laid off, found a great new job, and got a new certification. Crazy.

Trips

I love trips. We had a number of trips this year, between road trips, and those requiring a bit of air travel. Let’s recap them, shall we?

  • Our March Trip to Philadelphia – In March, we went away to Philadelphia for Spring Break. I don’t recall us going away for Spring Break in the past, so this was a first. As part of our continuing “Let’s explore some American cities” program, we decided on a road trip to Philadelphia. We stayed four days downtown, walked much of Philadelphia, and got to see a lot. Fun town. And we got new cell phones while we were there. See? Business and pleasure, all rolled up in one trip.
  • Our Memorial Day Weekend 2016 Road Trip to Boston –  In May, the entire family took a road trip to Boston for the first time.  We’ve been away for Memorial Day weekend before, but never to experience the ins and outs of Boston. Once again, we shunned the quiet suburbs, grabbed a hotel in the heart of downtown, and cabbed & walked wherever we could. We took a bus tour of the city, enjoyed the cuisine, and enjoyed some good old fashioned down time.
  • Attending Sean’s Bachelor Party in Cancun, or “SeanStock 2016!” – I went away in August to attend SeanStock 2016, also known as my friend Sean’s bachelor party. I had not been on a bachelor party in almost a decade, so that was something. Sean is one of the last folks in one of my circles of friends who had yet to get married. After spending many years as a groomsmen, never a groom, we had a large gathering of friends get together to help him celebrate.
  • Road Trip to Wildwood – We hadn’t been to Wildwood or the south Jersey Shore in 9 years, so we planned a spur-of-the-moment Labor Day weekend trip down to Wildwood. The weather was great, we got to relax, and we even stayed at the same Wildwood bed and breakfast from 9 years ago.
  • Road Trip to Baltimore – Also in September, we went on a quick getaway weekend road trip to Baltimore to see my wife’s sister, and do a little sightseeing in Washington D.C.
  • cityseek 2016 in Philadelphia  – Namita and I went away without the kids to participate / compete in the 1st Annual CitiSeek scavenger hunt. Three other couples were also part of the team, and we spent an entire Saturday running around Philadelphia looking for clues / answers / pictures. And, surprisingly, we won the competition! Who knew? We took our earnings and enjoyed them at two restaurants that evening.
  • Business trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh – In October, I went on a quick week-long business trip to Atlanta (one day) and Pittsburgh (4 days.) I didn’t stay long enough in Atlanta to see anything, but Pittsburgh was nice. It’s an older city with lots of beautiful early 20th century architecture that seems to be still in recovery mode after many industries moved out. New tech companies are moving back in, so I hope it all works out. I’d like to go back for a few days to see more of the city.
  • Business trip to Hartford – Another quick business trip in October. I drove up, stayed for 3 days to work, took a side trip to Peekskill to have dinner with an old friend, another work pit stop in northern Westchester, then home by Thursday. In and out, boom.
  • Yeh man, the Ipes went to Jamaica – It’s been 3 years since we took the kids international for vacation — Cancun 2013, That was a beautiful resort, but it was a rainy week. This time around, we went away to Jamaica in November, and the weather was gorgeous. We stayed at a very nice Palace resort in Ocho Rios, we wined and dined, went on an excursion outside the resort, and the kids enjoyed the outdoors.

Wow, that was a lot of trips!

Favorite Moments

This is always a good list.

  • Achieving my newest certification.
  • Finding a new job after being out of work for nearly 3 months.
  • Despite being out of work, I spent quality time with my wife, the kids, and friends around the neighborhood. It was rather nice, especially after spending all my free time doing busy work in the office.
  • Going away to Jamaica in November.
  • Namita had a lot of opportunities to hang out, go out, and eat out this year. Whether it was over the weekend, during the days when I was between jobs, or even some weeknights. I definitely enjoyed biking with the kids and whatever, but I really enjoyed hanging out with my sweetheart.
  • Hanging out with my friends Gary and Regina again, like the days of old, even for one night.
  • Not one, but TWO birthday parties.
  • Enjoying photography, and people genuinely telling me how much they like my photos. That’s a good feeling.
  • I went on a lot of trips this year, and I especially enjoyed the family road trips.  Four road trips in one year? Awesome.

Worst Moments

Can I mention the highs without mentioning the lows? I guess not. At least we didn’t have any floods.

  • I think it’s easy to mention that getting laid off sucked. I mean, it was a sucky job at the end, and I was working crazy hours for no apparent reason, and that sucked too.
  • I didn’t enjoy the interview process. I didn’t like dealing with 23-year-old recruiters who didn’t know anything.  I didn’t like interviewing at one bank that didn’t know what the position should be about. I didn’t like spending 5 months interviewing off and on with one company, then finally realizing they were clueless. I didn’t like the time and energy I spent interviewing with this amazingly awesome and cool security company located 15 minutes from my house with all that growth potential, then to have them seriously lowball me in compensation. I mean, you’re amazingly awesome and cool, but not that cool, guys.

You know, I think that was it.

Other Stuff

I only watched 17 films this year. I can understand that. These days, I have so much to do on my plate that I feel too guilty to sit around and watch anything. I barely sit and watch TV any more.

Looking Ahead to 2017

We’re all looking forward to 2017, yes? In some ways, yes, I suppose. Depends on who you voted for in the U.S. Presidential Election. Anyways….

I make no plans because I realize we don’t have as much control of our lives as we think we do.

We don’t know if that “great” job will still be great tomorrow, so now I’ll continue to appreciate the aspects that I like.

Time is passing faster than I realized, so I want to continue to spend time with my wife and children.

I want to enjoy the the warmth of the Sun on vacation, and see more of the world while I have a chance.

I want to continue to fix up the house and enjoy our home. No more waiting years to make improvements.

I want to harness the cats’ collective energy and monetize it.

What does all of that mean for 2017 for us? I don’t have a grand plan. I’m going to take it one day at a time.

A long time to wait, but my official CRISC certificate arrived in the mail

It felt like forever, but my official CRISC certificate arrived in the mail late last week. I spent the last month or so checking my certification status online, and even called the Certification Dept for update.

I went out, bought a document frame on Saturday, and now it’s on my wall. All those months of studying, practice questions, testing time, plus fees?

Worth it.

Photo of the Supermoon on November 15 2016

We recently had this “Supermoon” event in mid-November, where the Moon was abnormally close, and won’t be this close again for another 20+ years.  I decided to try something different. I got my camera out, set it up on a tripod in the driveway, used a 55 – 200 mm lens, and took a few photos using a very long exposure. I seemingly tried 20 different combinations of settings in order to try to get the right resolution without getting a washed out picture. I took so many that I lost track of what combination of setting actually worked. Ah well. In any case, I got one good photo. I used Adobe Lightroom to help clean it up a bit, and here ya go.

I think it’s pretty good for a novice.

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13 Year Anniversary Dinner, and Anjelah Johnson at the Stress Factory

Can 13 years fly by that quickly without noticing? I’m sure it can, but it seems like an odd number to say that about. It’s not a round number. It’s really one of those seemingly nondescript numbers in the middle between 10 and 15. Am I rambling? 

Probably.

For our 13th wedding anniversary, we decided to switch up for variety. We had the kids stay with one of the grandparents overnight, and we went out for dinner at Sahara in New Brunswick. It’s one of our favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, but we haven’t been there in a long while. 

Parking is always always beast in New Brunswick but it was especially that Saturday evening. We eventually found parking after circling around, then ate one delicious dinner.

After dinner, we moved the car to another parking garage, and hit up the bar at Old Man Rafferty’s for a few drinks. Now we were ready for the main event – we’re big fans of the comedian Anjelah Johnson. Nums and I saw her Bon Qui Qui show earlier this year in May down at the Gramercy. Good show, but we were pretty far from the stage.

I found out she would be performing at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick. Hmmmm. And if we went in for VIP seats, we could participate in a meet & greet after the show. Double hmmmmm. If you’re not aware, Stress Factory is one of the premiere comedy clubs in NJ. a few years ago, we saw Amy Schumer perform before her career took off.

We stood in a long line for a long time to get into the Stress Factory, then waited another 45 minutes for the show to actually start. One female comedian (forgot her name) did her act, and she was good. Old school NY DJ Cipha Sounds came out, and did his set. (I was not aware he was doing comedy now, but whatever pays the bills?) He was decent.

Finally Anjelah came out and she was great. We had excellent seats. Once the show was over, we hung around so we could get queued up to go into the green room. They cut your bracelet and tell you to have your camera ready, because you won’t have much time. 

We went in, and she was really friendly. We told her the show was great, and that the whole family loves her performances (even the kids.) And we mentioned seeing the Bon Qui Qui show earlier. Time for the photo, we said thanks and good night, and we were ushered out.
It was a long day, and a longer night, but it was worth it.

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