Main > Joel's February 2008 News
.:Picture of the Day:.


Wednesday, February 27th 2008

My first year out of school in 1999, I was out to lunch with a a few team members at the now-closed All-Star Cafe in Times Square (it was one of those fad restaurants owned by Andre Agassi, Wayne Gretsky, etc.) One obnoxious fellow bet me $100 that I couldn't eat an entire bowl of chips and chilli/guac/sour cream/cheese/etc.

Being 23, new to the company and eager to impress, not to mention a stupid 23-year old male, agreed to the bet. In front of everyone, I did not finish that bowl of chips and chilli/guac/sour cream/cheese/etc. Nowhere even close. The fellow who bet me knew I couldn't do it, and wanted to embarass the FNG. (FNG is what they referred to some of us new guys -- stands for f#^king new guy.) I realized this in hindsight. I should also have known better that I couldn't handle it. And I looked foolish as a result.

Did you ever come to the realization that you have bitten off more than you can chew? I'm starting to realize that this can also apply to work. Specifically, extracurricular activities plus work.

For the past 6 years (seriously, 6 years), I've been maintaining the NY IIA chapter's website since I redesigned it in 2002. I also handle drafting and sending out all the emails to members during the month. It wasn't a big job back in 2002, but since joining my current firm, frankly, I don't have time for it anymore. As my wife noted tonight, back then I was a single guy, no family responsibilities, younger, with a 9-5 job. That is sorely not the case now. By the time I pick up my son from daycare, we all cook/eat dinner, either give him a bath or put him to bed, and relax for an hour with my wife, it's already 10pm. Now try fitting in 2 hours of web work, plus housework, studying, and/or additional special-project office work to do at night.

1. I'm bringing this up, because the NY chapter has broached the topic of having a vendor redesign the site, doing the updates, instead of me. They were nice and all, suggesting I supervise them, which I suppose I'm okay with too. But I know I've put their stuff on the backburner to take care of stuff at home, and they often wait for me to send updates. It's okay, because I never get to attend IIA events anymore (my dept doesn't consider the IIA workshops as valid training to benefit my current work responsibilities), but I feel that I let them down a bit with my lack of availability to update all the time for them. I'm annoyed at myself reason #1.

2. Last month, my friend Doug asked me to help him with designing a brand-new website for his burgeoning realtor business. I started in January, but it's now February 27th, and it's not finished yet. He keeps asking, but I just don't have time to finish it. It is on the backburner while I give work or whatever a priority. Tonight, he left a message stating no hard feelings, but he's gotta get someone else to work on it. It's okay, because website designing is not something I really have time for, but I feel that I let him down a bit because I didn't have the time to finish what I started for him. I'm annoyed at myself reason #2.

3. It's Feb 27, CISSP exam in early June, and I've barely cracked open my book this year. Why? See reasons #1, #2, and #4. I'm annoyed at myself reason #3.

4. I have maybe 10 items on my work "To-Do" list -- regular work and extracurricular "I need to WOW" type stuff. I'm behind on most of them, which doesn't make me feel good. Normally, I'd just put in extra hours at night, but you know what? Add in #1, #2, #3, and a lot of juggling/multitasking around while getting none of them actually done. What do I get? I get a reprimand this morning from my management about not getting my sh#t done . Would I ever want to impact anyone, have them wait on me to finish? Never. I'd run ten laps if it would help my team out. I want to do the right thing, do lots of things, but I don't think I'm getting any of them done. I'm annoyed at myself reason #4.

I think my wife is right, when she said that times have changed. I don't have the time or energy to burn the candle at both ends, and spin 10 basketballs simultaneously. I used to, but not anymore. I can't get everything I agreed to done, because I'm overcommitting. Overcommitting and not delivering is stupid. I have to face a bit of reality, then work within the confines of the new reality. I'll get more stuff completed with the level of quality I'd expect from anyone else, I won't be frustrated and feeling guilty all the time, and I'll be happier. I need to take on tasks that I can accomplish, and no more overcommitting. Stay focused on one task until it's complete, then move on.

I could also use a good book on time-management. Of course, I won't have time to read it until I complete my CISSP studying. [Head slams on keyboard.]


Monday, February 25th 2008

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He didn't want to nap without his "friends."

The drive to Pennsylvania was alright. Not much traffic at 7am in the morning on the way there. In the evening, I had to stop at the mall to pick up my contact lenses, and have my eyeglasses adjusted. I also picked up a new jigsaw puzzle for Josh, on request/recommendation from my wife. He's gonna love this dinosaur jigsaw puzzle.

Joshua and I went sledding last Friday evening while there was still light out. Not enough light for pictures, but just enough for him to be a slavedriver. I'm huffing and puffing, dragging 30 lbs of boy and sled around in the snow, and he wants, "One more time, Dadddy!" I thought I was going to die.

I can look at him, and wonder where this little boy came from. He was so small 3 years ago, barely able to open his eyes and keep from yawning. Now he can recite to me most of the books in his library, loves jigsaw puzzles, and hug me goodnight and tell me he loves me, and that he loves Mommy too.

Where does the time go?


Sunday, February 24th 2008

[FYI, I posted a new picture from our Valentine's Day dinner to last Sunday's posting. Check it out.]

Busy week at home and the office. Meetings, heated discussions, and a field trip to see a very hungry caterpillar.

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A ride on the bus
State Theater in New Brunswick
Ensuring we haven't lost anybody

Last Monday, Nums and I were off from work for Presidents Day, a national holiday. Josh's school was running a field trip to see a production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar over at The State Theater in New Brunswick. I'm not really a fan of surrounding myself with 30 3-5 year olds, but it seemed like a nice opportunity to hang out with the family. It was a good trip, and Josh liked the show. They've been reading the book, and making various craft projects all week, based on this very hungry caterpillar. There were lots of other parents and children attending various shows all day. Is this all normally going on while I'm at the office all day?

We celebrated Num's birthday this weekend with many little things, including dinner last night at Sahara in New Brunswick. I forgot to bring the memory card for the digital camera, so use your imagination -- we were all dressed up in tuxedos and evening gowns, arriving by a horse-driven carriage.

Pretty fancy, eh? That's right -- that's how we roll.

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The Rescuers

We also received our first movie through Netflix -- The Rescuers. We've never seen the movie, but I think I had one of those books+cassette tape back in the early 80's to read/hear the story. It's an old Disney animated movie from 1977.

Yesterday, we had a free class for Josh at a kids' gym. He liked it a lot, so we signed him up for weekly classes to learn gymnastics and such. Yes, he's only 3 years old in 2 weeks, but it'll be good for him to get fit, have fun, etc, etc. They have free Wi-Fi in the area for parents, so at least we'll have something to do while he's having fun.

I'm in Pennsylvania for most of this week, but home in the evenings. I shall now find out what it is like to "commute" to Philadelphia.

I've just started realizing that we're getting closer to the baby's due date. I need to get on the ball about getting the infant car seat installed, getting a crib mobile, etc. This will also cut down on my wife's stern scowls as she's been waiting for me to get on the ball with her.


Sunday, February 17th 2008

We're only a month or so away from delivery of baby Ipe #2. I know I have a tendency to sound bit panicky now and then, but I'm looking forward to the momentous occasion. Please don't get the impression that I'm hiding in the closet or something. :) We've done this once already, so if we survived it the first time, we'll be okay the 2nd time around.

I just watched the 2-hour backdoor pilot / television movie for Knight Rider. Oye vey, that show is stupid. Val Kilmer playing KITT, calling him "Mike." Why would Michael Knight name his son "Mike" also? No turbo boost? No molecular bonded shell? Double spoiler? The characters didn't ring true either for me. That last 10 minutes with David Hasselhoff's cameo? Very believeable.

Hi, I'm your father. I haven't seen you in 25 years. Maybe you should drive the new KITT and work as a vigilante. BTW, did you know that one man can make a difference? I was that man. I'm also a German pop star. I gotta go. See you in another 25 years. We should talk some time. I'd like that. Can someone give me a ride home?


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A belated Valentine's Day dinner at Morton's Steakhouse

Nums and I celebrated a belated Valentine's Day Friday night. We got a hotel room in North Jersey, got all dressed up, had a fancy dinner at Morton's Steakhouse in Hackensack sans kids. That's right, not one high chair to be seen, and we didn't have to rush back to pick up the children.

Oh, Josh was fine. Yes, we left him home, but don't worry. We left him with a TASER in case of burglars, and a packet of Chicken-Mushroom flavored Nissin Noodles for dinner. Hey, don't ever accuse us of spoiling the children. They're well-fed and well-armed.

Using a Christmas gift certificate, I started up our initial 6-months, 1 DVD at at time, Netflix subscription. I added 65 movies to the queue in record time. I have to admit that the Netflix website and selection is much better than Blockbuster's (which we used to subscribe to.)

I got a haircut today. Anybody care?

I finished preparing our federal/state tax returns for 2008 in about 2 hours. Egads, for better or for worse, you gotta love TurboTax.

On Monday, Josh's class is going on a field trip to see a world-class theater production of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." As we're both off from work, we are chaperoning!


Thursday, February 14th 2008

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Snow and wind at Laguardia Airport last Sunday
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I've never been anywhere where the weather was this cold (in Celsius)
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The long, long line for a taxi at the airport on Tuesday

It's good to be back. It was bone-chilling cold this week in Toronto. Flying out of Laguardia is so not worth it. If I had a choice at the time, I wouldn't have. Delays to fly out of Laguardia, and delays to fly back there. Very frustrating, though last Sunday's delays were related to the sudden snowfall and high winds in Queens.

I didn't work out at all in Toronto, nor did I study. I spent most of my evenings simply working in my hotel room. I did watch Robocop Sunday night after I got in, one episode of The Moment of Truth, and an episode of Wife Swap, featuring two hard core Christian families. Well, one devoted Christian family swapping the mother with another from a zealous Christian family from Rhode Island. Religious folks can be absolutely bizarre.

Toughest day was Tuesday. I was working in a conference room with no windows all day Tuesday with some people, and by 6pm, I started calling taxis, but none were available. None. Zero. The last dispatcher mysteriously explains it's because of the weather. "Weather?" I ask. I go outside the room to the windows, and discover there's a snowstorm outside. How am I going to get back to the hotel?

I eventually came up with the idea that if I get a ride to Pearson International Airport (5 mins away) from someone, I can catch a taxi, as there have to be taxi cabs coming and going. The ride took about 30-40 mins in the snow and bumper-to-bumper traffic. There was a long line for a taxi, and I ended up waiting on line for about 40 mins while taxis showed up every few minutes. People started carpooling, and I ended up sharing a limo taxi with three other people to downtown Toronto. The drive took about an hour, and I finally got back to my hotel by 9pm.

A mildly interesting taxi ride too, as I spoke to two fellows in the mining industry from Vancouver, and one American from Los Angeles who was a distributor from 20th Century Fox. Dang, and I forgot to slip her my movie script about being an auditor who saved the world using a rubberband and duct tape.

I just watched these four clips from the upcoming Knight Rider tv show revival. Is it me, or does the show seem kinda lame?

And now, the teaser trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Check the link for trailers in larger sizes.


Saturday, February 9th 2008

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It's Saturday night, and I'm flying to Toronto tomorrow. Here's what is wrong:

  • Nothing is packed.
  • I really have no idea what time I'm flying out.
  • I do know I'm flying out of Laguardia, which is wrong enough in my book.
  • I haven't made the car service reservations, so no transportation to/from the airport yet.
  • There is no chance that I will be exploring Toronto in my light jacket. Toronto experienced a heavy snowstorm last week, and this week is not looking much better. Snow is forecasted again this week, and mighty cold too. Too cold for this fair-weather Indian. Go go gadget parka and gloves!
  • I found out on Friday that I am not just informally informing the audit process to people on Monday morning, they want an actual presentation. Yes, an actual presentation. With slides. Presented in front of a lot of people. Right. I did call around to get training presentations that I can...."leverage." I started outlining, but I'm presenting at 12 noon Monday, so I don't have a lot of time to create it. At least there's tomorrow.
  • There are now 3 big meetings this week back in NY/NJ that I will be missing, as I'll be out of the country. Interesting meetings where I could be rubbing elbows with the bigs. And I'm missing them all. Worst. Timing. Ever. [Joel's head slams on the desk.]

Tonight, we met up with my sister and her husband for dinner at Bertucci's in North Brunswick. We had a really good time, as usual.

Update on the Honda: it's still with the mechanic. They've discovered there is some ugly clog that made it into the engine manifold, and needs to be unclogged. I don't obviously need it next week, so they're going to hang onto it for a day or two more next week to get it cleaned out. With the amount of repair work done so far, and the labor charges for the unclogging, we're approaching the actual value of the car itself. I still believe in my Honda, the first car I ever owned. 9 years, 178,000 miles, and still a good ride. Come on, you can make it, big guy. I need another 30,000 miles out of you.

I'm all caught up on photos -- the January 2008 photos have been published. New Family page too. I'm so prolific.

It's Feb 9th, and I've got only 4 full months before the CISSP exam on June 8th. I'm bringing the book with me, so I can study in the evenings. My study partner and I are meeting up after I get back from my trip. I am passing this exam!


Thursday, February 7th 2008

I worked from home again today, in order to have my mechanic look at the car again. Hours later, they finished cleaning up the EGR valve, and some other components of the exhaust system. I picked up the car, and after a seemingly uneventful 20 miles, no sign of the dreaded "Check Engine" light. 10 miles later, lo and behold, it was back on.

I've also noticed the engine having trouble while idling. The engine isn't running smoothly, but fluctuating enough to make the car vibrate at varying intervals. I noticed it Tuesday, and it's more pronounced today. I'm not sure if the separate problems have one root cause. I'm also not sure if the mechanic is not as good as I thought he was. I am considering taking it to a Honda mechanic, but I have a bad feeling they'd just tell me to let them to perform thousands of dollars of repair on my $10 car.

What to do, what to do? I'm letting the mechanic take another shot at it tomorrow, then I'm making a decision based on his results. The last time I took my Honda to an actual Honda dealership to fix a broken headlight bulb, they tried to scare me into getting (I kid you not) almost $2000 worth of work, or my car would break down any second. I asked how much to replace the bulb, and he said $28. I said, "Do that." 4-5 years later, the car still hasn't broken down. Reviewing recent events, I may start to wonder. :)

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I'm going for studious yet sensual

I'm supposed to visit the eye doctor tomorrow night, to allow her to check on my trial contacts. Since I was home today anyway, my wife suggested I call and reschedule to tonight. Free slot tonight, after all. I also called Lenscrafters for a status on my eyeglasses -- would it still be two weeks? Uh huh, they were already there in the store. Soooo who was going to inform me if I hadn't called? Or were they going to make me wait until next week, those bozos?

Sorry. I'm starting to get annoyed at everyone these days. It was getting late after finishing up at the mall, so we all had dinner at Applebee's. I could lie that I ate perfectly healthy today, but I will be honest and admit to having mozzarella sticks.

Next time, I'll wrap them in fresh bean sprouts. It's all about balance, people.


Tuesday, February 5th 2008

After spending the entire day working from home while my car was at the mechanic, I finally picked it up around 5pm. I got lots of work done -- new catalytic converter and some EGV valve, engine tune-up, new windshield, and a replaced headlight. The biggest deal was the replacement of the catalytic converter, which has needed replacing for most of 2007, and would keep me from passing the NJ motor vehicle inspection that is due on the Honda later this month. The Check Engine light has been on forever. Now it was finally off.

Momentarily, of course. 3 hours later, it was back on inexplicably. Back to the mechanic this week (looks like Thursday.) If this isn't a quick fix of some stupid setting in the car computer, and ends up requiring me to shell out more money, I am going to be sorely pissed off.

I'm thinking about finally designing my t-shirts. Cafe Press, anyone?


Sunday, February 3rd 2008

Josh and I drove up to Orange County, NY, to my friend Doug's house, for Superbowl Sunday. Josh and I had a little Ipe Boys' evening, as we watched some football, and ate pizza & chicken wings. I can't believe the NY Giants beat the Patriots. Go figure.

I attended a free class at work this week called "Guiding Children's Behavior." It was decent, but there was something the instructor mentioned that hit me a little on Thursday, but full force today. Among other things, she mentioned off-the-cuff that when your kids go to kindergarten, they truly are on their own, making their own decisions. I had the realization then and there that up until now, as parents, we've always been able to hover over him, able to basically swoop in, in case of trouble. If he wasn't sharing a toy, if some snot-nosed kid was stealing his food, etc. I realized that in another two years, he'd be going to school, making good and bad choices, saying smart or stupid things, having friends or being lonely. And we'd have no control over protecting him.

Wow, world-change there. Today at church, we were sitting in the childrens' room, and Josh was playing with this other little girl his age. I basically stayed out of it, and watched them talking to each other and playing. It was very weird, because I watched him just talking to this little girl, having an actual conversation with someone other than us, having his own little personality.

If you don't have kids, maybe this won't sound like such a big deal, but for three years, he's either been an infant or a toddler, someone for us to care for. Now, I had my first taste of my son having his own life, being himself, without his parents saving the day, acting as the safety net. He's still a small child, but he's eventually going to be the child who may have a great day at school, or may not tell us what's bothering him. Who we need to inspire to study, and get good grades. Who may get bullied, or may bully other children. Or may be popular, or have bad friends who tempt him with drugs. Who may make bad decisions, or get hurt by someone. And we won't have control over any of it.

Oh man, I'm empathizing with my parents for raising two children. It's not easy. As a matter of fact, I think I just felt my hairline recede a little further.


Saturday, February 2nd 2008

Turns out we were the only couple who were doing the whole labor/delivery for the 2nd time. Everyone was a first-timer, so we chimed in with our prior experiences from three years ago on epidurals and such. Okay, it was mostly my wife's experiences, but come on, I was in the room too.

BTW, I found out that there is a sequel to the infamous The Miracle of Birth. It's called.... The Miracle of Birth 2. I tell you, it was just as exciting, if not more so, then the original. :) My wife was very much disgusted by the graphic, up-close-and-personal views of the birth, but I was nonplussed. I've already seen the real thing once now, so no additional viewings (on video or in person) is going to faze me anymore.

Later, we went to Babies R' Us to do a little baby item shopping (I've been bad about actually getting stuff for baby #2.)

Afterwards, I had an appointment at Lenscrafters for an eye exam (eyeglasses & contacts), get new eyeglasses, and contacts. Funny story: last December, I was purchasing some accessories for my iPod Touch when the Apple store fellow saw my company ID, and told me that I may have a company discount. I ended up getting a 6% discount off my purchases, purely by accident. My new policy has been to just ask, or try for stuff, because I never know what I may get.

Fast-forward to today. I ask how much is the eye exam for both eyeglasses and contacts. $79 for the eyeglass exam, and $149 for the contact lense fitting. Yikes, but I need it. Now, I cancelled my separate vision coverage, because it sucked -- the doctors sucked, the choices sucked, and the contacts I got ultimately sucked. I figured I'd save the money, and use it to subsidize better-qualty service and products that I selected.

I figured that my HMO might have some vision coverage. I mean, if I had an eye injury, they'd cover it, right? Sounds like a long-shot, right? Guess what? Just by asking, turns out I had some coverage. My total exam bill was just $55, instead of $228. Not bad? It gets better.

After the exam, I'm looking at eyeglasses. As we're about to pay for it, I ask myself why should I settle for the silver? Why not go for the gold? I ask about the HMO coverage, and I end up getting $201 off the eyeglass frames and lenses.

Now ask yourself the question: "Who's a rockstar?" Let me answer that question for you. I am. Lesson to you all. Whatever it is, just ask. You never know the answer you'll get.

Oh yeah, the glasses and contacts. Well, the trial contacts fit great, and don't hurt like 8-month old (and misprescribed) disposable contact lenses that I had. Nums helped me select eyeglasses that are radically different than I've ever worn, so we shall see. They'll be ready within two weeks, and I'm excited to get them.


Friday, February 1st 2008

To accurately describe my week, I believe the French call it "crapay", which translate to crappy here in the United States. Too much work, one too many uncomfortable meetings with my management where I look stupid, and one too many metric reports where I'm being flagged red for dropping the proverbial ball. I'm looking at more work to complete next week, but my goal is to reduce the uncomfortable meetings where I look stupid, and to drop off the metric report. Sometimes I really enjoy my job. Other times, I sincerely wish I had gone into the lucrative field of basket-weaving.

One of my coworkers and I are starting a mini CISSP study group on Tuesdays and Thursdays until we take the exam this year (I'm scheduled for June 2008.) It's the only way I'm going to get ready in four months. We start next week.

I'm all booked for my trip to Toronto in another week. Time to break out all my Loonies and Twoonies that I have been keeping since my last trip in 2006.

I'm happy to note that I'm still on a roll with my workout regimen. I worked out Monday and Friday, but missed Wednesday. I have a good excuse re: Wednesday, as crazy stuff happened at home. I've lost two pounds, which is encouraging and satisfying. I did the stairmaster for the first time on Monday. You know, the first four minutes were fine, but my goodness, the rest of the workout sucked. When was that thing invented? During the Spanish Inquisition? You know, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

This week, I also started using my iPod during the workout, which was great. The Touch is a flash-based MP3 player, so physical shocks from running won't damage it, compared to my previous hard-drive 3rd generation iPod. On Monday, I just stuck the Touch in my pocket, but I later remembered that I had an armband accessory that came with my protective skin cover. I used the armband on Friday, and it was good too. Much better than running with an MP3 player in my shorts. Music when you're doing cardio definitely makes it easier to tune out.

At least the weekend is here. Tomorrow we're attending an all-day "Accelerated Childbirth" class, with tour, at the hospital where the missus will be delivering in April. Josh is hanging out with his grandparents, because I doubt he'll be interested in breathing exercises.


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