Monday, August 23, 2021

Road Trip Log - Anza-Borrego Desert - 21 Aug 2021

 Day trip to Anza-Borrego. 

After 8am breakfast and a 9am Sams Club shopping trip we were able to get on the road around 11am. The book for this drive was Before She Disappeared: A Novel by Lisa Gardner . We had started the book the previous week and continued this week. By the end of the 9 hours on the road we still have about an hour and a half left.

Smoky day out in the high desert. Hit a little bit of traffic when we entered the I-15 south at Cajon Junction. Traffic on the I-10 was a little heavy but moving along. Lots of haze in the air until about Indio, at which point it changed more to dust than just haze and or smoke.

Stopped at the Salton City Travel Plaza to top off gas. Considered getting food here, but none of the choices were really all that appealing. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway and Jack in the Box. So we pressed on west after getting gas. The temperature was around 99°F to 100°F. Upon arriving in Borrego Springs we started looking for a place to eat since we still hadn't eaten since 8 am breakfast. We found a little place names Keslings Kitchen and decided to give it a try. The daily menu was written up on butcher paper hung on the wall. We had a wood fired Margarita Pizza and Greek Fries. We ordered 2 pints of Blackthorn Cider since they had it on tap, but it ran out just before they poured ours. So we end up getting two bottled Blonde Ales (I don't recall the name right now, but it was an Italian Ale). Over all the food pizza and ale paired very well. To finish it all of we had a huge slice of Carrot Cake.

After eating we went out Borrego Springs Rd to see some of the Ricardo Breceda's metal sculptures. Stopping briefly at the Serpent Sculpture to shoot a couple of photos. Was still a little to hot to be out waling around. We looped back around to see the Scorpion sculpture and then decided to start heading out since it was already after 4pm by this time.

We took Montezuma Valley Rd out of Borrego Springs headed towards San Felipe. once we reached the 79 we went south toward Santa Ysabel since I had never been that way before. One of the valleys over here had puffy clouds sitting on all the hill tops. At the hard right turn on the the 79 is a place called Julian Pie Company, it sounded interesting and we probably would've stopped had we not been so full from the Pizza and Carrot cake. Next time. By this time the area was very over cast and hazy. From Santa Ysabel we took the Old Julian Hwy (78) through Ramona. Just before Ramona traffic started to pick up again and get heavy. We could see San Vicente Reservoir from the road and it looked low. Not as low as a lot of the other reservoirs we have seen lately, but still low. We merged on to the I-8 and continued west to the I-5. On the I-5 north and back home.  Once we reached to coast the clouds over the ocean and the haze made for a cool sun set with the sun being a huge orange ball in the sky. It wasn't one of the "wow" sunsets, but was still cool to see. Unfortunately we were on the freeway at this point and couldn't stop to shoot photos. 

Just before getting to the 14 interchange from the 5 we were also able to see the moon rise behind us over the Burbank area.

We made it back home at 9pm.

Monday, August 2, 2021

CISSP 2021

This is more of a stream of though to primarily document my CISSP study process and events as I remember them while they are fresh in my mind.

So I have been studying for the ISC2 CISSP exam since the end of March 2021. I attended the week long online version of the CISSP Bootcamp. Long slide deck going over the 8 knowledge areas of the exam.

I started doing 10 question tests using Official (ISC)2 CISSP Study app for iOS. As well as through Wiley Efficient Learning practice test builder. I also listened to the audio version of "Eleventh Hour CISSP®: Study Guide, Third Edition", while drive around town and or out walking.

I usually stuck to 10 questions at a time and then grade. Flag the ones I got wrong and review those to reinforce the correct answers. The week before the actual exam I started taking 20 to 50 question sample tests from both sources.

I was averaging scores on the practice tests between 60 to 70 percent most of the time. So I was really starting to get worried that I would not make the cut on the test. The actual exam is a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format. Which means that the test is tailored to each individual based on how good or bad they are doing on the exam. It is a 180 minute (max) timed exam. With a minimum of 100 questions and max of 150.

I really hit the practice tests hard on Sunday night. About 3 hours worth and 4 hours worth on Monday. I was averaging getting scores between 30 to 80 percent depending on questions presented from different sections. So I was really starting to get worried because my scores seemed to actually be going down the more I tested.

 The night before the test I continued listening to the audio book version of the Eleventh Hour as well as listening to that on the drive down to Pasadena the night before. Staying down in Pasadena the night before was definitely the right choice. No traffic stress the morning of the test. I checked into the Pasadena Hilton around 7pm Monday night (28 June 2021). Went searching for food around 8:30pm that night, walking. The few places that I found open, while on foot, had wait lists and lines. I did find a subway, but it was on the wrong side of the street and I didn't feel like backtracking at that point. Went to find exactly where the Union Bank building was located and where the Pearson Professional Center testing center would be. End up taking a 1.5 mile loop to Union Bank and back to the Hilton. Never did get any food while out on the walk. When I made it back to the Hilton I decided to grab something from the kiosk cafe. A truck stop style Ham-n-cheese with chips and a bottled coke. Not the best thing in the world, but did eliminate the hunger. 

Morning of the test I woke up about 5:45am. Test was scheduled for 9am with recommended check in time of 8:30. I figured I would leave a lot of extra time to shower, grab something to eat and get into the parking structure. After showering and getting dressed I went down to the lobby of the hotel to try to do an actual sit down breakfast. But all they seemed to have was a coffee bar that you would order at and I wasn't real sure what the menu was since there was a line of people. I opted to go back to the kiosk cafe. This time getting a truck-stop style turkey wrap, a yogurt and Starbucks bottled cold coffee. Ate this back up in the room. When finished packed my stuff and headed back down to the car.

Left the Hilton parking lot around 7:45 and drove to the Union Bank parking lot. Sat in the car until 7:59 when I decided I should head in to find the Pearson Professional Center to make sure that I was not late. I beleieve they had me all checked in by 8:15 (not sure of exact time because my phone and watch were off an in a locker by this time). Ids validated. Palms scanned and photo taken. Issued a dry erase tablet and permanent marker. Opted for the optional ear plugs (good call). Looked like about 4 other people had started testing before I did. No idea which certifications they were testing for. Sat down at the computer, read and signed the NDA and started the test.

180 minutes on the clock and counting down. I was still kind of freaking out about actually being here and starting the actual test. Made it through the first 12 questions before I looked at the looked at the question count and or time. The next time I noticed the question count I was at 26 questions down. Then 40 something and still had around 130 minutes or so remaining. I remember starting to feel uncomfortable in the chair around this point. The chair was actually a bit low for me, and I wasn't sure if it was adjustable or not and since I was already headlong into the test I decided to just deal with it. The setup was a little odd because the chair was too low to the table top. And a computer was on the table top with the mouse on the table top. And monitor on top of the actual computer, putting the monitor a bit higher than is normally comfortable for me. More neck popping and back stretching. Mask adjusting, still in the COVID time. Had to wear the face mask throughout the whole test. I had opted for my thicker mask because I couldn't bring in the thinner one if I needed it. With the ear plugs in I was able to focus pretty well. Only distracted a couple of times as people came in and out of the room, since the floor shook a little bit as people walked around. So it was some where around this point that I noticed that I was 94 questions down and still had about 100 minutes (I don't recall the exact amount, but I do believe it was still in the triple digits). I started doubting if I would pass the test. Had to put that out of my mind and focus back on the questions at hand. Answering question after question and then all of a sudden the test stops and states that I have completed the sampling of questions (or something to that affect). It startles me so much I think I must've clicked something wrong. Then I start to think I probably foo-bared it completely. I can no longer see how many questions are answered, nor the time remaining. I complete the exit click. Turn to make sure the monitor acknowledges me to proceed out of the testing room.

A couple more Id verification checks and I am back at the front desk being handed a paper with the print face down. Thoughts of "Oh crap, I rushed it and failed the damn thing" running through my head.

Holding my breath, and getting light headed because I'm already wearing a mask, I slowly turn the paper over expecting the worst and read "Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have provisionally passed". Not sure if I am seeing that correctly yet, I return to the locker to gather my things. I take another look and reread again just to make sure I didn't misinterpret what it said. "Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have provisionally passed" .. HELL YESS!!!! Hallelujah!!! A huge sigh of relief. 

By the time I get back down to the car and turn my phone and watch on I notice that it is exactly 10am. So I believe it took around 1hr and 50 minutes before the exam stopped on me. And i believe I hit the minimum 100 question threshold.

I proceeded to map a route home and start the drive back home. Didn't call or text anyone because I still couldn't believe that I might have passed this on the first try. Especially with as bad as I felt I was doing with the practice tests. But this time I put on a different audio book, The Game: The Game Is Life, Book 1, for more of a relaxing drive back home.

So now I have to wait 2-5 days for the results of the test to be verified and validated. Then if I still have passed I can start the process of officially getting the CISSP certification.

Official Credly CISSP Badge:

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Road Trip 2 October to 5 October 2020

A trip up to see the kids turned into a 4 day road trip covering just about 2000 miles.

We arrived in Orem Utah on Friday evening. After checking into our hotel, we went to see Shad and Liz and have dinner at their apartment.

Saturday morning Cheryl and I went to a Black Bear Dinner for breakfast. Utah was a little weird with the COVID stuff. They did have indoor dinning, unlike California which is outdoor dining only at the time. Restaurants had it posted that to enter you must wear a mask. But only about half the people would wear them at all. After breakfast we waited until Jordy was off work to go up to see Jordy, Robby, Susi (cat) and Padfoot (dog).

Padfoot is still very skittish around everyone. Won't let anyone touch him other than Jordy, but he also wanted to be right where everyone was, just don't look at him lol. Susi on the other hand was completely fine with everyone petting and pampering her.

After a quick visit at their apartment all four of us went for a drive up to Antelope Island. Antelope island is very dry this time of year. There was a ton of haze, partly from smoke from the western states and the normal haze that Salt Lake area seems to have most of the time. We were able to see multiple buffalo in multiple locations this time. As well as a couple of coyotes and some deer.

We dropped Jordy and Robby off at there apartment and went back to Orem to our hotel to relax a little bit before dinner that night. We waited for Liz to get off work at 8pm before heading down to Strap Tank in Springville. Strap Tank Brewery is a micro-brewery named after the 1907 Strap Tank Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. Shad, Liz, Jordy and Robby joined Cheryl and I for dinner and drinks. It was a great time and great to see the kids and to see that they are all doing well.

Sunday morning Cheryl was able to get hold of her son Justin in Wellington UT and confirm that he was off work that morning. So we checked out of the hotel and headed down to Spanish Fork and over the mountain to Wellington where we picked up Justin to have an early lunch back in Price UT. The place we usually would go to in Price was no longer in business and the new place that reopened in the location was closed due to COVID. So we decided to try another place next door that was open and new, The Tangerine Eatery. The sandwiches were great. And we were able to have a good visit with Justin.

After dropping Justin off back at home, Cheryl and I headed for Goblin Valley. We had visited the park back in May 2014 and decided we wanted to go back and see it again since we were so close. We hiked further in this time even though it was hotter this time than it was in May of 2014. Still a very cool location to explore. From Goblin Valley we kept heading south to Hanksville, where we had a choice. Left would take us to Page AZ and Lake Powell or turn right heading toward Capitol Reef Park and down to Escalante. I opted for right since, when we did part of this road trip in 2014 we went left. So right would take us on a route we hadn't done before. This turned out to be a really fun and scenic drive through and above canyons. There were some great fall colors at the top. The Aspen trees were mostly yellow with a mix of burgundy. At one of the turnouts we stopped at we talked to a couple of guys and a woman on motorcycles. When they pulled up they were going on about how scary something was on the road they had just come up. Apparently they had almost hit a few cattle as they were coming up the winding road from Hell's Backbone. We also had a few encounters with cattle in the road, but I always expect that kind of thing when driving back roads in open-range areas.

Once reaching Escalante, we topped of the car with fuel and mapped a route to Bryce Canyon area. By the time we reached Bryce Canyon entrance it was pitch black out because the moon hadn't come up yet. I decided to map a route out to the US-15 to get out of the winding mountain roads at night. Didn't really feel like meeting a deer in the dark if I didn't have to. The route we end up on took us up to a little town called Panguitch, where we decided to call it a day and get a room for the night instead of trying to press on and make it home Sunday as planned (we would've been closer to 2 am Monday morning at that point).

The next morning, after having breakfast at the only diner that was open on a Monday morning in Panguitch, I plotted a course toward Navajo Bridge. This was the location we were headed to in 2014 when we couldn't get through due to the road being closed just outside Page AZ, but that also lead us to stumble upon Horse Shoe Bend for some great photos that year. So we drove the long trek out to Navajo Bridge and Marble Canyon. The route I chose also took us by the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which I didn't actually realize we would be that close to. Since that was another reason I had originally planned to go across the Navajo Bridge from Page we decided after seeing the bridge to go back and out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We took the 50 mile one way drive out to the Rim. The first 25 miles or so of this drive had also been devastated by fire in the past couple of year. But the Aspen trees are starting to grow back in abundant numbers in the burned areas. And we hit them at just about the right time. Full yellow fall colors with some orange and burgundy thrown in. We reached the North Rim, hiked out to the main point out of the parking lot and shot a few photos. It was still pretty hazy here, but clearer than Antelope Island had been.

From the North Rim it was the long trek back to St George UT and then the very long grueling drive home. Arriving back home Monday night around 10:50pm.