Saturday, December 15, 2012

75 Needed to Pass

A few weeks after you take a section of the CPA exam, you will receive a score release notification that reads something like this....

"You will receive separate score notices for each section of the examination you have taken. Each notice includes: examination identifying information (section name, section ID, and date); your score for teat examination section; and the result (Pass/Fail).

"Each notice also show credit status for the other examination sections you have taken... You will receive a separate notice for that section of the examination.

"The score represents your overall performance on the identified examination section. Scores are reported on a numeric scale of 0-99, with 75 as the passing score. This scale does NOT represent 'percent correct.' A score of 75 indicates examination performance reflecting a level of knowledge and skills that is sufficient for the protection of the public."

Well public, you can sleep easy. The Michigan Board of Accountancy has determined that I am no danger to you in regards to my auditing knowledge.

That's right, I have taken and passed (received a score of 75 or better) my third section of the CPA exam. This test section was Auditing. As usual, the test questions were very difficult. As I got further into the test, the test questions kept getting harder and harder. Now actually this was a good sign, since the CPA exam is a progressive test. Basically, if you do well on the first section, they will give you more difficult questions on the second section. I needed to keep reminding myself this, because by the end of the test, the questions were ridiculously difficult.

With this exam completed, I am 75 percent of the way through the entire testing process. I have completed and passed Financial Accounting and Reporting, Regulation, and Auditing. I only have one section left to complete: Business Environment and Concepts.

At this point, I am fairly confident in my study method for the exams. I am certain that I will be able to pass this last section if I put the same level of time and effort into studying for it as I did for the first three.

That being said, I am definitely losing motivation to study. After this last test, I took a week break. I didn't pick up the study material once. Let me tell you, it was glorious. So now, I am finding it harder and harder to come home after work and spend a couple hours going cross eyed reading about Keynesian Economic theory, marginal cost curves, and CVP charts.

Oh well, the end is in sight.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

And the Winner is

ME !!

Every month, Eagle Nest Outfitters Inc. has a photo contest. As mentioned in another post, I love my ENO. I decided that I would enter the photo below into the contest.

And surprisingly, I won. You can see the announcement on ENO's blog here.

Better yet, as the winner, I was able to get $215 of ENO gear of my choosing. I decided to get a one-link sleep system (basically a hammock and tent combined).

So yeah, I'm pretty excited. I've never really won much in my life, especially not $215 worth of stuff. Big day for me, that's for sure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Very Thankful Video Friday

As I sit hear on the day after Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on the holiday which has just past. Truly, I have a very blessed life. I have a beautiful wife and a happy healthy growing boy. Even though I am one of the few people who had to show up to the office to day, I am very grateful for this job. It defnitely has been an answer to prayer. I am healthy and able to get out and enjoy being active. Whether its going out for a short run or hiking with the family, there are so many reasons to be thankful for being able to enjoy getting outside.

I came across a short blog post this morning, and I enjoyed it. So I'm going to share it. I grabbed it from here, just to give credit where credit is due.

Being Thankful

by Annie Leonard

Annie_leonard"If you ask people what they’re most thankful for in life, three things nearly always come out on top. Not their car (even if it’s a hybrid), their shiny new ultrathin laptop or a 700-fill-power goose down ski jacket. Surveys consistently find we’re most thankful for friends and loved ones, good health and the wonders of nature. What’s more, clinical studies show that gratitude is good for us. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and better able to cope with problems. Being thankful even helps us sleep better.

It’s a good time, then, to ask: Why don’t we walk the talk?

The main reason, of course, is the blitzkreig of commercial advertising and marketing we’re bombarded with 24/7, which peaks at this time each year. Many of us respond by spending too much time and energy chasing more Stuff and not enough on the things we say we’re most thankful for. To put it in marketplace terms, we’re underinvesting in the things that pay the most dividends, while we overinvest in Stuff that actually threatens the things we profess to value. We have more and cooler Stuff than our grandparents ever imagined, but we pay the price – more time spent working and shopping and maintaining our stuff, much less time spent in leisure, recreation, community service and with friends.

As a nation, this imbalance is not making us happy campers. In the latest Happy Planet Index, the United States ranks 14th out of 143 countries. Costa Rica, where the Gross Domestic Product per person is about a fourth of the U.S., ranked first. (In a group of 20 rich countries, however, we are number one in poverty, income inequality, spending on health care and people who can’t afford health care, infant mortality, obesity and climate change pollution.)

What can we do to reset the balance? Here’s a start: this holiday season, choose family over frenzy. The day after Thanksgiving – so called Black Friday – is a perfect time to opt out of the consumer frenzy and focus on those things we’re really thankful for.

Revisionist history aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Two full days when most Americans are liberated from work and school to gather around a table, break bread and share conversation with those we love. We get the chance to spend two days pausing, recharging, looking into the faces of loved ones rather than into our computer screens.

Instead, the day after Thanksgiving, many Americans will rise at dawn, drive to a mall and spend the day searching for sales on products we don’t really need and which don’t ultimately make us happy. This year, let’s instead focus on the things that make us most thankful. Stay home, unplug the computer and the TV, bring out the board games, play touch football, walk the dog, take a hike – do anything but join the shopping frenzy. You’ll be thankful you did."
I would suggest taking some time today and thinking about what the Thanksgiving holiday is truly about, because you weren't likely very thankful yesterday watching the Lions lose. Come up with a list of things you are REALLY thankful for. Most likely, the new flatscreen that you waited in line for days to get probably won't make the list.
So I'm going to share something that I am truly thankful for: Michigan Winters. Now for all you complainers, you can just move to a different state. Because if you live in Michigan, you should really learn to love snow, otherwise you are just missing out. And the best part about this year is that I should actually be able to get out and enjoy it. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in winter in this great state of ours. And here are just a few.

Now look at that, I start writing about snow, and a few flakes start falling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Carrying the Kid

The first "kid related" item that Jamie and I bought when we found out that she was pregnant was a Kelty Kid Carrier. We bought this because one it was a really good deal on The Clymb and two because I knew I wanted my kid to grow up hiking and spending time in the woods.

But once we got the kid carrier, it just ended sitting in the basement because Jonah hadn't even been born yet. Even after Jonah was born, it still sat in the basement because a kid has to be so big to be able to ride in it.

Though finally, after sitting in the basement for about a year, we were finally able to put it to some good use and take Jonah on a hike.

On Saturday, I got up decent on time to get my daily quota of studying out of the way. I finished the review questions for a chapter by about 10, went for a quick two and a half mile run, and got everything ready to go.

We went to a local state park that has some decent trails and put the Kelty to work.

**I am going to go through a quick product plug for the Kelty FC 2.0 Kid Carrier here. This is a great product. It is built extremely well, very high quality. The shoulder and waste straps fit very comfortably, with lots of adjustment possibilities. It has a ton of storage compartments, so you can bring everything that goes along with toting a kid around. And as you can see, it even has a kick stand, which proves very handy. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to hike with young children.

Some times I wonder what Jonah thinks about all the things we put him through.

Here he looks like he isn't too sure about riding in this thing. Anyways, once we got him snuggly strapped in, we were off.

I couldn't really see him, but Jamie said his head was bobbing up and down alot. Though, from the picture below, it looks like Jonah enjoyed himself.

I guess having Dad carry you around is tiring, because it didn't take long for Jonah to fall asleep.

That doesn't look very comfortable to me. Ha.

Overall, it was a great day. And to finish it off, we ended the day with a large pizza from the Trestle Stop. That definitely hit the spot.

That's all for now. Have a great Thanksgiving everybody.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Half Way There; Living on a Prayer

So back on Saturday October 13, around 3 in the afternoon, I stepped into a testing center once again to take a section of the CPA exam. This was the 2nd of 4 sections that I need to pass to get those 3 letters behind my name. This time, I was slated to take Regulation. For those of you who don't speak accountant, this test basically boiled down to two main areas, business law and taxes, with the majority of the points based on taxes.

Now anyone who has ever asked me about my profession probably has heard this, "I really don't like taxes." Because I really don't like taxes. Honestly I find the entire tax system arbitrary. At least with Auditing and Financial Reporting, you can reason out an answer. In the world of taxes, the logical answer is most likely the wrong answer. At least that's the way I see it. Anyways, I had a "fun" three months cramming tax rules, business structures, etc into my head.

So back to the test. I got to the testing center about a half hour early. This time though, there was no wait. I was immediately ushered into the "staging" area. Here they fingerprint you, photograph you, verify your two forms of identification, wand you with a metal detector, and make you turn your pockets inside out. Yep, these testing centers make you go through about as much security as an international flight. They obviously take the potential of cheating very very seriously.

After "clearing security", I was led to my chair. Now for some reason, I thought I was going to have four hours for the test. So I was thrown slightly for a loop when I found out I was going to only have three hours. But what can you do, so I just started plunking away one question at a time.

Despite the shorter time limit, I had plenty of time. I finished the multiple choice section in under two hours, leaving over an hour for the simulations. Which was good, because I needed about 45 minutes to come up with a respectible solution to an AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) Question. That's right, our tax system is that lame where basically if you aren't paying enough tax under the regular tax code you could have to pay more under AMT. If they don't get you one way, they'll get you another.

Now people always asked me how I felt I did after I was finished with the test. Now most tests you take in your life, you can usually tell how you did. But the CPA is a different animal. They word the questions in such a backwards way that sometimes it is hard to read it as discernible English. After you muddle your way through to determine what you think they are asking, you try to narrow your answers down. Now some answers are obviously wrong. But others are technically right. But one is "more right" than the other. So you have to try to pick between to perfectly valid answers. The whole thing just messes with your mind. After walking out of the building, you feel like you were just mentally abused.

Once done with the test, I had an enjoyable 1 day break from studying. My open window for testing ends at the end of November. So I have to study like mad before my 3rd test, which I have about half as much time to prepare for as my first two.

A week or two after the test, I received an email telling me that I should get my results on the 5th of November (Remember Remember the 5th of November). Then the weekend before, I got an email saying the the score release date was pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy (stinking hurricane). Later, I was told that I would get my score on Monday the 13th. So I was more than surprised when I came back from a meeting today with an email saying "Score Release." I got immediately nervous, almost to the point of shaking. I held my breath as the file downloaded.

Result: PASS

I kind of freaked out for a second there when I saw that it said PASS. I could hardly believe it. I am so stinking relieved. I can now move forward and completely focus on the next section without worrying that I might have to go back and restudy a section that I already studied for.

So that is what I get to do. Move forward and study for the next section. Study till it all oozes out of my head. Or at least that's how it feels sometimes.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Video Friday: The Gimp Monkeys

After a few week hiatus, Video Friday is back.

 And it is back with an amazingly inspirational video. All I'm going to say is that this video shows what truly dedicated people can accomplish.

No Excuses

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Senior Portraits: Kalie

Back in August, when the sun was shining and it was hotter than any day really should be, Jamie and I had another senior portrait session. This time, it was for Jamie's cousin Kalie. As usual, it was a fun day, and I think we got some good ones.

Not feeling very verbose today, so here's the photos. (Be warned: there are a lot of them)

We started at one of my favorite places to take photos, the Hamilton Trestle Bridge.

Hope you enjoy them, Kalie.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

ENO: Eagle Nest Outfitters Doublenest

There are lots of pieces of gear I own that I love. I love my Osprey Aether 70 Backpack (extremely light and comforatble). I love my Big Agnes Lost Ranger Sleeping Bag with the sleeve for the air mattress (no more rolling off the air mattress in the middle of the night). I love my Jet Boil Stove (quick and efficient).

But of all the gear that I own, there is one piece that I love far beyond all others. That piece of gear is my ENO (Eagles Nest Outfitters) Double Nest Hammock.

I seriously cannot over emphasize how much I love my ENO. When the weather is nice, I try to keep it with me at all times. You never know when you'll come across a great hammocking spot and get the urge to RELAX...

The main reasons that I think the ENO is such a thing to own ARE...


It really doesn't matter what you are into or what you are doing, the ENO is always nice to have along. Whether you are on a multiday backpacking trip, a picnic to the beach, or just in your backyard, the ENO doesn't care. Unlike most of the other gear I own, which are designed for one particular sport, the ENO can be used in a variety of situations. Now who doesn't love that. I find that it is great to toss in the backpack on day hikes so you have a comfortable place to rest and have lunch. This leads me to the next point of the ENO's greatness.


The ENO is really light, weighing in just over a pound. And it packs down small enough to fit in your hand.

Being that it is so light and compact, it makes it so it is easy to bring your ENO on every adventure. You don't have to worry about it taking up too much space or getting tired by carrying it.


I mean seriously, who doesn't love to lay in a hammock. Jonah defnitely loves it. It just feels good to get up off the ground and let the slight sway of the hammock rock you to sleep.


When you get your buy your ENO (which you all had better), you buy the hammock and the straps separately.

You take the straps out of their pouch.

You wrap the two straps around two trees between 10 and 20 feet apart.

You take the hammock out of its pouch.

You hook the hammock to the straps with the attached caribeners.

And you're ready to go, in less than two minutes.

When you are done, you stuff the hammock back into the little pouch that is attached to the hammock.

It's really that simple. After all that, who wouldn't want one.

So go get an ENO. And then...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Video Friday: Reveal the Path Trailer

It's Friday, and I sit alone in my little corner of the office. My boss took the day off, and most of my coworkers have taken a half day. The weekly staff meeting has been canceled because so few people are here. So let's stop pretending. I'm not going to get anything accomplished this afternoon. My eyes have glossed over, and my mind is in the pre-weekend haze. Although my body is still in the office; my mind is defnintely already gone. So at this point, I'm really just biding my time till the clock hits five. To help the afternoon go a little bit faster, I think I'll distract myself with another Video Friday.

This weeks installment is a trailer for Reveal the Path, another movie that I hope shows up on netflix. I have hope that it will, since as mentioned in the trailer, the makers of this movie also made Ride the Divide, which was on Netflix. So without further ado, here it is.

Reveal the Path Trailer from Mike Dion on Vimeo.

Oh five o;clock. Please hurry up and get here.

PS. I'm starting to run out of cool/unique/interesting/thought provoking videos to post here. So if you know of any that you think should be shared, let me know. PLEASE....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Farm Fresh Photos

Every once in a while, I'll get this strong urge that I have to go out and take some photos. This usually happens when it has been a while since I've picked up my camera. A few weeks back, I had such an urge. So, I quick ran out and snapped a few shots of the fields around our house. Here's a few of what I got.

So yeah, that's pretty much it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Video Friday: Industrial Revolutions - Danny MacAskill

Excited for Friday and the Weekend!

So I'm slacking off with another Video Friday. I've shared this video on my facebook before, but I still find it amazing. So I thought I'd share it here.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Video Friday: DamNation Trailer

It's another Video Friday here at the Focal Point. This weeks video is a trailer for a movie that is being put out by Patagonia: DamNation. It looks pretty interesting.

 I'm not exactly sure what my stance on the whole subject is. I've always believed that hydro power was "clean" energy, since there is no air pollutants released by hydroelectic dams. However, as I've learned a little more, dams probably have some of the largest impacts on the environment in comparison to other electical generating facilities. From the the acres upon acres that are flooded, to the changing of water temperatures, to the siltation of the reservoirs, to the increased evaporation related to the reservoirs, to the blocking of fish migration, and destruction of habitat, to causing rivers to run dry before they reach their terminus, dams have a huge impact. Yet we need energy, and dams are a source of cheap energy. At the very least, I am in support of removing nonfunctional dams and trying to restore those rivers to their original state.

So what do you all think? Leave a comment after you see the trailer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jonah sees the world

I don't know why, but I get a strange satisfaction from taking my son Jonah along on little adventures. I know he has no idea where he is getting dragged to. Nevertheless, I still get a kick out of it. So far, Jonah has....

Gone to the trestle bridge

Gone to the beach

Gone on a hike

Gone to Big Red

And hung out in the hammock with Dad (hammock review coming soon)

And as you can tell, he has pretty much been a sleep for all of these adventures. Definitely exicted for all the adventures I have to look forward to with this little guy, especially the adventures that he'll be awake for.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Senior Portraits: Trevor

A few weekends back, I had the opportunity to do another senior portrait session. It seems like it has been a while since I've done one of these (probably because it has been a while). Either way, I think senior photo sessions are some of my favorite to do. That is likely because the senior is typically excited about getting them done. Even the guys, who try to pretend like they are too cool to get their picture taken, usually end up having a fun time. I think that was how Trevor was. At first, he was a little hesitant. But then he started to relax, and we were able to get some really good shots.

So without further a do, here is a preview of Trevor's senior portraits.

So we were taking photos by this old abandoned factory (location undisclosed). When suddenly Trevor says he wants to check something out on the other side of the building. The next thing I know, Trevor is on top of the factory, sitting on the ledge. Pretty Crazy. Fun picture though.

So those are some of my favorites of Trevor's senior photos. Hopefully, he likes them.