Consolidating My Credit Cards… Maybe?!?!

Earlier this week I received a letter from Prosper saying I had been pre-approved for a loan of upto $35,000 with a 5.99% interest rate hook. I get loads of credit card and loan offers each week, but this one from Prosper actually peaked my interest, so I decided to check them out… and… more on that later.

Before I signed on the virtual dotted line with Prosper, I decided to see what my bank would offer me. I was looking for a $10,000 loan which would cover all my credit card balances and pay the $3,000 tax bill I recently received. My bank, Meritrust offered me a refinance of my car loan, which would yield the $3,000 needed to pay off the tax bill and a signature loan worth $4,500 to cover my Discover and AMEX balances, BUT I would have to close both of those credit cards as a condition of the signature loan.

This would not work for me as I want to clear the balances on all my credit cards and effectively do a reset for the start of 2016 after a disastrous year financially for my family, unemployment, unexpected costs and extortionate medical drug costs due to crappy medical insurance. A single $300-400 payment is easier to manage than paying 3-4 accounts, it’s not a matter of being able to pay, it’s about manageability.

Closing the Discover and American Express credit card accounts is not viable for us and the Meritrust loan offer would mean that our Meritrust VISA credit card would still have a near maxed out balance. If I were to get rid of a credit card it would be the Meritrust VISA, it has the lowest limit and no cash back benefits.

Additionally, I don’t want refinance my car loan, I did this once before, transferring from Capital One to Meritrust. The end result was that I ended up back where I started after already paying over $4,000 on the car, basically adding $4k to the cost of the car albeit at a lower interest rate and monthly payment.

Back to Prosper, I decided to go ahead and apply, the 5.99% interest rate didn’t exist for me with a 700+ credit score, it offered me 10.06% for a three year loan of $10,500. Why $10,500 you ask when I wanted $10,000? well, Prosper charge a fee for setting all this up, which on $10,500 is $525 or $500 on a $10,000 loan. Now I just have to wait to see what happens, basically it’s a crowdfunding loan system, where people who actually have spare cash loan you money in return for a small ROI, e.g. interest payments.

It’s not a disaster if the loan request does not get funded on Prosper, I’ll just have to work harder to pay off the credits cards and close the Meritrust VISA. Stop spending on the credit cards and pay them off slowly over time at maybe $100/mo each, leaving more money in our checking account to live on.

Update [Nov, 7 2015, 14:24]: I have decided to withdraw my request for a loan. Prosper are now asking for information and documentation that I do not feel comfortable giving to them due to the nature of how loans are funded, I don’t know who my information will be shared with. I also don’t have or need a checkbook and despite it being a joint bank account, statements and checks only show my wife’s name.

I am now looking at using my Discover card which has a $8,400 credit limit ($6,000+ available) to pay off the Meritrust VISA card and then cancel that card. Partially because Meritrust have left a bad taste in my mouth trying to force me to close my outside credit card accounts. But mainly because the card doesn’t give me any sort of tangible rewards plus I get charged “periodical” fees and balance transfers are costly.

Canon EF-S 10 – 18mm STM Lens, 11 Months On…

In early January 2015, I purchased my first ever ultra wide angle lens, the EF-S 10 – 18mm STM for use in my work, which includes real estate photography. I pointed out the ghosting and flaring in my first impressions of the EF-S 10 – 18mm back at the end of January. Since that time it has become much more irksome as I spend much more time that I’d like in Lightroom and Photoshop correcting these lens issues.

I am now considering buying the more expensive Canon EF-S 10 – 22mm USM Lens. I understand that Chromatic Aberration is more of an issue on the 10 – 22mm, but that is less of a problem than pronounced ghosting of light sources using the 10 – 18mm. At times, I have experienced very bad ghosting of windows where there is a perfect ghost of the mini-blinds to the side of the window.

In January, I had the time to fix these ghosts in Photoshop, but my workload has increased significantly and my time is more limited. Which makes the 10 – 22mm appealing to me, if I can cut my time in post, that will allow me to spend time with my family instead of working on into the evening and weekends.

The issue is the cost; at $600 the 10 – 22mm is double the price of the 10 – 18mm, sure I can spread the cost by putting the purchase on a credit card, but I already have enough financial issues without adding to my credit card balances. It basically comes down to the perfectionist side of me Versus the financially frugal side of me. There’s lots of things I want, but I rarely ever buy. Plus I also need to get a new tripod as my battle scarred Polaroid tripod is really at the end of it’s life being held together with duct tape.

Below are some examples of the ghosting effect, these are reasonably mild examples. I have had shots rendered completely unusable by the flare and ghosting the EF-S 10 – 18mm creates, but I can’t remember which shoots these photos came from and I don’t have time to search through my archive.

I’m not going to condemn the 10 – 18mm as other than the ghosting, it’s a decent lens, just be aware of the potential issues of using this lens. If you can live with imperfections in your photos or have plenty of time to dedicate to post production, I would steer clear and pay the extra $300 for the EF-S 10 – 22mm.

Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2015

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed his third world drivers title by winning a very unpredictable and exciting United States Grand Prix. The race had everything, changeable conditions, overtaking, driver errors, virtual and physical safety cars; all of which made the USGP the most exciting race of the season.

The start of the race was, I would suggest very damp which suited Red Bull, but the Mercedes duo got off the line best, Hamilton getting the slightly better start and nudged Rosberg off track at turn one, which allowed Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo to move into second and third place coming out of turn one.

Behind the front few rows, the two Sauber’s collided at turn 1 spreading debris all over the track, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso also tangled and dropped to the back of the field. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel made a huge start to climb from 13th to seventh avoiding the first corner melee. Jenson Button also made a good start to climb to 9th by the start of lap 2 benefiting from his team mates crash with Massa.

A number of drivers, notably Valteri Bottas decided to try their hand at driving on slicks after the first lap, but all the drivers that took a gamble on slicks came back in a couple of laps later to return to intermediate tyres as the slicks were 30+ seconds slower than the intermediates. On lap 5 the stewards finally decided to call for a virtual safety car to pick up the debris at turn 1 from the first lap incidents.

As the virtual safety car ended, Nico Rosberg pounced on Ricciardo to snatch third on lap 8 and later in the same lap, overtook Kvyat for second place. The Russian came back at the German on lap 13, but went off track at the final turn, not only failing to make the move stick, but also allowed his team mate Ricciardo move upto third place, before the Australian made the move on Rosberg for second at turn 1.

Ricciardo went on to chase down Hamilton and overtook the Briton on lap 15, clearly the Red Bull was much faster in the damp conditions, but as the track dried out, the Mercedes power unit made light work of passing the Renault powered Red Bulls. Kimi Raikkonen who had been battling with the Toro Rosso’s and Force india’s made a mistake in tricky conditions on slicks sliding off into the barrier, the Finn managed to recover to the pits, but ultimately retired with overheating brakes after the incident.

In the meantime, Vettel was slowly moving his way up the field to be in P3 by the 35th lap taking the position away from Ricciardo, the Australian also lost fourth place to young charger and stablemate Max Vestappen. At this time, the Mercedes duo were running 1-2 with Rosberg leading the pair and Hamilton’s dream of taking the title at COTA was fading as Mercedes pitted Rosberg under the the VSC caused by the collision between Hulkenberg and Ricciardo, but not Hamilton, disadvantaging the Briton.

But it was to be Hamilton’s day after-all, a second safety car was deployed due to Danill Kyvat hitting the barrier and bouncing back across the track on lap 43, ending the Russian’s race. This allowed Mercedes to pit Hamilton under SC conditions, putting him back in contention. Rosberg managed to maintain his lead through the restart, but made a mistake on lap 48, which allowed the Briton to take the lead.

Alonso, after recovering to sixth behind team mate Button after his first corner incident had more bad luck, his new “improved” Honda power unit was losing power, dropping him back to 10th and eventually out of the points on the final lap as Ricciardo stole the final point. Button made a late stop from 5th place for fresh tyres which dropped him back to eighth place, but recovered to sixth in the remaining 12 laps.

Mentions for Max Verstappen, solid battling drive to claim fourth place for himself and Toro Rosso, STR team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr battled hard to claim seventh place while Sergio Perez again scored good points for Force India with a solid fifth place finish while his team mate crashed out. Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Nasr and Daniel Ricciardo round out the top 10 with only 12 cars taking the chequered flag.

The results of the United States Grand Prix means Hamilton becomes a 3 time world champion equaling his idol Ayrton Senna. Rosberg had a face like a smacked arse on the podium and post race interviews, throwing a #2 hat at Hamilton in the cool down room after the Briton tossed the hat to Rosberg. I thoroughly enjoyed this race, which has not been the case for much of the season, a little bit of water on the track works wonders. Maybe Bernie was onto something with his on track sprinkler system idea?

2015 United States Grand Prix Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:50:52.703
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +2.800
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +3.300
4. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) +22.300
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +24.400
6. Jenson Button (McLaren) +28.000
7. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +30.600
8. Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) +32.200
9. Felipe Nasr (Sauber) +40.200
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +53.300

It Never Rains… But It Pours

Over the past few months it’s been tough to be positive when every which way we turn there’s some bad news at the end of the road. The latest bad news that we received is that we owe over $3,000 in taxes from 2013 and the IRS want us to pay in full by Oct 5, 2015. This is impossible for us, we don’t have $3,000 just laying around, so I will have to come to some sort of deal to make payments on the balance.

I can accept that I screwed up, I knew I had to file an amended return for 2013, but it was one of those things that got put on the back burner and eventually got forgotten about. The reason I had to file an amended return is because I received a tax document with additional income information after E-filing that needed to be added to the 1040A tax form. It’s not that I have to pay the tax, it’s the fact that it affected our refund from the 2013 tax year, $2,100 of earnings is now costing us over $3,000.

We have enough financial issues with credit cards that have to be paid down after my wife was unemployed for two months. So I don’t want to use credit cards to pay this tax, plus the fact that if I were to pay the balance on a credit card, it will cost us $60 in convenience fees through third party merchants.

Which brings me to the option of a payment agreement, this, of course costs us money on top of the $3,000, and on top of penalty interest I will have to pay a $120 fee to set up a non-direct debit agreement or $52 to setup a direct debit agreement. I will always opt for the non-direct debit agreement because I don’t trust any government agency as far as I can throw them and I like to be in control of when I pay.

My only realistic option is to fill out form 9465, explaining our situation, offering $100/mo until we receive our refund for 2015, which hopefully will cover the remainder of the balance. I was hoping to use the refund for 2015 to significantly pay down the credit card balances, but that won’t happen now as the IRS will take the refund and apply it to the tax balance before it enters my bank account.

Although I accept the taxes I owe and interest incurred, I did screw up after-all. I am still angry when billion dollar corporations can pay a negative tax rate after the subsidies and tax breaks they receive. Corporations also hide billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts, dodging hundreds of millions in taxes each and every year, yet the IRS go after people like my family who can not afford the extra outgoings.

Everyone in America should be pissed that corporations get away with so much while the little person gets hounded for what little money they have by the IRS. I guess this is what happens when federal law allows for senators and representatives to take large sums of money from interests they regulate. Then like magic, these same special interests get favorable tax rates and subsidies from the lawmakers. The rest of the world calls this corruption or bribery, here in the good ol’ USA, it’s called lobbying, it’s disgraceful.

If you are a US citizen and you are pissed off with the lack of representation for the people in Washington DC; support Bernie Sanders bid for President, Senator Sanders is the only person who has consistently fought for the middle and working classes and wants to take that fight into the White House, we have to stand up against big money and put the power back in the hands of the people of the United States.

Affordable Care Act and Kancare (Medicaid)

Back in May, my wife became unemployed and I was forced to take medical insurance from my employer due to the individual mandate. Which meant that I had to remove myself from our ACA marketplace plan and because I was the primary, we had to cancel the entire plan and start over with a new application.

Because I was the only wage earner when applying for a new marketplace plan, I could only buy insurance for my wife as I earned too little, according to to be able to buy insurance for my kids. My kids were without insurance for 3 months as the ACA website automatically passed my application onto Medicaid/Kancare and medical insurance through my employer is too expensive for the kids. My wife is now back in employment and has insurance through her employer, which hopefully has better medication coverage than marketplace insurance through Coventry Healthcare of Kansas.

So now I have to start the process all over again to get my kids medical insurance through the marketplace. Assuming I qualify for special enrollment period, which I should as I have received a letter from Kancare today saying we have been denied. 2 weeks ago, we received a letter from Kancare saying they needed more evidence of our income, this obviously has changed since applying, we now longer qualify for Kancare so we ignored the letter. Now I have to brace myself the penalty “tax” next March.

Now, to the point of this blog; the ACA has numerous flaws, in this case, blocking me from buying insurance for my kids because of my income. Instead forcing me to apply for Medicaid/Kancare through their system. For those not familiar with Kancare, the Kansas legislature elected to hand administration of the Medicaid program to “for profit” companies, Amerigroup, Sunflower and United Healthcare. Which has been failing the people of Kansas since January 2013, who would have predicted that? (sarcasm)

This issue is my kids went uninsured for months because Kancare are so fucking slow to react. We heard nothing from them until September 15, 2015, when they received our initial application June 12, 2015, that’s 3 whole months without any contact. The September 15, 2015 request for proof of income letter, which was received by us September 23, 2015 wanted the required information by September 25, 2015.

This is not our first run in with Kancare, back in mid 2014, suddenly without any notice they revoked coverage for our autistic son despite no changes in our circumstances. Which meant all his therapy sessions stopped immediately, his therapy sessions are too costly to cover out of pocket. All this is caused by the Republican house and senate at federal and state levels giving tax breaks and subsidies to billion dollar companies while simultaneously defunding government programs that millions rely on.

I know that it’s unlikely, but I truly hope that America votes in Bernie Sanders as president. The Constitution starts with “we, the people”, not “we, the corporations”, our elected government should be doing things that benefit everyday Americans instead of lining their own pockets, taking money from interests they are supposed to be regulating, which somehow is legal in the United States of America.

Credit Card Debt… And Medical Insurance…

As some of you might know, my wife was screwed over by an employer back at the end of April and found herself without employment for eight weeks which took a toll on our finances, suddenly losing half your income tends to do that! Then we had some unexpected costs such as car service and fees associated with school, clothes and registration fees and fuel costs as my wife briefly worked 2 1/2 hours away.

I made mistakes in regards to managing our finances, where I should have canceled or downgraded non-essential services, I elected to pay those bills with credit cards, which adds up very quickly. We’re not drowning in debt, but we have around $6,000 in credit card debt and can easily make the minimum payments, but the issue is that our balance is going up $150 each month because of the extortionate cost of medication, each month, we pay over $400 out of pocket on top of our insurance premiums.

Now that my wife is back in full time employment, she now has medical insurance through her employer, which starts October 1, so I attempted to cancel her insurance through the marketplace for September 30. But that wasn’t possible, apparently 2 weeks notice needs to be given, so we will have to pay for the entire month of October, which just increases my stress level as it’s more money out of our pocket!

The next challenge will be getting my kids insurance through the marketplace as adding the kids to either mine or Erin’s work insurance is too cost prohibitive. My kids have been without insurance for three months as when I applied for insurance back in May, I couldn’t add the kids to the marketplace insurance as I wasn’t making enough money alone and had to wait for Medicaid (Kancare) to send us a letter.

That letter arrived a few days ago and it said they needed more information immediately or my claim would be canceled. Which is irrelevant now anyway as we now make too much money to qualify. So at tax time when inevitably I will be “taxed” for the kids not having insurance for those three months, I will dispute it. It’s a systematic fuck up, not mine, I wasn’t even given the option to buy insurance for them!

Back to the credit card debt, I have stopped using two of my credit cards, the Discover and American Express and have been paying these down at $200 per month and living with our bank VISA card, which is the card with the slowly rising balance despite paying $500 off each month, we have to keep going back to it to pay for the aforementioned drugs that my wife needs to manage her fibromyalgia. This is basically going to be the situation until we get our tax refund, which may cover about 50% of the overall debt.

Suffice to say, if either myself or Erin becomes unemployed again, I will be immediately canceling cable TV, downgrading internet and all the other costs like the Y membership, Spotify, WWE Network, but we’ll keep Netflix and Hulu, we do need some entertainment, both those services cost less than $20.

Speaking of Credit cards, if you are looking at the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card for the cashback reward value, DONT! We have spent $2400 on the card and they still haven’t paid out a single cent in cashback after 3 months! You’re better off looking at Discover’s “It” Card for cashback rewards!

Kim Davis: Why has this woman not been fired or jailed?

In recent days I have been seeing the story of Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis popping up all over social media and news streams and the question I ask, how is she still employed as a county clerk? She is and has been willfully disregarding a federal mandate that she issue marriage licenses to hetero and homo-sexual couples for two months hiding behind court orders and religious freedom claims.

Several courts have ruled and upheld, including the supreme court, that she MUST issue marriage licenses to all couples who qualify. Ms. Davis is being sued by two same sex couples and two hetero couples for refusing to issue a marriage license to them, but remains defiant of the constitutional change.

Another Kentucky county clerk, Casey Davis from Casey county also has been in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling two months ago and still has his job despite being given an ultimatum by Gov. Steve Beshear “‘Issue marriage licenses or resign”, but Mr. Davis responded “I can’t quit … I have a mortgage to pay”, the solution is simple, do the job that taxpayers, including the gay taxpayer pay you to do?

Apparently, because these clerks are elected officials, they can not simply be fired, however they can be held in contempt of a court order and be jailed, in this case for upto one year. These clerks could also be impeached and forcibly removed from office. At the simplest level, if these individuals are unable to complete their civic duties for any reason including religious belief, they should be relieved of that duty.

Mr. Davis went on CNN’s New Day and said “There is a power that is above whatever man may put on paper, and that authority is of a Godly nature, and nature itself”. And when asked if he will uphold the constitution of the United States, he made reference to the Kentucky constitution, which is of course is superseded by the Federal constitutional changes as handed down by the US Supreme Court back in June, 2015. Mr. Davis cited the Kentucky constitution, section 26 claiming that “no higher power shall interfere with what’s in our state’s constitution”, dear Mr. Davis, FEDERAL LAW SUPERSEDES STATE LAW.

Mr. Davis asserts that he and Ms. Davis, no relation are not blocking same sex marriage, “the same sex couples could go to a neighboring county to obtain a marriage license”. My response is this; you ARE blocking same sex marriage, couples, same sex or otherwise should not have to go to a neighboring county to obtain something that is a right according to the constitution of the United States of America.

This sort of bullshit is the reason I have such a deep seated contempt for religion in general. I find it incredibly intolerant, even hateful of everything from race (white supremacists often use religion as a base for their hatred) to non-traditional marriage and beyond. Religion is also hypocritical, condemning same sex marriage while endorsing 2nd, 3rd or 4th marriages, when the bible also prohibits divorce. Which is ironic as according to some Internet comments, (Mrs.) Kim Davis is on her fourth husband!

Final word; if Mr. Davis and Ms. Davis can’t perform their duty due to religious beliefs, QUIT!

Update [Sep, 2 2015, 15:21]: Columnist Dan Savage labeled Davis a “hypocrite” going onto say “This is a woman that has been divorced three times and married four times. She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, they were fathered by her third husband, but adopted by her second husband, she is now onto her fourth husband…” – Sounds like good Christian behavior, right?

Additionally, Ms. Davis has been summoned to appear before a federal judge on Thursday to explain why she is continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses. If she sticks to using I am refusing to issue marriage licenses on “God’s Authority”, the court should find her in contempt and throw her in jail

Update [Sep, 3 2015, 13:35]: Ms. Davis has been held in contempt of court and jailed until she is willing to issue marriage licenses. Judge David L. Bunning said “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order. If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.” And Judge Bunning is 100% correct, his hands are tied, Ms. Davis has willfully disregarded a federal court order, marriage is not a religious act, it’s a civil act.

Just to play devils advocate for a moment, the solution seems simple, make it so any qualified person in the office can sign a marriage license, then Ms. Davis or anyone else with sincerely held religious beliefs wouldn’t have to sign their name on the license. But as the law stands, Ms. Davis is 100% in the wrong, no matter how some Christians want to twist it to suit their own agendas, religion does not trump law.

Update [Sep, 8 2015, 21:53]: Judge Bunning has released Kim Davis on the proviso that she not interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses when she returns to work. Let’s say I’m skeptical about her abiding by that stipulation. Will the judge throw her back in jail if she does attempt to block the issuance of marriage licenses? Clearly Ms. Davis is unrepentant, why should we believe she will comply!

Update [Sep, 14 2015, 10:51]: Ms. Davis has returned to work, but remains defiant of Judge Bunning’s court order. Ms. Davis has removed her name and title from the marriage license, which could possibly make the license invalid, which in my view is interfering with the issuance of marriage licenses in contravention of Judge Bunning’s ruling. Ms. Davis herself made reference in a press call outside the courthouse on Monday morning that she doesn’t know if the license is valid without her name and title on it. In my view, it’s just another method to discriminate and force her religious beliefs on others.

PS: George Takei wrote an interesting article on the truth behind the 1st Amendment that religious types like to wheel out in the name of religious liberty, READ: How Kim Davis Violated the First Amendment.

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2015

As predicted by most F1 pundits and fans alike, Mercedes claimed a 1 – 2 finish at Spa Francorchamps with Lewis Hamilton leading the duo home; again as expected by most, Nico Rosberg is most definitely #2 in the Mercedes camp. Meanwhile Romain Grosjean claimed the final podium position for cash-strapped Lotus, a great result for everyone back at Enstone, even with Maldonado retiring with clutch failure.

Although it didn’t go all Mercedes way, Rosberg had an issue with his clutch overheating off the start dropping him back to as far as sixth place behind Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Valteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel before recovering to fourth by the end of the lap. Despite his good start, Bottas found himself moving backwards, first being overtaken by Rosberg, then Vettel and Grosjean before lap 10.

Toro Rosso’s Max Vestappen once again added some excitement to the race with a spectacular overtake around the outside of Blanchimont on lap 11, completing the move on the brakes into the chicane to demote Ericsson a place. And again on the final lap, making a challenge for seventh place into Les Combes against Kimi Raikkonen, but couldn’t quite make the apex of the corner to make the move stick.

Williams had a poor race overall, I believe they went too conservative on the wing configuration which made the FW37 slower than the Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari on the straights and fast sweeping turns. Then Williams made a bizare mistake putting 3 prime tyres and 1 option tyre on Bottas’ car in the first stop, which cost him and Williams points as the Finn served a drive-through penalty for the infraction.

Ferrari gambled with a one stop strategy while other teams ran two or three stop strategies and it almost paid off; but Vettel’s right rear tyre failed coming out of Eau Rogue onto the Kemmel Straight on the penultimate lap. This failure gifted Lotus their first podium of the season with Grosjean right there to take advantage. Vettel eventually finished the race out of the points after recovering to the pits for new tyres.

Red Bull had a mixed race, Ricciardo was looking good for fourth, which would have become third with Vettel’s issues, but his car ground to a halt with an electrical failure on the main straight. Meanwhile Red Bull choose to gamble on changing Kvyat to a brand new set of soft tyres with 14 laps remaining and the Russian finished the race in 4th place after several overtakes while also benefited from Vettel’s blowout!

Force India will be ruing missed opportunities as Nico Hulkenberg failed to take the start with power unit issues. But Perez made the best of it claiming fifth place and ran as high as second place in the first stint before being jumped by Vettel in the pit-stops and later being overtaken by the faster Lotus and Red Bull.

Jenson Button called McLaren Honda “Embarrassing” and no-one could disagree. Honda promised a big boost in performance at Spa and it failed to deliver. I believe Ron Dennis made a poor decision in reuniting with Honda who had been out of the sport for many years and bringing Honda back into F1 a year earlier than originally planned has embarrassed McLaren and Honda, Dennis has to take the blame.

After the race, Ferrari’s Vettel went on a tirade against Pirelli. Going onto say “…if this accident happens 200 meters earlier I certainly would have hit the wall.” Bottom line here is that Ferrari gambled on a one stop strategy, it didn’t work. Pirelli’s Paul Hembury said that he believes Ferrari pushed the tyre too hard.

In my view, Vettel needs to stop bleating about the safety of the tyre, grow a set of balls and go about his business. F1 is a dangerous sport and frankly F1 is at it’s safest right now, but any form of motorsport has it’s inherent dangers. If Vettel can not deal with that danger, maybe it’s time he took his leave from F1?

Overall, the race went as expected with another Mercedes 1 – 2 finish, but many would never have predicted that Lotus would be on the podium, not to say seeing “RoGro” on the podium displeased me. Most would have expected it to be Williams that were best of the rest given their normally slippery car, but today, they changed tack going for a higher downforce setup and made yet another pit-stop blunder.

2015 Belgian Grand Prix Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:23:40.387
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +0:02.058
3. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +0:37.988
4. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) +0:45.692
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +0:53.997
6. Felipe Massa (Williams) +0:55.283
7. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0:55.703
8. Max Vestappen (Toro Rosso) +0:56.076
9. Valteri Bottas (Williams) +1:01.040
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1:31.234

Back 2 School

After what seemed like an impossibly long summer with my kids at home with me while I work, they have both gone back to school. My son has started middle school while my daughter has started Kindergarten, which has allowed me a full seven hours of freedom to get out of my home office, to take photos of properties and visit the corporate office. There is only so much staring at the same four walls you can do.

However there’s some annoyances that my kids going back to school brings, such as USD259 deciding to place my children in schools seven miles apart. This has caused logistical issues as school starts and ends at the same time for both kids; I haven’t managed to clone myself, so I can’t be in two places at once.

So the solution I have come up with is; drop my son off at 7:30am at Hamilton Middle School and he’ll have to wait until 7:50am to enter school while I drive seven miles back up I-135 to drop my daughter off for 7:50am at Gordon Parks Academy. On the return journey, I pick my daughter up at 3:10pm then drive the seven miles back down I-135 to pick up my son at 3:25pm, that’s 15 minutes after school ends.

I would be happy for my son to ride the school bus, but my wife had bad experiences riding the bus during her youth and doesn’t want our son to ride the school bus because she fears he’ll have similar experiences to her. Although not ideal for me, I will drive back and forth to put her mind at ease.

The reason that our son has to attend a school so far away from our home is because the Unified School District 259 in their infinite wisdom decided to make half the neighborhood schools into magnet schools. Which parents have to apply for by the end of February every year to have a chance of being accepted.

We were not familiar with this requirement and didn’t get our application for Brooks Middle School, a school that is 3 minutes drive away in early enough. In the simplest terms neighborhood kids are being locked out of their neighborhood schools because they are being converted into magnet schools.

Yesterday, to add to my annoyance of having to drive seven miles to pick up my son, making him wait 15 minutes to be picked up. A member of staff at Gordon Parks instructed me that I HAD to walk 250ft to the crosswalk, having to cross the busy exit of the school car park where buses are exiting and 250ft back to my car. This obviously provoked a less than friendly reaction. I explained “I don’t have time for that, the school district placed my son 15 minutes drive away” and walked across the road with my daughter.

The lack of organization in the Wichita school district is astonishing, parents are given very little information about what is happening with their child’s education or even simple things like welcome packets and school websites including information such as start and end times for school.

This is why we were not aware of the requirements for attending magnet schools. Despite our son attending a magnet school at elementary level, they didn’t instruct or notify us on how the system works, should we want him to attend the same school at middle school level. We are actually considering moving our home to another school district for a better education for our children, but this is Brownback’s Kansas, so the chances are that it’ll still be a disaster because of his defunding of Kansas schools.

Update [Aug, 26 2015, 19:36]: Today we got notice that our son had been accepted into Brooks middle school, two weeks after school started. I am baffled as to how in less than 2 weeks, our son has gone from #37 on the waiting list to being accepted, maybe they read my blog? Plus, as our son expressed his like for his current school, Hamilton, we were unsure whether we should move him, but thankfully our son still wants to attend Brooks, he just wants a days notice to say goodbye to his friends.

But What Do I Know?

I pride myself on being able to work with anyone but there are two people that I find incredibly hard to work with because despite my 15 years of Internet marketing experience, they think they know better than me. From what I can see, they care more about lead stats than actual results or creating a long term strategy and running a move-in special for 2 years solid is not a good strategy for long term sustainability.

Last month these people, a regional manager and property manager, who happen to be husband and wife, wanted to run a “$99 Move-In Special”, that was not at all a $99 Move-In, the actual move in cost was $749, that’s $620 deposit + $99 rent + $30 application fee, which is far from being a $99 Move-In. They used the argument “$99 Move-In” is not the same as “$99 Moves You In”, which for me doesn’t hold water and the company compliance officer agreed with me. As a result of me checking with compliance, the manager threw his toys saying “do what you want”, he should have checked with compliance.

This month, they want to run a 10 day special offering a reduced rental rate if potential residents sign a lease by the 15th and move in by the 1st of September. I suggested a longer lead time with the lease date extended to the 21st, but they wanted to create urgency amongst potential residents. So I create some advertising highlighting the savings and special terms, but NO, they want want to highlight the rental rate and not mention the special at all. And now my head freaking hurts, it’s simply not a logical decision.

Why on Earth would you promote a special hiding the details of the freaking special? This is why I believe they are more concerned with lead stats than leasing units, in marketing, we want to generate qualified leads not random people contacting the property who more than likely won’t qualify to live there for income reasons and/or other Sec. 42 exclusions such as households comprised of full time students. And guess what… the current special is to coincide with school starting this month AND the 15th is a Saturday, a day that the office is not open… hey let’s end the special on a day we are closed. *facepalm*

Back in October 2014, I suggested their significant rental rate increase was the reason for the drop off in traffic. At that time, the regional manager “emphatically” disagreed with me claiming that the rent increase was not too rich for the area. And now, there’s a special which reduces the rental rate for a limited time. Why not simply reduce the rental rate permanently with the bonus of an all bills paid option and stop running the specials constantly, it’s not very “special” when there’s a special every month!

Historically, people who move in on specials do not become long term residents, in fact people who move in on specials often don’t see out their lease period. Even if people move in with the reduced rent special stay for 12 months, when the rent jumps back upto regular rates, a $60 jump, they will not renew. None of these specials are designed to develop long term residency, but as the title says, what do I know?