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Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix 2017

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Start

I think the line “they think it’s all over, it is now” springs to mind after the latest Ferrari disaster and yet another Lewis Hamilton win, meanwhile the Red Bulls are still surging forward for a double podium.

Sebastian Vettel started alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the grid, but was immediately losing time to the chasing pack, Max Verstappen who had already slipped down the inside of team mate Daniel Ricciardo through turn 1 for third place, dived down the inside of Vettel for second place at the hairpin. Vettel only went backwards from there and eventually retired his Ferrari at the end of lap 4.

It got worse for Ferrari through the Spoon curve on lap 1, Kimi Raikkonen was pushed wide onto the AstroTurf by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, losing half dozen places, dropping back as far as 14th. The Finnish driver did recover to fifth place, which is not terrible given his starting position of 10th after serving a five place grid drop for a gearbox change while his team mate skipped out the circuit back door.

Carlos Sainz Jr crashed out through the Esses on lap 1 in what is his final race for Toro Rosso before moving to Renault for the final four races of the season starting from the US Grand Prix. The Spaniard replaces the much maligned Jolyon Palmer, who was paid off by the French team to walk away early.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon made a fantastic start to leapfrog from fifth to third, getting the better of Ricciardo through turn 1 and later on lap 2 passing the ailing Ferrari of Vettel. But ultimately the Frenchman could not match the pace of Red Bull, Mercedes and the sole remaining Ferrari of Raikkonen, finishing the race in sixth place ahead of his more experienced team mate, Sergio Perez.

There were two virtual safety car periods, in which, Hamilton pulled out time on second placed, Verstappen. My question is; was Verstappen slower than the delta or was Hamilton exceeding the lap delta to pull out a gap? No FIA investigation was instigated, so I guess this question will go unanswered.

As the race came to it’s conclusion, HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen made a robust move on Felipe Massa for 8th place going into turn 1 making contact with Massa’s front wing end plate. Pushing the Brazilian wide also allowing HAAS team mate, Romain Grosjean to slip down the inside, demoting Massa to 10th a few laps before Williams team mate, Lance Stroll had a right front tire failure sending him into the gravel and out of the race. This brought out the second VSC, in which Hamilton pulled out 3 seconds on Verstappen.

Those three seconds were crucial for Hamilton in the final 2 laps, Verstappen was closing on the Briton fast as Hamilton struggled with a power unit vibration. Hamilton was helped by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both balked Verstappen after letting Hamilton pass, costing the Dutchman valuable time in his pursuit of the win. Verstappen took the chequered flag just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.

After the Japanese GP, the title is Hamilton’s barring the Briton having 2 DNF’s in the final four races with Vettel winning those races. The last three races have been disastrous for Ferrari, multiple power unit issues for both drivers and the inexplicable crash, which I believe Vettel himself instigated in Singapore.

Hamilton can wrap up the title at COTA (US Grand Prix) in two weeks time with another win and Vettel finishes sixth or lower. Hamilton has won four of the five races held at the Circuit of the Americas, you have to believe that he is heading for a fifth victory in Austin given the current state of play in Formula 1.

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:31.194
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.211s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.679s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +10.580s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +32.622s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +67.788s
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +71.424s
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +88.953s
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +89.883s
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP

Review: Canon PowerShot SX730 HS For Live Music Photography

Canon PowerShot SX730 HS example photograph taken in a live music situation.

I’ll start by saying that, as a professional real estate photographer, I would never have bought the Canon SX730 HS as I don’t believe any point and shoot camera has the image quality I require. But, now I have recently gotten back into live music, I needed to buy something that venues would allow, the majority of venues only allow compact point and shoot cameras, so I bought the $400 SX730 HS for this purpose.

The Canon PowerShot SX730 HS works well enough in outdoor and well-lit scenarios which require lower ISO’s and faster shutter speeds. But, since I purchased the PowerShot SX730 HS compact camera for the single purpose of live music photography, my review will be based on this use case scenario.

Last night was my first opportunity to use the Canon SX730 HS in a live music scenario at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, KS for Halestorm, Starset and New Years Day. Let’s get straight to the point, if you are looking for a live gig shooter, look elsewhere, at $400, I expected infinitely better from Canon. I’m a long time Canon customer, I have three Canon DSLR’s, so the SX730 HS seemed like a natural choice to me.

The two things you need for live music photography is good low-light performance, which in darker environments means pushing the ISO and a fast(er) shutter speed to freeze the action. To be able to set any sort of decent shutter speed, 1/125 of a second, I need to push 3200 ISO, which has high levels of grain, which destroys the detail of any shot. Additionally, when zooming in 40x, you lose two stops of light, which means that you need to slow the shutter from 1/125 to 1/30 of the second to compensate.

The Canon SX730 HS’ focus system is slow and often fails to focus, especially when zooming in by a factor of 25x or more. I missed countless shots because the camera refused to focus, even on a subject lit by a bright spotlight. I would estimate that it failed three times before being able to get positive focus lock. Even then, the auto focus still missed the targeted focus point, despite the double beep confirmation.

Shutter reaction time is laughable, again I missed hundreds of shots because of the lag time between pressing the shutter button and the photo being taken. It seemed like there was a delay of 1/2 a second between pressing the shutter button and the shutter actuating. Resulting in blurry or even a shot of an empty piece of the stage as my subject had moved in the time it took the camera to react to my action.

Please see 1:1 example of the grain and focus issues at the top of this review…

I shoot in manual mode, however, I did try the auto mode and it bumped the ISO upto max and set a super slow shutter, which made everything nice and bright, but was ultimately useless as everything was blurry between my hand movement and the fast-paced action on stage even with the image stabilization enabled. Another bugbear is that I am unable to shoot in RAW image format, this is a feature I expect in a $400 camera, entry level DSLR’s at this same price point can shoot RAW, so why can’t the SX730 HS?

Maybe I have been spoiled by DSLR’s over the years and I am being harsh on the Canon PowerShot SX730 HS; but with the exception of the telephoto lens, my LG V20 gives me the same results in terms of quality. I would have expected a $400 camera to be better than a camera built into a multi-function device like a smartphone. Maybe, smartphone cameras have improved while digital cameras have not?

If I had just bought the SX730 HS, I would box it up and return it to the store, however, I have had the camera for six weeks, bought shortly after the last gig I attended, where I used my V20 smartphone. It is not faulty, so I am stuck with it, selling it would probably result in 50% financial loss, so I will hang onto it and use it as a pocket camera for family outing and such, where carrying a DSLR is cumbersome.

UPDATE [Oct, 9 2017, 22.18]: I went to another gig, this time at The Cotillion and the results are the same, so definitely not a live gig camera, slow and often missed focus, very poor low light performance and very noisy / grainy photos. Honestly, I am on the fence about whether to bother taking the PowerShot SX730 HS to gigs any more, it’s just more stuff to carry and the results are not worth the hassle.


Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Vettel, Verstappen, Raikkonen Crash, Singapore GP 2017

I’ve taken an extended break away from F1, the last race I wrote about was before the mid-season break. And, the Singapore Grand Prix really wasn’t anything to write home about with the exception of the first lap carnage which, in my opinion, ended Ferrari’s challenge for the constructors and drivers titles.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen made an amazing start, getting half a car length ahead of Max Verstappen on the outside in the run to turn 1, while teammate, Sebastian Vettel moved aggressively to the left, causing Verstappen to ‘jink’ left making contact with Raikkonen, who in turn t-boned Vettel before colliding with Verstappen again at turn 1, also, ultimately taking out the super fast starting McLaren of Fernando Alonso.

I’m neutral, I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m not a fan of any of the three drivers, nor race winner, Lewis Hamilton. I believe Vettel made a bad judgment call, which I believe has cost him a chance of the 2017 drivers title, barring any disasters at Mercedes. In my opinion, Vettel did not need to move so aggressively towards Verstappen, title rival Hamilton was well behind with plenty of room to Vettel’s right.

It was judged to be a racing incident by the stewards, which I believe to be fair, but my personal view is that Vettel caused the chain reaction that ended four drivers’ races. Raikkonen was clearly the innocent party, he was out there next to the wall, Vettel moved left and Verstappen found himself in a fast disappearing gap. Go watch the replay from onboard Verstappen’s car, the Dutchman can’t just vanish!

I really wonder what Fernando Alonso could have done in the tricky conditions as by turn 1, he was up to third place from eighth place on the grid before getting caught up in the first corner carnage. I really wonder if the Spaniard could have claimed a podium for himself and McLaren Honda. The first lap incident really killed off the race; after the first 15 seconds, the race was effectively over.

Lewis Hamilton got incredibly lucky as Mercedes were a definite second, or maybe even third best team in qualifying trim. The Briton avoided the carnage, along with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and it paid off big time for both, if they started a little further forward, both drivers could have gotten caught up in the first lap incident. Hamilton, in race trim, was clearly faster than Ricciardo, a gift of a win for Hamilton!

Special mention to, and driver of the race, in my opinion, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who finished in a career-best fourth place. I don’t really remember anything specific he did, he just kept out of trouble, made the right choices and it paid off. Same goes for Jolyon Palmer, who recently found out his services are no longer required by Renault, being replaced by the aforementioned Sainz, finished strongly in sixth.

The only other thing of note was the three safety car periods, first due to the first corner incident on lap 1, second due to Toro Rosso’s Daniel Kyvat crashing into the barrier all by himself and the third was due to Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spinning all by himself on the bridge. All three restarts resulted in absolutely zero overtaking. So to sum up the race, apart from the crashes, it was a real snooze fest… ZZZzzz

Singapore Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2:03:23.543
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +4.507
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.800
4. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +22.822
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +25.359
6. Jolyon Palmer (Renault) +26.371
7. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +30.388
8. Lance Stroll (Williams) +41.696
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +43.282
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +44.795

Review: TurnsPro V1-B Motorized Rotating Camera Head

TurnsPro V1-B with Canon EOS 80D

A bit of backstory, I have been wanting to get into video production for real estate. I have been creating ‘mock’ videos from my standard 3:2 photography with the aid of pans and fades, but this is not enough for me, I want smooth 90° to 105° ‘actual’ pans of the rooms. I have looked at many different time-lapse rotating heads, but 60+ minutes to do a rotation is too long per shot, then I found the TurnsPro V1-B.

Let’s start with talking about specs and functionality, the Turnspro can be set to rotate through 15° to 360° in increments of 15° in minimum times from 2 seconds at 15° to 20 seconds at 360° upto a maximum time of 9 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Rotation can be set by degrees or complete rotations, while a third option of rotating back and forth at 15° increments is also available.

Operating the unit is very simple, everything is operated from three buttons below the recessed, backlit LCD screen, the middle button powers the unit on and off by pressing and holding for two seconds. The left button changes the values of any given function while the right button commits the setting and moves onto the next setting. The right button doubles as a start/stop button once all settings have been set.

Now, it’s time for my views of its functionality in the real world. This will be a limited use scenario for real estate video production, and you can even argue that the device was not designed for my use case. But, it is what it is; I have no need for the time-lapse functionality, I just need smooth rotation of my DSLR.

I mounted my Canon EOS 80D to the TurnsPro top plate and mounted the TurnsPro itself to my Manfrotto tripod. The 80D is a little wobbly on top of the TurnsPro, but not so much that it feels like it will fall and I noticed a definite 1° to 2° camera lean to the right. Also be very careful when moving the tripod, with the weight of a prosumer DSLR, it can rotate on top of the TurnsPro all by itself while moving the setup.

Rotation is smooth enough if a little clock work ‘tick’ like, and in my testing, once every five or so uses, it’ll get stuck for a few seconds and fails to complete the full 360° turn. I believe this to be weight related as my 80D and EF-S 10-22mm lens weighs in at 2.61lbs and the TurnsPro is rated to hold a maximum weight of 2.2lbs. I can’t criticize the device for this as I am working outside of the recommended use specs.

The TurnsPro comes with a mount for a smartphone, I tested this functionality and it works as advertised as my LG V20 is well under the TurnsPro’s weight limit. So overall, would I recommend it for real estate video use? probably not as it can’t hold anything bigger than a consumer DSLR with kit 18-55mm lens, most higher quality lens will put your DSLR over the maximum recommended weight for the TurnsPro.

That said, for it’s intended use of time-lapse and panoramic photo creation, it works brilliantly, I really cannot fault the TurnsPro for this use case. It works fine for smartphones and smaller point and shoot cameras such as my Canon SX730 HS, sadly I cannot use either of these for real estate as my V20 has major fisheye distortion at its widest setting and my SX730 isn’t anywhere near wide enough.

At 100 US$, it’s a good value compared to other similar devices and offers much more functionality than the majority of time-lapse moving heads on the market. So, for it’s intended purpose, buy it, for real estate, give it a miss as it’s weight limits deem it useless for prosumer and professional grade DSLR’s.


The Cotillion, Wichita: A Live Music Fan’s View!

Scott Stapp Live At The Cotillion, August 2017

Last Tuesday evening, I attended my first live gig for almost nine years and the venue of choice was The Cotillion in Wichita, I say; venue of choice, more like the bands I wanted to see chose the venue, but I digress. The following is my opinion on many aspects of the audio, visual and customer experience.

The Cotillion is easy to find just off the US-400 highway westbound, one block west of Maize Rd with plenty of free parking spaces including disabled parking out front of the venue. Getting into the venue was also a straight forward experience, having to submit to a quick pat down from security, then show my e-ticket on my phone to gain access to the venue. Inside the venue, it’s basically a huge dome with bars and seating around the outside and a central domed floor area with the stage at the front of the venue.

The stage itself is half dome shaped with lighting illuminating the interior the white painted arch; with six moving head lights overhead and a four element line array speaker system flown on either side of the stage. Above the speaker array are dual high-intensity white flood lights and RGB LED PAR cans to illuminate the crowd in the main floor area, plus 12 PAR cans to illuminate the stage area.

At first, I thought the sound was very bass light, I was sat with my wife, just outside the dome behind the sound mixing position, which you’d think would have good sound as that’s where the sound is being mixed from. But later in the gig, I wandered into the main floor area and the sound came alive, suddenly I could feel the bass and the thump of the kick drum that was missing from the edge of the dome.

Now, we come to some things that I thought could be better, first thing is having a cash only bar in the year 2017? At a time where more and more people carry no cash using debit/credit cards instead. There are ATM’s available inside the venue, but that is an extra cost in the shape of convenience fees on top of the inflated prices for drinks, which is par for the course in live music venues throughout the world.

Second thing that could have been better, in my opinion, is better use of the lighting rig for all the bands, the first three bands, Trapt, Sick Puppies and Drowning Pool had inconsistent use of the lighting rig and no smoke was released to highlight the lights for the support acts, which created a lesser atmosphere than that of the headline band, Scott Stapp of Creed, who had full use of the lighting rig and smoke machines, creating a more immersive experience for all, lighting is as important as sound in my view.

I enjoyed the gig overall, despite the perceived issues outlined above, it’s a great venue with a lot of potential flying the live music flag for Wichita. The Cotillion is a mid-size venue that hosts a lot of bands, unlike the bigger venues which seem to be more about sports events than live music. I definitely want to visit the Cotillion again, Stone Sour in October, as my birthday gig would be nice if I can get a babysitter.


My views are based on a single visit, other events might be different, however, I can’t comment on those!


Canon EOS 6D MkII Vs 80D: Upgrade Or Stick?

Canon EOS 6D MkII

For a couple of years now, I have been wondering why Canon has never released a full frame DSLR with a pop-out articulating screen? a feature that I have used since the EOS Rebel T3i in my real estate photography work. I have stuck with the APS-C format as it’s a feature I didn’t want to lose to have a full frame camera, as it allows me to get into the corner of the room with a tripod and pop out the display.

Recently, this changed with the release of the EOS 6D MkII, which appears to be a full frame version of the 80D, which I currently own and I’m really happy with. The 6D MkII costs $2,000 + another $1,300 for the EF 16-35mm 2.8L lens to match the focal range of my EF-S 10-22mm, for a total spend of $3,300.

I spent $1,600 on the EOS 80D and EF-S 10-22mm USM lens just seven months ago, and this combo is working brilliantly for me, a big improvement over the EOS T3i and EF-S 10-18mm it replaced. I will be coming into a large sum of money in the next month, so cost is not an issue, but, I am also very frugal by nature, so dropping $3.3k on something that I want, but do not need is difficult for me to justify.

Right now, I use HDR to enhance the dynamic range of my photography; a full frame DSLR with L glass will improve the dynamic range of a single shot, which reduces the amount of time I spend in post, not having to process HDR before final exposure tweaks. From a workflow point of view it makes perfect sense, but at this time, I am not that busy that I don’t have the extra 30 minutes or so for HDR processing.

I guess I’m concerned about wasting my money, will L glass and a full frame sensor make $3,300 worth of improved images? I’m not one to buy a camera just because it’s full frame, it has to offer value to my photography. So called professional photographers scoff when I say I use an APS-C camera, but my clients are really happy with my work. It doesn’t matter if you have an EOS 1D X if you don’t know how to use it.

UPDATE [Aug, 19 2017]: I have talked to a lot of people, watched a lot of reviews and the general consensus is that it is not a good upgrade, some have even said that the original 6D is better overall. So I think I will pass on this occasion and stick with my 80D. Maybe Canon will add a pop-out rotating screen to the 5D Mk V? I will pay $3.5k for the 5D if it had an articulating screen as I use this feature every day.


Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix 2017

Vettel Wins 2017 Hungarian GP

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari will have a very happy holiday after finishing the Hungarian Grand Prix 1 – 2 with Vettel leading Kimi Raikkonen home despite suffering from steering issues since lap six, to extend his world championship lead to 14 points over title rival Lewis Hamilton going into the mid season break.

The Ferrari’s got away cleanly with pole sitter, Vettel exiting turn 1 in the lead, Max Verstappen made a stonking start to be challenging for third place with Valtteri Bottas pushing the Dutchman wide, meanwhile his Red Bull team mate, Daniel Ricciardo got better drive out of turn 1 to move ahead of both Lewis Hamilton, who made a poor start and Verstappen, who ended up colliding with Ricciardo in turn 2.

The stewards decided that it was squarely Verstappen’s fault handing him a 10-second time penalty which he served in his one and only pit stop. I agree with the stewards, Verstappen was super ambitious entering turn 2 way too fast, understeering into his team mate, damaging the Australians hydraulic system, spraying hydraulic fluid all over his wheels, sending him into a spin and out of the race.

The Red Bull incident brought out the safety car to clear Ricciardo’s car and clean up the fluid spill. During the lap 6 restart, Hamilton got a run on Verstappen into turn 1, only to be rebuffed by the 18-year-old, Hamilton tried again into turn 2 and again faced a robust defense to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately for Hamilton, that was the only overtaking attempt he managed to make on the Dutchman.

Verstappen led the race for nine laps after the Ferrari’s and Bottas made their tire stops. However, when the Dutchman finally pitted on lap 43, he fell back to fifth place behind the Ferrari and Mercedes duos.

Ferrari’s Raikkonen closed up to within DRS range of his Maranello team mate, Vettel, but never made an overtaking attempt on the ailing German’s car. The Finn repeatedly asked his Ferrari team if he could pass Vettel as he was being held up and feared a challenge from the Mercedes duo, but that request fell on deaf ears on the pit wall, ultimately it didn’t matter as neither Mercedes driver could make an impact.

On lap 46, Bottas moved aside in turn 1 for Hamilton, in a clearly orchestrated team order to chase down second place, Raikkonen, but Hamilton couldn’t get into a position to attempt to overtake the Finn, Raikkonen managed to stay more than one second ahead and out of DRS range for the most part. When it was clear that Hamilton couldn’t get the job done, Mercedes switched the driver positions back.

However, there was a problem, Max Verstappen had closed to within 1.5 seconds of Bottas, so Hamilton elected to let his team mate pass on the final corner of the race, stamping on the loud pedal as soon as Bottas slid up the inside to maintain fourth place crossing the line just 0.5 seconds ahead of Verstappen.

I have never liked team orders, however, I have to give kudos to Hamilton for giving third place back to Bottas as agreed. Especially as Bottas had fallen five seconds behind the Briton, Hamilton had to slow considerably, allowing a few drivers to unlap themselves for the Finn to catch up in what has to be considered a risky move, Hamilton could have easily lost fourth place if he had mistimed the switcheroo.

It was a great result for McLaren Honda taking the chequered flag in sixth and 10th place for the first double points score of the season. Just for a change, the Honda power unit remained reliable and the power deficit is less apparent on a tight and twisty track like Hungaroring. Alonso still had to make the difference, winning his race long battle with STR’s Carlos Sainz in the final third of the Hungarian GP.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:39.713
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0.908
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +12.462
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +12.885
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +13.276
6. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +71.223
7. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP
8. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
10. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +1 LAP

Formula 1 British Grand Prix 2017

Lewis Hamilton Celebrates With His Fans After Winning British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth British Grand Prix win, his fourth in a row leading Valtteri Bottas home in a Mercedes 1-2 finish. While it all unraveled for Ferrari with both drivers suffering front left tire failures in the closing two laps, despite this, Kimi Raikkonen still managed to finish on the podium for Maranello.

After the first start was aborted due to Jolyon Palmer stopping on the formation lap, the race got started in anger on lap 2 with Lewis Hamilton leading into turn 1 while Ferarri’s Sebastian Vettel made a poor start allowing Max Verstappen to move upto 3rd spot by turn 1, only to get balked by Raikkonen allowing Vettel to retake 3rd, but Verstappen hung in there to claim back the podium spot around the outside of turn 4.

Also on the first racing lap, the Toro Rosso drivers came together in the Maggots, Becketts, chapel complex, immediately ending Carlos Sainz’ race. Danill Kvyat recovered to the pits and continued but was later handed a drive-thru penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner, which caused the Toro Rosso’s to collide, ultimately destroying both drivers chances and brought out the safety car.

With a third of the race completed, Vettel made an attempt to pass Verstappen into Stowe at the end of the Hanger Straight, once again, Verstappen doggedly hung in there, both drivers leaving the track confines, battling side by side into Vale and Club, where Verstappen had the inside line pushing Vettel wide to retain his 3rd place, which triggered Ferrari into pitting Vettel for the undercut on the Dutchman.

The undercut worked brilliantly for Vettel and Ferrari, despite Red Bull pitting Verstappen the next lap in response, a momentarily misaligned wheel nut caused Verstappen vital seconds allowing Vettel to take third place. Meanwhile, Verstappen’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo had made his way upto 8th place after starting from 19th place due to turbo failure during qualifying 1 and subsequent MGU-H change.

After the usual mid-race lull in action, the last 10 laps saw Bottas catch and overtake Ferrari’s Vettel and Raikkonen thanks to his super soft tires, which he found himself on after starting on the harder ‘soft’ tires as part of his Mercedes team strategy after serving a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.

During laps 50 and 51, Ferrari’s race imploded with both drivers suffering a front left tire failure, which dropped Vettel all the way back to seventh from fourth place, while Raikkonen recovered to third place as his tire failure was not quite as bad as Vettel suffered. Verstappen, Ricciardo and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg all moved up one position to fourth, fifth and sixth respectively thanks to Vettel’s misfortune.

Ferrari’s tire issues have cost them big time, Sebastian Vettel’s drivers championship lead has been cut to just one point and Ferrari have fallen 55 points behind Mercedes in the constructors championship. Could this be the turning point of the season, will Ferrari fall away while we see a Mercedes resurgence? I hope that is not the case, I hope Ferrari can come back after this setback to keep Mercedes on their toes.

British Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:21:27.430
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +14.063
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +36.570
4. Max Verstapopen (Red Bull) +52.125
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +65.955
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +68.109
7. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +93.989
8. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP

Going back one day, it could’ve been very different if the FIA had taken action against Hamilton for blocking HAAS’ Romain Grosjean. The weak FIA have made, in my opinion, a bunch of political decisions in recent weeks to not affect the drivers title race. If rules are not to be applied fairly, then let’s just abandon rules and have anarchy on the track, in my mind, the FIA’s credibility is at an all time low.


Credit Cards; My Advice… Don’t Do It!

Burning Dollar

2 1/2 years ago, we were debt free and between my wife and I, we were earning a comfortable living and things were great. Then, we had a banking issue, i.e. Coventry Healthcare of Kansas double billed us for our medical insurance, nearly $700 was taken instead of the usual premium of $330, which in turn bounced our rent check, we were just $2 short of the check clearing, even after the double billing error.

I visited my local branch of Meritrust CU to discuss this situation and they suggested that I take out a credit card with them to cover these sort of circumstances in future. I’d be able to transfer funds from the credit card into our checking account to make up the shortfall for a small cash advance fee, which would have been much less than the $32 charged for insufficient funds to cover the bounced check.

I decided to take out a VISA credit card with a limit of $2,500 as we earned more than that amount and could pay off any balance within 30 days. A couple months after that, my wife lost her job and medical insurance which meant we were paying for her medication out of pocket, which came to close to $1,000 per month. To cut a long story short, I ended up with two more credit cards, a Discover and an AMEX

My wife found another job and things were OK for a while, we were paying down the credit card debt before another job loss for my wife, and the credit card balances increased again. Those balances amounted to $24,000 by October of 2016, at which time I took out a personal loan in an attempt to get control of the debt as my wife had been back in, what seemed like stable employment for six months.

Finances appeared to become more stable and I felt like we were once again making forward progress, but, of course that was not to last. In February 2017, my wife once again was made redundant, the community manager was transferred to another property and the incoming manager wanted to “bring in her own people”, leaving my wife out in the cold once again and us in dire financial straits.

Our saving grace was that we had received a $5,500 tax refund, which got us through the next five months of loan and credit card payments; which had growing balances due to having only one income, which is not enough to support a family of four. We had also leaned on credit cards heavily to get my wife certified as a real estate agent, in an attempt to launch a real estate career as being an employee wasn’t working.

12 months later, she hasn’t managed to become a buyer or sellers agent, so we have spent over $3,000 on certification and fees, including $600+ today for the latest batch of fees, which will nearly max out our VISA credit card. She has been applying for dozens of jobs every week without success and her unemployment benefits have been patchy due to bureaucracy because she attends university part-time.

After tomorrow, the tax refund runs out when I pay the $498 loan payment, however, my mother-in-law offered to give us $2,000 to help us out, I refused to take the money, instead stipulating that it be a loan rather than a gift. This loan from my mother-in-law will keep us afloat for another 6 – 8 weeks, when I hope to receive my inheritance from my father passing, which is tied up in probate in the UK right now.

In total, between the wife and I, we have over $50,000 in debt which includes a personal loan, car loan, four credit cards and four store cards, all of which are carrying a balance, the store cards combined equal about $3,500 in balances. I do expect to receive around $100,000 from my inheritance after paying lawyer fees. This will sound extremely harsh, but my father dying is the best thing he could have done for us.

I never had a good relationship with my father, but I will not speak ill of the dead. He had a lot of money he could have used to bring my family and I to the UK and set us up to have his only family around him, but he elected to not do that for some reason I cannot fathom. But, him passing will help us in other ways like helping us get out of debt and secure our financial future, so I guess I should thank him for that.

Of course, credit cards and loans charge interest, which is 14 – 17%, that comes to about $600 each month, roughly 60% of what we pay for the minimum payments. It goes without saying, we can’t afford to hemorrhage $600 a month in fees, but what option do we have other than to default on our loans and credit cards, I’ve looked at declaring bankruptcy and it’s a no go, we’d end up with absolutely nothing.

Bottom line here, if you can possibly avoid credit cards, do it. I had turned down credit card offer after credit card offer for the first 37 years of my life and wish that I had done so again given the dire situation we find ourselves in currently. It’s best to live within your means, if you can’t afford something, it’s better to do without than end up financially ruined should you have to default on cards and loans.


#NetNeutrality

Net Neutrality Definition

Yesterday saw an Internet-wide day of action with thousands of websites, big and small, including my own, highlighting the current FCC attack on net neutrality. New FCC Chairman, Ajit V. Pai is intent on deregulating Internet service providers, which would allow the likes of Verizon and Comcast to do all sorts of bad things to its customers access to the Internet, including blocking or slowing specific websites.

Net neutrality guarantees that all Internet traffic is treated equally, which was not the case before Tom Wheeler’s FCC reclassified ISP’s as Title II common carriers. Netflix was being artificially slowed by Comcast. Netflix paid Comcast for faster access to its network as the video streaming service was losing customers using Comcast’s Internet service because of the poor Netflix performance on its network.

Customers of Internet service providers pay a lot of money for high-speed access to the Internet and should the FCC deregulate ISP’s, these mega-cable networks could start charging extra for people who want to use video streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix and Hulu, or even TV streaming services such as Playstation VUE and Sling TV to force customers back to their own expensive cable TV packages.

It could have an even bigger impact, without Title II regulation, Internet service providers could block websites like news services they don’t like, or even blogs like mine who speak out against their service or even their beliefs. In simple terms, they could censor the Internet, just like the Chinese do, which creates an effective state-sponsored Internet service, which I’m sure the Trump administration would love to see.

Deregulation would allow ISP’s to sell your private Internet usage data to direct marketers and inject adverts into your Internet browsing experience, including hijacking 404 pages to display their partners’ message. Even worse, for example, they could redirect traffic from a liberal news website to conservative news websites to spread their own message, blocking free speech and the free press movement.

If, we are to deregulate ISP’s, which FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai is likely to force through, despite the millions of comments on the FCC website opposing the revocation on Title II classification for ISP’s. We need to have true competition across the whole country, unlike today where the country is carved up between the major cable companies meaning you’re stuck with whatever cable company operates in the area.

The big cable companies across the country want to block local authorities from building or allowing for municipal fiber networks. The state I reside in, Kansas tabled a bill that would block services like Google Fiber from setting up shop in other Kansas cities, such as Wichita, after the popularity of Google’s service in Kansas City took business away from the incumbent providers Cox Communications and AT&T.

This is why we need to preserve net neutrality and Title II to stop these monopoly cable companies from running roughshod over customers. The internet was designed to be free and open, not a curated resource controlled by gatekeepers, i.e. the big cable companies. This would be the start of the end of the free press, again, an agenda that the Trump administration seems to be keen to push forward with.

Finally, read this article by Timothy Karr below; it’s lengthy, but well worth the read;

Six Things Trump’s FCC Chairman Doesn’t Want You to Know About Net Neutrality