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Our home buying dreams are on hold!

Our home buying dreams are on hold

At the beginning of this month, I wrote about how we are ready to stop renting and buy a home, but after talking to two different mortgage lenders, first, our bank, Meritrust, and second, Sierra Pacific Mortgage, we are just not in the financial position to buy at this time, but we learned a lot about the process and what we need to do to put ourself in a position to buy a home without financially crippling ourselves.

Erin and I were not denied, we were conditionally approved for $180,000, based upon my income alone. Erin has been out of work since December 2020 and is trying to launch an online business, so her potential income is not calculated, and I didn’t have the $1,100 child support payment included as that will end in August 2022 when our son turns 18, and his biological father will stop paying child support.

Starting with Meritrust, we were given two options, a $130,000 20 year fixed with zero down, and a $155,000 30 year fixed with a 3% downpayment. The $130,000 option would require us to have 2 months of mortgage payment in our savings account, around the $2,600 mark, $500 of earnest money, and $3,950 in upfront costs. the $155,000 option would also require a 3% deposit of $4,650 in addition to the costs of the $130,000 option, monthly payment for each would be a little over $1,000, which is roughly what we pay in rent every month. But, as things stand, we are unable to save the required cash.

Moving onto Sierra Pacific, for the $180,000 we were approved for, the cash we would need is $11,400, this includes upfront fees, closing costs, and a 3.5% downpayment, and the monthly payment would come out at a little over $1,200 per month. I am not comfortable with a $1,200 payment, we are already struggling to make ends meet with a rent payment of $1,025 per month, and like the Meritrust option, we are unable to save the $11,400 needed. And the fact that I cannot roll in my personal loan, paying $557 on top of a $1,200 mortgage payment is a deal-breaker for me, I’m not interested in crippling ourselves.

I expressed that $1,200 per month is more than I’d like to pay and I would like to keep to around the $1,025 figure, which brings us to a $150,000 mortgage, which I am fine with. The downpayment, upfront fees, and closing costs would come down to around $10,000. This still does not roll in my personal loan, which brings us back to being a deal-breaker. The personal loan that I recently took out to consolidate all our debt is killing us in terms of obtaining a mortgage. That said, the individual credit card payments, plus another personal loan, to consolidate previous credit card balances amount to more money each month.

There have been some recent developments, Erin has recently gotten a full-time job pending a drug test, and background checks, which she should start in 2 weeks’ time. This will bring in roughly $29,000 per year after taxes, which, if we can be frugal could pay off the personal loan, and save $10,000 within the next 12 – 15 months. Erin’s income could not be included in future mortgage calculations as she would need 3 years of income history for it to be included, which is fine, I’m happy with a $150,000 home.

For now, I think we should wait 18 months and see where we are in January 2023 in terms of finances. This is assuming Erin can hold onto this job, as her health is not the best, and a full-time job might be too much for her. The second consideration is that I am no spring chicken, I turn 45 this October, and a 30-year commitment takes me to my mid-70s, and that’s assuming that I live to that ripe old age.


F1 British GP 2021: Memorable for the wrong reasons

F1 British GP 2021

I used to write race reports for all races, but stopped in 2020, as F1 was dull as dishwater with Hamilton and Mercedes dominating, but today is different, as there are some actual talking points other than Hamilton or Verstappen winning, but the Copse controversy is still regarding the same two protagonists.

I guess your opinion of what happened is based upon whether you fall into the Hamilton camp, or the Verstappen camp, personally, I don’t fall into either camp, I fall into the good, exciting racing camp.

After a punchy first half lap with Hamilton and Verstappen going wheel to wheel for the lead, the two drivers collided going into Copse corner at the end of the old start/finish straight at Silverstone, sending Verstappen spinning into the gravel and on into the tire barrier, ending the Dutchman’s race.

As a neutral, my take is it was a racing incident, both Hamilton and Verstappen could have done more to avoid a collision. Hamilton could have hugged the inside of the apex better, and Verstappen could have kept his foot in on the outside before cutting across the Mercedes, so I would say it was 50/50 blame.

The stewards, however, decided it was Hamilton’s fault and handed down a 10-second penalty, which he served during his pitstop. I have been very vocal about these penalties, for what I see as hard racing, even more so when it’s on the first lap where everyone is challenging for position up and down the field.

Of course, both respective team principles, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff were instantly on the radio to race director Michael Masi, Horner pushing for a penalty for Hamilton, Wolff defending his driver, which, we get to hear in 2021 after the radio messages between the race director and teams were opened up.

Max himself posted to his Facebook profile labeling Hamilton’s podium celebrations “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike” while he was in the hospital for precautionary reasons. It later turned out that Lewis did not know that Max was in the hospital, the Englishman showed concern for Verstappen after the incident, asking if Max was OK over team radio, this is pure sour grapes from Verstappen, and Red Bull.

Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko, being who he is, controversially stated that Hamilton should be given a race ban, which of course, is ridiculous, it should never have been a penalty, let alone severe enough for a race ban. If the argument is that Max could have gotten hurt, GTFO of the sport, F1 is inherently dangerous, even with all the safety measures, it’s time to put on their big boy pants and race.

In my opinion, there is too much (formerly) behind the scenes politicking going on, we, the fans want hard racing, deciding the result on the track, not in courtrooms and hearings. Since the FIA opened up team to FIA radio messages to the broadcasters, Masi said that the number of radio messages from teams has dropped significantly, now that the world can hear what whiny bitches team principles can be.

I’m happy that Hamilton won the race, I feel it would have been unfair if Hamilton had failed to win the race because of an unjust penalty. That said, I kinda wanted Leclerc to win the race, or at least put up a fight for the win, I guess that Leclerc thought better of defending into Copse, given what happened earlier, second place is better than a DNF, especially as Ferrari are rarely on the podium in recent years.


Euro 2020, so close, but it’s penalty heartbreak for England!

Euro 2020: Penalty Heartbreak For England

After reaching their first major tournament final in my lifetime, England’s hopes were dashed by another penalty shootout at Wembley, and the English will have to hark back to 1966 for the last major trophy.

Honestly, after England was embarrassed by part-timers Iceland at the Euro 2016 tournament, I have not followed the English national football team, so much so, that I didn’t even realize that England made it to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup, and I’d probably had missed Euro 2020 if it was not for one of the administrators on an F1 forum I am a moderator on posting asking who was watching the tournament.

I’m not going to blame the three penalty takers who missed, the blame has to go to Gareth Southgate, who, in my opinion, is too negative, being all too willing to sit on a single goal lead. I have maintained this stance since game one against Croatia, where I stated that a better team would punish England for sitting back and allowing their opponents to pass the ball and get into attacking positions.

And my fear came to fruition today, Luke Shaw opened the scoring for the English just before the 2-minute mark, then promptly fell back, inviting the Italians forward, allowing them space to pass the ball, which is shown in the match stats, the Italians had 19 shots on goal, compared to England’s six, 66% of the possession went to Italy, the stats don’t lie. On balance, Italy deserved the win, and frankly, Jordan Pickford kept England in the game making some excellent saves during the 90 minutes of regular time.

In addition to England’s negative mentality, Southgate was tactically poor, why wait so long to bring Jack Grealish on? as soon as he was brought on, England were playing much more positively, and on the attack, limiting Italy’s time on the ball. The bottom line here is that teams like Italy will find the back of the net, given half a chance. Maybe because England had a relatively easy run to the final, with Denmark being the stiffest competition, and England just scraped through that match with a dubious penalty call.

Playing for a 1—0 win is never a good idea, England need to push for a second while on the ascendency, and not give their opponents time to regroup, and come back at them. England’s strength is when on the attack, they create chances and goals when pushing forward, especially on the break, but Southgate’s mentality is not to push for a second or third goal, hoping his team can keep a clean sheet.

That said, all credit to Italy, to go a goal down inside 2 minutes, keeping their heads up, to keep pushing, to equalize in the second half, WELL DONE ITALY, EURO 2020 CHAMPIONS!


Contact Form 7: block all URL’s in contact forms

Contact Form 7: block all URL's in contact forms

As someone who maintains multiple websites for my employer, which use Contact Form 7 for form functionality, I have been struggling with spam submissions, despite using Google Recaptcha, Akismet, and Honeypot for Contact Form 7, I was still getting a crap ton of link spam through our website forms.

The existing spam prevention measures outlined above blocked most of the bot spam, but unfortunately not all spam, either more sophisticated bots or real people filling out the forms were still getting past the trio of spam prevention systems. I had been searching for a while, when I came upon this WordPress functions.php snippet on Github, linked from a Stack Overflow thread, I found from a Google search!

However, it was not perfect out of the box, it stopped anything with ‘www’, https’ and ‘https’ in the URL, but if would allow yourdomain.tld (i.e. .com) through, so I added ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’, ‘.xyz’, ‘.ga’, ‘.ly’ to the array, which are the most common URL extensions I receive spam from, see my altered code below;


add_filter( 'wpcf7_validate_text', 'no_urls_allowed', 10, 3 );
add_filter( 'wpcf7_validate_text*', 'no_urls_allowed', 10, 3 );
add_filter( 'wpcf7_validate_textarea', 'no_urls_allowed', 10, 3 );
add_filter( 'wpcf7_validate_textarea*', 'no_urls_allowed', 10, 3 );
function no_urls_allowed( $result, $tag ) {

	$tag = new WPCF7_Shortcode( $tag );

	$type = $tag->type;
	$name = $tag->name;

	$value = isset( $_POST[$name] )
		? trim( wp_unslash( strtr( (string) $_POST[$name], "\n", " " ) ) )
		: '';

	// If this is meant to be a URL field, do nothing
	if ( 'url' == $tag->basetype || stristr($name, 'url') ) {
		return $result;
	}

	// Check for URLs
	$value = $_POST[$name];
	$not_allowed = array( 'http://', 'https://', 'www.', '[url', '<a ', ' seo ', '.com', '.net', '.org', '.xyz', '.ga', '.ly' );
	foreach ( $not_allowed as $na ) {
		if ( stristr( $value, $na ) ) {
			$result->invalidate( $tag, 'URLs are not allowed' );
			return $result;
		}
	}
	return $result;
}

With the exception of my additional code for expanded functionality, I claim no credit for the above code, but I am very thankful to Gal Baras, who put this code up on Github. The battle with form spam has gotten out of hand, with dozens of spam messages received daily through our contact forms.

Finally, I did a test to make sure partial word matches are not blocked, for example, ‘complete’ or ‘network’, so you can use this script safely without fear of legitimate messages being blocked.


I’m done with renting; it’s time to buy a home!

It's time to buy a home

Recent events have made us reconsider renting a home, we pay $1,025 per month for a 4 bedroom house, in which we have lived since 2013, and it’s showing its age, everything is builders grade from appliances to carpets and blinds. But the reason we’re ready to buy our own home is that we got a $226.53 bill from the landlord to repair a broken window, which was broken by an unknown third party.

We are on a holdover lease from the previous landlord, which makes no mention of the resident being responsible for window breakages, it does make reference to an addendum A, but, I have not seen or agreed to this addendum. The new lease our current landlord wants us to sign basically says that other than the roof, the HVAC system, and included appliances is the responsibility of the resident to maintain. Which, given that we live in Kansas means that if a big storm comes along and the exterior of the home is damaged, sans roof, we would be responsible for the repairs. If we are responsible for the maintenance of the home, then we might as well buy, and build equity, instead of giving our money away.

In the eight years we have lived in this house, there have been 3 owners, and a rent increase of $225 per month, and it’s not a desirable area of the city to live in. We hear gunshots nightly and there is a bullet hole in our garage door, thankfully, the firewall stopped the bullet from entering our home.

When the current landlord took over ownership, they mentioned to my wife that they planned to replace the carpet with LVT flooring. My wife asked about this; and they said they would only do this if we signed a 12-month lease, as we are currently on the aforementioned holdover month-to-month lease, which would push the rental rate up to $1,095. The landlord said they would cut us a deal at the $1,095 rate as we were long-term residents, stating, the regular rate for the LVT flooring would be $1,225, and I don’t trust them to not bump us up to the higher rate at lease renewal time, next August (2022).

In my head, almost $1,100 is an unacceptable amount of money to pay for a rental, even more so, when we are responsible for 80% of the maintenance. I simply don’t understand why anyone would rent, other than not qualifying for a mortgage when most of the benefits of renting have been stripped away.

literally, I could buy this house for $175 a month less than the rental rate, which includes taxes, insurance, and mortgage rate.  I work for a property management company, I am not naive, I understand the owners want to maximize their profits, to recoup the cost of buying two dozen homes in the neighborhood as fast as possible. But, $1,095 per month is too much for a basic 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with 2 car garage with builders grade everything, we are not talking luxury living here.

Erin and I are going to go to our bank to see what sort of mortgage we can get for our income, I’m figuring we can afford a loan of between $140-150,000 and maintain a monthly payment of around $1,000. However, there are some caveats, whatever mortgage amount we get has to also cover the $18,000 consolidation loan that I recently took out, and it has to be for our income in 12 months, as we will be losing close to $1,100 per month in child support payments when our son turns 18 next August.

This is absolutely non-negotiable, a $557 loan payment on top of a $1,000 mortgage payment is impossible for a single income family like ours, my take-home income is roughly $2,500, which would leave us with about $900 to live on for a whole month after mortgage and loan payments.

The other challenge we’re going to have is finding somewhere ‘move-in ready’ in our price range, homes In the sub $150,000 price bracket go real quick. As much as I would love to buy a Victorian home with some work needed, it’s not practical, we cannot afford a mortgage payment and rent while the new purchase is being fixed up. This is a fucking nightmare, but as much as I hate moving, I don’t think staying at this house is the sensible thing to do, given we’ll have 75-80% of the responsibilities of homeownership, paying $13,000 a year, without the benefits of homeownership, like building equity.


Formula One 2021, there’s still hope!

Formula 1 2020, There's Still Hope

Last season, I stopped watching Formula 1 because it was boring, Mercedes were winning every race, with the exception of a few Max Verstappen victories when Mercedes dropped the ball, which has been the case for the past seven seasons, who wants to watch a sport where you already know the result?

I elected to not renew my subscription to F1TV Pro, for the reasons outlined above, but my interest in F1 was peaked in pre-season testing when Mercedes seemed to be struggling, and Red Bull claimed the fastest lap time on days 1 & 3 of testing. And based on this, I resubscribed to F1TV Pro, giving the sport another chance, and thus far, 8 races in, 2021 has been the most exciting season in many a year.

In the first eight races, we’ve had three winners, Max Verstappen with 4 wins, Lewis Hamilton with 3 wins, and Sergio Perez with a solitary win. Currently, Verstappen is leading Hamilton by 18 points in the championship, but that could have been more, but Hamilton definitely got lucky at Imola and Azerbaijan.

Hamilton spun into the gravel in Imola, losing a whole lap recovering back to the track, only for two Mercedes contracted drivers Valtteri Bottas and George Russell to collide soon after, causing a red flag, gifting Hamilton that lap back, allowing him to battle back up to 2nd place behind Verstappen.

In Azerbaijan, Verstappen had a tire blowout on the main straight pitching him into the wall while comfortably leading the race. Verstappen’s retirement would have put Hamilton back into the WDC lead if he finished second, but Hamilton messed up the restart after the ensuing red flag, hitting the ‘magic’ button, which effectively turns off the rear brakes, resulting in the British driver going straight on at turn 1, dropping him to the back of the field, meaning the WDC points remained the same as before the race.

Moving onto 2 weeks ago at the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, this was the best race of the season, it had it all. Verstappen started from pole position, made a mistake in turn 1 gifting Hamilton the lead, to reclaim the lead in the first round of stops, Mercedes underestimating the power of the undercut. Red Bull played a strategic masterstroke bringing in Verstappen for a second stop, as Hamilton was on the back of his gearbox. Which at the time seemed ill-advised, but Red Bull and Verstappen proved us wrong, chasing down and passing Hamilton for the lead by the time the chequered flag was waved.

But, last week, at the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull ring, in my opinion, it swung too far in the other direction, with Verstappen easily winning the race, Hamilton and Mercedes had no answer to Red Bull’s pace. I consider myself neutral, I want to see good racing, not one driver or team dominating. Red Bull dominating is no more appealing to me than Mercedes dominating. We’ve had 11 years of first, Red Bull, then Mercedes dominating the sport, this is not good for the health of the sport, in my opinion.

I know this is an unpopular view, but I’d rather see an F1 spec series where the drivers make the difference, not who has the best car. I’d love to see Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell, Alonso, and Vettel going head to head with effectively the same car, that will truly make F1 an exciting sport.


SCAM! Expire Warning: IMMEDIATE Renewal Required

Domain SEO Service Registration Corp Scam 2021

Our old friends at Domain SEO Service Registration Corp are back with a different, but the same scam, this time instead of SEO, its certificates, I assume SSL certificates, although the email does not mention SSL, I just cannot think of any other certificate that would apply to domain name registrations.

Here’s the full email I received, sans personal information;

This message is to communicate to you that your bill number f0319016c3794645851d2a754abc2e6b due on 2021-06-19 is SUSPENDED. Please make sure that you make payment AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to prevent any TERMINATION of service to [REDACTED].COM certificate.

Do take note that if no payment is made in the next 3 business days, your data will be purged and deleted.

https://aedomainwebmgno.ga/?xid=[REDACTED]

The domain administrator currently on file is [REDACTED].

Disclaimer statement: We can’t be held legally liable for any claims, damages or losses that you may incur because of the cancellation of [REDACTED].COM. Any such damages may include but are not solely restricted to: monetary losses, deleted data without saved backups, loss of SEO positions, lost appointments, undeliverable e-mails or any other service, technical or business damages that you may incur. to learn more please refer to section 7. a7 of our Terms of Service.

This is the final renewal notification that we are required to send out about the expiration of [REDACTED].COM certificate.

https://aedomainwebmgno.ga/?xid=[REDACTED]

All online services will be restored automatically on [REDACTED].COM upon receipt of payment. We thank you for your attention and continued business.

The first thing that raised alarm bells is the .ga domain link, which is a top-level domain for the central African nation of Gabon. I copied and pasted the link into my Linux virtual machine and the link itself is safe, from what I can see, it just takes you to a payment page; see screenshot below.

Domain SEO Service Corp Scam Checkout Page

Another big red flag other than the Domain SEO Service Registration Corp emblazoned on the footer, is the fact that when you click the Contact Us link at the top of the page, the address shown is “1000 Fifth Street, Suite 200, Miami Beach, FL 33139”, whereas the footer shows “707 SW Washington St, STE 1100, Portland, OR 97205, US”. Finally, none of the links in the footer work, they didn’t even bother to change the text select cursor to a hand cursor in CSS, to at least make it appear to be a genuine link.

But wait, there’s more, if you remove the “xid=abc123” from the link, to go to the root of the domain at aedomainwebmgno.ga, i.e. what should be the home page simply shows a white page with “Site Name not found”, genuine companies will have a homepage for their business. And, the domain, ironcladecertifications.com, from which the email was sent, also results in a white page with no content.

I write this blog in the hope that people find it and not get scammed by these people. it’s a variation on a theme, but this tack is new, and I cannot find anything specifically related to this Email on Google, don’t get scammed, if you receive such an email, please delete it, don’t give them your credit card info.


Working for Free! A Bone of Contention Between Wifey and I!

Giving Away Photography Services For Free

Back in the day, I used to be a soft touch, helping out people, even if it cost me financially, helping out with IT/computer-related things. But, I stopped and changed my attitude, as said people who I had done favors for, started expecting me to be at their beck and call, and when I said I would be charging them in the future, they threw a fit and broke off contact with me. This is fine, good riddance, I don’t need people like this in my life. I only ever help out immediate family now, for cost, which could be nothing, or if tools or components are required, I expect them to pay for it, I’m not going to be out of pocket myself.

A few weeks ago, I did a real estate shoot for a friend of a family member, for which I charged $75. There was an issue with payment, the person who I did the shoot for, mistakenly wrote “James Lewis” on the check. which I obviously cannot cash. I contacted the person and explained what had happened and she said she would send out another check with the correct name on it. I went out to the mailbox today to see if the check had been received, and it had not, I mentioned to my wife, Erin, what had happened, and she said “if the roles were reversed, you’d be on my ass about it”, her exact words, and I pointed out that she continued to give away her photography services for free, so it’s not the same situation. And it’s not like I have just said, oh well, I lost that money, I have been working to resolve the payment issue.

This caused an argument, and the crux of Erin’s argument is that she is helping out people who cannot afford professional photos. My take is if these people cannot afford professional photos, they will have to take photos on their smartphone, and be happy with that. The over $7,000 worth of camera gear is not free, nor is the computer I built for Erin to do photo editing, nor is the fuel used to get to the location. This was supposed to be a business, which has failed; and if Erin had set up an LLC, and gotten a business loan for the camera gear, she would not have had a camera to use, as it would have been liquidated as part of the company being wound up, but I bankrolled it with my inheritance from my father.

I said that Erin would have to pay me back for the camera gear, or sell it and give all the funds from the sale to me. Of course, I’m not going to do that, I said that to make a point. It’s supposed to be a business, where the object is to make a profit, not a charity for poor people to get professional photos. In four years, Erin has made less than $600, 17% of the cost of her Canon EOS 5D MkIV camera body.

We have invested a further $2,500 in lenses and another $1,000 in lighting over the years. And I’m sick of it, using our personal finances, which are not in the greatest shape, to bankroll her business ideas. Erin now has another business idea of running a website selling alternative/pagan products, for which we have sunk another $400 into from our personal finances, setting up an LLC and paying for hosting fees. I keep on telling her to get a business plan together, get a bank loan, and set up a business bank account, which she has not done, expecting personal finances to bankroll her idea until it’s profitable.

Erin is convinced that there won’t be a problem with intermingling personal and business finances until a business is profitable. My understanding is that if you use personal finances to fund a business, that leaves you open to creditors coming after you personally if the business fails. I can understand paying for the setup of the LLC from your personal finances, as you cannot get a business bank account without LLC formation documentation, but beyond that, I fear we are leaving ourselves open to losing everything should the business fail, with personal assets like our cars, computers, etc being subject to liquidation.

Anyway, back to the photography ‘business’, Erin is in poor health, often when she gets back from a free photoshoot, she is in serious pain and needs to lay down for hours to recover. Due to her health issues, Erin has asked me to come along to help as she cannot get into the positions necessary to get the shots she wants. So in addition to the financial costs, there are physical costs associated, which confuses me, and I worry about Erin’s health. Doing these free shoots often leave her incapacitated. If it was a paid gig, I could understand it, but not free shoots when it has a negative effect on her physically and us financially.

I, personally refuse to work for free, my time is valuable, and my logic is simple, if I pass on a shoot because they want a ‘free sample’, I have made nothing, but doing the shoot also makes me zero dollars, so I have not lost anything. Realtors would not waive their commission, so why should I waive my fee?

Am I being a douchbag for not supporting Erin doing all this ‘charity’ work? If it was at no cost to us, I wouldn’t be so annoyed, but, like I said before, the camera gear is not free, electricity is not free, fuel is not free, the costs per shoot may be minimal, but when you do dozens of shoots, those costs mount up.


Spider Bite!

Spider Bite!

After almost 45 years of life, I received my first ever spider bite and it was a doozy, causing a $2,774 Emergency Room visit, and a week of pain and limited movement of my left arm due to inflammation around the bite. Even now, 12 days later, it still has not fully healed, albeit much better than a week ago.

Back to when the bite occurred, it was Friday, May 28 at around 1 o’clock in the afternoon while taking real estate photos at one of my employer’s units. As I like to prepare the unit to look the best it can, on occasion I will move lightbulbs from one room to another, if some bulbs are burnt out, which is what I was doing when I was bitten by a brown recluse. As I was taking down the glass dome, a spider’s nest fell from the dome, brushing against my arm, clearly, this is when the bite occurred, even if I didn’t feel it.

As I didn’t immediately realize that I had been bitten, I continued about my day, visiting another property before heading back to my office to process the photos. I even had my weekly Skype chat and game of Snooker Nation with my good friend James (Copper Ice), before finally realizing something was wrong about 11pm when I settled down for bed, and I felt some extreme chills and pain in my arm, this is when I realized I had been bitten. I should have immediately gone to the Emergency Room but hoped it would clear up of its own accord, as I knew it would be expensive, even with medical insurance.

Fast forward 48 hours and my left hand is starting to go numb in addition to a nasty looking infection developing on my arm, so I stopped being a stubborn [expletive] and let my wife, Erin take me to the Emergency Room. Where after a 20-minute wait I was escorted back to a cubicle, and the on-duty doctor looked at my arm, confirmed it was a spider bite, and said she would prescribe me a course of antibiotics, the rest of my visit was giving my life story and billing information, before being discharged.

Erin and I picked up my prescription at a 24 hour Walgreens, and I took the first of the 20 horse pills prescribed as soon as we got home. I really did not see too much improvement until a week after the bite when the pain finally started to subside, although the redness and inflammation were still prevalent. As I write this, with just two antibiotic pills remaining, it feels much better, and the inflammation is reducing.

As this was a workplace incident, I have started the process of claiming workers’ compensation, in the hope that I can get reimbursed for medical bills incurred. Which, despite my Aetna medical insurance not covering a penny, Aetna’s ‘in network’ discount did reduce the billed amount to $620.82, which is more manageable, but more than I can afford to pay, being a single income family at the moment. I have done my part, it’s now down to whether workers’ compensation insurance is going to fight me or not.


KEH.com – my first experience of buying used camera gear

My first experience of buying used camera gear

In my previous blog, I wrote about my issues with spending money on myself, eluding to the purchase of a used Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Art lens from KEH. Today, I write about my experience of buying used camera gear from KEH, something I had previously shied away from, fearing ending up with non-working gear.

I had been lusting after this lens for some time to improve my real estate photography work, I have felt for a while that my Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L was holding me back, I wanted a little more of a wide-angle lens to get the shots I really wanted. So, when I saw the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Art lens for $885, a whopping $715 off the new price, I took the plunge and ordered the lens from KEH, still fearing I’d end up with junk, due to previous bad experiences with buying non-camera gear on the used market.

The buying process was simple, just like buying from Amazon or any other web store, but I had some reservations, the biggest being the disclaimer “Item pictured for illustrative purposes only, actual item not pictured.” being posted on the product page. My first thought was “why are they not showing the actual lens?”, especially when paying 45% less than the MSRP, wondering if it’s too good to be true?

The lens arrived on the date promised, but do note that if you order on the weekend, the item does not ship until Monday, I paid for 2-day shipping, but unlike Amazon, those two days do not include weekends. Unfortunately, they shipped it by FedEx, who I cannot stand, because they just drop the item outside your door, and run, they do not ring the doorbell, or knock on the door. The only way I know it’s arrived is because I signed up to FedEx.com, and they send me a text when it has been delivered. And on this occasion, the FedEx delivery driver left my $885 package six feet from my front door, in plain view of the whole street, and out in the open, on an intermittently rainy day, rather than on my covered porch.

I brought the package inside, with great anticipation, hoping that my new lens is in good condition and functional. I opened the box, which was well packaged with bubble wrap, and found the lens case, which I unzipped to find the lens, with the back of the lens facing me, sending alarm bells ringing in my head, as the back cap was very scuffed up. I proceeded to pull the lens from the case, and looked at the front cap, which had significant scuffs on it, further fueling my paranoia. The lens itself was in excellent condition, which according to KEH is 80-89% of the new condition, with only one minor scratch on the side of the lens, with the glass elements front and back being in flawless condition, leaving me a happy chappie.

Of course, the next step was to test it to make sure it’s fully functional. I attached my new SIgma lens to my Canon EOS 6D MkII, and everything worked as expected, auto-focus functioned quickly and accurately, with no issues on the photos taken, other than some dust on the lens, which was quickly fixed with a wipe of a cleaning cloth. Leaving me satisfied with my purchase, given the much-reduced price I paid.

Based upon the grading standards that KEH uses and displays on their website, from my single experience, I think they are honest about the condition of their products. Although I do wish they took photos of the product you receive, so potential buyers can make a decision before buying it. That said, I would recommend KEH, and would certainly purchase again from, as a source of good quality used gear.