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Financial Woes, Part (I Don’t Know, I’ve Lost Count)

Keeping Our Heads Above Water, Barely

Eight months ago, we were in dire financial trouble, to the point of defaulting on a car loan, personal loan and four credit cards with a total of $65,000 in balances. At that time, it was impossible for me to enjoy life, every waking thought was about the dire financial situation we were in, wondering where the money to make the minimum credit card/loan payments were coming from, to the point of making myself sick.

That issue was solved in the nick of time by a $107,000 inheritance payment from my late father’s estate. I paid off $70,000 in debts, $65,000 in personal/car loans and credit cards plus another $5,000 paying back loans from family members that kept us afloat. We spent $10,000 on better camera gear for my wife’s new photography business, $6,000 deposit, which is half of the cost of a new(er) car for my wife.

This brings us up to $86,000, leaving $21,000 in savings, which has mostly been used to pay off fresh credit card balances, and a whole host of unexpected expenses, like a new lawn mower after ours went up in a cloud of smoke, and we have to spend $1,250 getting treated for bed bugs, for the third time in 3 years, our best guess is the kids are bringing them home from school, the kids don’t go anywhere else.

I let my wife spend $5 – $6,000 on ‘things’, I’m not even sure what, 8 – 10 live music events booked, some still upcoming, which I guess would come to around, maybe $1,500, plus using savings to cover the shortfall on monthly bills, now we are looking at having $1,850 remaining in savings after paying the latest round of credit card balances. We have plans on spending a long weekend in Arkansas next month, which is in jeopardy as the money earmarked for the trip has been wiped out by the bed bugs treatment.

Outside of the normal monthly utilities, I have a $140/mo car payment, $125/mo for a payment for a new washer and dryer we purchased a few months back and $46/mo for insurance for the aforementioned camera equipment. I need to look at all the money we have coming in and come up with a financial plan moving forward, which almost certainly will mean cuts in services we consume every month.

Now, I am here, back with all the financial burden on my shoulders, I can feel the stress and tension building up. I’m getting that sick feeling in my stomach as I know as things stand, our income is not enough to pay all our bills and buy groceries. I do not want to go down the road of using credit cards to make up the shortfall again as that is how we ended up in $65,000 in debt in just 3 years to start with.

Unfortunately, my wife’s businesses including photography and real estate have flopped thus far, we are about minus $13,000 on the photography side and roughly minus $2,500 on the real estate side. My wife works part-time which allows her to concentrate on her business projects, that part-time work brings in about $800/mo on top of my full-time income of about $2,100/mo net salary and $450 of other income.

I don’t want to tell my wife to give up on her business dreams, but it’s not working out, and the financial buffer of the savings is dwindling fast. It’s soon going to be time for her to find full-time work, we cannot continue to keep spending on a loss-making venture, the real estate venture has yielded just $1,000 in 3 years and only $200 in 7 months for the photography business, which is obviously not sustainable.

This all makes me feel depressed and like a failure, I am unable to provide for all my family’s needs.


A New Low For Trump / Separating Immigrant Children From Parents

Immigrant Children Separated From Their Parents and Caged Up In Detention Centers

I don’t often write about our elected president, not because I agree with anything he has done or tried to do, but, because I don’t have enough time to write about all the stupid and diabolical things he has done. But, I feel I need to express my feelings about his latest actions in regard to separating illegal immigrant children from their parents, for no reason other than crossing into the US illegally for a better life.

On April 6, 2018, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions sent out a zero tolerance order for people crossing the US/Mexico border illegally. This order includes separating children from their parents at the border, the parents are sent for criminal prosecution while the children, who cannot be held criminally responsible are taken, distraught, screaming and crying to separate holding locations around the US.

Let’s be clear, anyone that believes causing children, immigrant or otherwise unnecessary emotional distress, which often has long-lasting effects is acceptable has a cold black heart. And, those in the Trump administration that consistently lie to defend the administration’s policies, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, and Kirstjen Nielsen, well, as Madeline Albright said “there’s a special place in hell” for these people.

Now, this is where it gets really dark, Trump, all but admitted, that this ‘zero tolerance’ policy was a way to force Democrats in Congress to vote in favor of giving Trump $25 billion for his border wall, which, of course, was one of his campaign promises, albeit without Mexico footing the bill as Trump promised over and over again on the campaign trail. Trump is literally holding these children hostage, blaming the whole situation on a non-existent Democratic ‘loopholes’, which Trump’s base laps up enthusiastically.

Obviously, there has been a massive backlash, the majority of Americans can’t watch and listen to children crying as they are being ripped away from their parents and accept it, which forced Trump to sign an executive order, which allows children to stay with their parents, but this does not affect the over 2,300 children that have already been separated, probably because of the reasons in the paragraph below.

Some reports have suggested that some immigrant parents have already been deported without their children. It has also been reported by some that there is no solid plan for reuniting families when the parents are inevitably deported, which does not surprise me in the slightest, Donald J Trump and his cronies have no clue, they literally could not successfully organize a piss-up in a brewery.

We should also note that the administration has tried to justify the separation of children by claiming that a lot of illegal immigrants are trafficking children, and that the adults are not the true parents of the removed children. Something that the administration has provided no real evidence of being true.

Bottom line here is that the powers that be in the United States of America are using blackmail to get their way, basically holding children hostage, in this immigration crisis and while the GOP were pushing their spending bill and tax ‘reform’, holding CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Dreamers hostage. It’s disgraceful that our leaders are using hostage-taking tactics to pass their self-serving bills.

Then, to add insult to injury, Trump’s wife, Melania, decided it would be a good idea to wear a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” emblazoned on the back as she boarded a plane on her way to a compassionate visit to one of the centers where immigrant children are being held. Melania’s spokesperson said “it’s a jacket, there was no hidden message”, only to be contradicted by her husband, the idiot and chief, saying it was an attack on the fake news media, which, came in the form of a tweet.

To conclude, we live in a time where our politicians are a law unto themselves, there is zero accountability, at least if you play for team red. This is why it’s massively important that we flip the house and senate blue in November, so we can put a stop to the open corruption before it is too late, There are self-serving assholes on the Democrat side too, but it’s far worse on the Republican side of Congress.


Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix 2018

Sebasitan Vettel Wins The 2018 Canadian Grand Prix

The best way to describe the 2018 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix is forgettable, with the main talking point of the race being the premature waving of the chequered flag by Winnie Harlow, causing the race result to be classified on lap 68 instead of the scheduled 70, due to an obscure FIA sporting rule. Luckily, despite the flag mishap, it had no effect on the result, other than Daniel Ricciardo losing his fastest lap.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen made the start somewhat exciting, getting alongside Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas going into the left-hander at turn 1, and despite hanging on around the outside of turn 2, ultimately lost out, having to settle for third. Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo also made a good start, getting ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at turn 1 into 2, meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel disappeared into the distance.

A few moments later, Toro Rosso’s Brendan Hartley was attempting an overtake of Williams’ Lance Stroll on the outside of turn 5 into 6, when stroll had an oversteer moment forcing Hartley into the wall at turn 5, which caused both driver’s races to end just 30 seconds into the race at the runoff area of turn 6.

Predictably, being Canada, this prompted the safety car to neutralize the race while the two cars were recovered. The race restarted on lap five and a big nothing happened, everyone maintained their position, with the exception of Force India’s Sergio Perez, who tangled with Renault’s Carlos Sainz going into turn 1, with the former losing half dozen positions as a result, much to the chagrin of the Mexican.

During the first round of pitstops, Daniel Ricciardo leapfrogged Lewis Hamilton for 4th place, Hamilton was down on power, according to Mercedes after their planned engine change for Montreal was scrapped due to reliability issues with the new power unit. Speaking of reliability issues, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso suffered another retirement with a broken exhaust causing engine overheating issues.

That’s about all she wrote for the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix, next to no on-track overtaking, a few crashes and a procession at the front after the first round of stops. Race winner, Vettel never looked challenged in his lights to flag (twice) victory, there was some potential drama in the closing stages of the race with Hamilton seemingly closing on Ricciardo for 4th, but it fizzled out with Ricciardo faster out of the hairpin.

This Canadian Grand Prix has really highlighted the issues with the current F1 regulations, with drivers lifting and coasting to preserve fuel and running at a slower ultimate pace to save tires. Even with 3 DRS zones, overtaking was a virtual no-go, I’m not sure how many, if any overtakes were made, I don’t remember a single on-track overtake during the entire Canadian GP, making for an extremely dull race.

If nothing else, the Canadian GP has set up the European leg of the season nicely with Vettel taking a 1 point lead over Hamilton in the world drivers championship with Mercedes seemingly on the back foot. I believe that 2018 could be Ferrari’s championship to lose with Mercedes nowhere near their ultimate performance, but, like last season, Ferrari could be their own worst enemy with unforced blunders.

Canadian Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:28:31.377
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +7.376
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +8.360
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +20.892
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +21.559
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +27.184
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1 LAP
9. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1 LAP

Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix 2018

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his hard fought victory at the Monaco Grand Prix 2018

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo got ‘redemption’ for the Monaco victory that was stolen away from him in 2016 by a Red Bull pitlane blunder. But, it was not an easy victory for Ricciardo, who lost his battery boost on lap 18, having to race 77% of the race with 160 less horsepower than his rivals, and as a result of the MGU-K failure, his rear brakes were overheating and effectively had two fewer gears than his rivals.

Ultimately, it was still Monaco, which, I believe is the dullest, most processional race of the entire season, an opinion that I have held since I started watching F1 back in 1992. So, there isn’t much to write about, despite the battle Ricciardo had with his own car as much as Vettel, who couldn’t take advantage of the ailing car of Ricciardo, despite a significant power advantage over the Australian’s Red Bull RB14.

Williams had a nightmare race in Monaco, which started before a wheel was turned in anger. The Williams crew failed to have all four wheels on Sergey Sirotkin’s car by the 3-minute warning on the grid, which triggered a 10 second stop/go penalty. And, when the penalty was served on lap 8, Williams found themselves under investigation for working on the car in the pit box during the penalty period. Which, Williams were later found innocent, they only used cooling fans to keep the car cool while stationary.

I really wonder what has gone wrong at Williams? Which, if you force me to pick a team, would be my favorite. Seriously, not having the wheels on the car on the grid in time, the complete lack of pace, qualifying near or at the back of the grid often, with two pay drivers, who clearly are not good at developing the car. It truly saddens me to see how the formerly great F1 team have fallen from grace.

At the midpoint of the Grand Prix, it looked like the hardest of the available tire compounds, the super soft tire was the race tire to be on, the mid-pack was running faster lap times than the leaders, running the ultra-soft tire. Which turned on its head, later in the race, as drivers who started on the ultra-soft tires, then switched to the hyper-soft tires about 30 laps from the chequered flag were the cars on the move.

This saw Carlos Sainz drop back from eighth to 10th place as Renault teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was recovering from 20th place, overtook the Spaniard using the softer, stickier hyper-soft tire. But, then the challenge fizzled out as the pair cruised up to the back of Pierre Gasly, despite Gasly being on the slower super-soft tire, Monaco’s famous lack of overtaking struck again.

Other events of note were Fernando Alonso’s retirement from 7th place on lap 52 with a gearbox issue, which I presume is doing nothing to convince the Spaniard to stay with McLaren or maybe, even F1. And, Charles Leclerc suffering a total brake failure coming out of the tunnel going into the chicane, and, despite trying his best to avoid a collision, he plowed into the back of Brendan Hartley’s Toro Rosso.

As much as I am happy to see Daniel Ricciardo get his ‘redemption’, it only happened because of the nature of Monaco, if it was a dedicated race track, there would be no way that Ricciardo would have been able to hold onto the victory being 160bhp down. Not, that this will happen, but I feel it’s time to reevaluate the principality’s place on the Formula 1 calendar, I for one, won’t miss it if it gets canned.

Monaco Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:42:54.807
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +7.336
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +17.013
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +18.127
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +18.822
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +23.667
7. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +24.331
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +24.839
9. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +25.317
10. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +69.013

Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix 2018

Second Vettel/Ferrari Pit Stop, Spanish GP, 2018

The Spanish Grand Prix started out with a bang with Grosjean’s orchestrated carnage, before immediately declining into a bore-fest. The 2018 Spanish, or “Spainish” GP will immediately be forgotten in my mind.

Lewis Hamilton made an excellent start from pole position to lead the pack into turn 1, while title rival, Sebastian Vettel picked up a tow from Hamilton to sweep around the outside of Valtteri Bottas to move into second position. This was before, the turn 3 carnage caused by Romain Grosjean spinning out in a cloud of tire smoke through the turn 3 right-hand sweeper, taking out, not only himself but also Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and STR’s Pierre Gasly, bringing out the safety car while marshals cleared the track.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso clean drove around the outside of Force India’s Esteban Ocon at turn 3 after the restart to move into the points, meanwhile Hamilton was quietly building his lead, which was more than 10 seconds by lap 18. At which time, Vettel pitted for fresh rubber, moving onto the medium tire, but got held up by Kevin Magnussen for two laps. The German had to make a late dive past Magnussen to maintain his second position ahead of Bottas as the Finn had stopped and was exiting the pit lane.

On lap 25, the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen seemed to make a move towards the pit lane, then suddenly aborted, allowing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to slip by at the final corner. But, it was race over for Raikkonen as he failed to accelerate down the straight, also being passed by the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Raikkonen was left to limp back to the Ferrari pits and into retirement from the race.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on the next lap, also switching to the white marked medium tire, to rejoin the track in 2nd place behind Verstappen, who had not stopped yet. Verstappen finally pitted nine laps later, relinquishing the lead back to Hamilton, where the Englishman stayed until the end of the race in what has to be considered a dominant performance. Verstappen rejoined the track in 4th place ahead of his Red Bull teammate, a few laps before Ocon stopped on the side of the road, causing a VSC period.

During this VSC period, Vettel unexpectedly pitted to put on fresh medium tires while everyone else, bar Force India’s Sergio Perez continued on track under the VSC delta times. This cost Vettel and Ferrari big time, not only losing out to Bottas, but also, Verstappen, rejoining the track in 4th place after a slow stop, which Maranello blamed on Perez pitting at the same time, and not wanting to risk an unsafe release. In my view, it was a poor strategic call, that cost them two places, blaming Force India is a BS excuse.

Meanwhile, during the VSC period, Verstappen had his fifth collision in five races, driving into the back of Williams’ Lance Stroll. The Dutchman damaged his front wing, which, luckily for him, didn’t seem to hinder his pace, managing to maintain a gap to Vettel to claim his first podium of the 2018 season. The final action of the race was Fernando Alonso claiming 8th place from the restart after the VSC, the Spaniard caught Charles Leclerc down the start/finish straight to complete the move into turn one.

As ever with the 2018 season so far, we have some controversy in regard to the -0.4mm change of tire tread, which many see as an advantage for Mercedes who benefitted from a major change of fortune using the new Pirelli rubber. Of course, Mercedes have rubbished these claims, as you would expect, but many Ferrari fans have been pushing the conspiracy theory that Pirelli, The FIA and Mercedes colluded on this change to advantage the silver arrows. I’m not convinced by the narrative myself, what do you think?

Spanish Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:35:29.972
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +20.593s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +26.873s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +27.584s
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +50.058s
6. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1 LAP
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) +2 LAPS
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +2 LAPS

F1.TV Pro: Initial Impressions

F1.TV Pro Screenshot, May 12, 2018

At the beginning of the year, it was announced that Liberty Media would be launching an enhanced F1 streaming service, and it went live this race weekend, five races into the season at the Spanish Grand Prix.

My initial impression is that the service is just OK, it’s comparable in quality to that of ESPN on PlayStation VUE. I’m hoping that the service gets better over time, they have a year before I have to pay again for the service. If it does not improve by the time my year-long subscription expires, I will not be renewing.

Down to the nitty-gritty, the video streaming quality is sub-par in this day and age, although I can’t say for sure as there is no indication of quality on the stream, I would estimate that video quality is around 720p. I would have expected at least 1080p for the money. And it’s definitely not an internet connection issue, I have a 1Gbps symmetrical fiber Internet connection, which could handle multiple 4K streams with ease.

Sound, although high enough quality has issues with sync with video; from what I could see and hear, the audio is 2 – 3 second behind the video. The English commentary team was abruptly cut off mid-sentence on a number of occasions with 5 – 10 seconds of silence before resuming commentary. The sync issues were apparent as drivers crossed the line to set their time, with the commentators reacting seconds later.

There were more issues with the audio feed between the qualifying sessions. Ant Davidson could be heard at the Sky Pad, while the world feed continued on, showing video unrelated to the audio. Liberty Media needs to either cut the commentary feed during these breaks or do some sort of deal to show the video accompanying the audio that is being streamed, instead of the current disjointed presentation.

The option to view a selectable driver onboard camera does not have audio, except for the team radio communications. Frankly, it feels weird watching an F1 car racing around the track in silence, the car camera feeds need to have the audio from the car to make it feel like you are riding with the driver.

A couple of other niggly things, the timeline/scrubbing overlay remains onscreen at all times, sometimes obscuring graphics. The other player controls disappear, but the timeline remains, which I find distracting. I understand that this is a brand new service, but some of these issues seem like rookie mistakes, other streaming services don’t have these issues. F1.TV need to make improvements quickly.

Finally, it would be nice to have more payment options, currently F1.TV Pro only accepts VISA, Mastercard, and Maestro (UK) cards. I would have preferred to use my Discover over my VISA, and I don’t have a Mastercard. A PayPal option would solve this as PayPal accepts all major credit cards.

Full disclosure: I am watching the qualifying replay using Microsoft’s Edge browser, which I find to be the best browser for streaming. I’m running a Ryzen 1800X with 32GB of DDR4 3000mhz and all solid-state storage with a symmetrical 1Gbit Internet connection. I have not, as yet, tested the Android or Apple apps for F1.TV, I prefer to watch F1 on a larger screen, 5 to 10-inch phones and tablets just don’t cut it for me.

Update [May, 17 2018, 16:09]: Since I wrote my initial impression of F1.TV Pro last Saturday, improvements have been made, the archives have filled out considerably and the commentary/FX on archives and on car cameras are now selectable, at least in Chrome, still not working in Edge as I write this. Also, the scrubbing/timeline bar now disappears on Chrome, but remain in Edge. So improvements are being made, but it still seems your experience depends on which browser you elect to use.


Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018

Ricciardo Rear Ends Verstappen At Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton wins a chaotic Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix, from what looked like a third-place finish four laps from the end of the race, to say Hamilton was “lucky” is the understatement of the year.

The chaos started immediately, everyone seemed to get through turn 1 cleanly, but, that all changed in the run out of turn 2, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin was squeezed into Fernando Alonso’s McLaren by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, Alonso suffering a double puncture, but limped back to the pits and continued. More carnage ensued at turn 3, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen dived down the inside, only for Force India’s Esteban Ocon for turn in on the Ferrari driver, by turn 3, Sirotkin and Ocon were already out.

All this meant the safety car was deployed to clear up the debris from the track, meanwhile, in addition to Alonso’s unplanned pit stop, Raikkonen joined him in the pits for a set of fresh yellow marked soft tires and a new front wing, thanks to the safety car period, neither driver were out of contention in the race.

On the lap six restart, there was no change for the podium positions, but the ever opportunistic Max Verstappen dived down the inside of his Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo for fourth place, and as a result of giving Verstappen space, Ricciardo also lost 5th place to Carlos Sainz in the Renault.

Over the next five laps, The Renault duo, Sainz, and Hulkenberg took advantage of their faster purple ultra-soft tires to move past both Red Bulls to run in fourth and fifth places. Then disaster struck for Hulkenberg, the German clouted the barrier coming out of turn 4 and retired the car down the escape road at turn 5. Shortly after, we saw the Red Bull’s battling for fifth place, Ricciardo, twice getting a run on his younger teammate on the main straight, only for Verstappen to stoutly defend his fifth-place position.

The Red Bulls regained 4th and 5th positions as Sainz’ ultra-soft tires gave up, forcing the Spaniard to pit for the yellow marked soft tire. Hamilton pitted for fresh soft tires on lap 23 after having a massive lock-up going into turn 1, returning to the track in third place behind his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas.

The Red Bull battle resumed on lap 27, Ricciardo was ahead around the outside of turn 1, only for Verstappen to come back at the Australian, who again lost out to his 20-year-old teammate. Ricciardo finally made the move stick on lap 35 with one of his trademark, last of the late brakers moves around the outside of turn 1; only to find himself behind his teammate after their only round of pitstops.

Race leader, Vettel dived into the pits for a change of tires, electing to run the yellow soft tire, while Bottas took the lead of the race, still setting good lap times on the red super-soft tires he started on. Vettel slotted into a Mercedes sandwich, returning to the track in second place, between Bottas and Hamilton.

Disaster struck for Red Bull on lap 40 with both drivers down the escape lane and out of the race. Ricciardo crashed into the back of Verstappen after the Dutchman had made two distinct moves in the braking zone to block his teammate. Both Red Bull drivers were reprimanded by the FIA, although I would say that it was Verstappen’s fault as his weaving in front of Ricciardo is what caused the incident.

This incident meant the safety car was deployed for a second time to recover the Red Bull’s, meanwhile, Romain Grosjean managed to crash all by himself while following the safety car, which extended the safety car period while marshalls recovered his HAAS. As the safety car was leading the pack through the pitlane, Bottas made his only stop of the race, putting on a set of ultrasoft boots, with Vettel following suit.

When the race restarted on lap 48; Bottas bolted, only to be caught by the end of the straight by Vettel, who made a massive dive down the inside of Bottas into turn 1, ultimately lost not only second to Hamilton but third to Sergio Perez as well as he had badly flat-spotted his left front tire. You’d have to say it was a terrible tactical decision by Vettel, the move was uber-ambitious at best from that far back.

It looked like Bottas was going to get his first win of 2018 leading a Mercedes 1 – 2, but that hope was dashed as the Finn ran over a piece of debris coming out of the final corner causing a high-speed blowout, ending his race with two laps remaining. After Vettel’s mistake and Bottas’ misfortune, Hamilton was gifted an unlikely last-gasp race victory to conclude a manic Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Due to the carnage up front, we saw some new points scorers in the race classifications, Charles Leclerc scoring 8 points for sixth place and Brendon Hartley scoring a solitary point for finishing in 10th place. Alonso, managed to score 6 points for seventh place despite his earlier double puncture, running almost the entire race distance on a single set of soft tires with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finishing in ninth.

Lewis Hamilton took the world championship lead for the first time in 2018, sitting four points ahead of Sebastian Vettel. I’m now thinking that this might be a turning point of the season, it was a clear mistake by Vettel that had cost him the championship lead, if he had just bided his time, he could have had a race victory by default, but no, he decided to go for glory and paid the price, a bad tactical choice I’d say.

A final word on Max Verstappen, clearly he is a very quick driver, but you have to question his race craft after being involved in four incidents in the first four races of 2018, to add to his tally of incidents in 2017. I understand that he is still a very young driver, but that, in my view is negated by his four seasons in F1.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:43:44.291
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +2.460s
3. Sergio Perez (Force India) +4.024s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +5.329s
5. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +7.515s
6. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +9.158s
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +10.931s
8. Lance Stroll (Williams) +12.546s
9. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +14.152s
10. Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) +18.030s

3 Years On… We Are Still Having Issues With School Behaviors

School Consequences

As my 13 year old son approaches the end of his middle school years, we are still having issues with getting him motivated to do his school work, he often doesn’t do it, sometimes does it, but shoves it in his agenda and doesn’t hand it in, which has consistently caused his grades to drop in the D’s and F’s.

The rule at home is a single D or F means no video games until he gets back into a C and above grade in all subjects. This week, he turned a single D into two D’s and an F, despite me telling him what he needed to do to get his grades to where they needed to be. Instead of pulling his work from Google Classroom and doing it, he elected to lounge about watching TV, so his TV privileges got revoked too.

My son is more than capable of getting A’s and B’s across the board when he puts in the effort. I have noticed that in his intervention classes, he does well, he currently has two A’s, which I put down to being in a smaller class, where he is unable to slack off so easily. He has an A and a B in the classes he likes, but the larger classes in subjects he dislikes, these are the problem classes, where grades are sub-par.

His teachers tell me he is capable, despite this, my son likes to claim he is stupid, which is far from true, he makes stupid decisions, that’s for sure, but, he is highly intelligent and despite his diagnosis of autism with ADHD, that does not stop him from getting good grades, he is just not interested in those subjects.

He’s smart enough to know that, for example, he had to get all C’s or above to get a new video game at the end of the last semester, so he delivered all C’s, by the seat of his pants, mind you, he was one point away from getting a D. So this semester, we have upped the ante to three B’s and no D’s or F’s.

Clearly, we are very concerned, with him going to high school in a little over four months, that we are unable to break him of these behaviors, especially regarding handing in work late, or not at all until we check his grades online and get on his case about it. My son talks about going to Full Sail University in Florida, the way he is going, he won’t even get into local community college with these grades.

On to the event that inspired this write up, yesterday, Friday, 4/20, I received an Email from his language arts teacher describing his highly disrespectful actions. First, he accused his teacher of “failing to grade his work”, which he had handed in three days after it was due. My son was sent to the back of the room for his actions, where he grabbed some assignment sheets and wrote his name on them, before going back to the teacher, waving them in her face, demanding she grade them immediately, disrupting the class.

Later, in the same class, my son asked the teacher if he could sit in the comfy seats, which seems to be a reward type of seat, from what I can gather. His teacher said, “no, no-one is sitting there in class today”, to which my son responded, “you’re a liar”. Clearly, this is not acceptable behavior, and we certainly have not raised him this way, we teach personal responsibility to both our kids, not to shift the blame.

I understand that he is angry that he has lost his video game and TV privileges, but he has no-one else to blame, but himself. Even now, when he has no TV to watch or video games to play, he chooses to sleep instead of taking proactive steps to resolve the situation. His missing schoolwork is available to him on Google Classroom, but he chooses to be inactive and talking to him is like talking to a brick wall.

We have signed him up to after-school tutoring to help him get the work done, and in all honesty, has done nothing to improve his grades. I don’t know what he is using this extra time for, clearly, it is not for catching up with school work. My son constantly refuses help offered to him by teachers and us, as parents, he says he can do it. How do you help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves?


Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix 2018

Daniel Ricciardo Celebrates Chinese Grand Prix Win With A Shoey

Maybe the 2018 Formula 1 season will not be as dull as we all expected. A mid-race safety car caused by the two Red Bull ‘B’ team drivers having a coming together at the turn 14 hairpin, conspiracy theorists ahoy, certainly spiced things up with a late call from the Red Bull pit wall that allowed both drivers to put on the yellow marked soft tire while their rivals stayed out on the white marked medium tires.

The start was a typical Sebastian Vettel affair, the German chopped across the front of his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen who started alongside him on the front row, that allowed Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas to take advantage of the compromised Raikkonen to move into second place. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen in the Red Bull with a set of ultra-soft tires on, made an amazing start to move past Hamilton through turns 3 and 4 and got a run on Raikkonen down to the turn six hairpin to move up two places to third place.

Fast forward to lap 17, Red Bull stacked their drivers in the pits for a new set of the white marked medium tires, clearly, with a view of going to the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton, running in 5th place at the time, did the same on lap 18, likewise, Bottas followed suit on lap 19, looking for the undercut on Ferrari and it worked brilliantly. When Ferrari pitted Vettel on lap 20, for the same medium tires, the Mercedes of Bottas cruised on by as Vettel exited the pits to take the race lead away from the German.

It was even worse for Raikkonen, who Ferrari seemingly used to back Bottas into the clutches of Vettel. However, the Finn could not keep his compatriot behind on his Ferrari’s degraded tires. As soon as Bottas got past, Raikkonen immediately released Vettel to chase after Bottas while he pitted for tires at the end of the lap, which cost him two positions, falling behind both Hamilton and Ricciardo to sixth place.

On lap 31; Pierre Gasly made a late dive down the inside of the turn 14 hairpin and collided with his Toro Rosso teammate Brendan Hartley, leaving debris strewn across the track on the apex of the hairpin at the end of the back straight. After the race, it was explained that it was a miscommunication of what should have been an orchestrated change of position between teammates. This prompted the safety car to be deployed so marshalls could clear the debris from the track and gave Red Bull a significant advantage.

As the safety car was deployed, leaders Bottas and Vettel had passed the pit entrance, while Red Bull made the “box, box, box” call to both drivers, Verstappen had just cleared the pit box as Ricciardo came in, perfect syncronized pit stops from Red Bull. After the restart, Ricciardo wasted little time regaining fifth place from Raikkonen. A couple laps later, Ricciardo moved into fourth place as teammate, Verstappen challenged Hamilton for third place and the Briton ran Verstappen wide on the outside of turn 7.

One lap later, Ricciardo, the last of the late brakers, dived down the inside of Hamilton at the hairpin at the end of the back straight to take third place. The Red Bull show continued with Verstappen passing Hamilton for fourth as Ricciardo breezed past the Ferrari of Vettel on the back straight for second. Verstappen, then got greedy, trying to squeeze into an ever decreasing gap making contact with Vettel, sending both drivers into a spin, for which, the FIA later handed Verstappen a 10 second time penalty.

Ricciardo was not done, on lap 45, he made another massive dive down the inside of Bottas for the lead and made it stick, although it was close, it looked like Bottas was going to shut the door, but the Finn saw the Australian at the last minute and jinked away to give the Red Bull driver space. Verstappen did catch and pass Hamilton once more after his contact with Vettel, but because of the 10 second time penalty, Hamilton was promoted back to 4th place, with the Dutchman being classified in fifth place.

Ferrari’s Vettel eventually finished in eighth place, being overtaken by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in the closing stages as Vettel was clearly suffering from a lack of grip from his now 36 lap old tires and possible collision damage. Renault’s Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag in ninth place while HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen claimed the final point of the Chinese Grand Prix 2018.

From a personal perspective, this was an amazing race, we got to see some bonafide overtaking and my favorite driver won the race with an immense driving performance. Given that Danny Ric got out for the first qualifying session with only 3 minutes remaining on the clock after a turbo failure in practice 3 and scraped into qualifying 2, to win the race was an amazing feat from both, driver and team.

I’ve already heard conspiracy theories, about Red Bull collusion, between their A and B teams and even a suggestion, that race director, Charlie Whiting, waited for the leaders to pass the pit entrance to spice things up. Of course, I don’t believe this for one second, but if that was the intention, it worked brilliantly.

Chinese Grand Prix 2018 Results

1. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:35:36.380
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.894
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +9.637
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +16.985
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +20.436
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +21.052
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +30.639
8. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +35.286
9. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +35.763
10. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +39.594

Why I Ditched Cox Communications In Favor Of AT&T For Internet!

Broken Cox Communications Pod

Over the past 10 years, the level of customer service at Cox Communications here in Wichita, Kansas has been poor, at best, in my opinion. The final straw, came over this past weekend. On Saturday evening, my internet went out, however, I thought it would be a short outage, so went to bed thinking, it’d be fixed by morning, it was not, so I call Cox technical support; and the following is what transpired during the call.

On the call, which was placed at roughly 9:15am on Sunday morning, I explain that my internet had been down since 5pm on Saturday night. The representative tried to reach my modem, a Motorola SB6121, which he was unable to do. He immediately went into telling me that my modem was outdated and incapable of handling 150mbps, claiming the SB6121 was only capable of handling 30mbps.

I know this to be bullshit, the specs for my modem, which I bought myself about 4 1/2 years ago, says that it can handle up to 172mbps, and last time I checked, 172 was more than 150. Before the outage it had be happily delivering 137mbps down and 16-20mbps up, despite this, the rep continued to push for me to buy a new modem, not even entertaining the idea that something else might be at fault.

Anyway, fine, I just wanted to get my internet back up, so I walked out to my car to head to Best Buy to purchase one of their recommended modems, when I noticed the scene pictured above, a car had clearly left the road, driven across my front lawn and hit the cable pod, connecting my house to the main line.

I called Cox technical support back and got the damaged pod temporarily fixed to get me up and running again on Monday morning. I told the engineer about my experience with technical support, and even he said that the phone tech had lied to me, he knew the modem I had was capable of providing the speed of the Premier tier I had, I do like the Cox service techs, they don’t give you any bullshit, which I appreciate.

I was told that another team would have to come out and make a permanent fix, which they did the next day. But, instead of knocking on my door to tell me that my Internet would go down for a few minutes while they repaired the main line, they pulled the plug on my internet connection as I clicked submit [to Internet] on something I had been working on for two hours, which failed and the work was lost.

I have to accept part of the blame for that, I should have done regular draft saves, but the Internet had been so reliable before this incident; and I requested that the techs let me know before starting the fix.

A few days before this all happened, I received an Email from Cox about an “at no additional cost” offer for an upgraded modem, which I initially ignored as the SB6121 was more than capable of providing the max speeds the Premier service offered. After my experience over the weekend, I clicked on the link from the Email and it was not free, there was a $20 connection fee, plus two other options, one to buy a modem for $200 or rent a $10/month Panoramic WiFi Modem, hardly at no additional cost is it?

Cox Free Upgraded Modem Scam

When I talked to a representative from the Cox customer retention department to cancel my service, I brought this Email up and he said it was a mailer sent out to everyone and was only available to customers with bundled Internet and phone, something that was not mentioned in the Email sent to me.

There are multiple other issues with Cox technical support over the years, including turning off our internet a day early when we moved to our current home five years ago, then failed to connect Internet at our new address, resulting in three days of downtime in our new home. Then, they had the gall to charge us $85 for an engineer to visit to get us online, which I did not pay, I had that removed from my bill.

Ultimately, this experience has cost Cox our business, over the 10 years we have been customers of theirs, we have paid them over $25,000 for TV and Internet services. We have switched to AT&T and their Fiber Internet 1000 tier, which provides symmetrical gigabit connectivity, something that Cox cannot compete with unless you happen to live in a brand new neighborhood, which we do not, our home is 12 years old.

I won’t say how good it is, I’ve only had AT&T installed for 27 hours, but so far, so good, we average about 850mbps down and 930mbps up, which is great for me as I do a lot of uploading of large files to various servers for my work. The amazing thing is the price, $80/month for one year, then just $90/month after the promotional period, the cost for Cox Premier (150mbps down/20mbps up) had just risen to $89.99.

AT&T included free installation and a free modem/router with wireless AC capability, now I just have one box on my desk instead of two. I’m kinda pleased that Cox tried to screw me over, as it forced me to look into alternatives. Last time I looked, five years ago, the fastest speed AT&T offered was 50mbps down and incredibly restrictive data caps, something that I don’t need to worry about now with Internet 1000.

To get something similar from Cox, with much slower upload speed, I’d have to pay $119.99 + $50 for unlimited data, so that’s a total of $169.99 for an inferior service, why on Earth would anyone pay $80 more for less. The Cox rep had an impossible job to retain me as a customer, there was nothing he could say to convince me to stay with Cox, there was nothing he could offer me to beat the AT&T offering.