These are a few of my favorite photos from 2014. Not necessarily my "best" but some of the ones that I really like for one reason or another.
We've officially done it. Our "cord" has been cut. Well... by cord, I mean, satellite connection.
More important than the the cord we cut though, is the cord we had installed! It's a very small, glass cord that carries LOTS of data. A while back we found out that Empire Access offers fiber in our area (yes, Montour Falls, of all places). I pretty much called up immediately and ordered service.
What did we get? While they also offer TV and phone service, we got the 100/20 internet only package (they also offer a full gigabit option). That's 100 mbps down and 20 mbps up. All for just $50.
If you compare that to the Time Warner Cable I was paying for, it's just absurd. I had the standard TWC package (15 down/1 up) and was paying them $48/mo for that privilege. And that was after saving the $6 or $7 a month with my own cable modem. So it would probably be $55/mo normally. If you sign up for the standard package now, it's only $35. So I have basically been paying the price for Turbo but only getting Standard.
When I called to cancel TWC the lady tried to offer me an upgrade to their Ultimate package - which is 50 down and 5 up - for $35/mo. Regretfully, I didn't ask how long that price would be good for. But honestly, I didn't care. There was no way in hell I was going to actually keep TWC. And frankly, to offer me still half of what Empire offers - even for less money is just insulting.
Canceling DirecTV was surprisingly easy. The guy on the phone just kind of asked up front if there was anything they could offer to keep me. Of course there isn't. So they're sending a box for me to send back the equipment in a couple days and then I'll be done. This will straight up save us $108/mo.
To make up for the lack of TV, we've got the usuals: Netflix and Hulu+. And I've also got Amazon Prime, but at the moment it's not too simple to stream that to either TV - but I have a Fire TV stick on the way to settle that. As long as the price is reasonable, I'll plan on picking up HBO Go in the spring when it's offered as a standalone service. Gotta have that Game of Thrones!
Empire's fiber service is available in a bunch of small towns right now (Bath, Odessa, Sayre, etc) and is coming to more later this year (Big Flats for sure, likely Elmira). No love for Corning yet though - apparently there are some political issues involved.
Oh... small bonus with the fiber install: it's all Corning fiber. ClearCurve, specifically. Have to support my own job when I can!
OK, so we're not in Italy... but when the IMSA Sahlen's 6 Hours at the Glen circus came to town, they brought with them a different beast that would run at Watkins Glen. This was one of the many support series that joined the big boys that weekend (along with the Continental Tire cars, Porsche GT3 Cup, and Prototype Lites).
The Super Trofeo North America series has never (that I'm aware) run at WGI. So it was pretty unique to see a 17 car field of Lamborghinis run in what I consider to be my back yard. This might have been one of my favorite parts of the whole 6 Hour weekend.
These cars are based on the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4... meaning they're roughly 570 HP and have all wheel drive. And those V10s make a pretty amazing sound running around that track.
Being one of the smaller, support series races, they didn't get a ton of track time. But I was able to catch them finishing up one practice session and then qualifying. And then they actually had two of their own races.
In a weekend with more than a couple little issues (parking, ticket prices, etc), this was definitely one of the highlights. Plus, it would be cool enough to see one Lamborghini running at The Glen... but a whole herd of them is another thing entirely.
Many more photos of the Super Trofeo cars here.
If I didn't have a kind friend that offered two free tickets to this year's Sahlen's 6 Hours at the Glen, I wouldn't have gone. And aside from getting to see the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, I would have been OK with that.
The 6 Hrs is always a great event, really. But with the change to the new combined series, ticket prices skyrocketed. I've already discussed this at length. It's not even really my only issue with this event though...
Let's look at the classes: P, PC, GTLM, GTD. Surprisingly I think they've done a fairly good job at integrating to two main Prototype classes. It's a shame that P1 was dropped and only the P2 cars remain from ALMS, but I guess it's OK. PC is... well... it's there. The GT classes are really the biggest thing.
It feel like they just said "screw it" and kept both GT classes (dropped GTC though) and figured that would be good enough. It's not a big deal I guess, but I feel like it's confusing. You see practically the same cars in both classes that seem to have a performance difference for no reason other than having different classes.
If they found a way to combine the Prototype classes, surely they can make the GT classes work, right? Obviously there's more to it than that. But I think as it is right now, the United SportsCar Series will still need a little work. They probably know that. It's really only a year old anyway.
Here's to hoping that next year will be different (and cheaper!). And in then end, it's still some great racing.
Make sure you check out the full gallery from the 6 Hour race.
Since I started shooting my photos in RAW, I had been using Apple's Aperture to process them. It worked well enough for most editing, but one thing that bothered me was that there was no easy way to correct the lens barrel distortion of the 16-50mm lens I have (really, the 50-210mm does it too, but no where near as much).
You need a special plugin for Aperture and it's a separate process with what I feel is an unneccessarily difficult batch processing... process. And the particular plugin I was using resaved the photos as TIFF files for whatever reason.
I realize this isn't really relevant to the Vintage Festival or anything, but I'm getting to a point, trust me. Anyway, at work I use Adobe Lightroom to process RAW photos. And in doing this I realized it has a much better way to correct the lens distortion - a checkbox! BUILT-IN!
What happened along the way of shooting my own photos though, was that even though I knew it was a PITA to process the photos shot with the 16-50mm lens, I kept using it. And the photos just sat there, unseen. I'd just get frustrated at the thought of attempting to process them in Aperture... so I wouldn't bother.
The sad part, I think, is that no one got to see some of the awesome shots I had (like this one), which I feel is likely one of my best photos of all of last year.
So long story shorter... I use Lightroom at home now too! And now I have a whole new gallery from last year that I never shared anything from because I forgot about it!
If you want to see the rest of that gallery (you should), you can check that out right here!
Subaru people are an interesting bunch. Admittedly, I'm less than a fan of the stereotypical Subaru driver. I don't really give two craps about what Ken Block/Travis Pastrana/whoever does (regardless of entertaining videos created), I don't drink Monster Energy, and I think the concept of a flat-brimmed hat is retarded.
But there's something about the rumble from the unequal length headers on a flat four that perks me up a bit.
Wicked Big Meet seems to thankfully have quite a variety. Both in cars and people. There are plenty of trite stereotypes wandering around. Also plenty more of them parked on the Stafford Motor Speedway grounds! But in reality everyone is really there for the same purpose... FREE STUFF! OK, well, that and maybe to buy some stuff or look at some stuff... and just generally be car people hanging out with other car people for the day.
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect for WBM... I didn't have any idea how things were setup or what would even be happening. And I don't think it was really at all how I thought it might be.
I guess I thought maybe it would just be a big open thing where people and their cars would be intermixed with the vendors and everyone kind of everywhere doing things. It really wasn't like that at all. I mean, sure, there were people who ventured out to all of the attendee cars and I'm sure saw as much as they could see... but really everything was inside the fenced paddock area of the speedway.
Once you got in, the big vendors and their cars lined a main midway area that stretched the length of the paddock. That all leads to the food! But then there were even more vendors out back. Inside the speedway (on the track) was the autocross event (which after seeing them setup a 4 cone slalom RIGHT NEXT TO a row of jersey barriers, I was glad I did not sign up for).
Most of the day then was spent wandering this midway. Checking out parts offered for sale. Looking at the vendor cars. And trying to find water. There wasn't really a shortage or anything, but it was HOT. It was about 85 deg and sunny ALL DAY. Hydration was key... but it was exhausting. Thankfully a second night at the hotel and some beers made up for that though.
Would I do it again? Ya, probably. Though there's talk of possibly Ocean City next year... so who knows!
If you want to see some more photos from Wicked Big Meet, check out the full gallery over here.
It actually feels like I've been a few more times than I have, but this year was only my third time attending STPR - aka, the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally. The first year was a real learning experience - VIP was cool (but dirty), driving to the Saturday stages was crazy, and the Special Stages at the fairgrounds reminded me of a county fair.
The second year (2013) was really similar to the first but I tried to throw in one more stage on Saturday morning. This only seemed to reinforce how difficult it really was to travel between stages in the middle of the day. You seriously need to plan well ahead.
The one thing about the first two years though was that aside from the early one Saturday morning, I went to the same stages (9 & 12) both times. While these were cool to see, I really needed something different this year. So I did the VIP thing again - even though it went up $10 to $60. That was still fun, but I'm not so sure about next year.
In previous years there was only one way to see any stages on Friday - VIP. This year they added a new spectator area (for $5) with - what looks to me like - an even better jump than the VIP area gets. Next year, I think $5 will sound a lot better than $60.
Another fun thing this year was trying to actually shoot some photos at night at the final stage at the fairgrounds. I probably don't have a lot of variety in my photos - but I do like to try new things. I was actually fairly pleased with the results for what I was working with (not a great lens, no flash, dust, etc).
I will definitely be attending next year too. And if anyone is interested in joining me, I'm all for it. Who doesn't like to spend a few hours sitting in the woods waiting for a few cars to drive by really fast?
Make sure you check out the full gallery (of 250+ photos) and see all of the awesome cars. You'll find everything from the usual Subarus and a couple Evos to a Ford Ranger, a Porsche 944, and even a Ford Aspire. Lots of variety.
I thought I'd throw together a collection of some of my favorite photos from 2013 events. Not surprisingly, it's all racing. Well, really, I guess I don't photograph more than that anyway...
I only shot this one autox event in 2013... and in this one shot of Kyle, I can hear him in my head going "GRRR!"
I rarely have a chance to photograph the karts running... but at this particular event, I even got a few shots of Pat!
It's too bad Nick wasn't able to join us as much last season, he and his Nissan are fun to watch.
Damn this watermark... I have a thing for 510s - if you didn't know that. And while this particular one is fairly regular at WGI events, this shot was from the US Vintage Grand Prix.
I don't even recall seeing any other Formula Mazda at any of our events, but this one has been to quite a few. I think it has a really cool look to it, proportionally.
They may make an atrocious noise - but Formula 500 cars (and now 600!) are quite fun to watch.
2013 was my 2nd year being able to go to STPR. It will not be my last. Even though this Subaru is not World Rally Blue w/ gold wheels, I love the color combination.
This was pre-jump on Stage 3. Nice shot of Ken Block with full suspension compression.
And then there's Ken Block spraying the entire crowd with dirt and rocks. I could not believe how cool this shot turned out.
The event that in the past prevented me from going to STPR, the Sahlen's 6 Hours, is always a great time. I'm not so sure yet about this year's event, but we'll see. Rum Bum managed a 2nd place in the Continental Tire race.
It was not the greatest finish for Wayne Taylor Racing... they ended up 10th in DP in the 6 hour race. But their car did look badass last year.
I would have a hard time saying anything about sports car racing and not include a Ferrari. And the colors on this one are pretty awesome (really dig the gold wheels).
This shot of the Turner Motorsport BMW is and has been my wallpaper on my home computer since that weekend. It just works for me.
I found this nice spot between turn 5 and 6 on the long course where I can get a nice, straight shot of some of the cars heading down the hill. This one of the Rum Bum Porsche is one of my favorites.
If I couldn't have a Datsun 510, I'd probably want a BMW 2002.
Nothing amazing about this shot other than I love how it illustrates the climb up the hill entering the esses between 2 and 3.
It may not look like much, but these two cars (an F5 and F6) put on one of the best shows I've seen in SCCA racing.
I don't know a whole lot about them, but Formula Vees have quite a history in racing... and I believe this is an older car with likely quite a bit of history. I thought it was far cooler looking than most Vees you see out there.
It took me almost all weekend to realize this was a TVR.
You don't get to see many Lotus 69s around these parts. Except at the US Vintage Grand Prix.
Speaking of things you don't see very often... how about a pre-war Alfa Romeo being driven at speed on a race track. This is a VERY expensive car.
Moving into some more modern hardware... there was something about this super, ridiculous, couldn't-be-more red Porsche that I really liked.
And then there was this Porsche. Again with the gold wheels.
I have learned that the US VGP is the place to see things you will never really see anywhere else. Like this Shelby Daytona Coupe. Sexy.
Did I mention I have a thing for the 510?
It's been quite a while since I've had a financial post, I think (about my finances, not just credit stuff). And that's partly because there has been nothing to really report. Things have been getting paid as much as they can and progress has been slow.
In this year's annual cycle of tax refund + goalsharing bonus, we made some significant progress on debt though. We debated a bit on what to use the money for - like pay off her car (biggest monthly liquidity impact of our options), pay off a 401k loan (low interest, paid to myself), or work on some (high interest) credit cards.
Ultimately the credit cards won - which we really could have based upon interest rates alone. We put about $3200 into my Citi card to finally pay it off. I've had this card since 1999 - yes, 15 years. It was the first card I got in college and has probably had a balance on it since I got. It even almost went to collections at one point in 2006. But now it is gone. Completely. It will remain open - and we may even use it in the future for points or rewards or whatever, but it will be paid in full every month if we do.
I kind of wish there was an easy way to figure out how much interest I might have paid over the past 15 years... but I'm not sure I'd really want to know. I'm also curious to see the impact on my credit score. The credit utilization percentage should take a really nice nose dive.
Between the two of us, we do still have 2 more credit cards left to pay off - embarassingly almost a $10k balance between the two. One of the cards is likely to be paid with a personal loan in the near future - just to avoid the interest charges. The other we should be able to take care of in a reasonable amount of time. Then comes the 401k loan and possibly some focus on student loans - after building a bit more of a savings anyway.
It's strange to be making real financial progress - especially after just buying a house. We both find it odd to have some amount of money in the bank for an "emergency fund." It's not a lot, but it's more than either of us have ever had that wasn't immediately earmarked for something else. And we're trying to keep it that way.
Believe it or not, up until a few days ago, I'd never gone to the US Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Even up to 2 or 3 years ago, I had never even gone to the Grand Prix Festival the Friday before! For a "fan" or racing, that's kind of shameful. This year though... I got in as much as I could.
I haven't posted anything about the Friday Festival yet, but here are some thoughts of the Vintage Grand Prix.
If there's one thing I'd complain about in going to the Vintage Grand Prix (USVGP), it's the price. It was $50 for the weekend. That's more than Grand Am weekend! Sure, not outrageous or anything, but damn. If I recall, that may have been one of the factors that prevented me from going in previous years. But cars like this #29 TVR Tuscan above are just one of the reasons to keep going back. I think I kept calling it an Opel GT though... probably because it was the only odd thing I could think of considering I had never actually seen a TVR Tuscan.
There were quite a few cars there besides the TVR that I had never actually seen. Like this #40 BMW M1. There were actually TWO of these there. And they were as awesome as you'd imagine.
Speaking of awesome, when was the last time you saw a Shelby Daytona Coupe? Ya, I got nothing. This thing sounded as good as it looked. And these are the things that I'm so happy to see on the track. I can understand the hesitation, but it's such a shame when things like this sit in a climate controlled garage somewhere waiting to be looked at. THIS is what they were made for.
Some people are definitely more brave than others in this regard though. This guy... a Peter Giddings was driving around his #31 1930 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 like he was fighting for a driver's championship! This was an inline 8 cylinder engine (actually two inline 4s next to each other) and sounded amazing. You'd almost think you were listing to a throaty V8 from a more modern time.
Oh, you want throaty V8s? We had those too. There were plenty of old Trans Am series cars on hand all weekend. This "Sunoco Camaro" was one of a large group of them out on track a few times. These are all supposedly restored to original spec and run as they were back in the day. The group consisted of some Mustangs, a Dodge Charger, an AMC Javelin, some more Camaros, and even a Ford Falcon.
Another rare beast you don't see much of is the BMW 3.0 CSL... which goes by the Batmobile name in some circles. This was a very good looking example - but I'm not sure it was pushed very hard on the track. And that's OK.
There were two other cars hanging out in the garage area that I never did see go out on track, and it made me sad. There was a very nice looking Toyota 2000GT (another car I never thought I'd see in person) and a Porsche 917 that I have actually seen before in person. Neither one made it out on track for one reason or another, but there was a Porsche 962 that did take some laps.
If you'd like to check out my full gallery of the 2013 US Vintage Grand Prix, I think it's well worth a look for the variety of machinery. I know I'll certainly be going back next year for more... even at $50 a ticket.