So yesterday my new job began. It marks a fresh start and opportunity, even if it also means a steep learning curve. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little outside my comfort zone, but sometimes you need to take yourself outside of it, in order to push your skills and learn new things.

It’s actually quite exciting and the job comes with the opportunity to earn some good money. Having only just finished day 2, I can’t give a full evaluation of the job, but the people are friendly enough and it’s a small team, so they appreciate the value of supporting each other and working hard.

On a small note, I also have a new phone! My provider (Vodafone) rang me on Friday to tell me I was due an upgrade, so I now have a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. So far it’s a nice little phone!

So some 22 years after the original Jurassic Park film reignited the public’s passion for dinosaurs in a huge way, the film franchise revisits its roots – both within the Jurassic Park universe, and thematically, with the fourth installment – Jurassic World.

JurassicWorldThis film has come in (unfairly, in my humble opinion) for criticism of the story, which admittedly has several absurdities. Without revealing too much about the plot, some 22 years after the first, ill-fated attempt to build a dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World is a thriving enterprise, entertaining the masses – it’s the park, open and running, as it was always hoped.

There’s plenty to gawp at here – the dinosaurs look better than ever (the result of ever-advancing CGI) and the park itself is something of a wonderland – it’s easy to imagine being a visitor, and not knowing what to do first!

We also get several nostalgic nods to the original film – one employee has an old ‘Jurassic Park’ t-shirt, whilst in one scene some of our characters stumble upon the remains of the original main hall from the first film – and even find one of the original jeeps. There is of course, nice use of the original, classic musical score – but whilst the film treats us to these little touches, it doesn’t dwell or wallow in them.

There’s been criticism of the film in terms of the characters – the two kids (who happen to be nephews of the park’s administrator) have in particular come in for criticism – but my advice would be to not read too heavily into characterisation in a film about a dinosaur theme park! That said, I would also say that they serve as a vehicle for their aunt rediscovering her humanity a little – she starts out being very much the organiser, the strategist, who sees things in terms of cold numbers, but as the film moves forward, she loosens up (she has to really) and becomes more likeable in the process.

There’s a lot of fun to be had with this film. It is silly. There are elements to the plot that make no sense. There are some far-fetched ideas that even certain characters within the film scoff at. None of that matters if you ask me – the film is entertaining. It’s filled with nice little touches and hairy moments. It’s not got the punch of the original, but it certainly respects it, and for that, I would recommend you see it!

8/10

Back to Reviews

In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage (effectively legalising same-sex marriage across the United States), opponents of the move have asserted that the Supreme Court’s ruling is in fact, unconstitutional.

One such argument I have read is that the 14th Amendment (being the one referred to in this case) does not mention marriage, therefore attempting to justify the Court’s move on the grounds of the 14th Amendment is dishonest and wrong.

However, what the 14th Amendment does cover is civil rights. In particular, the paragraph below is quite telling:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So it would seem to me that any State trying to ban same-sex marriage is therefore depriving those seeking same-sex marriage ‘equal protection of the laws’, in that, despite being US citizens, they are not permitted to get married in certain States. They are being denied equality in the eyes of the law by any State seeking to ban same-sex marriage.

I have also seen it argued that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in this case – yet this is what the Supreme Court exists to do:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority

This would once again seem to be quite clear. The Supreme Court has authority, under both the Constitution and the law, to make rulings on any case. The lack of a specific mention of marriage does not exclude marriage issues either!

Moreover, if this ruling is undemocratic (another argument I’ve seen), then it would seem opponents of this ruling actually want the minority to have their way this time – for a majority of Americans actually favour same-sex marriage. It’s also worth noting this includes religious folks as well.

So there is a fair of disingenuous arguing going on here. The conservative US Republicans who have repeatedly opposed same-sex marriage (and who, it could be argued, actually stand against Republican values in doing so) usually do so on religious grounds. Yet the early US governments were keen to avoid religion becoming entangled with government. Thomas Jefferson once said that the American people, through the First Amendment, had created a ‘wall of separation between church and state.

There is another aspect to this. By using religious-based arguments to make a case against same-sex marriage, the anti-gay marriage position is seeking to impose a religious value upon the entire population, regardless of other beliefs (or an absence of beliefs). They are quick to argue about the wrath of God, but this presupposes that God actually cares (and indeed, that God exists).

It should be simple really. Same-sex marriage is about extending rights so that two people of the same sex can marry. This doesn’t affect anyone else’s marriage, this doesn’t cheapen marriage, and it doesn’t deny rights to anyone else. What it boils down to is bigotry.

Back to What I Think

After a looong winter (indeed, it feels like winter has dominated spring!), summer is here at last – there is warmth to be had, and I can go outside without needing a jacket! Woohoo!

But, waiting in the wings, lurking within the grass, is an enemy of mine – pollen!

Pollen1(Summer time is glorious, but that powdery stuff isn’t!)

I’ve always suffered from hayfever to a certain degree, but these past couple of weeks it’s been worse than usual. Last weekend my wife and I took our daughter to Marsh Farm (a nice little family diversion), where we fed goats, got to feed birds of prey, see rabbits and cows and pigs etc – my little girl got to hold an owl (and she wasn’t at all unnerved by the experience, which I was proud of!).

However, I spent pretty much the entire day sneezing and generally feeling bunged up – whatever was in the air up there, it brought out the worst in my hayfever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – animal fur reaction right? Perhaps, but probably not – I’ve been to farms before, and zoos, and I have two cats – I’ve generally been alright around animals. My thinking is that there was something in the air up there – a type of grass or tree or plant that I’m not usually in the vicinity of, that triggered a bad reaction.

I’ve never felt so annoyed by hayfever as I did on that day – when I sneeze, I don’t just sneeze once – usually I’m going off three or four times in quick succession. I felt embarrassed to a certain extent – having to clutch at my nose every two minutes, or sounding like gunfire, were my only choices.

Since then, I’ve been sneezing more often too – it’s as though this experience has made my overall hayfever worse. I love summer, but this summer is not going to plan so far!

Having not done a ‘news column’ for a while, I thought now might be a good time, as F1 grapples with its identity and what might make sure the sport remains interesting going forward.

Not for the first time this season, Red Bull are threatening to quit. Owner Dietrich Mateschitz said to Red Bull’s Speed Week Magazine “they (Renault) take from us not only time and money, but also the will and motivation”. Clearly he is (understandably) unhappy with the performance of the engine thus far, but once again I find myself thinking ‘sore loser’. That sounds harsh, but when Red Bull dominated the sport for four years straight, they were in no hurry to change the rules or make threats. It was though, the words of Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene that summed it up more eloquently than I: “It is easy to be happy when you win four championships and easy to complain when you are not winning. You have to accept when something goes wrong and when it goes right.”

Ferrari last looked truly competitive in 2010, and last season did not win a single race, yet even during times of difficulty for the team (they endured a long barren run during the 80s and 90s, especially in terms of championships), they kept plugging away and never made the sort of noises Red Bull are making. They quietly got on with their jobs and now, in 2015, they have a car that is a lot quicker than their 2014 effort. They are showing a lot more class than Red Bull, to put it mildly.

Of course, the current problems in F1 have seen to it that no one is going to catch Mercedes in the near future (barring the Merc-powered teams making big strides). There is a danger that people will switch off out of boredom – but the Silver Arrows’ dominance is only part of the problem.

If Hamilton and Rosberg were dueling like Senna and Prost did in 88 and 89, we might not be so quick to complain about any one team’s control. Unfortunately, they’re not battling like that. The Canadian Grand Prix highlighted things that are slowly becoming worse and worse – lift and coast to save fuel and brakes, cars not being able to get right up to each other because of aerodynamic properties and tyre wear – artificial overtaking thanks to DRS – F1 is not what it could be (a view echoed by former F1 driver Mark Webber).

One or two ideas have come up that I feel have merit. Free tyre choices for races would mean the teams would all be thinking strategically regarding tyre wear and speed – the softer compounds would offer better grip and better lap times, but inevitably degrade quicker, whereas on some circuits you might be able to complete the entire race on medium or hard tyres – add to this mix refueling, alter the wing designs to make it easier for cars to close in on one another, and ditch DRS, and perhaps there would be more opportunity for exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing. Whether that happens or not, is anyone’s guess.

Back to F1 2015 news

AustrianGPRound 8 of the 2015 F1 season brought us to the home of the Sound of Music, and Red Bull Racing – would RBR be on sweet song?

Apologies – I didn’t get around to doing a preview so this review incorporates a little of that. I missed the 2014 edition of this race, so I was glad to catch it this time around!

The track has few corners, being largely about a handful of especially tight right-handers coming at the end of long straights – there are a number of overtaking opportunities across this 71-lap race as a result. Turn 1, turn 2 and turn 3 all represent good chances to make a move, and the race itself did indeed see a few such moves, largely within the middle of the pack.

As mentioned, this track is the home (well, spiritual home) of Red Bull. However, any chance of a win here would be dependent on pretty much half the front-runners failing to finish, and indeed, a grid penalty for replacing components put Daniel Ricciardo even further down the pecking order of the starting lineup than he might otherwise have been.

This was a fate that awaited both McLarens as well. Alonso was trialling new upgrades to the car, but didn’t get a thorough chance to see what they could do (for reasons that will become apparent shortly), whilst Button retired due to a mechanical issue – a new engine in the car, and it failed on him!

In practice it appeared that Ferrari would be quite competitive, only fractionally away from the best Mercedes times, whilst in the ongoing battle between the two Mercedes cars, it was Rosberg would held the upper hand. Qualifying however, saw the Silver Arrows once again be simply too quick for anyone else to handle, though Hamilton would sneak pole after both he and Rosberg span during their final Q3 runs.

On to the race – and for the first time this year, Rosberg got by Hamilton at the start, leading swiftly into turn 1 and from there, was never really threatened. Austria appears to be a venue Hamilton just can’t get to grips with (he was beaten here last year as well), and all he could was watch as Rosberg gradually built up a steady gap, occasionally whittling away at it, but never enough to threaten.

RosbergleadsHamilton(Hamilton had no answer to Rosberg’s pace)

For Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, the race was over on the first lap. For reasons not yet apparent, Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari out of turn 2, veering hard to the left and collecting Alonso’s McLaren in the process, leaving Alonso’s car perched upon Raikkonen’s! Both drivers were unhurt, though Alonso did describe the incident as ‘scary’.

AlonsoRaikkonenCrash(You’re supposed to go around, not over!)

The Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Kvyat had been penalised before the race even began thanks to engine changes, and the race did nothing to dispel the team’s dissatisfaction with F1’s current rules. Ricciardo actually drove extremely well to bring the car home in the points, but a couple of years ago Red Bull were sweeping all before them – now, they’re thankful to get 10th place and a single point!

RedBulls(It was another race of underachievement for Red Bull)

There was better news for Red Bull’s junior Toro Rosso team. Max Verstappen continued to show why he’s regarded as a future star, with a strong race and 8th place. His teammate Sainz had to retire on lap 35, but even so, it’s progress for Toro Rosso.

It was also progress for Force India – Nico Hulkenberg (fresh from winning the Le Mans 24-hour race) had qualified 5th and finished 6th. With teammate Perez in 9th, it marked an improvement in the team’s fortunes, one they will hope to build on.

HulkAustria(It was a strong showing from the ‘other’ Nico today)

Lotus also collected more points, thanks to Maldonaldo (Grosjean retiring with gearbox trouble on lap 35). It was also a strong showing from Williams, with Massa taking 3rd (his first podium of the year, and 40th of his career, after a pit stop problem for Vettel) and Bottas 5th. Williams have slowly been upping their game recently, and will have Ferrari in their sights.

So what does this mean for the title fights? Well, Rosberg is now only 10 points behind Hamilton, with Vettel 39 points behind his fellow German. In the constructor’s championship, Mercedes are streaking away, but behind them Williams have closed to 63 points of Ferrari. Red Bull are a long way back in 4th on 55 points, with Force India on 31 and Lotus on 29, both starting to reeling them in.

We’re off to Silverstone next, for the British Grand Prix in two weeks time!

Back to F1 2015

I had what can only be described as yet another in a series of strange dreams last night. This latest ‘episode’ had me on a plane that was nearly completely dark, trying to get to the cockpit and somehow guide the thing to a successful landing in London. I vaguely remember having to fight someone as well. I managed to actually land the plane, despite the barriers to achieving this, so I am wondering what this means – if of course, it means anything.

I also dreamed I was one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, destroying Thanos via mines planted on a football pitch, not at all sure what that means!

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Having won my second world championship with comfortable ease, I moved on season three with high hopes, but also a new team – I left BMW Sauber for the famous Ferrari team!

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As ever, the season started in Australia, and I wanted to try something a little different. In practice I wanted to see how long the soft tyres could last, so I did a long run on them, concluding they could go about 15 laps. Bearing in mind Australia is a 58 lap race, I figured I could do a two-stop race (with a 22 lap and 21 lap run on hard tyres), thus saving time. As ever, I enjoyed the practice session here – turn 3 is a beefy right-hander and a great chance to test your braking. Turns 11 and 12 are quick and turns 13, 14 and 15 are all meaty corners.

In qualifying I would do my new Ferrari team proud. In Q1 I wound up 2nd to Button, but I was easily faster in in Q2 and Q3, taking pole position.

By the end of lap 1 I was nearly 2 seconds ahead of Rosberg, and I would pull away steadily. As I approached my first stop I was very in the clear and knew I would get in and out still leading – or at least, I would have, if my engine didn’t give out on lap 14!

So my first race for Ferrari ended with no points and 10 points down on Button – a shame, for I would have almost certainly won. I look forward to Malaysia!