Monday, January 31, 2005

Birds of a Feather

As I was walking from work towards where I parked my bike, I heard a screech that said "I'm a bird of prey." It took me a few moments of scanning but I saw the bird perched on top of one of the flag poles at the corner of Grant and the Blvd. of the Allies.

It was one of the downtown Peregrine Falcons sitting on top of the eagle flagpole cap. Both birds were about the same size.

Pittsburgh has several nesting pairs of Peregrines. One pair lives atop the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. The other nests downtown high up on the Grant Building. These Falcons are not migratory but they do seem to roam away from town during the fall and early winter. Now is about the time they return to raise a new clutch.

I can see the Gulf Tower from where I work but the angle is such that I can't see the nest. Even so, I occasionally see the blur of a falcon, folded up in a dive to pick a pigeon out of the sky. (Die! Die! Die, you disgusting rats with wings!)

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy maintains webcams to watch the falcon nests. ( Unfortunately, it looks like the Gulf Tower cam isn't functioning. As you watch, look for eggs near the end of March and for them to hatch at the end of April.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Last year in May, I signed up for web hosting on behalf of my sci-fi club with Mongohosting. My original intention was to register the club's domain name for myself and then set up the website but I made a mistake and Mongohosting registered the domain. Well, the whole package cost $25 for the year so I didn't think it was that bad. At such a low cost, it wouldn't be a problem to wait for the registration to expire and then get them to transfer it when it did.

Well, as the year progressed, I began to think I had made a larger mistake. I had some thoughts about moving my personal domain but their website and price structure was undergoing some revision at the time and my e-mail requests went unanswered. Later, I had our website go down and my e-mail requests for support again went unanswered. Bad omens.

Today, I sent an email to the admin asking about transfering the domain. I was very pleased to receive a response quickly from Cindy the Mongohosting admin but disturbed that they were asking $150.

$150 to transfer a domain? That's userous! That's blackmail! Year ago, I worked for an IT company and did domain registration transfers. There's really no processing effort, just signing onto Network Solutions website and changing the account properties. Click "submit" and it's done. If I registered with Network Solutions, I could get 9 years for less that $100.

I returned an email questioning what could cost so much. They said: "Your Domain along with many others were sold to us when we bought the company from *******." I hadn't known that. Well, if all my previous problems were *******'s fault, maybe this could be dealt with in a businesslike manner. Except that I started looking things up. Mongohosting had been bought by Silver Cities back in September. According to the chatter on the Mongohosting support forum, that's when the problems really started.

Cindy's email also said: "As we just reregistered the domain we would be expecting to recoup costs
and expenses associated costs from the hosting charges."

I did a whois on my domain and there was no evidence that it was re-registered. It was still due to expire in May.

"As we won't be doing that if you move we have to cover our loses."

I hadn't said anything about no longer hosting at Mongohosting, I had inquired about transfering domain registration. And even so, even if they had already re-registered the domain, unless they registered it for the next 20 years they have no justification to charge me as much as they are.

Of course, justification has nothing to do with it. They have a domain that I want and will make me pay for it. My only other option is to simply not pay the bill at the end of my year. The website will expire and, if they are true to their word, they will have already re-registered the domain for at least a year, keeping it out of my hands. That would be devistating to my clubs web presence.

It is blackmail, pure and simple. And now that I'm looking this up, things look even worse. Earlier today I was on their support forum and there were plenty of postings about the lack of support. I even recal one about them having been reported to the Better Business Bureau. Now that I've gone back to actually check on the details of that all the messages have been deleted from the forum.

They are attempting to cover their tracks.

Oh, this is bad and it looks like I'm going to have to submit to their extortion.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Allah Had No Son

I normally refuse to pick up the various religious pamphlets and flyers that end up sitting around or being handed out by street evangelists but this one was on a shelf in the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and I just shoved it in my pocket to get it out of there.

I decided to take a critical look rather than just throwing it away.

This Chick Publication is titled "Allah Had No Son" and it begins with a father and son walking by a mosque where Muslims are seen kneeling in the courtyard. The boy asks what they are doing and the father replies, "They are worshiping their moon god."

So, the pamphlet starts off with a lie. Sure, it goes on to explain how the Islamic symbol of the crescent moon is a hold over from prehistoric moon worshiping but Allah is no more a moon god than the Judeo/Christian God is a sun god. Each has its roots in paganism but each has also evolved. In point of fact, the crescent moon is a relatively modern invention, I think from the post-Ottoman Empire and the founding of modern Turkey.

Standard propaganda techniques right off. Demonizing the Muslims by reducing them to deluded pagan worshipers. Don't even admit that they worship the same god.

Back to the pamphlet. . .

A worshiping Muslim has overheard the man calling Allah a moon god and leaps up, threatening "The holy Koran says I could KILL you for saying that!" A footnote directs users to reference Sura 5:33.

Of course, most people are going to just assume that, since the Koran is being referenced chapter and verse, then it is being attributed correctly. And few people have a copy of the Koran to check and wouldn't be inclined to read it anyway.

This is another lie. The passage actually reads: "Those that make war against Allah and His apostle and spread disorders in the land shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the country. They shall be held to shame in this world and sternly punished in the next: except those that repent before you reduce them. For you must know that Allah is forgiving and merciful."

The passage does not give the faithful permission to kill for a simple insult; it directs them to mete out various levels of punishment to those that make war upon them. This is the right of self defense and is repeatedly mentioned in both the Torah and the Bible.

Another propaganda technique is to misquote the enemy's own documents. In this case, further demonizing the Muslims by taking a passage that refers the right to defend oneself in warfare and twist it into an extremist view that kills at the slightest provocation.

Next, follows more demonization. The Muslim declares that they expect a Muslim flag to fly over the White House by 2010, that it will end Christianity in America and they have already bringing England to its knees.

Now it's time to make the reader even more afraid. Oh, and more lies. The Muslim says that the Koran condemns the Bible and that Jesus did not die on the cross. But, in this case they don't footnote to a passage in the Koran, they attribute a rampantly racist modern book "Islamic Invasion" by Robert A. Morey. In fact, most of this pamphlet seems based on this piece of crap.

You can tell, I'm starting to loose my objectivity as I study this more and more.

The pamphlet goes on to "prove" that Allah is a moon god, that the so-called Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the one true god and how the Muslims are doomed to hell.

Then, using another tried and true propaganda technique, the Muslim comes to his realization that Islam is a lie, he repents, accepts Jesus as his savior and asks how he can save others. There follows a form the reader can fill out to affirm his faith and get more stuff in the mail to distribute.

But what frightens me more that the contents of this document and that people actually believe this garbage is that MORE people are believing this. I even remember that for several weeks in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration used the word "Christendom" as if this were a new religious crusade against Islam. Thankfuly, some advisor told Dubbya not to use that word anymore but it shows the fundamental beliefs that our president has.

Is it any wonder there are Muslims willing to blow themselves up to defend their faith and homelands from western imperialism. They have every right to be afraid. Hell, I'M afraid because I'm not a Christian. When will I be called a traitor or un-American becuse I'm not a Christian?

Monday, January 17, 2005

0 for 3

Just got an email from our Corporate Overlords:

Dear Valued Employee,

Despite a great deal of care and diligence to ensure accuracy in the first payroll completed through Pomeroy's HR department, we have discovered that your compensation
was not accurately calculated. Corrective steps are being taken as follows:

401k Deduction
The 401k deduction taken was a small percentage of what you had elected. The amount deducted was the dollar amount equivalent to percentage you elected. For example, if you elected to deduct 5.0%, only $5.00 was deducted. The difference between the amount deducted and the correct deduction has been calculated and will be withheld in the next pay period.

So, I forgot to mention that I was screwed for Christmas as well. My paycheck came with the Christmas holiday pay but the very next day the holiday pay was deducted from my account because I was sick on Thursday and took the day off. The policy is that if you take off the day before or the day after the holiday, you don't get the holiday pay. The "official" holiday for The Company was the Friday because Christmas itself was on a Saturday. So, even though I came in sick to work on Friday, the "official" holiday, I didn't get the holiday.

And then, to add insult to that injury, The second, revised paycheck re-submitted the PTO I used for my sick day, taking essentially another 8 hours of compensation away from me.

I suppose it could be worse. One of my coworkers isn't scheduled for Thursdays because he works on Saturdays. He never had a chance at holiday pay for Christmas. The only thing the Corporate Overlords would offer him was the opportunity to work on a day he wasn't normally scheduled.

Oh yea, we're off to a rousing start.