Thursday, June 30, 2005

Attack of the Squicky Vandals

As I returned to the trail parking lot at the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail (There was rain predicted so I parked there instead of in Squirrel Hill), I was approached by another bicycle commuter. He asked if I too had been slimed. He was referring to occasions when I, and now clearly others, had automotive grease placed under their door handles.

The prime suspect is the owner of the adjacent Childrens Hospital parking lot. He apparently wanted ownership of the parking lot now owned by the city and provided free for trail users and when he didn't get it he began a campaign of petty vandalism in an effort to drive people away. I guess he figured that if he could drive people away he could claim that the space was under utilized and thus claim ownership because his neighboring lot is often full to capacity. It must gaul him to see those empty spaces that he could be making money off of.

The way he was caught (though there isn't any proof about the sliming) is that he left a note on someone's windshield saying that they couldn't park there all day and that his car would be towed. He signed the letter "Property Owner" and the phone number was that of the neighboring lot's owner.

The police have spoken with this guy and apparently the vandalism has ceased. . . for the moment. I have no doubt that he will attempt some other tactic to get what he thinks should be his. "Why should my taxes go to pay for an parking lot for bicyclists when I could be making money off of each space?"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Fun Never Ends.

Last week, I signed up our sci-fi organization for web space at iPower. On Friday I investigated having the .NET domain we had point to the .ORG webspace as well. I was confused by the pricing structure and used the online chat to talk to someone at support. We danced around it because it didn't seem like he was sure what I wasking but he eventually said that it would cost $10.

Today, however, I learned that I had been charged $45.40. A $10 set up charge and a $2.95/month for 12 months charge for. . . something. I wasn't sure what.

I immediately got back on to the online chat and was told that the pricing structure had changed. I asked if that had happened between my request for additional service and the processing of my request and he indicated yes. He wasn't able to adequitely answer what the $3/month was for and referred me to the Additional Services department.

I called that phone number, got some running around and more insufficent answers and eventually got someone in Sales who explained that a redirect costs additional bandwidth for which there needed to be an additional charge to "deter" people from over using this service. I still wasn’t convinced but he was, at least, able to provide me alternative courses of action. One was to move my domain registry to iPower, whereupon the domain pointer redirect would be free. Second was to contact my registrar in that perhaps they could manage the redirect. In either case, he said that he would refund all of my money and cancel the redirect if I chose. He also made much of iPower’s high reputation and that it was not in their interest to jerk customers around over $10.

I contacted Network Solutions and was able to set up the forwarding for a $12/year charge.

I called iPower again to take the sales guy up on his offer to cancel the redirect and refund all of my money and was told that it was not possible. I asked for a supervisor and told that she was off the floor, apparently going over to the Sales department
to chide the sales guy for having offered me a refund.

When I finally got ahold of the manager, I was unable to convince her to agree to the terms that Sales had. Her manager was out of town. That person's manager, the CEO, was out of town. This struck me as a typical attempt to stifle the discussion so I confirmed names and the business address.

I've sent a letter to the company CEO. When someone tells me a service will cost me $10, I expect that it will cost $10. When someone tells me I will be refunded for a service who’s cost I was misled about then I expect to receive that refund. When a website says, "We make sure you’re satisfied, or your money back", I expect
that they will at the very least make an effort to resolve my problem.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Return of the Ping

The .ORG domain that I have been struggling so hard to lay claim to aggain is now mine. I almost immediately contacted iPower to purchase some web space and shortly thereafter applied the DNS settings at Network Solutions. Out science ficton organization web site is back on the air.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Dam Breaks

I had an important e-mail waiting for me when I got home. This was from, the apparent registrar above Bulk Register. It had the words "PENDING TRANSFER" which I assume means that my sci-fi group's domain will soon be transferred.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Time Warp

I just received an e-mail from Bulk Register:

BulkRegister received notification on 2005-06-15 7:52 PM ET that you have requested a transfer to another domain name registrar.

The curious thing is that I downloaded this email at 5:50 PM ET.

Is this some sort of time travel thing, are their clocks wrong or are they lying about what time zone they happen to be in?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ghost Towns

This link was mentioned on the forums:

It is a photo log of a Ukrainian woman’s motorcycling travels through the "Dead Zone" that surrounds the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. As I saw photo after photo of abandoned cities, poisoned and uninhabitable for the next half a millennium, I felt a terrible sorrow. The idiocy of the Soviet regime that imposed such a shroud of secrecy that people living in sight of the disaster had no idea about what was going on. By the time they were evacuated, it was already far too late. Hundreds of thousands died.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Block lifted. Again. Maybe.

I received an e-mail from Jeff at Bulk Register saying that the block was lifted. I’m at home now so tomorrow when I get to work I’ll fax the Change of Registrar request to Network Solutions again.

Never in a Million Years.

I hadn’t gotten a response from Bulk Register yet so I first tried to contact them through the on-line chat. The question was simple enough: the guy I had spoken to had told me that he was going to ask his manager and technicians to lift the second block (that was not TransferGuard). I was simply asking if that had been done. The person I got today said that such a thing didn’t exist and that the account was expired.

I knew that. I said that I had to submit to MongoHosting’s extortion to have ownership of the domain transferred to me but that they didn’t actually do that. She said that the domain had been transferred and I countered that my name was one the account but I was completely powerless to do anything with it. It was like being sold a car but never being given the keys. Without the ability to change things, I don’t really own it. She said that my ONLY option was to pay them $20 to be placed on some sort of hold list. I responded that I had already been ripped off by MongoHosting and Bulk Register wasn’t going to get a dime. She also said that there was no record of my second transfer request. I said that I had an e-mail from Network Solutions saying that the request had been rejected by Bulk Register so there should be some sort of record as to why and when that occurred.

I had been told that a block was going to be lifted and that this would resolve my issue. If that was not the case then someone either didn’t know what they were talking about or someone was lying. In either case, that answer was not acceptable. She transferred me to Jeff, the guy I spoke to last week.

He said that he hadn’t received a response from his manager or the
technicians and that he was going to send the e-mail again. I asked again for his assurance that once this block was lifted there would be nothing preventing the transfer of the domain. He said yes, there would be no reason for the transfer not to go through.

Echoes of the Past

Yesterday’s hiking debacle affected me so significantly that I decided to call off of work. Sure, I was sore but it was my emotional state that kept me home.

I lived with my Grandfather for the last 13 years of his life. I watched his decline from an independent, capable and active senior citizen to an angry, bitter, enfeebled old man. One of the things I saw during that transformation was an inability to change his lifestyle when his capabilities changed. And in that I saw a direct parallel with D***’s behavior.

When one gets older, the body looses fat and the skin thins out. This change allows body heat to escape more easily, which is why old people often complain about being cold and, in the case of my Grandfather, can wear long sleeve shirts and not sweat even in the hottest weather. Because they don’t sweat, they don’t think they need to drink as much water. Also, older people do not process the water they drink as well as they used to, leading to more urination. These two things, not sweating and more urination, lead them to think that they don’t need to drink as much water. This is not true. Seniors are at an even higher risk of dehydration because of both the physical changes and the changes in their behavior brought on by a misinterpretation of those changes.

My grandfather did this all the time and it was a challenge getting him to drink enough water to keep him from getting dehydrated. The biggest roadblock was his own stubbornness in that he didn’t want to spend so much time in the bathroom.

D*** was doing exactly the same thing on this hike. He didn’t have enough water and paid the price. And what’s worse was that J*** was being an enabler by saying “He does this all the time.” I learned out that D*** also has circulatory problems and diabeties. Eventually, D***’s luck is going to run out and he’s going be in serious or even life-threatening trouble. And half a dozen miles back in the woods, it’s not going to be an easy rescue.

And here I was, having made a number of mistakes that could have been the difference between life and death had it come to that. I was angry with myself for not being prepared. I was angry and D*** for putting us in that situation. I was angry that I hiked back up the mountain for nothing. I was angry that, when it was all over, D*** still had no concept that he had put himself at risk. I was frightened that my lack of due diligence could have contributed to someone’s death. I was emotional because I was seeing echoes of my Grandfather’s self-destructive behavior and was powerless to do

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Walk in the Woods

I went hiking along the Whitetail Trail today with other members of the Sierra Club. The plan was to start at North Gate of the Quebec Run Wild Area and travel north to Lick Hollow. There were plans for a stop at Pine Knob and D***, the hike leader and senior citizen, had mentioned the possibility of a side trip to White Rocks, making the total for the day around 13 or 14 miles.

I had purchased a new pair of FRS radios and had thrown them into my
trail-end bag along with a clean shirt and a 32oz Nalgene bottle of extra water. I asked if we wanted to bring the radios along but no one else was interested. I was to learn later that this was a mistake. We started on the trail at 10am and it was 80 degrees with almost 100% humidity. I thought maybe my 3-liter Camelbak might not be enough for the day but also thought the 32oz Nalgene bottle might be more weight than I wanted to carry. I left it behind. Another mistake.

The trail was in many places almost completely obscured by overgrown ferns but the blue blazes kept us on the trail. Mid-June is the time for the Mountain Laurel to bloom and there were explosions of white and pink flowers all along the trail. At a point we needed to decide whether to go down to White Rocks or not. The D*** clearly wanted to go. My first thought was to stay on the trail because I was using my GPSr to map the trail for posting to but I thought it was selfish of me to vote to stay to the trail for only that reason. Instead, I said that I didn’t care one way or the other so the vote was to go to White Rocks.

On the way down the old logging road we encountered a black bear on the trail. We watched him while he sat down and watched us. Eventually he grew bored with us and wandered off. It was the first time I had ever encountered a bear in the woods.

We arrived at White Rocks and D*** laid down for a rest. He pulled out an 8oz Diet Pepsi to rehydrate and I started to get the willies. His water was gone and I could tell that he wasn’t carrying a third of what I was carrying. And a diet soda is a bad, bad thing to drink under these conditions.

After a rest, we went around and climbed to the top of White Rocks where he took another lie down. I was getting genuinely concerned.

On the climb out of the hollow, I began to realize that D*** was starting to have trouble. He was very slow coming up the hill and when he stopped to take a break I asked him if he was drinking water. He said he had plenty.

I had a 3-litre Camelbak and I knew I was beginning to run low. Anyone who claimed to have plenty of water was not drinking enough. Thus, the conspiracy began. Myself and two others took the lead and as we climbed the hill we started planning on what we should do. Way back in Boy Scouts I had dealt with a similar situation of an extremely hot day and running out of water. The plan was for us to press on to Lick Hollow, stock up on water and then to return to re-supply the second group. This was when I was truly regretting not bringing the FRS radios.

We got to the next turn where D*** had wanted us to stop. The three of us debated and decided to press on after leaving a note. We didn’t get far before we heard them coming up behind. The others had gotten him to take off his hat, which was causing him to overheat, and someone else was carrying his pack. He was making much better time but still didn’t look well. We decided to wait at Redstone Creek for them to catch up.

J*** spoke with me. He told me that the D*** did this sort of thing all the time. But from experience, just because he does this all the time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

At the Redstone Creek crossing it was decided that three of us would go on ahead and D*** and others would go to the end of Pine Knob road and wait for pickup at the gate. That would cut several miles off the hike. I ran out of water and the two women that were with me ran out a short time after that. It was two hours to finally get to Lick Run. We stocked up on water and drove the waiting vehicle to the gate.

Except that they weren’t there. We got really worried. They should have been there by now. Another mistake: we should have exchanged cell phone numbers (if the second group had cell phones) in lieu of not having my FRS radios. Two of us took the water and started hiking the road but she turned back because her ankle couldn’t take it. At the road that turns off to Pine Knob itself, I left one of the water bottles to make sure that they didn’t get past me and went to be sure they hadn’t make a sightseeing detour.

When I came back there was a bear sniffing around the water bottle I had left. He heard my approach and made his way into the woods. Night fell and I continued up the road. At 9:30 it was decided to call 911. It turns out that the D*** had gone to the other end of Pine Knob Rd. where it meets Skyline Dr., not the end that we were at much closer to Lick Hollow. That miscommunication was yet another terrible mistake in a day full of stupid and careless mistakes.

I had thought to bring my FRS radios but didn’t. I had thought of taking extra water but didn’t. I had thought of bringing my microfilter water bottle but didn’t. I thought about staying on the trail but didn’t.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Block Party

BulkRegister has done it yet again. Network Solutions has responded that Bulk Register has again denied my request to transfer my sci-fi club domain to myself. So, I call up Bulk Register and this time get someone named Jeff.

Jeff again gives me the story about contacting the host, MongoHosting and I again say that they refuse to respond to any of my e-mails and their WHOIS database is full of lies. I tell him that I have been at this for a month and have an authcode and the TransferGuard has been lifted, why is the transfer still being refused?

Each time he offers another platitude I cut him off saying that I've already jumped through that hoop. He uses the standard Help Desk response that "This is the first time I've dealt with this issue."

"I have been dealing with this issue for a month and have talked to at least three, now four different people at Bulk Register. Each one has told me something different and neglected to tell me some vital piece of information that has prevented me from obtaining posession of my own domain."

He said that he would send an email to his manager and the technician (Dip and Ming) to have the block lifted. I ask if this last action will finally allow me to have to domain transferred and he says yes.

I am going to hold him to this and if in a few days I don't get a positive response I am going be tracking down this Dip.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Return of the Squicky Vandals

When I returned to my car after work I discovered that some bastard had again greased my door handle. Now, instead of a one time incident a few months ago, I've got someone who will grease my door whenever the opportunity presents itself. I looked around and no one else seems to have been targeted. So what is it about a green Honda Accord with a bike rack that attracts such unwanted attention? What the hell is wrong with people?

It was raining today so I thought I would park at the Children's Hospital lot instead of in Squirrel Hill, cutting my ride in the rain in half. I suppose I'll just have to start ignoring the weather and riding the longer distance no matter what the weather. And the forcast calls for showers and scattered thunder showers all week.