Thursday, July 25, 2013


Cybersquatting has been around since the early days of the web.  Some are legitimate business practices, but many are unethical, unscrupulous, or downright mean spirited. 

Before there were websites were ubiquitous,   speculators bought desirable domain name and sold them to the highest bidder. Regulations were put in place to curtail the major abuses of that strategy.

As domain names were in place for a while pornographers would use automated software to grab sites that had followings, but accidentally let their domain registrations expire.  When people,  including children, went to a website they had bookmarked or found in a search, they would end up at a porn site.  Laws were passed to stop this sort of pornographic bait and switch.

Undaunted, the next generation of treasure hunters began buying up expired domains and using two strategies to generate revenue for the squatters. They would put up a site that had links to dozens of other print related services. Clicking on any of the links resulted in money being made for the squatter.

This kind of squatting is perfectly legal and actually a good business process if done ethically and within the scope of laws and regulations. Scooping up domains that have expired is fine as long those domains were allowed to expire intentionally.  However, people make mistakes and let domains expire accidentally.  When it is scooped up, it often results significant hardship and loss of income for the rightful owner.

If the squatter is contacted by the original owner, the right thing to do is to return the domain for the cost of registration and perhaps a few extra dollars for time invested.  However, sometimes domains are snatched up intentionally to do harm, or held for ransom.  To put it plainly this is at best unethical.  

When done by anonymous squatters who make their living that way, there is little that can be done. They keep domains that generate revenue,  abandon those that don't,  and hold hostage those that expired accidentally.

When done by individuals,  this practice very often backfires, resulting in considerable loss of customers as the victim's story is told on social media. 

Once in a while,  someone becomes an accidental squatter.  It happened to me.  About 15 years ago I was thinking about starting a web site just for people who have been wronged online.  I went to my registrar and found that NoMoreBS,net and were available, but was taken.

Since I wasn't ready to start the site, I just bought the two domains so that they would be there when I wanted them.  About two years later, while updating my domains, I noticed that was available, so I grabbed it.

About a week later, I received an email from the person who owned the domain and wanted to know what had to be done to get it back.  After talking with him a bit to confirm that he did have the domain previously, I told him to cut me a check for the $9 it cost me to register it, and offered him the .net and .org names for the same price.  He took all 3 and thanked me very much.

A few days later his check arrived along with a signed copy of a book he had written. When I saw it, the first thing that went through my mind was, "Boy am I glad I didn't act like a jerk!"  Up to this point I hadn't even visited the site.  I checked it out and while read his bio, I found that after getting out of the marines, with no college education he had an amazing career which included Senior VP of Telxon, VP of Worldwide Logistics for Compaq, Director of Distribution for Pepsi, and Area Manager for Frito Lay, just to name a few.

It was obvious that if I had been a jerk about returning the domain, there would have been a battle. No matter who would have won, we both would have had scars, but it wasn't his technical knowledge and connections that caused me to go check out the site, it was the book, Dead Center - A Marine Sniper's Two Year Oddessy in the Vietnam War. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Proof of Heaven

If you had asked me two weeks ago whether there was anything after death, I would have said, "I think so, but I'm not sure."  As a biology major, I believed in the scientific method.  I look toward science to explain the unexplainable, but when that fails, I remain open "mindedly skeptical" to other explanations. 

Until Dad's death, I looked at unexplained events surrounding death through the eyes of someone who had not experienced that kind of lose, and as someone who had never experience anything really out of the ordinary.  After the events that took place after his death,  I began to look for answers.

Over the past few months, while channel surfing, I've come across a few interviews with Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who wrote the book, "Proof of Heaven".  It's based on his own near death experience which took place while in a coma resulting from Bacterial Meningitis. By all accounts, it should have killed him or put him in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

I purchased the audio version and listened to it. His neurology expertise, the rarity of his disease, the way he went about documenting what happened during the 7 day coma, and the subsequent research he did to rule out any chance of it being a brain based event made this book stand out from all the other NDE books out there.

I've often said the scientific and the spiritual are not incompatible, but if you asked me to explain it, I would be speechless.  I felt this book could help me understand that feeling for which I did not have the words to explain.

By the time I finished listening to the book, I understood the lack of conflict between science and spirituality, and  was convinced that there is something beyond this life. I don't see events in the book as proof of heaven, but I do see it as pretty strong evidence that this body is not the end of me. I believe we are universally connected and I believe our essence goes on after death.  Where it goes or what it does, I don't know, and I believe the human brain in not even capable of understanding the mechanisms that connect us all.  However, not understanding it does not mean one can not, in this life, experience that connectivity. So I'm content in simply knowing that this body is not the end of my existence and doing what I can to experience life and live in the present.

I began my quest to move beyond the confines of the mind. After having listened the audiobook, I began to check out what the big time skeptics thought of the book.  I began with an Equire editorial by Luke Dittrich, who attacked the book, or more specifically Eben Alexander's credentials and motivation for writing the book.

For anyone who has read the book,  what Dittrich said could have been said in a half dozen pages of text. Instead, Esquire used it to test a pay to read strategy.  The piece was over 40 pages long. I won't waste my time to detail what I thought about it.  Suffice it to say that I would like my $1.99 back and will never buy another Esquire article again!

As I write this, I'm watching an Inside Edition, interview with Dittrich which has done nothing by confirm my feelings about Esquire the editorial.

I felt there must be better critiques of the book.  I kept reading and coming across one attempt after another to simplistically challenge one or two key points in the book while ignoring the overwhelming number of facts that blow their explanations and objections out of the water.  It's like people trying to convince me that we are alone in the universe or that dinosaurs didn't exist, because a book says so. 

I could go into details about the other skeptics, but luckily I came across a few podcasts that do that much better than I. Alex Tsakiris writes the blog, podcasts, and conducts interviews on . In Episode 189, he discusses the critics of Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven.  In Episode 190, he interviews Dr. Alexander. discusses a number of skeptics and their attempts to discredit Dr. Alexander, and is an interview with Dr. Alexander.  If you have not read the book starting with this podcast might be the way to go.  Then listen to the one above it.

Buy the book if you are curious, but don't waste your money on the Equire article.  There are plenty of other skeptics who do just a well (or just as poorly) without stealing you money.

I'm continuing my listening with The Present, the current leading entry from , a site devoted to  "...seeking the answers to the big questions of life, where we come from, where we are going, why we are here, the truth about life and death."