SH Sean Harding/blog
Cybersquatters give me a headache
Thursday, March 6th, 2003

For years now, I’ve been wanting the domain "" In fact, I only picked up "" because I couldn’t have "" At the time, it was owned by a real estate agent in Bellevue, Washington (just across Lake Washington from here). A few months ago, I noticed that the expiration date for the domain was approaching quickly. That had happened before; the previous year, the owner came within days of it expiring before they renewed. But I kept an eye on the status, in hopes of getting my hands on the domain.

The expiration date came and went. This, of course, doesn’t mean it was actually available. It went into the "REDEMPTIONPERIOD" limbo for a few months. Then it went into the "PENDINGDELETE" status and I was poised to grab it. I seriously considered signing up for a service like Snapnames to better my chances, but I decided that it wasn’t worth $70 to me. Anyway, I didn’t think it would be a terribly popular domain. It isn’t especially short, and it’s not a single dictionary word.

Unfortunately, I lost that gamble. Late last night, a company in Hong Kong called "Vertical Axis" registered the domain before I had a chance. My assumption was that they were a cybersquatter of some sort. My impression of them was not helped by the fact that they have Javascript trying to open a popup window in their whois record (it doesn’t do anything to me since I run whois on the command line, but it’s still sleazy). A little research turned up a complaint against them for squatting on another domain. Now my only hope is that they let it expire at the end of the one year registration. And then it’s back to the beginning of the process.

This has been a frustrating experience, mostly because of the way the registrars do things. They give you no way to tell exactly when a domain will become available. In fact, I believe that they intentionally make it impossible to determine, though I don’t have any proof of that. It feels like the playing field isn’t level. I don’t know that Vertical Axis cheated. They may just have better processes in place for grabbing domains instantly as they expire, or they may have simply gotten lucky. But I do feel like I never had a chance. According to the data I got from whois, the domain went from being in PENDINGDELETE status to being owned by Vertical Axis in a matter of less than 20 minutes. Unless I was checking whois every 10 seconds, there’s no way I could have gotten in (and even then, it wouldn’t be a sure thing).

Maybe next time I’ll just shovel $70 into someone’s pocket by signing up for Snapnames. It’s not a solution I like, but it may be the only way to have a chance.

If it sounds too good to be true…
Monday, March 3rd, 2003

Have you ever considered ordering a camera via mail order? Ever looked at those ads in the back of photography magazines and gawked at the amazing deals? I think it’s fairly common knowledge that many of those advertisers are a little less than honest. They may try to sell you hundreds of dollars of unnecessary accessories, they might send you grey market goods or maybe they’ll just tell you that what you want is out of stock for the next three months. Nevertheless, I always wonder about these places. Are they just run by some guy sitting in his basement or what?

Don Wiss has helped to shed some light on what these places are, or at least what their "storefronts" look like. He has a bunch of photos of the various Brooklyn and Manhattan mail order photography companies’ physical locations. It’s quite an eye opener for anyone who has ever considred buying from one of them.

What a guy
Friday, February 28th, 2003

Andrew Burnett, the man who was sentenced to prison in 2001 for throwing Leo the dog into traffic during an argument with his owner, has decided to prove once again what a classy man he is. He’s suing the San Jose Mercury News and Leo’s owner Sara McBurnett for damages he suffered due to the publicity around the case. The Mercury News has an article (via Romenesko).

Dar Williams @ Easy Street
Thursday, February 27th, 2003

This evening, Dar Williams did a free mini-show at Easy Street Records on Queen Anne. It’s a bummer that she didn’t play a full show this time around. Seeing a few songs is better than seeing none, but a full-length Dar show is a thing of beauty.

She played a few songs from her new album, "The Beauty of the Rain" ("Farewell to the Old Me," "Fishing in the Morning," "I Saw a Bird Fly Away" and "The One Who Knows") and one of her older ones ("Christians and the Pagans"). Then she came out and did "February" as an encore. It as a very nice set.


There were a lot of people there. Quite a few more than I’d expected. I’d estimate the turnout at about 200, but I’m notoriously inept at judging crowd size. Sadly, due to the layout of the space (merchandise racks everywhere) and the number of people who got there before us, we didn’t get to be very close. That, coupled with lighting too low for available light shooting and the anemic flash on my digital camera, means that I didn’t get any usable pictures of Dar at all. I could have brought a film camera with fast film or an external flash, but I didn’t really feel like lugging that stuff around. And I was expecting to be a lot closer. I learned my lesson about getting to a free Dar appearance late. I’ve been to enough Dar shows that I really should have known better.

Striking workers and innocent bystanders
Thursday, February 27th, 2003

Erin at Yale brings up some interesting issues around how labor disputes affect people on the fringes of the dispute. Graduate students at Yale are preparing to strike, and in the process, they’re dragging every undergraduate into the debate.

Regardless of where I stand on a given issue, I usually think that actions with massive repercussions for uninvolved parties are a bad tactic. For example, I almost always side with teachers when they are in negotations. I fully believe that teachers in this country are underpaid and are very often forced to work in very bad conditions. I strongly support any effort to correct these problems. But I generally disagree with teacher strikes because they force so many innocent parties to be involved against their will. It’s not the students’ fault that teachers are underpaid. It’s not the parents’ fault if the contact isn’t fair. Yet these are the very people who are most damaged when teachers go on strike.

This is a difficult subject. On one hand, it’s unfair to inconvenience the students because of problems that are out of their control (and very often out of their realm of understanding as well). On the other hand, drastic measures are sometimes needed to effect change. If there’s a simple binary choice between having the workers be unfairly treated and having innocent bystanders drawn into the debate beause of a strike, which would I choose? I just can’t answer that question…

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