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September 2004

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I got this in the mail today from American Express:


We would like to advise you of the status of your claim on your account from PAYPAL SVC XXX XXX-XXXX. We suspended the amount of $2,300.00 and advised you we would contact the merchant on your behalf.

We are pleased to inform you that credit in the amount of $2,300.00 has been posted to your account which can be seen on an upcoming statement. Therefore, we are removing the previously suspended amount from your account, which will also reflect on an upcoming statement.

If we can be of further assistance, please call the toll-free telephone number on your statement and speak with a Customer Service Representative.


J. Willis
Customer Service Supervisor

Now, the only question is, what happens to the Shehryar Qamar?

Checking my referrer logs, it looks like a good number of Shehryar Qamar's victims are stumbling across this page. If you've been scammed by vinylpushers@hotmail.com on ebay, "spective" on the tranceaddict forums, or a person claiming to be "Antonella Guerra" anywhere else, you may be interested in my story. A good place to start is my initial documentation of the scam, and you can follow up with what has happened since by browsing my Powerbook weblog category.

Goddamnit, I really, really wish the Firefox UI wasn't so broken in OS X.

Deal breakers:

Middle mouse doesn't open new tabs when clicking on links
Find-as-you-type doesn't work

You can weasel around the middle mouse thing by mapping the button to splat-click if your mouse utility supports it, but then you're screwed if you want to use the X11 copy/paste buffer. Find as you type just flat out doesn't work, and that's one of my favorite features in Firefox.

I really hope the Firefox team gets this stuff straight; I love the browser and would really like to use it on my Mac. Right now I'm using Safari since it's pretty decent and middle click works, but I really miss find-as-you-type and some of the cooler Firefox extensions.

For a while now I've been a real fan of Hybrid vehicles, and have been jealously eyeing every Prius I've spotted on the road. I was convinced at one point that my next car would be one of these rare and costly items, even though they only increase fuel efficiency by about 20% over standard cars. Hey, that's *something* after all.

But, in my current location, I've got an even better solution that's been sitting in my back yard - my bike.

I'm in the rare and lucky situation of living within 3 miles of where I work, and as such I can ride there in about 10 minutes. As an added bonus, my gym is right across the road from my office - so all I need to do is show up early enough, and I can workout and shower before work.

The only thing holding me back has been the need to transport more stuff than will fit in a backpack, and I just ordered a pannier to remedy that situation. Once this thing arrives, I should be able to ditch the car entirely for normal daily use - so while those Prius owners may feel great about their 37 MPG, I'll be running on 100% bio-fuel, and getting a good workout to boot.

When Mojo started talking about getting into biking, I knew I'd be up for it. Unfortunately, my pretty-decent 7-year-old low-end Trek had been neglected for months (if not years), and I kept putting off the repairs it required. I felt a little guilty about letting it get so far out of shape, and when I finally decided to get in gear I had to shell out $250 on repairs and accessories. Ouch.

But with that out of the way, I've been rolling. Up until now I've mostly just ridden with Mojo on the Cary Greenway, but his bike is such a piece of junk he's not able to keep up with me on my Trek (low-end as it may be for a Trek, it's still leaps and bounds beyond his Wal-Mart bike). Yesterday I decided to go solo, and I really pushed myself to see what I could do.

I refer not to testing my technical biking skill, of which I possess very little, but to pushing the limits of my raw physical endurance. My time at the gym has undoubtedly prepped me for some more difficult physical activity, as has my use of Albuterol to combat my recently discovered exercise induced asthma.

So, here was the plan. I would leave my house on Gregory Drive, take Maynard about a mile to the Cary Greenway, take the Greenway about 3 miles to Lake Crabtree, take a small dirt road from there into Umstead, and then just bike until I could bike no more. After a quick breath of albuterol, I equipped my iPod and a full bottle of water and rolled out of my driveway at about 12:45.

Riding on Harrison always sucks, even though I'm only on it a short distance. Motorists occasionally honk as they pass, though I'm not really sure what they want - I go as fast as I can, obey the traffic rules, and stay very far to the right lane. I sometimes flip them off in return, but I haven't noticed that doing so really does any good. They're probably too busy talking on cell phones to even notice.

Off of Harrison, I hit the Greenway. The Greenway is a three-mile stretch of asphalt, a bit wider than a golf cart path, flanked on both sides by several feet of grassy terrain, beyond which are mostly wooded areas and creeks that stand between the Greenway and various neighborhoods. There are exits from the Greenway into some of these neighborhoods, as well as to a couple of City Parks. The terrain is mostly flat, with a few gradual hills, and makes for a nice leisurely trek.

I couldn't help but think of an interesting sport idea - Greenway Golf. It would be quite challenging to hit a golf ball from one end of the greenway to the other, and I'd love to try it some day - unfortunately, the other people on the trail might object to a small spheroid object plummeting from the sky in their general vicinities. Ah, well.

At the end of the Greenway is Lake Crabtree, a pretty uninteresting body of water. When Mojo and I went there on Saturday, the water actually ran up over the asphalt in places, which was pretty fun to ride through - no such luck on Sunday, as the lake had receded enough to leave me a clear path. Still, there were puddles in various spots on the greenway, and by the time I made it to the end I had a good bit of muck and water clinging to my clothing.

From Lake Crabtree, there's about a half mile stretch of uphill dirt road to traverse before you enter Umstead proper. The road crosses over I-40 and then does nothing interesting until it hits the state park, where the bike and bridle trail begins. Umstead's bike trails are essentially well-maintained fine gravel roads, on which my mountain bike has no trouble finding purchase - perfect for my low level of technical ability.

Umstead is where I spent a majority of my time. Part of the New Deal during the Great Depression, Umstead was mostly an excuse for the government to keep people employed, and it's lucky for us now that they did so. Reedy Creek was dammed for no obvious reason, which created a small lake near the Harrison Blvd. entrance. Umstead itself spans several miles, with dozens of miles of winding trails that meander through the woods, crossing occasionally over creeks and streams.

The park is nothing spectacular, really, but it's an island of nature surrounded by the airport to the west, the interstate to the south, and Raleigh subburbs and commercial areas to the east and north. There's not much of historical or geographical signifigance, but it's nice to have a little slice of wilderniss in an area that is becoming more and more urbanized.

I spent a good 3 hours in Umstead, and traversed nearly all of its bike/bridle trails. As I said, it's not technically challenging, but MAN there are some long hills that really sapped my strength. Of course, what goes up, must come down - and flying down those hills at max speed in the highest gear made up for the pain of getting to the top. All in all I had a great time and got a LOT of exercise.

Mojo called shortly after I had started heading back towards the Greenway, and I met up with him and Listener at the Cary Park off of Cary Parkway. It was then that I started to feel how truly exhausted I was - after a quick spin on Mojo's bike (to reaffirm my suspicions that it was a piece of junk), they headed out by car, and I headed back by bike. I very nearly ran out of gas on a couple of hills on the return trip, but I somehow managed to pull through and make it to the house. I can't remember ever being so drained in my entire life, and I immediately lay down and fell asleep.

All in all, it was a great first step in what I hope will become a good, healthy hobby. I'm going to go look at new bikes and bike-related toys today, even though my cash reserves are nearly drained thanks to some recent purchases...