Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Radical Islam

I watched a very interesting documentary last night called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West.

I think since 9/11 everyone has been aware of a link between Islam Extremism and terrorism, but I'm not sure everyone is aware of the gravity of this movement. What I liked about the film was that just about everyone interviewed was a Muslim (one person was a former PLO agent). This diminished the notion that the movie was a biased message from non-Muslim groups (i.e. Jedeo-Christian). And, of course, the first point made was that Islam Extremism is a view only held by a small percentage of practicing Muslims (something like 10 to 15%). However, that number is getting bigger as the "movement" is being very effective in recruiting non-Extremists to their cause - especially the youth.

The scary thing is the end goal of Radical Islam: to take over the world (by force) and make everyone Islam, killing everyone who apposes. A lot of people, including myself, questioned why Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center. Why do they hate us so much? Why were they willing to kill Americans, including Muslims? The answer, according to the film, is that they will kill anyone who apposes their mission of world domination. Right now, Western Civilization, is a huge target since it apposes this world view.

The movie also drew a very interesting parallel between Islam Extremism and the Nazi movement in WWII. Hitler's end goal was similar: to take over the world and eradicate anyone who didn't fit his world view, his primary target being the Jews. An interesting point was made that the current Radical Islam movement is potentially more dangerous than the Nazi movement because the Nazis fought because Hitler told them to; Islam Extremists fight because they believe God is telling them too.

Taking all this into account, puts a new spin on the War in Iraq, at least for me. Like most Americans right now, I'm getting weary of this conflict: the money being spent, the lives lost, yada yada. Up until the last few years, I've considered myself a conservative. I voted for Bush. However, these days its been tough to understand and support what he's doing. After all, wasn't it Osama bin Laden who attacked us, not Iraq? There were no WMD's. It just seems like we're there now because we opened a can of worms and can't get out.

Well, if what this movie says is true, then there is some logic for being in Iraq. Assuming the US government realized the real threat of Islam Extremism (world take-over), they had two options: build US defenses and just wait for the movement to grow and attack us or be proactive and attempt to stabilize the region where most of the Islam Extremism was coming from. At the time we invaded Iraq, everyone, left and right was certain that Saddam Hussein had WMD's. And if he was in on this movement, there was a huge threat here. Well, he didn't (at least we didn't find any). So we finally took him out only to find that removing him destabilized the country even more. But given the threat of Radical Islam, did we have any choice? Had we just sat back and let the movement take over the rest of world, we would have had very little chance of effectively defending ourselves in the future. Tough call. I'm glad I'm not the President of the Unites States.

As a Christian, I'm still not sure where I stand on the War in Iraq. I guess from a strategic standpoint, it makes sense. But as far as showing the love of Christ, I'm not so sure. War is never a black and white issue.

A final point. About a month ago I watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. This movie openned my eyes as well. I find it interesting that both the left and right have a doomsday prophecy: the left thinks the polar ice caps will melt within 50 years and the right thinks a global Jehad will take over the world. Both sides say we need to take action now to prevent the end of the world as we know it.

Wouldn't it be ironic if both sides were true.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January Bike Ride

This will be a true test to see if my wife reads my blog.

I biked into work today. In me defense, it wasn't totally planned. The plan was to drop off my car at the shop and bike to the bus stop, which is only about .5 mile away. However, the problem with the bus, I've found, is that you have to get to the bus stop on time. So I missed the bus and my inspiring bus schedule said the next one would show up in about 50 minutes. The decision was easy: wait 50 minutes at a cold bus stop or bike to work in 35.

The good news was that I was fairly well dressed. I had assumed before this that I really didn't have the right clothing for anything below 30°F (this morning it was about 20°F). The only thing that got a little cold were my toes. The roads were fairly clear and the Gateway Trail, which I rode for about half the trip, was mostly plowed. As long as I didn't make any sudden turns, everything was smooth.

Overall, I enjoyed it and it's getting my more excitied about biking. Spring could not come soon enough.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Will Google take over the world?

For years I've had to endure Microsoft-bashing. I call it bashing because for the past 8 years I've made a living off of the success of Microsoft and knocking Microsoft (or M$ as the affectionate abbreviation goes), meant you were knocking the entity that ultimate allowed me to get a pay check. But don't get me wrong, it's fun to bash large corporations, and I'll admit I've made an occasional M$ jab from time to time. Microsoft has done some cool stuff and some not so cool stuff. And, ironically, many of the sins they were accused of back in the day have been committed by many of their competitors since then. I guess it's the game of business.

I remember something Bill Gates said a few years ago when Microsoft was at its peak. And that was that at any given moment, Microsoft Corporation was 12 months away from going under. What he meant was that even a software giant like Microsoft could never stand still or the competition would eat it alive.

Well, I think Microsoft has met it's match: Google. It's no secret that Google has quietly become a huge player in the technology world. They are the standard search engine. I love many of their free services, including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Reader. But I've always found it a bit odd that they offer so much stuff for free.

What exactly is G$ up too? Check this out.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why I HATE Cingular

Ya, harsh subject line. And for people who know me, I'm not one to start flaming people or companies. But I've had it. And I need to vent this somehow.

About a year and a half ago I switched from T-Mobile to Cingular because I wanted a phone that only Cingular offered. Dumbest mistake of my life. The very second my 2 year contract is up, I'm switching back. Now, granted, Cingular has been better than AT&T, but not by much. And just an FYI - my biggest annoyance with Cingular is that they claim to have the fewest number of dropped calls; I get a dropped call about once a day.

Anyway, I open up my cell phone bill today expecting it to be around the normal $75. Not this time. Today it was 498.54! Holy crap! So I scrambled to figure it what the heck happenned. Of course, disciphering the billing charges requires a PhD and a half, but I finally found the issue. The bill claimed that I had done a 39,578KB data transfer. I don't have a data plan. I haven't done any data transfers since the first month I had service after which I cancelled their $20/mo data plan.

I called customer care and the rep did a little research and found out the transfer occurred at 3:52pm on Tuesday 11/28/06. I was at work at that time and to my knowledge was not using my phone to transfer megabytes of data (I did a quick calculation and discovered it would take at least 2 hours to transfer that much data with my phone). So I told them that and they claimed there was nothing they could do. Ha! I asked to speak with a manager. After sitting on hold for 10 minutes, a manager came on and said the best they could do was credit my account $150. When I proceded to explain to them that I wasn't going to pay any of the erroneous data charge, the connection went dead. Cingular - network with the fewest dropped calls. That was the moment that I almost ate my cellphone while tearing the countertop off my kitchen cabinets.

There is a happy ending. I called back, sat on hold for a while, and finally spoke with a rep who was able to credit me half of the charge and fill out a form that would supposedly credit the rest back within 30 days. I pray that happens; God have mercy on the poor customer care person who answers my call if it doesn't.

There, I feel much better now. :)

UPDATE 9/4/07:

I'm happy to report that Cingular did manage to completely reverse the charges. It took a month, but at least it was taken care of. Why I had to go through so much pain is still irritating to think about. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks they sprinkle little fees like this all the time to customers and bank on the hopes that the customer won't go through the hassle to reverse them.

Anyway, in the end, I got even. The very day after my 2 year contract was up I switched to T-Mobile. And, like the comment of one of the readers, I haven't had to think about my wireless provider ever since.

One more funny thing. Just after I switched, T-Mobile put up some billboards in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area stating "Don't drop dad! T-Mobile, fewest drop calls in the Twin Cities". I knew it wasn't just me!