And to think, it’s all Dorman’s fault.

This post is the 775th of 2012, which means this year was the most “productive” (ha, ha) year for Heathen since 2008. See for yourself on the sidebar.

It would be interesting, but in no way useful, to track posting frequency with blogging platform, or tool availability. This probably means I’ll try to figure it out immediately. In any case, the uptick THIS time around is due to the migration to WordPress, which allowed me to use an excellent desktop blogging tool that I’d had to abandon due to a shift in the way the prior platform (Movable Type) behaved.

See what happens when people don’t listen to me?

The story of how I came to register “” used to be on the site I maintained there, but since it’s now offline, I’ll reproduce it here for you:

Hey, Chet, what the hell do you mean about this No Gators stuff?

Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve got nothing against alligators, caymans, crocodiles, komodo dragons, iguanas, etc. (though it is true that I am vexed by the overwhelmingly lame nature of chameleon constitutions).

I’m a software and e-business consultant by trade. This means I routinely work with clients — typically representatives of great-big-huge companies — in creating the specifications, object models, & etc. that constitute the blueprint for large bespoke software systems (say, a million bucks and up).

This is not easy. The hardest part is often getting clients who are experts in their business areas to understand the core challenges of software development. Many of them still have the “just go build it; I’m sure it will be right” point of view — which is never a good idea.

This is not to say that these people aren’t smart. It’s just a recognition that lawyers make lousy physicians, and neither can usually find work as auto mechanics.

One tool we’ve used to educate clients is a list of things the software will and won’t do once the first phase is complete. Obviously, the list of “will not do” isn’t complete — think about it; it can’t be. A list of features NOT included with any system is by definition infinite. There is no formula for determining the area OUTSIDE a circle. If you find one, let me know.

So these lists are often points of contention. Ideally, the “is” list contains the features and functions we have hammered out over the course of discovery. The “is-not” list should be confined to stuff we’ve discussed, but eventually eschewed in the name of schedule, complexity, or cost savings.

Once (okay, more than once), we had a client who was unclear on this concept. The “is” list was hard to constrain on the grounds that “well, someday, we DO want it to do X.” That our list was intended to capture phase one development only was a notion that, so far as I know, continues to escape them. Even the creation of an explicit “not-now-but-later” list failed to keep them from trying to stack the “is” list with wildly out of scope concepts.

More troubling was their tendency to insist on the inclusion of all sorts of far-and-wide features and functions on the “is not” list. Finally, in a fit of frustration fueled by beer late one evening, I suggested to a colleague that we should explicitly disallow alligators, on the grounds that they would surely insist on their inclusion should we fail to head them off. For some reason, this was impossibly funny.

It still is, actually, unless you stop to consider that I could have been right.

Well, Agent Rhymes-With-Schloachim has pointed out that, well, it appears Google fell down a bit on some requirements gathering:

In a follow-up interview, Joe Kava, Google’s senior director of data center construction and operations, revealed a bit more about the South Carolina site, which sits just off U.S. Highway 52 between Goose Creek and Moncks Corner. Kava said the local data center is the only one in Google’s inventory that is experimenting with using a stormwater retention pond to help cool servers.


In addition to potentially keeping Google’s search and email programs from overheating, the pond also has become home to plenty of algae, which meant Google had to stock it with fish. And since this is the Lowcountry, the food chain didn’t stop there.

“So we now have a 4-foot alligator that has taken up residence in our pond as well,” Kava said, clearly amused.

If only I had been there!

Because Twitter Hates You, That’s Why

A few have remarked that the Heathen Twitter feed is no longer showing up on the right-hand side of the page. This is because, near as I can tell, Twitter hates us. Remember, we’re not their customers; we’re their products. They’ve changed (read: broken) their old APIs, and nothing I try seems to work. This is by design.

Even, I should note, their much-ballyhooed new embedded timeline bullshit. Which would be irrelevant, since that option forces compliance with their bizarre display rules, which mandate the inclusion of the goddamn avatar. I just want the fucking tweets.

Twitter is doing this because they want absolute control over the Twitter experience so they can force you to look at ads, like Facebook. Which is one reason I spend very, very little time on Facebook. Allowing simple, easy, unauthenticated syndication of a user’s public timeline is antithetical to this, even though you can just go to my Twitter page and see all my activity in a browser without any authentication or tokens or whatever.

So, yeah, this isn’t likely to get fixed.


In accordance with tradition, the additional header graphics have the following names:

  • “Smaller balls than on the real ones”
  • “Three”
  • “Etched ‘Cause You Caint Brand Glass”
  • “Mmmmm”
  • “Two”
  • “One”
  • “No Children Were Harmed With These Fireworks”
  • “Again?”
  • “QB1 with Shoes”
  • “Senator Wigginsworth”
  • “AFP”
  • “Pretty much all the nieces take pretty good pics”
  • “Dinner”

The old set are still in the mix, too. Variety is the spice of life, after all.


Just busy busy busy. And traveling. And going to Dubai later. And buying a new air conditioner. and watching Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog. And not making any of this up. I swear.

Dept. of Blog Tweaks

Astute Heathen will notice that the header graphics are no longer stock images, and in fact are now Official Heathenographs. My photos have no titles normally, but here are fifteen provisional titles to go with the pictures.

  1. “And over there, Japan”
  2. “Overused Photo Cliche #261”
  3. “That’s not blurry; that’s just Wurstfest!”
  4. “Vern, alight with Red Wings”
  5. “Still Life With Excessive Stereotypical Southernism”
  6. “Future Home of Grand Parkway #1”
  7. “Before”
  8. “After”
  9. “Nobody Liked Jim Lehrer Anyway”
  10. “Master Wong Is Unconcerned With Eminent Domain”
  11. Porcupine Racetrack
  12. “When Australians Get High”
  13. “Master Wong’s Cohort Gaze With Horror At Encroaching Bulldozers”
  14. “No, Really, We’re Working”
  15. “It Only Looks Idyllic. It’s Actually Albany.”

Since the banner’s on a random rotation, you may have to visit a few times to sort out which is which. Actual humans pictured include the AccountingCatSnorter, Mrs Heathen, FirstNiece, some strangers, Leopardboy, certain Kohn’s bartenders, and Jim Lehrer. Enjoy.

Meta-Note: RSS

Because of the shift to WordPress, those of you who have been reading the site via RSS will need to update your feed reader to point to and not the old feed address.

So, about commenting…

Probably the best thing for you to do is register here, at Heathen, to comment. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get the Google thing hooked up again, but the reason I discouraged it before was precisely because the move to WordPress was imminent.



Chief Heathen Technology Officer Dorman has graciously converted Heathen once again, this time to WordPress. Movable Type was, sadly, just about done. Let us know if you see anything weird.

Comments may be janky for a bit. It’s also possible you’ll need to reregister IF and ONLY IF you tried to use a local-to-Heathen authentication plan. If you’re using Google or something else, that should carry over just fine.

HeathenFact: This is the 5th platform for Heathen in eleven years:

  1. Blogger (pretty brief — November 2000 through July of 2001)
  2. GreyMatter (July 2001 through sometime in 2003)
  3. Blosxom (2003 through about 2008, I think)
  4. Movable Type (2008 through today)
  5. WordPress

I think that’s all.

In Which There Are Changes

Spam comments have become a giant pain in the ass. Moveable Type — the platform I use here — has some basic antispam stuff, but I can’t seem to get it tuned right, so the only way I’ve found to keep the spam out is to have the filters set to “very aggressive” and sift through the spam queue every day or so for the ACTUAL comments. But they pile up QUICKLY.

I’ve been busy for a few days (hence no posts), for example, and now, after 6 days, I’ve just discovered over two thousand spam comments to zap.

What does this mean to you, the Heathen faithful? It means I’m restricting comments to authenticated users effective immediately. There are lots of auth systems I can piggyback on, and that you can use with very little effort. I hope you’ll do so. But I can’t keep up with the spam deluge.

MiscHeathen is also moving to a new platform sometime before Christmas. I was going to put off the comment login thing until then, but I just don’t have the time to deal with the flood. Henceforth, you’ll need to use an ID on one of the following systems in order to comment here:

  • OpenID
  • Google
  • AIM
  • TypePad

If this doesn’t work for you, please let me know via email. Thanks.

Holy Crap, I’m Behind

Got super busy with revenue-producing activities, so you’ll have to do with a snarky bullet-point post. Strap in; here we go:

What I Talk About When I Talk About 9/11

I’m not going to write about what I was doing on 9/11. I had a morning like most other Americans, stuck to CNN. Also, for most of it I was naked and had a face half-covered in shaving cream. You’re lucky I don’t have pictures.

I have no interest in distant naval-gazing about Our National Tragedy. A bad thing happened. Lots of people died. That happens a lot. I’m blessed — which is exactly the wrong word, since MOST people are in this group with me — that no one I knew and loved was lost 10 years ago today. Those who aren’t have a different reason to reflect today, but if I had been that unlucky, I doubt I’d want to commemorate the event with network news specials.

What I suspect isn’t being said today, because it’s a complex idea requiring actual self-reflection, is what 9/11 got us. I have yet to see a single bit of discussion about how we as a nation allowed 9/11-based fear to drive us to extremes of reaction and irrationality that continue every single fucking day, with no signs of stopping. And because of this, something ugly happened:

Osama is dead, but he won.

9/11 was an enormous success by any metric I can imagine AQ leadership using. Not because they killed 3,000 Americans, but because they convinced us to change who we are. They drove the US crazy. They got us to start a wholly unnecessary war in Iraq, killing thousands of civilians. Osama baited us into become an nation that openly tortures, that is more than willing to abrogate the rights we say we think are universal with bullshit like PATRIOT and imperial-presidency ideas that people like David Addington whispered into Cheney and Bush’s ears. In a post-9/11 world, the Executive Branch can detain anyone they want, at any point they want, for any reason they want, and without filing charges, just by insisting they’re an “enemy combatant.” We have trials short-circuited by state secrets privilege claims, and absolutely terrifying doctrines of “secret laws” are being cited in US Courts. And having done these things, they are now part of our political and legal landscape until someone takes specific steps to remove them — which is hard to make happen, because who wants to be “soft on crime” or “soft on terra” enough to say that, just maybe, carting innocent people off to be tortured in Syria might not be something we should do. Ever.

THAT is horror all Americans must face. The government can now disappear you, just like in Argentina. People who work for us waterboarded prisoners, and the only ones in who spent any time in jail were people at the bottom of the chain of command who most certainly did not create the policy. We imprisoned hundreds of people at Gitmo and God knows how many other black sites, and tried very hard to establish a legal Catch-22 that prevented any innocent people from escaping that Kafkaesque disaster. This legacy is way scarier than 9/11 to me, and it boils down to this:

We had choices to make about how we’d respond, and in almost every case we made bad ones. And we’re still allowing those choices to stand, and to define who we are. And in so doing, we are shaming the values that we say we stand for — those things enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

So yes, anniversaries are good times to reflect. This one would be a good time for us to pull our collective shit together and repudiate the frightened, absurdist choices we made in the immediate wake of 11 September 2001.

But I’m not holding my breath. It’s easy to sell stupid to people. It’s way harder to unsell it.

Today in Heathen News

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Chief Technological Heathen, the developer formerly known as LHHFFH, the entire archives of Miscellaneous Heathen are finally online again. And, for the first time, they’re actually all stored in the same system — all prior “complete” incarnations of Heathen included some static page copies of the earliest entries, from November 2000 through July 2001.

The takeaway? Good CHRIST I post a lot. Anyway, here’s a few newly-restored delights for you:


Attention Heathen Nation

Comment spam has become a real problem, so we’ve enabled more aggressive auto-filtering. If you think your comment was marked as spam erroneously, email me.

If you want to avoid the spam-detection stuff altogether, comment here using a registered identity from TypePad, OpenID, Google, Yahoo, AIM, or

It is likely that we’ll go to authenticated-only for comments in the near future. Sorry, but Heathen’s notched 156,000 spam comments in the last two weeks alone, no word of it a lie.

To Some Arrant Knaves I Know, and Those That Came After

Ten years is a long time.

If that old saw is true about how our whole bodies regenerate every 7 years, then a decade ago we were all literally different people. Same or not, we certainly lived in a different world ten years ago; for one thing, when I flew back then, I took a Swiss Army Knife on board with me, and everyone treated airport security drones with the respect they deserved and not as some crucial imaginary barrier between us and Mooslim hordes.

There’s more than that, though, obviously. While the greater Heathen cast carries many long-term members who date to the early nineties or even before, we have many tribemembers today that we hadn’t even met in November of 2000. Even better, more than a few proto-heathen didn’t even exist back then. One Heathen in particular was known to us, but it didn’t become clear until a year later how important she’d turn out to be. ;)

Today is the tenth anniversary of Miscellaneous Heathen as a weblog. For some time prior to 27 November 2000, I maintained a mailing list for amusing items collectively called “Some Arrant Knaves I Know,” a reference to Hamlet (III.1) appropriately drawn from my English major background. The title of the weblog itself was taken from a photo (by, I believe, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow) of a clearly insane protester at a location now lost to memory; said protestor’s sign, taller than the holder, listed a catalog of hellbound miscreants and concluded with our eponymous phrase.

I happily join that category, today more than ever, and thank you all for reading my yammerings for ten whole years. Here’s to ten more.

A Word On Pending Comments

I’ve been away for 2 weeks, and took a definite break on comment management during that time. I’ve just approved a big batch of comments, but I won’t be leaping back and rejoining any of those threads. I’m sure my antagonists will find something new to argue with me about in the near term. ;)

Happy Birthday To This

Eight years ago today, a mailing list I maintained called “Some Arrant Knaves I Know” transmogrified into a blog called Miscellaneous Heathen.

Much of the last 8 years’ subject matter has been political, because — let’s face it — we spent most of that time watching the Bush Administration carefully consider what the right path would be in any given situation, and then just as carefully select the opposite. That fueled lots of angry posts, at times even overwhelming the “here’s something weird” character of the ancestral mailing list. With Bush nearly out of office, I don’t think I”ll stop writing about politics, but I do expect the post mix to become a bit less political. And I don’t mind.

Here’s to a return to weirdness. Happy Heathen Day. Now I’m gonna go watch and see if Alabama can beat Auburn.

New Heathen Comment Policy

You’re going to need to jump through some additional hoops to comment at Heathen. Anonymous comments will require a valid email address; authenticated comments are possible with a TypeKey or LiveJournal account. Spam’s a huge problem, so while I’m sorry to have to make it a bit of a hassle, it’s really the only way I can keep comments open.


This will only sting a little. After wrasslin’ for way too long with the terminally unfinished and almost completely unsupported Typo, Longtime Heathen M.A.D. courteously helped us migrate this afternoon the that modern-day hegemon of blogging, Movable Type, and what’s more he’s even hosting it for us. If you can see this post, you’re already here — and as part and parcel of this lovely little migration, feeds ought to work again, too.

All hail Michael for his selfless work here — he custom-coded a Typo-to-MT script for me as part of this deal. Now, enjoy.

Some things will be a little different, and the whole commenting thing will be weird for a bit while I sort out what degree of authentication I want to impose thereon. Since working feeds will allow me to syndicate Heathen via my Facebook presence, I sort of expect comment volume — specifically, angry reactionary Republican comment volume — to spike unless I impose some accountability there. ;)

Just so you know

We don’t do anonymous comments here. Identify yourself, or don’t comment. Thanks.

Update: Let me be clear. I’m more than willing to engage anyone here, on Facebook, or wherever, but not anonymously. If you’re too cowardly to argue under your own name, you’re not worth my time.

You want new? I got new.

I’m piloting the next version of Heathen here; look there for new content, but n.b. that I’m not completely making the move yet, and some things aren’t quite configured properly yet. Even so, it’s promising.

Can’t Keep Us Down Nohow

WE LIVE AGAIN, sort of. A few things are broken or otherwise unavailable (most notably comments, but also some supporting files (they’re copying now) and the archive-and-census page) for now, but expect all to become normal relatively soon; this little crisis has me considering a migration to a different (more modern) blogging platform again, and I’m not going to spend time making Blosxom perfect again here until I’m sure I’m going to stick with it. However, the real message is this: we’re back, and you can resume your frantic page-reloads and therefore resume your previous level of workday productivity. Or lack thereof. Later, I’ll have much to say about any number of topics, since I’ve been without this fine virtual pulpit for several days now.

Inshallah and all that.

OH: the fact that all the Heathen entries and supporting files were easily on hand even after a major server crash should tell you something about backups and their efficacy. Go and do likewise.

Seven Years of Bad Luck

Lookie here what the archive page says today:

At 4:37pm on 29 November 2000, I decided to take the plunge and convert a longstanding mailing list then called ‘Some Arrant Knaves I Know’ into the blogolicious splendor you see before you today. Now, seven years and 5,225 posts later, I’m still here, scarred but smarter, as they say. Seven years is a decidedly biblical length of time, and reaching the milestone puts me in a reflective mood. (Of course, the original home of Heathen,, is slightly older, and was itself a migration of a site originally hosted at Houston ISP Neosoft since 1995.)

Bizarre differences, then and now

In 2000:

  • The boom was booming, and I was going to be rich forever.
  • Britney was still hiding her white trash truth from us.
  • Terrorists were, by and large, something my roommate killed in Counterstrike, and I could carry my Swiss Army Knife on airplanes. Not to mention as much hair gel as I wanted.
  • My wife was still someone I’d met in college, but lost touch with.
  • Jackson Correspondent Triple-F was a lowly, drunken and aggressively single law student entering his final year instead of the married father he is today.
  • There was no participatory web to link to back then. HotOrNot existed, but things like Wikipedia and social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook were still a ways off. (Well, Wikipedia launched in 1/01, but it didn’t get useful for a while.) Blogs were also pretty unusual, though that also changed quickly.
  • As you may recall, there were no comments for two years. I turned them on due to the Heights Attorney’s complaints in 12/2002. The initial Heathen platform, Blogger (then only a year old!), didn’t support them, and I didn’t bother turning them on for some reason when I migrated to Greymatter in July of 2001. (You can’t tell this by looking at the archives, since everything from 7/01 on appears to have a comment link thanks to the import job I did when I switched to Blosxom in 2003.)
  • There were also no categories until 2003, either.
  • I posted a lot less. 2002 had only 234 total posts. 2007 will likely top 1,100 (1,046 as of last night). The dramatic uptick coincides with my adoption of Blosxom as a platform, which makes things much easier (thanks, Mike).
  • The layout’s changed a few times, but sadly there are no historical shots of anything but the very first Blogger template (preserved in the oldest archive pages).
  • REALLY longtime Heathen know that MH lived first at in a subdirectory, not on its own domain; I didn’t buy the mischeathen/miscellaneousheathen domains until 2003.
  • Heathen and NoGators originally lived at Laughing Squid, a great and independent host in San Francisco. We moved from there to a leased server at some point, and then off that server following a hacking incident a couple years ago. We’re now hosted as part of a work-for-hosting deal with Spacetaker.
  • Traffic’s gotten slightly better, but is still low enough that I’ve never seen a dime off the ads. The five year post says Heathen was at 5K+ uniques a month and 80K hits a month; for October ’07, we did 7600 uniques and about 80K hits. (Oddly, November shows nearly 13K uniques for some reason.)

Bizarre constants, then and now

  • By the time the first post happened, I’d already moved into Heathen Central. This makes the HQ my most constant domicile ever, not counting the house I was born into (1970 – 1979).
  • I still drink with most of the same people, with only a couple new faces. Ear O’Corn married the subject of the second-ever post about a year ago, but she was already around back then. We’re just older now. Even Lindsey.
  • We had the same creeps in the White House, which seems particularly bizarre.
  • My earliest and most constant sources are only a bit older than Heathen: Metafilter dates from 1999. BoingBoing started in January of 2000 as a weblog (though it was a site and a zine first). The mostly-dormant Memepool started 1998. Heathen’s frequently served as sort of a second-order aggregator of cool stuff online, based on the assumption that most of its readers don’t also read the hardcore geek sites like these.

Things we noticed perusing the first couple months

  • Holy Jesus, what was I thinking with that godawful orange?
  • I’ve gotten longer-winded. Part of this is Blosxom, which makes it much less trouble to post, and harder to lose a post-in-progress to the fickle foilbles of browser code. I just write an entry in any editor, save it to the right directory locally, and run a sync job when I get around to it. Blogger and Greymatter (and pretty much every other platform) required I use a web interface to post, which just gets in the way. This ease of use is the major reason why I’m still not using a database-backed tool.
  • For the first year or so, it was slightly less political, and slightly more goofy, and completely devoid of football.
  • Did I really not realize that the jazz critic who lambasted Ken Burns’ multi-night affair in 2001 was THE Harvey Pekar? Apparently.
  • First mention of Utilikilts: August, 2001.
  • The old pages got a lot of comment spam before I locked down the files. Oops. Better commenting is one feature I’d get if I’d move to a fancier platform, and it’s tempting.

I’m still having fun with this peculiar public hobby. You’re apparently still reading. I reckon there’s no reason to stop now. Happy birthday to Heathen, and Happy Holidays.