Merry Christmas

February 20 or 21, 1981. The 688 Club in Atlanta, Georgia. R. E. M., opening for Joe “King” Carrasco.

Stipe is a month past his 21st birthday in this footage; Berry, Buck, and Mills aren’t a bunch older. Almost 32 years ago. Sweet Christ.

Go read this

David Simon completely nails the bankrupt response to the Petraeus thing, and to all such scandals. A taste:

The arguments about character? That human sexuality isn’t the most compartmentalized element of our nature? That if someone will lie about sex, they’ll lie about other things? Really? No, sorry, fuck that tripe. Character has become the self-righteous rallying cry of far greater hypocrisy than any cheating husband. It’s the excuse that makes our prurient leer seem meaningful and reasoned.


Turns out, that United merger thing isn’t going so well, and it couldn’t happen to better group of customer-hating, user-hostile jackasses:

United has the worst operational record among the nation’s top 15 airlines. Its on-time arrival rate in the 12 months through September was just 77.5 percent — six percentage points below the industry average and 10 percentage points lower than Delta Air Lines. It had the highest rate of regularly delayed flights this summer, and generated more customer complaints than all other airlines combined in July, according to the Transportation Department.

The airline even angered the mayor of Houston, Continental’s longtime home and still the carrier’s biggest hub, when it unsuccessfully sought to block Southwest Airlines’ bid to bring international flights to the city’s smaller airport, Hobby.

The United-Continental merger is weighing on the company’s finances. It took a $60 million charge in the third quarter for merger-related expenses, including repainting planes. It also took a $454 million charge to cover a future cash payment to pilots under a tentative deal reached in August.

While most large airlines reported profits this year, United has lost $103 million in the first three quarters of 2012, with revenue up just 1 percent to $28.5 billion. Its shares are up 7 percent this year compared with a 12 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and a 24 percent gain for Delta.

Yet another reason why big-time college football in its current form is unsustainable


After Tennessee fired its coach last week, the university’s chancellor said the athletic department would forgo $18 million in contributions it was to make to the university over the next three years for academic scholarships and fellowship programs. Instead, some of the money will be used to pay the severance packages of the coach, Derek Dooley, who is owed $5 million, and his staff, which is owed a reported $4 million if it is not retained. Dooley had four years remaining on his contract.

And people wonder why I say CultureMap is worthless

This story is so steeped in victim-blaming as to be obnoxious and gross.

It’s so gross, in fact, that it made one of CM’s freelancers feel like he needed to distance himself from it. CultureMap didn’t like that, so they asked him to take it down. And when he didn’t, they fired him.

Fuck CultureMap. Fuck ’em here, fuck ’em in Dallas, fuck ’em wherever. It’s vapid and pointless, and has been all along; now we just get to add a whole other list of unappealing adjectives to the mix before writing them off forever.

More at MeFi.

The best bit on the Auburn firing so far

Precisely nobody saw Chizik’s firing yesterday as a surprise. He won zero conference games this year, and it doesn’t look like the program is done crashing. Savvy folks saw this collapse coming a mile away — in fact, before Gene got to the Plains. His entire head coaching resume was a couple years at Iowa State, where he went 3-9 in his first year and 2-10 in his second. How this convinced the Auburn AD to give him the keys to their program I’ll never know. He did manage to win a little — 8-5 his first year, then the perfect season obviously on the strength of Newton, and then 8-5 again last year — but as the Tuberville-era players ran out, so did his luck.

CBS Sports nails it, taking the position that nobody in their right mind would want the Auburn job. My favorite bit:

Sharing a conference with Nick Saban is like sharing a steak with a lion. Only one of you wins that battle. And it’s not you.

Short Thought on Walter White

The central horror of Breaking Bad is not the titular evolution of a feckless, cuckolded high school teacher into a ruthless drug kingpin; it is that White achieves self actualization along the way.

How do they keep finding these stupid rich people?

It’s become a familiar line since Obama took office. Some $news_org will interview a high-earner to say something really fucking stupid like “I’m gonna make sure we don’t make more than $250,000 so we don’t have to pay higher taxes!”

These people are stupid, stupid, stupid, because they apparently have no idea how they’re taxed, and how incremental, graduated tax systems work. If the top tier starts at $250,001 of income, and somehow Obama gets a tax hike passed on that bracket such that the new rate is 50%, it doesn’t affect the taxes paid on the first $250,000 of income at all. The top tax bracket applies ONLY to the dollars earned over $250K.

Here’s a great rundown:

On more than one occasion, I’ve received an e-mail asking for advice on how to keep from slipping up into the next tax bracket. The motivation behind such e-mails is typically a misconception of how our progressive tax system works. What many people don’t realize is that our federal income tax brackets reflect marginal rates, not a rate that is applied to your entire income. Here’s a quick example based on current income tax rates…

For a married couple filing jointly in 2008, the 10% tax bracket covers income from $0 to $16,050. From $16,050 to $65,100 the tax rate is 15%. And from $65,100 to $131,450 the tax rate is 25%. A couple with a taxable income of $100k will be in the 25% tax bracket, but they won’t have to pay 25% in federal income taxes on the full amount. Rather, they’ll pay just 10% on the first $16,050, 15% on the next $49,050, and 25% on the last $34,900. This works out to $17,687.50, or an effective rate of just under 18%.

It IS true that, as income increases over the top stated bracket (over $388,350 in 2012), more and more of one’s income is subject to the highest bracket. Someone with an adjusted gross income of $390,000 pays the top rate on less than $2,000 of income, but someone earning $10,000,000 pays the top rate on nearly all their income. (This is not a bug.) But even at that level, they’re richer for every dollar earned; there’s no sense in curtailing or limiting income under the current US tax code.

What’s that? Not enough puppets or claymation in your music videos?

Well, our friends at the Linus Pauling Quartet have you covered:

If this is the sort of thing you enjoy, you should join me at their Module Release Show, 1PM, 15 December, at Cactus Music.

I should note that this release is not an ordinary release party. First, it’s a compilation of live cuts, out of print bits, and other rarities from LP4’s very, very long history. Second, it’s called “Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords,” and packaged as a D&D module complete with character sheets and maps.

I am not making this up. See you there.

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.

Following up on Electoral Data

My longtime pal Philip grabbed another couple columns of data for each state (and DC) and threw ’em into a Google Docs spreadsheet. You saw before that college degree penetration correlates almost perfectly with Democratic voting in this cycle; here’s what we found when we looked at high school diplomas and income.

Not as clear. The top ten states break 60/40 for the Democrats, but the bottom ten are 80% Republican.
The top ten states by income break 90% for Democrats, and the bottom ten are all GOP.

How old is James Bond?

This should be subtitled “Why I should not be allowed to use Excel when I should be doing something else,” by the way.

But because no one stops me, I can tell you that the average age of a man playing James Bond, as defined as the actor’s age (well, year of release – year of birth, which is close enough) on the day of the film’s release, is about 43.3.

This makes a bit of sense. Bond’s clearly had career before becoming 007, so he can’t be too young. He also carries the equivalent of an O-5 rank (he’s a Naval Reserve Commander, equivalent to an American Lieutenant Colonel). That alone establishes a lower bound of the late 30s, more or less. And if we look to the books and other Bond scholarship (yes, such a thing exists), we see folks have placed his birthdate in 1920 or 1921. Fleming’s first novel was published in 1953, which would’ve made Bond only about 32, but we can make allowances for the circumstances of WWII, in which the literary Bond certainly served. His last Bond book, a set of short stories, came out in 1966, suggesting at 45-ish Bond.

The films are a different matter. People my age have an image of an ever-older Bond, because for the first 23 or so years of the series he aged in real time thanks to the fact that, when Connery was done, they hired a guy who was actually 3 years older. (I’m skipping Lazenby for a moment). Bond was 32 and in his prime in Dr. No, but a geriatric 58 in 1985’s A View to a Kill. In all, 13 of the 23 films include a Bond aged 32 to 45; nearly all the outliers are because Bond was too old, generally because he was Roger Moore. Moore never made a movie at the “right” age; he was already 46 for Live and Let Die in 1973. (Only one outlier is for youth; George Lazenby was 30 for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969.)

In all, only Connery, Dalton, Lazenby, and Craig are in the literary age range for all their fllms, and the fact that Craig’s been contracted for two more will spoil that meaningless stat for him — he’s 44 in Skyfall.

The gentlemen and their average ages as Bond, along with their average variance from the “cinematic mean”:

Bond Films Range Average Age Average Diff from C.M.
Connery 6 32 to 41 35.3 -8.0
Lazenby 1 30 30 -11.2
Moore 7 46 to 58 51.6 +8.6
Dalton 2 43 to 45 44 +0.7
Brosnan 4 42 to 49 45.3 +2.0
Craig 3 40 to 44 40.7 -2.6

After Craig’s other two projected films, set for 2014 and 2016, his average will creep up to 43.2, or almost precisely the cinematic mean mentioned above.

The cinematic mean is sort of a weird stat, skewed as it is by how young Connery was, and how old Moore was, but it still ends up being a solid Bond age — plausible, experienced, neither too green nor too grey, and within the implied literary range. Craig’s in the right zone, but, looking back, so was Dalton.

I’d have said, before Craig, that nobody would stick around for as many films are as many years as Moore or Connery, but he’s on a track for 5 films in 10 years. Connery did 6 in 9 years; Moore did 7 in 12. If he does those films, he’ll be second in terms of duration in role, and third in film count.

One possible reason why the GOP is so hostile to education funding

The more educated the state — as measured by the percentage of citizens older than 25 with a college degree — the less likely they can win it.


Naturally, we see good ol’ Mississippi on the right, but at least they’re not the WORST educated state. Thank God for West Virginia.

It holds up w/r/t regions and states, too; follow the link and scroll down for a county-by-county rundown of Florida. The blue areas are where universities are.

Gerrymandering: Fundamentally Undemocratic

Check this out over at Mother Jones. It’s hard for me to envision a way the GOP can defend district-drawing tactics that give them the lion’s share of House seats in states where most people vote for Democrats, but there you have it.

To be clear, Dems have done this, too, and still do in some places, and it’s wrong when they do it, too. It seems to me that a state’s overall vote split and overall House split should be very, very close to each other. And if they’re not, then something is very wrong.

Lots more at MeFi. Make time.

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!

Stay Classy, Fundies

The National Organization for Marriage is taking its show on the road — by which I mean they intend to step up their campaign to paint some American companies as gay-friendly specifically in places where being gay is very, very dangerous:

Their international outreach is where we can have the most effect…So for example, in Qatar, in the Middle East, we’ve begun working to make sure that there’s some price to be paid for this. These are not countries that look kindly on same-sex marriage. And this is where Starbucks wants to expand, as well as India. So we have done some of this; we’ve got to do a lot more.

Make no mistake about this: they are playing with fire, and will be responsible if their hate-mongering gets a minimum-wage barista beaten or killed for wearing a Starbuck’s hat.

Today in math-hating news OUTSIDE politics

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has had just about enough outta you quants:

Fisher said voters — and computers — put too much emphasis on style of wins and strength of schedule, however, and said the eye test is a fairer way to evaluate Florida State’s actual ability.

LOL. Never mind on-field performance! It’s gut feelings that matter!

Sigh. Go find a seat next to Turd Blossom, Jimbo.