A Small (Rotten) Orange

This blog disappeared for three days earlier this week, which seems like a long time on the Internet. The reason was a dispute with my hosting company, which was solved by ditching them and going with a new, much more helpful host. Details below.

I don’t even remember where I first parked the chasclifton.com domain, but it ended up with a small, Pagan-friendly service, Draknet, which also hosted The Wild Hunthere is TWH founder Jason Pitzl-Waters’ interview with owner Jennifer Lepp. If it was good enough for Jason, it was good enough for me, and I became a happy customer.

Jennifer seemed available for service problems at all hours of the day or night. Maybe that is why she finally sold out to Austin-based A Small Orange, which was OK too . . . until it was bought by Endurance International Group (EIG).

Some of the largest and most successful web hosting companies in the industry, including HostGator, BlueHost, HostMonster, A Small Orange and HostNine have been bought out by Endurance International Group (EIG).

Have a look at the comments on this review of A Small Orange as it is today:

When I read through the Terms of Service for all of the services offered by A Small Orange the general message becomes clear. The proprietors of the company, Garret Noling and Mohsin Kamal, designed and operate A Small Orange so that it will exploit a popular social trend, mislead and confuse the prospective customer, promote a service fee as necessary when it is not, collect as much money as possible, and perform absolutely no customer support for domain registration customers.

I could add mine too. Every stereotype of bad India-based tech support is there, starting with the robotic responses in slightly odd English that never exactly answer the question that you are asking.

Another reviewer put it this way:

Customer service does not exist. Its either bots or people just copying and pasting the exact same message over and over again. I’m not joking here, I received the exact same email each time after responding to their emails. Including one where I asked them why they keep responding with the exact same message. Not acceptable on any level.

Last year I tried to get an SSL certificate because Equinox Publishing wanted one, since they also run this blog on The Pomegranate’s website. A Small Orange took my payment but never could deliver the service, to the point where I had to cancel the credit card transaction.

When a well-known politics-and-law blogger recommended Hosting Matters last month, I started thinking about switching.

Then ASO struck again: they announced that I had exceeded my bandwidth limit for April, 50 gigabytes! Hello, does this blog generate that kind of traffic? Are thousands of people downloading movie trailers? They shut down this blog and another unrelated subdomain last weekend.

What I suspect happened was simple extortion. Back when Jennifer Lepp owned Draknet, she tried raising money at one point by selling lifetime accounts. I paid $150 for a Lifetime Junior account—plenty of service for my needs—and then paid only the domain-registration annual fee thereafter. It was a good deal.

When ASO bought her out, they honored those lifetime accounts, and EIG had honored them too, only they were bothered, I suspect, by the “lifetime” part. Solution: force users to pay for more bandwidth.  Of course, I could not get a straight answer from them about traffic logs, etc., but you have to wonder what their plan was.

So, as I rode Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited eastbound across upstate New York, I was tapping away at my keyboard, and lo! someone was replying with coherent, relevant responses. There were a couple of glitches, but by Wednesday, this blog was back online.
For a complete list of EIG’s companies, go here.

The Trip to Salem: Southern Colorado — Chicago

The eastbound Southwest Chief, which originates in Los Angeles, rolls into La Junta, Colorado, at sunset.

A near-miss in Chicago: the sleeping car attendant had lined up everyone’s bags on the platform, which is a dimly lit.

I found my carry-on bag, rolled it into Union Station, down the corridors to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge, and lifted it onto a shelf in the storeroom.

“Why does your bag have a Red Cap tag?” M. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I didn’t ask for that.”

It was not my bag.

I was just explaining the mix-up to the lounge superintendent when she spotted a man checking in at the door with . . . a silver carry-on bag.

He had kindly brought it for me from the train. He thought it was his.

All praise to Hermes for the quick save.

Last Chance for Chiles

Saturday the 14th — the last chance to eat some chile colorado before heading east for New England cooking. (Tres Margaritas, Pueblo.).

But . . . today’s Amtrak breakfast menu featured a quesadilla of sorts, making that the first time that I had been served green chiles on the train.

Hardscrabble Creek Is Now on Instagram

I am starting an Instagram feed for this blog, mainly for photos and short observations while traveling, like the trip to Salem that starts tomorrow. Follow it at letterfromhardscrabblecreek.

Obviously, longer posts (with footnotes!) will appear here only and will be mirrored on the Facebook page, unless Facebook becomes totally unbearable.

So if you use Instagram, join the small but plucky band of this blog’s followers!

The Crystal Dagger of Seville

That’s not a crystal athame. THAT’s a crystal athame.1)Pop culture reference: Crocodile Dundee.

A year ago I posted about three athames that I own. One of them has a crystal in its hilt.


About 4,000 years ago in what is now southwestern Spain, some group of people built an elaborate megalithic structure.

At least 25 individuals were interred within the structure , along with “an extraordinary set of sumptuous grave goods…the most notable of which is an unspecified number of shrouds or clothes made of tens of thousands of perforated beads and decorated with amber beads”. Additionally however, a large number of crystal arrowheads were found together, which be suggestive of a ritual offering at an altar. . . .  In the second chamber archaeologists found the body of a young male aged between 17 and 25 lying in the foetal position along with a large set of grave goods. These included an undecorated elephant tusk laid above the young man’s head, a set of 23 flint blades, and numerous ivory objects. Additionally, red pigment made from cinnabar had been sprayed over the body and the objects surrounding it. The “remarkable crystal dagger blade”, however, was not found with these grave goods, but instead in the upper level of this chamber.

A sign of high status? A magical weapon? All of the above? There is a longer archaeological paper accessible here.

Found in The Daily Grail, in the sidebar.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Pop culture reference: Crocodile Dundee.

For the Friends of Black Phillip

Yesterday’s post on movies related to Salem witchcraft mentioned The VVitch and the character of Black Phillip, the billy goat. (His real name is Charlie and he “still gives his director nightmares.”)

There  is a billy goat in my magical menagerie too — not quite the same, but close enough that when I saw this pin and embroidered badge at Nerd Scouts, I had to have them.

Live deliciously!

Our Salem Film Festival

Prompted by J. W. Ocker’s A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, M. and I held a little Salem film festival. (We skipped The Lords of Salem.)

In order of creation, we watched these three movies:  Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985), Hocus Pocus (1993), and The VVitch (2015).

(This looks like a bootleg copy, but I wanted this scene. Sorry about the quality.)

Three Sovereigns for Sarah, a three-part PBS documentary, is well-done, using authentic trial testimony in spots. Vanessa Redgrave, playing accused witch Sarah Cloyse, just dominates it — although she has some competition from the young actresses playing the “afflicted” girls. 1)Sarah Cloyce is depicted . . . differently . . . by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I am coming to that.

A historical consultant told Ocker, “We had a lot more power on the production than historians usually have on commercial things.” They were even able to nix Alexander Scourby’s casting as a judge, because Scourby would not shave his beard, which was historically inappropriate. Clean-shaven Patrick McGoohan replaced him.

The church meeting house where the Rev. Samuel Parrish holds forth was built for the movie, and like all 17th-century buildings, included recessed fluorescent lighting. OK, that’s a joke. But compared to the moody available-light shooting in The VVitch, Three Sovereigns for Sarah is lit like a TV soap opera, giving a sort of “witchcraft under the microscope” vibe.

On the plus side, it gives you the feel of what happened. And guess what — no one is hung for being an herbalist or a healer. That is romantic mush that started in the 1960s and 1970s. It may make you feel good, but it is not about what happened in 1692 in America — or elsewhere.

Importantly, the film gives Sarah Cloyce a speech in which she explains how neatly the witchcraft accusations matched property disputes in Salem Village. In other words, adults were feeding suggestions to the “afflicted” girls about whom to denounce. That is usually the way it works in “children’s crusades.”


Of Hocus Pocus (1993), Ocker observes,

The witches are played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Nijimy in, if not exactly career-defining roles, roles that will probably outlast anything they’ve ever done. There are entire generations of people who know Hocus Pocus, but have no idea about wind, wings, sex, city, hair, or spray.

Yes, but it’s Disney (kids win, witches lose). That is probably why I had no interest in it in 1993, and besides, I had student papers to grade. And Sex and the City will be Parker’s role that I remember.

If Three Sovereigns for Sarah presents a documentary-style take on the 1692 witchcraft panic, The VVitch gives us the imagined European witchcraft of the 16th–17th centuries transplanted to New England, where tiny cleared islands of Christianity struggle to survive up against dark walls of savage forests, In that, it echoes some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s spookier fiction, in which he dips from the same well.

But it’s a horror movie, so the central character witch is herself a teenager, not a mature woman. Of course you have your pact with the devil, the Witches’ Sabbat, spectral flight, possession, and Black Phillip, the goat who is more than a goat. In lighting, costuming, and general atmosphere, it is the best of the three. Unlike the other two, it was not filmed partly in or near Salem but near Kiosk, Ontario, in order to get the best cinematic forests.

Also, it gives me a segue into talking about Nathaniel Hawthorne and witchcraft, coming up.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Sarah Cloyce is depicted . . . differently . . . by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I am coming to that.