Acela Unplugged -- Appropriate Caution or Calculated Affront?

Amtrak decided to turn off the passenger AC plugs on the high-speed Acela service in the Northeast Corridor this week, citing the potential for riders to accidentally short circuit the outlets. No known injuries, they said, just a precaution.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said he was unaware of any injuries caused by the electrical troubles but that the outlets would remain out of service indefinitely "for safety reasons" until the maker of its trains, Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., fixes the problem. [AP story, via Google]

No injuries. Just a precaution. How convenient that the decision strips a key competitive benefit of Acela just as record fuel prices put further pressure on the airline industry.

Next: Food and beverage service suspended "for safety reasons" to prevent passenger choking. And, you don't want to think about what can go horribly wrong in a toilet.

Writer buddy Ken Kristensen makes ToTT

Ken worked with me as a freelance writer at the mumble-mumble corporation a few years back, and I always knew he had a wicked sense of humor in addition to his solid writing chops. He went off to Columbia to study film, from whence he appears in the current New Yorker.

In a piece on a TV comedy master class run as an intense, show development boiler room, Talk of the Town quotes former Seinfeld-writer-professor describing Ken with the gruff admiration reserved for sitcom auteurs: "This is the future of bad comedy writing, right here. These guys work fast; they can make it stink in a week.”

Trust me, that's s a major compliment. Yay, Ken.

"Keyboard Practice" named Sturgeon Award Finalist

Just found out that my novelette is a finalist for this year's Theodore Sturgeon Award. Totally awesome news, and a weird flashback. It was ten years ago that my first published story, "Jigoku no mokushiroku," was a finalist and ended up winning the Sturgeon.

Check out the list of this year's Sturgeon finalists.

Thanks, Gordon, for the heads-up!

Drupal 4.7 released, or, content-free pages explained

And you may have noticed the site was down all day yesterday. So excited about the final release of Drupal 4.7 that I immediately installed it. Patting myself on the back for the restraint to sit out the RC cycle and wait for the RTM code. Whoops.

Yes, I did do all my backups before moving to the new version, and a good thing. There was a funky interaction between the database upgrade script and my site, and I lost the whole UI. Did a day's worth of troubleshooting (in the twenty-minute blocks between tasks on a full work day) and have finally given up and backlevelled to my old site.

Expect to see 4.7 in action Real Soon Now.

Coming soon -- Drupal 4.7, and downtime explained...

I'm a fundamentally lazy guy -- and, yes, that is a virtue in a programmer ;) -- so I while I make content updates pretty regularly, I tend to let the code base...uh...stagnate.

But Drupal, the awesome open-source CMS that powers this site, is nearing release of the next version, 4.7. I've been playing with the betas and release candidates, and it is one sweet upgrade. I'm almost tempted take the plunge and go with RC3, but the final product should be out within weeks.

So the vanilla blue theme on the site? I was using such an old theme that the most recent version of php broke it (Thanks, Chris, for letting me know!), so I'll accept the default for a couple weeks. If you're reading this in RSS, you'll never know what you're not missing. But do check out Drupal. It rocks.

RIP William Sloane Coffin -- update

My father-in-law studied with him at Yale, and every story he tells about Coffin shows a person who was just as profoundly human and caring in everyday life as he was about the big issues he tackled.

It's a sad day. His voice and vision will be deeply missed.

Obit in the Washington Post.

Update from my father-in-law, with a favorite story from Coffin's book Letters to A Young Doubter:
Bill had been meeting with a very conservative group at Yale. He always said "I think it's more important to be known by the integrity of your love than by the purity of your doctrine," but they didn't agree.

After a few discussions which went nowhere (Bill wasn't about to be converted and they would settle for nothing less) the leader of the Campus Crusade said, "Bill, you know that you will always be on our prayer list."

And Bill asked, "How close is your prayer list to your shit list?"

Are we really planning to nuke Iran?

Can the US really be ready to cede what's left of our moral high ground? Read Hersh's New Yorker piece, The Iran Plans.

If you think this a monumentally bad idea, let your representatives in Congress know, sign the petition at, and generate some noise. Hersh makes the point that because Bush is listening to his captive policy-strategy echo chamber, all he's hearing is the same kind of advice that got us into Iraq.

There is no way understand how truly savage an atomic attack is, really. The idea that this Administration would consider first strike, even against limited, military targets, is obscene. Visit the Hiroshima Peace Museum to see what actually a-bombing a city looks like, or, if you only have time for one image, take a look at Shin's Tricycle.

They came for the SubGenii and I said nothing...

Can you be a SubGenius and a mother in AmeriKa? Not according to one judge, who has used a woman's religious affiliation as evidence in a custody battle that took away her child. Boing Boing has been following this for a while, and the full transcript of the court proceding is linked there.

"The fact that, Your Honor, that it's not relevant to this case, that this child has not been exposed to the Church of the Sub-Genius, the child is not affected."

"Well, the child doesn't need to be exposed to every bizarre thing his parent does to be affected by it."

"Your Honor, there's no proof that the child has been exposed at all."

"Did you hear what I just said. Now sit down. I've heard enough of your objection. I won't hear any more argument on this particular objection, do you understand?"
[SubGenius Update: Complete transcript of Bevilacqua custody hearing]

Think what you will about Bob and the Church, but this is just insanity in a nation that ostensibly believes in religious freedom and the rule of law. How long until they start sniffing around genital mutilation or ritual cannibalism...

Delightful April 1 "Bush Third Term" leaked memo

Check out this "news" at The Register. You'll know it's fake if you've ever googled Horwitz Feinberg & Horwitz, but there's a sucker punch in its placid banality. The truly disturbing thing is that you can imagine W's bunkhouse cabinet talking their way into something just this labyrinthine and evil.

Via The Register
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the office of the White House Counsel are preparing a draft document laying out the President's wartime authority to remain in office past 2008, The Register has learned.

The scheme is described as an emergency "continuity presidency," made necessary by the extraordinary circumstances and unique challenges of protecting the United States from the threat of international terrorism.

"The world changed on 9/11," a confidential DoJ memo obtained by The Register explains, "and no Administration in US history is better suited to adapt productively to those changes than this one."

A pleasant April Fool's reminder that things could be – at least marginally – worse. Thanks, Chris!

Finest U.s. Commander, not King: W

I'm sick and tired of the incessant drumbeat from the liberal left, which has continued so long that now Hollywood and the media elite have felt obligated to start marching in step. The truth is out there, and when the Great Scorer comes to write it all down, the final tally will show what we all know: George W. Bush rules.

Does it really matter *why* we invaded Iraq? Isn't that country a better place now, a shining beacon of democracy for the Middle East to both admire -- and fear? If it was necessary to bend a few rules, ignore the stray data point, fire a general or two, leak classified material in wartime, heck, that's just the business of government. It's not like he got a blowjob in the Oval Office.

And speaking of blowjobs, what's up with Russ Feingold? Doesn't he understand that the President needs to do everything within his power -- even if Congress has some silly technicalities to the contrary -- to protect our Country? Real cowboys like our W don't take the worst terrorist act against America lying down. And remember, this is all about 9-11. An attack on Amerca. September 11. Terrorism. Fear. Fear. Fear. My Pet Goat. Fear. Fear.

And those folks out there who say that the Administration could have made Social Secuity solvent for another 75 years with just a part of what is being spent on Iraq, I have just two words: weapons of mass destruction. We know American seniors don't have them, thank God, but what about Saddam? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just the other night, on "The Daily Show," I saw one of Saddam's generals say that those weapons existed; one of his pilots told him; or a friend of one of his pilots who had once accidentally tried to dry his poodle in a microwave. That's proof enough for me.

What would Jesus do? Once he stopped puking, crying, and tearing his long, straight, Aryan hair from his oddly-white European skin, he would start kicking ass and taking names. The scientists, the quadriplegics, and the genetically disadvantaged, and all others who promote the taking of an embryo's life in the name of stem cell research would be immediately slaughtered and sent to Hell. All the members of the ACLU and EFF would be next, for fighting school prayer and the 10 commandments in court houses, defending murdering abortion mills, and opposing DRM. (Jesus has an iPod, man, and he *likes* technologies that limit your freedom. Christianity, after all, is essentially DRM for the human brain.)

About immigration, I don't know what to say. No, I mean I really don't. I'm stuck between my bedrock Republican principles, and the fear that I'm beginning to sense -- fueled by the out-of-touch, liberal elite -- that we're in for trouble in November. One of the great minds of our Party once called them the "nattering nabobs of negativism," and I couldn't be prouder of Spiro Agnew right now. Dick Cheney should emulate his example. We nailed Dan Rather's dick to the floor, but there are so many left (no pun intended) who deserve the same. Lou Dobbs, for starters.

Well, that's about all the news from Grover's Corners. They're here with the duct tape and straightjacket again, so it's back to the basement for me. Hope you enjoy the rest of your April 1.