Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

Good news. Start the Week, Broadcasting House, Today in Parliament and Front Row are all coming to podcasting. Fantastic. I love Today in Parliament but never listen to it.

Plastic: "By now the consequences of the government's War on Drugs are clear. Attacking supply and not demand has sparked a vicious and violent underground economy. A sum of $19 billion is spent every year prosecuting this war, the result of which is that the "land of the free" locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other country, a quarter of which are for drug offenses. Perhaps the enduring legacies of this war are the weakened communities and the resultant lack of economic mobility for those caught up in it."

So, Ken got kicked out for a month yesterday. Then I find this interesting chunk. So, Ken, with one hand, tells us that those who believe in an afterlife shouldn't be able to discuss politics because they've got a vested interest - and, at the same time, play constantly for the Muslim vote. Ken: you're not just a horrible creature, you're a hypocrite. Enjoy your month off...

Austin Cline is discussing how the Religious Right have a "gay fetish". Sorry, but I am trying to wash the vision of Pat Robertson in leather chaps and chains, whipping Jerry Falwell's ass with a tawse, out of my head. Perhaps Bill Dembski and Behe could be the cowboys from "Brokeback Mountain with Specified Complexity".

The Trainline's horrendous service

Here in Britain, a company called TheTrainline offers train ticket booking. I'm going up to Birmingham tommorow, and so I thought I'd go online and buy my tickets from The Trainline. Simple enough.

I click through the fairly user-unfreindly interface - and find a service which I can take. I investigate further and find it goes from Marylebone, and you can't pick up your ticket from Marylebone using "FastTicket". What this means is that you simply put your card in to a machine, tap in the details which they send you by email, and your ticket gets printed out. It saves you from having to wait for them to post your ticket to you.

You can, though, pick up FastTickets from any train station on their list. Two stops from Marylebone station is Paddington. I wanted to double-check that it was possible to do so, and decided that giving The Trainline a call would be helpful.

So I click 'Contact Us'. No phone number, only email and postal address. I hop off to a whois site and look up They've got a London phone number listed for administrative and technical contact. I call it.

It tells me to call a different number. I call that number, navigate through a very complex button-punching system and get nowhere. I try again. Nothing. Then I google for phone and get a few phone numbers I can try. One of the 0870 numbers seems to work, and I get through to someone, get the answer to my question. Then I say that it might be useful to put the phone number on the Contact Us page.

I go back to the website and finish booking my tickets. I've decided to travel Euston to New Street rather than Marylebone to Snow Hill because it's quicker and easier for a few pounds more.

Total time elapsed: about forty minutes. Sorry, but why exactly should it take forty minutes, five phone calls and a WHOIS lookup in order to book a train ticket between London, Europe's largest city, and Birmingham, Britain's second largest city?

If you want to contact someone to ask a simple question and you want it responded to quickly, the best way is to have a phone number. TheTrainline is perhaps the worst service I have ever seen, but they are pretty much the only option. Of course, when I get to Euston tommorow and the machine doesn't work or Virgin take us on a merry tour of the countryside or we've got the wrong type of rain. This shit is so thoroughly annoying...

I do have some sympathy with the conservative intellectuals who claim that they are discriminated against. Certainly in certain fields ideas which aren't Marxist or which question the value of Marxist analysis get shunned. But then again, when some of our right-wingers write shit like this, it puts the whole thing in to perspective. It's an expanded version of "if we evolved from monkeys, why are monkeys still here?". I hope the lecturer rips this to shreds in class.

What makes a good Panda's Thumb post? Well, DaveScot being a moron, the ACLU, ID advocates being hypocritical dipshits and Keith Miller tearing these people a new hole. Here you go!