Category Archives: rants

Metered estate lock-in: an update

My previous post about supplier lock-in and metered estates generated a modicum of interest, both in the comments and in messages I’ve received directly. It seems that there is a small but significant number of medium-to-large metered estates where the consensus necessary for switching suppliers is rendered impossible by the inevitable turnover in fixed-term contracts. The Competition Commission’s order requires that all residents on a metered estate must be free of fixed-term contractual obligations before a switch can be made.

Rather than updating the original post again and again, I’ll summarise what I’ve found out so far.
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No gas exchange allowed: Calor cynically locks in an entire village

For the majority of the UK population, it would be unthinkable to live somewhere untouched by the mains gas network. Most of the country benefits from a pool of aggressively competitive energy companies offering dual-fuel discounts, assorted tariffs, smart meters and other nice things. A plethora of price comparison websites plead for your business as the different companies jostle for position in this crowded market.

Surprisingly, one doesn’t need to venture too far from large towns to leave the mains gas grid behind. Take a drive into the country and you’ll see plenty of houses with their own bulk fuel tank, whether LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or heating oil. There’s competition here, too; not as much as for the mains, but there are still quite a few companies offering tank rental and filling services. It works pretty well: they just turn up every so often and top up the tank.

There is a third category: so-called metered estates. These are typically new housing estates, built outwith the reach of mains gas, where the developer has arranged for a bulk LPG supplier to install large tanks that will feed the whole estate. Generally (although not always), the householders will have individual contracts with the supplier. Clearly this is an uncompetitive environment, as householders can’t switch suppliers, no matter what happens to their bills.
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State-sanctioned child abuse: a response to Sean Faircloth’s interview with Liz Heywood

It’s not every day I sit in front of my computer and talk to it. However, yesterday I watched something that affected me so strongly that I made my first ever piece to camera. I have now joined the countless thousands on YouTube who speak their brains through their webcams into the void.

This is an interview with Sean Faircloth (of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science) talking to a woman called Liz Heywood. Ms Heywood had the misfortune to be raised by Christian Scientists, who over a long period of time failed to treat her osteomyelitis, leaving her in excruciating pain and eventually necessitating an amputation. Ms Heywood demonstrates a remarkable capacity for perspective. I do recommend you watch the whole thing (17 minutes; alternatively, here is an embedded version on the RDFRS website).

I have seen and heard such stories before, so I was naturally horrified but not overly surprised. What I found most shocking, and what prompted me to make this little video, was the fact that in the majority of US states it is legal to neglect your child in this way if you claim that you are providing ‘faith healing’ instead. Here aresome specific details of the laws involved.

This gets a bit ranty, so if you’re only going to watch one video today, please watch the interview rather than my ugly mug.

Further reading

Friendly Atheist’s blog post on the subject, including a statement from Liz Heywood which was read by someone from the Secular Coalition for America in a meeting with White House officials.

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‘Sovereign’ citizens in the UK: a study in nonsense

There is a group of people in the UK who believe that, by submitting a document to the government, they can detach themselves from society and thereby avoid all statutory responsibilities. They are predominantly male, intelligent, articulate, and for some reason seem to live in the south-west of England. They call themselves ‘sovereign citizens’ or ‘freemen on the land’, and seem to be a small offshoot from a much larger US-based movement (of which more on the excellent Quatloos! forum). I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of them: despite the number of videos on YouTube, they seem to boil down to a few relatively high-profile individuals. In this article I’ll just refer to them as ‘sovereigns’—you know, as if that actually means something—and try to explain why they really, really get my goat.
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Security through obscurity is a good thing!

(This is a bit of a rant. There may well be more rants to come.)

If you say to a security professional, ‘I’m going to run my ssh daemon on an unusual port for security reasons’, you’d better stand back and wait for the gasp. *gasp* they say! That’s just security through obscurity, which is no security at all! Shut down your servers and turn the lights off on the way out, you worthless collection of mucus.

‘Security through obscurity’: it even rhymes, which means that it joins the list of empty phrases that sound like they carry authority but actually don’t. ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!’ ‘White is right!’ Ohhh I seeeee: there was me thinking you were just a bigot, but your argument rhymes, so it smartly trumps anything I could possibly say!
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