An assortment of indigestible things

Category: rants Page 1 of 2

Just take my money and walk away

Some coinsJust before Christmas, I made a modest donation to a large UK charity in response to an online campaign. The charity does remarkable and important work, and I intended to make a one-off contribution at a critical time of year for them. Donation made, thank-you email received, a few warm fuzzies experienced, and then I got on with my life. Sadly, the charity didn’t do what it’s supposed to do: just take my money and walk away.

Sovereigns and freemen do their worst

An assIt’s been almost two years since I wrote my ranty debunk of the British ‘sovereign citizen’ / ‘freeman-on-the-land’ movement. I’m relieved to say that, in that time, the craziness has subsided a little: no more videos of ordinary citizens making twats of themselves in court; nothing in particular from ‘commonly known as Dom’ and his ilk; no exponential rise in peddlers of half-baked ‘legal’ advice; zero UK media coverage. The post itself now sees 5-10 visitors per day.

For your amusement and, well, further amusement, I present a selection of feedback I’ve received on my little diatribe. Some are extracts from published comments, while others are drawn from those that fell below my very low standards for approval (mainly where a fake or invalid email address was given). Although I can’t claim to receive hate mail that ranks high on the Dawkins scale of fuckwittery, I hope this little selection makes for a smile or two.

Please feel free to imply [sic] wherever needed.

This really happened to someone!

Will you be ready?Has this ever happened to you?

I just wanted to warn all of my friends about something that has been occuring more and more lately, all through out the country. Groups of teenagers have been caught, in alarming numbers, playing a new and dangerous game called Spunkball. Spunkball consists of a group of teens in a car pulling up to a stop light, and looking around for a car stopped near by with an open window. When one is spotted, the teens shout, “Spunkball”, and throw a gasoline soaked rag that has been wrapped in aluminum foil threw the open window. On the outside of the foil is attatched a small fire cracker, with the fuse lit. When the fire cracker explodes, it shreds the foil, and the rag is ignited, causing a large flame that may catch the interior of the car on fire. Spunkball playing has already claimed two lives, caused uncountable injuries due to burns, and caused thousands of dollars in damage to automobiles. The best defense, say authorities, is to keep all windows rolled up when stopped at traffic lights, as only cars with windows down are being targeted.

Another reason to dislike my MP (as if I needed one)

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for The CotswoldsThis is a picture of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, my MP. There are several reasons why I don’t like him. First—and most obvious—is that he’s a Tory, and just about the only thing I have in common with Conservatives is that we both like the colour blue. Secondly, he’s an archetypical Tory[1]: he’s related to the 1st Viscount Ruffside, went to Eton, receives an income from properties in London and Norfolk, ‘flipped’ his second home to Gloucestershire, and of course he likes firing guns at things. Finally—and most annoyingly—I’m stuck with him. He’s been an MP continuously since 1992, and in 2010 he polled a majority of over 12,000, making him pretty much untouchable.

Support your local post office: don’t print your own postage!

The Royal Mail‘s Print Postage Online service can save a huge amount of time if you’re sending something that falls foul of their arcane pricing structure. You can print out a personalised label, bung it on the envelope, and—if it’ll fit in a postbox—send it on its merry way all by yourself.

I’m not actually suggesting that you avoid this service altogether: it’s just too useful, and is to stamps what the debit card has become to pocketfuls of change. Clearly its use for ordinary post is a loss to Post Office branches, but there’s a way in which it actually costs them money. If you print a label for a service that requires the item to be handed in (like special delivery, so it can be barcoded and scanned on submission), your local post office gets absolutely nothing. As they have to spend time processing the item, which can take a few minutes, and then storing it on their premises, sending items in this way is directly detrimental to that branch.

Many smaller branches’ postmasters are not salaried, and only make a living through transaction commission. Sadly and bizarrely, handing in a pre-printed item for processing is not seen as a transaction: even though the branch does most of the work, they don’t actually make the sale.

Most people, especially in rural areas, are keen to support their local post office for themselves and their community. So do them a favour: if you need their help to send stuff, let them take your money. You’ll make a postmaster very happy.

Motorway service areas: what are they for?

Anyone who has driven a reasonable distance in mainland Britain will have spent much of that time staring blankly at three lanes of fast traffic, speedometer pegged at 70, occasionally swearing at middle-lane hoggers, periodically being asked if we’re there yet, and wishing for it to be over soon. And if you’ve spent more than a couple of hours doing that, you’ll have given in to hunger, thirst (whether yours or the car’s) or bladder pressure and visited the most British of hell’s circles: the motorway service area.

Dying of AIDS? Cheer up: you’d have died eventually anyway!

As I slowly go through all my old radio memorabilia, I’m rediscovering all sorts of interesting things that I haven’t seen for decades. They range from the mundane to the historically fascinating, but this particular example is perhaps the most unpleasant item I’ve found so far.

Metered estate lock-in: an update

This article was written in 2012.  I no longer live in the area and don’t have any more up-to-date information.  I’m leaving it here for reference only.

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.

No gas exchange allowed: Calor cynically locks in an entire village

This article was written in 2012.  I no longer live in the area and don’t have any more up-to-date information.  I’m leaving it here for reference only.

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.

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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