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Npower’s statement is not new. Journalists, please stop giving them free advertising



by sjhoward

This is the 2,088th post. It was published at 08:31 on Monday, 2nd December 2013.

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Npower says it will not raise prices any more until spring 2015 unless wholesale costs go up.

BBC News, 2nd December 2013.

The energy provider which raised bills by more than 10% says no more rises until 2015 – provided wholesale costs remain stable.

Sky News, 2nd December 2013.

What reasons have been given for Npower’s previous price rises?

npower today announced its electricity and gas prices will increase by 9.3% and 11.1% respectively* from 1 December [due to] the cost of buying wholesale energy up 3% from this year.

Npower, 21st October 2013.

From 4th January 2011, domestic gas and electricity tariffs will increase on average by 5% [due to] an increase of 50% in wholesale prices during the last twelve months.

Npower, 12th December 2010.

npower announces price increases due to soaring wholesale costs

Npower, 29th August 2008.

npower today announced plans for new energy prices for domestic customers with an average increase of 9.9% for electricity and 17.2%* for gas from 1 October … due to massive increases in wholesale costs.

Npower, 7th September 2006.

npower today announced plans for new retail gas and electricity tariffs, for domestic customers, following increases in wholesale gas costs of almost 50% in the last 12 months.

Npower, 11th November 2005.

As far back as Npower’s press release archive stretches, I can’t find a single incident of them raising retail prices without blaming increases in wholesale prices. Announcing that they are to stick to this policy in future amounts to a non-story, which should not be receiving acres of coverage.

London’s commuters are deluded



by sjhoward

This is the 2,081st post. It was published at 08:55 on Tuesday, 12th November 2013.

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You could only walk two months of the year, the rest of the time the weather is too terrible.

According to the Standard, this was the response of Laura Ritchie, a digital project manager, to TfL’s suggestion that she should consider walking instead of taking the tube.

Another commuter, Laura Belcher, added

Waiting for three tubes means I’m not in the cold and rain

There are many reasons why some might view getting the tube as easier than walkng, but these two exemplify an odd delusion which many Londoners appear to share: that the weather in London is terrible.

I spend a few days each week in London, and have done since February. I always take a 45 minute-ish walk into work from London Bridge to Westminster along the South Bank, except when I’m towing a suitcase. I have attempted to walk on 83 mornings this year so far, and have managed perfectly well (without needing even to take my umbrella out of my bag) 82 times. This morning marked the first occasion that rain convinced me to take the tube.

I have absolutely no earthly idea why people think it constantly rains in London. Either I’ve been preternaturally lucky and tried to walk in on the only 82 mornings when it hasn’t rained, or people have a distorted view of London’s weather. In fact, London has less rainfall each year than Rome, New York, Brisbane, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Perhaps if people had a reality check on what the weather is actually like most of the time, then they’d feel happier with walking – which would probably benefit their health even more than it would reduce TfL’s congestion problem.

No freakin’ clue



by sjhoward

This is the 2,060th post. It was published at 21:41 on Wednesday, 4th September 2013.

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We have no freakin’ clue. And that’s my expert opinion.

Entomologist Gwen Pearson on what is leaving freaky tiny web-like structures in the Peruvian Amazon. I bet they are made by some evil spider-like creature that would give me nightmares…!

sjhoward.co.uk news #6 – Singles, selfies and safety – going out soon



by sjhoward

This is the 2,055th post. It was published at 12:48 on Monday, 26th August 2013.

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If you don’t already subscribe to sjhoward.co.uk news, you need to sign up in the next few minutes if you don’t want to miss this week’s edition!

This week’s sjhoward.co.uk news is going out soon



by sjhoward

This is the 2,050th post. It was published at 20:57 on Sunday, 11th August 2013.

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This week’s sjhoward.co.uk news will be going out in the next hour or so. If you haven’t yet signed up, you’ll need to be quick if you don’t want to miss edition #4!

Just putting the finishing touches on this week’s newsletter



by sjhoward

This is the 2,045th post. It was published at 22:42 on Sunday, 28th July 2013.

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I’m just putting the finishing touches on this week’s sjhoward.co.uk news; I’ll be sending it out in the next half hour or so. If you haven’t yet signed up and don’t want to miss this week’s edition, you’d better get your skates on!

Reviewing my own book reviews



by sjhoward

This is the 2,043rd post. It was published at 10:00 on Thursday, 25th July 2013.

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Yesterday, I published a review of A Series of Unrelated Events by Richard Bacon. A year ago today, I published a review of The Truth about Cruise Ships by Jay Herring. And in between the two, I’ve published some 39 other book reviews. Writing the book review section has become one of the real pleasures of maintaining this blog – I think it’s my favourite regular column.

Yet, I struggle each week to summarise my review in a star-rating out of five. I often write about struggling to do this, and if you are wondering why on earth I bother, it’s because I republish versions of my book reviews in various other places, for some of which a star rating is mandatory.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the last year of reviews and look at the distribution of ratings. I’d expect the distribution to be skewed – I generally choose to read books that appeal to me, rather than ones I hate. Yet, I also try not to give out too many five-star reviews. Taking these factors into account, I’d expect the mean to come out at about 3.5.

Bar Chart

If you look very closely, you’ll notice that this doesn’t add up to the promised 41 – that’s because there were two reviews where I declined to give a star-rating, despite my self-imposed rules.

It isn’t surprising to me that four-stars is the modal figure, but I am a little surprised – despite what I said earlier – that I’ve only given two one-star reviews in a whole year. I’m also surprised to have given eight five-star reviews.

The mean figure is 3.4 stars, which is pretty much where I thought it would be.

So what do I take away from this exercise? I’m pretty much coming up with the balance of star-ratings that I thought I would be, despite struggling every week. I am perhaps a touch too generous with five-star reviews, but, then again, the mean is where I thought it would be. I’ll repeat this in July 2014, and see if things have changed.

Science communication, Question Time and Melanie Phillips

Science communication, Question Time and Melanie Phillips

Science communication, Question Time and Melanie Phillips



by sjhoward

This is the 2,006th post. It was published at 22:55 on Wednesday, 3rd April 2013.

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Melanie Phillips has been on Question Time twice as often as all scientists put together over the last 18 months. There is still this feeling of “Why would you put a scientist on a current affairs discussion programme?”

Mark Henderson, formerly science editor at The Times, but now with the Wellcome Trust, makes this interesting point in a piece about the media coverage surrounding the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was published in the eighth issue of the marvellous Delayed Gratification.

Politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services

Politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services



by sjhoward

This is the 1,994th post. It was published at 17:04 on Friday, 1st March 2013.

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After the council meeting was re-adjourned politicians set about slashing swathes of funding for much-loved services.

I assume that this sentence from this article in my home-town newspaper, is an indirect quote from one of the protesters rather than a representation of the view of the newspaper. However, an unfortunate preceding paragraph break makes it appear more like the latter.

The fact that this actually made me laugh out loud probably says more about me than the newspaper.

Acronyms and etymology



by sjhoward

This is the 1,988th post. It was published at 15:51 on Friday, 15th February 2013.

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A little over five years ago, I wrote a ranty post about those ludicrous backronyms that some people seem to enjoy spreading, and often seem to genuinely believe. Today, the OxfordWords blog has done the opposite, posting “5 words you didn’t know were acronyms”. I suspect you probably did know that at least some of them were acronyms, but “pog” and “care package” were new to me, and the whole post is definitely worth a read!

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