Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Money, Money Money!

John Redwood has written on his blog today a piece entitled "What is Money?
A simple question which is quite difficult to answer.

I've made a comment, and thought that I'd post it on my own site.
There appears to be increasing pressure for us all to make electronic payments rather than cash (or cheques). I don’t know whether it is coming from the companies handling the transaction who collect a percentage of each transaction, or from the government who see it as a means of reducing tax avoidance.
But in my point of view, it has nasty side effects. When you have to pay cash, you get it out of your wallet and actually handle it; you realise that it is leaving you and there’s not so much left. I believe this leads people to think more carefully before they spend and realise that they could be short by the end of the week/month.
Spending by card tends to remove the feeling of spending money, the touch and go facilities for payment up to £30 are hardly noticed. A couple of lattes in the coffee shop, just touch your card and bingo, transaction complete. I wonder how many people look with horror at their monthly card statement and think “I can’t possibly have spent that amount”? But they have without realising it! Is the huge card debt in this country sustainable? I think there could be problems on the way!
I avoid spending by card for items costing less than £20, but is amazing how many people look at you in surprise when you tender a note! I don’t want ‘touch and go’ on my cards, largely for security reasons, but by card company seems reluctant to let me have a card without the facility. Why? We are told about the huge cost of credit card fraud and I want to help prevent it, as, with the right equipment, the card can be accessed at a distance of a few metres.
A friend of mine recently received a new credit card which already had two under £30 transactions, presumably by someone in the chain along the way. The matter is still being investigated, but the card company cancelled the transactions without hesitation, so they are clearly aware of the problem.

As far as I’m concerned, I prefer cash any day!

Thursday 23 November 2017

This Mad, Mad World - Ban the Sleeping Beauty

Today's contribution to this mad, mad world comes from a mother who has demanded that her six-year-old son's school bans Sleeping Beauty because the princess does not give consent to be kissed.

Apparently the story is irresponsible because it teaches children it is acceptable to kiss women while they are asleep and the mother is disturbed by the 'non-consensual' kissing in this story.

Taken to the logical extreme, if a woman collapses and is unconscious, it would be wrong for a first-aider to move her into the recovery position, let alone trying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as the actions would be 'non-consensual'. Let's hope the mother doesn't decide to send her son to first aid classes when he's a bit older!

A full report is in the Daily Mail at: Beauty.html

Monday 7 August 2017

Data Protection Bill

There is a proposal to create new "Right to be forgotten Laws".
To quote the Daily Mail:
We users will be able to force social media firms to delete their personal information under new ‘right to be forgotten’ rules unveiled by the government.
The Data Protection Bill will make it simpler for people to control how companies use their data, with extra powers for the information watchdog to issue fines of up to £17million.
Under the plans, individuals will have more control over their data by having the right to be forgotten and ask for their personal data to be erased.
Sounds great, but I suspect that the data will still remain somewhere on the web even if it is removed from places like Facebook, etc.  I subscribe to the view that if you voluntarily put personal data on the web, as distinct from supplying it to an organisation for a specific purpose, it is your own fault if someone misuses it.
There are, of course, other problems with such a law. There are laws requiring that certain organisations, such as banks, retain all personal information and it could not be deleted even if requested by the customer. How, for example, would they be able to check all the PPI claims if they'd deleted their data? I suspect this will end up as another fiasco,  as with so much recent legislation.
One thing that I would like to see banned are organisations who retain your credit card number even once the transaction has been completed. If you want to buy anything from Amazon you have to open an account and, of course, provide your credit card number for the purchase. Fair enough, but they retain the information "for your convenience" so that next time you want to buy something, the card number pops up automatically. It might be "convenient", but if they are hacked and someone gets my card number, it is I who would have all the hassle. I'd much prefer to enter my card number anew for each transaction.
As an aside, about ten years ago, I bought something from a site which, in addition to my address and credit card number, wanted other information such as my date of birth. As this had no relevance for the transaction, I put in  1 Jan 1901 (the earliest date their system would accept). At the start of this year I got an automated e-mail from the company congratulating me on my 116th birthday! I wonder how long this will go on for!

Incidentally the BBC ran a piece about this proposed legislation on their web site. I tried to register to leave a comment, but one of the first things they asked for is my date of birth. They claim to want this in order that they can analyse their users by age! They don't need your exact date of birth to do that, the year of birth would be more than sufficient for analysis. I've recently completed a questionnaire from the local council about a proposed development and they asked for one's age in 5 year blocks which I was happy to provide. But the actual date? Clearly the BBC is one of the offenders demanding and retaining unnecessary personal information.

As for "Fines of up to £17million, I assume that they will all go to the government rather than to the people whose data was wrongfully retained. It would be far too much to expect anything else!

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Electric Cars

I had hoped to write something at least once a week, but unfortunately circumstances conspired against me, as, I suppose, one must expect at my age. Hopefully, I will now be able to write more regularly.

Today, I read slightly different versions of the story about electric cars; some reports insist petrol/diesel powered cars will be banned from 2040, others suggest that their manufacture will be banned. But whichever is correct, I wonder if anyone has considered the knock-on consequences.

Having been for my daily stroll, I noticed that there was a Mercedes in the drive of one of the houses connected to a specially provided outside socket and presumably being charged. Out of curiosity, when I got home I looked up the details.

According to the Mercedes web site, the B-Class has a range of up to 124 miles and can be charged in as little as three hours. Fortunately, Autocar provides more detail:
Fully recharging the B-Class via a 16-amp home wall socket will take around nine hours if the battery is empty. Using a 400-volt three-phase electricity supply (rather more common in Asia than Europe), the car can be recharged in just three hours.
Few homes in the UK have a three phase supply and those that do will have needed to have had it specially installed, so a full charge from flat for most of us would take nine hours.

Assuming that the full 16-amps is required, we can work out that on a 250-volt supply, the load will be 4 Kilowatts. Thus two hundred and fifty cars being charged simultaneously will present a load of a megawatt to the grid.

Going back to Google, I found that there are 36 million vehicles registered for use on the roads in the UK. Were the owners all wanting to charge them simultaneously (which I accept is unlikely), this would be a total load of around 144 gigawatts!

Looking elsewhere, I found that the maximum load that can normally be supplied from the National Grid is around 45 gigawatts, with an absolute maximum (when all plant is fully operational) of 55 gigawatts. Of course, as most of these cars will be being charged by night, solar power won't be available and wind power, as always, is in the lap of the gods. At the time of writing, the load on the grid is 35 gigawatts, so at the moment there is only about 10 gigawatts available for battery charging!

So, when does the necessary power station construction start?

Then there are all the further questions. What use is a car for many of us that only has, at best, a range of 124 miles? How would we manage to go on holiday, especially if we wanted to go abroad? I expect we will have lighter and hence larger capacity batteries by 2040, but they will either present a greater load to the grid or require even longer charging times.

And, of course, the usual question, compensation. Will all the redundant filling station owners, and possibly the petroleum giants, have to be compensated?

It is unlikely that I will be around to see what happens, and if I am it is even more unlikely that I would still be driving at over a hundred! However I expect the effects to start to be felt long before then as people start to buy electric cars in anticipation of the deadline.

In the meanwhile, I'm contemplating a Toyota hybrid. I live in a hilly area and I either have to go up or down hill as I leave home and I resent the waste of energy with the constant braking when I'm coming or going, so a hybrid seems a sensible option.

Friday 7 April 2017

US attacks Syrian Airfield

I wrote last night that I was not really convinced that Assad had been responsible for the sarin gas attack on civilians in Idlib as their seemed no logic behind it. Little did I think that overnight the US would launch Cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield, presumably in an attempt to destroy or ground Assad's air force.
I was pleased to read today that the former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, says he believes it is 'highly unlikely' that Russia or the Assad regime was behind the attack in Idlib. At least I'm not alone in my doubts.

During the US election campaign,  it was Trump who repeatedly campaigned to stay out of Syria, but as a result of this attack, he is now right in the heart of it. I hope that Trump acted with his head rather than his heart and that the attack was as a result of information that they got from reliable sources, possibly satellite pictures or drone surveillance which is not yet in the public domain.

A possible side effect of this attack is where North Korea is concerned. When Obama was president, the regime could do almost anything they liked because they knew that America would have no wish to get involved. Perhaps they will realise Trump is not the same sort of person and that they will now be somewhat more cautious in issuing threats in case they are taken seriously.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Today's News

Some small items.

The father who was fined for taking his child out of school for a week's holiday has lost his appeal against his fine at the Supreme Court. The main argument was that a child's education can suffer badly even from a week away from school.
Contrast this with an acquaintance of mine whose boy had to be kept at home for about eight weeks following a serious operation because the school wouldn't accept the responsibility for ensuring thet he took his medicine at the appropriate times.
When the father raised the issue of the school giving the lad some work at home so that he could keep up with his studies, the school insisted that the absence would make little difference and that he would soon catch up!
Who is correct? The court in accepting that a child can get behind with a mere week's absence or the school which said a child would soon catch up after 8 weeks absence?

Breitbart reports that former European Union employee Peter Mandelson has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to pay the £50 billion “ransom” the bloc has demanded as the price of Brexit.He added that she should deal with the small change of the financial settlement in the first negotiation as quickly as she can in order to advance in as propitious as way as she can to the second stage of the negotiation, which is about the future trade arrangement.
This shows his, and one suspects most Labour MPs',  attitude to taxpayers' money. To Labour, £50million is "small change". I wish I had a bit of that small-change in my pocket!

Finally Syria. The consensus of opinion is that Assad was responsible for the sarin gas attack against civilians in Idlib. My question is "Why?". He is winning the war, the 'terrorists' are being pushed back, Trump had recently announced that he no longer considered the removal of Assad was a priority and the attack has changed Trump's attitude as well as, presumably, embarrassing Putin. So I still ask "Why?", could it have been one of the various terrorist groups or even as someone suggested, as a result of a bomb or shell fire on a chemical weapons dump in the city? Hard facts are difficult to get and the BBC initially reported it as a Napalm attack.
I remain undecided.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Brexit - Let Battle Commence

It's started. The President of the European Parliament (how many presidents does the EU have or need?) has said that the EU Parliament will veto any deal reached between the UK and the EU negotiators, before the discussions have even started. That's EU democracy for you!

If this report is true, our PM had better send a second letter saying that
a. Any discussions have been rendered pointless  by this proposed veto and
b. The UK has no intention of wasting our Ministers' and Civil Servant's time on such pointless discussions because
c. The British public won't tolerate waiting two years for what could be done tomorrow.
d. Therefore she is formally informing them that we will be leaving the EU and reverting to WTO trading rules as soon as possible.

Just to add to the fun, the French President has demanded that we pay the "divorce bill" up front before they will be prepared to start trade talks; as we've said we won't pay it follows that there won't be any trade talks so providing yet another reason for sending a second letter as above.

Meanwhile the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said he will take the UK to the International court of Justice at the Hague if we don't cough up! At the same time, he says that he has fears that a 'Hard' Brexit will cause a financial crash – which could have dire implications for the struggling Eurozone. Talk about "Cutting off your nose to spite your face" as my old mum would have said!

And for the last laugh, Jean-Claude Juncker has issued a jaw-dropping threat to the United States  that EU could break up the US!

All this idiocy would make a good comedy show for television were not the issues so serious.  Perhaps it's time for Boris to get involved, I'm sure that he could come up with something equally outrageous!