Monday, 19 March 2018

The Irish question

There is an important question hanging over Brexit, that has not been resolved, and I can't see how it can be resolved.

It's the Irish question.

The Republic is in the EU. Soon, the UK will not be in the EU. So there will be a border. On one side of the border is an area with EU tariffs, on the other with UK tariffs.

When the UK was in the EU, this was not a problem; Eu tariffs = UK tariffs. But what now?

If we had a single free-trade area, there would not be a problem, even with the UK outside the EU. But this isn't going to happen. The hard-liners in the Tory party would rather cut their own throats.

If we had free trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, that would solve the problem, but then there's a trade barrier between Northern ireland and the rest of the UK, so that isn't going to happen, the DUP would eat Theresa May *and* Boris before they let that happen.

So we are going to have a tariff barrier between Northern Ireland and the Republic, with customs barriers and infrastructure and everything that goes with a land border. Except that we've promised we wont. The Republic won't wear it, and they get a veto, as part of the EU27.

It's a problem like a fidget spinner, with three sides that you keep turning. Why didn't The Powers That Be see this coming two years ago?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Italian scam for VAT part 2

Well, it turned out that it wasn't a scam. I really did pay my VAT to Italy in 2015 1Q, three months late. I can't remember why, this was three years ago, but I have a feeling it was because the HMRC Vatmoss system wasn't fully operational yet.

I contacted HMRC, and they confirmed the late payment, and my records said the same thing.

So I've paid them, Well, it was only 65 euros.

Poo in the post

I put some poo into the post box near me today.

Every two years, the NHS sends me a bowel cancel screening programme test kit. I have to take six samples of my poo, using the method they explain, and post it to them. They check it, and tell me if I have bowel cancer. So far, so good.

This is one of the benefits of a healthcare system where the priority is the health of everyone in the country. If the NHS's priority were profit, they wouldn't do this.

Aren't you glad we live in England?

Sunday, 4 March 2018

School shooting shelters

When it became clear that WW2 was imminent, the UK government designed air raid shelters for families. These were called Anderson shelters, and they were effective against anything except a direct hit. So when there was an air raid warning (you usually got several minutes) the family would dress warmly, and get to the Anderson shelter in their back garden.

Anderson shelters were simple, cheap and effective. You got six pieces of corrugated iron, 1.95m by 1.35m. You dug out an area of the garden to a depth of a couple of feet, then covered that with the corrugated iron. Finally, you heaped earth over the top.

It worked. A family taking shelter in their Anderson, could emerge after the raid to see their house demolished by a bomb, which was terrible, but at least they were alive.

So how does this apply to school shootings? I went to Ebay. You can get 8ft by 3ft corrugated iron for £11 per sheet.  So if you bought six of these, and put it in the corner of a classroom, that would give you an area nine feet by nine feet by eight feet high; you should be able to get a teacher and a couple of dozen kids in there quite easily.

But will it be proof against bullets from an AR 15? I don't know (that could be tested easily). I'm assuming that it isn't, So what you do, is buy eight more sheets, and put those up as an outer shell, leaving a gap between the two shells. Then you fill that gap with sandbags; cheap and easy to handle.

And that will give you a shelter that would resist bullets. Add a door with a lock, and you have an Anderson Shelter. Total cost, £200. You would need one for each classroom. I would have thought that parents would be willing to stump up the necessary £10 per head, to keep their kids safe against a school shooter.

The bullet resistance comes from the sandbags. The corrugated iron is just a cheap way to make the structure.

Of course, I did all this in UK pounds, which is silly, because if you suggested this in the UK, people would say "Why?". But I'd guess that corrugated iron costs about the same in the USA (more after the Trump Tariffs start to bite) and that American parents wold be really keen on this idea.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

Sir Oswald Moseley was the blackshirted scroat whi led the British Union of Fascists (usually known as the Black Shirts) until just before war broke out with Germany in 1939, whereupon he was confined to quarters until we'd dealt with his much-admired chum Herr Hitler.

Meanwhile, P G Wodehouse wrote a great spoof about a party he called the Black Shorts, led by a pugnacious bully called Lord Roderick Spode,

who usually got his come-uppance from Wooster and Jeeves well before the last chapter of the book. Recommended.

After the Battle of Cable Steet in 1936, when Moseley's Blackshirts were unable to intimidate the East Enders, his influence waned, reaching its nadir when WW2 started

Oswald Mosely had a son, Max. Young Max was involved in politics when he was a teenager, and the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

In 2008, there was this.

No longer a callow youth, Max turns out to have an interesting taste when it comes to his fun.

So he sued the News of the World in privacy grounds. After all, if someone wants to dress up as a Nazi and do sexy sado/masochistic things in private, that's not anyone else's business.

Max won the case. His private proclivities were, the judge said, not a matter of public interest.

But in the course of that case, reference was made to an unpleasant-sounding leaflet, with racist content, used in a political campaign that he was involved in, and signed off by him. Unfortunately, no-one had a copy of the leaflet, so his denial was accepted.

Now the leaflet, which says it was "published by Max Mosley" has surfaced. It includes ""Protect your health. There is no medical check on immigration. Tuberculosis, VD [venereal (sexually transmitted) disease] and other terrible diseases like leprosy are on the increase. Coloured immigration threatens your children's health."

He's in a bit of a pickle. Did he commit perjury? I don't know, but the penalty is seven years if he did. Here's Max being interviewed by Channel Four News.

 The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

OK, Google

My Google Home mini arrived, and it's rather nice. It's a puck-shaped thing, about four inches across, and I can ask it to do things. So, for example, I asked it how long it would take me to drive to Leighton Buzzard, and it told me 55 minutes, which is right. And the weather, and whether pigs have wings. And apparently, some people think they do. Huh. Who knew?

But what I really want to do, is use it to control things.

So first, I installed the Google Home app on my iPhone, and used that to go through the rather simple setup steps for the Google Home. Mostly, this is to tell it the password for my wifi. And then - let's take CONTROL ...

I already set up a Pi Zero with a pair of relays, controlled via the GPIO ports, and a cgi so that I can switch them on and off over the web. So I decided to use that for the experiment.

Here's how I did it.

The key thing is the ifttt web site. I registered on that, and set up an app.
What my app does, is if I say "OK Google, switch on one" then Google Home talks to ifttt, and ifttt accesses my Pi Zero over the internet, and runs the cgi. The URL it accesses looks like this.'lights=on&port=1'

Where instead of on I could say "off" and instead of 1 I could say 2. Except that it doesn't seem to be able to understand the word "two". But it can understand three. Not four. Yes five. Then I thought, Two is a homonym for "to" and "too". Four is a homonyn for "for". So what works is 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. So I think it's a homonym problem.

The way round it is to say "OK Google, switch on number two" and that works.

So I can switch either of the two relays on or off with a voice command.

Wow! This has potential!

There's a way I can use a Google SDK to make a Google Home on a Raspberry Pi, and I'm planning to have a bash at that; I have a few Pies not doing anything right now.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Hungary wants money

I got an email from the tax office in Hungary. They are saying that although I declared my VAT owing to them on Q1 2017 as 9.65 euros, I haven't paid them.

I have, of course, via the HMRC MOSS system, which lets me pay my VAT to all the EU countries as soon as I've calculated how much is should be. I pay it all in one lump, for all 27 EU countries (UK vat is paid in a different way) to HMRC, and they are supposed to take it from there.

This is annoying. I'm also being chased by the Italian tax office; they claim that in 2015 Q1, I paid the VAT three months late. Again, I didn't. I paid via HMRC's Vat Moss. So, three years later ...

Although I do believe that staying in the EU would be best for the country, these erroneous demands for small amounts of money are starting to annoy me. Just think, from 1 March 2019, I won't have to pay VAT to EU members. Or will I? No-one knows what will happen.