Lithium

Incoming via Twitter:

And yes, it’s an old article, but the (new) link arrived on my desktop just this morning.

Anyway, I popped across and had a quick look, because if there is new evidence suggesting that the government is using NASA to air drop Lithium (capital L, nogal) on the masses, then I want to know why.

But I’m happy to let you know here and now that there isn’t any evidence (new or otherwise) suggesting that the government is using NASA to air drop Lithium on the masses, so you can save yourselves the trouble of visiting the site that I’m not linking to anyway.

It’s ok. I’m happy to wade through the waist-deep BS so you don’t have to.

Declaring personal goods before leaving SA

South African resident?
Going abroad soon?

Lucky you.

You’ll be wondering if you need to declare your valuable personal effects to SARS before leaving South Africa, in order that you are not charged duty upon your return to the country, right?

After this alleged incident, there’s been some confusion over this, so here’s the definitive answer.

No.

But also, Yes.

But No.

However: Yes, you do.

Unhelpful. So I looked for advice from some experts.

Flight Centre said: mmm, maybe.
traveller24dotcom said: there’s a statement from SARS.

But before we go there, here’s an interview with SARS executive Beyers Theron in which he says:

If you have your laptop or cellphones with you, you’re not required to declare that when you leave the country.

So that’s clearly a no.
And here’s that statement from SARS, in which they say:

A more user-friendly and secure process has been created where the traveller completes a TC-01 (Traveller Card) notifying his or her intent to register goods for re-importation. This is presented to the Customs Officer who will then capture this online on a Traveller declaration system (TRD1). The traveller authenticates the declaration by signing on a digital signature pad. A copy is printed for the traveller to retain as proof of registration.

Which does appear to be a yes.

And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth website. So it looks like it’s a yes.

I’m flying out of the country soon, so I had a quick look at how many flights leave SA for other countries. Then I decided that that was a bit stupid because the numbers were just too beeg for my puny microbiologist brain to handle.
So I concentrated on Cape Town.

International flights from Cape Town today:

Amsterdam, Windhoek (x3), Victoria Falls (x2), Oranjemund, Maun, Walvis Bay (x2),  Addis Ababa, Paris, London (x2), Dubai (x3), Doha, Harare and Luanda.

20 flights, including at least 2 on 747, 5 on 777s and 2 on 787s.
In off-season.

That’s a lot of flights. All of which got me wondering about just how many people were likely to be on those flights. So I looked up the most recent available statistics and found that on average, each day 2,760 people depart CPT on international flights.

Bye!

Of those, how many travellers are local residents? There aren’t any recent figures, but a third seems like a reasonable assumption, based on what information is available. (Note that the figures are much, MUCH higher for JNB: ±80%.)
But back to Cape Town, because that’s where we can like to be looking at.

Approximate international travellers per day = 2,760.
So approximate locals travelling abroad = 920.

Now we have some numbers, I’can, and have been doing, some rudimentary calculations.

According to the missive above, each of those 920 people will have to go to SARS in town simply to register their personal goods (with proof of ownership for each) in order that they might not face having to pay duty on them upon their return.
Their cellphones, their watches, their laptops, their cameras.

920 locals per day = 6,440 locals each week, but since SARS is only open five days a week, that equates to 1,290 local people at that TC-01 counter each day. SARS is open 8am-4pm, so they’ll have to process 162 people per hour, or 2.7 people per minute every minute.
That’s 1 person every 22.2 seconds to ensure that everyone is accommodated and can:

avoid the inconvenience of having to explain ownership upon returning from travel abroad.

which clearly seems to be a perfectly reasonable and manageable target.

And that’s just Cape Town. And that’s just air travel.

Of course, this legislation has been in place for years and years and years, and no-one has ever fallen foul of it until some petty jobsworth SARS official at OR Tambo decided to have a pop at the ridiculously named Mr Toler Wolfe-Coote as documented above.

The can of worms has been opened. But I’m sure the our erstwhile tax agency is completely and adequately prepared to deal with the situation.

French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site thelocal.fr is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, thelocal.fr seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)

Car park sniggering

Just a quickie. (Careful now.)

It’s pouring down in Cape Town today. I’m not complaining: we need the rain [links to millions of drought posts].
Earlier, I described the morning as “gloriously filthy“, and I fully stand by that.

Unconnected with the prevailing meteorological conditions, my knee remains really rather sore. This makes wearing long trousers uncomfortable. Hence, I am wearing shorts today.

I covered this in my recent blog post, amusingly entitled No News Is Good Knees.

When I got out of my car at work today (in the rain, wearing shorts), I became aware of a group of five or six young individuals poking fun at my wardrobe choice, while having a cigarette.

“Whatevs”, as they say. Water off a duck’s back. (No pun etc etc)
I’m way past caring what unimportant people think of me.

But, I will just point out that I was wearing shorts in the rain because my knee is painful. Those twats were voluntarily standing outside in the pouring rain (in long trousers, admittedly) attempting to give themselves lung cancer.

I’m really not sure I should be the one being giggled at.

Grève situation

I was just running through a few of the train times for our upcoming Europe trip. Google was full of warnings.

Information: En raison d’une grève nationale SNCF, la circulation des trains sera perturbée. La liste des trains sera disponible chaque jour à 17h sur le site SNCF pour vos trajets du lendemain.

Une grève is a strike.
Une grève nationale is a national strike.
Une grève nationale SNCF is a national railway strike. 

You can see that circulating trains will be perturbed. Understandably.

Basically, if we were trying to make this journey today, we probably wouldn’t be able to. So why are the unions so furieux?

Well:

Nine public-sector unions representing 5.7 million public service agents have called for strike action and demonstrations to protest reforms and voice salary and staffing concerns in the face of a government that has pledged to cut 120,000 public-sector positions by the time President Emmanuel Macron’s term ends in 2022.

More than 130 demonstrations are scheduled nationwide on Tuesday, with the Paris march due to set off from the Place de la République at 2pm and head southeast for the Place de la Nation.

..and this is, apparently, day 1 of the eleventh! 2 day strike by rail workers.

Given the exorbitant price of tickets (even when you book them in advance), I’d much prefer the Japanese bus strike version of things.

But I guess we can only hope that there’s some breakthrough in the talks this week – or at least before we get there. I’ve been researching some alternative methods of getting to where we need to get to and firstly, there aren’t any, and secondly, that means inventing our own way of getting to the middle of nowhere and it’s going to be ridiculously pricey.

Sacré bleu!