Friday, April 15, 2016

Germany: Wise air travel meal choices and stuff not to buy online

From our There is no Mass Surveillance series.

When the blogster asked a nice former civil servant who had worked in the German Bundestag, the federal parliament, if he thought there was mass surveillance in Germany, he didn't blink: "Of course, everybody does it".

Posing the identical question to OMG (Old Mustached German), familiar to regular readers, resulted in the same answer, decorated with a gratuitous swear word for emphasis.

The blogster doesn't want to contradict the experts and decided to call it differently: massive targeted surveillance. Same thing but sounds nicer, don't you agree?

The most interesting data collection efforts by the German authorities are not always the ones you can readily read about in the old and new media.

The fact that the German government just this week decided to make the sale of anonymous SIM cards illegal and require ID when you buy any prepaid card is news, granted.

No matter whether you book a flight online or at a travel agent, your data are going to collected even more extensively than before.

A pet project of "conservatives" for many years, it took the more recent terror attacks in Europe, and the prospect of 500 million Euros a year for running the scheme, to get comprehensive collection of air travel passenger data (PNR) passed. For each passenger, up to 60 data points per flight, will be collected and made available to all EU member states. Even your meal preferences are going to be saved for five years with more relevant personal data.

The blogster recommends to go with the standard chicken or beef meals and to avoid vegetarian. The latter can be interpreted as religious affiliation or as animal rights activism, both of which are deeply suspect to the authorities.

Gluten-free, on the other hand, should be great, too, because it is the clearest food based statement of health consciousness, and thus reduces your chance of being flagged as a potential suicide bomber to naught. Gluten-free shouts out to the world: I want to live. Remember that the 911 highjackers binged on fast food and crap before going boooom? 

Legal items you still may not want to buy over the internet in Germany include the following.

Hydrogen peroxide
It is legal but H2O2 gets its own entry because it illustrates the extent of government control over citizens like few other things, with the exception of the broadcasting fee.
The blogster misses this dirt cheap harmless cleaning and washing aid more than any non curse words can describe.
But since higher concentration H2O2 can be used with Acetone to make explosives, the Germans clamped down.
You can still by a liter/quart of low percentage peroxide but for moon prices.

Any other useful chemicals
Chief among them are acids and solvents. Generally being hazardous, limiting sales and trying to make sure buyers know safety and handling restrictions is actually a good idea. Unfortunately, German authorities seem to believe that the simple act of buying them over the internet means you may be up to no good. If you do, for example, work that involves a lot of degreasing, find a brick and mortar shop to buy supplies. They are required to ask the same questions as online shops but showing your face makes you less of a threat. Unless you have a big beard. In that case, find another hobby.

If you are middle aged or older, you appear less of a threat but you have another problem: may chemicals you may know as openly on sale from decades ago have undergone reclassification, which always means becoming subject to more restrictions.

For all the blogster knows, Borax, that cheap powder against irritable bowel syndrome in dogs and other pets, may now be on an index because it is a neutron absorber. The friendly pharmacist might get nervous and think you are trying to build a mini nuclear power plant in your back yard.

Brewing equipment and stills
Home brewing is legal in Germany up to an annual quantity of 200 liters (around 50 gallons). Many DIY stores and gardening centers offer basic equipment, such as glass fermentation and storage jars.
Buying these basics online is probably safe. At least, we have not heard of issues.

Distilling equipment is another matter!
You can freely buy a 0.5 liter (about 2 cups) still, and German customs will generally leave you alone. If you buy a still with a capacity greater than 0.5 liter, you will get a visit by German customs. That's because any German seller of stills above that limit has to provide customs with the buyer's contact details.

According to a German friend, some inveterate home distillers have worked around the system. Organic Chemistry textbooks published in Germany after WWII included a large section on home brewing and home distilling. Recent textbooks no longer have this practical content, but German students continue to be interested in the subject. Most chemistry students know how make their own still, including a separator for methyl alcohol, out of an electric canning pot.

No comments:

Post a Comment