James Miller


Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Thoughts on Top-Up Fees and Grants

Celia and I, many of our friends and several leading politicians got full grants whilst at University.

We now have a government, some of whom got those full grants, who now want to introduce a system that will load tomorrow's students with large amounts of debt.

Will it give Universities more money?

As the government has made a lot of concessions, I doubt it!

Two things need to be done :-

1. There needs to be serious questioning of whether we actually should send 50% of students to University.

All my academic friends, say it is far too many!

I say that perhaps it isn't, but that many of that 50% would be better going later or using the Open University.

2. Waste and unnecessary spending needs to be cut by the government, so that the Universities and students can be properly funded.

I am not cutting out part-loans, because now that taxation is well below the rates paid in the seventies, students can afford to pay something back.

But not the amounts they are facing in the future.


Thoughts on Coal

The BBC is running various programmes about the fight between Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher.

Everybody is missing the point!

Coal is a filthy fuel that generates lots of global warming CO2. It generates twice as much CO2 as natural gas for the same amount of energy, as the latter has lots of hydrogen atoms, which only create water!

The real tragedy of the coal industry is that it wasn’t shut down in an orderly and agreed way much earlier and at a rate that could have been sustained without the confrontation, heartache and trouble.

Friday, January 23, 2004


An Interesting Set of Statistics

If you look at the number of black people in prison per 100,000 it can tell you how a country treats other races.

One would think that South Africa in 1992 would have a high figure and that a democracy like the United States would have a figure that was much lower.

Not so!

In 1993, South Africa had a figure of 851, whereas the 2002 figure for the US was 7150.

In other words a black person in the US now, is eight times more likely to be incarcerated than in the racist South Africa.

Interesting I can't find an authenticated figure for the UK! But it looks like it is around 1,000! This is based on the fact that 15% of prisoners are Afro-Caribbean and that they make up about 2% of the total population.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004



Dubya is spending a lot of money promoting marriage, but I think he may we putting his money in the wrong place. He usually does!

As someone who deals with statistics, I suspect that there are now more people who have been married for longer than 25 years, than they have ever been!

Basically, we live longer! My parents never made 25 years, as my father died early. That is not so common now! There is also the point, that often second or later marriages last.

On the other hand, Celia, my wife of 35 years, is a barrister! She’s all for divorce for others as it keeps her business going!

So Dubya would be better off promoting health so those that are married stay married longer, and those that aren't just live longer.


Cold Potatoes

Many years ago, at the height of the IRA troubles, I was flying down from Aberdeen to London. Everything in those days was hand searched for bombs, so there were queues at a table where this was done.

The guy in front of me, had a large plastic carrier bag, which he dumped unceremoniously for searching. 'What's that?' The security guard was apprehensive, but not that apprehensive, as the passenger was about sixty and well-dressed.

Whereupon, the passenger opened the bag. 'Seed potatoes! You have the best in the world in Aberdeen and there's a shortage down south!'

On checking, there were laughs all round!

Compare this with what happened last night in Florida, where a girl who joked she had a bomb got arrested.

She was stupid, but she didn't deserved to get locked up! According to the BBC, it looks like it could be six months before she sees a court!

I was speaking to a senior executive of a British company who was so incensed by his treatment on entering the US recently, he nearly made a similar remark.

Perhaps, their idea is to lock-up anybody who might say that America is not the greatest country in the world.

It may be in some ways, but in areas of the environment, trade, human rights and justice, it definitely isn't! It also leads in having the dumbest electoral system in the world, which means that the least worst candidate gets elected.

So don't visit America until they clean their act up. Unless of course someone is going to pay you a large amount of money, which pays for all the hassle at the airport!

Monday, January 19, 2004


Predicting League Positions

Are you a betting man?

Something to tickle your fancy if you are!

I analyse databases and have always felt that the odds for league positions don’t reflect who a team has to play and where!

So I wrote a program to do the analysis, so that you can make your own predictions and have an appropriate bet!

I started by doing the analysis for the Premiership. Arsenal appear to win it easily, although when I made my predictions for the rest of the season, I was counting without Saha and any other new signings.

But the interesting thing is that Charlton come fourth. They appear to have an easy run in and this helps enormously. I took the 6-1 on offer at Betfair for Charlton to be top, without Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United!

Now as one of the 22,000 possible heart attack victims at Ipswich on Saturday, I did the analysis for the First Division.

So I’m biased, but even if I reckoned that Ipswich will only get one point from the two away games at Norwich and Sheffield, they still ended in the first two! It’s just that we have the more easy games!

I know that doesn’t guarantee anything, as this team are capable of anything! Let’s hope they got rid of their defensive mistakes on Saturday!


A Coeliac's Diet

This was written in response to a request for what I eat from a student, who is doing a gluten free diet for her GCSE.


You have to avoid gluten, which is present in wheat and barley.

So basically, this means no bread, no pasta and no beer.

But you can eat rice and maize, so as a simple example you can eat Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes, but not Shredded Wheat!

You can get special bread, but it is awful and goes stale very quickly, so I don’t. To replace that carbohydrate from bread, I tend to use brown sugar on my cereal each morning and there are usually cold boiled potatoes in the fridge. I eat the potatoes like others eat biscuits! The only biscuits I ever eat are some special rice crackers called Springfield, that you get from Sainsburys.

Main meals are very similar to everybody else. Meat and vegetables, but never followed with a pudding. I’ll have fruit instead or something like hot bananas cooked in the over. I have never met another coeliac who is a vegetarian, as you need the meat to get the vitamins you need. The only thing I can’t drink is beer, but cider is fine. (Ask Taylors! They’re near you!)

Snacks are a bit of a problem, as when I travel most people would have a sandwich. I can’t, so I tend either not too, or have some crisps, nuts, a Coke or an orange juice. Chocolate tends to be out, as these have small amounts of gluten. Except Crunchies!

One of the saviours though is Indian and Chinese food, which if you ignore things like nan or crispy duck in pancakes, uses very little wheat. GNER, who run the trains from London to Scotland, have recently introduced a chicken tikka snack, which is great!

As to drink, it’s everything except beer. Even whisky which is distilled from barley is fine, as the gluten stays behind in the distilling process!

I hope all that helps.

One thing you could do, is check the various web sites to see companies policies. For instance, Cadburys, Walkers and Kelloggs have a very open policy publishing all their ingredients on the Internet. Others do not! You can decide for yourself whose products I eat.

If you want to read more see my My Coeliac Diary on the Internet.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


Only In America

In Indiana Prisoners sentenced to life without parole could petition a court for the death penalty under a bill filed by Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn.

The bill would allow inmates sentenced to more than 200 years in prison or to life without parole a one-time chance to ask a judge to allow them to die.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Bullets at Heathrow

A Sudanese man is arrested at Heathrow carrying bullets.

No matter he'd checked in at Washington.

When is America going to learn that the terrible events of September 11 were allowed because of their lax airport security.

It appears it is no better! He could have been carrying quite a fearsome knife! Or a box cutter!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Favourite Horses

The Racing Post has asked for people to nominate their favourite horses.

Here are mine!

1. Mandarin

Why Mandarin?

Admittedly, it was only on black and white television, not in the colour of being there, but as a fifteen-year-old off school with a broken arm, I watched a little horse win the ultimate race at Cheltenham. He was given an immaculate ride by a man who previously had jumped at Aarhem, so Fred Winter was not feared of anything on the stiffest of courses. Never did that immaculate jockey let that intelligent horse go more than a couple of feet from the inside rail!

Perhaps, legend says that the win in the Grand Steeplechase de Paris was greater. (Many pundits reckon this is one of the greatest races of all time!) After all, he only broke a bit early in the race, so Fred Winter lost all control and steering, and then poor Mandarin broke down three faces from home.

He still won.

2. Terimon

Why Terimon?

Terimon was the joke of the 1989 Derby. Unfortunately, no-one had told the horse, Clive Brittain or Michael Roberts!

Many commentators wondered what he was doing in the race and one said she’d eat her hat if he won. But then as we had horses with Clive Brittain at the time, we’d seen that final piece of work on the Saturday when he’d sparkled under Jock Brown.

Clive, who still is probably the best trainer of unusual horses (Remember Pebbles!) the world has ever seen, only promised the owner, Lady Beaverbrook, that Terimon would beat more horses than beat him. The jockey, Michael Roberts, was going to ride him for fourth place, knowing that Brian Proctor, who’d won on him the previous week, had said this was a good horse.

Terimon came second five lengths behind Nashwan! Later he was to win the big Group 1 International at York!

So did we have a bet?

Of course we did as who could refuse 500-1 each way! Our son, Henry, introduced many in the City to the joys of betting! They would never have a bet like that again!

But as ever, Clive had the last laugh! As he left Epsom that day, the Jockey Club Security Chief called him over. ‘Mr. Brittain! You nearly caused a riot in the middle of the course. The drunks were betting on the 1000-1 being offered and the bookies ran out of money!’

3. Golden Panda

Why Golden Panda?

Golden Panda may not have been one of the best horses, but at least she was one that my wife owned. And still does!

Named after a Chinese restaurant in Ipswich, the flashy chestnut filly, had not done her best as a two-year-old. She’d run third and ten lengths to Diminuendo, but despite being second twice, she’d been unable to break her duck.

As a three-year-old, she started to be a crock, with dodgy knees and possible bleeding, so it was on the 8th August 1988 we went to Nottingham, with not the best of hopes.

But we forget two things. The date was the lucky Chinese 8-8-88 day and Steve Cauthen had been booked.

The instructions were simple. ‘The horse bleeds, so keep her handy and you might pinch it on the line!’ Hope indeed as she was 12-1!

But then she jumped well and after fifty metres she was two lengths clear. Not for Cauthen, the pull-back to obey orders. As he said afterwards, she was happy there, so he kept her in front with that precious advantage. Without using a whip, and just a touch of hands and heels, he gave the horse one of the greatest rides I’ve ever seen, to win by half a length!

So did we have a bet?

Of course not! But the Chinese in Mildenhall did and cleaned out the local betting shop.

For us, we had lots of free meals in Ipswich!


Child Pornography and Spam

The only way to stop child pornography and spam is in the countries that send out this filth.

Everybody should take some of the least worst stuff and send it with a nice letter to the appropriate Ambassador of the country concerned. If say the United States got 100,000 letters a week, then they would take action on the spammers and the associated web sites based there!

Saturday, January 10, 2004


Kilroy and the Arabs

Robert Kilroy-Silk was Celia's tutor at Liverpool in the mid-60s. I think it would be true to say that they didn't get on well. One of the main reasons being he was a committed smoker of Capstan Full Strength.

Now he is in trouble for saying that Arabs were "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors".

Well, the once-great Muslim religion that protected and then enhanced the science that we use today through the Dark Ages, has now lost it's way.

Where is the great Arab nation? Where is a working Arab democracy? Where is the great Arab University doing ground-breaking science?

On the same day that Kilroy was being vilified for his views, there was a news item in the Evening Standard which said that a girl in the Muslim Sudan was to suffer a public beating for getting pregnant. It didn't say what punishment the man got!

I like to define an Axis of Evil that countries can join. Basically, if you've got the death penalty or corporal punishment, you oppress a minority, no democracy or no women's or gay rights you're in!

Judge for yourself who's in that Axis.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


Electronic Chatter

We are told that electronic chatter has been responsible for the various terrorist alerts.

Surely, they would spot suspect messages if the spam which circulates around the Internet were stopped. But then that would mean the US would have to take action at home, rather than bully everybody else.


Visas for America

As the United States ecomony goes steadily south, due to Dubya's economic policy, they now introduce visas for everyone who doesn't have a biometric passport.

Florida will love all those visitors who will now go to South Africa and other more welcoming countries.


University Top Up Fees

What is going to happen in a few years when such as Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, produce large numbers of simple ways of avoiding paying back the fees and loans?

Friday, January 02, 2004


Flights to America

After the Americans have stopped the BA flight to Washington again, one wonders about the quality of their intelligence.

Before September 11th that same intelligence, got no warning and coupled with the abysmal lack of security in their airports, that enormous tragedy was allowed to happen by incompetence.

So now they act tough on the smallest information.

Still I won't go to the States whilst they have the death penalty, so it doesn't affect me. Unless of course someone wanted to pay money, in which case I'd go.


Stopping People Smoking

Either we are serious or we are not about stopping people smoking.

I am and would impose :-

1. No smoking whilst driving
2. No buying cigarettes in garages
3. No buying cigarettes except where you are videoed to stop children buying
4. No smoking in restaurants and bars

But also :-

1. Free patches or gum.
2. Counselling

I just wish someone would come up with a free cure that stopped me biting my nails.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


Cinema Attendances

So, they are down in the UK!

No wonder, as all we get are overblown epics in Cambridge, whilst others we have wanted to see, come for just a few days at the Arts Cinema. We wanted to see films such as In the Cut, Swimming Pool, The Mother etc. but didn't manage it.

The sooner that the Americans loose control of the distribution system in the UK, the better. We might then get films that we want to see.


New Years Honours

I would like to propose Artemis.

Not the Greek god, but a computer program created in Ipswich.

Alright, I’ll declare an interest! In 1975, along with three others, Richard Evans, Roy Brown and Robin Lodge, we created a system for the planning of large projects. Projects in the UK, like the Channel Tunnel, most of North Sea Oil and the new Jubilee Line were all handled successfully by the program. We also sold extensively in the US and around the world, virtually monopolising the market.

We sold out in 1985 for a very large sum of money, as in those days it was about the only successful way of realising capital. The company is still going strong.

No-one got an honour, but the company did win two Queen’s Awards for Industry.

The other reason I would propose her, is that it would be an example to all of those other unsung heroes of this country, who work hard to create the real wealth, that others can enjoy or waste!