James Miller


Thursday, December 30, 2004


A Disaster Tax

Probably not!

The trouble with disasters is that we don't know where the next disaster will happen. It could be an earthquake, a volcano, a hurricane or a massive chemical explosion.

What is needed is more planning and stockpiles of bottled water, sanitation equipment, plastic sheeting and other things at convenient airports and seaports around the world. Then we need to have people in every country, who are briefed and ready for a disaster. Countries such as the UK could easily have a thousand people who could go at a moments notice. Airlines would have to be prepared to give aircraft for transport.

But who would organise it all?

I wouldn't trust the UN as it would get bloated.

But I would trust the British Army to organise our bit. Just as I suspect the French, the Germans and the Swiss would trust their armies too! Remember too, that all armies talk English!

But whatever we do, we mustn't have another disaster with a botched response.


Estimating The Problem With Mobile Phones

In the midst of all the chaos in Sri Lanka, someone had the bright idea of analysing all of the mobile phones connected at the time of the disaster. Apparently, 10,000 were connected and only 2,500 have reconnected.

They then sent text messages to everyone and got replies which reunited people and saved quite a few.

Well done!


Wave Disaster: Couple Missing

This was the crass headline in the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday.

Remins one of the classic from The Times "Fog in Channel - Continent Isolated."

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Earthquakes and Tsunamis

I feel ashamed.

As someone who has spent a lifetime in computing, where was the warning system? All of the mathematics have been known for thirty years. In fact my software was used by the old Water Resources Board to plot floods and water flows in 1972!

It took three hours for the tidal wave to run from Indonesia to Sri Lanka. Surely, those that spotted the initial quake and then got the reports from Phuket should have been able to predict that there would be damage elsewhere.

It just proves yet again that the war on terror is just a diversion. Nature has always been mankind's most ferocious enemy.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Homebase and Exploding Lightbulbs

We moved into our current house about twelve years ago and perhaps four years afterwards we put up a series of six high-quality light fittings from John Lewis that use 100 watt Edison screw bulbs. Incidentally, with one exception they are the only fittings we have that use the Edison screw bulbs.

If you live in Newmarket, there is only one place to buy light bulbs and that is Homebase near the by-pass. So over the years we've bought hundreds of light bulbs from their store, as being a large house, we use a lot of bulbs. Too many in my view, but that is because bulbs don't last as long as they should.

We've never had any problem until the last few months.

Perhaps a year ago, Homebase changed their packaging for bulbs from a dark red to a pink. Nothing wrong with that in my view, even if the colour is a bit garish. But that is their decision.

However, since then in a period of perhaps three months, four of the Edison screw bulbs have exploded. Two have gone on switch on, when bulbs usually go, whilst the others have gone without warning. Glass has gone everywhere and I dread to think what would happen if anybody were to be standing underneath.

I would suspect, but cannot prove that all of the exploding bulbs are ones that were delivered in the new packaging, so I suspect that Homebase also changed the specification or manufacturer of the bulbs.

I reported this to Homebase Customer Services by phone after first trying the store, where I got no response at all. The main reason for reporting was that as an electrical engineer, I consider the exploding bulbs to be a very serious safety issue. Homebase insisted that I provide the product serial number and proof of purchase. In other words, they were not interested.

I also reported everything to Suffolk Trading Standards. They again wanted serial number and proof of purchase and were unable to act.

Thursday, December 23, 2004



Asthma is an unusual disease as it generates an awful lot of differing opinions.

I look upon it in rather a different way, because a few years ago I financed a metered dose inhaler for asthma drugs. It was very successful and it was sold to a German company for a lot of money. If it sees commercial exploitation, it will be very interesting, as the device is very green, using no compressed gases, no CFC's, no HCFC's, batteries or other power sources.

Because of this I know quite a bit about asthma and find today's story that asthma may well be linked to cleaning chemicals very interesting.

But there are many possible links and odd stories concerning asthma :-

1. Why is that oh-so-clean country, New Zealand, one of the top countries for the disease.

2. At the top of the list are the Anglo countries, like the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

3. It is known that oxides of nitrogen can cause asthma and it is one of the reasons why smoking around babies is not recommended. But no-one says the same about gas fires and cookers. Should they be banned too?

4. I have heard several stories, where people have moved from three-bedroom boxes with fitted carpets and central heating to draughty country cottages with stone floors and the asthma disappears.

5. A teacher once told me that a lot of kids want an inhaler as this gets them off games. It could also be peer pressure. But why is it that one class has lots of asthma and the year below has virtually none?

6. Are doctors fairly keen to prescribe an inhaler? Do parents say little Johnny is wheezing and needs it? Or do they get incentives from drug companies? I've never proved the last one, but stories abound.

7. Some research has shown that keeping a dog, cat or other pets, can make you less prone to asthma and other diseases.

So as you can see it's all very confusing.

What I'd do is live in a nice draughty, comfortable house with stone floors and central heating, use an electric cooker, keep a sensible dog like a basset hound, stop smoking and cut down on the cleaning.

Sounds just like us. And none of our three children had asthma!


David Kelly

I have been rather uneasy about many of the statements about the death of David Kelly. Mainly though because on the whole scientists don't commit suicide, except where they know that their life is nearing it's end and they are in great pain.

However a letter in the Guardian written by some very eminent people has made me think deeper.


As the letter states. "Dr David Kelly is the first British citizen whose sudden, unexpected and violent death has been denied an inquest."

We must be told why.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Ipswich 2 Wigan 1

Ipswich are now back on top of the Coca-Cola Championship.

What a game!

There was a fluke goal by Wigan. Can it be anything else if it's a shot from 40 metres?

Then Ipswich just kept attacked for Richard Naylor to put the ball in the net with a real striker's goal. And then Darren Bent sealed it.

Let's hope we stay there this time.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Footballers' Christmas

As a child growing up in North London, I went a couple of times to see Spurs play on Christmas Day morning with my father.

Very civilised it was, as we came home about two or so, to a lovely Christmas dinner cooked by my mother.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Simon Jenkins on Blunkett

Simon Jenkins wrote about the demise of worst Home Secretary in recent years in The Times on Friday.

Phew! But absolutely spot on! Perhaps spot on is too delicate for the best demolition job of the century so far. The work for the grandstand at Ascot does come close, but not that close!

On Wednesday, I said to my son, Henry, who works with Gareth Pierce, that I believed that Blunkett released the memo and resigned when he did, as he felt the judgement on Thursday would go against him. It would be better to resign over a domestic matter than a matter of policy. The latter would have ruined him.

You may think, I’m of the left. I am, but of the old left of the Tory party. My father was proud that he was in the East End in the 1930’s throwing rocks at Mosley. We are more civilised now and use words. Is it better?

Friday, December 17, 2004


Blunkett's Demise


We'll miss the dog though! That was loyal!

Monday, December 13, 2004


Stansted Expansion

If the UK is going to remain a world-class economy then we need hi-tech jobs.

Most of those will come in East Anglia, where people get on with things without the subsidy that is inherent with development in the North, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Stansted expansion is essential to those jobs and it is pity that a few well-off NIMBYs feel they can be so selfish to deny others their employment and ultimately pension rights.

I will be affected by all of this expansion as I live halfway between Cambridge and Stansted, but know that the benefits I will receive far outweigh any negative aspects.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Parts on E-Bay

Nothing new there!

I’ve been phoned by someone trying to find some computer spares for NASA.

In fact isn’t it a tribute to the reliability of the systems installed all those years ago, that they still work well and safely.

Monday, December 06, 2004



For years I suffered from mild depression for no reason. I also used to get migraine head-aches and was often tired.

I never saw a doctor about it, but for other reasons I went and was eventually diagnosed as a coeliac. This means that I have an allergy to the gluten found in wheat, barley, bread, beer and pasta.

Since then due to a simple diet, the psychological symptoms have gone.

I wonder how many others are on anti-depressants when the real problem is actually something physical.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Banning Trucks Overtaking on Two Lane Roads

This is a really good idea.

On the M11 and A14, which I use a lot, there is often large amounts of open road caused by two trucks travelling alongside each other. There have also been a large number of fatal accidents involving trucks, especially at the busy A14/M11 junction which has led the police to open a full discussion, as to ideas to improve safety.

Trucks often force their way out too and on several occasions I have had to break very sharply. I’ve even seen motorists so frustrated with trucks undertake on the hard shoulder of the M11.

Let’s get this sensible ban in on Monday.