James Miller


Thursday, March 31, 2005


A Monorail for Oxford Street

I read with interest an article in the Evening Standard yesterday and feel I should comment about a proposed monorail for Oxford Street.

I should explain that I am an engineer with a lot of experience of transport projects around the world, mainly because the software I wrote, Artemis, was used to plan them.

I am also an inveterate traveller and have experience of a very large number of cities around the world. That experience is usually as a tourist and includes the Sydney monorail, the escalators of Hong Kong and the underground walkways of Perugia. I should also say that I visit the Oxford Street area at least once a month for shopping, eating or business.

I will agree with the plan, where the monorail gives the whole street a connection and a focus, but I believe that a moving walkway suspended over the street below would be much more flexible and inherently better.

1. It could be built in stages, with perhaps a spectacular star over Oxford Circus as a first phase to move people from say Regent Street North to Oxford Street East and West without getting involved in the fearsome crowds at road level.

2. Walkways are basically hop-on and hop-off. So if you see a shop or something else that interests you, then all you do is wait to the next hop-off point and exit.

3. As the walkway progressed down Oxford Street, it could rise and fall so that it was level with the floors of the major stores. How much would John Lewis pay for an entrance at first floor level?

4. Stops would be much more frequent than a monorail.

5. Walkways are a fail-safe system in that when the motor breaks, the system is still walkable. What happens when a monorail breaks down as the Sydney system did when I rode it?

6. Walkways can add spurs as required to Conference Centres, attractions and also to move people well away from Oxford Street.

7. As they would run effectively from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, they would take the pressure off the Central Line.

8. Just as in Hong Kong it would be covered in a clear plastic roof. Video screens could be included under the roof to sell advertising.

9. Security is important and I'm sure the Police would like a high-level walkway from which to view the crowds below.

10. Bulges and platforms could be attached to the walkway, so that cafes and other attractions could be setup. If access is provided to stores on route, there would be no problems as to servicing these cafes.

11. The whole system has to be commercial. Imagine a platform just by Selfridges which sells the Wallace Collection, with a down escalator pointing that way.

I also agree with the views of making Oxford Street a two way bus-only lane. But they must be Heritage walk-on walk-off buses. i.e. Routemasters. They should be free and they could turn at Marble Arch and Centre Point.

Best of luck with the project anyway.

But I still say a moving walkway would be better and infinitely more flexible.



So Benjamin Cohen is in trouble with Apple over thinking of the name iTunes.co.uk before they did. I wish him luck but he'll loose.

There was a big row over prince.com as it had been registered by a London computer consultancy and the sporting goods manufacturer wanted it.

If you look at the domain now it's sitting there waiting to be updated. I guess that Prince won or something or the London consultancy is no longer functioning. I can't find anything current about them on the web.

I also registered a domain for a client some years ago and then I get a writ saying I'd stolen the name. Of course I hadn't and as the guy who then stole it through the US courts, which cost me money to give away my rights, I am annoyed about it. But don't worry about me as I always get my own back, legally and properly.

Why are these heavy handers always American? Still it just means that I buy less and less American goods. When they treat the rest of the world as friends, rather than as someone to exploit, then I might change my policy.

But not yet!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


School Dinners

The government is going to add 280 million pounds to the school dinner budget.

Yet another bribe, which we'll all have to pay for.


Learning to Read

There is a lot of discussion today about learning to read; phonics as opposed to traditional methods.

I was unusual in that my father was an old-fahioned letterpress printer. I can still smell the laed and the ink!

So I learnt to read and write with big wooden poster letters. Now these are backwards, so b is the reverse of d etc. I’ve been told it shouldn’t work and should have given me problems.

It didn’t.

On the other hand, I do think it is one of the reasons why I have a well-developed ability to visualise in three dimensions.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


England's Southern Stars

After England's good win against Northern Ireland yesterday, it's interesting to note that the team has a strong southern and almost London bias.

Only five, Robinson, Neville, Rooney, Gerrard and Owen are from outside the south-east of England. Whereas seventy-five percent of the population is!

When the substitues are taken into account, then Dyer is from Ipswich and Defoe is another London, whilst Hargreaves is from Canada.

Is this a trend or just a blip? Or more worryingly is the north of England taking a leaf out of Scotland's book. Especially, if you discount Liverpool, which is very much a law unto itself.

Looking at the four semi-finalists for the FA Youth Cup, there is Tottenham, Southampton, Ipswich and Wolves. Only Wolves are not in the south.

Friday, March 25, 2005


The Boat Race

I play real tennis at Cambridge University.

Over the last few weeks, the topic of the boat race has not been discussed at all in my presence!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005



Nice to see that one of the ideas you have backed with money, a bit of science and a lot of belief is now a product.

Respimat is a new metered-dose inhaler for asthma drugs from Boeringer Ingelheim.


Avoiding the Sun

A blanket rule for all on avoiding the sun is totally wrong.

The reason is that I have been told by a leading dermatologist that there is a genetic component which means that if you have the gene you will be much more likely to get skin cancer. So for some the sun is even more dangerous than others.

Also, I am a coeliac, which means my vitamins are a bit awry and I find that I need a sensible daily dose of sun for my well-being.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Sinn Fein, Birmingham Gangs and Gypsies

A lot of people round here are worried about the Gypsies. What happens if they camp illegally on your land? Why can they get away with the persistent law breaking at Cottenham?

We then had the case last week, where the Police were stopped from entering an illegal camp in Surrey to collect evidence after someone was murdered.

The basic problem is that if you want rights to live in a community, then you must accept the norms of the community. And that includes paying tax, licencing your cars and paying council tax!

Take the murder of Robert McCartney. A wall of silence and threats to the family are all that has come from Sinn Fein and the IRA. Or should I say Sinn Fein/IRA? Until they co-operate with the police they have no right to any concessions or privileges.

The Birmingham Gangs show what happens when the law is allowed to not be enforced. And enforced fairly. People get killed and then rather dodgy trials ensue. Can it be right that the defence can't test the reliability of a witness? I suspect that under the Human Rights Act used to impose things that are disliked on the general population, that we can't. And probably rightly so.

The solution is that we must not let these things get out of hand and that when lawbreaking starts we should impose the reasonable rules of the Law and Parliament, rather than hope the problem will go away. When measures get out of hand the rules we need to use are then very unpalatable to all.

The unease over the Gypsy problem is such, that how long will it be before a group of villagers, so incensed at the problem in their village take the law into their own hands?


How To Visit Seattle

Friends have a son and daughter-in-law in Seattle.

Instead of visiting directly, to avoid all the problems of US border controls and the other hassles, they always go to Canada first and then drive down. They also spend a few days relaxing before and after in a country with values they are attuned to!

Sounds like your foreigner-friendly regime is working Mr. Bush!


The Right to Die

So the US Senate thinks it is fit to legislate to keep a woman alive in a vegetative state. The BBC says "Republicans said it was their duty to save a life that was still worth living."

Worth living!

I wouldn't want to spent 15 years in a coma, especially, if some of my other organs would be good for use as spares to keep others alive!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Horses and Heart Attacks

Farmer Jack was today reported to have died after a heart attack, whilst preparing for Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Usually they rupture their aorta just like Gerald Houlier did.

We breed thoroughbreds and one of our retired horses, Don’t Shoot Fairies, was only eight when he died of a heart attack at night in a field. Judging by the fact that there was no signs of distress, it was very quick.

This also happened to Persian Punch on the race course last year.

Remember that a horse is four times more efficient at extracting oxygen from the air than the fittest athletes and this must put a greater strain on their heart and lungs. So they nearly always have the attack at times of exercise.

Monday, March 14, 2005



We went out and back to Paris on the Eurostar from Waterloo.

Not bad, but the trains are showing their age. The odd lumpy and broken seats, my table didn't work and they really aren't as comfortable as the 225's that pound their way up to Newcastle and Edinburgh.

I don't like to harp on about safety after the accident at Great Heck, where a car drove on the line and hit a high speed train, but although overbridges in the UK are now well protected, I didn't see much evidence of this in France. Fences were looking a bit iffy too!

The Gare du Nord was also chaotic as the trains were full. Now many like us, were travelling on First Leisure tickets which meant you couldn't use the empty First Class Lounge. That probably just shows how the market for Eurostar has been changed by the budget airlines!


Dave Allen

Sad to see that one of the best comedians of the last few decades has died.

He'll be missed.



Just returned from a weekend in Paris.

The Hotel du Vigny was very good, but it would a bit expensive in mid-week!

Did all the usual sites and was interested in how they are promoting their Olympic bid. Most seems similar to London, but they really do have an awful squiggly logo, that you can't make out.

Also, the Metro may well have a good reputation, but it certainly doesn't have the same standard of design of the Tube. It also doesn't seem, to be as reliable as many claim, according to a few residents we met!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Free Access Picture Database

I’ve recently got involved with one of our Universities about providing a free access picture library specifically for web sites. It would also be a student project, that could provide sets of suitable pictures.

It’s often difficult to get hold of a picture of a town or a situation which is copyright free. So many steal! I’ve started putting mine up on the web and anybody can have 500 pixel versions free.


Security and House Arrest

My wife is a barrister and my son is a solicitor involved in important criminal cases.

It is my belief based on what they have told me, that if someone is held openly and tried in a criminal court, then other evidence often comes forward about the case. Some of this convicts the defendant, but much of it absolves them.

It is for this and other humanitarian reasons, that I am totally against detention without an open trial and especially where the accused does not even know the charge.

As a final thought, weren’t Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Franco and others good at detention without trial?

Friday, March 04, 2005


Text Messages to Normal Phones

I just received one. Not an April Fool. I suspect it’s a new BT service.

You ought to try it.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


MMR Jabs

It seems that the Japanese have finally laid the link between MMR and autism to rest.

It is awful if your child gets autism, but people can't fly in the face of the scientific evidence.


Justin Howes

So sad to hear of his early death.

I never knew him, but reading his obituary brought back so many happy memories of my life working as a child of the late 1940’s in my father’s printing works in Wood Green. It is just so sad that he died so young.

I just hope that the work he was doing will live on!

Talking of living on, we live in Newmarket and breed racehorses. Our printer has three proper Heidelbergs, lots of letter press type, a real working Columbia etc. And he does have a couple of modern litho thingies.

But he does have one slight problem. At Tattersalls he does a lot of the door cards for the racehorse sales. Basically, they are large A3 and biggers one-off posters with the lot number and the horse’s breeding. His largest letters of about 360 points now have a touch of woodworm. Still fibreglass keeps them going.



I had to wait at Liverpool Street for an hour or so yesterday.

I went into Hamilton Hall, which is a giant Wetherspoons emporium on Bishopsgate. They were actually selling Organic Weston’s Cider which made a really pleasant early evening drink. A great change from the usual gnat’s wotsit that passes as cider. It was almost as good as Aspall’s!

Has anybody ever tried Wetherspoons for food? I have sent an e-mail to see what they say.

I never got a reply!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Islamic Dress in Schools

Whatever the rights or wrongs of this case, I find the whole thing very sad.

I have no religion at all, but saying that I do believe in many things, one of which is equality of races and sexes.

It saddens me to see women oppressed. This is partly for economic reasons, as if we are all to have a good standard of living, then we must all maximise our earning (or caring) capacity. To walk through certain places, where women are heavily veiled and must be behind their husbands disgusts me.

It's nothing to do with religion, but all to do with the oppression of women.

So why should a girl want to suppress her feelings and personality under a shroud?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


The Acceptable Face of Football

Swansea City are to be applauded for their compassion for those that have ashes spread at the Vetch Field.

It does seem that sometimes something that is so obvious is never done, simply because of entrenched attitudes. Nothing like that in South Wales.