James Miller


Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Working At Home

Why did they not talk about working from home, whilst they were talking about congestion charging on Radio 5 this afternoon? Working from home and the Internet will help to save some of those carbon emissions.

I’ve worked at home since 1972 and can thoroughly recommend it. In that time I also created a world class computer program, that at the last count had 600,000 users. I also wrote a chapter of a book, for someone I never met!

Now it has never been easier as the Internet makes so much possible. Even my wife, a barrister, has managed to cut the number of journeys she makes by using the Internet to connect to her office computer. She only travels for Court and meetings.


Complaining About The Post

We have had very few complaints about the post here, but when I did, I just went in and asked to see the Manager in the local office at Newmarket.

He took action and the problem never occurred again.

When I do write and complain, I always make sure that the letter is slightly humorous as this usually gets a reply.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Barclays Bank Scams

I have monitored the so-called ‘Phishing’ scams for a couple of years now. This is partly because I’m writing a book about “Making The Most of the Internet”.

Over the last month, I have had 48 e-mails, as opposed to two for any other bank in the UK. For the last few days they have been about five or six a day for Barclays. The only other ones I’ve had are for PayPal, but that is because they are the biggest on-line bank in the world and they are declining.

The question is why are Barclays the only UK bank for which significant scams are being tried? Could it be that they are the only one with inadequate security.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Following Father's Footsteps

My father was a printer, as was his father before him.

Now after an interesting and pretty successful career in computing, I’m now resorting to type and at 58 effectively becoming a printer/publisher, but using modern computer technology.

You can’t get a printer, and a letterpress one at that, out of the genes.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Sacking The Pregnant

The legislation has made all of this worse, as there is now so much cost in keeping places open for pregnant women, that it is actually cheaper to risk a tribunal. My wife is a lawyer and says that if you follow the rules, you can always sack people reasonably easily.

Twenty years ago, when the software company I partly owned had several hundred employees, we liked to consider that we were reasonably fair employers. We kept jobs open for women who had children and allowed part-time and home working, where it was appropriate. As there was no regulation, we could do what was best for everyone. We’d made investment in staff and wanted to keep most of them.

Now, I would be very wary of directly employing large numbers of people, let alone pregnant women, as the regulations are a barrier to employing people.

I should say that the only woman of child bearing age I employ has had a child in the last few years, so I still keep to my past principles. But I wouldn’t take on anybody, that couldn’t be easily covered, for whatever reason they had to have time off work.


Questions for Wetherspoons

I am a coeliac, which means I can’t drink beer. Coeliacs make up one percent of the population and like a good drink like anyone else.

I have noticed that in some of their London pubs, like the one at Liverpool Street Station, they sell proper cider and not the well-advertised chemical rubbish.

Are they going to sell proper cider in more of your pubs, bearing in mind that now here in Suffolk, we have one of the best draught cyders, rapidly making inroads into the market?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Nuclear Power

I used to work in the chemical industry and have since been over several nuclear power stations.

I’ve also hunted hounds about three kilometres from Sizewell and seen the presence on the horizon. Everybody that day decided that the farmer who’d pulled out all his hedges locally had done the worst damage to the environment.

I now live close to a prison.

After Flixborough, when a chemical plant blew up and killed 28, I’d think I’d prefer to live in the shadow of a nuclear power station.


Hip Replacements

In my early twenties, I was advised to have a knee operation due to cartilage problems. Not wanting the surgery I ignored it and suffered a lot of pain.

A couple of years later, I had moved and went to see a new GP. He gave me a set of exercises and thirty years later, the knee is almost as good as new. I also play real tennis three times a week, which helps.

So when people need new hips when they are overweight, shouldn’t they have been told to do the exercise many years previously? Perhaps, overweight people, who always need more from the NHS should pay more taxes.

Tax food! And especially sugar and bread.


Relaxed Drinking

Many years ago, Ipswich used to shut the pubs at 10:30 except on Friday and Saturday. The surrounding county, East Suffolk, used to shut at 11:00.

There used to be all sorts of trouble and mayhem in that half hour as everybody got into cars and rushed from town to the countryside. It stopped when everybody moved to 11:00.

I think that in many places we have the same problem now. At 11:00 everybody leaves and goes to a club to carry on drinking. Groups, who have very different tastes and lifestyles are thrown together and trouble ensues.

In all fields of human activity, when you relax the rules, everybody behaves better.

I have no intention of going for a drink late, but I bet in a few months, a lot of pubs will say they have gained a whole lot of new and sensible customers.

Monday, November 21, 2005



Physics seems to be very much in decline in state schools. This is a tragedy.

I was taught physics by Mr. Booth at Minchenden Grammar School in the 1960s. He instilled a knowledge and love in this important subject which I have never lost. So much so, I still keep Nelkon and Parker on my bookshelf so that I can explain phenomena to friends and family.

Interestingly, I once lived in the house built by the great-grandfather of Osborne Reynolds, who was the first Physics professor at Manchester University. A few years ago, I backed a asthma drug delivery device, whose working could only be explained by some of the work Reynolds did around 1900.


Sunday, November 20, 2005


British Racing Green

Watching Top Gear today, I hadn't realised that British Racing Green has roots in Ireland.

When we had the first British Grand Prix, we couldn't have it on roads in England, because of regulations, but they didn't exist in Ireland. So the British cars ran in green, to pay tribute to the host country.



I went to the Coventry-Ipswich match on Saturday from London, as I normally go to football by train if I can. As I live near Newmarket, I often go to Ipswich by train from my local station.

On the one hand I found Coventry an interesting place to visit and on the other I found several small things disappointing.

Arriving at Ipswich on match days, the Police usually meet fans and those don’t know where to go are greeted with maps and instructions about food, drink and other shopping. I found the lack of any maps and help at Coventry station rather disappointing, as although I am nearly sixty, I have never actually visited Coventry before.

I did find the Cathedral fairly easily, as although there were quite a few signposts, the Cathedral was missing on some and there were no maps. It was not as I had expected, as I thought that the area had been completely devastated in the Second World War. It definitely is a magical place.

The bus service for the Ricoh worked, but have you ever tried finding out about it from outside Coventry. The football club doesn’t have it on their web site and the bus information phone line wasn’t that good either. Note that if you ring that from Cambridge, you get information on Cambridge buses. Eventually, I rang a friend in Coventry to find out about the service.

It all illustrates how you have a lot to see and do in Coventry, but they haven’t quite got the little things that make a visit enjoyable right.


Virgin Trains

Took the train from Euston to Coventry yesterday and found that in the shop on the train, they are offering a gluten-free chocolate brownie. I didn’t buy one, as they are not to my taste, but the lady in the shop knew all about them.

The trains weren't too bad, but they are already starting to show signs of scuffing on the plastic seats.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Babar Ahmad and the NatWest Three

One is accused of terrorism and the others are accused of defrauding a British company, namely NatWest.

Both have been questioned about their offences by the British Police and neither have been changed with any offence.

So why is it that they can be extradited to the United States, without that evidence being presented in Court? Because Tony Blair was stupid enough to sign a one-way street, so that the US could do this.

I bet that if we wanted to extradite an American citizen, we would be told to get lost.

What worries me is that extraditions might set a dangerous precendent. Suppose, I had a lot of damning evidence about a large US corporation selling polluted rhubard to pensioners in Norfolk and that because of my accusations, the share price collapsed. Would I be extradited to the US, if the corporation was vindictive and felt it could set an example to others who might tell the truth?

The example is silly, but if these four go the US, without a proper legal process in the UK, then many others will follow. And many will be for things, that are completely legal in the UK.


The Prison Paradox

Thirty years ago, the prison population was half what it is now. My perception of crime is that I don’t feel any more threatened than I did at that time.

So we have a phone-in where everyone is going on about being hard on criminals, when the rise of the prison population is showing that it is not a deterrent.

But then no-one really publishes the prison statistics properly, so we don’t know what everybody is locked up for. Is it 90% for burglary, theft and violence or just 20%? Whatever it is makes a hell of a lot of difference to how you treat prisoners.

We need a proper debate based on the actual statistics, not an emotional fight between the hangers and floggers and the liberals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


The Naked Rambler

I have no inclination to walk naked anywhere outside of my house, but can anybody tell me what point there is in prosecuting the Naked Rambler.

It is interesting that he gets arrested in Scotland, whereas here in England he seems to progress untroubled. Perhaps, it’s because he’s English and they are taking it out on him because England are going to the World Cup Finals and Scotland are not!

Monday, November 14, 2005


Marks and Spencer

Stuart Rose, the chief executive of Marks and Spencer, was in impressive form on Radio 5 last night. He virtually offered to meet anyone with sensible suggestions.

So I wrote :-

“With food I have always been a fan. Note that as a child in North London, my mother purchased a lot of food in the Wood Green store in the fifties, which was close to where she worked. Now we buy a lot of food from Cambridge and also from the convenient Simply Food at the station. Where are the latter on the motorways?

I have no complaints here, but a serious suggestion.

I am one of the one percent of the population who is a coeliac and therefore must avoid wheat, barley and rye. You are making a lot of play about organic food, lack of additives and quality. You are also providing some excellent gluten-free sausages, fish cakes and ready meals. But sometimes you show a lack of consistency with some ready meals by switching between containing gluten and gluten-free.

If you published your policy on gluten, avoided the wheat-derived additives like maltodextrin, substituted unnecessary flour for cornflour etc., I’m certain you’d steal a march on competitors. You only had to be at the scrum that was the Gluten-Free Food Fair in Newmarket this July to know how desperate some coeliacs can get.”

His address is :-

Stuart Rose
Marks and Spencer Group plc
Waterside House
35 North Wharf Road
W2 1NW

Perhaps some more ought to make a few suggestions. You could also try Guy Farrant, who is head of food.


Sick Love

It has been reported from Jordan, that two of the bombers last week were a husband and wife.

Surely that is taking obeying one's husband too far!

After all once you're dead you're dead. All those billions who believe there is something are just plain wrong.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Argentina 2 England 3

Was this so good?

I think yes for the following reasons :-

1. England had a couple of second-rate full backs at the start.

2. Rooney was very unlucky not to score when he hit the post.

3. The first Argentinian goal would have been cut out by a fit left back.

4. Rooney should have had a penalty.

So perhaps the result was fait, even if it was a bit close.

Perhaps we should play Stephen Gerrard as a full back, so that Ledley King can play the holiding role? I don't know, but there are a lot of questions like that that we can use to pressure opposition.

And how about Darren Bent as another marauding forward and Jermaine Defoe to swap for Owen as required.

It looks good.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Gay Footballers

One point to note here is an article about twenty years ago in the Sunday Times. It may have been written by Duncan Campbell.

He was investigating the police attitude to gay officers. Senior officers said there were no gay policemen or women, but once he had got the trust of the junior officers, they were quite happy to introduce him to gay officers. To them it was no big deal.

I wonder whether there are gay footballers and just as the police didn’t know about it, but the locker room did, their colleagues know who they are, but prefer to keep it quiet.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Secret Ballots

When I vote for my MP, it is a secret ballot.

Isn’t it about time that we had secret ballots in both the Commons and the Lords? That way, it would mean that the correct arguments would prevail, not those that the party managers and hacks wanted.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005



China executes about 10,000 people every year.

That would be equivalent to about 500 a year in the UK.

That makes me very uncomfortable.


Get Real on Abortion and Other Issues

I’m 58, married for 37 years, father of three and grandfather to three.

In the 60’s life was never what it was portrayed :-

1. A friend was a policeman in the East End and had to clear up the mess, pain and heartbreak caused by illegal abortions.

2. Another friend’s mother used to go to her (liberal!) doctor to get the pill for all of the sixteen year old girls down the road, who didn’t want their parents to know.

I would never have told my parents half the things I got up to.

So please don’t put more regulation in the way of those who are trying to do their best.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Sunday Opening of Shops

I have a feeling that this one will run and run!

Take my wife and I, who are getting to be a very typical couple for this modern age. I work at home designing web sites, analysing databases and feeding the dogs. My wife is a barrister, who travels everywhere sorting out the problems of money and children in divorce.

We are both in our late fifties and live on the stud that we own. (Thirty five years ago, we lived with three children on the fourth floor of a walk-up block of flats!) So we tend to shop when it is convenient to us. Groceries are usually bought about once a week with a lot or clothes (and light bulbs) bought over the web.

But we would benefit directly if shops stayed open more on a Sunday, as it’s the only day we have a chance to get together into Cambridge. We often do, but it’s after the shops have shut to watch a film and have a curry at the Curry Queen (recommended.) We’d spend more if the shops stayed open till six on a Sunday.

An interesting aside to all this is that we sold an asthma inhaler to Boeringher Ingelhiem a few years ago. (It’s now called Respimat and see www.respimat.com) The Germans used to come over to see us for the negotiations, as this enabled them to stay over the weekend and do their clothes shopping.

So shut shops just displace business.


Detention Without Trial

Increasing this limit to ninety days is a bit like using a shotgun to kill mice. It might work, but you leave a lot of other damage.

As someone involved in computing, science and technology for nearly forty years, the real problem is the slowness that the Home Office and the police adopt good new ideas. In 1972, I worked with a group that realised that such things as automatic numberplate recognition was possible and could be implemented in ten years. It finally came on stream only a few years ago. The key to solving our problems is to get the best brains to work on promising projects and fund them properly.

In addition, telephone tap and e-mail evidence should be available in court. The reason they are not, is that if they were, then we would all know how many of us have our phones regularly tapped. It is not a small number.

Perhaps too, we should also allow those charged with offences to be investigated for other crimes. That way someone in possession of explosives could be charged for that simple offence and then investigated for something much more serious.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Flu Jabs

Last year I conned a flu jab out of the GP and felt a lot better.

But my wife has just told me that when she phoned her doctor for a private jab, she was told she couldn’t have one as the Government have said that only companies in approved schemes can have them.

Sounds barmy to me!

Or are we that short of flu vaccine?


Emergency Calls

The whole thing is a mess and doesn’t match the realities of the way we live now.

When you phone the police on a land line for non-emergencies you often phone the local number. I’ve done this recently twice over small incident and got a good response. But when you phone from a mobile, you will always dial 999 as you don’t have a phone book handy.

Interestingly, when we reported a found dog recently, the police were helpful, but it took them a couple of days to find the owner as he’d reported the loss at another station in Suffolk. As we live near to the Suffolk/Cambridge border it would seem logical that the database of incidents, should be national and fully searchable.

If companies like Ryanair and O2 can run efficient systems why can’t the police?

Perhaps, it’s because as a well-known journalist told me yesterday. The Police have two objectives with computer systems; to buy a system that works for them and one that no other police force has!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


PayPal Makes It

I was reading Modern Railways today, which is a pretty serious railway magazine for the industry.

They have just published the short list for the companies to extend the London Oyster card to small purchases. All the great and good were there; Barclays, EDS etc.

But on the list was PayPal!

Aren't they how you pay for purchases on eBay?

Yes! But it just shows how the Internet is now way ahead of everything else in technology.


Blunkett's Resignation


The man deserves all he gets.

I feel sorry for his dog though!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Rural Housing

Listening to housing experts on Radio 5, I despair.

We need more housing and we do have the land on which to build enough houses.

Take Suffolk, which is an area of about 1,500 square miles, all of which is land on which you could build houses if you wanted. But of course you don’t.

And take my stud farm, which is about a hundred hectares. At present there is one large house, one modern house at the stud, one bijou cottage and a pair of brick semis, best described as crap, 1940s council house.

I also have a lot of dilapidated buildings including a medieval Suffolk barn, that could easily be converted or replaced with say four modern, reasonably large houses. On the other hand, the two semis could be demolished and replaced with say four or possibly six affordable houses.

All of this would mean that in two-thirds of a square mile, we’d replace a load of rubbish with at least six new houses. I doubt it would be allowed as the nimbys in the planning department wouldn’t let it fit in with their plans, which mean we don’t want to many more houses, as that would reduce the value of their own.

But repeat this type of development across Suffolk and we’d create about 10,000 houses, without anyone noticing.