James Miller


Friday, December 30, 2005


Bad Films

My wife and I have been to the cinema for many years, often going late on a Sunday afternoon to Cambridge. This year we have probably gone less, despite the fact that Cambridge now has three multiplexes.

The reason appears to be that large three hour blockbusters monopolise a lot of the space and publicity and they are not the sort of films that we want to see. Often a smaller film such as Mrs. Henderson Presents appears for perhaps a week and then goes. We did enjoy it, but we missed quite a few, as we do have other commitments.

The studios were also plugging some truly horrendous films in a desperate attempt to get their money back. There is a rule we have that if a film is advertised on television, then it is probably rubbish!

So if the cinemas want to have more customers, then they should show a greater variety of films. And especially those that are shorter than two hours.

As an aside, what was wrong with the Fay Wray King Kong, that needed it to be remade?

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Employment and Risk

I’ve employed people for many years and when you take someone on for any job you are taking risks. A risk that they won’t be able to do the job, a risk that they are honest, a risk that they won’t leave in a few months taking your customers with them, a risk that they will have long term sickness and a risk that they will get pregnant. There is also the risk they won’t get on with other employees.

You add up all these risks and choose the best person.

You also add up what happens if you make a mistake and have to fire someone. Will they sue you for unfair discrimination? Will they throw a brick through your window? Or worse?

So adding up all these factors you make the decision.

I’m afraid that the pregnancy risk is likely to cost an employer more, than any settlement in a tribunal.

So many employers will take that risk and won’t hire women of childbearing age.

As an aside here, I should say that my only direct employee has been with me fifteen years and has had a child in that time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Vitamin D

About two years ago, New Scientist carried a report by a respected US researcher, that the incidence of cancer was less in areas of the States, where there was more sunlight. A lot of medical people debunked his research as he was a statistician working for the US Forest Service.

But it now seems that Professor Garland has proved the same thing by different means.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Disappearing Foxes

We live on a large thoroughbred stud and the area is not hunted for foxes or hares. I was never against hunting and actually hunted in my younger days for seventeen seasons.

Before the ban the stud had lots of foxes, quite a few hares and very few rabbits.

Since the ban the number of hares and rabbits have increased dramatically, but it is rare now to see or even smell a fox. (I say smell as all country people know that smell well!)

Strange that you bring in a ban and what you are protecting disappears.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Hangover Cures - Duncan Hamilton

This story came from his obituary in The Times. So it must be true!

Duncan Hamilton and his co-driver, Tony Rolt, were entered at Le Mans in the 24 hour race in 1953. As was typical in those days, on the Friday at scrutineering the C-Type Jaguar was thrown out by the French. So that evening the two drivers decided to drown their sorrows in a monumental way!

But Jaguar had other ideas and their lawyers worked overnight and got the cars reinstated only to find in the morning that they had two very hung-over and totally useless drivers. All remedies failed. So finally as a last resort they called for two glasses of the finest Cognac.

The rest as they say is history. Two other Jaguars came second and fourth!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Display Size for Web Pages

I am a great believer in laying out pages for how they will be used.

For instance, if the page is solely for display then a well-laid out page of say 800x600 is fine. Note that if you can’t get a nice page design on 800x600 it is likely you have put too much on the page.

But when it comes to pages that need to be printed, I always design them so that if you hit the Print button in the browser they print neatly. I did this for a mediation company and business from the web site increased dramatically. I believe the reason is that for a lot of products and mediation is one, the decision to use is often taken by a committee, many of whom might be non-Internet users. So the ease of printing means that your site gets preference over your competitors.

A related point is that recently I was in a large bank in the City of London. The analysts there have very large screens and were displaying lots of information in browser windows arranged portrait wise.

As to the point about eyesight. One of my clients has a large 800x600 screen and has great difficulty with reading it. I took his glasses and they were a very expensive pair of varifocals. I then gave him mine, saying they were expensive computer glasses. He said what an improvement. I then told him they were reading glasses from Boots for a tenner!

Monday, December 19, 2005


Message From Stuart Rose at M & S

I wrote to him about quite a few things and his statement on GF foods is interesting.

“However, we are aware of the needs of coeliacs and some of our other customers who suffer from food allergies and intolerances. As far as our policy is concerned, we do avoid using allergenic ingredients in the development of Marks and Spencer foods wherever possible and, in particular, where customers would not expect to find them. Therefore, as part of our drive on developing ‘healthier foods’ for our customers, our development team is focussed on all aspects of health such as salt reduction and the importance of not introducing allergens, additives and preservative removal.”

That sounds to me like a sensible policy.

I would definitely quote it with any complaints to M & S.


Stopping Smoking

A guy who works for me had smoked most of his life and had tried to give up for many years.

Finally, as a last resort he went to see a hypnotist. He has never smoked since and now can’t bear to be in a room where someone is smoking.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Telephone Queues

If you phone Ipswich Town FC, which I do occasionally, they always tell you how many are in the phone queue. The result is that you are much less annoyed and you can estimate when they answer the call.

This type of system should be mandatory. But then those with expensive £1.00 a minute support lines would miss out.


Dividing Mules

A farmer passed away and left seventeen mules to his three sons. The instructions left in the will said that the oldest boy was to get one-half, the second oldest one-third, and the youngest one-ninth.

The three sons, recognizing the difficulty of dividing 17 mules into these fractions began to argue. Their uncle Earl heard about the argument, hitched up his mule and drove out to settle the matter. Uncle Earl added his mule to the 17, making 18.

The oldest therefore got one-half, or 9, the second oldest got one-third, or 6, and the youngest got one-ninth, or 2. Adding up 9, 6 and 2 equals 17. Then uncle Earl, having settled the argument, hitched up his mule and drove home.

Uncle Earl is an occasional consultant to Arthur Andersen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Coeliac Disease and Other Animals

Do other animals such as dogs, cats and horses suffer from coeliac disease?

The reason I ask, is that I was in Waitrose in Newmarket today, when I bumped into Greg Chung. Greg is an affable guy who trains racehorses in the town. He asked what the cakes were in my trolley and I said that I’m a coeliac and they were gluten-free.

So we got chatting about nutrition and especially horses. Traditionally racehorses are fed on oats, bran, hay, flaked maize (Corn Flakes to you and me!) and sugar beet pulp. The latter puts on weight. But now most of the trainers in the town feed using prepared balanced feeds or nuts, which are much easier to get right. But what is in them? Barley? Wheat? He also said that horses are often injected with B12 to improve their appetite. Take out the bran from the traditional diet and it’s gluten-free.

All very interesting and perhaps a curiosity, but then he said that the only trainer in the town who uses traditional feed is Sir Michael Stoute. And he’s one of the most successful!

I tried to follow this up on the Internet, but find no references to coeliac or celiac in horses.

So that’s why I asked the question. Are we all the same, with some of us suffering from coeliac disease?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Explosion at Hemel Hempstead

People worry about nuclear accidents, but yet again an oil, gas or chemical installation creates mayhem.

We had Flixborough, India had Bhopal and there have been many all over the world.



Strange that the England cricket team have recorded this as their Christmas record.

Especially, as they are giving some of the money to the earthquake appeal for Pakistan.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


What a Way to Wake Up

I switched on the televison this morning to see the Beatles performing HELP.

What a way to wake up on a miserable wet day! The song is so emotive.

I saw the Beatles at Hammersmith in 1974 and it was something not to be forgotten.

As one of those who grew up with the Beatles, I think we underestimate how they changed the world. They proved that you could come from almost nowhere and be a tremendous success. Before them success in all fields such as writing, commerce, engineering and science, always came from a conventional route and was conventional.

The Beatles proved that you just had to “Imagine” and you could do it!

I did!

But without them, I don’t think I would have ever tried.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


What Must David Cameron Do?

I come from a long-line of left-wing Tories. My father was in the East End chucking bricks at Mosley and stopping him and his thugs from walking through.

We believe in light government, cuts in red tape, social responsibilities, good education and health services and the sort of University policies that allowed my wife and I to get through college, without running up debts. We probably wouldn’t have gone today, as who wants to saddle themselves with that amount of debt.

Most of us have not voted for the Tory party since John Major, as they are just too right wing.

Get us back and he’ll win.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Peter Sallis and Simon Mayo

Strange to hear Simon interviewing Peter Sallis, who went to my school, Minchenden Grammar School, where Simon's father taught geography.

As Peter is in his mid-eighties, he must have been there several years before Simon's father who must be at least ten years younger.

Monday, December 05, 2005


The Right Age For Sex Education

Why is sex education any different to all of the other things you tell your children?

You teach them to follow Road Safety rules, not to get burned in the kitchen, play with matches, do things like climbing ladders safely, behave at meal times, not to steal, not to throw stones at windows etc. etc.

So why do you not talk to your children honestly about sex and their bodies as they grow up, so that when difficult questions arise, you have at least done the ground work.

We all dock awkward questions. I know I did.

But for the sake of our children and in my case grand-children we must educate our children in all matters properly and answer those questions.


Gay Partnerships

One of the things gay partnerships do is close one of the injustices about people who live together and then when one dies, the other partner loses everything. This also applies to many heterosexual partnerships and also where siblings share.

These injustices should be sorted for all. So gay partnerships are a big step in the right direction!

I also remember a famous divorce lawyer on Radio 5 saying, that gay partnerships are a whole new area for people like her. So there may also be a downside, when a split occurs.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Fear of Racism

A lot of people are fearful when approached by someone of a different race.

Some years ago before the automatic gates, I was coming out of the tube when a young black guy dropped something in front of me. It was his wallet and monthly season ticket. I called after him to stop and he just ran. Finally, after about four hundred metres, I caught him up and gave them back. He said that he thought he must have done something wrong and was sorry for his actions. Was he a bit paranoid because he was black? He needn’t have been!

He also said what could he do for me! I told him to do something similar when say an old lady drops her purse.

We must pass on our favours to others, if they can’t be returned.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Drink Driving

There is talk of a zero limit for drink driving.

We must be careful about lots of things whilst driving. Smoking, tiredness, phones and eating food can all cause accidents.

And you can also listen to the advice of Albert Einstein. “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”


Memories of Anthony Berry

It may have been about 1964, but I remember Anthony Berry coming to Michenden Grammar School in Southgate to talk about the election, along with the Liberal and Labour candidates. Whereas the others gave the standard party rhetoric, Anthony Berry, gave a very strong talk about democracy and why we should all use our vote.

When he died, I felt that we’d all lost a real human being.

His attitude obviously shows in his daughter’s wonderful humanity of her meeting her father's killer. Her principles stand above the petty and the vindictive, that tend to come to the fore.