James Miller


Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Changing Islam

Islam has changed tremendously since it started.

It used to be a very open religion that was forward looking and saved all the science of the ancient Greeks for humanity. Aren’t the numbers we all use Arabic numbers?

It also was a religion where men and women were equal.

Can anybody say that except in one or two places, Islam is like that today?

If Islam doesn’t change and modernise, give women full rights, then Muslim countries will fall farther and farther behind in standards of living and their relations with the rest of the world will get worse.


Rights For Atheists

I get very upset when so-called religious people go on about God, the after life etc.

Let’s face it, when we die we die and that’s it! Religion is just quackery to extort funds out of gullible individuals.

So next time I get the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door, which I find very offensive, can I report them to Blair’s Thought Police?

Monday, January 30, 2006


Directory Enquiries

Just use the Internet. Free!

Remember too, that most countries now have a good on-line directory enquiries service, so you can lookup phone numbers abroad. Italy even has one where you can type in the number and get the subscriber and their address. We should have one like that!


The New NHS

A great idea to be able to get more services quicker and locally.

Take my case!

In November I got severe pain in my upper arm and shoulder and felt it was to do with an old break. (The break was caused in a bullying incident when I was 14. Rumour has it the perpetrator became a teacher!) But as I would have had to wait 17 weeks for an X-ray and see a specialist, I went private. The outcome was that it was a muscle problem, that has been partially relieved by exercise and I can now happily wait for a long term fix.

So in my case and I suspect many others, seeing a specialist early got me going and probably saved me and the NHS a lot of money, as waiting would probably have meant a more serious operation.

Now how does the new NHS square with the fact that in Suffolk, GPs have no money and the local hospitals that provide this community care are being closed, so that we have to travel further!

It’s all spin, smoke and mirrors.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Ipswich Film Theatre

Ipswich Borough Council is thinking of closing the IFT to save money. Sad if this happens as it is a vital resource for the town.

When we lived just north of Ipswich, we used to go to the IFT several times a year and have lots of fond memories. When we first moved to near Cambridge, the Arts Cinema there was a very poor building with bad sight lines and only one screen. Proposals to close it were met with similar protests to those now starting in Ipswich.

The Cambridge solution was derided at the time, but has since proved a winner. Picture House Cinemas, a commercial operator, took over the Arts Cinema and moved it into the derelict ABC cinema in the town. The stalls of this building became a Wetherspoons pub and the upstairs a very comfortable three screen cinema. The concept seems to work as they can show the occassional blockbuster to raise revenue. I think too that because they are just that bit larger and more flexible, it makes the concept work.

Would such a concept work in Ipswich? Probably yes! But knowing the centre pretty well, I don't think there is a really suitable building.

Remember too, that when we moved to Cambridge in 1992, there was only the Arts Cinema and the very run-down ABC. Now the city has a three screen Arts Cinema and two multiplex.

Ipswich, which is about the same size as Cambridge, now has about half the number of screens, so there should be room for growth. Remember that the Odeon failed because it was in the wrong place and parking was much worse when compared to the multiplex. Both Cambridge multiplex have lots of parking.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Seriously Overweight

The East Anglian Ambulance Service has been delivered of an ambulance for the seriously overweight.


Shouldn't those who are obese be made to realise that it is not a good idea!

So the more humiliation the better!

And why should I pick up the bill for someone else's excess?


George Galloway

Poor George!

First he gets humiliated in a red leotard and then he gets kicked out.

No matter! He can always get more fees for his lecture tour. He's in Cambridge soon.

But I won't be going as I have much better things to do.


50p for a Pee

I was by the House of Parliament yesterday and needed to go to the toilet.

Those in the underpass under Whitehall charge 50 pence!


So I walked to the free ones in St. James' Park.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Sven is Naive

As someone who is married to a barrister, Sven has shown his true self by seeing a lawyer about suing for defamation.

Only fools, the grade-A egos and the very naïve do that! The lawyers must be rubbing their hands at this one!


Disappearing Foxes

I don’t know whether it’s connected with the fur trade, but here in West Suffolk, since the ban on fox-hunting, all of the foxes seem to have disappeared.

I should say that I live on a 100 hectare thoroughbred stud, that I walk extensively. As a countryman, I know the signs of foxes and in the past year there have been virtually none. In that time, the rabbit population seems to have increased to compensate, due to the lack of their main predator.

Could this be because as our foxes are rabies-free, they are worth quite a bit in Europe as pelts? And of course now they have no value for sport.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Saving Energy

Half the house I live in was built new for me about fifteen years ago. The other half was renovated.

Imagine my horror when I went into the loft for first time last year and found little or no insulation. So I spent £200 and we spent a much warmer winter.

How many other lofts are not insulated?


Sister Helen Prejean

Simon Mayo does the afternoon slot on BBC Radio 5 Live, which is their premier sports, news and talk station. He pulls in several million listeners each day.

One day last week, Sister Helen Prejean was the major guest and he talked to her on air for about half an hour. I didn’t hear it, as I was otherwise engaged, but I did hear the fall-out. She apparently was very worried about his health and told all the other guests and Simon’s been making positive comments about her ever since. All American guests, including a former speaker of the House, get asked their views on capital punishment.

She certainly made an impression.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Nuclear Power

As an engineer, I have visited several nuclear power stations, lots of chemical plants and a couple of oil refineries.

As Flixborough and Buncefield have shown, tremendous damage can be done even when there is no nuclear component.

I believe that if we design to the best standards, then all can be made safe. But are we educating enough good engineers to ensure that?

In the mean time, a better solution is to cut our electricity use, by using it more intelligently and efficiently. This would actually allow electricity companies to make sure that if they go nuclear, they go very-safe nuclear. Strangely by not building power stations, this greatly improves the profitability of electricity companies, so it’s in their interest too to wait.


Minus 40 in Russia

If you remember your physics, one of the first things you were taught was that -40 degrees is the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit.

Who uses Fahrenheit anyway?

Monday, January 16, 2006


Food and Mental Illness

For many years I suffered from very mild depression and migraine. I was also very sensitive to certain types of light. I just thought this was normal for some people.

Then at the age of 56, I was diagnosed as a coeliac and for the last two years I have been on a gluten-free diet. Basically, that is no bread, beer or pasta.

All of the symptoms have disappeared. As a scientist, I have found several scientific papers in the literature, linking lack of vitamins to all sorts of brain problems.

So those who decry the link between food and behaviour and mental illness, do so at your own peril.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Is There a God?


As I get older (I’m 58 now!), I am more and more convinced that we are here by chance and luck, than by the courtesy of any supreme being.


The morals and ethics of mainstream religions I can live with. They on the whole are sensible and forward looking!

But that doesn’t mean religion is a good thing. It isn’t!

Friday, January 13, 2006



At 58, I’ve never enjoyed conventional fame.

I have however helped to create two world class companies, won two Queens Awards for Industry, bred a horse that won on Arc day in Paris, etc. etc.

Now, one of the biggest kicks I get is travelling and seeing projects, like the Channel Tunnel, the Hong Kong Sewers, the Jubilee Line, North Sea Oil, power stations etc. etc., that were built using the software I wrote in 1975.

Those that decry wanting fame are just jealous.


English Icons

There are only two things that the English have given to the world that dominate everything.

One is of course the English language and the other is the thoroughbred racehorse.

Every racehorse in the world traces back to Newmarket (or New Horse Market), the town in Suffolk founded by the Iceni about 1500 years ago. The icon is summed up by the much more than lifestyle statue of a horse and groom at the entrance to the town.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Dawkins on Radio 5


The older I get the less and less I feel the need for religion. Perhaps it had a point in the past to teach people how to avoid some of the problems of life. But as I get closer to being fed to my dogs, I know there is nothing there.

But now religion is totally irrelevant and in fact dangerous.

The more fundamentalist a religion, the more it is an economic basket case, so it falls further behind and its adherents then resort to violence either to get what they are missing out on, or out of pure greed and jealousy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


New TV Technology

I live about eight miles from Newmarket, so not in the middle of nowhere.

Can’t get satellite as listed building? Can’t get Freeview as no signal? Too far for cable! Broadband only at 512K.

All this new technology would be great, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to receive it. What do I do when analogue is switched off? Move?

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Cars and Trains

A small but very annoying point about train travel!

I’m trying to plan a trip to Manchester next Wednesday for the wife and myself.

You’d think that living in Newmarket that the simple thing would be to use Central Trains from Ely. However they operate a pricing policy which means it would be nearly £300 for two to go to Manchester, if you want more than a couple of hours there. And you have to book three days in advance to go cheaper.

The best option would have been Rio from Kettering, but someone in their wisdom stopped that one, as it would have competed with Virgin, despite being very useful for those in the east who want to go north.

So I then found that a good way of going would be to go to Rugby and then take Virgin. Affordable at £140 for two and also a walk-up fare!

But can I found out whether I can park the car at Rugby? Of course not! Most rail companies seem to expect you to just arrive at stations as if by magic. There are exceptions, but certainly not Virgin. And you can’t get any sense out of their phone lines! This echoes the trouble I had recently, when I went from London to see Ipswich play Coventry at their new stadium. No-one had a clue about how to get from the station to the ground. And that included the council as well!

I’ve often threatened writing a web site something on the lines of FriendsReunited, where people contribute their experiences for UK stations. And especially parking and the interchange!

If we want more people to use public transport, then we must get everything joined up and that string must be documented on the web.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Best Cheltenham Races

I always remember watching on television the great Fred Winter guide home the tough Mandarin in the 1962 Gold Cup. In all my years of watching racing, it was one of the calmest and most clinical displays of jockeyship in that Fred kept the horse to the inside all the way and then just pulled him out to win.

It would be interesting to know how Fred Winter would have competed today against Tony McCoy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


The Coeliac Diet

I am 58 and was diagnosed as a coeliac a few years ago.

Since then I’ve been on a gluten-free diet, which means no bread, pasta and beer. There are gluten-free alternatives, but they are generally crap, so I have replaced them with potatoes, cake, rice noodles and cider. It also means you tend to add more fruit and vegetables. Junk food is definitely out.

I’ve never felt better!

But the interesting part is my wife now follows the diet most of the time, as it is so much easier. She also feels much better and is now fitter than she has been for years. She’s also redistributed a kilo or so, so that she looks better.


Babies Are Weighed in Kilos

When are the BBC going to get into the twentieth century, by using proper units rather than those out-dated and useless Imperial ones.


Display Size

Just a small point!

I am perhaps a control freak myself, in that I run a large 1280 x 1024 screen, with usually my browser windows set to about 800 x 600. I get really annoyed when someone automatically resizes my browser window, so I immediately stop looking at the site, delete the copy of the browser and load a new one. Which of course I have to resize! Grrr!

So one thing I believe you should never never do, is resize the browser window. It annoys many intensely. How many sales have you lost? An interesting thing would be to check the log file and see how many people leave the site immediately after the resize. I always do! Remember too, that a lot of nasty sites do this and many people associate resizing with all of the worst parts of the Internet.

Incidentally, I have a program that I wrote called the Daisy Multiple Browser that opens several copies of IE in the same dialog. The latest version of this allows me to set the dialog to a range of sizes. It also stops the windows being resized!

One of the reasons I am so pedantic about window size is that I write extensive notes on how to use the Internet and I like to have all the captured images at exactly the same scale.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Printing Wide Web Pages

We all know the problem of printing web pages and I have come up with a simple solution that automatically reduces the size of the page and prints it as a bitmap. It prints well.

You may or may not know that I’m an inveterate programmer and there has been some discussion about turning web pages into a bitmap on one of the Visual Basic lists. Anyway to cut a long story short, I embedded IE into a Visual Basic program and using some of Microsoft’s knowledge base, was able to cut out the web page as a bitmap. None of IE remains and I can even cut out the scroll bars.

Thinking about this technique it leads to several other ideas.

1. Automatic scaling and printing of web pages. Just size the browser and say Print.

2. Saving of web page images. Ideal for copyright abuse, pornography, advert logging for web sites. Just save the web page as a bitmap.

3. Saving of web page images with notes. Better still for lawyers and copyright abuse etc.

You could even write programs around this technology, to do specialised applications.

I’ll put up a link when I finish the program. At present it is part of my Multiple Browser, but I suspect it might end up as something in its own right.