James Miller


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Driving on the Hard Shoulder


Last week, whilst returning from London on the M11 an idiot decided to use the hard shoulder to overtake on the two-lane section past Stansted. The fear this caused in me was not small and the uncertainty of what is happening when the hard shoulder is used as a third or fourth lane may prove to be something we can't live with.



I wonder how many of the protesters at Drax supported the miners in their strike against the Thatcher government.

The North as Victims


The reason the north is fat is that they are lazy.

That's why all the real work and wealth creation is done in London and the South East.

For instance, there is only one new hi-tech business in England in the top hundred, that is north of a line from the Severn to the Wash.

It's about time, that we in the South East stopped subsidising all those fat slobs in the north!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Test Kits at Pharmacies


This is a very good idea. After all Boots have sold pregnancy testing kits for years.

Why all this Puritanism about sexually-transmitted diseases. All diseases are the same and if there is a test for it, then it should be available in the pharmacy, so you can test yourself quickly and safely.

I speak as a coeliac, which means I'm allergic to gluten. There is now a very good test available for this disease, that you can get at a pharmacy. My son wouldn't go to the doctor to get tested, but he was quite prepared to do the test himself.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Downloading and Piracy


A lot of the problems are down to the record and DVD industries.

I have sold my computer software on-line for nearly 10 years and the attitude of the record/DVD industries was to put their heads in the sand and hope downloading would go away. In the end Apple completely hi-jacked the downloading, so they lost a lot more from that.

They also sit on back catalogues so that the only way to get the tunes is to illegally copy or download. I run a web site for Dory Previn and only half of her music is available on CD. No matter how we try we can't get Time Warner to release the other albums.

So when I hear representatives from the BPI, I say what a dinosaur.

The interesting thing is that in 10 years, you'll be able to buy an iPod with enough capacity to hold every song ever written. How are they going to get round that one?

Music and DVD Piracy


A lot of the problems are down to the music and DVD industries.

I have sold my computer software on-line for nearly 10 years and the attitude of the music/DVD industries was to put their heads in the sand and hope downloading would go away. In the end Apple completely hi-jacked the downloading, so they lost a lot more from that.

They also sit on back catalogues so that the only way to get the tunes is to illegally copy or download. I run a web site for Dory Previn and only half of her music is available on CD. No matter how we try we can't get Time Warner to release the other albums.

So when I hear representatives from the BPI, I say what a dinosaur.

The interesting thing is that in 10 years, you'll be able to buy an iPod with enough capacity to hold every song ever written. How are they going to get round that one?

Zara Phillips at Four


We were at the Windsor Horse Trials in 1985 as our son was competing. The press were not allowed into the riders and VIP tent and the photographers were desperately trying to get photos of Zara and her brother. As they walked out the back of the tent with a nanny, I saw Zara point to the photographers and say, 'Look at those stinky press!' Seems she was always fiesty and determined.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Rural Post Offices - Thurlow


I'm afraid that our local Post Office at Thurlow will probably die in a year or so.

Despite being a small business, who have their own postage meter, I use it to post parcels, most of which are for my books and selling on eBay. Interestingly, the new postal charges mean that I'm saving about a third on my postage, as I can send a lot of parcels cheaper. Especially, the book which is about 800g, so now goes 2nd.

It would not be a real problem if my Post Office closed, as I'd just use the postage meter more and give everything to the postman. That is the same for most people like me. If it closed it would only be a slight inconvenience.

But recently our Post Office stopped selling TV licences. This was either a crass decision which has inconvenienced a large number of pensioners or a deliberate decision to cut Post Office income, so that they are less economic and therefore not worth keeping open.

Similarly other services such as Vehicle Excise Duty will migrate to the Internet. We've used that service and it works very well and avoids the long queues at Newmarket. Incidentally, we can buy this at Wickhambrook Post Office, but that is closing as the site is too valuable for housing.

So whatever happens, I'm sure there will be very few rural Post Offices in a few years, so an alternative service must be provided.

I suspect the cheapest option would be to have a mobile Post Office for pensions, cash withdrawals, stamps and all the other things that are needed in rural areas for those without transport.

The Real Obesity Problem


I won't name the real suspects, but pass any fast-food outlet and you'll see lots of obese people, with obese kids in obese 4x4's chomping into over-sized, over-caloried, over-fat and over-E-Numbered meals.

Perhaps, we should ban fast-food restaurants with a car park for a start.

Thursday, August 24, 2006



The problem with the Muslim community is two-fold.

The first is the large number of young Muslim men, who are unemployed. This will get worse as more East Europeans arrive and take the low paid jobs.

The second is their attitude to women. Many do not work and this gives a large economic disadvantage to the community, which means it falls further behind.

These factors cause economic depression in the Muslim community which makes them feel they are getting discriminated against, just as they are in some parts of the world. But even where they are the dominant community as in Iran and Indonesia, you can't call those Muslim countries an economic success.

Only by going back to the fundamentals of their religion, where science, equality, learning and outwardness were paramount, will the divide between Muslims and the rest of society be healed.

Battle of Britain


The historian, who has debunked the Battle, is correct in a lot of ways, but speaking from nearly seventy years on, you can be more detached. The Battle of the Britain fitted the needs of the times, as it showed how a small group of brave men could stop the might of the Germans. Why do we have so many legends about the deeds of knights?

I also remember a French documentary on the battle shown on the BBC in 1965. The makers argued that we are selfish to call it the Battle of Britain. Their view was that it should have been called the Battle of Europe, as if the RAF had lost, it would have been very likely that the whole of western and central Europe would have ended up under German occupation.

The Navy may well have protected us from invasion, if we had lost the Battle of Britain, the Germans would surely have destroyed the RAF, the airfields and the aircraft factories. Would the Navy have been able to survive the Stukas and the other German bombers? Events later in 1941, showed that unarmed ships were no match for air power.

If the Navy has a complaint, then it is about time they got full credit for the Battle of Taranto on November 11th 1940, where a couple of dozen obsolete Swordfish biplanes tore the heart out of the Italian fleet. The methods were not lost on the Japanese.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sports Personality of the Year


Racing has had a lot of brickbats lately.

None of the mainstream media has covered the visit of the trainer Barney Curley, the jockey Jamie Spencer and journalist Brough Scott to Africa.


The only thing on the Internet is a brief part in this article in the Times.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Little Englanders


A few facts :-

1. One of the largest groups of recent immigrants to the UK are French. There are a lot of Australians, South Africans, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish etc.
2. Go to a hotel in Cyprus, Australia and a lot of the staff are British young people wanting to work their way round the world.
3. Most of us in this country are at least a quarter immigrant. I'm quarter-German Jewish and quarter-French Huguenot.
4. These fears about immigration were raised with the Jews, Huguenots, Italians, Irish, Cypriots, West Indians, Asians etc.
5. It is all cyclical and in a few years we'll wonder what the fuss is about.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ball Tampering


I am not a cricket expert, but I do understand that it is the umpire's duty to look at the ball between overs for evidence of tampering.

In important matches, where there is a stump camera, as there was on Sunday, would it not be a sensible idea to show the ball properly to the camera so that all legitimate marks are recorded. Then if there were any arguments, it should be possible to ascertain when they occurred.

I also feel that this recording of the state of the ball would be another very interesting piece of information for the viewers. On the other hand, the fact that every mark was being recorded, would be a very strong detriment to any malpractice.

Pakistani Denial


The Pakistani cricketers are in denial about what they did. They should have made the protest and just carried on, as everybody else has done before.

This denial seems to be exactly the same sort of denial that puts things like the horrific attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Underground in London down to various conspiracy theories.

Friday, August 18, 2006



I just looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is probably the ultimate arbiter on words.

It describes shyster as "(colloquial) person without professional honour, especially a tricky lawyer". The origin is given as 19th century and as uncertain.

As someone who is married to a lawyer, who knows about libel, it would appear that it would be easy to defend calling someone a shyster in a court of law, if you had the evidence.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006



As someone who was born today, eleven years before Madonna, I love the way she behaves. When she stops prancing about in a leotard and starts getting normal, then I'll start to feel old.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What Should We Do About Europe


Join the Euro, embrace Shengen and ban Imperial measures for a start! My father wanted us to drive on the right just after WW2, but that may be too late to change!

Fighting Terrorism


The Internet is one of the keys to fighting terrorism.

Most people leave a footprint that can be found by Google. More intelligent programs that use the power of the search engines and other databases can distil and process the details to collect a profile of individuals and companies. In a small but very sophisticated way, I wrote a program to do just that and it was applied successfully to business databases to look for possible fraud.

The main problem with the Internet, that hinders successful searching for terrorists, and common criminals for that matter, is all of the spam for erectile dysfunction drugs, pump and dump scams and dollar mortgage loans.

Spam could be stopped if the United States in particular and Russia, China and a few other countries put their act together.

It would so be much easier to find a naked terrorist.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bloody Foreigners


That is the title of Robert Winder's excellent scientifically-correct book on immigration into the UK. It should be compulsory reading for all.

Immigrants are what has made Britain great. I'm of Jewish ancestry on one side and French Huguenots on the other side. They got a lot of stick when they came two centuries ago. Who bothers either group now? Only bigots.

The other interesting point is would Monty Panesar be the sensation he is if he was white? Everybody is celebrating the immigrant made good. We've always done that and that is to everybody's credit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Libel Law


My wife who is a barrister did her pupillage years ago in libel chambers.

The most important thing to realise about libel laws is that those who sue for libel always suffer. Those who sue get large legal fees, their careers nosedive and their books don't sell.

There is the tale of the well-known man of the City who collects all the libels made against him and has them displayed around his office. He never ever sues and is very successful.

Remember the Curse of Gnome.

New Postal Charges


There has been some reaction to the new postal charges, in that some have complained that some greetings cards will be more expensive, but I have not seen much about the savings that business will make if they continue to use the Royal Mail.

I suspect that most assume that prices will rise because of the three rates for letters, large letters and packets.

I have written a book called, Making the Most of the Internet, which weighs just under a kilogram and now costs £3.89 to send using First Class Post, as it is too heavy for Second. From the 21st of August it will cost £2.70 First, but I will then be able to send it Second Class at £2.12.

I thought I must have been lucky, but my typical 100g A4 letter has also gone down from 49p to 44p. At least if I still persist in sending lightweight A4 letters, without folding into a smaller envelope, the price will have risen by about a third.

So I checked a magazine that we have posted each month and the postage for that will drop from £1.78 to £1.09. As another example, the Boden catalogue also dropped from £1.21 to 75p.

This is all very strange at a time, when the Royal Mail is supposed to be under pressure on profitability. On the other hand as they must have a very detailed database of everything that is sent, they are unlikely to reduce prices in most areas, without seeing substantial cost savings.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Road Pricing


As a reasonable law abiding citizen, I object strongly to having a black box in my car, that tells the government where I am at all times. And yes, I don't like identity cards either!

The main reason I'm against an on-board system, is how are you going to fees from those who have to run a car, but can't afford too? We all know that a significant proportion of the London Congestion Charge is not recovered.

I suspect too, that as it would be such a vote loser, it will be quietly dropped before the next election.

If we're seriously about cutting emissions, we should ban cars that can't do thirty to the gallon and make fuel about 10 pounds a gallon.

Brooke Hospital


Recently in Luxor in Egypt, I was talking to one of the carriage drivers. He had immense praise for the Brooke Hospital in the city, who provide him with all sorts of important services. Note that as we talked his horse was being shod, by a farrier trained by the hospital.



I was very pleased at what happened at Carluccios at Bicester yesterday.

My wife and I shared a Massimo Antipasti for a starter and because I had told the waitress I was a coeliac, as it now says on the menu, the waitress brought the starter split onto two plates, one non-GF and the other GF. Sounds like good company policy to me.

Incidentally, I was also pleased I could have the fegato, as coeliacs must keep up their B12 and that's one of the best ways. It was cooked without flour.

All very good! Thank you!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Improving Democracy


If we look at the British political scene, the general public are not amused. They see MPs as unapproachable, remote in Westminster, earning a good amount of money and generally enjoying themselves at everybody's expense.

I should also say that I've known four MPs pretty well. Two I would lend my last pound to and the others are the sort of people, I'd count my fingers after I'd left. The first two are still in the House of Commons.

The first thing we must do is to solve this problem of remoteness. So how?

1. Every MP must have a web site and form-based e-mail system for contact. I also think that this should be paid for centrally. As someone, who has written a book called Making the Most of the Internet, I know that this is one area where MPs can get a better rapport with their constituents.

2. I would also want to see a central focus in each constituency, where MPs hold surgeries, the business of Parliament is laid out and there is a library of other important information. Perhaps it would have a staff of about three to five, would be independent of party and above all, it would not change when the MP changed party. This would mean that if you had business with your MP, then you'd know where to go.

3. These central foci would be linked to web sites and other means of communication so that everybody in the constituency is fully informed.

4. At election times, these central foci would be available to all parties, with copies of party manifestos etc.

One of the side affects of properly organising the way an MP, his constituency and the constituents communicate would be to move one of the larger parts of political funding to say be controlled by a central impartial commission. This might mean that political parties need less funding. And less from dubious sources!

I believe that only if democracy is improved in ways such as this will the public be prepared to even look at new ways of funding.

Ironically, doing what I suggest, may actually alleviate that need.

Palestine, Israel and the Lebanon


I heard the Syrian ambassador on Simon Mayo's program last week and judging by the statements of Israeli spokesmen over the past few days, there is absolutely nowhere to find any compromise at all. Quite frankly, if Peter Allen on Radio 5 can't get sensible answers to mild questions what hope is there. He was even accused of being anti-Semitic

There are two practical solutions to the problems of the area :-

1. Israel ceases to exist. I do not want to see such a solution, but it has been put forward by Israeli Army officers as something that will happen in the next fifty years. After all those that want to destroy Israel just need one lucky punch.

2. Israel uses its technology, money and what little goodwill it has left to turn one of the most fascinating areas in the world into something that works, where everybody gets on and where we all want to visit.

It is a difficult choice, but the second option has been put forward before by those in Israel, who see the futility of the current situation.

As an aside, at university in 1967, we all supported Israel as Egypt, Jordan and Syria tried to destroy the country. All of that goodwill has been dissipated by their actions over the past years.

£800,000 Payout


I look at this as an employer and Deutsche Bank failed badly.

If you have bullying going on in your workplace and you do nothing to stop it then you get everything you deserve. I would have also insisted that the Bank return to the Court in six months time and show that they now have the system in place.

As to the £800,000 you may argue that it is a large payout for being bullied, but how else do you punish Deutsche Bank for their abject failure to act.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Gibson


Perhaps he could apologise to all English people for some of the anti-English comments he's made, while he's about it.

Cheap (And Good) Day Out


Because it's topical why not go and sit on Trundle Hill and watch the racing at Goodwood? It's virtually free! Spectacular views etc.

Bear in mind that at most race meetings kids go free and they often provide attractions for kids and crèches for the very young.

Our granddaughter loves to go racing.