James Miller


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Driving Whilst Phoning


I am quite capable of driving and phoning at the same time, but I don't do it. In dangerous conditions such as heavy rain, I will often turn the radio off so my concentration is much better.

You just make sure that you are capable of avoiding all the other idiots, who are texting, eating, phoning, putting their make-up on, kissing, smoking and generally not concentrating.

Monday, February 26, 2007



Yesterday we walked our two basset hounds along one of the largest ancient man-made structures in the world; the Devil's Dyke at Newmarket. You can see the whole of Newmarket Heath which is the largest area of mown grass in the world.

This all came about because of the Iceni and their descendents, who founded the town of New Horse Market, where they created the most successful animal the world has ever seen; the thoroughbred horse.

Every racehorse in the world can be traced back to this small town in Suffolk.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Passing It On


When I got married in 1968, I didn't have enough money for the licence, so I borrowed it from my Aunt Gladys. She said not to give it back but to pay it to someone else who needed it when I could afford it.

I've always given odd sums to people who need it to better themselves. Once I gave some money to someone so he could go on Operation Raleigh, on the condition he told me about it and when he was set in life did the same thing.

A couple of years ago he wrote and said that he'd passed the money on again.

So these small sums personally given do work.

Friday, February 23, 2007



Permira are a private equity fund that owns quite a lot of Britain and the world. Their chief executive, Damon Buffini, is a private man and he has been interviewed on the BBC. He is getting a lot of stick for what his company owns.

This is all very interesting and just goes to show how much invisibility there is in British industry and commerce.

I don't necessary mean deliberate hiding of information, as Permira are very well known. It's just that so many British success stories never make the newspapers, TV and radio as the media is much more likely to report scandals or the problems of an irrelevant actor or pop-star, than the real stories that actually create all the money. Without that money, those that knock and promote the politics of envy, would not have a job. Let alone a decent one.

Many years ago, I helped to create a company that plans nearly half of all of the major projects in the world. We sold it in 1985 for a very sensible sum.

But did it make the papers as a seriously good news story about the success of British technology? Of course not.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pay As You Drive


We must first look at why congestion happens.

I have not seen a survey which shows why people drive long distances or in fact use overcrowded trains in the same way.

We may find that many travel these distances to get to and from work. So perhaps in this case we should build more affordable housing in parts of the country where it is needed.

Overall the solution to remove the congestion will be to make it more efficient NOT to travel. These are a few ideas.

1. Everybody should have access to broadband.
2. More affordable houses in places where they are needed.
3. Better Park and Ride.
4. Subsidised taxis.
5. Raise the tax on all energy and drop income and inheritance tax.

Unfortunately, affordable houses in the right places, which really cut traffic never get built as they lower house prices.

Whatever politicians do, house prices must continue to rise. That is Rule 1 of staying in power.

Fly Tipping


One of the troubles is that waste disposal is the responsibility of local authorities.

As an example, here at the western extremity of Suffolk, we are supposed to take trade rubbish to the tip at Claydon near Ipswich, which is a two hour round trip of about a hundred miles.

So you can understand who some people dump rubbish.

Everybody should be within ten miles of a place to take rubbish.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Women's Waists


As someone who has seen hemlines rise and fall, and figures change for far too many years, what seems to have disappeared is women's waists. Many of the women of my generation, including my wife, still have very defined waists, which obviously makes them more curvy. On the other hand, many of their daughters do not. Perhaps too much beer on the part of the younger generation!

The lack of waist probably explains why so many of the waisted women I know complain that the modern trend for low-waisted skirts and trousers means that nothing fits.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Improving Hospital Productivity


As someone who made his money by writing software to plan jobs properly and get them done quicker, there are many things that can be done.

1. Treat the hospital as a factory and analyse delays and problems. Once they are identified small amounts of strategic money often unblock the systems.

2. Use methods as at the James Paget hospital in Great Yarmouth, where teams and equipment are optimised for efficiency.

3. Make sure that all services such as pharmacy, radiotherapy etc. are available when needed.

But the most important thing is to lose the 9 to 5 culture, which means that patients having something like radiotherapy have to take time off work to have it. Work is often something that keeps patients going, so hospitals should fit around it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Road Pricing


The government is not thinking this through.

The congestion charge works well in London, even if many don't like it, but as someone who visits my city of birth and the best place in the world regularly, there is no doubt that it has made London a lot better.

The technology could be easily applied to other cities in the UK. In fact the more cities that used such a system, the cheaper and better collection would become.

So I'm all for congestion charging, as you know that if you pass a certain point, you have to pay a fixed charge for the day. I would modify it slightly, by allowing perhaps one free trip per car per year, so that occasional users would use it for expensive shopping and special trips, which is just want a city needs to be vibrant.

But I'm totally against a box in my car, that calculates how much I would pay at the end of the month.

The reason is that many people live marginally and just inside a tight budget. How can you budget on something that you don't know what it will cost? So the outcome will be large costs in collecting money from non-payers.

Now what happens if your mother is seriously ill, in a hospital say fifty miles away and your monthly charge goes from say £50 a month to £400. Can anybody say that is fair?

I would create a proper carbon tax, so that all road fuel, gas and electricity was taxed at a higher rate. This would then come off the lower rates of Income Tax and also be given as grants to insulate our homes and use low-energy light bulbs.



You know you're British when you're one of 4,500 who go all the way to Vicarage Road to see your team totally outplay Watford and then be beaten by a useless referee.

On Monday the red card given to George O'Callaghan was overturned. Fat lot of good that was.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Green Issues


Just think of this. In the kitchen we have a number of 20 watt energy efficient bulbs which replaced 100 watt old-fashioned ones. If we assume that the kitchen lights are on for 2000 hours a year, that means that each bulb doesn't use 160 KWH of electricity in a year. So that means a saving in electricity costs of about £14.40. As the bulbs cost about £6 each and so far have lasted three years, the savings are even better.

One point that people don't know, even salesman at a lighting exhibition yesterday, is how much a KWH of electricity costs. It is about NINE PENCE.

Note that you change your bulbs because they save money, not because of global warming.

New Trends In Mobile Phones


I have a 6 year old Nokia 6310i, which works anywhere in the world, does text messages, a basic Internet and everything else I need.

Recently, the on-off switch failed, so I took it to a practical mobile-phone company in Cambridge and they fixed it for just twenty pounds. They said that they are doing a lot of repairs, as people don't need new features and don't want to waste time learning how to use the latest model. They also said that modern phones are too fragile and usually fall apart within a year.

Repairs is the latest trend. It's ethical and very green too.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Working Hours


I started working in factories in the mid-60s, run software development and now I have a thoroughbred stud. In all cases common sense has prevailed and people work the hours that suits them and the business.

What we don't want is more legislation.

Incidentally, I now write software systems, that provide detailed information about what is going on in a manufacturing, production or office environment. One thing I have found is that the more and better information you provide to employees, the higher the productivity. It's just that so many people spend so much time standing around doing nothing waiting for someone to tell them what to do next.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Women In Construction


Take the stud industry, where the work is very similar to that of construction. Mucking out horses and working in bad weather conditions is not easy work.

Why is it therefore that women fill a lot of jobs in the stud industry, but not in construction?

Perhaps it's male chauvinist piggery in construction and the fact that studs tend to work pretty flexible hours. On our stud, you start about 7:30 or 8, have a long break in the middle of the day and then do more hours around tea-time. But when times are difficult, like with foaling or in bad weather, everyone will muck in.

On the flexible side, we've often had part-time women take the kids to school, then muck out perhaps twenty horses before lunch and then go home. They all say it's a great way to keep fit and lose weight.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The North Defined


The north is any part of the UK, that depends heavily on subsidy from London and the greater South East.

Memories of Oscar Battling Nelson


Oscar Battling Nelson or The Durable Dane was one of the toughest boxers ever known. The beginning of the twentieth century was the time when fights went on and on for up to seventy or eighty rounds. Typically, he would take tremendous punishment before coming back to win.

Has the England cricket team been reading about him?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Travelling In The Snow


When travelling in the snow, always take plenty of warm clothing, hot drinks, shovels etc.

But don't forget to take two women.

They can dig better than one and there's twice the amount of push!

This was borrowed from the late great Tony Hancock.

Making Cars More Efficient


It's not difficult.

Most cars are too large, too heavy and unaerodynamic for the job they do, due to bad design. The technology is there to make them meet the requirement. Look at how Lotus get their performance from light weight and aerodynamics rather than brute force and ignorance.

We also must look at catalytic converters. Putting one on an engine is like asking Paula Radcliffe to compete in a tight corset. Lean burn and computer control nearly got the emissions down to the required level fifteen years ago and I am sure that these could now achieve the required levels.

London's Mini World Cup


Has it ever happened before in one city?

Four international matches on the same day. Well it happened in London last night.

Brazil played Portugal, Nigeria played Ghana, South Korea played Greece and Australia played Denmark.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Level Crossings


The Rail Unions are agitating to remove all of the level crossings, except for very small private ones.

The main Newmarket-London road has a level crossing at Six Mile Bottom, which would be impossible to bypass, as it is surrounded by houses. There is also another a hundred metres or so away on a side road, that we use to get home.

The BBC quotes a million pounds a crossing. These two would cost several million each, as there would be a need to demolish some very expensive houses or build a full junction onto the A11.

This illustrates the problem of why we still have level crossings.

If we had to change these two, then the outcome would be that the authorities would replace the Cambridge-Ipswich rail line with buses, as these two are by no means the only expensive crossings on the line. I'd never use a bus to go to Cambridge or Ipswich, but I do use a train.

I'm sure that the Rail Unions would like the bus option, especially as both crossings have very good visibility on straight roads and could be protected by a better electronic warning system.

Interestingly some of the worst accidents involved road and rail in recent years have happened on private crossings or where a motorway crosses the railway on a bridge. Others are due to suicide or stupidity, both of which are impossible to guard against.

Satellite Navigation


Apparently large numbers of satellite navigation devices are being stolen.

I don't ever want to have one anyway.

I can read a map and everybody should be taught to do that.