James Miller


Monday, July 30, 2007

Shutting Down Web Sites


As someone who had his arm broken at school by a bully forty-five years ago, I don’t think that shutting down the sites, will make the lives of children any better.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that the images shouldn’t be there. But then if we ban them, it won’t make any difference, until the US sorts it’s act out with respect to violence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Names of Aircraft Carriers


I’m not going into the argument as to whether we need two new aircraft carriers, but it does appear that the names, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, could have been chosen with more imagination.

The current three smaller carriers; Ark Royal, Illustrious and Invincible have names in the British tradition and as these will have been retired by the time the new carriers are in service, the reusing the names, as has been done many times in the past, would be appropriate. After all, one Illustrious with its twenty-one Swordfish was a hero of Taranto, the most significant naval battle outside of the Pacific in World War II.

Or are we in an era where the names for everything are dumbed down and made anaemic?

Over the last few years, we’ve had the renaming of Tiger Bay to Cardiff Bay, British Airways naming jumbos after cities instead of heroes like Drake, Clive and Grenville, and government, both national and local, using names that are boring, so they won’t offend anyone.

So the naming of the carriers falls into a pattern that makes life less colourful and interesting.

The letter was published in The Times, but it was rather dumbed down.

Sir, The names of our two new aircraft carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales (report, July 26), could have been chosen with more imagination.

The current three smaller carriers, Ark Royal, Illustrious and Invincible, have names in the British tradition and, as these will have been retired by the time the new carriers are in service, reusing the names would be appropriate.

After all, one Illustrious was a hero of Taranto, the most significant naval battle outside the Pacific in the Second World War.

Newmarket, Suffolk

Perhaps that agrees with my point about not offending anyone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rainy Season


Just had an e-mail from my son, Henry, who’s in Korea. It’s supposed to be their rainy season and he’s only had one day of rain in two weeks.

So do we blame the Koreans, for sending us all their rain?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Parking Fines


Why not treble all fines, so it would act as a real deterrent. But we should also allow one ticket to be redeemed each year against their Road Fund Licence. No Road Fund Licence, no refund!

This way those that acquire tickets like confetti, would get their just deserts, but the honest motorist would be forgiven the odd discretion, such as parking in an area, which he thought was OK, but later turned out not to be.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Building on Flood Plains


We should not do it, unless we are sure the houses won’t get flooded.

We really have to create new towns inland in safe places to cure our housing shortage. Do Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Washington and Harlow get flooded? No! Because they were planned properly.

Unfortunately groups like the Council for the Fossilisation of England will protest and the Nimbys will have a field day.

But the question is do we want good, energy efficient housing for all or good views for the middle classes.

And of course if we built enough houses in the right places, then prices would stabilise and might even fall. That is a complete no-no!

As an aside, I own and live on a farm but I’m no Nimby. There are masses of places in the countryside where small amounts of infill can be done tastefully. For a start, some of the dreadful 1950s council houses on large gardens could be bulldozed and replaced with something modern and much more energy efficient at a higher density.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Hidden Beauty of Numbers


The FT has an article with this title today and it’s about a Professor Rosling, who is revolutionising the way statistics are shown.

He’s sold it to Google for a lot of money.

It might be worth investigating.

de Havilland Dragon Rapide


These two pictures of (I think) the Dragon Rapide that lives at Duxford, were taken on Newmarket Heath this morning.

Dragon Rapide

Dragon Rapide

It is a truly graceful aircraft, that was built originally as a short haul airliner in the 1930s. To find out more, read Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Safety Fast


My father was a fast driver and he taught me how to drive fast safely. Not that these days I exceed the speed limit, as I have an almost clean licence and I want to keep it that way.

But tonight I was coming back from London and I could see in the distance on the A505 as I approached Royston, that a tractor was in the slow lane. Stuck behind it and flashing to be let out was a Volkswagen Golf. So I slowed right down and flashed. The Golf wobbled, so I flashed again and it moved out to pass the tractor.

When I passed the Golf, after I passed the tractor, I noticed the young woman driving it was gabbling away on her mobile phone.

She is an accident waiting to happen.

If you must use a mobile phone whilst driving, make sure you're competent. But most aren't.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Safe In Your Home


I feel pretty safe, but we do get the odd crimes here in deepest Suffolk.

However, analysis of vehicle stops by the police have shown that if they stop a car without road tax, insurance or MOT, there is a high chance, (something like fifty percent), that they have evidence of another crime such as drug dealing or burglary.

So one of the obvious ways to make us all safer is for the police to be much tougher on car crime and stop more cars.

After all who ever heard of a burglar going burgling on public transport.

Monday, July 16, 2007



We live in a country area and have wheelie bins. Fortnightly collections work well.

On the other hand, our council doesn’t get us to separate out things like bottles, which we take to a bottle bank in another council area. Other councils do.

What the UK needs is a similar system on a nationwide basis. This would cut the cost of recycling considerably, as it would mean that the companies that collect from councils could use standard systems.

Perhaps the only local variation would be weekly collections of food waste in densely populated areas, where storage is difficult.

You have to remember that in some countries like Denmark, they only collect food waste. Everything that is to be recycled has to be taken to recycling points. It does increase the amount of waste recycled though. It wouldn’t work here, as many of us just believe in dumping their rubbish anywhere.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Out of Hours Doctors


My wife needed the out-of-hours doctor last weekend. We phoned NHS Direct and were told to go to the new “cottage” hospital at Newmarket. (This excellent facility is threatened with closure.) She was seen within half-an-hour and the problem was quickly diagnosed and a prescription was dispensed quickly at the local supermarket.

It was an excellent service.

On Monday night I was at a dinner in Newmarket (incidentally with Katherine Jenkins as cabaret) and mentioned this to several people. All were full of praise for the Suffolk Out Of Hours service, which seems to be based mostly on local GPs.

So they can get it right.

Or is it because here in Suffolk, we have been so starved of resources by central government for years and know how to make the best use of the crumbs we get?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Teenage Pregnancies


I was never told anything about sex in 1960s, but I believe strongly that compulsory sex education, with no opt-outs will help.

I also feel that the media is always banging on about IVF and how difficult it is to get pregnant. My wife and I on the other hand, like many people, had no difficulty at all in having three children in a very short space of time.

UK Borders and Passport Checking


So we don’t do it as well as we might, but as a software writer, I know the problems of getting such a system right, with incompatible databases and computer systems. (One of the reasons for the latter is that governments are reluctant to create standards for all their computer systems. But that’s another story.)

Later this week, I’m flying to Austria on a well-known low cost airline. This morning, I checked in on-line and after entering my passport number, I was able to print out my boarding card. I’ve used on-line check-in several times before and it is a great time and hassle saver. But today, as with many airlines, I had to pay a little bit extra for this privilege.

Now if I had a forged passport, I would not use an on-line check-in as this would give more time for the authorities to check it and locate me.

So why not encourage early on-line check-in, by say halving the Air Passenger Duty for those that check-in more than twenty-four hours before take-off? I’m sure the airlines would like this, as it would seriously reduce their check-in costs and probably mean that those that did check-in traditionally, were the ones that needed extra time and customer care.

The trouble with this, is that the Home Office would have to pay this fee on our behalf to the Treasury and we don’t have joined up government. We just have departments who fight like spoilt children. It would also mean that large numbers of passengers would not spend so much time at the airport, which would be bad for the airport owner’s profits.

Despite all this, I’ll continue to use on-line check-ins as they are so much easier.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Muslim Beliefs


On holiday last week, I read a book about T E Lawrence.

It said that his Bedouin fighters hated artillery, as if they were blown up they would not be able to go to paradise, as the body had to be whole for this to happen.

So has someone changed Muslim beliefs to fit their strategy?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Practical Things to Do


Terrorism is only part of the general crime levels in this country, which are actually quite low despite what the tabloids say.

1. We have lots of untaxed and uninsured cars that cause misery when they have accidents and they are extremely useful to criminals and terrorists. Why not give a bounty to anybody who reports such a car, say through a website?

2. We should also stop pandering to religious minorities who request special treatment. We pussy-footed with the religious feeling in Ulster and it didn’t help.

3. As pretty much a pacifist, we should make inciting violence a serious offence and treat it as such.

4. We won the intelligence game in World War II because we were clever. We tend to think draconian policies work, rather than subtle policies approved by all.

This bunch of bombers seem to a load of rank amateurs. But they are the most dangerous, as look at how successful the spy Greville Wynn was.

So we must think, think and think again.