James Miller


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Financial System is All Wrong


I made a lot of money twenty years ago through some very innovative computer software. A few years later I made another nice sum from a medical device. A lot however was lost due to so-called professionals who put the money in so-called safe investments.

One of the problems is that the financial system is now so complicated and regulated, that hardly anyone can manage their wealth, pensions and mortgage, without all of those advisors, who sit between the consumer and the money he has or needs.

We need much simpler regulations. So that for instance, you can have very simple pensions, where you invest your own money in safe savings accounts and the government gives you appropriate reliefs and help.

The trouble is that the government is now so in hock to the banks, insurance companies and financial institutions, that it dare not upset them in case they up sticks and go elsewhere.

Thursday, September 25, 2008



My late wife was a barrister and many of my friends are judges, solicitors or barristers, so I have received quite a large number of varied views on the law from all sides of the argument.

I despair sometimes, but if there is any common thread that goes through everything I’ve heard, it is that catching perpetrators is actually a lot more important in terms of deterrence than the sentence given out. At a simple level there are places where you never park illegally, as you know that within a minute a warden will give you a ticket. But we also all know where we can get away it.

As to sentencing, we tend too much to lock people away from society and forget about them. We are never creative enough and always follow the same route that just means they go back to prison a few months or years later. We must do better.

I’m old enough to remember the story of man called Bill Fletcher, who wrote a book called Menace to Society. He’d spent half his life in jail and eventually ended up in Court for stealing money from a phone box on Christmas Eve. The Magistrate said he was going to give him the worst sentence he’d ever had. He gave him a conditional discharge and told him to see a Trust who dealt with ex-prisoners. The shock was too much for him and he reformed ending up as the doorman of the Shaw Theatre.

Now, that was an extreme case, but we must make the punishment fit the crime and the profile of the offender, so that they do not reoffend. At the simplest level, prison must educate and stop drug-taking, as these two actions will help tremendously. But in most cases all prisons do is baby-sit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Merrill Lynch


So Merrill Lynch is no more. At least, it's not independent any more as it has been acquired by Bank of America.

Metier and Artemis was sold by Merrill Lynch to Lockheed in 1985. That seems a long time ago and it will soon be twenty five years.

The interesting person in the deal was one Nahum Vaskevitch. I don't remember him too well, except that I once saw him in a beige suit.

Why was he interesting?

See this post on Vaskevitch in the New York Times.

American Cruise Company


I am getting calls despite being registered with the Telephone Preference Service from an American Cruise Company. They seem to be using the number 01789 0000000, which should be in Stratford on Avon. Note the extra zero.

It looks like they're generating that number to get round those people who ban Withheld calls.

Yet another reason not to buy American products.

Belgian Grand Prix


I'd always wanted to go a to Grand Prix and Spa seemed to be a good place to go. On Sunday, the 7th of September, Celia and I would have celebrated our ruby wedding and it perhaps would help me pass a very sad day.

Did it?

I took the ferry from Dover to Calais on the Saturday afternoon and except for a delay of about an hour due to rough weather in the Channel, the crossing was uneventful. As too was the journey through Belgium, which was interrupted by an overnight stay in a motel just before Brussels.

So at seven I arrived at Spa and tried to find the car park, so that I could pick up the tickets.

What a shambles?

But then I'd booked with a ticket agent rather than the circuit itself! The car park they gave me wasn't allowed and I nearly ended up with a parking ticket. Eventually, I parked and got charged for it, despite the fact that the price was suppoed to be included.

Such is life!

But in the end, I got the ticket and was able to get in to watch the racing.

Quite frankly, although I enjoyed it, I don't think that I'll be going again unless someone else pays for the ticket.

Although the ending of the Grand Prix was extremely exciting. But it would have been better on the television or the radio.

At least though there weren't any advert breaks.

Celia was right about motor racing.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why No-one uses Rural Bus Services


I have a bus pass, so I get to use buses free.

Well! I could if there were any suitable ones.

To get to Newmarket which is about eight miles away is a simple drive through Great Bradley and Dullingham. Haverhill is directly the other way through Thurlow and Great Wratting.

But is there a bus that goes directly from Newmarket to Haverhill, which you would think would be logical?

Of course not!

I typed Great Bradley and Newmarket into a web site which gives you all of the bus journeys in Suffolk and it gave me two options.

1. Go via Cambridge changing twice at Withersfield and Cambridge - Time 2 hrs 3 mins.
2. Go via Little Thurlow - Time 1 hr 52 mins.

Are they serious?

Of course not!

I could walk it almost as quick.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Southern Shandy Drinker


The title of this post was prompted by a comment from a Newcastle United supporter on Radio 5 complaining about us here in the South.


The further north in the UK you get the more they are addicted to the subsidies provided by the greater South East of England. They get all the investment, whilst here for example in Suffolk we struggle on with bad roads and poor public transport. But at least we have the best beer and cyder in the world. (Adnams and Aspalls if you don’t know!)

No wonder with all this molly-coddling from the South, that the Geordies think that Newcastle have a God-given right to be number one! They don’t!

Note :-

Support a real club, not one with a load of overpaid mercenaries.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Real Tennis in Manchester


I finished my trip to Manchester with a game at the excellent Manchester Tennis and Raquet Club in Salford.

I got the friendly reception that you usually get from clubs all over the world. The court and facilities were excellent and I had a very good game with one of the local members.

I shall go again.

I am sure that anybody who wants to sample the wonderful game of Real Tennis will get a warm welcome in Manchester.

Trams in Manchester


The Manchester trams work well, but they lack something that many public transport system lack all over the world; detailed street maps at each station or stop. I grew up in London and every tube station has always had those maps and they are absolutely essential.

Manchester Tram

A Poor Handrail


I took this picture as I walked back from the Imperial War Museum North to The Lowry of the lights in the underside of the handrail on the lifting bridge.

Handrail on Salford Lifting Bridge
You will notice that lights have been placed in the handrail at intervals. I wasn't sure if they were low energy or not, but it is certainly an expensive solution in that wires have to be run to each light.

If it was designed now, it should use a solution based on ropelights.

Ropelights at Freedom Farm Stud
This picture shows the installation at my stud, Freedom Farm. More details on how the ropelights are used is given here.

If you were using ropelights in such as the bridge installation, you would create a handrail with a slot into which the ropelight would be placed. Power would only need to be provided at one end, which saves a lot in building costs.

Obviously, for reasons of safety at night, you would build some redundancy into the system, using say two ropelights with one in each handrail, preferably fed by power supplies from either end of the bridge.

I believe strongly that handrails with ropelights underneath the actual rail can be used in all sorts of places to give affordable, safe, reliable and environmentally friendly lighting.

Window on Manchester


Opposite The Lowry Museum is the Imperial War Museum.

Imperial War Museum North - Salford
The following pictures were taken from the tower and show Manchester on a typically grey day. I should say that the sun did come out later.

Salford Quay Flats
These flats were built a couple of years ago and Celia bought one, whilst she was on a case in the city. Not sure where it is though, but I think it's in the block on the right.

Looking Towards Manchester
This picture shows the view looking towards Manchester from the tower. Note the lifting bridge in the front, which has been used as part of the route in several triathlons. The Lowry is at the left of the picture with the Lowry Outlet Mall behind.

The Lowry from the IWM North
This shows The Lowry.

It's a pity that the design of the tower doesn't allow views to the west. I suspect that you could probably see Liverpool Cathedral on a good day. After all I think the first time I saw Liverpool Cathedral was from the top of Snowdon at about eleven. That may be wrong, as memory plays tricks in time, but I do remember someone saying to my family, that the day we went up Snowdon was one of the best for visibility in months.

I was disappointed with the museum. But then I often am these days, as they sacrifice detail and interesting content for style and political correctness.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Surprises at the Lowry Museum


I get rather disappointed at modern art galleries.

The Liverpool Tate was full of a load of junk and it often seems that the more spectacular the building the more banal and poor the contents.

Now I knew about Lowry and his matchstick men, so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I approached the museum that holds his pictures in Salford.

Lowry Museum - Manchester
Lowry Museum - Manchester
But the Lowry pictures are a revelation. Not because of the ones we all know about, but because of those we don't.

Go and see his seascapes and portraits. As well of course as his famous street scenes.