From January 2010

Finding Mr/s Right in China

For young people in China the pressure to get married (and subsequently have a baby) is often strongly exerted by parents who take every opportunity to nag their children about finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. Men are generally expected to get married by 30 and women by their mid 20’s (25 is considered “old”). The older the child gets the stronger the nagging becomes to the point that going home for spring festival and other occasions becomes a source of dread and anxiety for those still single. Read more

Riding Shanghai Maglev

I was in Shanghai last weekend for the tail end of a business trip to Wuxi and finally got a chance to ride the experimental high-speed Maglev train from the downtown Longyang Road station to Pudong International Airport. Read more

Strawberry Jam Foshan

Last weekend I took a trip to Foshan (佛山), a relatively affluent city of around 5 million inhabitants near Guangzhou. As you might imagine from a typical Chinese city there’s not much to write home about architecturally – the same generic mass produces factory boxes adjacent to tasteless villas for the super rich built on once picturesque countryside. Read more

Google Goes Nuclear on China

Google dropped a bomb on China and the world today when it revealed a string of sophisticated cyber attacks against its infrastructure targeted against human rights activists’ email accounts which had originated from China (similar to the GhostNet attack in 2009). In response Google has decided to cease censoring search results (demanded by the government): Read more

Flying Shotgun in a Fokker 70

Pre-flight Checklist

It just so happens that my parents neighbour is a pilot and by coincidence it turned out that he was flying the first leg of the flight I was taking back to China (Norwich -> Amsterdam). He very kindly invited me to sit with him and the co-pilot in the cockpit on the “jump seat” for the journey – I felt like a boy who had been allowed to ride in a fire engine – absolutely awesome!


The aircraft we were flying in was Fokker 70 which is relatively small with only 70 seats and made in the Netherlands. They’re used by KLM for their short-haul cityhopper service. As we were flying at night it was a bit dark to take any good photos (and I definitely didn’t want to use the flash!) but I did get a bit of video (below):

Fokker 70 Flight Deck

The coolest part was undoubtedly the take-off and landing which is so much more exciting when you’re looking out from the front. Amazingly most aircraft are able to do this all on auto-pilot which they showed me when we landed – totally automatically in thick fog. As we approached the runway it was mesmerizing to see the tops of building poking out of the misty shroud covering the ground.

Pilots clearly have to be very skilled and focused, especially when it comes to flying and eating dinner at the same time! I feel so lucky to have been able to do this, especially considering the fear-mongering around terrorism these days.

2010 More! More! More!

Looking back at 2009 I’d probably characterize it as my year of travel and exploration in China – I took 24 flights and was privileged to visit and stay in many amazing places I had never been before. Along the way I’ve learnt a huge amount about Chinese culture which continues to fascinate and bewilder me in equal measure. Having become familiar with where things are and how things work, life in Shenzhen has become fairly routine. Given my list of goals last year I thought it was about time to review them and set some new ones for the coming twenty ten:

2009 goals in review:

  • Gain basic fluency in Mandarinfailed (while my vocab has improved grammar is still non-existant)
  • Improve photography skills – achieved (although I’ve still got a long way to go I’m quite happy with my results recently)
  • Get fitter through more regular exercise – moderate improvement (but need to schedule more regular activities)
  • Cook more – achieved (and learnt a few new dishes along the way)
  • Stay focused and filter out distractions – failed (I read more than ever and have way too many projects on the go)
  • Redesign blog template – achieved (you’re looking at it now)

3.5 out of 6 isn’t too bad in my book but the language part is rather frustrating.

2010 goals:

  • Create and stick to a schedule for language learning and fitness
  • Start a business of some sort and see it through (more on this later)
  • Improve writing skills and user participation in blog
  • Create more video content and how-to guides
  • Visit Japan – something I’ve wanted to do for many years
  • Learn how to cope with stress better (and sleep more!)

Finally I’d like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who reads Randomwire – this year traffic has nearly doubled and my only wish is that I had time to write more content for it. In an ideal world I’d love to be able to do this full-time in some capacity but for now it’ll continue as a labour of love blissfully free of ads (although if anyone is interested in sponsorship do get in touch).

As with last year I’ll leave you with an appropriately titled track from the ever-manic Capsule:

A very Happy New Year to all 🙂