After years in hibernation, this website has been upgraded to the latest and greatest. I'm reminded about why I liked Movable Type. Straightforward simple upgrade and installation!

Witopia VPN Support

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I just have to give a quick word about Witopia. They are VPN solution that most of my friends recommended I use when moving to China. So I signed up and it did exactly what it is advertised to do. On a super fast connection in my temporary China accomodation, I could see how it performed... and it did extremely well!

Since moving to my more permanent home with a 1MB line that rarely performs that locally, there has been a performance degradation that has made it unusable. Now to their credit, I had an online chat with these guys complaining about speed (don't us techies hate tickets about "it's slow, please help?") and they did actually make some suggestions and found something that worked for me! They were also clearly technically competent in their field. What a difference this can make!

So here is a thumbs up to these guys. On the other side, I do think there must be some capacity issue somewhere - maybe with the Expo - that, who knows, some other provider may have less issue with but such professional support is gold dust and wins hands down.
I clearly have no idea whether I'm an expat or a Chinese. Even my Ayi thought my shopping list was really odd and thought the supermarket was trying to scam me (by a whole £1)! So my first home cooked meal, here is what I bought - in prices converted back to GBP

  • £0.68 - Pork Loin x2 Portions (34p each)
  • £0.34 - Large portion of chinese vegetables, enough for 2 days
  • £0.50 - Garlic, 3 bulbs
  • £0.55 - Large ginger
  • £1.53 - Bottle of oyster sauch
  • £2.15 - Bottle of soy sauce
  • £0.50 - Bottle of oil
  • £0.84 - Two bottles of sports drink (Ayi thought it was expensive water)
  • £4.50 - Bottle of Ariel liquid
So really, my home cooked dinner tonight cost roughly... 75p!

I couldn't wash my clothes for that price.

Mojito Recipe

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I succeeded in making a Mojito better than most of the bars I've been to lately. It took several attempts but got something pretty good in the end. The only thing missing was a lack of some really fresh mint to get that minty taste that really makes a difference.

So for as much for the benefit of my memory as much as anything else, here is the recipe. For one glass, you will need:
  • One shot of Cuban white rum
  • One shot of carbonated water
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • Two small limes
  • Two tablespoons of cane sugar water
  • Crushed ice

China road traffic

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How can one begin to describe it? sums up my own experience of the day walking around town.

"Crossing only when it is safe to do so could perch you at the side of the road in perpetuity, but don't imitate the local tendency to cross without looking. The green man at traffic lights does not mean it is safe to cross. Instead, it means it is slightly safer to cross, but you can still be run down by traffic allowed to turn on red lights" - which is what nearly happened to me today!

As for the poor cyclists out there, the advice is

"Remember you will be on the lowliest transportation device in town, and buses, lorries, taxis, cars and scooters will ceaselessly honk at you, in that pecking order (just ignore them). [...] Note that cyclists never use lights at night and Chinese pedestrians favour dark clothing, so eat a lot of carrots and cycle carefully"

Somehow I'm not tempted! And they all seem to go without helmets

On the bright side, I nabbed lunch for a mere 15RMB today - and that's despite the fact I reckon I was overcharged. But then I couldn't read the menu and who can complain about a £1.50 lunch!

How to put out a kitchen fire?

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Kitchens are the number one place for a fire to start at home. I have an electrical jobs that take a while to start up and I stupidly walked away for no more than a minute while waiting to heat a saucepan. Unfortunately, I'd switched on the wrong hob and a towel touching that hob caught fire. Stupidity! Fortunately, being the calm-headed sort, it wasn't too serious and I learned the following lessons should this happen to anyone else
  • Don't panic! The good thing about kitchens is that a small fire won't usually spread. If it is large, you'd better be evacuating anyway. Otherwise, if things burn for another 10 seconds, nothing bad will happen. Stop and take a moment to plan what to do
  • Personal safety first. If it is a large fire, your clothes might catch fire or if it is spreading fast, get out of there and get the experts to deal with it.
  • Wet towels are your friend. You probably don't have a fire extinguisher nearby but every kitchen has a towel. Drench it in water and use it to cover whatever is on fire, including other towels, chip pans etc. (Much better and safer than splashing water about... don't do that). Towels are probably the most effective way of cooling a fire you'll have handy
  • Lids and makeshift covers. If wet towels aren't appropriate or you can't immediately get one, put a lid over your burning food or get a pan or wok to cover the fire, the aim being to starve the oxygen. This is easier than getting a wet towel over the target for fire-adverse people but usually isn't as effective as a wet towel unless you can seal off the fire and cut off the air
  • Switch on the extractor fan. Assuming you've contained the problem, you want to minimize the amount of smoke getting around the place. The smell lingers!
  • Prevention is better than cure. Don't leave a hob on unattended is what I've learned. My punishment is to tell the world of my stupidity and if one other person learns something, it is worthwhile =)
Anyway, in my case, one wet towel to cover the burning wet towel meant I suffered no damage other than a stinky flat
I'd hate to have been part of this jury. 5 months into this high profile trial (give or take press restrictions), the jury were sent home. This is the third time the Heathrow robbery has been tried and again it failed to reach a conclusion. The first time it was a defendent's ill health, the second was a hung jury and this was ended in mysterious circumstances. The judge said:

"I don't quite know how to say this, because it is the last thing I wanted to tell, you but I am afraid we are not going to be able to continue with this trial.

"In the course of a major criminal trial like this one, events sometimes occur which create the risk of real injustice or unfairness to one side or the other and sometimes those events are so serious that the trial cannot continue.

"That is what has happened in this case. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to give you any further information about what has occurred."

The rumour is that the prosecution were just closing their case when after some deliberation the trial was halted. The jurors were certainly not best pleased. If our trial were to be stopped there would be outrage after 3 months of hearing the evidence!

Rocket Science Problem

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Here's a set of physics problems to challenge your knowledge of the concepts of energy and motion. Very few have come up with correct answer to all these problems (question 2 in particular) and I've asked some very smart Maths and Physics phDs! The maths isn't that hard but you have to be very careful about what equations you use and what assumptions you make

Bonus questions are included that any good A-Level physicist should be able to answer but are not part of the main theme to these questions and are arguably not as hard. Usual assumptions can be made in these questions. Partial marks are given for estimates to answers!



  • Assume g = 10 and is constant
  • This is NOT a trick question!!! It is all pure and simple physics
  • Assume Earth is flat


The questions


Alice, who weighs 100kg, steadly climbs a ladder at a constant velocity to a height of 10 meters and reaches the top after 100 seconds.

Question: What is the minimum energy needed for Alice to do this?

Bonus: What is the person's power output?


Bob, who also weighs 100kg, straps a rocket pack to his back and follows Alice as she climbs the ladder. That is, Bob also climbs through the air at constant velocity to 10 meters and reachers the top after 100 second.

For this problem, you can assume the mass of the jet fuel consumed is relatively small compared to the mass of Bob. However, if you feel it helps your calculations, you can assume that this is a pie powered jet pack. In 1) Alice eats a 1kg pie before starting uses up all that pie power to climb the lader. Similarly in 2) Bob puts the 1kg pie into his jet pack and uses it all up to get to the top

Question: What is the minimum energy needed for Bob to do this?

Question: Does the energy used in both cases depend on the time taken in getting to the top? If not, why not? If so, by how much?

3) (Bonus problem)

Cain, who also weighs 100kg, puts himself into a human cannon and fires himself up into the air, just reaching the 10 meter height Question: What is the minimum energy needed from the cannon to do this? Bonus: How fast was Cain initially travelling as he left the cannon?


  • All energy conversion is perfectly efficient in terms of useful energy
  • Everyone is infinitely short
  • Bob's jet fuel is as light as you like and produces no heat
  • There is no air friction
  • ... other usual assumptions?

For answers, email kevin at glorat dot net!

In developing my extensions, I kept getting the following error:
Got an error: mutiple trigger registration in one add_trigger() call is deprecated. at lib/MT/ line 282
Compilation failed in require at lib/MT/Compat/ line 12.
BEGIN failed--compilation aborted at lib/MT/Compat/ line 12.
Compilation failed in require at lib/ line 1210.

The code in MT/ is incompatible with Class::Trigger 0.12, which comes with recent versions of perl. If you have set up your paths incorrectly (like $ENV{'MT_HOME'}) or you have plugins that require a version later than the Class::Trigger 0.10 that comes with Movable Type, you will encounter this problem. In my case, I'm linking in external libraries that use the later version.

To fix this, I'm using this patch:
--- lib/MT/     (revision 3196)
+++ lib/MT/     (working copy)
@@ -279,8 +279,12 @@

+# Must use separate statements from Class::Trigger 0.12
     post_save   => \&flush_category_cache,
     post_remove => \&flush_category_cache
Issue raised with Six Apart!

Writing a letter to My Lord

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I discovered today that my trial has a chance of going beyond the end date of 19th December. This is particularly problematic since I fly out to Hong Kong on the 17th December, as I did tell His Lordship before the trial started.

And I don't call him His Lordship to be pompous, that's really how to address judges. The standard address to a circuit judge in your typical UK criminal court would be "Your Honour" but in the Old Bailey they are one step up and we say "My Lord".

So I have to write a nice little letter to the judge now to plead with him not to cancel my holiday plans! Yes, he does have the power to do that...

It will depend on which How to address a Judge?
Forms of address for the Judiciary