Must-See TV – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

(“Must-see” is a relative term.  This 3-part documentary can be fairly hard-going.  I first saw the series along with several other works by Adam Curtis early this year, so I’ve had the chance to view them a few times; first to let them wash over and again to drill down deeper.)

Adam Curtis is a film-maker and journalist with particular interest in sociology, philosophy and political history.  It’s quite hard to describe his work.  All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace  joins together Ayn RandAlan Greenspan, the Asian miracle, the New Economy, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, China and stability.  And that’s just the first episode.

The first episode was shown on SBS TWO Thursday night at 8:30pm, however you can watch the first episode of three on SBS On Demand.

Did you know that the 1994 Rwandan Genocide had its origins in the Belgian colonisation in the 1930’s?

These are not conspiracy theory films.  Instead they show that interconnectedness and self-correction of systems is misunderstood and exaggerated.

Adam Curtis’ style of film-making is distinct too.  Lots of archival footage, interesting music (Pizzicato Five does the intro) and stark titles are his signature.

All three are worth watching.  My advice is to take them at face value and then do some research.  Sounds like homework.

Probability of strong quakes revised upward for eastern Japan | The Japan Times Online

Probability of strong quakes revised upward for eastern Japan | The Japan Times Online.

The Japanese seismic intensity scale “shindo” is a measure of the effects of an earthquake.  It is more meaningful for what is happening at the surface and at various locations away from the epicentre.  In general, a higher Magnitude means a higher shindo, but there can be circumstances where the effects are concentrated or dissipated.  Consider that when you read, ” the probability of a strong quake of “lower 6” or more on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 occurring in the next 30 years had climbed 31 points from 2010 to an estimated 62.3 percent for Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, 90 km north-east of Tokyo” and “The probabilities for some locations were underestimated before the [March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake].”

Oddly, Tokyo’s probably increased to only 23.2, much lower than neighbouring Yokohama (71.0) and Chiba (75.7).  (Yoshiko-chan, you can go to work as normal.)

[Table from wikipedia – Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale – retrieved 2012-12-22]

Magnitude-Shindo Number / Meter reading Effects on people Indoor situations Outdoor situations Residences Other buildings Lifelines Ground and slopes Peak ground acceleration[10]
0 (0) / 0–0.4 Not felt by all or most people. Indoor objects will not shake. Buildings will not receive damage. Less than 0.008 m/s²
1 (1) / 0.5–1.4 Felt by only some people indoors. Objects may swing/rattle very slightly. Upper sections of multi-story buildings may feel the earthquake. 0.008–0.025 m/s²
2 (2) / 1.5–2.4 Felt by many to most people indoors. Some people awake. Hanging objects such as lamps swing slightly. Homes and apartment buildings will shake, but will receive no damage. No buildings receive damage. 0.025–0.08 m/s²
3 (3) / 2.5–3.4 Felt by most to all people indoors. Some people are frightened. Objects inside rattle noticeably and can fall off tables. Electric wires swing slightly. People can feel it outdoors. Houses may shake strongly. Less earthquake-resistant houses can receive slight damage. Buildings may receive slight damage if not earthquake-resistant. None to very light damage to earthquake-resistant and normal buildings. No services are affected. 0.08–0.25 m/s²
4 (4) / 3.5-4.4 Many people are frightened. Some people try to escape from danger. Most sleeping people awake. Hanging objects swing considerably and dishes in a cupboard rattle. Unstable ornaments fall occasionally. Very loud noises. Electric wires swing considerably. People outside can notice the tremor. Less earthquake-resistant homes can suffer slight damage. Most homes shake strongly and small cracks may appear. The entirety of apartment buildings will shake. Other buildings can receive slight damage. Earthquake-resistant structures will survive, most likely without damage. Electricity may go out shortly. No landslides or cracks occur. 0.25–0.80 m/s²
5-lower (5弱) / 4.5-4.9 Most people try to escape from danger by running outside. Some people find it difficult to move. Hanging objects swing violently. Most unstable items fall. Dishes in a cupboard and books fall and furniture moves. People notice electric-light poles swing. Occasionally, windowpanes are broken and fall, unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse, and roads suffer damage. Less earthquake-resistant homes and apartments suffer damage to walls and pillars. Cracks are formed in walls of less earthquake-resistant buildings. Normal and earthquake resistant structures receive slight damage. A safety device can cut off the gas service in some residences. Sometimes, water pipes are damaged and water service is interrupted. Electricity can be interrupted. Cracks may appear in soft ground, and rockfalls and small slope failures take place. 0.80–1.40 m/s²
5-upper (5強) / 5.0–5.4 Many people are considerably frightened and find it difficult to move. Most dishes in a cupboard and most books on a bookshelf fall. Occasionally, a TV set on a rack falls, heavy furniture such as a chest of drawers fall, sliding doors slip out of their groove and the deformation of door frames makes it impossible to open doors. Unreinforced concrete-block walls can collapse and tombstones overturn. Many automobiles stop because it becomes difficult to drive from the shaking. Poorly installed vending machines can fall. Less earthquake-resistant homes and apartments suffer heavy/significant damage to walls and pillars and can lean. Medium to large cracks are formed in walls. Crossbeams and pillars of less earthquake-resistant buildings and even highly earthquake-resistant buildings also have cracks. Gas pipes and water mains are damaged. (Gas service and/or water service are interrupted in some regions.) Cracks may appear in soft ground. Rockfalls and small slope failures would take place. 1.40–2.50 m/s²
6-lower (6弱) / 5.5–5.9 Difficult to keep standing. A lot of heavy and unfixed furniture moves and falls. It is impossible to open the door in many cases. All objects will shake violently. Strongly and severely felt outside. Light posts swing, and electric poles can fall down, causing fires. Less earthquake-resistant houses collapse and even walls and pillars of other homes are damaged. Apartment buildings can collapse by floors falling down onto each other. Less earthquake-resistant buildings easily receive heavy damage and may be destroyed. Even highly earthquake-resistant buildings have large cracks in walls and will be moderately damaged, at least. In some buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. Gas pipes and/or water mains will be damaged. Gas, water and electricity are interrupted. Small to medium cracks appear in the ground, and larger landslides take place. 2.50–3.15 m/s²
6-upper (6強) / 6.0–6.4 Impossible to keep standing and to move without crawling. Most heavy and unfixed furniture moves and becomes displaced. Trees can fall down due to violent shaking. Bridges and roads suffer moderate to severe damage. Less earthquake-resistant houses will collapse or be severely damaged. In some cases, highly earthquake-resistant residences are heavily damaged. Multi-story apartment buildings will fall down partially or completely. Many walls collapse, or at least are severely damaged. Some less earthquake-resistant buildings collapse. Even highly earthquake-resistant buildings suffer severe damage. Occasionally, gas and water mains are damaged. (Electrical service is interrupted. Occasionally, gas and water service are interrupted over a large area.) Cracks can appear in the ground, and landslides take place. 3.15–4.00 m/s²
7 (7) / 6.5 and up Thrown by the shaking and impossible to move at will. Most furniture moves to a large extent and some jumps up. In most buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. In some cases, reinforced concrete-block walls collapse. Most or all residences collapse or receive severe damage, no matter how earthquake-resistant they are. Most or all buildings (even earthquake-resistant ones) suffer severe damage. Electrical, gas and water service are interrupted. The ground is considerably distorted by large cracks and fissures, and slope failures and landslides take place, which can change topographic features. Greater than 4 m/s²

Here’s a map of Japan with satellite imagery of earthquakes and tsunami.

The Newcastle Earthquake of 1989 was Magnitude 5.6 with an MMI of VIII Destructive.  If the peak acceleration figure of 1m/s^2 is correct, its shindo number would be 5-lower; but from personal experience it was probably closer to a 4.  And for further comparison, Newcastle was at the lowest probability level for an earthquake (despite its history of 1 every 50 years) but since 1989 has been put in the top level.  There’s still no special building code requirement, but I’d be slightly over-engineering to be safe.


Mitsubishi i-MiEV – My First Drive

By the good grace of its owner Karl, I had my first drive of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV at the Canberra International EV Festival.

The iMiEV (an acronym for “Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle”) is based on the Mitsubishi i Kei car; light vehicles governed by displacement (660 cc), size (Length 3.4 m, Width 1.48 m, Height 2 m) and power (47 kW; 64 PS; 63 hp).  I’ve driven many Kei cars and recent models are more than adequate.  I once drove my brother-in-law’s Mitsubishi Pajero Mini 4WD with intercooled turbo engine in the snow to the North of Hyogo Prefecture.  Quite an experience to be driving at 100 km/h @ 7500 rpm!

Despite (or because of) their small dimensions, Kei cars are typically tall enough to fit even me; though it isn’t unusual for my shoulders to be almost touching the glass and the passenger.

Here’s a comparison between the i-MiEV and the i.  Note that the power is at the top of the Kei regulations and the torque is 2-3 times that of the 3-cylinder turbo petrol i.  The larger dimensions in the US spec are not replicated in the i because it is only exported to right-hand-drive markets outside Japan.

i-MiEV i
Motor permanent-magnet motor 3B20 659 cc, DOHC, MIVEC 12v I3
3B20T 659 cc, DOHC, MIVEC, 12v I3 turbocharger
Power 47 kW (64 PS) 38 kW (52 PS) at 7000 rpm
42–48 kW (57–65 PS) at 6000 rpm
Torque 180 N·m (133 lb·ft) 57 N·m (42 lb·ft) at 4000 rpm
85–95 N·m (63–70 lb·ft) at 3000 rpm
Transmission Single speed reduction gear 4-speed automatic
Battery/Fuel 16 kWh/58 MJ (Li-ion battery) 35 l
Range 160 km (99 mi) (Japanese cycle) 19.0km/l ~ 18.4km/l JC08
100 km (62 mi) (US EPA cycle) 665km ~ 644km
Wheelbase 2,550 mm <–
Length 3,395 mm <–
3,475 mm (2012 Au)
3,680 mm (US)
Width 1,475 mm <–
1,585 mm(US)
Height 1,600 mm <–
1,615 mm(US)
Kerb weight 1,080 kg 890–900 kg
1,110 kg (2012 Au)

The doors of the i-MiEV were somewhat more substantial than an old Kei car; light, not flimsy.  Side impact testing requires strength.  Seating position was easy and the wheel was only a little bit too low; again, not unusual when you’re 195 cm tall and no longer at your fighting weight.

The dash is dominated by a large, analogue energy monitor.  The eco, power and regenerative zones are clearly marked.  The speed is a digital readout in the centre.  The battery (icon is a petrol pump with a two-pin plug instead of a nozzle), transmission position and range indicators complete the set.

After the Prius, turning a key to start a car is soooo last century but the ON then START process is at least familiar to most drivers.  No greeting tune like the Nissan Leaf and of course no vibration or noise.

Driving off is very similar to EV mode in the Prius (c. 30kW vs 47kW motors) up to low city speeds, the most obvious difference being that you don’t have to be gentle to prevent the non-existent petrol engine from starting.  Another similarity was the ability to glide (no power, no regen, just gliding) by lightly pressing the accelerator pedal to keep the energy monitor needle between Charge and ECO.  Karl pointed out the three regen modes: D for city driving, B for braking on long downhills and C for cruising  longer distances with minimal regen.  The distinct modes are selectable through a floor-mounted lever similar to an auto transmission.

Full throttle action is… delayed by the computer.  Floor it and the needle gradually moves through to Power range until it finally hits the maximum.  Could this be a safety feature or a form of traction control, I wondered.  Acceleration is about 12 s for 0-100km/h so its not slow for a small car and the extra torque compared to the Prius EV mode is obvious at fill throttle.

My test drive was a  rare experience in Australia as only 110 have been leased and 39 privately purchased as at July 2011.   These cars are expensive by their nature, but unlike many other countries there are few tax advantages to buying one.  In ACT there’s no stamp duty on the original purchase, saving $1540 on a normal $48,800 car.  However, you’ll pay 3% on the first $45,000 and 5% after that if you buy second-hand, just like a normal car.  Registration can actually be more expensive by virtue of additional weight; a i-MiEV is $25.40 more to register than the i.  In Victoria, hybrid and electric vehicles get a $100 discount on registration, however you have to pay $1.40 for a pair of “EV” or “hybrid” number plate stickers, in the same way that you need an “LPG” sticker.

We should thank our early adopters more.

And for the record, I quite like the look of it.

To make up for my lack of photos and video, here’s a few videos from television’s Robert Llewellyn on his i-MiEV.

Farewell i-MiEV

M7.3 tremblor could have been an aftershock from 3/11

Japan Times is reporting that the Japan Meteorological Agency said the 5:18 p.m. quake was likely an aftershock of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami [東北地方太平洋沖地震], the magnitude-9 quake that devastated the region on 11 March 2011 and warned of an aftershock from Friday’s temblor of up to magnitude 6 within a week.

A tsunami of up to 1 metre was detected around the coast of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima; the same prefectures affected last year.

Reports from friends in Japan were that the quake was a bit unusual; the motion was up and down and buildings swayed for some 3 minutes.

To cast your mind back to March 2011, here’s a visualisation of every tremblor above M3 during 2011.  Quakes with a Shindo damage rating of 5 or more [explained here] are also listed.  In the bottom left is a counter that shows that there were some 850 M3 or above tremblors from 01/01/2011 to 28/02/2011.

You’ll also note that there was a big quake on 9 March 2011.  When I first heard the reports of 11 March on Australian TV, I thought that they had only just caught up with old news.

Switch Mobile Phone Providers – a small adventure

I had been with Vodafone for many years after first having a mobile phone with Telstra.  While price isn’t the biggest determining factor, it is true that I moved 10 years ago because Vodafone’s capped plans were very economical.  However, coverage and service has not been great; until a few months ago it was all but impossible to use my mobile phone in my house.  Ironically, the coverage is getting better just as I want to switch.

Internode has offered a mobile phone service on the Optus network for several months and recently enabled international roaming, a prerequisite for us as we travel to Japan about every year.  Internode has a current promotion “Summer SIM” where you can get 6 months of a $20 plan free if you sign up a new broadband, new NodeLine telephone, new FetchTV or extend a current contract for one of those.  As I’ve been with Internode since 2004 and I’m about to be upgraded to NBN FTTH, I was happy to sign a new 2 year contract.

The end of my final Vodafone contract was 3 December 2012.  So I contacted Internode the week before to arrange for 2 SIMs.  Immediately I received an email from Australia Post informing me of the progress of the parcel.  On Tuesday I received the SIMs.  (Special thanks to the extended opening hours of the Aust Post parcel pickup at Mitchell.)

Activation of the SIMs was a straightforward call to Internode.  I was even informed that Vodafone were usually quite prompt at switching  over… no doubt they’ve had plenty of practice recently.  However, the precise time of transfer was anything from 15 minutes to 5 working days.  Nothing to do but wait.

Next morning “Voda AU” still appeared as my carrier.  I had planned to take the SIMs to work (I had no idea which SIM was my number at which was my wife’s) and fit them when the transfer happened.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I had taken them.

As soon as I got home I put one of the SIMs into my phone.  Result: No Service.  Went outside to see if I could get a better signal and received an Invalid SIM error.

Called Internode.  Nice man asked if my iPhone was unlocked…

Rang Vodafone but soon found their unlock page.  First part was easy; enter the IMEI and the security code and within 15 minutes to 1 or 2 days (getting faster) the unlock will occur.  Second part involved a full Restore of each iPhone using iTunes.

Fortunately the two phones sync with two different computers, so I could run them together.  HINT: Always transfer purchases from the iPhone to iTunes before you sync, restore or update.  However the fun didn’t stop there because of these seemingly innocuous details:

  • My wife’s phone hadn’t been updated to iOS 6.0.1
  • I had just updated my iTunes to 11

Try a restore process when the iPhone wants to be updated and you’ll see what I mean.  I think that I repeated it 3 times.  It was never clear that the restore from backup was working.  I had to watch as the icons and the amount of free space filled in to get any sense of things happening.

And iTunes 11 might have a simplified UI, but I got lost quite quickly. I had to Google to find out how to transfer purchases from the iPhone (1. click on the upper left box and select “Show Menu Bar”. 2. MENU: File > Devices > Transfer Purchases…)

The restore factory settings followed by restoring from backup only goes so far.  Then you need to Sync to get your library in there.  Now I started to see the phones return to a familiar appearance.  An update to the carrier details file and it looked like the job was done.

After a 3 hour operation I finally had 2 phones working on a new network. Internode (ISP)

2012 Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival – My impressions

Two Detriot Electric vehicles from the 1910's.  This EV thing is a fad.
Two Detriot Electric vehicles from the 1910’s. This EV thing is a fad.

This was the third CIEVF I’ve attended and it was interesting to compare to those of earlier years.


The move from the lawns near old Parliament House in previous year to the Civic Walk was a change that probably paid off.  The relaxed, open, green fields and the blocked roads for full-throttle Tesla rides were replaced by a slightly cramped mall (which was constrained by some construction works) and slightly cramped parking area.  There have been car shows there before and the multicultural festival takes up ever available cobblestone, but I wonder if the electric boats and hybrid trucks of earlier years were kept away by the lack of space.

Fortunately, it worked out quite well; there was sufficient parking reserved and power to run loops of London Circuit and level access to the mall was nearby – though the Detroit Electric with its big, wire wheels was able to drive straight over the kerb!

Where the previous site was known to those in the know, Civic brought a lot of passing traffic who would not have otherwise been exposed to EV let alone driven one, which some lucky visitors (me included) were able to do.

Change of Date (and with it, change of weather)

I understand that various reasons delayed the festival from its usual September to December.  The prospect of pleasant weather brought with it more favourable temperature conditions for charging and discharging batteries.

As it happened, the weather was very hot and windy to start but became more pleasant when a threatened thunderstorm brought only spots of rain an a cool breeze.


The standard of exhibits was good.  The Better Place stand was the largest, staffed with well-dressed, well-versed, well-enthused people.  They showcased the Holden Volt and Commodore EV while promoting their public charging deal (see below).

The Detroit Electric cars (see above) took many for a ride of the future from almost 100 years ago.  No noise, no steering wheel, driver in the back facing the passengers… must have been quite a sight driving around London Circuit.

CIT had a display for their mechanics course, teaching the service requirements of hybrid vehicles to apprentice and experienced mechanics.  (I’m more interested in a short course were an old Prius will be refurbished and an EV built.)

Lots of electric bicycles and motorcycles on show.  Everything from ones with baskets to Dutch/Danish style delivery bikes to scooters to motorbikes to racing bikes.  Bamboo-framed bike was startling enough without its bright green highlights.

Canberra EV had a display of some of the principles of EV, in particular how electric motors work.

Corrie from NilCO2 was back again with 2 cars, including a Gen II with a K140 pack by Jen, the Canberra installer for NilCO2.  (Jon, you would have loved what she has done with her car.)  Now I’m tossing up between the K40 supplementary battery or the K100 HV replacement in my Gen III.  Corrie showed me some of the new cells rated at 5000 cycles; up from 2-3000 in the previous generation.

There was a very good display from Beyond Zero Emissions explaining the fantastic notion that Australia could convert to a completely carbon-free energy future that would only take 10 years to implement at a cost of $37 billion per year, or 3% of GDP.  Download the plan from the website above.  And read it.  And write a letter to your MP asking what they intend to do about it.

loop, “the world’s first truly sustainable residential, commercial and retail experience” had a display of its development surrounding the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets.  If the brochure is anything to go by the future is driving Mitsubishi i-MiEVs.

Cars and Bikes

The Holden Volt overshadowed the single Tesla Roadster for rarity value alone.  (Though the carbon fibre interior of the Tesla beats the bright, white dashboard of the Volt hands down.)  As for specs, the Holden Volt appears to be a slightly localised version of the Chevy Volt (appearance, engine and ancillaries) with suspension tune closer to the Opel Ampera.  Only one trim level (the top one) is available at $59,990 or about $64,000 on road.  In ACT the stamp duty when purchasing new is $0, but it isn’t clear if you will get discount registration.  (Come on ACT!)

A very exciting car was one of the 7 Commodore EV developed by EV Engineering.  The battery (estimated range 150km) is more or less the shape of the  transmission of the rear-wheel-drive donor vehicle with the section in the engine bay extended upwards to the top of the firewall.  It only extends about 20cm from the firewall so that the battery can drop without fouling the steering gear and cross-members.  Yes, the car has battery swap ability and therefore could be a game-changer.  In July 2012 one broke the world distance record for an EV – 1886 kilometres of driving over a 24-hour period, in large part because batteries could be swapped for fully-charged ones in a few minutes.

There were plenty of DIY conversions from Canberra EV members, as usual.  Everyone was more than willing to discuss their cars.

DIY bikes were also in force and in some cases in competition up and down the mall.  They ranged from the elegant (Tony Castley’s Suzuki conversion) to the engineered and ended up with the Scrappy, a vision of a petrol free future on the post-apocalyptic side.

General observations

  • The Canberra EV members wore polo shirts to identify themselves and where approachable and informative.
  • However, I think that overall the festival was too passive.  For instance, there was an introduction, but no further PA announcements explaining what was happening.  (Maybe there was a restriction on PA in the mall?)
  • The Canberra EV stand could learn from Questacon.  People are fascinated by science and simple displays can explain so much.
  • Why not have a FAQ?  There are a lot of myths about EV and a simple Q&A and a few posters could have cleared things up.
  • One word: Merchandise?

My tip for next year

Invite Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool and Fully Charged fame.  Is there anyone else doing more across more platforms to promote EV, hybrids and alternative energy while defending all right-thinking people from the worst effects of Jeremy Clarkson?

Big thanks to Heather for her stories, Karl for letting me drive his i-MiEV and everyone else.  See you next year.