Eleven year-old tyres and the bush don’t mix.

My spiffy mountain bike is actually a 2001 model Cannondale Super V 700 SX.  So little had I used it that I was still on the original tyres until last week.

I had explored more tracks in Mulligan’s Flat Reserve and had just left the fenced area, taking a short burst along the 200m to rejoin the bike path.  Then the rear tyre exploded.  I had time to slow down and get out of the pedals and made a dignified dismount.  I didn’t have to look far to find a flap in the tyre as large as my little finger nail. Continue reading “MapMyFlatTyre”

Clown prince of sumo Takamisakari retires | The Japan Times

Clown prince of sumo Takamisakari retires | The Japan Times.

At the core of Sumo is stoicism.  You never complain, criticise or boast.  Whereas WWF is all about bragging and bullshit, sumo is about subtlety wrapped in extraordinary physical and mental strength.  (If you’re not familiar with pro-wrestling, just compare the original Iron Chef with Iron Chef from any other country.)

There’s no better demonstration of this than during the NHK Interview with the winner at the end of a tournament:

NHK: Congratulations on a wonderful performance.

Winner: Thank you very much

NHK: You were very powerful, your techniques were superb and you broke every sumo record in the sumo record books since 1752.  You must be ecstatic.

Winner: I just wanted do to my own sumo.

NHK: Your mother and father, their mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers have been watching you every day.  You must be very proud.

Winner: I wish to thank all of my fans for barracking for me.  I just wanted do to my own sumo. Thank you very much.


I loved Terao (the Tetsujin “Iron Man” of sumo) with his no-nonsense limitless range of techniques, his long career from age 16 to 39 and his huge pectorial muscles.  My other favourite was Tochiazuma, one of only 2 rikishi to win at all 6 divisions who was so close to becoming Yokozuna before suffering a minor stroke and heart attack.  His tears of joy during his NHK interview in January 2002 were a concession to the emotion of being only the 6th shin-Ozeki (newly-promoted Ozeki) to win and 30 years after his father won the same tournament.

Takamisakari is cut from very different cloth, he is.  He wears his heart on his sleeve while maintaining a certain dignity.  His emotions are raw but the joy, pain, anger, passion, frustration, elation and ecstasy are directed to himself; not against his opponents or his fans.  And his fans (well, everyone) love him so much.  Watch almost any video of him on Youtube and the crowd’s love for him is obvious.

“Clown Prince” is not the most fitting moniker.  Akebono gave him the nickname “Robocop” after his robotic moves (not like Peter Crouch), not for any lack of emotion.

This video shows the shikiri purification ceremony performed before each bout, but rarely seen unless you watch it live.  The banners that circle the dohyo are sponsors for the bout adding kensho-kin money to go to the winner; the envelopes are shown on the gyoji’s [umpire’s] gunbai “war fan” at the end.  At the last pass of the shikiri at about 2:20 in the video Takamisakari in the blue mawashi does his thing.

Takamisakari’s sponsors (the five striped banners) have two versions of a TV commercial featuring him: one where he wins the bout and one where he loses.  What other sports-person can sell just as well when they lose?

A great character the likes of which may not be seen again.

Harumafuji claims perfect record | The Japan Times

Harumafuji claims perfect record | The Japan Times.

Good to see good Sumo news.  Harumafuji gets “Zensho Yusho”, a perfect 15-0 record in the January tournament, thereby silencing the critics on the Yokozuna Deliberation council owing to his “poor” 9-6 record in November 2012.

Baruto sadly won’t be automatically returning to the Ozeki rank; his 8-7 record short of the 10-5 he needed for that.  He’ll stay at Sekiwake and will need good numbers in consecutive tournaments to earn promotion.


I’m tracking every movement with MapMyRide.  Every bike ride is recorded and shared with all humanity.  I keep the tracking of some activities such as walking the dogs for myself only.

The MapMy… apps and websites are quite good.  I’d previously used WalkWatch and found it easy to use but difficult to export the rich data it had captured.  I’m resigning myself to losing the maps of Japan I gathered last time I wandered around.

MapMyRide gets around that issue by saving to your account on-line when you finish a workout.  This is its stand-out feature since blowing away the app won’t affect the runs recorded on the website.  It will also allow you to upload from 9 popular training tracker apps and systems like Garmin, Polar and Nike+ as well as a few file formats.

The website and app are not without problems:

  1. Metric or imperial measurements are displayed at random, sometimes different units on the same page,  despite the measurement setting you choose.
  2. Date format reverts to MM-DD-YYYY (why?) instead of the preference chosen.
  3. The height that I input changes from 1.95m to 1.93 or 1.90, metric amounts that correspond to the nearest inch. (see point 1)
  4. The weight I input… It isn’t clear if it the website keeps track of weight, waist and resting heart rate.  Those are useful measures.  You record them against your profile, so they are probably point-in-time rather than tracked.
  5. If you do the same course multiple times in a workout, you only can analyse of one of the runs.

None of these are show-stoppers, but I’d like to see them fixed.

Happy riding.

UPDATE: 28/01/2013 16:54 – I just found another one: I just completed a lovely mountain bike workout in the drizzle on a new and very steep track at the highest climb I’ve attempted recently.  What is even more remarkable is that MapMyRide calendar believes that this happened on both 28 and 29/01/2013.

MapMyRide calendar can see your future.
MapMyRide calendar can see your future.

1020.6km on 42.04 litres

The hot weather has really helped improve my fuel consumption.  Despite using the A/C regularly to cope with the extraordinary heat, I was getting very good FC numbers.  At 482.8km my FC was 3.7l/100km (3.9 corrected) and the Distance to Empty (DTE) showed 442km. That’s a total of 925km according to the very conservative DTE reading.

If I’d maintained that 3.7 on the HSI (or 3.9 corrected) for the 925km, I would have used 36 litres from a 45 litre tank.

If I then drove using every last drop, those 9 litres would have taken me another 230km for a total of 1155km or 717 miles.

A 700 mile tank was within reach as long as a long line of ifs held true.  So then what happened?

Continue reading “1020.6km on 42.04 litres”

Prius fail – dead 12 volt battery

Once again I find myself with a flat 12 volt battery standing athwart billions of Yen of research and development… a flat battery has rendered my car inert.

Could have been a light left on, a door left ajar or just a crappy battery.  Sad face.

UPDATE 10:00: Nice man from Allianz Roadside Assist got me started.  The battery analyser said that the battery was charging just fine when the car was on but not running, this was probably the HV battery topping up the 12 volt battery.  The analyser then wanted me to rev the engine and then idle; tricky on both counts.  While in Park I had to press the brake and the accelerator together to force the engine to turn.

Is there a battery analyser for hybrid cars?

I think that I’ll invest in a jump starter, as a simple battery charger won’t start the car in that state.

Canberra: Hottest day and 10th Anniversary of the Darkest

2003 Canberra firestorm
2003 Canberra firestorm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE 19/01/2013 22:05: The Bureau of Meteorology has recorded 42.0°c as Canberra’s maximum temperature for 18/01/2013; a record for January and 0.2°c below the all time record.  Weatherzone is back to 42 too.

UPDATE 19/01/2013 09:39: I’m a little confused about yesterday’s maximum temperature.  The excellent Weatherzone website listed 42.0°c at Canberra Airport yesterday, but have since revised that back to 41.0°c and I’ve seen 40.2°c on other sources.  At time of writing, the official Bureau of Meteorology historical observation had not been recorded.  It was definitely the hottest day in 2013.  And read about the 2003 bush fires instead… that’s the interesting part.

Today the temperature hit 42.0°c with 30-40km/h winds, the hottest January day in Canberra’s history.  It beat the previous record of 41.4°c set on 31 January 1968.  The highest temperature ever recorded in Canberra is 42.2°c on 1 February 1968 (no surprise).

Somewhat eerily, 18 January is the anniversary of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the deadliest bushfire in Canberra’s recorded history.  It was a 40°c day with 60km/h winds.

Map showing the progress of the fires over time
Map showing the progress of the fires over time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three fires had been burning for almost 2 weeks in remote bush before the gates of hell opened.  The three combined and generated a weather system that was far beyond anything that models had predicted.  There were 4 deaths and almost 500 homes and other properties were damaged or destroyed.  (Before this fire, only 4 houses had been lost to bushfires in Canberra’s history.)

The speed and intensity of the fire caused CSIRO to rewrite their models of fire behaviour; in particular the wind generated by the heat and rapid intake of air to fuel the fire.

As it happened, I missed the lot.  Chikako and I had arrived from Japan on Friday 17 January.  We’d left on the Thursday after a brief snow shower in Kobe brought the temperature down to about 0°c despite the sunshine afterwards.  First thing on Saturday we drove to Sydney to see my family at my sister’s house.  As we neared the Royal National Park south of Sydney, I noticed very thick smoke rising from a fire that had probably started only 10-20 minutes before.  “That’s going to be bad”, I thought to myself.  Had my rear vision mirror been capable of seeing 200km behind me, I would have seen the beginnings of a fire-storm that would dwarf any bush fire I’d experienced.

Returning on the Sunday, by now having seen the news, we stopped at the Eagle Hawk Hill, just before the ACT border; the story of the Duffy petrol station exploding made me wonder if any petrol stations would be open in Canberra.  when we got to our apartment in Bruce, I found burnt leaves on our balconies.  The nearest fire had been some 10km away and at a lower altitude.  The wind must have been strong.

For a much more comprehensive coverage, here’s today’s live blog from the Canberra Times.  Look at the wedding photos; no-one’s forgetting that day.

Prius 90,000km service

$187.04.  Actually, $170.04 because my leasing company will be able to claim the GST.  Actually, a bit less, because I’ll pay for that from pre-tax (I think?).  After a servicing few European cars it’s nice to have one that’s cheap to service.

I turned up to pick up my car at 16:30.  There was a waiting room full customers, so I had a quick look at the Prius V i-Tech (finally!) in the showroom.  Walked back to the service reception as several people asked the whereabouts of their cars.  (It had been a busy day and still was.)  Smiling woman told me that mine was the one car that was finished.  Despite the 3 engines, 2 batteries and all those gubbins mine was the only one ready.  Cop that!

The 90,000km / 54 month service is the first one after the first major service, so it would have been a surprise if there was any drama.  I had added a check-list of my own, namely:

  • I would prefer the lightest oil you can reasonably put in.
  • Please check suspension components for wear and recommend.
  • When you rotate the tyres please use 47 psi front, 45 psi rear.
  • Please adjust fog lamps down to correct level.  I fixed them as they were far too low, but I may have gone too high.
  • And  BTW, I fitted a DEFA Engine Block Heater, so don’t panic when you see it.

I should have been more specific about the oil as I was given 10W-30, which is practically treacle.  Sure, 10W-30 has a working range from -18°c to over 38°c and recently we’ve had a lot more of the latter than the former.  But a 0W-20 oil will still work at 38°c but be lighter at normal temperatures.  Why bother?  There are fuel consumption savings in lighter oil.  My old Rover P6B 3500 got better fuel consumption with Penrite 40W-70 than lighter oils but that was because the engine was so worn.  A modern car with 90,000km (much less on the engine, when you think about it) should be just worn-in, not worn-out.

Suspension tested good.  I’m considering some stiffening plates so I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t make things worse.

I had my good Bridgestone ecopia PZ-X tyres on the front but rotation means that the Ovation ecovision VI-682 get a go.  Fortunately, by the time it gets cold (25 April on the dot) I should have done 5000km and I’ll be able to rotate them back before the tricky road conditions start.  I just noticed that the Chinese tyres have a maximum pressure of 44 psi.  Too bad, there’s 47 psi in there now.  (The ecopias will take 60 psi or more if you’re mad.)

Fog lamps were adjusted down.  You may remember that I adjusted my fog lamps when I fitted the DEFA EBH.  The lamps might have well pointed backwards for all the light they produced.  However, I adjusted them far too high.  Now they seem very low, but better.

I got to talk to the Scottish mechanic when I picked up the car and showed him the DEFA EBH.  He was impressed.

Oh, and it does look like they replaced the air conditioning filter but didn’t charge me for it.  They’re about $50 each.

And special mention to the mechanic who discovered that the left-hand-side rear body support was loose and the bolt was cross-threaded.  Now I don’t hear a rattle when I go over a bump, something I was blaming on the loose rear spoiler.  Nice work!

No doubt I’ll be contacted by Canberra Toyota to see how my service experience was.  I’ll have to tell them about the oil, the rear body support… and the A/C filter.

Prius mods 5 – a few bits and pieces

The latest round of mods comes from the Prius Club of Queensland from where you can buy some of those spiffy accessories you’ve only seen on the PriusChat Shop.  Parcel arrived on Saturday (well, this is Canberra) so I was able to get started in the afternoon.

Cam you spot all four mods?
Can you spot all four mods?

Front weather shields – ClimAir Profi

It’s been so hot the past few weeks that I’ve left a gap in the front windows whenever I parked the car.  However, this can allow rain (what rain?) and dust to get in.  The ClimAir Profi weather shields are very slender and are made in Germany where, as Vince reminds us, they always make good stuff.  On days when it’s not too hot or there’s a nice breeze, opening the windows a crack can be more pleasant than A/C.

Fitting was straightforward and without clips.  The weather shield bends just enough to allow fitting without fixtures.  Getting the rubber on the right side of the shield is a bit tricky.  Don’t be tempted to remove the clear sticker at the bottom; it protects the lower window rubber from direct contact.

The instructions advise closing the window 5 times to seat them.  John advised me to manually lift the windows until they are fully raised (the AUTO function will bounce back) and leave them for a few days.  Perhaps because of the hot weather, after just one day the AUTO function was mostly working without resistance.

Since I am aiming for an aerodynamic package, why would I fit something to spoil the clean lines.  There are conditions where an open window is more efficient than using A/C, as long as the HV battery remains cool.  (Yes, A/C in a Prius is for more than just personal comfort.)  Any concern I had disappeared when I noticed that the AeroPrius YuraStyle NEO sports similar weather shields front and rear.  Good enough for him to do 1000 miles with, good enough for me.

Thin weather shield on the front window
Thin weather shield on the front window

Rear bumper protector

My bumper is already scratched.  Getting a protector is as much to hide the scratches as to protect from more.  But there is something to be said about the way that the black sets off nicely with the black window and spoiler and the red.  (Should I get smoked tail-light lens covers to complete the look?)

Alignment is easy since the centre ridge aligns to the door strike.  There’s also a tiny mark that seems to be a moulding point for the bumper.

The mistake I made at first was to place it hard against the panel under the tailgate.  Some persuasion later (that stuff is sticky!) I was able to reposition the protector back 10mm so that the curve in the protector matched the curve in the bumper.

Spider web on fuel tank cap

Prius joke.  Some might say it looks funnier on a Landcruiser.  You be the judge.

After washing the area with standard car shampoo, I prepared the surface with Repco Wax and Grease Remover, or “panel wipe” as television’s Edd China would say.  This really cleans the surface and gets rid of anything that might affect the adhesion.  Forget glass cleaner, this stuff gets it clean.

Pulling the decal off its backing was fun, as the thin sticker stretched and stuck to itself; a bit like the real thing.  After I’d placed it on car I had to lift some ends to remove kinks (boy it stretches!).  I used a sharp blade to cut the web and wrapped those bits into the gap.  Zoom in on the photo above for detail.

Shark-fin antenna

Shark fin is a literally tasteless ingredient of expensive soup in Asia.  You can get the same texture from gelatin or vermicelli at a fraction of the cost.

By contrast, a shark fin antenna is so cool.  Again I washed and then cleaned with panel wipe to get a good surface.  Fitting is a bit of a chore; it is easy to get it all out of whack.  I used a long rule across the back to check the alignment against the tailgate window gap.  The rear window washer jet was a reference point for the centre.  Once the antenna is positioned, use masking tape at the front edge and then the sides; when the antenna is stuck down within these guides it should be in perfect alignment.

Attaching the cable to the antenna socket required a washer (not provided) to give a tight connection.

Sticking the antenna while checking the alignment was a little fiddly, but worth it; it is much smaller than the standard whip.  There is some debate over whether the original antenna is within the surface layer of air and therefore changing to a flatter antenna has no effect.  It sure looks cooler and reception is fine.

The only problem is that the new 3R3 Wildfire Red Mica paint on the antenna is much more vibrant than the rest of the paint.  That will buff out.

Thanks to John from the Prius Club of Queensland for the goods and good advice.