Izera Z100 Crossover SUV prototype. Photo: ElectroMobility Poland.

Izera is an electric vehicle brand, named after the Izera Mountains in south-western Poland. It is owned by ElectroMobility Poland, a state-controlled joint venture established in October 2016 by four Polish power companies: PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA, Energa SA, Enea SA and Tauron Polska Energia SA. Each has a 25% share. It even has a marketing slogan “A million reasons to keep on driving.” As if this isn’t enough, the company has been able to design and make two prototypes, with the intention of launching an electric vehicle production facility: a hatchback (T100) and crossover/ SUV (Z100), both suitable for families.

Poland is the largest European state that has no vehicle brand, despite the automotive industry being the second largest in the country, at 7% of GDP, over 200 000 jobs in production and 270 000 other jobs.

The Izera EVs were designed based on a detailed analysis of Polish consumer expectations and car clinic studies. Production models are not meant to be luxury products but affordable vehicles for Poles. ElectroMobility Poland wants to introduce an installment payments system so that the total cost of ownership of the car is less than comparable internal cumbustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Much of the prototype design originates with Torino Design. ElectroMobility Poland intends to start production around 2023, which means that there is ample time to refine the prototypes into production vehicles. ElectroMobility Poland’s CEO Piotr Zaremba says the production models “will retain the characters of the presented vehicles”.

Production vehicle characteristics announced: 0 to 100 km/h in under 8 seconds; range about 400 km; two battery pack sizes that are suitable for home chargers as well as fast-charging stations; a dedicated smartphone app; all-LED lighting; high-resolution LCD touchscreens; Electronic Stability Control; Forward Collision Warning; Blind Spot Detection; Traffic Sign Recognition; and probably much more. Dimensions of the prototypes and the proposed production vehicles were not revealed.

ElectroMobility Poland says it is negotiating the purchase of a vehicle production platform from Germany’s EDAG Engineering GmbH, based in Wiesbaden. It is also active in the fields of product development, production plant development, plant engineering, limited series manufacturing, modules and optimization. After a production platform is in place, the prototypes can be industrialized, and a suitable production facility constructed.

A short YouTube video shows the current state of the design prototypes, released to the public.

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (Photo: Wuling)

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is being made by the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint-venture, with each company having 50.1, 44 and 5.9% of the shares, respectively. The company is located in Liuzhou prefecture, in south-eastern China. It is known for its microvans (bread box cars), especially the ICE-powered (internal combustion engine) Wuling Sunshine. As China has become richer, microvans have become less popular, encouraging Wuling to focus on other segments.

After first being announced in 2020-03, recent attention has focused on deliveries for the Mini EV. It was launched 2020-07-24, with 15 000 vehicles were sold in the first 20 days. Now, there are more than 50 000 orders. According to Wuling partner, General Motors, the vehicle is inspired by the Japanese Kei car, their smallest highway-legal passenger car segment.

In the future, about 100 Experience stores will be opened, throughout China, to market the car, particularly in urban centres. According to Gasgoo, this is being done to attract fashion conscious younger owners.

The Mini EV dimensions are: length 2917 mm on a 1 940 mm wheelbase, width 1 493 mm and height 1 621 mm. It can provide seating for four adults.

The range is 120 km with a 9.2 kWh battery or 170 km with a 13.8 kWh battery. Charging is via a 240 V outlet. The motor has 13 kW of power, and 85 Nm of torque. This provides a top speed of 100 km/h. It comes equipped with an intelligent battery management system (BMS), as well as low-temperature pre-heating technology and battery insulation. It has an IP68 waterproof and dustproof rating and, according to Wuling, been put through 16 rigorous safety tests. The battery’s functions can be remotely monitored via a smartphone app.

The price of the vehicle in China ranges from 28 800 yuan (ca. €3 550) to 38 800 yuan (ca. €4 750).

More than half (57%) of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV’s body consists of high-strength steel. It also comes with the anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and reversing radar. The back seats are equipped with two ISOFIX child safety seat restraint interfaces. When the rear seats are not in use, there is 741 litres of storage space. In addition, there are 12 storage compartments in the cabin, including a smartphone tray.

While the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is currently only available in China, some characteristics hint that it could be built to satisfy European microcar (L7e), or city car (A-segment) specifications. The 13 kW engine power hits at it being a microcar, can only have a maximum of 15 kW. However, the contra-indication to this is the seating for four adults. This would mean that the payload would exceed the maximum 200 kg allowed. If the rear seats were removed, this would put the maximum payload below 200 kg. As a city car, the vehicle would have to be equipped with airbags, and other safety equipment, raising the price.

Wuling Hongguang Mini EV interior, with the rear seats folded (cutaway). Photo: Wuling.

Given a choice between a Zetta CM1 and a Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, there is no doubt (at least in my mind) that the Zetta is a superior vehicle, and probably gives better value.

Zetta CM1: A tidbit

The Zetta City Module 1 (CM1) is the first Russian built EV to enter production, according to Automotive Logistics. Unfortunately, detailed information is difficult to access. Even the English version of the Zetta company site fails to mention the CM1, devoting its content to technological issues of its drive train, especially the in-wheel = in-hub induction motors. However, some information is available from Russian Auto News.

The modular approach used by Zetta means that different modules can be built for different purposes, goods as well as person transport. Some of these will be mass produced focussing on common needs. This is the case of the CM1. Others may have more limited appeal, such as outfitting a vehicle to accommodate a person with disabilities, who has very specific and individual needs. Yet flexibility is not the only attribute. The Zetta is also technologically efficient, economic and – to repeat that so-often misused term – ecological.

The in-hub drive train is exceedingly important for Zetta. Zetta CEO Denis Schurovsky says “Summer and winter validation has shown us that induction motors can endure road dynamic stresses. They are resistant to chemicals, dust, water, etc. All wheels are connected to a single management system that simulates electric ABS and ESP with high recuperation capability.” Each in-hub motor is rated at 20 kW, for a total of 80 kW, a respectable power for such a small vehicle.

The CM1 has a length of 3 030 mm on a 2 000 mm wheelbase, and with a width of 1 270 mm and height of 1 600 mm. It is configured as a four-seater. Inside EVs makes a point that the car is just 340 mm longer than a Smart Fortwo, and that the seating must only be for children in the back. This misses the point entirely that an EV with in-hub electric motors will use space much more efficiently than an ICE (internal combustion engine) designed vehicle. Top speed is 120km/h and battery capacity ranges between 10kWh and 32kWh, for a range of between 200 and 560 km. Depending on the battery pack selected, the weight of the vehicle should be between 500 and 700 kg.

About 90% of the vehicle content is Russian. Much of the remainder is in the batteries, imported from China. The vehicle has been in development since 2017.

At a price of €5 300, Zetta CM1 claims to be the cheapest EV in the world. The vehicle has been developed by Russian Engineering and Manufacturing Company (REMC) in Toliatti/ Togliatti, the Russian city named after Italian Communist Party Leader Palmiro Togliatti (1893 – 1964). Estimated production is 15 000 vehicles a year.

And so to the question many readers will be asking, would I buy one? I would like to answer yes, especially after a theoretical regret at prioritizing a Japanese Subaru Justy four wheel drive in 1986, instead of the cheaper Russian Lada station wagon (VAZ-2104) or its similarly priced, but considerably larger and more powerful 4×4 off-roader, the Lada Niva (VAZ-2121). Andy Thompson in Cars of the Soviet Union (2008), states that Lada “gained a reputation as a maker of solid, unpretentious and reliable cars for motorists who wanted to drive on a budget.” It is my hope that the Zetta will offer purchasers a similar, positive experience. Unfortunately, the answer will probably be no, and I will be unable to engage in the one-upmanship that comes from owning a €5 300 EV, capable of doing the same basic driving tasks as a €53 000 (or more) Rivian R1S or Tesla Model Y.


Inderøy, in Trøndelag County, Norway, is my Amenia, in New York, USA, my Bournville, in Worcestershire, England, or my Powell River, in British Columbia, Canada. These are, in their various ways, manifestations of the Garden City movement. These places are mentioned, because much of this weblog post involves the name dropping of people who have contributed to my understanding of the importance of the rural environment, along with some of the books they have written, and the concepts they have developed.

I will begin with a distant memory of a monologue by landscape architect, Clive Justice (1926 – ). During dinner he berated the people present, for regarding agriculture as a benign intrusion on nature. Creating farm fields while destroying the natural environment was not something that should be done unless it was absolutely necessary. That dinner was probably held over fifty years ago, and other people who were present may have had completely different memories from the event.

The firm of Justice & Webb, landscape architects, worked on many divergent planning projects, including the village of Gold River. The site of Gold River is in the traditional territory of the Mowachaht and Muchalaht peoples on the west coast of Vancouver Island. In the 1860s Chinese gold miners were attracted to the area, and started panning for gold. The name Gold River first appeared on maps in 1871. In the early 1960s the Tahsis company logged at the mouth of the Gold River, before building a pulp mill there. The site was chosen because of the flat delta land, deep-sea access for freighters, and an adequate supply of fresh water needed to make pulp. With a population of about 1 500, it is too small to be considered a Garden City. Yet, some might regard it as an almost ideal retirement location – apart from the rain!

The nominal starting point for the Garden City movement begins with the publication of Edward Bellamy’s (1850 -1898) novel, Looking Backward: 2000 – 1887 (1888). It tells the story of Julian West, who sleeps for 113 years, waking in 2000, to find a transformed America, that has become a socialist utopia. Guided by Doctor Leete who explains life in this new age, including reduced working hours, low retirement age, an almost instantaneous delivery of goods and free public kitchens. The book discusses problems with capitalism, the nationalization of industry, the use of an industrial army for production and distribution and the free delivery of cultural products and experiences.

A more practical start for the Garden City movement begins with Ebenezer Howard (1850 – 1928), an English urban planner, with the construction of Letchworth Garden City in 1903. Before this, Howard had written To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898), which described a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together. Howard was inspired by Belamy’s book to include the benefits of both the natural, rural and urban environments while avoiding their disadvantages.

Howard was also an advocate of Georgism, also called Geoism, proposed by the American Henry George (1839 – 1897), and described in Progress and Poverty (1879), a book that investigates the paradox of increasing inequality and poverty amid economic and technological progress, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of land value tax (rent capture) and other anti-monopoly reforms to resolve social problems. After deciding against gold mining in British Columbia, George worked as a printer and sometime journalist for the San Francisco Times. Georgism was only one of a number of alternative economic systems proposed over the years. Two others that have been influential were the Social Credit movement, and Technocracy.

Yet, Howard was not alone in his aspirations. Patrick Geddes (1854 – 1932) was a pioneering town planner, a Francophile with roots in Scotland. His contributions include the introduced the concept of region, and invented the term conurbation. Later, he explained how neotechnics could remake a world freed from over-commercialization. He was influenced by Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), explaining the evolution of society using Spencer evolutionary biology’s metaphors, and Frederic Le Play (1806–1882), using Le Play’s analysis of the key units of society as constituting Lieu, Travail, Famille (Place, Work, Family), but changing Family to Folk. Both Geddes and Le Play regarded the family as the central biological unit of human society.

The English planned city that I am most attracted to is Bournville, near Birmingham. In the early twenty teens, I had even arranged for twenty pupils and myself to visit it, a nearby Cadbury factory, and several other facilities including the Lode Lane Jaguar/ Land Rover plant in Solihull. However, these plans were scuttled when the pupils decided they would prefer to visit southern Spain. Since the school could easily see that there was no real educational purpose to this proposal, they didn’t get any school trip in the end.

Bournville village started in 1893, with George Cadbury’s purchase of 0.5 km² of land close to the Cadbury works, with the view of creating a village that would ‘alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living conditions’. By 1900, the village consisted of 313 Arts and Crafts residences on 1.3 km2 of land. These houses featured traditional exteriors, modern interiors and large gardens. They were designed by William Alexander Harvey. These designs became a blueprint for many other model villages. Currently, there are 7 800 houses on 4 km² of land with 0.4 km² of parks and open spaces.

Lewis (1895 – 1990) and Sophia (1900 – 1997) Mumford bought 5.5 Ha of property in Amenia, along with a house and a remise/ carriage house/ cart shed (later modified into a garage) in the late 1920s, originally as a summer residence. By the mid-1930s, and for the rest of their lives, they lived there permanently, apart from sojourns for teaching purposes. This experience of living in a rural area influenced Mumford’s thinking about cities.

Among Mumford’s circle of friends was Frederic Osborn (1885–1978), who was influential in the British garden city movement, especially his direct involvement with Welwyn Garden City.

Another friend was Clarence Stein (1882 – 1975), who was intimately connected with the North American garden city movement. This found expression in the British Columbia city of Kitimat, a town that came into existence in 1951 after the British Columbia government invited Alcan to develop an aluminum smelter, including a dam, a 16 km connecting tunnel, a powerhouse, 82 km transmission line, a deep-sea terminal in addition to the smelter. Stein was engaged by Alcan to design/ plan Kitimat so that it would attract and retain workers. Stein’s design separated industry from the residential community, with large areas for expansion. The design featured looped streets surrounding a mall linked with 45 km of connecting walkways. With a population of about 8 000, an area of about 242 km2, it is located on the coast in a wide, flat valley. At 54 N 128 W, it represents an almost ideal retirement location – apart from the snow!

The third and (in my opinion) best retirement location to be mentioned here is Powell River. With a population of about 13 000 people in its 29 km2 city, and 17 000 in total throughout the area (occupying about 800 km2) it is a comfortably sized small town. It provides a Mediterranean climate of the warm-summer type (Köppen: Csb), not normally found so far north. Its historic townsite was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, “recognizing the exceptionally well preserved early 20th Century planned community, rooted firmly in the Garden City Design Movement and the Arts and Crafts philosophy.” It is home to the Patricia Theatre, Canada’s oldest continuously operating theatre, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1928 a Spanish renaissance-style which gave it good acoustics. It also hosts the first credit union in British Columbia (dating from 1939).

Trish and I visited Inderøy in 1979, at the age of 29 and 30, respectively. We moved there permanently ten years later, at the age of 38 and 39. The question many ask, most notably myself on numerous occasions, is why? Once again, it is a location that provides the benefits of both the natural, rural and urban environments while avoiding their disadvantages.

This reasoning comes into conflict with the two most important answers to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. The answer may be 42 (at least according to Douglas Adams, 1952 – 2001) but according to Geoffrey West (1940 – ), author of Scale: the universal laws of growth, innovation, sustainability, and the pace of life in organisms, cities, economies, and companies, the most important urban number is 115%. To understand it better, some people may prefer the TED talk explanation.

This answer uses an exponential function where x is raised to the power of y, often written x^y, but better understood using pizzas. Say that a city of 10 000 people has one pizzeria. In a culturally similar city of 20 000 people (a doubling), there should not be two pizzerias, but 2.2191, if fractional pizzerias were allowed. At a population of 40 000 this becomes five (4.9245) pizzerias. At 100 000 it is up to 14 (.1254), This magical number comes from: finding the increased population ratio: 200 000 / 100 000 = 2. Then using this population ratio, the current number of pizzerias, and the magic number: x^y is x to the power of y = 1.15.

This series of numbers continues, so that a city with 400 000 people has not 40 or 46 pizzerias, but 53. Yes, this involved a rounding to the closest whole number from the calculated result of 52.9, as does the calculation for a city of 800 000 people, which ends up with 122 pizzerias, when the calculation yields 121.67.

These extra pizzerias are regarded as an advantage because they increase choice. Then, along comes COVID-19, and these same cities face the negative consequences of this number game. Following the logic of the first example (but without any science), if a city of 200 000 experiences 23 deaths, then a city of 100 000 (half the size) will experience 10 deaths. In this case it is more advantageous to live in a smaller city. Some people might be astute enough to understand that it might be better not to live in a city at all.

My response to Geoffrey West is that people do not need more choice, but less. Tranquillity and simplicity are two of the most important virtues to be valued, if only because it gives people more time to indulge their interests, including the enjoyment of the natural environment, and craftspersonship.

Some of the most important books of the twenty-tens are about economics and society. These include: Rutger Bregman’s (1988 – ) Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour Workweek (2016), Thomas Piketty’s (1971 – ) Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2013) and Capital and Ideology (2019), as well as Kate Raworth’s (1970 – ) Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist (2017). Bregman’s and Raworth’s ideas were discussed in a Keywords weblog post.

Full disclosure: I have not actually read any of Thomas Piketty’s major works. However, my dear wife Patricia has read the entirety of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and I have received the benefit of breakfast summaries of its content.

I have read Raworth, and she writes: “Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.” (p.

So much for the necessary theory. The next step is to operationalize it. On 2020-04-08, The Amsterdam City Doughnut was launched by Raworth and others, including Janine Benyus (1958 – ). This turns the Doughnut into a tool for transforming Amsterdam, downscaling the Doughnut to a manageable level.

Even the metropolis of Paris is undergoing a form of ruralization. Anne Hidalgo (1959 – ), re-elected as mayor on 2020-06-28, made the creation of the “ville du quart d’heure” – the quarter-hour/ 15-minute city – a pillar of her campaign. This concept was developed by Carlos Moreno (1959 – ), who believes the core of human activity in cities must move away from oil-era priorities of roads and car ownership. To do this “We need to reinvent the idea of urban proximity. We know it is better for people to work near to where they live, and if they can go shopping nearby and have the leisure and services they need around them too, it allows them to have a more tranquil existence.” Moreno’s chrono-urbanism involves or having leisure, work, and shopping close to home, especially “changing our relationship with time, essentially time relating to mobility.”

Paris, as the quarter-hour city’

This plan has been criticized for its urban planning policy that favors cycle paths at the expense of cars, and its proposal to make Paris a “100% bicycle” city, with new bicycle paths created by transforming parking spaces. It also wants to create new links between the Paris itself, and other cities in Greater Paris. Under active consideration is the creation of urban forests, on the forecourt of the town hall, the Gare de Lyon as well as behind the Opéra Garnier. In addition there is a proposal to create two large parks, one in the Bercy-Charenton district and another in the 15th arrondissement. To pedestrianize the centre of Paris, traffic in the first four arrondissements will be strictkly limited. It also promises to make the canteens 100% organic and to develop two large vegetable gardens in the woods of Vincennes and Boulogne. Hidalgo wants to transform the gates of Paris into squares, starting with the Porte de la Chapelle. The share of social and intermediate housing is to increase to 25% compared to 22.6% in 2020. Hidalgo is very critical of Airbnb, which she accuses of depriving Parisians of housing. To ensures that the city is clean, its budget will be increased from 500 million to one billion euros per year.

The weblog post will end with a quotation from Lewis Mumford that inspires reflection: “In the name of economy a thousand wasteful devices would be invented; and in the name of efficiency new forms of mechanical time-wasting would be devised: both processes gained speed through the nineteenth century and have come close to the limit of extravagant futility in our own time. But labor-saving devices could only achieve their end-that of freeing mankind for higher functions-if the standard of living remained stable. The dogma of increasing wants nullified every real economy and set the community in a collective squirrel-cage.”

Blocklisting: A tidbit

Black Lives Matter. Let us make sure our vocabulary reflects dignity. (Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona)

Black Lives Matter, and it is increasingly important for everyone to understand that eliminating racism in all of its manifestations is a goal that has to be started immediately. This includes eliminating offensive terms from technical vocabulary.

There is no need to add colour to a term describing a series of names or other items to be excluded (blocklist) or included (allowlist). This applies to processes as well (block or allow).

Many technological companies are doing something about it. This includes changing the commonly used master/ slave duality with main/ default/ primary/ root for the former and secondary/ auxilliary/ derived/ dependent for the latter.

While the focus in this weblog post is on racism, it does not mean that sexism and other abominations can be forgotten. These too should be included in a general clean-up of technical vocabulary.

Two of the terms I have difficulty with regarding components are male/ female. I have never understood why they are used, when a more neutral input/ output expression is available.

It would be appreciated if readers could add comments to this blog to indicate additional terms that should be changed (with or without suggested substitutes). These could be technical or more general terms.

eCaravan: a tidbit

eCaravan, an electrified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, awaiting its first test flight (Photo: MagniX)

On 2020-05-28 aviation history was made, with the first 30 m test flight of an eCaravan, an electrified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The eCaravan was modified in Goldcoast, Queensland, Australia by Magnix, so that it is powered by a 560 kW magni500 all-electric propulsion system with a 1 tonne, 750V lithium-ion battery. The flight consumed $6 worth of electricity, needing 30-40 min of charging.

The electric aircraft propulsion company MagniX worked with engineering and flight test specialist AeroTEC on this project. In its current state, the Magni500-powered plane can fly 160 km with 4 or 5 passengers while keeping reserve power. The companies are aiming for a certification by the end of 2021.

In a slightly more distant future, the companies hope to offer machines capable of operating 160 km flights with reserve capacity, and a full load of nine passengers. The longer term goal is to enable 800 km flights, which account for about 45% of all flights flown in the world. Some decades ago, smaller commuter airlines operated such routes. The general aircraft operating these routes disappeared because they were economically unviable. They were replaced by larger, more complex regional jets. Electric aircraft could provide the economic characteristics that make such routes feasible again. However, it is the relatively low energy density of batteries that has constrained the range and payload of electric aircraft. Magnix is studying other technologies, including lithium-sulfur batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

The advantage of electric propulsion systems is their environmentally friendly operation, fewer moving parts and simplicity, compared to ICE engined aircraft. Some estimate that electric propulsion will reduce operating costs by up to 80%.

In a previous weblog post, Alice, an all-electric, nine-passenger aircraft being developed by Eviation Aircraft, was discussed. That project was disrupted in 2020-01 when an electric system fire damaged an Alice prototype in Arizona. Magnix had also been named one of two companies to supply propulsion systems for it.

The eCaravan in flight at Moses Lake, Washington, USA, 2020-05-28. Photo: Magnix

This weblog post was updated 2020-06-05.

World Goth Day: A tidbit

Ophilia (1851) by John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896).

Today (2020-05-22) is Goth Day #12. World Goth Day originated in at BBC in 2009, when Radio 6 was looking at a number of music subcultures including Goth music. Goth DJs Cruel Britannia and Martin Oldgoth decided that May 22 would be the day each year to celebrate it.

Unfortunately, being an active Goth has a number of negative consequences. Researchers Robert Young, Helen Sweeting and Patrick West write: “identification as belonging to the Goth subculture [at some point in their lives] was the best predictor of self harm and attempted suicide [among young teens]”, and that it was most possibly due to a selection mechanism (persons that wanted to harm themselves later identified as goths, thus raising the percentage of those persons who identify as goths).”

Thus, the decision to publish this weblog post has less to do with the celebration of World Goth Day in 2020, and more to do with helping susceptible people cope with life in this challenging period of time when we all face the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us reach out with friendship and inclusion (virtually or in real-life) to those who no longer feel part of society, including those who self-identify as Goths.

In order to talk with a Goth, it might be useful to know something about Gothism!

Of course there is an official World Goth Day website complete with a list of world events. I appreciate that one of the three goths decorating this page is following COVID-19 procedures, and is equipped with a face mask.

Many attribute the start of Gothism to English author Horace Walpole (1717 – 1797) who started it off by writing The Castle of Otranto (1764). Other readers may prefer to read Ann Radcliffe’s (1764 – 1823), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) also contributed to the genre with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), also available in its Disney animated adaption, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Then again there are classics such as Bram Stoker’s (1847 -1912) Dracula (1897), and Anne Rice’s (1941 – ) The Vampire Chronicles (1976).

The first mention of Gothic Rock is by music critic John Stickney to describe a meeting in a wine-cellar with Jim Morrison, described as “the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors“. While some musicians may favour The Velvet Underground as the ultimate Gothic rock group, my own preference is for Siouxsie [Sioux aka Susan Janet Ballion (1957 – )] and the Banshees, and their track Spellbound (1981). In Norway, the Stavanger band, Theatre of Tragedy, contributed to the Gothic metal genre with its beauty and the beast aesthetic that combined harsh male with clean female vocals. Other Goth oriented bands include: Bauhaus, The Chameleons, The Cure and Sisters of Mercy.

In terms of film, the 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller, Parasite, is outstanding, and should appeal to many Goths. Another film with Gothic elements is The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Because of its black humour and general lack of seriousness, it may offer a suitable dose of escapism to help people struggling to cope with a pandemic. Other relevant films in chronological order include: The Hunger (1983), Beetlejuice (1988), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Crow (1994) and The Craft (1996).

There are also computer/ console based Goth games. The Gothic role-playing game series was developed by Piranha Bytes GmbH, in Essen, Germany. It consists of three versions Gothic (2001), Gothic II (2002) and Gothic 3 (2006). There is also a fourth version, Arcania: Gothic 4 (2007), developed by Spellbound Entertainment AG, from Offenburg, Germany. This company has reorganized as Black Forest Games GmbH.

Fashionistas are undoubtedly irritated about the late reference to clothing in this weblog post. Cintra Wilson (1967 – ), writing You Just Can’t Kill It, in the New York Times 2008-09-17, notes: “The goth subculture, however, for those who live it, is more than the sum of its chicken bones, vampire clichés and existential pants. It remains a visual shortcut through which young persons of a certain damp emotional climate can broadcast to the other members of their tribe who they are. Goth is a look that simultaneously expresses and cures its own sense of alienation.”

My own approach to the Gothic was not through literature, music, film, games or fashion, but art, especially that found in the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Ophelia (1851) by John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896) is one such inspiring work. In addition, John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was particularly attracted to the Gothic in architecture, which he commented at length upon in, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).

Oatly & Einride: A tidbit

Oatly has devised a process to provide a vegan alternative to milk. Now it is concentrating on making that process more sustainable, but reducing CO2 emissions. Artwork: Oatly.

My personal transition from omnivore to vegan/ vegetarian is proceeding almost as slowly as my transition away from driving a diesel to an electric vehicle. One positive change, is that we purchase our eggs and milk (and some honey as well as produce) from neighbouring farms, rather than grocery stores.

I asked my personal shopper to add some Oatly products onto her shopping list. Instead, she invited me to help her shop at the local Co-operative in Straumen. Thus, I was able to purchase one litre (about a quart) of havredrikk kalsium (oatmilk calcium). Unfortunately, I was unable to find the other products I wanted to try: havregurt vanilje (oatgurt vanilla); havregurt turkisk (oatgurt Turkish) and iMat fraiche (Oat creme fraiche).

Oatly is a Swedish vegan food brand, producing dairy alternatives from oats. Based on research at Lund University. The company’s enzyme technology turns oats into a nutritional liquid food suitable for the human digestive system. The company operates in southern Sweden with its headquarters in Malmö, with a production & development centre in Landskrona. The brand is available in more than 20 Asian and European countries, Australia, Canada and USA.

Oatly claims to be a sustainable food manufacturer. Artwork: Oatly

Oatly also tries to be sustainable, by reducing its contributions to global warming. They also produce a sustainability report. It shows that almost half of Oatly’s contribution to greenhouse gasses comes from the cultivation of ingredients, a quarter from transport, 15% from packaging and 6% from production (p. 26).

Oatly is not perfect. For example, there has been some controversy about it selling oat residue to a pig farm. On the other hand, it has benefited from two publicity attacks. First, Arla, the Swedish dairy company, attempted to discourage people from buying vegan alternatives to cow’s milk (mjölk in Swedish) using a fake brand Pjölk. Oatly responded by trademarking several fictitious brands Pjölk, Brölk, Sölk and Trölk and began using them on their packaging. Second, the Swedish dairy lobby LRF Mjölk, won a lawsuit against Oatly for using the phrase “Milk, but made for humans” for £ (sic) 100 000. When Oatly published the lawsuit text, it lead to a 45% increase in Oatly’s Swedish sales. Once again, this seems to suggest that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

On 2020-05-14, Oatly and Einride announced that Oatly will use four 42-tonne vehicles starting 2020-10 to transport goods from production sites in southern Sweden, using Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform. This is estimated to lower its climate footprint (on the affected routes) by 87% compared to diesel trucks: 107.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year per truck, about 430 tonnes per year in total, or 2 100 tonnes throughout the five year duration of the contract.

Part of the solution involves optimizing electric trucks operations using computer-controlled logistics with Einride’s Freight Mobility Platform software. Accurate transport planning allows 24 tonnes of goods to be transported an average of 120 kilometers without charging. It involves optimizing and coordinating drivers, vehicles, routes as well as charging. On a typical shift, three drivers will drive four different trucks. This means that one truck is always charging, which places less strain on batteries, and making the operation more durable and economical.

Oakly’s 42-tonne Einride trucks will feature a DAF glider, with Emoss drivetrain and Einride software. Photo: Einride

This initial iteration involves a DAF glider (a vehicle without a drivetrain/ prime mover/ power source, fitted with a Emoss motor. Future iterations may involve a Einride Pod, previously referred to as a T-pod.


The literal meaning of Shanzhai is mountain stronghold, referring to the bastion of a regional warlord/ bandit. Its remoteness protects it from centralized, official control. However, shanzhai also refers to an attitude, documented by Byung-Chul Han (1957 – ), a South Korean-born Swiss/ German metalurgist/ philosopher/ cultural theorist. He wrote Shanzhai: Dekonstruktion auf Chinesisch in German, published by Merve, Berlin in 2011. An English translation, Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese appeared in 2017, published by MIT.

The chapters in the book refer to Chinese terms and their definitions. They are Quan: Law, Zhen ji: Original, Xian zhan: Seals of Leisure, Fuzhi: Copy, and Shanzhai: Fake.

As indicated by the name of the last chapter, shanzhai typically refers to something that is copycat/ fake. Another English word associated with it is tinkering. Before: A shanzhai factory has traditionally referred to a poorly equipped, low-quality, family-based production facility making inferior products. Now: Fewer of the facilities and products are of poor quality, despite no or fake brand labels.

Han realizes that it can be difficult for people of European ancestry to set themselves into a Taoistic mindset. “… transformation takes place not as a series of events or eruptions, but discreetly, imperceptibly, and continually. Any kind of creation that occurred at one absolute unique point would be inconceivable. Discontinuity is a characteristic of time based on events. (p. 8)

Han quotes Zhu Xi (1130 – 1200), who offers insight into shanzhai, and incidentally some pertinent advice for these COVID-19 times, “Under normal conditions we adhere to the rules of convention, but in times of change we use quan.” (p. 10) A quan is a movable weight on a balance scale. The implication is that there can be no absolute values, only relative values that have to be moved to find the point of balance.

There are some who equate Shanzhai with piracy, inside as well as outside China. At about the same time Byung-Chul Han was writing his book, Ni Ping (1959 – ), a Chinese actress and television hostess, proposed the elimination of shanzhai works, arguing that their copycat nature stifled genuine creativity and blurred property rights. During the ensuing debate, it was pointed out that shanzhai products are not pirated products. Genuine creativity is not so much originality, as it is government sanctioned creativity, which may be considerably less original than manifestations described as copycat. At one level, shanzhai is rebellion/ resistance to the mainstream.

Discussing Zhen ji, Han writes, “The Chinese idea of the original is determined not by a unique act of creation, but by unending process, not by definitive identity but by constant change.” (p. 13) This contrasts with Plato’s concepts of the beautiful or good, which are immutable. Being is replaced with a multiform, multilayered process. Masterpieces will be deconstructed/ viewed differently in different ages. He notes, “Copying is the same as praising.” (p. 16)

Han then examines Orson Welles’ (1915 – 1985) docudrama, F is for Fake (1973). “Elmyr [de Hory (1906 – 1976)] is deliberately painting badly so that his forgery looks more like an original. In this way he turns the conventional relationship between master and forger on its head: the forger paints better than the master.” (p. 17) Han then goes on to remind readers that Michelangelo was a forger of genius, substituting perfect copies for borrowed originals. (p. 19)

Han regards seal stamps (xian zhan) as part of a picture’s composition. Indeed, space is left on paintings for later inscriptions. These seals vary in size from 4mm to 200 mm in diameter, and may include poetic or moral content. They open up a communicative space, vastly different from the signature affixed European artworks. (p. 21 – 22)

In the chapter Fuzhi: Copy, Han reflects on terra-cotta warrior copies. While the Hamburg Museum für Völkerkunde regarded them as forgeries in 2007, the Chinese replica workshop regarded its efforts as an attempt to restart production. (p. 31) Han further notes that the Japanese Ise Shinto shrine temple complex is completely rebuilt from scratch every twenty years, despite being 1 300 years old.

Modular production from stock components is regarded as appropriate behaviour, for in Chinese society originality/ uniqueness is not as valued as reproducibility, allowing variations and modulations. (p. 35) Han then refers people to one of the most famous Chinese treatises on painting the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden (1679).

In the last chapter, Shanzhai: Fake, Han writes, “There are now also expressions such as shanzhaism, shanzhai culture, and shanzhai spirit. Today shanzhai encompasses all areas of life in China. There are shanzhai books, a shanzhai Nobel Prize, shanzhai movies, shanzhai politicians, and shanzhai stars.” (p. 37)

He then goes on to discuss where the term was first applied, cell phones. “In terms of design and function they are hardly inferior to the original. Technological or aesthetic modifications give them their own identity. They are multifunctional and stylish. Shanzhai products are characterized in particular by a high degree of flexibility. For example, they can adapt very quickly to particular needs and situations, which is not possible for products made by large companies because of their long production cycles.” (p. 37)

Shanzhai by example

Billi Sodd 2015 Anstendighet/ Modesty 1910

Billi Sodd is a persona representing an older prisoner with issues, yet in the process of developing himself to become a(n artistic) painter. Since he is learning, he refers to himself as an apprentice, rather than a journeyman or a master. Like everyone, he was imprisoned by his past, until he decided to break free of it. Yet freedom is a relative term. At the most fundamental level, no living human is free to stop breathing. Every person is a slave to biological imperatives.

Billi’s most significant work so far, Anstendighet/ Modesty, consisted of 8 paintings. These paintings are based on a single template, a stencil. They deliberately imitate cartoons with large patches of solid colour, and an absence of shadows. Anstendighet/ Modesty was made in 2015, and shows how the western concept of modesty has transformed itself during during a period of 100 years. It consists of six paintings showing a young (ca. 20 years old) adult women at twenty-year, generational intervals from 1910 to 2010, each dressed in bathing costumes of the time. In addition, there are two additional paintings, variations on this theme, showing potentially more extreme changes for 2030, labelled 2030 Mini and 2030 Maxi.

The so-called originals were given to Verdal prison. However, a reworking of the subject is planned, with the goal of releasing high-definition images, so that anyone could make their own giclée prints using ink-jet printers. As long as the printing instructions are followed, these prints would be regarded as equals to the original paintings. If the instructions aren’t followed, something even better than the original may result.

In many ways Billi is an antithesis to protesters in these COVID-19 times, who want to open society faster, pressing R0 (in this case the viral net reproduction rate) values to greater heights. It is disheartening to see people like Elon Musk complaining about the shutdown of Tesla’s Fremont factory. He seems to have forgotten the lesson learned from a childhood reading of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, reported by Neil Strauss, “you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one”.

An invitation to the original showing of Billi Sodd’s work Anstendighet/ Modesty (in Norwegian and English) in 2015 can be downloaded using the download button below. VF refers to Verdal fengsel = Verdal prison.

In 2020, Billi is considering a new series, PPE, based on current experiences of COVID-19. No decision has been made regarding the number of paintings. It could be as few as two. One showing protective measures taken during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, as well as the current one. A third, simply showing a child hiding under a school desk, and titled nuclear attack, could refer to events in the early 1960s.

After this re-emergence, Billi Sodd next appearance is expected to be a celebration of Billi’s permanent release from Verdal prison at a Halloween party to be given on Tuesday, 2028-10-31. The theme of this party will be shanzhai. Mark that date on your calendar now!

Here are three additional relevant quotations from Han’s book.

“In the Buddhist notion of the endless cycle of life, instead of creation there is decreation. Not creation but iteration, not revolution but recurrence, not archetypes but modules determine the Chinese technology of production…. Foremost in modular production is not the idea of originality or uniqueness, but reproducibility. Its aim is not the manufacture of a unique, original object but mass production that nevertheless allows variations and modulations.” (p. 35)

Shanzhai products often have their own charm. Their creativity, which cannot be denied, is determined not by the discontinuity and suddenness of a new creation that completely breaks with the old, but by the playful enjoyment in modifying, varying, combining and transforming the old.” (p. 40)

“The creativity inherent in shanzhai will elude the West if the West sees it only as deception, plagiarism and the infringement of intellectual property.” (p. 41)

Closing thoughts: People’s transformational abilities, that is, a competence to alter/ convert/ reconstitute raw components into something useful, are to be applauded. Take the steam engineer, who is able to extract latent energy found in assorted solids, liquids and gasses and mould it, so that it works for the benefit of humankind: moving train cars, drying lumber, generating electricity. Take the weaver, who is able to take flax (from Linum usitatissimum) or fleece (from Ovis aries) and transform it into cloth. Take the programmer who, using a simple vocabulary, instructs a computer to manipulate data to provide and display meaningful information.

For further information about early Chinese printing and related activities, see: The History and Cultural Heritage of Chinese Calligraphy, Printing and Library Work (2010, ISBN: 9783598220463), a publication of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, edited by Susan M. Allen, Lin Zuzao, Cheng Xiaolan and Jan Bos.

Yang Jianxin writes that “According to the historical records, wood blocks for printing started in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 A.D.). During that time in the center of Zhejaing Province, a book store sold the collected poems of Bai Juyi and Yuan Zhen in an edition printed by wood blocks.” (Allen et al, p. 26)

Open Source Ventilator Project

The University of Florida Health Open Source Ventilator (Photo: University of Florida)

The Center for Safety, Simulation and Advanced Learning Technologies at the University of Florida Health has developed open-source, open architecture ventilator engineering design specifications to address a predicted ventilator shortage worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also host open source contributions.

The above link directs people to a website that provides sufficient information to construct such a ventilator, although attention is also focused on the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

Other news sources have also provided more readable information on the project.

It is claimed that hardware for the project is readily available at hardware stores. Parts were purchased at Home Depot. There are claims that the ventilator can be produced with $300 in parts, in addition to labour. I note that the controller is an Arduino based unit. The Arduino is a very simple controller board, that I have used in my teaching from 2008 – 2016.

If you (or someone you know) would like to work on this or similar health projects, please contact me at: brock@mclellan.no

MIT Emergency Ventilator Project

E-Vent, a team of volunteers, scientists, physicians and computer scientists at MIT revived a 10-year-old ventilator project. The result is an affordable and easily replicable, but primitive, ventilator design. The total parts cost is $400 to $500, . The E-Vent team plans to share their design online on their website so that manufacturers and companies can recreate the lifesaving device for hospitals around the world.

The device’s main part already exists in most American hospital inventories: an Ambu resuscitation bag. Usually, these are manually operated by emergency technicians or medical professionals to keep a patient breathing until they are hooked up to a ventilator. The E-Vent team adapted the Ambu bags by attaching it to an automated mechanism that replicates a human. This project appears to be more expensive, and less functional than the University of Florida project.

Construction: 2020 Season

The building/ construction season is starting at Cliff Cottage today, 2020-04-01. Today, equipment will be positioned. Tomorrow, 2020-04-02, if all goes well, the utility trailer will be taken out to purchase building supplies, so that these do not become a bottleneck. This date is chosen because it is the first day after we come out of quarantine.

This building activity means there will be less time to write weblog posts. Unless something changes, posts will be published only on the first day of each month, from April (this post) to September 2020.

The weblog season will begin again 2020-10-01, with a post that has already been written, titled Hipster. Other posts about computing equipment have also been written.