14 December 2009

Christmas Lights

  • Dec 14, 2009

Christmas Lights

So many people, when the subject of Christmas lights come up, they acknowledge they are nice, but go on to add "but they are a waste of energy".

As someone who feels strongly that American's use of energy and resources is morally unacceptable, I would like to be very clear about this:
Christmas lights are NOT a waste of energy.

That 80% of car trips have only the driver or a driver and one passenger, yet seat from 5-7 people is a waste of energy.  That we live, on average, 20 miles from our jobs is a waste of energy.  Uninsulated attics and unweather stripped doors and windows in houses and power steering and air conditioning in cars, all electric kitchens, and cars that weigh 50% more than they did 20 years ago and have 200% more power are all enormous wastes of energy.
Buying enormous amounts of crap that no one really needs and that get shoved into a closet or thrown out after a few weeks wastes energy in manufacture and transport.

Not one of those things provides any significant increase in quality of life.  None of them make people happy to be alive.  At most they provide a tiny increase in convince.  At worst they do nothing but cost money.  None of them create joy.

11 December 2009

Last Day of Youth

  • Dec 11, 2009

Last Day of Youth

In less than a month, I will no longer be one of those people who are "in their 20s".
I'm driving slower, I own my home, I'm self-employed, and I have a credit rating above 800.
Defying all that makes sense in the world, I've been gradually becoming a responsible adult.
As of midnight Jan 9th of next year, it will become official.

Living to 90 is a fair goal.
If you chop life into 3 big blocks, 90 / 3, then 0-30 would be youth.  60-90 would be old age.  Which leaves 30-60 to be middle aged.
I am a month away from middle aged.
I'm a divorcee who lives with 2 cats and is currently researching the tax affects of different types of individual retirement accounts.
I don't entirely understand how this happened.

04 December 2009

The Wine Barrel (population and parenthood)

  • Dec 4, 2009

The Wine Barrel (population and parenthood)

The Earth has been around about 5 billion years, life about 4 billion.
Half a billion years for animals, 200 million for mammals.
200,000 years of humans.
For the first 192,000 years or so, the human population was under 10 million people world wide.
Increasing 10 fold took 6000 more years.
We rocketed from 100 million to a billion in just over 2000 years.
The next billion only took 120 years.
And then 30.
And since the 1950s, we have added a billion people every 13 years or so.

We are at around 6.75 billion people now.

Its estimated that it will hit 9 billion in about another 30 years.

That new 2 and a quarter billion people will be our children.

23 November 2009

Status message, part 2

  • Nov 23, 2009

Status message, part 2

My last collection of status messages was way too long.
I wouldn't want to go through and click all those links.
But they were all very interesting!
For reals tho!

So I'm going to post the collections here a little more often.
Plus, then I don't have to write anything new.  Writing is hard.  And time consuming.
And it consumes a lot of calories, having to think so much.

Without further ado, the gmail status messages I have had between my last post and today (most recent at the top):


22 November 2009


  • Nov 22, 2009


I have not been writing much lately.

Spending my time with work, and new friends, and classes.

Work remains fun, after 3 years of doing the same things (compare to a record of 10 months max at any one job for the rest of my life prior), easy enough to be good at it, challenging enough to stay interesting. 
Just the past few days involved somehow fitting about 10cubic yards of random stuff into the truck for the largest hauling run I've had so far, installing drywall in an attic furnace room so the building could pass fire inspection, and careful deconstuction of the walls holding in the old biodiesel tanks at the old biodiesel fuel station so the lumber could be reused.

But far more important and interesting is the classes.

Little by little I add to my stable of random skills.

02 October 2009

The Water Heater

  • Oct 2, 2009

The Water Heater

I had been looking forward to buying a tankless instant water heater before I had even moved out of mom's place.

Unfortunately, each place I lived had a perfectly good water heater already.
Besides, my 6 gallon tank was no where near as wasteful as the 80 gallon monstrosities in regular homes.

Then, last week, the tank began to leak.
I had my excuse.

26 September 2009

Spoiled: The Economic Downturn, Luxury as Necessity, and "Struggling" in the Modern Economy

  • Sep 26, 2009

Spoiled: The Economic Downturn, Luxury as Necessity, and "Struggling" in the Modern Economy

My original comment was not meant to imply I don't believe that there are tangible effects on people (most notably unemployment, which is certainly up compared to a few years ago).
All I said was that media and politicians largely made it up.  I think it is a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, where in people hear constant messages that times are tight, therefore they cut back on consumption, therefore retail markets fall, therefore manufacturers cut back, and employers start laying people off.  Which fuels the beginning of the cycle even more.  This is why business analysts track "consumer confidence".  In fact, to a large extent it is what the stock market is all about.  Its less a question of how well a company is doing and more one of how popular are they.  If people think its doing well, they buy, which itself drives the stock price up.  It works both ways, so if everyone is convinced the market is doing bad, they sell so they don't lose too much by waiting, and then companies don't have the capital to invest.


22 September 2009

Good News

  • Sep 22, 2009

Good News

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery has been involved with a local semi-official flea market. The people running it are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and the stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

12 September 2009


  • Sep 12, 2009


I am considering asking for a raise.
A 33% one at that.
I am fairly confident I will get it, seeing that I am the CEO and majority shareholder as well as the sole employee.

It is not because I need the money.
Just the opposite.

I have too much money, not enough free time (well, maybe not "too much", but more than I need)

I am hoping that a moderate price increase will discourage people from calling me.
The decrease in work would be made up for by making slightly more when I do.

I justify raising my prices to myself in two ways:

28 August 2009

Status Messages

  • Aug 28, 2009

Status Messages

My Gmail-integrated-chat status message is sort of my version of twitter.  Character limited blurbs of what’s going on, interesting facts and quotes, links to various stuff.
For some reason there are still some people who don't use gmail as their primary personal email client.  So they don't get to see any of my status messages.
Not to worry!  I have been collecting them for about the past 10 months:


To pull a man out of the mud, a friend must set foot in that mud - Rabbi Nachman

"In my day, television was called 'books' "

Eat Drink and Be Merry, for tomorrow we die

if you can read this, thank a teacher

05 August 2009

Slow down. My philosophy for life also applies to the road.

Slow down. My philosophy for life also applies to the road.

I have been requested to post something positive.
In light of that request, I am putting a positive spin on what I was going to write anyway.

While I am generally good at pointing out problems and at complaining, I don't generally offer much by way of solutions.
This time I have a very concrete solution, which is within easy reach of ordinary Americans, with no risk, no cost, and a negligible amount of inconvenience.
It is something you, the reader, can do.

But first, a short history lesson:

04 August 2009

Hate, now in a rainbow of colors

  • Aug 4, 2009

Hate, now in a rainbow of colors

A number of things I have read recently have had the same saddening undertones to me lately.

Whether its queer folk expressing prejudice against heterosexuals, feminists who hate men, or people of color claiming that white activists who have no money coming into their neighborhood is a “gentrification” issue. http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/8794

I hear about "gentrification" here in
Oakland too.
Oakland has rent control, which means no tenant can be forced out or have their rent raised dramatically just because local property valuations have gone up.
Raising the average income in an area serves to increase the tax base, lower crime, and is not bad for a neighborhood.  If, thanks to rent control, no one is being displaced this means that, like in the clash between anarchists in
Pittsburgh, what people are really fighting for is something activists spent years trying to dismantle: segregation.

Bigotry which comes from an oppressed group is still just as much bigotry as it is when it comes from wealthy straight white men. 
In all cases it is counter-productive.
Activists, please - stop alienating your allies just because they look different than you.

That is exactly what they want us to do.

28 July 2009

Race (Whites still winning)

  • Jul 28, 2009

Race (Whites still winning)

Recently a friend of mine suggested the only topics I haven't addressed are racism and sexism.
As it happens, I did write on sexism not long ago ("...feminism is nothing more than the "radical" notion that women are people. Not that women are men. Not that women are capable of being men...Claiming that women are capable of doing anything men are is also the suggestion that men should be the standard by which people are measured.")
I had my own ideas of what to write about next, but in light of another recent conversation, it looks like he was right. Its time.

I have a few (white) friends who have complained to me on different occasions about how unfair it is that ...insert some random instance of perceived "reverse" racism here...
I am, perhaps, the friend that people can point to and say "I am not racist, some of my best friends are black", and being that friend apparently my word carries extra weight if I support them in their argument that 'such and such' is unfair.
(Never mind for now what it implies about me that such a disproportionate number of my friends are white...)

09 July 2009

Spoons and Amtgard; together at last

  • Jul 9, 2009

Spoons and Amtgard; together at last

Its been a long time. 
There was winter.
Then training for the Bay to Breakers.
There is Farmer's Markets, my truck and garden projects, and Downieville.
But, to be honest, it has been mainly laziness.

No more!

This time, for the first time ever, I am combining my two favorite sports, Full Contact Spoons and Amtgard.
(No, not at the same time. We will not be using weapons during the actual spoons game.  No, its not actually a good idea.  It would be terrible.  Don't suggest it.)

At the same Bat time, same Bat channel:
Sunday, July 12th, 2009 at 2:30-4:30pm
Ohlone Park in Berkeley, (across the street from N. Berkeley BART)

Please note:
Spoons is not a spectator sport!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone in attendance will be expected to play.  Don't wear anything which would be tragic to have grass stained. 

I now have two shields to add to my amtgard arsenal.  If you happen to have any foam swords, bring them.

If you are seeing this message for the first time, and are interested in playing, be sure to email me so I put you on the Spoons list for future games.

25 June 2009

Part 2, gas tax digression

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Part 2, gas tax digression 

This one was on my hypermileing forum, and began as a question about gas taxes.
That quickly degraded into an argument about taxes in general, and from there fell further to a general condemnation of government.
Since it was the off topic message board anyway, I decided to weigh in:

(original, including what I am responding to, here: http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthread.php/over-80-oppose-raising-gas-tax-8319-6.html)


Of course 80% oppose raising gas tax. Not because they think it won't work, but because they personally enjoy the luxury of driving an inefficient vehicle. It has nothing to do with the cost of a hybrid. Trucks vans and SUVs make up 1/2 of new car sales, and all of those buyers knew they were buying gas guzzlers. It would cost less money - not just in gas, but upfront - to buy a small (non hybrid) car.

I am for the freedom of choices that we all have in this country. In my opinion, you cannot tell me what to do if I am not hurting anyone else.
1 You do have total choice if gas prices are raised. You can choose to buy whatever car you want. In fact, even if CAFE standards were raised you would still have choice, because they only refer to fleet average, not individual models. The only way anyone's freedom is restricted is if it became illegal to buy a car that got less than XX mpg.
2 Buying a big car DOES hurt others. In addition to the fact that they do far more damage in an accident, there is this little thing called "global warming" (to be honest, I am not 100% convinced, but it is undeniable that burning fuel does environmental and health damage to all living things, including ourselves.)

I oppose all taxes. period.
Forget about social programs and libraries.
Government pays for things which are not profitable, and which the free market could not provide, or which are essential and the free market could not provide equitably. Things like roads, harbors, airports, bridges, military, police, fire services, courts. How long do you think it would take for private security to turn into mercenaries? If you want to go back to living in teepees, maybe, but giving up government in the real world means who ever has the biggest gun and most friends gets to do whatever they want.

Originally Posted by theunchosen View Post
(because 50% of government spending goes to those programs).
Last I checked, the top three uses of federal tax money was:
1 the military (we spend literally as much as the rest of the world combined)
2 payments made to private health care companies (contracted medicare and health care for government employees)
3 interest on the debt.
(Social security is basically a mandatory savings account. You get back more than you pay into it. It isn't counted as part of the federal budget; although unfortunately in order to pay for massive budget deficits the government has been illegally "borrowing" from it which is why the fund is in trouble)

The last one; anarchists this time

Thursday, June 25, 2009
The last one; anarchists this time 

I posted my essay equating the free market with anarchy on a discussion board for anarchists. The following is the comments it generated.

(I am David Craig Hiser. All the other comments are various random anarchists. Many comments were off topic, and are not shown here.
All of the comments, as well as my original essay, are here: http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/7038


Is this fellow trying to say that capitalism (with leaders and all) and anarchy/anarchism are all one and the same? Cuckoo Cuckoo.


More or less, yes.
Capitalism has no leaders.
Capitalism has only the market.
Democracy (or rather, what we call democracy, actually a republic) has leaders.
Our political system is the only thing which stands between our (the US) system and true capitalism / free markets.
Each move toward deregulation is a move toward economic anarchy.

Capitalists, libertarians, and anarchists; oh my!

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Capitalists, libertarians, and anarchists; oh my!

I have been arguing with anarchists and libertarians lately.

I can not think of a good way to consolidate my arguments without the context of responding to something specific, so it occurred to me that, given how much I've already written, it would be simple to just use what I already have.

I feel that given how much influence these ideas have had on the direction the US has gone in over the past few decades, and that we are the most powerful nation on Earth, this topic is one of the most important social issues there is.

Because there is a lot, I am breaking it up into several pieces.

The first (actually the last chronologically, but the first I am posting) was a blog essay which an anarchist friend sent me a link to attacking democracy. (He mentioned the caveat of not supporting the market economy. I have already written before here about how a market economy will naturally arise in the absence of government regulation.)
While the arguments here are not necessarily universal among anarchists, libertarians, and capitalists, some of them are common, or are at least similar.

I don't have the responses here, but that's mainly because there really weren't any substantial responses, just general insults and links to other people's writing. If you are interested, you can read both the original essay and all of the comments here:

14 June 2009

Like with pie

  • Jun 14, 2009

Like with pie

"Sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, and that one is the same as the top surface one.  Like with pie."

For the guy he was referring to, it was accurate.  The layer beneath the surface was all fake.  He was just as shallow and vacuous inside as he seemed to be.
But the same went for the one who said it.  As Billy, he came across as sensitive, his diabolically evil personal a secret identity.  But the guy in the laundromat was behind and underneath Dr. Horrible all along.  Whatever is to come after that door closes can be attributed to that sensitivity.

I think we are all like that.
We have our public personas, our secrets, our masks.  But our surface is actually a reflection of what is inside.  The in-between parts, the person that we tell ourselves we "really" are, the stuff of self-help books and therapy sessions, the things found in religion or meditation - like with pie, they are all just filling.

The very deepest level of all, it is made of the same stuff as the crust.

02 June 2009

Mission Accomplished

  • Jun 2, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Back when I began I set a totally baseless "goal" of 25mpg.

That would make my (CAFE exempt) 2.5-ton full-size commercial truck more fuel efficient than the average passenger car on the road today.

The changes since I last posted:

-Replaced mechanical vacuum pump with an electric one (from the wrecking yard - they don't have a list of cars, and most of the insignias have been pulled off, so I had to check each one.  I found it in the very last row, after having gone through probably 200 or so)  This allowed me to remove the alternator belt altogether.

-Replaced belt driven radiator cooling fan with an electric one.  It has a thermostat, so it only goes on when its actually needed.  It also weighs about 1/10th as much, so it doesn't require as much energy to turn.

-Added an underbelly pan from the front bumper to around 1/2 back to smooth out airflow beneath the vehicle, along with little spoilers in front of the front tires (they were big spoilers at first, but they rubbed the wheels at highway speeds and wore away) 

-Removed the windshield wipers to make it a little more aerodynamic.  They, along with the alternator belt, live inside the cab now just in case I need them unexpectedly.  They de/reattach with no tools in just a couple seconds.

-Replaced the grill tape with a sheet of coroplast (same stuff the belly pan is made from) so it can be removed easily in hot weather. The engine runs better warm in general, but the new fan isn't quite as powerful, and between that, the grill blocking, and driving (faster than usual, 65mph) in the hills during the brief hot weather we had last week, it did overheat once, so I thought it better to make something that could quickly and easily be removed and replaced later.

-Removed power steering pump and replaced steering gear with a manual steering gear.

I've also added a solar panel, changed my aux driving lights to 5w LEDs and moved them to inside the grill.

The average brand new passenger vehicle (inc. cars and light trucks) gets 26.7mpg.

On my last fill up my 1983 commercial truck got 26.85mpg

26 May 2009

A year later

  • May 26, 2009

A year later

I am so sick of dating.

I can't say it hasn't been fun.
Its been really fun.  Many first experiences.

I have been asked out.  I have gathered the courage to ask out. 
Some time later I replaced courage with confidence.

I have learned an awful lot of things (and confirmed a few I suspected all along).
I learned just how different I am compared to so many of my peers in this area.
I learned that finding what I am looking for is really hard.
I learned that all the common stereotypes about gender and dating are totally false.
I learned that people really do have sex on first dates (and not just desperate people, drunks, or players, but ordinary healthy well-adjusted people)
I learned that women are just as superficial as men (just with height instead of weight)
I learned that (at least for those whose standards start at 5'6" or less) I am much more attractive than I had thought I was.
I learned that there is very little correlation between stated views on sex and actual comfort and enthusiasm in practice; and little correlation between visual sexiness and actual quality of performance.
I learned that the single most important variable is that she is truly comfortable with her own sexuality.
I was shocked to learn how many people think that the actions of the female partner have little bearing on the overall quality of sex, or that being "good" can consist solely of how much she is willing to have done to her.  I learned that not everyone can match my stamina.
I learned that people are much more forgiving of me for my infidelity than I am of myself (I decided against ever making that story a blog, but I have nothing to hide, so if you ask me I'll tell you about it)
I learned that I can easily fall in love with someone I am totally incompatible with - in fact, I'm starting to suspect that I have a tendency to do just that.
I have learned a lot about emotional responses and how rare it is to just be told, directly, when something I do is upsetting or annoying or offensive.
I learned just how guarded and polite people are, and how it breeds a sort of inadvertent falseness which I honestly never noticed before.

I have had sex with a number of beautiful intelligent compassionate women of various shapes and sizes and colors. People involved in social justice and environmental protection and education, younger than me, older, people who want to get married someday and others who think monogamy is an artificial social construct. More women in just this past year than I expected to be with in my entire life.
(I've also had my first ever STD test, and got the equivalent of an 'A' on it.) 
I've shared both physical and emotional intimacy with women who I could have conversations with and find myself questioning beliefs I've refined over a lifetime of thought and debate and felt totally confident about. 
I've even fallen in love.  It may have been with someone totally incompatible with me, but it was still nice to know for sure I still can.

24 May 2009

Counter-protest / Not that there's anything wrong with it

  • May 24, 2009

Counter-protest / Not that there's anything wrong with it


A friend of mine insists that I seem really gay (despite this friend being female, and us sleeping together).
As evidence she questioned someone I had just met, who agreed that whatever I was, she doubted it was straight.
As I found this more than a little strange, I proceeded to ask other people if they thought that when they first met me.
Responses mixed, but I was surprised to find some people agreed with their assessment.

The reasons I got included: that I seem comfortable with myself and others, comfortable in my own skin (mind you, I was in my own home at the time), and that I am not a sleazy slimeball.

I definitely consider those both to be very positive (and, I like to imagine, accurate) things to say about me, but it leaves an absolutely terrible implication for like, all straight men everywhere. 
Like, (aside from gay guys and me), they are all fake, all of the time (or at least around women), always trying to show off or prove something, I suppose, or one way or another acting (presumably for the chance to have sex with everyone they meet).
I have a lot of trouble believing that.

20 May 2009

Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits reunion show!!!!

  • May 20, 2009

Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits reunion show!!!!

Long long ago my first full-time job was as a bike messenger.
Occassionally, when things were kind of slow, I would sing to my co-workers over the 2-way radio system.
I would sing Bobby Joe Ebola songs.
One of the couriers, 1 5 Slug, he asked me who wrote those crazy songs, and I let him borrow Bobby Joe's first album.

Fast forward almost an entire decade.

I have moved out of mom's house, had about 30 jobs, traveled the country, gotten married, gotten divorced, started my own business.
Someone writes from Craigslist about a couch I am selling from a hauling run.
When I get there to drop it off, it's 1 5 Slug.

His roommate is Corbet, (former) lead singer of Bobby Joe.
For some reason 1 5 Slug does not find any of this to be the slightest bit noteworthy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009
09:00 PM to 02:00 AM

The Uptown Nightclub
1928 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA, 94612

Only the greatest band ever to grace the SPAM label.
The greatest band which also doubled as an Amtgard administrator.
The headliner of nearly every GeekFest.
My own old band's - Pork and the Spork - most important supporter.
The only acoustic guitar band that could play the Gilman and not get beer bottles chucked at their heads.
Of all the offensive humor bands there are in the world, none can touch the MacNuggits.
They have been broken up for many, many, many years.
And yet here they are, playing a show as if nothing happened.
Right here in Oakland.

If you do not attend this show, bad things may happen.

14 May 2009

Bush Jr

May 14, 2009

Bush Jr.

I'll say one thing for Jr.

His press correspondents dinner was much much funnier than Obama's was.  He gets points for that.  I guess there was just so much more to make fun of about him, and he knew it, which, granted, is a very bad quality for the most powerful person on the planet to have.

But still.

I miss the days of making fun of the president.  It was enjoyable.  And it gave a good place for everyone to direct their anger.  Now who are we gonna be angry at?  We're going to have to go back to road rage, and as a bicyclist, motorcyclist, and hypermiler, that's extra bad news for me.  I realize now, too late, that I should have voted for McCain.  In the interest of amusement.  Sure, there is a slight chance we get universal health care within the next decade, but under Jr. we didn't need health care.
Because laughter is the best medicine.

(starts 2 minutes in)

12 May 2009

The Garden

  • May 12, 2009

The Garden

My garden has finally been started.
It has been a long time now since I first decided to, but at least I didn't wait until mid-summer when it would be too late to plant.

I built the planter entirely out of scrap wood I had saved from past hauling jobs.

11 May 2009

The Contest

  • May 11, 2009

The Contest

[note: this is a repost from long ago.  You cannot vote.  But you can still see it]

I would much appreciate it if you voted for my instructable.

I don't so much want the prize, but I would love the exposure.

Unfortunately you have to sign up, but fortunately it's free, and doesn't take very long.

Thanks in advance.

05 May 2009

Obama is going after off-shore tax shelters

  • May 5, 2009

Obama is going after off-shore tax shelters

I know I have said this before, but in light of the presidents move to end offshore tax havens and companies outsourcing jobs for cheaper labor, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/05/04/Continuing-the-Conversation-Tax-Reform-for-American-Jobs/
(and more than a few people claiming there is no difference between democrats and republicans), I feel it bears repeating.

The US economy has been growing over the past decade.
Median income has not.
In fact, adjusted for inflation, the real income of the middle class has actually fallen slightly.

The reason for this disparity is that virtually 100% of the economic gain has gone to the upper class - largely people who don't need to do any real work because they own the means of production, real estate, or stock, which means they actually contribute nothing to society.
The net worth of America’s wealthiest 1 percent now exceeds the net worth of the entire bottom 90 percent. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/fy2010_new_era/Inheriting_a_Legacy1.pdf

When someone says that raising taxes hurts "the economy", well yes, it may reduce the total GDP.  But it is only taking money away from people who have too much already, who don't need it, and frankly, don't deserve it. When taxes are raised on big business they ARE NOT forced to lay off workers.  They could just as easily reduce CEO pay, reduce dividends, or slow the companies rate of growth.

Total GDP and economic growth are not goals in and of themselves.  They are useful only to the extent that they improve quality of life for American citizens.  We have myopically focused on nothing but total rate of growth for too long.  We have the world’s largest economy, yet we don't have the highest standard of living.

When middle America is ready to head to wall street with AK47s, I'm there.  In the meantime, we have Obama.  Lets not let years of cynicism keep us from appreciating it.

30 April 2009

Media sensationalism makes me sick

  • Apr 30, 2009

Media sensationalism makes me sick

Total # of deaths from "swine" flu: 8

Total annual deaths from regular old human flu: 250-500 thousand


Turns out this isn't the first panic over "swine flu"

Only 1 person died from swine flu in 1976.  Hundreds of Americans were killed or seriously injured by the inoculation the government gave them to stave off the virus.


Of course it isn't just about ratings and selling papers. Some of it is human nature.  I think we enjoy panicking.
I understand that people have a hard time taking history into account.  If it didn't happen in one's own lifetime it becomes an abstraction, and therefore not something to learn from.  But "bird" flu was only, what, 3 years ago?  The "global pandemic" of bird flu killed a little over 200 people world-wide over the course of about 5 years. 
Before that was y2k.  It was supposed to shut down every computer, crippling all of modern civilization.
The supposed financial "crises" hasn't even wore itself out, and already we are on to our next one.

I stopped watching/reading "news" a long time ago, and yet somehow I keep hearing about this stuff.
I keep imagining to myself that somehow humanity is going to collectively stop being so stupid.
I know how terribly deluded I am.
I think I should just give in.
Anyone know where I can buy one of those masks?

27 April 2009

Gay Animals, Social Sex, and a Misunderstanding of Natural and Sexual Selection

  • Apr 27, 2009

Gay Animals, Social Sex, and a Misunderstanding of Natural and Sexual Selection


At first I was going to comment directly on the article, but couldn't find a place for it.
Then I noticed the article is 3 years old.
Then it occurred to me; that's exactly what my blog is for!  Remember?  Duh.

On to my comments:

This is a fascinating study and long over due research, which deserves far more attention that it's gotten for both social and scientific reasons.
However, I must partially object to the conclusions of this particular article.

It presents a false dichotomy.  None of the observed activities contradict the basic principals of Darwinian evolution, including sexual selection.  They may seem to contradict some assumed extensions of the basic mechanisms of evolution, but those assumptions are the things which must be thrown out, not the entire theory.

Sex serves a social function.  This is true not only in humans, but in a great many other species as well - generally those that are more complex, intelligent, and social.  This much is clear.
This does not mean sex is not also about reproduction.  It is not an either/or question.  To dispute that sex is primarily about reproduction, the survival of one's genes, is just plain silly.

Bakari's introduction!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bakari's introduction!
[from the joint blogging project started by my friend Beth, at http://neapolitanblog.blogspot.com ]

My first step is to figure out this new interface.
If you are reading this apparently I figured it out.

I have been told to write a short bio.

Hello all!
My name is Bakari Kafele (ok, I just misspelled my own name and had to erase and retype it - twice! Maybe should be getting ready for bed instead of typing) but I often go by Jacob Aziza on the internet.
I am not really a writer. I am just some guy who writes stuff sometimes. I don't have any sort of schedule or goal, and no interest in becoming better or more coherent. I do think I occasionally have a sensible idea or two, and enjoy sharing those ideas. Also, this is my one form of self-expression; about as close as I come to art.

23 April 2009

On Becoming a Twit

  • Apr 23, 2009

On Becoming a Twit

I notice a good number of people have set to follow me.
I have absolutely no intention of becoming a Twit.

I signed up to Twitter so I could follow other people.

Ok. I'll be honest. So I could learn more about one specific person. And I figured while I was here why not follow all of my friends?

The best way to learn of the various things going on in my life and mind would be my blog. I only update it once or twice a month, but when I do they are (usually) much more in depth, (or, to look at it another way - you have to read more than 140 characters, but I only write once or twice a month).
You can sign up for it using the little box in the corner, and it will email you when there is something new.
For short blips there is my Gmail-integrated-chat-status-message. Surely you are using gmail by now? Add me to your chat list and there you will get my random character limited thoughts and quotes and updates and such.

17 April 2009

Excellence in the most unexpected of places

  • Apr 17, 2009

Excellence in the most unexpected of places

Sometimes when I'm working at the bikestation I go up to the Walgreens just outside the BART for an orange juice.

One day I went up and the line was just ridiculous. They brought in a 2nd checker, but the line still kept growing faster...

And then this guy comes back from helping a customer, back to his checkstands.

Not a typo. Checkstands.
He unlocks two registers.

He calls someone up, scans the purchases and gives them the total. And then as that customer goes through their wallet for change or waits for the credit machine to process, he calls someone else up to his other register.
This guy is a joy and a wonder to watch. He makes it look smooth, almost effortless.
His co-workers were stressed, not smiling, barely speaking or looking at their customers, but he was right in his element, all smiles and politeness and eye contact. He could talk to the person at one register while processing the items on the other, with no signs of confusion or hesitation.
He did the work of two people, and make it look easier than it takes most people to do the work of one.

I worked as a cashier part-time when I went back to college, just before I started BioDiesel Hauling.
It wasn't the worst thing I've ever done, and I was decently good at it, to the point where if a manager wasn't handy I was the person my co-worker came to with questions. But it certainly wasn't much of a challenge. It never even occurred to me that being a checker was something it was even possible to excel at. I have been shown otherwise.

You know, in general I am not particularly in favor of maximizing potential, or doing one's best, I think the whole concept stems from a manipulative puritan work ethic imposed on the populace. But given that one has to be at work some set hours anyway, you may as well do a good job of it while you're there. So often I have seen just the opposite - people putting in as many hours as possible, but working slow and slacking off, as if they are somehow getting over on someone. I never thought much about cashiers one way or another, but here is one I admire.
This checker doesn't get paid twice as much, but he does his job beyond expectation, and seems to enjoy it a hell of a lot more than anyone else working there. The line disappeared. And if that weren't enough, now all the people who reads this blog (all 6 of them) will know that there is one very amazing checker at one particular Walgreens in downtown Berkeley.

12 April 2009

Bringing it to the masses

  • Apr 12, 2009

Bringing it to the masses

My friend/co-worker, upon hearing about my truck project, encouraged me (repeatedly) to do a write up for the do-it-yourself website Instructables.com
As it happened, I was working on consolidating my blog posts on the topic for the hypermiling websites from which I had originally gotten most of the ideas I've been implementing.
So I followed the link he sent, signed up, and reformatted the posts to be appropriate for the popular how-to site.

The site was new to me, so it took basically all day figuring out the features and making changes to the content and pictures and tweaking various things. Comments started coming in, and I responded to the comments, and then a site administrator must have seen it and liked it because before the first day was over I was promoted to a "featured" item, which meant my post was put on the site's homepage.

And the views took off. By day two there had been over 4000 views, and it was moved to the "popular" section of the homepage.
Right now (3 and half days since I published) its up to 6415 views and over 50 comments.
One of which was: "I think I might play the aero game on my car now!"

That's the best compliment I could get. If I encourage just one person to drive a little slower, or even do some mods, writing all this up will have all been worth the effort.

It's one thing writing on my own blog, or on a hypermiling website, but introducing these ideas to the general population, that is gratifying.

08 April 2009

Upgrade update

  • Apr 8, 2009

Upgrade update

If I really wanted to accurately determine how much difference any particular change made, I would make upgrades immediately after filling the tank, and then do only change at a time, going the entire tank and calculating mileage before doing another.
I don't have that kind of patience.

When I wrote last about it (the post with the pictures) I had begun those mods several days into a new tank of gas.

I looked up what was typical for the same model and year of truck online (there are no EPA estimates for it) and found people reporting anywhere from 10mpg to 18mpg.
Myself, loading it to it's max for work, but being a generally gentle driver, before I had ever heard of hypermileing I was getting between 15 and 17mpg.

By changing just my driving habits, driving slow, accelerating gently, coasting when coming to a stop, I raised it to 19.7mpg.

07 April 2009

No, the garden hasn't been started yet

  • Apr 7, 2009

No, the garden hasn't been started yet

Building the planter bed was the agenda for today, but there turned out to be a lot of little tasks to get out of the way first.
It wasn't long before I accepted that I wouldn't be constructing the raised container today.

First thing I did was to take down the sheets of wood from the roof of the shed (which I used to angle rain water off and keep my shed from rotting), so I could reuse the wood to make the raised planter bed.
Then I replaced it with a sheet of plastic (from a wardrobe move in the rain months ago) raised in the middle like a tent, metal taped to the sides of the shed.

Then I was distracted by the rain system. The tubing on both sides need a bit of adjusting. The barrel was almost full and it rained today, so I used my new watering can to transfer 4 gallons of water stored from the last rain to my potted plants. Then I remembered that when I purchased this RV trailer it came with an external waste water tank which I have never used. It holds 32 gallons. I filled it from the storage barrel to make room for today's rain.

With the barrel half empty, I had a chance build a better and higher platform for it. Wood which I had kept from dump runs years ago because it might come in handy someday, finally came in handy. My new 18v cordless jigsaw made short work of custom fitting the wood to the barrel.

02 April 2009

trailer park vehicles

  • Apr 2, 2009

trailer park vehicles

I'm not the only one here in the trailer park putting a lot of work into an old dented vehicle that looks kinda like a piece of crap by most people's standards.

Many a night I pass by the neighbors place as they weld and hammer out the damage from the last race.

They spend weeks, months, turning this thing into something capable of moving under its own power.
And then they take it out and smash it up all over again.

Best of all, it is designated as the official High Street Trailer Park car.  We have demolition derby representation.  Its kinda like our own sports team.

01 April 2009

From one dishonest company to another

  • Apr 1, 2009

From one dishonest company to another

WTH? I just received the 3rd notice in 2 years of a class action lawsuit against a former employer.

Was I for some reason bouncing from one dishonest company to another?

I realize I have had a lot, and so statistically that ups the chances a little, and also that this is a very litigation happy place (owing to our severe lack of meaningful regulations and enforcement). And it shouldn't be all that surprising, given that the ultimate goal of any corporation is, by law, maximization of profit, which means that even following the law becomes a matter of calculating potential loss vs. potential gain: 10 years of unpaid overtime may be worth a 4 or 5 million dollar lawsuit.

I'm just hope I never receive one of those notices for my most recent job.  If all the employees of BioDiesel Hauling file suit against the owner, I have some serious problems, and not just the financial ones.

25 March 2009

My Brain is in Overload

  • Mar 25, 2009

My Brain is in Overload

Reality is mind-bogglingly complex.

Within the past hour I have written/spoken/read about: over-population, foodsustainability, relationships, work hours (I actually had to work 3 days this week!  I don't understand how people put up with this every week),  late fees, and bike repairs.  The last two, ok, because I'm at work right now, but still, so many topics there are in the world, and each with so many levels.  I watched a video about dolphins that blow bubble rings and then swirl the bubble rings around and break them into smaller rings before finally popping them, and how other dolphins have been picking up the technique from those who know it.
Someone painted an AR-15assault rifle pink with a Hello Kitty.

My brain can't handle so much... everything.

I want to get in bed and cuddle and fall asleep feeling someone breathing next to me.

But instead I have to be at work another two hours.

21 March 2009

My other project (trying to make my big commercial truck as fuel efficient as a car)

  • Mar 21, 2009

My other project (trying to make my big commercial truck as fuel efficient as a car)

After being pulled over for driving too slow, I looked up a couple hypermileing websites in order to post the story among people who might find it entertaining, and possibly offer some advice as to how to avoid/deal with the situation should it happen again. While there I found all sorts of ideas and suggestions I hadn't thought of and decided to attempt to make the truck itself more efficient to compliment my new driving style. This number is totally arbitrary and baseless, but my "goal" is 25mpg.
The average fuel economy of all US passenger cars on the road (not trucks, SUVs, or vans) is only 22.
The overall mileage for all US passenger vehicles on the road is only 17 - less than I am getting currently.
(And that's "passenger" vehicles. Technically my 5500lb diesel is classified as a commercial vehicle, even if I didn't use it for work)

Of course this whole exercise is more just for the principal than it is to save money, considering how much I spent on the project so far.

Completed so far:

16 March 2009

Stage 1 complete (My first ever blog entry with pictures!)

  • Mar 16, 2009

Stage 1 complete (My first ever blog entry with pictures!)

I was inspired partly by a book lent to me by the first person I ever went out on a date with
(almost a year ago already!)
and partly by the container gardening class I was brought to on Valentine's day by a more recent date.

Yet another person I dated recently is thinking of doing a similar project, and so I have some information and materials to offer her.

When I first jumped into this new experience of dating I wasn't sure what to expect - but rainwater collection was surely no where in my mind as even the remotest possibility.
We actually don't pay for water in the trailer park, (its included in the rent) and RVs use very little water anyway by their nature.

On the other hand, CA is in a drought (again), one never knows when the next earthquake (or revolution perhaps?) might cut off the municipal supply, and I have every intention of starting to (attempt to) grow food as my next project.

09 March 2009

A drawback of hypermileing

  • Mar 9, 2009

A drawback of hypermileing

I've been driving around 50-55 on the freeway for the past few months, managed to get my '83 diesel f-250 work truck from a previous average of 15mpg, up to 19.5mpg (this is with various loads of furniture, boxes, dirt, appliances, etc in the back)

Last night on my way home, going 50mph, some cars merged very slow, and instead of accelerating to pass them, I slowed even more to let them in, but they were going SO slow I just moved to the left instead.

As I accelerated gently back up to speed I noticed a cop behind me, and just as I put on my signal to move back to the right, he moved to the right without signaling.
So I stayed where I was, and waited for him to pass on the right, still not having accelerated up to speed yet.

After a couple seconds, instead of passing, he pulled back in behind me.

And lit up the red and blues.

06 March 2009


  • Mar 6, 2009


I was doored on my skates today for the first time ever.

I've been skating in traffic regularly nearly as long as I've bicycled in traffic (15 and 17 years, respectively) and this was my first accident involving an automobile.

I had thought I was going slow enough that an impact would be negligible...
I had thought I left enough of a gap from the parked cars to avoid suddenly opened doors in my path...

It happened so fast that I didn't realize what was happening until I was already in the air

I don't care much for the pain or blood or risk, but I have to admit there is something very intriguing, almost fun, about a first hand demonstration that this body one identifies as "self" is as subject to the basic laws of physics as any inanimate object.
One moment you are a person, with feelings and experiences and goals and relationships
In the next you are velocity and mass and angular momentum.

28 February 2009

200 Watts

  • Feb 28, 2009

200 Watts

$62 worth of new music + 200 Watts of self-powered sub-woofer behind the seat = early hearing loss.
This knowledge in no way modifies my behavior.
I am no better than a smoker.