17 December 2012

The Last Big Question (the evolution of consciousness itself)

In The Beginning, There Were Amino Acids.

Amino acids are rather complex, and anything complex is fairly unlikely. Then again, solar systems and galaxies, water and rock cycles, and particle physics are all magnificently complex too, and they all happen to exist. Even just within inorganic chemistry, plenty of naturally, randomly occurring compounds are more complex than amino acids.

Its very uncommon, but it has been found that, under just the right circumstances, amino acids can form spontaneously. Just the right mix of carbon and nitrogen, some oxygen and hydrogen, maybe just a touch of sulfur, make it all aqueous (dissolve it in water, so they can all move around) and maybe zap it with a bit of that proverbial lightning for good measure - at this point it is still nothing more than an ordinary chemical reaction - and you got yourself one of the fundamental building blocks of life.

(Alanine; Black = Carbon, White = Hydrogen, Blue = Nitrogen, Red = Oxygen)

We know the end of the story, but considered alone there is nothing especially special about some random amino acids floating around in puddles. Just about everything is made of compounds (two or more elements mixed together), not-particularly-sexy things like rocks and dust and air and water. Some have more different elements mixed together than others.

Granite is made of several compounds, (quartz, mica, and feldspar), themselves made up of combinations of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium along with trace amounts of other elements. It makes up the vast majority of the surface of the Earth, (there is somewhere on the order of 20 billion times more of it than there is of all living things on the planet - plants animals, bacteria, everything combined)

In comparison with granite's 8+ elements, amino acid's 4 seems almost simple, and compared to its abundance, amino acids are downright insignificant.

16 December 2012

Comments from the MMM Forums Part 5: OWS / 99%

The 5th of the 5 part series of blog posts taken from the Mr Money Mustache discussion boards, on the politics, economics, ethics and philosophy, of building wealth through frugality.

By COguy:

Your thoughts on the we are the 99% blog?
« on: November 13, 2012, 01:51:08 PM »
At the risk of seeming insensitive, I wanted to see what all of you folks thought of this.  Is it just complaining? 


It seems to me that if one followed mustachian principles they should get out of sticky financial situations much easier.  Ride a bike, in source everything, etc...Yet, I know I was lucky to be born to good parents and some of these people were not and I feel that that stacks the deck against them. 

Obviously, the medical expenses make sense as being very hard to overcome, but what about the rest?

[lots of posts, mostly agreeing that it is in fact mostly whiny pants complainers who dug their own hole and now want bailouts]

15 December 2012

Comments from the MMM Forums Part 4: Invesment Income Taxes

Part 4 (part 1 was here)...This thread was not intended to be political at all.  But of course someone had to turn it that way.
Someone, meaning me…

By Guitarguy:
Did anyone's eyes pop out of their head when...
Romney said he'd completely get rid of all capital gains taxes for people earning less than $200,000 a year off of dividends ect... in the debate tonight? Is that really possible? And how does that affect a mustachian's situation of retirement?

By Bakari:

Re: Did anyone's eyes pop out of their head when...
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2012, 05:49:14 PM »
Does anyone else see something morally wrong with taxing earned income at a higher rate than unearned income?

Set aside the personal benefit we are all looking forward to, once we can afford to live off passive income.

From a strictly objective viewpoint:
person A spends 40 hours or more (plus commute time) a week going to a job and working hard.  On top of the direct value their labor provides to society as a whole, they also contribute a percentage of the income they earn towards the general good in the form of taxes.

meanwhile, person B simply sits around at home (or travels, or has a hobby, or whatever, doesn't matter) and has positive income flow for no other reason than they had money to begin with.  Maybe they worked hard in the past and saved up, or maybe they inherited it, or maybe they laundered it after a crime, doesn't matter, point is they are not working hard now, and for that they are rewarded with not having to contribute to society.

14 December 2012

Comments from MMM Forums Part 3: Lets Talk Charities

Part 3 of the ongoing series of posts taken from the MMM discussion board


By I.P. Daley :
Let's talk charities - (Afghani brick kilns and us)
Was reading the evening news tonight, and came across the following article in the world news feed:

Afghan family works to pay off crushing debt

Nutshell on the article? Guy gets married, wife gets sick, guy borrows $900 from his employer to get medical attention for his wife. Nine years later, he's still in debt and he and four of his six children (youngest working is 4 years old) are working in the kilns along with him to try and just eat and pay off the debt. And they aren't the only ones:


This isn't some new story in the history of man... it's happened before, it's happening right now, and it'll keep happening. This sort of thing even occurs in today's United States, just look at the immigrant tomato field workers in Florida as an example right off the top of my head.

A lot of us give a lot of lip service to frugal living, staying out of debt, being socially responsible, and extol the virtues of the bounty of goods that allow us to pursue financial independence. We also frequently want to punch people in this country in the face for their decadent living beyond their means and wasteful consumerism, and honestly, this article just re-stirs some of that anger because some of these never-to-be-forgiven family life debt balances on loans taken out for basic necessities in the third world are for less money than many people waste on frivolous crap in a month here. A lot of times, we also forget where a lot of these goods that give us the quality of life we have come from and who made them as well as how little (by our standards) it can take to dramatically change their lives.

13 December 2012

Comments from MMM forum part 2: Pursuing a Responcible Early Retirement

A continuation of the last post, this is taken from another thread on the MMM forums.
Again, for the sake of brevity, I have included just what I’ve written, along with quotes of what I am responding to, after the initial post, but if you are curios, feel free to click the link in the first post for everybody’s discussion.


By: darkelenchus

Pursuing and Maintaining A Responsible Early Retirement
« on: August 01, 2012, 12:07:04 PM »
Purpose & Rationale For This Thread

Since nobody seems to have any real objections to the central argument in sol's thread on how your early retirement might be evil, and since the thread has morphed into a discussion about somewhat tangentially related matters (e.g. justifying charity, differing moral systems, the purpose/value of taxation, sustainable population levels, et alia), I figured it'd probably be be best to start a new thread to begin discussing practical ways of reducing or eliminating the evil in pursuing & maintaining early retirement.

Summarizing the Problem

Okay, so let's identify the areas (in italics) where evil can creep in to MMM/ERE-style early retirement:

MMM/ERE Early Retirement =df A lifestyle attained and maintained through frugal practices and investment strategies, whereby one keeps a high savings rate during one's working years, eventually reaching the point where return on investment from savings covers all living expenses at the very least, which enables one to forego working a conventional job and thereby free more of one's time in comparison to more conventional working careers.

The thesis is that in pursuing early retirement, each of the three italicized areas above could perpetuate an unjust inequality: viz., the manner in which one executes one's early retirement could support (or at least be dependent upon) a system that denies that same opportunity to others.
  • Frugal Practices: If one seeks to maximize one's savings rate by purchasing the lowest priced goods at the best value, one might be supporting businesses that utilize exploitative business practices.
  • Investment Strategies: Investing in stocks provides capital to companies that seek to maximize return on shareholder investment. Just as with keeping prices low for the consumer, many companies employ exploitative business practices to maximize that return. Investing in bonds provides capital to many of those same companies.
  • Allocating Free Time/Resources: If we will early retirement as a value, it would be contradictory for us to maintain that other's shouldn't have that same opportunity. Merely refraining from perpetuating the system is not enough. We should do what we reasonably can to provide people that opportunity.

If we're concerned with reducing or eliminating this unjust inequality, then we'll have to a) choose frugal practices and investment strategies that at the very least don't exasperate the unjust inequality, and b) actively do what we can to help alleviate it. Below are some of the ideas I've come up with for going about doing this.

12 December 2012

comments from MMM economics / philosophy / politics threads

comments from MMM economics / philosophy / politics threads

I am a regular reader and contributor to the Mr Money Mustache discussion board forums.

Its mostly talk and advice regarding money management, DIY projects, bicycling as transportation, energy use, investment strategy, and various other ways to have more wealth by living more efficiently.
Every once in a while, though, a philosophical / political / social topic comes up, and the discussions especially interesting.

Here I have consolidated a number of my input and responses to some of the more intense conversations that have come up in recent months (with quotes of what I am responding to, for context); things which I feel are important and interesting, which respond to very common ideas, but which I never had quite the right formatting to turn it into its own blog entry.
Sometimes you need a good antagonist - preferably someone intelligent and knowledgeable (but wrong) - to play off of, to respond to, in order to make a point coherently.
The indented, highlighted text are quotes that are being responded to.  The further indented, different color highlighted parts are quotes within quotes.

The first 3 were all closely related, and, randomly enough, was spawned originally by a thread on how much the average American spends at Starbucks:

24 October 2012

Aerocaps for pick-up trucks

Aerocaps for pick-up trucks

by Bakari Kafele on October 24, 2012
Aerolid When people think about fuel economy, they usually think about small cars, perhaps a mid-size hybrid.  If they think about trucks, its usually to contrast them with a more efficient vehicle (and perhaps chastise truck owners for their wasteful choice).
But while cars are great if you need to get yourself and maybe a few other people from one place to another, they don’t excel in moving large amounts of stuff, and can’t tow very much.
If you regularly need to move lots of big, bulky, or heavy stuff, or tow something large and heavy, but rarely need to move more than a couple people, a truck makes a lot of sense.
Of course there is a reason that trucks are seen as inefficient: they are.  They are heavy, overpowered (although cars are even more so these days), and not at all aerodynamic.
Then again, because trucks get such low mileage to begin with, improvements in their mileage have a relatively bigger impact.  For example, an increase of 15mpg for a 45mpg car is a 33% increase and will save 55 gallons of fuel over 10,000 miles.  Not bad, but that same 15mpg improvement to a 15mpg truck is a 100% increase, saving 333 gallons over the same distance.
So what is a mpg-conscious person who needs to move a lot of stuff to do?

06 September 2012

Advertisements that only work due to ignorance and stupidity

I don't generally see a lot of ads, thanks to AdBlock on the computer and a RePlayTV unit that automatically skips them when I watch an occasional show, but between Hulu, the few that get past the RePlay's filters, and billboards, I can't seem to escape them entirely.
Which is fine, they are paying for me to have free content, some of them are entertaining, and every once in a great while actually informative.

But there are 3 out right now which grate against me so severely that the only way I'm going to be able to stop ranting in my own head about them is to rant on the internet.

They are deliberately relying on consumer's ignorance in order to try to convey a message which simply isn't there - the facts are technically accurate, but the implication is actually the exact opposite of reality.

1) The new milk campaign, attempting to discredit soy milk:

They list a bunch of scary sounding "chemicals" that soy milk contains, to contrast with cow milk, which according to the ingredient list has only one ingredient: "milk".
Never mind that the list of scary sounding chemicals they list consists almost entirely of vitamins and minerals which are actually quite healthy, or neutral at worst.

So, in the interest of fairness, here are some scary sounding chemicals that are present in cow's milk:

13 July 2012

Prius C: A sub-compact hybrid, at a non-hybrid price.

Prius C: A sub-compact hybrid, at a non-hybrid price.

by Bakari Kafele on July 13, 2012

The newest Prius, available for only 2 months now in the US, is a compact fuel-efficient hybrid.
One thing it is not, however, is a Prius.

09 July 2012

Adding an overdrive (BW T-19 to ZF-5 transmission swap)

(Just want tips for swapping a BW T-19 for a ZF S5? Skip to tips.  Not swapping a Ford truck transmission?  Skip to the end for the results.  Continue reading for all the gruesome details of my project.  Hopefully my trails and tribulations can at least provide you some entertainment.)

If you’ve never driven a vehicle more than a couple decades old, you probably take overdrive for granted.  You may not even have a clear idea what that term means.That 5th or 6thgear, with a ratio smaller than 1.0 (meaning the driveshaft is turning faster than the engine) lowers the engine RPM speed on the highway, and can make a huge difference in the fuel used to go the same distance at the same speed.Gears on a car are just like gears on a bicycle; imagine trying to ride a bike with only a small chainring and big cog, and having to spin your legs like crazy to get anywhere at a decent speed.  Lower RPMs means less internal friction, less internal reciprocal motion, and therefore less wasted energy.
If, like me, you don’t care to spend the money for a new – or even remotely new-ish – vehicle, you may have noticed that overdrive was once upon a time not always standard equipment, or even available as an option.

The Ford F-Series of trucks has been one of the most popular vehicles world-wide for decades, and though much has changed over the years, many of the internal design factors stayed the same from one generation to the next.  They were rather reliable, so a good many older ones are still on the road.  Those two factors mean that there is much interchangeability of parts among different generations, and those parts are easy to find.
The 7th generation F-series (1980-1986) had a couple of manual transmission options, all of them 4 speed. My own 1983 diesel F-250 ¾ ton truck came with a Borg-Warner T-19, in which the 1st gear was an extra-extra low granny gear (6.32) which is normally not used.  For all practical purposes it is a 3-speed.  No overdrive gear.  In fact, even 4th gear isn’t quite direct drive, at a 1.1 drive ratio.
This means shifting into top gear at 25mph, and 2400 RPMs at 55mph.
2400RPMs means each piston is going up and down 40 times every single second, which means the mass of the piston head has to stop, change direction, move a little, stop, change direction again, 80 times every second (once up, once down, for a full rotation).  This is bad enough is a small engine with light parts and a couple cylinders (like a motorcycle) but in a heavy V8 diesel engine, a lot of inertia is going to waste.
Not a terribly big deal in 1983, when the national speed limit was still 55, but post-embargo gas prices had dropped again; the lack of stock overdrive leaves a lot of potential for increasing highway fuel mileage.
The addition of an overdrive gear reduces engine speed from 40 cycles per second down to only 28, a 30% reduction.

17 June 2012

Please ride your bike in the street.

My used bike buying guide has been way more popular than anything I have ever written.

Since it is geared towards new riders, I feel obligated to share some statistics I just learned - confirming what I have known for many years - about the best ways to stay safe in traffic.


Riding among fast moving two-ton steel machines can be very nerve wracking when you first start out.

The number one fear of most new cyclists in traffic is getting hit from behind by a driver, but it is important to know that this is, statistically, actually the rarest type of accident. 

The most common are at intersections and driveways, when the driver didn't see the cyclist - usually because they weren't expecting the bike to be where it was.  That's why I (and the official League bike safety classes) recommend riding with the normal flow of traffic.

Riding with the normal flow of traffic means riding in the street, to the right (in America at least), and obeying basic traffic laws, such as stopping for red lights and going the correct way on one-way streets.  It means never riding against traffic (facing on-coming cars) and never riding on the sidewalk.

Although it feels much safer to be on the sidewalk, away from the cars, in reality most accidents happen at driveways and intersections, and a driver is less likely to see you if you are anywhere other than the street.

You reduce your statistical chance of being hit by a car by somewhere roughly on the order of 90% compared to the average rider just by riding predictably, following the law, and being extra visible, because, as it turns out, the vast majority of bike accidents are (at least partially) the cyclists' fault.

So what exactly does riding safely entail?

13 June 2012

“A poor person never gave me a job”

The latest meme created by the political Right in order to attempt to justify massive wealth inequality in America, a talking point for the middle class to use, but even more so a subtle reminder to them that they should be grateful towards their social superiors.

It is effective in its simplicity, as good memes and talking points should be. 
It takes so much for granted that it appears to be impossible to counter – it is in fact an accurate statement – so there is no equally simple one-liner that can refute it.  Each and everyone of the underlying concepts that it relies on are false, and so to show the irrelevance of the statement to the issue at hand requires actually delving into and dissecting the assumptions it makes.
That is generally not practical in casual conversation, nor on a heavily time restricted televised debate.

But I have as much space as I want here, so, since I have yet to see a thorough analysis of this –frankly – ridiculous statement, I will do so myself, right now:

14 May 2012

Infinity Miles Per Gallon

Infinity Miles Per Gallon

by Bakari Kafele on May 14, 2012

What can you do to absolutely minimize your fuel use?

02 May 2012

Jacob Aziza / Bakari Kafele; Ecomodder / Hypermiler

Jacob Aziza / Bakari Kafele; Ecomodder / Hypermiler

by Bakari Kafele on May 2, 2012
Good morning fellow ecomodders, hypermilers, and efficiency enthusiasts of all kinds.
The EcoModder blog has been inactive for over a year (save Tim’s two most recent updates), and I have been asked to help pick it up again.
So, since I also have not been active on this site for nearly a year, to start I thought I would re-introduce my self:
My name is Bakari Kafele.  My internet screen name (or at least one of them) is Jacob Aziza.
You may remember me from such internet sites as the EcoModder Forum and Instructables.com
I have an old (1983) full-size truck with a 6.9L diesel V8 that I use for deliveries and hauling and occasionally towing.  It would be a monstrosity for a commuter vehicle, but it’s about the smallest thing that could serve my work needs – most people hauling large or heavy loads (see below) would use a box truck, a flat bed, or maybe even a dump truck.

At the very least an F-350 or equivalent1-ton pick-up.
So, depending on how you look at it, getting 15 miles per gallon, (as I was five years ago), could be considered decent, given the type of work being asked of this old truck – 15 mpg being what I measured I was getting, which coincided more or less with what most people report getting in the same make model and year truck.
Then, in 2008, I read an article about Wayne Gerdes…

18 March 2012

"Mad Max" hypermiler questions and comments answered

As I am very sure that anyone who has found this blog is already aware, me and my work truck were recently featured on  TreeHugger, Huffington Post, HighT3CH, and Faircompanies.com, among others, for my new video (shot, edited, and posted to Youtube by Faircompanies' Kirsten Dirksen)

It is 14 minutes long, which is long by modern internet video standards, but still was only enough time to provide a little snapshot into the entire concept.
I've been crawling the web for the various re-posts and the comments on them.  Not surprisingly, given how unorthodox everything I'm doing is and how unfamiliar the general public is with the idea of hypermiling, there are a lot of questions and criticisms and misconceptions.
First, I'm not in or from LA.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Also, the grill block is not made of concrete!! :P
That error is just bizarre.  I wrote to treehugger's editor about it, but I haven't heard back yet...
[update: he wrote back, and fixed it]

Some of the more common questions and comments I have noticed follow:

15 March 2012

My Green Living Projects

Remember the scene in The Jerk where Navin (Steve Martin) gets really excited because the new phonebooks has arrived?
Well, the new phonebooks are here.

The mini-documentary on my life that was filmed by Faircompanies.com several years ago now has a sequel.
In this one I talk about my truck mods and driving style that lets me get almost double the mileage my truck initially got, saving me a couple grand in fuel charges each year.

My last video with them is up to almost a quarter million views, but the company has gotten a lot more subscribers since then, so there is potential for this one to be even more popular.

If you have already seen it, this post answers the most common questions, comments, and criticisms I have gotten so far:

22 January 2012


What a funny word.

Hi, I'm Bakari Kafele.

You may remember me from such blogs as:

If so, you may have noticed that I have content scattered all over the place, none of which is well organized or easy to find or read.
Well that is all about to change.

For anyone who doesn't know who I am:
I'm Bakari Kafele.  I already said that.
I often use the name Jacob Aziza when I am writing on the internet.  I also sometimes use the name David Craig Hiser.  And Lenard E. Simpleton (or sometimes just Lenard Simp)
We are all the same person, (like Tyler and his best friend, except that I have always been aware of it.)

I'm just a random ordinary guy.
I live in an RV which is partially solar powered, both for the environmental benefit and the major cost savings.
Living with me are girlfriend Jessica and non-human roommate Fushi, who also goes by the name Chairman Meow.

I run a small independantly-certified-green moving, hauling and handyman business BioDiesel Hauling, using my biodiesel powered truck.  I've been doing this for over 5 years, beginning immediately  after I finished 4 (simultaneous) associate degrees.
Before that I held over 30 jobs in my lifetime, including biology lab tech, bicycle messenger, private security officer, armored truck driver, carnie, factory worker, fundraiser, liquor store cashier, bicycle mechanic and gigs as a TV commercial actor, ditch digger, medical test subject, "adult" actor, and election polling place supervisor.

Currently, in addition to BioDiesel Hauling, I am in the Coast Guard Reserve, and I still take occasional shifts with the BikeStation where I used to work.

I am vegetarian, I drive a motorcycle with a very small engine, and I am very opinionated on just about everything.  I also go through phases where I really enjoy writing, although I have been out of that phase for over a year now.

My old blogs have several years of content, some of which (at least in my own narcissistic opinion) is pretty good, so to begin with, I will be reposting old content which most likely no one has ever read (MySpace anyone?) to here where it will be more accessible.

I realize I will probably never get a huge following, since I have no real theme and no motivation to seek publicity, but if you happen to want to subscribe, I've made it easy with the top boxes in the right side bar.


17 January 2012

Buying a good used bike from Craigslist.

For my first post on this new blogger account, I'm going to write a guide to how to select a decent used bicycle.

My VERY first post.
Even before I introduce this new blog website of mine, which is taking the place of my old MySpace blog (remember MySpace?) and the free blog that came with my businesses web domain hosting (with its character limit).  My second post here will introduce it a little more thoroughly than these three sentences, and after that I will start moving old existing content here.
But first I will take a break from my usual political ranting, personal stories, and posting of links I found fascinating, to fulfill a promise I made to a fellow reader of a different blog (one with actual readership, MMM) in the comment section to share some of my knowledge of bikes and of Craigslist for an audience that may not know a good bike from a bad one.  Imagine that, something useful!

First, for anyone who came here via link or Google, and doesn't know me personally, my credentials on the subject:
I began riding regularly for fun and transportation in 1992, when I was 12.  The next year I began riding to school every day, so that I could keep the bus money for other things.  In high school, in addition to daily commuting (to school and internship) and weekend rides of 40-100 miles, I began annual 4 day trips down the CA coast with a group of teachers and friends.  After college I went with the couple that had organized those annual rides from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta Mexico, and went solo from there along the coast to Acapulco and then North to Mexico city (over an 8000ft pass) for a total of 2800 miles over 2 months.  When I returned, I took a job as a bicycle messenger.  I eventually ended up also working as a messenger in New York City.

In 20 years of serious riding, I have had a bmx bike, a steel touring bike, a British internal-hub drop-frame from the late 60s, a carbon fiber racing bike, an aluminum mountain bike, and two folding bikes, all of which together I paid a grand total of $450 for (of which $400 was the carbon fiber road bike).

Eventually I returned to CA where, for the past 6 years, my primary job has been as a hauler (mover, and handyman) which involves picking stuff up that people don't want anymore, and then finding new owners for those things. This involves either selling or giving away anything which is still useable (which is most of what I pick up), frequently on Craigslist.
My second job for the past 5 years has been as a mechanic in a tiny bike-shop of sorts, the Bike Station, whose primary service is FREE secure valet attended bicycle parking, but also offers relatively low-cost repairs.  Because we don't sell new bikes, and because we never turn anyone away for lack of bike quality, I have been able to work on a great variety of bikes, of all types and ages and cost levels, which is rare in any one shop.
(My third job is a reserve for the Coast Guard, but that isn't relevant to this at all)

And now... on to the content!

1)  This is the most important thing of all: