26 November 2016

Make Love, Not Babies; reframing "trying" to conceive

I should start with a disclaimer:
The opinions and experiences expressed in this post are purely that of the author.
This is not meant in any way to be directed at any particular person or be in response to any particular comment.
I fully acknowledge that my own personal experience is nothing more than an anecdote, and a data set of one (1) generally proves nothing.

My wife was (is!) really excited about starting a family. I've been looking forward to it too.
I convinced her to agree to wait just a couple more months after we got married to save up some money so we can both take 6 months to a year off to be full time parents.

And I also asked for one critical thing:

Can we please not "try" to have a baby?

Can we instead just make conditions such that it is possible, and then "allow" it to happen?
She agreed to this.
No testing kits, no books, no thermometers, no fancy expensive lubes, and no pills of any kind.

Of course she took vitamins with folic acid and DHA, and she has a free app where if you put in the dates of each period it will predict the next one as well as likely fertile days based on the historical pattern. But she was doing both of those things for the past year anyway.
The app has the option to add temperatures to improve accuracy of fertility prediction, but we just took the calendar based prediction as a good enough rough guide. Fertile days start several days - up to 5 days - before ovulation anyway, and only last about a day after, so knowing the exact day is of limited usefulness anyway - once you know for sure its basically too late.

23 September 2016

Landlord Who Supports Rent Control

[Background - the city council of my town, Richmond CA, has had a very heated political debate for a couple years now over whether or not to institute rent control.
Richmond is currently one of the more affordable pockets in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially for being close enough to the center to have its own BART stop, but like rents everywhere in this popular and rapidly growing area, they are climbing fast.
With rent control measures, landlords would only be able to raise rents they charge by a certain percentage (generally close to inflation levels) each year, and could only evict tenants if those tenants actually did something wrong (or if the landlord wants to move in), not just as a way to get new tenants to pay higher rent (rents can be increased between tenants, assuming they move out voluntarily or are evicted for a legitimate reason).

In the public discourse around the issue, those against it are constantly making the claim that it would "hurt small-time landlords".
I posted the following to a couple neighborhood discussion groups on the topic:

Not that any one cares about one random individual's opinion, nor that they should... 
...but since so many who talk about the subject feel entitled to speak on my behalf, I just wanted to set the record straight. 
I grew up in Richmond, and I live here now. I worked for the downpayment money for our triplex home from scratch, on an ordinary working class salary (averaging around 20k a year). I was able to save money by living in trailer parks most of my adult life.

Today I am a "small time" landlord. I own just a couple of units, which share the same land as my own home is on. I put a lot of money and time and work into upgrading it and making it a nice place for my tenants to live, and I still have a giant mortgage on it.

And there is absolutely no way I could honestly claim that rent control would "hurt" me.

31 August 2016

Bakari Willsky Kafele*

I had no expectation that my partner would take on my last name.

My intention was to do like one of my clients when they got married: he took her last name as his middle name, and she took his last name as her middle.

But my partner wanted everyone in the family to have the same last name, which certainly seems reasonable.
She also wanted to keep both of her parent's last names, in honor of them.  But she didn't want to have 4 names.  Also reasonable.
So she decided to hybridize her maiden middle and last names (one of each of which were her parent's last names) and make that her middle name, and then take mine for a last name.

Brotsky Williams becomes Willsky.

Me, being all egalitarian and such, found it acceptable for her to take on some of my name only if I was doing the same.  And, conveniently, I had no middle name.  So I'll take her new middle name as my own as well.

25 August 2016

I'm So Fancy: On the Consept of Cultural Appropriation

I used to have I'm So Fancy, by Iggy Azalea, as my phone's ringtone, for the express purpose of annoying Social Justice Warriors.


Because she is white (so say the SJW), she has no business making rap music.
Black people invented hip-hop, therefore only they have the right to produce it.
White people can listen and enjoy it, perhaps, but they should not be able to make any money off of it.

As counter-point, allow me to introduce "Unlocking the Truth"

20 August 2016

The Mechanic and the Bumper Stickers; On Cultural Isolation

I broke the axle of my truck.

Turns out, even though the truck model is very popular, and the company made parts interchangeable for many years before and after mine came out, mine just so happens to have one of the rarer weight capacity and gear ratio combinations, which means if I replace it I will most likely either not be able to haul as much or I will lose MPG on the highway.

There is only one place I could find in the area that rebuilds axles, so I removed the wheels and hubs and took the axle to them.

The city of Hayward, where the gear shop is, is two cities south of Oakland, CA.  Oakland, which is the next city south of Berkeley, and across the bay from San Francisco.  This is where Gavin Newsome, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Lee are from.  The center of the anti-Vietnam war movement, the gay rights movement, and the birth place of the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter.
It doesn't get much more liberal than the Bay Area.

But, see, I was heading to a gear shop, a place that rebuilds transmissions, axles, and transfer cases, primarily for big trucks and off-road vehicles, plus the occasional hot-rod or classic car.

I was expecting a couple of middle aged to older white guys.  I would not have been the least surprised if they ranged somewhere between conservative and libertarian.

But I sure didn't expect this:

18 August 2016

The Last Taboo

Disclaimer / “Trigger Warning”
This is easily the single most "triggering" topic in our culture.  Its about the only thing which causes Americans to react as strongly as a True Believer reacts to an insult of Muhammad.  Its about children and sexuality.  If those two words in one sentence were enough to cause some strong feelings inside you, it may be better to just skip this post.

Random Thoughts (dot fyi)

As you may have noticed, I now have a much simpler URL (the words in the address bar)

Instead of "biodieselhauling.blogspot.com", which really has nothing at all to do with the blog content - it just happens that I hosted my first blog on my business website's server, and then when I moved to a Google server, I didn't put any time or thought into the new name!
Plus, having a free domain meant I had to have ".blogspot.com" tacked onto the end, as an ad for google's blog platform.

I thought about doing a custom domain a few years ago, and came up with "random thoughts" - but it was (and still is) being parked by one of those amoral "buy something you have no need for and no intention of ever using so that you create an artificial scarcity and can turn a profit without having contributed anything of value to the world" type companies, (in dramatic contrast to my experience when my desired business website "biodieselhauling.com" was parked!)

I contacted the company that was holding my idea hostage, and they said they would be more than happy to sell me the rights to the name they were not using and had no intention of ever using, for just $5,000!

Hmm, I guess biodieselhauling.blogspot.com isn't so bad, especially given I only have around 30 subscribers.

But since 2013, "the internet" has been coming up with new TLDs (the thing after the dot), and now there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of options besides .com, .net, .org, and .gov.

I haven't really been writting much since 2013 though, so I hadn't really thought about it.  A long boring day of Coast Guard Reserve duty motivated me back into the writing habit, and today is randomly popped into my head to see what options there were these days.
So, I paid Google $20, instead of that $5,000.  I probably could have found cheaper, but this way it was trivially easy to integrate my existing blog with my new domain (basically just clicked one button in my admin page, done).

So here we are.
The original address is forwarding here automatically, and I expect it will indefinitely, so your existing bookmarks should continue to work, but now typing my blog into the address bar by hand or doing a google search should be a lot easier.

12 August 2016

Your feelings don't determine ethics

I recently started reading the Odyssey by Homer.

Its always fun to see how entirely different cultures view the world, which things are apparently universal and which things we make assume to be universal but actually are specific to our own particular place and time.

For example, we think of empowered female sexuality as a recent invention, appearing only after modern feminism, but in the ancient Greek story, as patriarchal as any culture, the hero is held captive for seven years as the demi-goddess Calypso's personal sex slave (though in his heart, he wanted always to be faithful to his wife back home).  Another time the witch Circe, having turned all his soldier into pigs for future eating, decides, upon learning that he is the legendary Odysseus, not to turn him into a pig after all - on condition that he have sex with her; which he agrees to only on the condition that she turn his companions back into human afterwards.

But what really struck me was realizing how the worldwide human sense of morality appears to have made a fundamental and permanent change following the creation of the League of Nations (the original UN) and the various Geneva conventions.  They date back as far as 1864, but on the time scale of human civilization that is a trivial time span.

Today, a culture which violates certain specific international agreements is considered by the rest of the world to be the very embodiment of evil - using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, deliberately killing civilians or captives, or taking advantage of an occupation to engage in theft, rape, or slavery.
Oddly enough, shooting people, blowing them up, and restricting access to food and other necessities is considered entirely normal and acceptable behavior...

05 August 2016

A Technique to Terminate Tantrums: Directed Self-Calming via Incentivized Alternative

I'm not totally sure on the name.  I just came up with it this morning, and hadn't spent any time thinking about it before.  I like the directed self-calming part...
How about I actually start at the beginning, instead of the end, eh?

Kids throw tantrums.

By tantrum I mean any combination of yelling, crying, and flailing, which is triggered by a conflict with another person which doesn't allow them to get whatever it is that they want.
Crying because an errant football hit them in the head as they were playing in the park would not count as a tantrum.

Kids, unfortunately, do not come with instruction manuals.

One would think that evolution would naturally guide us to instinctively know the best way to deal with children in a species that instinctively provides "parenting", but for some reason it doesn't.

This technique may have been come up with plenty of times, by many different people, and it may even be written down many places, but I personally have never seen anyone else use it, have never read about it.

25 July 2016

A Conversation on my Post Before Last

I got some in depth feedback on my post before last.
That's the parts in black.
My response follows in red.

Hi Bakari
My reply is too long to post into your "comment" box, so I am emailing it instead:

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to try to articulate your thoughts and beliefs more clearly so we can understand what you are thinking. 
Thanks for this reply!

I think that I understand your beliefs a little better now. 
That being said, I have many mixed feelings about your analysis and conclusions. ... who cares enough to want to influence things to be more just and fair and better for all; and ... that you are so intelligent and do so much research to try to discern what is real and true and what is not; and that you have the courage to express your beliefs regardless how unpopular. 
However, I believe that you oversimplify many things to make them fit neatly into your analysis
That is without a doubt true!  Topics the encompass hundreds of millions of different individuals can never possibly be discussed without oversimplifying.  If I were to flesh out every caveat, I'd end up with a book instead of a blog post.

22 July 2016

Cat Superstition, and the Origins of Religion, Astrology, and all forms of Supernatural Beliefs

A few years ago, my (late) kitty cat friend and roommate Fushi jumped up on the table.
On the table was a large object of some kind - I don't remember exactly what, maybe a book, maybe a pot; whatever it was, it was kind of near the edge.

Supposedly cats are naturally graceful, but that seems to vary as much by the individual as it does for humans.
He bumped into this object, which teetered a bit from the impact, and he jumped right back down.
And the thing tipped over and came down behind him, crashing just barely behind him.
As anyone would, in such a circumstance, he quickly jumped out of the way.

But then he did something more interesting...

He continued to run.
In fact, he ran not only completely across the room, but right out of the room, and kept right on going across the entire house, before finding a safe hiding place in the bedroom.

Now, Fushi was not a particularly skittish cat.  He wasn't bothered by loud noises, he trusted human strangers, and even strange dogs as long as they didn't chase or bark at him.  He stood up to bully cats and went on adventures, sometimes for days at a time.

But this object, set in motion by his own actions, and continued in motion by gravity, had just scared him away.

19 July 2016

Protesting Police Shootings VERSUS *not* Helping Your Kids with a College Degree and DownPayment

From the outside, it could look an awful lot like the liberal Left is populated with tens of thousands of Donald Trumps.  Trumps that just happen to have different values; but watch them on mute for a while, or listen to the emotion without the specifics, and there is the exact same self-righteousness, the exact same outrage and contempt for who ever they consider the "other" side. And with it, a complete and total obliviousness to anything they or their allies may be doing to exacerbate the very problems they rail against, while instead placing blame on the most immediately visible target. 

There are lots of details that vary, but they are fill-in-the-blank details that everything above applies equally well to.  Everyone is angry and loud and makes proclamations of fact which are just plain false.  Everyone is so confident that their own values are the "correct" ones that it doesn't even occur to them to qualify conclusions of what "should be" with an "if we want..."

But nobody seems to notice...

17 July 2016

Surprise! A Flamboyant Introvert Blog Post!

I've been trying hard to avoid the news and social commentary for the last couple years.

Humans naturally focus on bad things more than good, are irrational, and there are patterns that have been around for as long as there has been such a thing as human society (despite what many idealistic amateur anthropologists choose to believe).

For a while it made me feel better to write about my own take on various interpretations of events out in the world, but I have a total number of 36 subscribers - my writing is not going to change the world.

I just found it forced me to focus on the worst parts of humanity all the time, which could start to cloud my experience of all the wondrous things in real life in front of me.


Try as I might, sometimes an event just gets so much attention that I can't avoid it, and even though it may be a topic I have gone over plenty of times already, I notice a new side of it, another piece that everyone else is apparently missing, or I realize that something I took so much for granted I never wrote down is not even on most people's radar, or that something I have said in verbal debates and discussions many times has never made it into the bog in writing.

And then when that happens, I usually try to ignore the unsettled feeling that leaves as long as possible, and then at some point I end up with a bunch of free time and nothing in particular to do, and so here I am, I find myself typing a bunch of words into a keyboard...

11 January 2016

Ninja Warrior

Compressing my entire life into a minute and thirty seconds was almost as much challenge as actually doing the obstacles! 
This is a quick summary of my life followed by some samples of stuff I can do. Even if I don't make it on, making this video was a whole lot of fun already.

Guest Starring the beautiful intelligent and generous Rachel Williams, (who took most of the video I didn't take myself)

Cameo by Didi the dog

Extra Special Thanks to Joe Zimmerman of Alameda Ninja Warrior (i.e. Joe's back yard) who encouraged me to try out. Dude built a whole mini course by himself, and then invited people to come play there - for free! Awesome guy.

Music credit: Pork and the Spork / Flumberger Fishbulb (i.e. my high school band, music and lyrics by Alex Staten and Bakari Kafele)

The wall at the end is "only" 10ft high, but on the other hand, all 10ft of it is straight up!



Oh well,
Though, with at least a little comfort from caveats...

The new Tick Tock took me out.
Along with most of my fellow competitors.

Somewhere between 100 and 200 got to attempt to run the course at Universal Studios Hollywood, but only about 30 got past this one. 
As the ANW producer's often do, this was a brand new obstacle, different than anything they've done so far, and of course the course is a secret until the night of competition, so nobody had any possible way to train or practice, or heck, even try it one time, before doing it with the cameras on.

Add to having no idea what the right technique should be (several swings to increase momentum, or one single smooth jump?  Aim high or aim low?  Catch with arms first, or legs, leaning forward or back?), I was among the very last to go.  They told me to arrive by 10pm.  My run was just slightly before 5am.  For almost 7 hours I stood around waiting, on the fenced in asphalt waiting area off to the side of the course, with not even chairs for the waiting athletes to rest on.  By the time I got to run, cold, stiff, and not having slept the entire night, I wanted to get it over with and go home almost as much as I wanted to finish the course!
At the very least, I wasn't taken down by the new version of the quintuple steps - harder than the old one, but basically the same.  A few people went down there, so at least I wasn't dead last :-P
In fact, I came off the rope smoother than many.  But on the trapeze, I felt like I didn't have enough momentum to make the jump, swung back and forth a few times, and landed high on the pendulum with a bit too much speed and force, and basically bounced off before I could get a grip on it. 
I wasn't planning on falling, so it was not a graceful dive.  I pretty much landed flat on my back, but there was no time to pay attention to little things like stinging pain, because I was on the bottom of a giant pool.   The water has a weird smell to it.  Probably some kind of sanitizing agent.  I started to climb out, but the crew told me I was on the wrong side.  Across to the other shore, they gave me a blanket (with a sponsor logo :) ), and they asked what happened.  I slipped.  What else is there to say?