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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

Now people who couldn't make it can vicariously experience 4 separate components of the party.


Full Contact Spoons - the only existing recording of the greatest full contact sport in the world.  There is only 1 min and 17 sec worth because we are all old and fat and lazy.

Super Smash Bros - I am playing 3 on one (everyone against me) on one TV while simultaneously coaching the people playing Mario Kart on a different TV.
There is also a handicap against me.
And I won.

Dancing - 4 hours worth.  I only wore the shoes for a couple songs

Cake at midnight - my comment at the end refers to the fact that 3 different people made/brought cakes, and they all independently put my signature smiley face on them

Posted By Bakari

One of the things that happens when you get too old, you spend more time re-telling old stories than generating new ones.
I have a couple new ones now.

Everything went exactly as I had envisioned it, which I find remarkable considering how little planning and prep went into it.  Every portion was filled with participants, and all of you get the credit for that. All in all, not counting guests of guests, and the people who had to attend because it was in their house, about 35 people showed up, which is more people than I would have guessed I even know.

I want to extend a most enthusiastic thanks to everyone who came - however briefly - to my party, helping to make it an unmitigated success.
Most especially I wish to thank Greg for offering his house for the party, and Andy, Peter, Robin, Bret, Vern, and Vern's wife (who's name I don't remember since I met her then for the first time) for tolerating it.
Extra thanks to Peter and Jesse who helped me set up at the mansion and clean up again after, and Laura who helped me clear the field of poop, and to whoever found the 2nd N64.
Much thanks to Beth and Jessica who made 2 desserts each and my mom and Lois who brought one with candles - and all of them with my signature smiley face, "Banana Nose", my trademark since Jr. High.
A special thanks too, to Larry who came early and stayed 'till the end, and Sasha and Irina and Lois and Dajenya and Jesse who participated in each separate stage.
Thanks to Larry for the extensive documentation:







birthday suit






(I broke out the stilettos for the first time since prom for a few songs)

(The very end)

I try not to be too narcissistic, but honestly, I'd have to say last Saturday was the most fun party I've ever been to.  Maybe I shouldn't wait 30 years to have the next one afterall...
(In the meantime, I will have other amtgard/spoons games.  Let me know if you'd like to be on the notification list for future games.)

And now on to other things, being mature and responsible and productive and all that sort of thing.

Posted By Bakari

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.

I'm not one to throw parties.
In fact, the last time I hosted a party entirely on my own was - never.

On Saturday, January 9th, 2009, I will have my "Last Day of Youth" party.

Full Contact Spoons and Amtgard in the park (Lake Merrit in Oakland, between fairyland and the bowling green)


Video games: Perfect Dark and Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart.
Like we used to play in high-school.  I've been playing against my 8 year old neighbor, so I don't suck as much as I did back then.

At the Mansion (292 Lee St)

Hours of non-stop dancing starting at sun down

I went through thousands of tracks, one by one, and selected across multiple genres for maximum danceability, ordered them by beats per minutes, and have them beat-matched and cross faded by robot DJ (aka my laptop - nothing like the real thing, but about $600 cheaper). 7 hours worth of rock-a-billy followed by funk followed by hip-hop followed by "gypsy punk" followed by pop.

There are to be no presents or gifts of any kind.  Seriously.  I have enough stuff and enough money.  And not enough space.  This includes home-made stuff and things that would actually be useful to me.  Nothing.
(Edibles and sorbiles -cake, alcohol, whatever- would be appreciated, but that would be to share with everyone.)
Your presence is my present.
Playing spoons and dancing non-stop until my neighbors complain or we pass out from exhaustion is my present.  Might be a good idea to start an exercise program now to prepare...

Because I would like even my feeble friends to attend, I am suspending my usual rule that anyone who shows up to spoons has to play.

I can not think of a good way to end this

Posted By Bakari

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.


Expert in nothing, but my goal is for everyone there is, I can do at least one thing moderately well that they don't do at all. 

Maybe there is someone who does a little carpentry and electronics soldering and computer software troubleshooting and lockpicking and sailing and shooting guns and bow and arrows and swordplay and bicycle repair and auto mechanics and unicycling and gardening.

Just in case, I'm taking muy thai and jui jitsu and I just took a seminar on making fire with natural materials, another on edible wild foods of the East Bay, and today one on tracking animals, and also took my first parkour class.  Judging by the skill level of my classmates, watching YouTube videos and practicing on my own at the playground and on random obstacles I find walking around the city has been more beneficial than I realized.


I feel more and more like a character from an action/adventure movie, where the hero somehow knows how to do everything. 

And yet what strikes me continually is how much I still don't know.  Not even counting all the stuff I am not interested in learning, but the skills I still want, if money was no object, would take a lifetime to learn.

And money is an object.

So one lifetime isn't enough.


I have had debt for a few years, collected over a cross country trip/move and major vehicle failure, months of unemployment,  going back to college, buying a newer larger trailer, and having to buy my ex out of said trailer when she moved out.

I am getting tantalizingly close to paying off the last of it.


I decided once I do, classes take priority one.  Jobs will be fit around them, not the other way around.  I'm looking to work about 20hrs per week.

I am saying this publicly so as to have some accountability.  If you hear me say I am working too much come next summer, remind me I said this.



Posted By Bakari

I looked it up, and supposedly "middle age" is supposed to consist of the 3rd quarter of life.
Now that doesn't make a lick of sense!
The term "middle" doesn't mean "third out of four".  The term middle means second out of three.

So, even if the official designation disagrees with me, I still maintain that if there is a middle age, it should be in the middle; equal parts between youth and elder.
Assuming that people tend to live to around 90, then it divides neatly up into 3 parts. Most people can agree that 0-30 qualifies as young, and that 60-90 constitutes old, yet no one I've talked to about it (and most especially those approaching or just over the threshold) want to admit that 30-60 is in the middle of those, and is therefor "middle aged".

While our society today is an exception, in most places in the world and in most places in history a person would be married, have a kid or two, and most likely a stable job or even a career and a house by 30, so that measure lines up neatly with the math.

Unlike a lot of people, I don't expect to adjust my definitions as I get older. I consider it a matter of integrity.
Besides, I am already heading that way by a number of personal measures as well: I own the place I live in (granted, its only a trailer, but I did have to pay off a bank loan before I got the title), I run my own business, I've not only been married but I am already divorced, and while I used to imagine myself as a human bullet as I raced down 880 at 105 miles per hour in the middle of the night, these days I drive the same motorcycle at 50 in order to get better gas mileage.

If the middle third is what constitutes middle aged, then I've got one year left of being "young".

I don't generally do anything for my birthday, and I'm not much of a party person, but in this case I think the milestone calls for something special.
I don't really plan things in advance with any consistency; this may change by the time 364 days go by, but here is my plan for a year from yesterday (my last day of youth):

On Saturday, January 9th, 2010, there will be several separate consecutive events.
There will be go-karts and mini golf, either at Scandia or Malibu Grand Prix - (its so hard to decide! Malibu has better, more powerful cars, and a challenging curvy track you can drift on, but Scandia lets you race each other instead of just the clock).
There will be tag (and possibly freeze tag, or even monster tag) at a large playground.
There will be Full Contact Spoons and Amtgard (foam sword fighting) in the park.
And there will be dancing inside of my RV trailer.
I suppose there will also have to be meals in there somewhere.

I also expect a decent amount of drinking and yelling and general galavanting about and carrying on.

Obviously, anyone who knows me know this will hardly spell the end of my endless string of life adventures, youthful indiscretions, and general craziness. Never-the-less, supposedly commemorating the end of it seems as good an excuse as any to coax my friends, many of whom behave as though they think they are supposed to be "mature" already, into playing and having fun and looking stupid in front of other adults.

I don't need much materially, and I am not quite intoxicated by our consumer culture. Plus, I live in a very small space, and am all out of room for more stuff. The best gift you, dear reader, can get me would be to come to at least one of my day-before-my-birthday parties (I expect my best friends to come to all of them!) Mark your calendars.

The last time I played at the giant playground in Scandia with a bunch of friends was my 18th birthday.
Perhaps I shall do this again at 59 and 364 days.
Yes, I do believe I shall.

Posted By Bakari

Today I drove around and around The Circle* so many times that I actually started to get a little dizzy.

Then, a few hours later, due to a combination of a strong wind and poor communication, there was a slight mishap while setting up the boat which ended causing a very wet Bakari.  The bay was quite surprisingly warm - like the warmest I've ever felt it - even though it was a cool day.  While normally I have a rather cat like aversion to being in water, I found it rather amusing in this case (maybe because while I've been worried about flipping it out in the bay, this happened in about 3 ft of water about 1ft from the dock, and had nothing to do with sailing technique - also because it wasn't really that cold.  I'm sure my cell phone will recover eventually...)
We had a good strong (though inconsistent and gusty) wind and got pretty good speed for an El Toro in a sheltered little marina.  I was pretty slow in tacking back up wind, but I am definatley getting better.  Once I caught a good line, we went pretty smooth.

I realized today that for a short job I make as much in one hour as I made all day at my second real job (and first where I actually had to show up every day and on time and stay for 8 hours) as a night watchman at a truckyard / warehouse.
My expenses today aren't much more than they were then.  So I pretty much make a day's pay in an hour.  Leaving the rest of the day free for driving in circles (literally), therapy appointments (which I don't feel I need at all but I actually enjoy going so much, and he is charging me so little, that I took his advice and am still going), sailing, and evening hockey games.

*The traffic circle between Berkeley and Kensington where Arlington and The Alameda meet, just above the tunnel that turns into Solano.**

**If you are still by chance reading my blogs on occasion: yes, obviously I am stealing this idea from you.  It works perfectly here for how I wanted it to sound and flow, but I wouldn't have thought of it on my own.  Thank you.

Posted By Bakari

My plan had been to become a park ranger ever since high school.

I always knew I wanted to do a lot of different jobs, but once I had some varied experience, I was going to settle in the long term with park ranger.
I had dozens of different jobs, and then when I got bored of it, I went back to school and focused on stuff that would improve my chances of getting a ranger job: degrees in biology and earth science, an emergency medical technician certificate, and the pre-police academy course.

By this time I was in a long-term relationship with someone with a career in an urban area, and I didn't want to move out to a remote area as, since that would mean either forcing her to move or leaving her behind.

Oakland has around 1200 acres in 91 parks, including 500 acre Joaquin Miller, and has its own park rangers.
And just as I was beginning my job search after graduation, they were hiring. How convenient.

About 6 years ago they had 25 rangers.
Due to budget cuts this number went from 12, to 8, to 5.
At the time 2 of those 5 were not on active duty for one reason or another, leaving all of 3 people to cover the entire city's network of parks. They were trying to get back to 8.

I turned in the initial application. I passed the oral interview. I did excellent on the general intelligence test. I passed the physical test with lots of time to spare (timed obstacle course and strength test) and passed the psychological profile. Turned in the extensive background information. There are no hidden things in my past which should disqualify me. I got a letter saying I had been placed on the eligibility list.
And then...
I got another letter saying I wasn't. I wrote to inquire what had happened, and never heard back.

By this time BioDiesel Hauling had taken off, I was enjoying it, making good money, in the process of getting the green certification, and had just started the bike job, so I let it go.

About year later, I am well established in both jobs, and very happy with what I am doing. I am up in the park, and I happen to notice a brochure about the volunteer bike patrol. Looks like it could be fun. But I don't own a mountain bike.

Another 6 months go by, I get a mountain bike.
I take it to the closest park to my house, and lo and behold - Oakland allows cyclists to ride single track!! (See "we have some seriously f*cking gnarly...", August 6, 2008)
I applied for the program.

Yesterday was my interview.
As it happens the sergeant interviewing me was one of the ones who did last time.
The interview was more like a friendly chat. Most relaxed interview I have ever been in (last time there were 3 interviewers. I had to wear a suit. "Relaxed" would certainly not be a word I would have used to describe it)

I learned, among other things, that the budget for additional rangers was cut before the hiring process was completed. They ended up hiring 2 people, but also let 2 go, leaving the city with... 3 rangers. Only now instead of having a goal of 5-8, 3 is the number officially budgeted for.

Which means it wasn't (necessarily) anything to do with me when I didn't get hired. I wouldn't have gotten it no matter what, because the position I was applying for ceased to exist. Kind of would have been nice had they mentioned that at the time, but its nice to know now.

Looks like I will get to patrol the parks after all.
I just won't get paid anything for it.

On the plus side, I only go as often as I feel like it, and won't be required to make any arrests.
I have a motivator to actually get me off this damn computer and go outside and get some exercise and be in the outdoors.
And an excuse to buy some cool new bike equipment.

Here's to (probably) not having terrible things on my permanent record that I don't know about afterall!

Posted By Bakari

It was many years ago when I last rode a mountain bike on a trail.

I had this heavy old Fuji that folded in half, weighed about 50lbs, had a 5 speed freewheel and friction thumb shifters. For those that don't know bikes, that means it was a pretty crappy bike.

But, I had really nice tires on it, and it is just amazing the crud you can ride over with fat knobbies.

But then I moved into an RV, there was only room for one bike, and I took my more versatile road touring bike. The mnt. bike went up on the wall in the garage in Mom's house.

Before long I moved out of the area, then out of the state, and clear across the country. The bike hung upside down, its tires sad with nostalgia of mud. We had once encountered a small stream at about 15mph, and before I had a chance to even get scared (nevermind brake) we were already over and past it. Now, without me, they did nothing but than lose air molecules, one by one.

I came back, eventually, to CA. I took the mountain bike with me to Burning Man.
One night, I parked it outside next to my RV. Someone came by and claimed it. I suppose the idea is, in a semi-anarchistic gifting culture, no one can lay claim to property, and so this wasn't so much theft as involuntary sharing.

I decided that next time I wanted to get a half-way decent mountain bike. Which meant that for years and years, I had none at all, because there was always more important things to spend money on.

Many years passed.

I became a hauler. You wouldn't believe the things I get paid to pick up from people. My TV, DVD, VCR, RePlay, CD changer, sofa, scanner/printer... these are all things I was paid to take away. I have had several bikes, but none were quite right, and they passed through my hands to new owners.

And one day, just last week, I ended up with a mountain bike, and this one I kept.

I was a little disappointed at first when I looked it up and found out how cheap it was when it was new. A bit heavy for the frame size. Cheap forks without much rebound damping. Low end Shimano components.

On the other hand, the frame is far too small for me, which has the advantage of making it lighter (plus plenty of standover height, and a short wheelbase for maneuverability).
The fork has a huge range of easily adjustable preload, changing it from very soft and cushy to stiff while retaining small bump sensitivity.
And, working as a bike mechanic for the past couple years, I recognize that while the shifters are a decade old and were cheap back then, they actually stand the test of time, and this particular design fails less often than many newer and more expensive ones. Just like every other of the same model I've come across, they still shift as crisp and precise as a new set.

Its about half the weight of the bike lost to Burning Man, and its the first bike I've owned with any suspension fork at all. Took it to work in order to tweak it a little, upgrade a few components, barends, clipless pedals. Sure is nice working in a bikeshop!

I would normally fit a 17 frame, and this being a 12.5", I had the seatpost way past the limit mark - the point at which there's a good chance it'll break off sooner or later, and it was still too low. I found an old extra long seatpost in the scrap metal bin. All of the grippy teeth were worn away to nothing. I took half an hour to file new teeth into the post. No decent bikeshop should be without several types of file.

Today was the first day on which I had no work, and nothing planned.

[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

It isn't about strength to weight ratio.

Don't let your natural estrogen to testosterone ratio deter you. (embedding disabled)

It is a matter of will.

(Well, that, and lots and lots of practice)

The term is "traceuse" (French) and I think we need more of them.
After all, consider ice skating, swing dancing, gymnastics, and track & field. Plenty of our gentler and more attractive gender in those sports. Parkour is really no more than track plus gymnastics applied to a real world setting.

Speaking of which, these two show how these things can be very practical and useful skills to be comfortable with in real world situations. You never know when something like the following may happen to you!...