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You are currently viewing archive for April 2009
Posted By Bakari

Total # of deaths from "swine" flu: 8

Total annual deaths from regular old human flu: between a quarter and a half million.

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 therefor 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?

Posted By Bakari


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.

But simply maximizing number of offspring does not necessarily lead to the greatest number of survivors a few generations down.  Increasing the quality of a few offspring, and improving the environment they grow up in can be an alternate and potentially more successful strategy for grandchildren.  In a social specie where individuals are dependent on the group, any behavior which increases the cohesivenvess of the group has an adaptive advantage.

(this is only the begining - there is much more, including links to references, and irrelevant asides, not to mention a most gratifing conclusion (or at least the conclusion that gratification is perfectly ok) - unfortunately, my cheap blog editor piggybacking here on my website server space ("cheap" meaning "free") has a charcter limit for some unfathomable and ungodly reason, so in order to read the rest I am afraid I have to send you to my original blog, by having you click the following link: Gay Animals, Social Sex, and a Misunderstanding of Natural and Sexual Selection )

Posted By Bakari

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.

Posted By Bakari

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 made 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 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.

Posted By Bakari

My friend/co-worker, upon hearing about my truck project, encouraged me (repeatedly) to do a write up for the do-it-yourself website
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.

Posted By Bakari

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.

After the first stage of changes to the truck (the tank I was on when I wrote about them March 21) I ended up getting 21.75 miles with a gallon of gas.

Once again, I filled up, and then several trips into the new tank, got around to starting my next series of upgrades.
I still have yet to go to the salvage yard to try to find a manual steering gear and electric vacuum pump (so the brakes work when the engine is off). I was planning to go today, but the rain had me change my mind.

I did make it down to Al Lasher's last week for some switches.

Nobody makes a wiring diagram for this year for the diesel engine.
I spent many hours over several days upside down under the steering wheel, trying to trace and test various wires.

-If you happen to own a 7th generation (80s) Diesel F-250, and you want to wire in a kill switch or remote starter: The thick red wire with a green stripe goes to the injector pump (for a kill). The thin red wire with a blue stripe goes to the ignition relay (for a start).

The switches are dual purpose: wire them one way and they are momentary open, wire them the other and they are momentary closed. I used one each way, so that one stops fuel to the engine, the other triggers the starter. I mounted them side-by-side in a block of scrap wood, attached to the gear shift with a strip cut out of a steel can lid (mandarin oranges, of course).
As I had hoped, they definitely make the pulse and glide (coasting, etc) much faster, simpler, more precise, and safer, then using the key each time (especially since the ignition on this truck has been very finicky as long as I have had it) which encourages me to do it a lot more often.

-The orange wire running from the external voltage regulator to the alternator controls whether the alternator is charging or idle. If you open the circuit the alternator stops charging. Even though it is still being turned, there is no resistance, it just freewheels.
If anyone is inspired to do a similar project (with any vehicle), DO NOT just disconnect the alternator from the battery w/o disconnecting the smaller wires.  It will continue to produce current, but since that charge has nowhere to go, the alternator will self-destruct...

(Due to character limit, click here for the rest)

Posted By Bakari

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.
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.

Watering the plants, I noticed that some which had grown a lot last year weren't doing so well, so it was time to give them some more room.  Three were replanted, using soil from my compost bucket behind the house to fill in the extra volume in the bigger pots (the pots came from a dump run; they've been sitting behind the house waiting for this day).  Having one simple compost bucket, there is no place to separate recently added material from finished compost, so extracting soil to use meant going through it one handful at a time and separating out the food scraps and worms, (and then going back through the soil twice more to get all the scraps and worms I missed the first time).
As I suspected, the roots were totally compacted.

Last fall I happened to be up in Joaquin Miller Park on the day of the last sale of the year for the native plant nursery.  I bought a CA strawberry plant.  The strawberry was one of the ones which got replanted today.  I have two strawberries already!  They are very tiny, and may not make it to edible size for months, if ever.  But still, they are very clearly strawberries already.  There is also another blossom which should join them as fruits before long.

Also, my lupine has blossomed.

These are exciting times :)

Posted By Bakari

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.

Posted By Bakari


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.