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Oakland, CA

You are currently viewing archive for July 2006
Posted By Bakari

When I drive conservatively, I get 70mpg. I always get at least 55 mpg. Thats better than the Civic Hybrid, the Prius, or a diesel. It's similar to the Insight.

A typical car goes from 0-60 mph in about 12-15 seconds, a sports car in 8-10. I can go 0-60 in under 6 seconds. I drive in the carpool lane all hours of the day with no passengers. I go over the bridges without paying toll. I park anywhere I want and never pay a meter. I never get a ticket. I bought my vehicle new.

It cost $2,999.00

Its a Kawasaki Ninja EX250R.

Now before you think "I could never drive a motorcycle" let me tell you why you can.

"I don't know how to ride"
If you can ride a bike and drive a stick, you can hop on with no experience whatsoever. If not, the class is $190 (half if you're under 21), takes three half days, and has more than a 90 ass rate. If you fail the first time, you can take it again free.

"It's too dangerous"
Most motorcyclists are either riding those crazy Asian sport bikes at 100 MPH , or they are riding Harleys with a little joke of a helmet. They want to seem like tough guys, and they aren't careful. People in sports cars have a higher accident rate than those in station wagons; does this mean sports cars are more unstable and accident prone? Of course not, just the opposite is true.
Assuming you drive responsibly and within the limits of the law, you are less likely to get into an accident in the first place on a motorcycle. On a motorcycle, you can accelerate faster, you can brake faster (because the EX250 weighs 300lbs, 60-0 in 115ft), you can maneuver better, and you can fit in between the lanes, so you can often just move over when someone else is in the wrong place. Nearly every study on motorcycle accidents takes the population of all motorcyclists, which is not the same demographic as all drivers, (as you can probably tell reading the posts of motorcyclists on CL). They have a higher rate of driving drunk, a higher rate of speeding, a higher rate of reckless driving, more don't wear helmets than drivers who don't wear seatbelts, and they are more often under trained and under experienced. None of these are inherent properties of motorcycles, they are tendencies of the sort of people who buy them. I have heard of only one stud which compared riders and drivers of the same demographic. It was of the Kent County Police Dept. in England. The study found that the motorcycle officers had a LOWER accident rate than the drivers. The injury rate was about the same, i.e. when they did crash it was, on average, slightly worse, but then these are people who routinely travel well over the speed limit in the course of their work.

"I have a family" or "I need more space" or something like that.
First of all, you can put a passenger on the EX250, and with a backpack and panniers you can do a decent sized shopping trip. Also, the average American household has more than one car. Use the car for shopping or family outings, (which you probably do every week or two) and use the bike for commuting (which you do two times a day). Most of you have a daily commute, and you do it solo. I see you every day from the carpool lane or when I'm going between the lanes (which is legal in California). You know how rare it is for you to have more than one passenger at a time. And it's 3000 dollars.
[entire blog at

Posted By Bakari

To the ***** Staff:


I have worked a lot of different places, and never have I been to one where any good ideas were actually implemented in the long run.  If we are just to be told things like pay attention, show up on time, and no overtime, I can read the signs, and I, like everyone else, am no more or less likely to do those things because I am told in person.  Incidentally, the 10 or so all capital letter signs filled with orders, warnings and threats in the break room are not exactly great for morale.  Nothing is better to ensure unhappy customers than unhappy employees.


It seems our current management sees the associates only as a factor of productivity and cost.  There are some people here who don't need the income from this job or who have other options, and they are all going to be lost; some have quit already.  There are some people here who have been here a long time, who know their job extremely well, work hard, and rarely take breaks; some of us never do. If you look at a person and only see what they cost you per hour (its the companys money, not yours) or if you only look at whats left to be done and not what has been done, eventually you will end up with just the employees who are lazy, who are not that bright, or who are new and do not really know the job too well. 


Apparently, this is actually the plan.  I was told that the people who have been here the longest make way too much money.  Another employee was told that new people were being hired so that gradually all the old people could be gotten rid of.  Dont get me wrong - I personally like all the new hires; they all seem like bright, hard-working people.  But it takes time to pick everything up.  There will always be turn over, but many companies actually reward loyalty instead of looking for an excuse to fire people.

This might save you a few dollars a day in payroll, but that means the lines move just a little slower, the head clerks have a little more work to do and a little more stress, customers arent helped, and a few more will never come back.  It means the employees who know what they are doing have to pick up the slack, draining morale from everyone, so we have a little less patience in dealing with obnoxious customers.

Push people to do more work in a day, and they feel obligated to get everything done.  Thats why so many overtime hours got clocked.  Now, we arent supposed to get overtime, so we work through breaks (which is illegal by the way - thats exactly what Wal-Mart got sued over).


This store makes money - lots of it. We are the top fourth or fifth in sales amongst about 50 stores. What ever has been done so far is working.  Now you want to push the employees harder, cut hours, and limit the flexibility of their hours. You might ask, Why try to fix something which isnt broken?  If the store were losing money, then of course shake things up and whip it into shape.  As it is, you have a lot of the good people leaving, going to better jobs, and there is a reason for that.

I know my job well, I work hard, Ive been here almost a year, and Im still at $9.25.  Some new hires have been offered $9.50 even though everyone else has started at $9. Even $9.50 an hour, in an area of one of the highest costs of living in the world, is hardly motivation for anyone to show up on time or work especially hard or fast.

My advice to anyone planning to stay more than a few months would be to start looking into local retail unions.

Posted By Bakari

(Also letter-to-the-editor, also published)


General Motors makes a small VAN which gets 40MPG (better than the average small car in the US) which costs around $5,000 (unfortunately only sold in China)
Kawasaki makes a motorcycle which gets between 60 and 70 MPG (The EX250R) - which also can go 0-60 in under 6 seconds and tops out at 100MPH - which costs $3,000.  These vehicles are substantially SIMPLER than most cars, with no hybrid systems, no turbochargers, not even fuel injection.  What the two have in common is light weight, and low power.
The average US family is 3-4 people, so there is no reason a three or four person "clown car" would not fit the needs of most Americans.  Besides for that most US households have 2 vehicles, and the average trip is less than two people (driver and passenger) so a motorcycle, scooter, or ultra small car could be a families' commute vehicle, with a secondary car for weekend trips.

The only way for America to break its dependence on foreign oil will be for us to realize the difference between luxury and necessity.  We may need to pick the kids up after school, but we don't need to do it in a 6000lb 200hp car that gets 25mpg.

Posted By Bakari

(To Popular mechanics - letters to the editor section - published!)


Quarter million dollar 42ft ultra luxury coaches not-with-standing, there is another side to RVing which is the polar opposite of the one you illustrate. 
Using an RV primarily as a vehicle is of course very inefficient, using it primarily as a home (which, as you illustrate, can be much more comfortable than most would assume) is actually far more efficient than most regular homes.  The appliances in an RV are designed to be able to run off batteries and stored water for weeks, and therefor use a fraction of the electricity, water, and gas of a typical stationary house.  As an example, my electric bills are 1/5th the average for my area. 
In addition, while the average rent for a 1bedroom apartment in the SF area is around $1000 to $1500 a month, an RV space goes for $500 or less.  It is the most affordable (non-subsidized)housing available.