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You are currently viewing archive for August 2008
Posted By Bakari

"You don't ever clean your house?"

Guess I better clean my house.

Posted By Bakari

I wish I knew how to put together words in such a way as to accurately describe the thoughts and feelings which so totally envelope me.

Posted By Bakari

For my entire life I have been the beneficiary of what I think(?) is an abnormal amount of generosity.
Of course when you're young enough, you tend to take everything which happens for granted, because you haven't learned a baseline yet. Ok, so the nice lady gives you some candy, and you are supposed to say "thank you" and this is considered a normal social transaction.
So, when the administrative staff of your elementary school calls your family a couple weeks before Christmas and says that someone donated a really nice bicycle along with all the other toy donations and they want you to have it rather than putting it in the first-come-first serve toy bin that the whole school will have access to... you don't really question that either. That was only 1 of 3 bikes I was given by teachers at that school.
In high school I always assumed it was because I was so obviously poor.
I got a steady supply of free meals when I sat looking forlorn while everyone else ate (there is a fine line where it becomes obvious you are doing it on purpose. I always blatantly crossed that line. Never seemed to matter)
The free clothes from relative strangers was because of how I dressed. They assumed I couldn't afford decent clothes, and didn't want to embarrass me by asking, so I would just get random gifts. So I thought.

It may well be that this is the motivator still, since I couldn't care less about clothes and I work and play hard and they tend to disintegrate off of me before I get around to the rather tedious chore of finding replacements.

It can't explain all of it though.

Maybe the very idea of capitalism, Ann Rands virtue of selfishness, it is all rhetoric, and Burning Man's culture of gifting (not bartering, gifting - major distinction) is actually a universal standard. Maybe I just never noticed. Actually, I suspect this is it. I don't see anything so particularly special about me, (beyond the requisite "everyone is special" kind of way)

The web domain I wrote about recently. The waived inspection fee for no apparent reason. My need to compensate for overly generous tips (very rarely has anyone ever questioned the number I come up with, maybe 3 times in 2 years. I calculate in my head and just give them the total.)
What inspired this entry was the shopping trip this morning (I promised Fushi that I would buy cat food before I had breakfast)

Kim and Nina own the shop, have maybe 2 employees (relatives?)
I took a cooking class with a friend of theirs, and as a result I always get a discount (10-15% off depending how much I spend, and frequently rounded down to a round number on top of that!)
We speak only as much as you can while in a checkout line, but they are both quite observant. My wife and I lived here before the separation, so they noticed when she stopped showing up and asked me about it. They were both very supportive, and also optimistic about our chances. Once Nina could tell just from my grocery choices, "You're making dinner for her tonight?", which of course I was.
All of this is totally irrelevant. I just want to share House of Produce with you all, and this seems the best chance to do it.

Kim almost always gives me fruit on my way out the door. At first I assumed it was stuff he had too much of, or was getting towards the end of its shelf life. Today it was white nectarines. When I smiled and waved him away, he pointed out that they were organic in case that was why. It wasn't...

[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

This song does a really excellent job of explaining the real reason why it is I ended up being a bicycle riding kind of guy.

I learned to fix bikes because if I didn't fix the problem, the story line of this song was my fate.

Chances are, unless you happen to be a black male who grew up in a poor part of the east bay who never got involved with the "thug" mentality, you won't particularly sympathize with the protagonist's lyrics.

Suffice it to say this is not merely a bus ride into a fanciful hypothetical for the sake of an amusing story line.  It is quite an accurate description of travel via AC Transit in certain neighborhoods, from the inexplicably long delays to the fun characters on the bus.

I particularly like skit #2: "A-yo, you Rosa Parks' son motherfucker?  Bring your ass back here..."

Posted By Bakari

Which is to say, if a millionaire gives $500,000 to charity and good causes - a full 50% of his assets - he has $500,000 left over to keep and spend on himself.

The impoverished man who gives away $5, but only has 1,000 to his name, gave but .5%; however, he has only $995 left for himself.

This makes it by far the greater personal sacrifice.  True giving can not be measured by the benefit to the receiver, but only by the sacrifice made by the giver.

He who is destitute yet giveth still, shall be the world's greatest philanthropist.

Posted By Bakari

I never set out, intended, nor expected to become a representative of the environmental movement, an activist, or really anyone special at all.
As I mentioned in blogs past, I believe the most significant and positive thing we can do to be responsible citizens is to truly live each of our own individual lives as close to our own principals as we can. I believe this makes more real difference than all of the shouting, the signs, the email letters to representatives. If everyone just did their own little part, there would cease to even be a need for the grand gestures.
And yet, as it turns out, apparently living by my modest principals has propelled me into this role without my having to try.

In just the past couple weeks:

-I have been offered the position of vice-president of the board of a (not yet in existence) children's library, (I am the only member of the board with neither an advanced degree nor related education and/or non-profit experience)
-I was interview for a grad student's thesis (ok, granted, those first two are somewhat related)
-I was filmed by and have 3 short video interviews which touch on my home, my vehicles, and my business
-I presented the awards (and gifts) to the team in Alameda county which logged the most commute miles during bike-to-work month last May (when I also volunteered, packing gift bags as well as at one of the energizer stations) at the Dublin city council meeting (the winner's were all employees of the City of Dublin)
-I had the domain I originally wanted for my website donated to me by the previous owner - despite my specifically requesting to pay for it, on the grounds of his liking what I am doing with it
-Soon I will be running yet another free bicycle parking station at a local event yet another thing which I am not quite sure how I ended up doing.
-And with any luck, I'll end up a member of the Oakland Bike Patrol which is mostly an excuse to get me to ride my mountain bike more, but is also because, believe it or not, I kind of miss my old job as a private security guard sometimes - I actually got to help a lot of people.

You know what I always say: "Volunteering is for suckers. Did you know so called volunteers don't even get paid?" (Homer Simpson)

[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

I finally got the person who had reserved "" to release it from it's parked status.


It should be a few hours to process, but soon will redirect to my website,

Most people assume all websites to be .com, so this means a lot of confused customers will be able to find me a lot easier.


The person who owned it until today, a college student in Oregon,  he had a similar business idea to mine, and a few months before I first set up my website he reserved the name. 

I contacted him and offered to buy it almost two years ago, but he said he intended to use it in the next few weeks.

However, he never ended up using the site.  I checked in recently, and found it was still idle.

I contacted him again, and offered to buy it and let him pick a price.  He refused payment, and transferred the domain to me the next day.  I wrote again, explaining that I am using the site for commercial reasons, and offered to pay, at the very least, whatever he paid for the domain in the first place.  Again, he declined.  

Without a Paypal address or mailing address (the DNS had the school's address), there isn't much I can do.


He said he agrees with what I'm doing, and to re-invest what ever I would have paid him.


The GoDaddy website (who the domain is registered with) specifically encourages people to register domains for the sole reason of reselling them at a profit to someone who will actually use them. Plenty of people do just that, essentially web domain speculating - and making money while providing literally nothing of value to society.

This person did just the opposite - paid for a site, and then gave it away.


Take that capitalism!!


I am not the only anti-capitalist still out there.

There is morality, generosity, left in this country.

To the guy in question (perhaps he doesn't want his name public, but he knows who he is) you have all of my respect and gratitude.


Posted By Bakari

Posted By Bakari

Something feels off about my last post.
Too negative.
I forgot the important part about how being "green" isn't really a sacrifice at all.

Because, really, a great many things that we take for granted today, many of the convinces and luxuries, don't really add much to life - in fact, some take away from it.

Say, for example, you trade your car for a bike and your steak for a salad.
Right off the top you are saving money. In the case of the car, thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Then, after a few weeks, you are getting healthier, stronger, losing weight, feeling better about yourself, feeling better about getting up and starting each new day.
The same goes if you just take a partial step, say riding the bike to work (or to the train station, whatever) once a week, and reducing animal product intake by half.
You still find yourself with more energy, a more positive outlook on the world. After a few months, maybe a year, chances are you are up to 3 days a week, and meat only for special occasions.

Meanwhile you have this big ole stack of bills piling up in your bank account - oh, and as a side benefit, you are doing a huge service for the environment ("the environment" being short-hand for "the future of all life on the planet, including ourselves")

Its like smoking. For a smoker, there really isn't any reward to each cigarette, other than the cessation of the withdrawal symptoms. The reward to giving it up is significantly improved health, both in terms of being able to catch the bus that's just pulling away, and in terms of a long life. Plus, all the money you save by not buying the cigarettes (and the health care costs some day - because yall know we aren't going to get a nationalized health plan anytime soon).
Its just habit (and chemical addiction) that keeps them going back for more.

Our cars and diet and electricity use and all the rest are basically like cigarettes. They don't make us happier in life, but we have a lot of trouble giving them up.
(The good news is, no physical addiction!)

Other things that are good for the earth, which in the long run are good for our pocketbooks, our health, and/or our happiness, include buying the absolute smallest car you can find, buying less stuff (we all know stuff doesn't really make us happier), living close to work (or better yet, telecommuting), eating organic (more nutrients, less toxic chemicals), saving energy (this should go without saying.) It does take more time to put the clothes on the line. But not only do you save money, that is time spent outdoors in the sun, instead of in some laundrymat or the basement.

Then, with all the surplus in good deeds, spend some of that on the things that make life better, (but maybe aren't the best things ecologically)
If you spent all year saving electricity, go ahead and put up that elaborate xmas light display.
After buying everything on or from thrift stores, go ahead and buy a brand new high quality food processor.
After biking to work every day, take the car up to the mountains for vacation.
And don't feel bad about it!

Enjoy life. Doing good should not be a sacrifice.

Posted By Bakari

A few weeks ago the creators of came to my home with cameras, and I gave a tour of my home, and spoke of some of my political and philosophical ideas while I worked.

I didn't prepare what I was going to say, and in retrospect, perhaps I should have.

After, I tried to figure what exactly my overall point has been.

Some things in personal life have been getting in the way of writing for a while, but I think I can summarize it all now.

The overall point is this: Do the big stuff. Having done that, don't sweat the small stuff.

Americans have grown accustomed to a excessively high level of luxury and convenience, to the point where some of what we take for granted doesn't even improve quality of life.
And among the people who are aware of the implications of our impact, it has become all too easy to rationalize doing the exact opposite.
Today a great many people do all the little things, and this makes it easier to rationalize not doing what will make the biggest difference.

This is not to say that there isn't a level of sacrifice in the little things, or that they don't make a positive difference.

We should continue to

turn down the heat or AC a few degrees
use cloth shopping bags
keep tires inflated and engines tuned
turn off the water while brushing teeth
shut lights when leaving a room

and all the rest

But, even if every American did all of those sort of things, our rates of consumption of both energy and material (per capita) are so far beyond that of any other society in the world.
Many Americans today point to China and their rapidly growing economy. They are catching up, and projected to surpass us in, for example, use of coal and oil. But they also have over 4 times as many people. When they reach our levels, they are still using 25% of what we use per person. In other words, as Americans you and I are using far more than our share of world resources. On average, 5 times more. If every human lived like the average American, we would need 5 times more resources (land, energy, materials, water, and capacity to absorb pollution) than actually exist. I'd be willing to bet that if you are reading this, you are doing far better than the average American.
2 times more than ones share is certainly incomparably better than 5 times more; but it is still really not sustainable.
We are able to live this way only at the expense of other people somewhere else, both in the third world, and people of the future (including, depending on age, ourselves).

The thing is, the big things really aren't as bad as we tend to assume.

The one really big question to ask ourselves, as responsible and concerned people, is: how much will this change/purchase/decision affect my overall quality of life?
Not just "will it make life a little easier?" but "will it make me more fulfilled?" or "will it substantially decrease stress?". How would you feel looking back on your life someday if you had never done/purchased/chosen whatever? Would it even be an issue?

[entire blog at MySpace]

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]