14 August 2007

To Thine Own Self be Treed

Having erred in one or more pages of my driver's logbook, I was waiting to take a "log class"; a one-on-one session to correct my errant ways. The waiting was more painful than the session. There wasn't a sense of anticipation or angst, so much as the sheer length of the wait. Making matters worse was the book that I had chosen to pass this time with.

Richard Dawkin's "The Blind Watchmaker" is a book about Darwin's theory of Natural Selection that I had been looking forward to reading. That estimation seems to have been erroneous. Perhaps I am giving short shrift to a book which has fine points that I was not seeing. My wait hardly put me in a patient or receptive mood such as might allow a fair evaluation. However, after reading a third of the book I gave up. Dawkins spent most of it patiently explaining (with several examples) that Natural Selection brings about changes in a species over a very long period of time through the cumulative accumulation of genetic variations in surviving members of the species and their descendents. Some genetic variations are lost to a species if all members of the species carrying that variation die or fail to breed. Thus the variations peculiar to the surviving members of the species will be present in all or most future generations of that species, unless one or more of those variations is superceded, reversed, or lost due to future variation. To wit: Natural Selection. It has been described as a lottery where only the winning numbers are showing (living members of the species).

A fellow truck driver struck up a conversation about my reading and asked where I stand on evolution. Where I stand? Probably over there by the Pepsi machine. I didn't know there would be a test, much less that I had to have a position on evolution complete with annotated justification for same. I tried to begin by telling this nice fellow that I could not accept Genesis as dogmatic. That it was too cluttered with what may be a borrowed mythology on the one hand and an extensive listing of the lineage of its principal characters that smacks of an oral history.

I did not get very far in my attempt. He began an awkward evangelistic dialogue. Well, thats too kind, it was more in the line of a solliloquy. He talked about agonizing over his belief. That he had read a book or five about it. [Note to self: how do you research faith?] That he had gone from believing in his head to beleiving in his heart (a process going from acknowlegement to enlightenment, I imagine). He spoke of the truth lying somewhere between fate and freewill, and other things. He did not cover any topics that were new to me.

In general I agreed or acknowledged most of what he said. I even assisted him by summarizing or reinforcing his points with evidence that he had not brought to bear. Then something extroardinary happened. I had begun to indicate to him that my experiences do indicate the existence of a Supreme Being, whom I am not so arrogant as to ascribe to Him a particular name or religion. I was contrasting this with Genesis' insistence that man is the image of God. He was trying to counter this idea by explaining that God was a Trinity (I'm still wondering why that is a rebuttal), when he summed up by saying that some scripture was intended as allegory [not his words].

"So, I shouldn't interpret it literally?" I asked. He said that was about right.

I guess I missed a nuace of his argument, because I thought that was the point I tried to make at the outset. Perhaps I need to work on my debating skills.

18 July 2007

Missed and Envious

(dont read that title, listen to it)

I've been busy, but scarcely busy enough to blame lack of blog entries on it. Here are a few of the lesser things that I can mention that I will/am/was doing/thinking/intending.

I've managed to finish Jared Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee". He tries to summarize what, if anything, there is that is unique about Homo Sapiens by lcomparing and contrasting human genetics, behaviour and history with examples from the animal kingdom. It turns out that we arent as unique as we often think we are. Animals communicate with a large vocabulary, make art, intentionally behave in dangerous ways (e.g. smoking, drug use, etc.. in humans) and even commit genocide. It was written before "Guns Germs and Steel" and parts of "Third" were fleshed out and expanded upon to compile that book. Having read "Guns" first, the relevant sections of "Third" were tedious to me.

I have determined to begin learning some practices that probably get labeled as "heathen" by Christians. Partly this is to facilitate research for my book. Mostly, however, its because I have always been curious about Shamanism and mystical healing. I have no intention of consuming Ayahuasca or any other ethneogens as they would probably cause me to lose my job. There are drumming techniques that are used to induce visions, I may look into those. Other areas include Qi gong, chakra and kundalini etc.

I've not been drug-tested in the past 4-5 months, but thats beside the point. I dabbled with marajuana in college and came to the conclusion that I would stay away from it and other "mood enhancers" (save alcohol- that was a different decision) since in hindsight the state of being a giggling/laughing imbecile for 2 hours or so without any humorous stimuli that I can remember strikes me as the ultimate in masturbation. I could possibly salve my ego by saying "at least I was happy". I'd prefer that there be a palpable cause.

I've just finished reading a book entitled "The Art of Dreaming." While there were some guidelines for developing one's ability to master one's dreams, the book wove these into what I must classify as fiction. A fiction that left meunsatisfied. I could have accepted that in a better written book, but I was rather put out by the vague ending scenario. The author did have a talent for stringing the reader along, though the character of himself seemed to me to be unbelievably dense and inexplicably rigid in his lack of acceptance, even over the course of what he descries as years.

The "adapter" for the GPS reciever for my Microsoft Streets & Trips software broke Yesterday. After examination, I determined that it was a pathetically constructed device (much as I had heard since buying it). A replacement will cost $50. OR I could spend $150 and get the DeLorme street atlas software with their proprietary GPS solution and call it even. I hear their software is superior anyway. Replacing the broken unit that came with MS would only be a temporary fix. Barring any unlikely design changes, the new unit will simply break again due to really asinine structural design.

And I really hate MS anyway.

02 July 2007


I fixed my truck, after the mechanics couldn't!

Naturally, I need to begin from an earlier point in the timeline.

For some time mow I have had a bizarre electrical problem going on here. The truck runs fine and its external lights necessary for safety are good. Its the non-essential interior circuits that seemed to be messed up.

At arbitrary times, for no apparent reason, I would lose power to the cigarette lighter circuit, and all interior dome and map lights, as well as the utility lamp on the back of the cab that helps me to see when I'm hooking air lines to the trailer. Then after an equally arbitrary period of time, they would come back on. Also for no apparent reason. After a while I realised that there was a click from the fusebox when this happened, and until recently I had been of the opinion that the sound was from an automatic breaker that was re-setting.

What was odd, and of course maddening because of its oddity, was that these items that lose power should belong to at least two separate circuits. There is a fuse for the cig lighter outlets, and a fuse for the dome light, etc. Being separate circuits, they should have nothing in common save that they get power from the same batteries.

I had the truck in the shop twice with this complaint, and after the first time I thought that they had fixed it. Perhaps they did fix the problem, but the issue developed again. I noticed it again during a heavy rain. There were incidents of rain around the first occurrence, so I wondered if there was a short in a ground wire outside at the battery box. When I picked up the truck from the shop the second time, the interior lights were on, and I had cold Pepsi in the cooler. Within 10 minutes, the lights were out again.

So I got a styrofoam cooler out of the car, and put 6 pounds of ice in it to keep my sandwich meat from spoiling. I discovered a few hours later that there was a hole in the bottom of it as evidenced by the squish of my stocking feet on the rug. So now I have to rely on whatever arbitrary thing is doing it to work in my favor. Not likely.

Then I remembered that there is a system that shuts off power to non-essential accessories when battery voltage is low. It didn't occur to me earlier that this could account for the multiple and ostensibly separate circuits that I was having problems with. So if theres a short there, or it just isnt reading the voltage right, that would result in the current situation. [Hah! "current" situation! I kill me!] The remaining problem was; where is this relay? [I assumed a relay since it is on in one condition and off in others]

So. Finally I found it. Its a relay actuated by an electromagnet of apparently unusual designs for most relays. This stands to reason as it must be sensitive to the voltage of battery current and open or close the relay appropriately. And one of the 4-5 wires that feed this relay is loose. Hold relay this way, lights go out. Hold relay that way, light goes on.

So now I just need to have them re-wire that relay so the connections are secure. But I prolly have to explain to them which one and why it needs to be re-wired... Until then I need to leave a light on. That way I can know when to go and wiggle my relay.

17 June 2007

I'm Society's Fuel

When people think about petroleum consumption in general, I believe that a common image is that of freeways choked with automobiles. Previously, in my own visualisations, I added airline and military usage. Even that liberal estimation did not prepare me for the apalling truth.

There are millions of Big Rigs hurtling down the roads today. Powered by diesel fuel, they get an average of about 7 mpg. Thats being generous. This is the overwhelming real cost of modrn consumerism, but I digress.

As a "company driver", my employer provides my diesel fuel. Fuel is probably the most problematic expense in truck driving. Sure there is the cost of maintenance (parts and labor) and insurance, but these are not given to nearly as much volatility as fuel costs.

Trucking companies try to mitigate fuel costs in simple ways. They will specify what route a driver may take, and thereby ensure that the freight travels the shortest possible distance. Other methods are maintaining a fuel-efficient fleet and encouraging drivers to reduce speeds and Out Of Route miles.

As a driver, my cheif obligation is to deliver on time. It has not been overtly requested of drivers in my company, but if I have adequate time to deliver, I will travel at a reduced speed to conserve fuel. My Frightliner Columbia has a Detroit Diesel engine with a 9-speed manual transmission. I shift into ninth at about 46 mph, and the truck is governed at 65 mph. I have a small LED display on my dash. When I recieve Qualcomm messages, it displays the first 8 characters. The rest of the time it displays my fuel efficiency and gives a general indication of engine load. From this display I have determined that the torque peak in ninth gear occurs around 55 mph, and that fuel efficiency begins to fall off at about 59 mph. Based on that information, I have been maintaining 57 or 58 mph when on multi-lane highways. I estimate that I am using about 20% less fuel than most other company drivers that are "zipping" around at 65. And since the minimum speed is 45 or 55 depending on where you are, everybody's happy, right?

Perhaps not everyone.

A New Mexico trooper stopped me near Tucumcari for impeding traffic. My GPS was reading an average of 57 mph. He clocked me at 52 mph and urged me to go faster. I find the ramifications of that particularly interesting. Now I have to travel faster because the cell-phoning masses blather away at ludicrous speed? The posted limit on that interstate (I-40) was 75 mph.

There is probably some subtext here about conformity within a society, but if this is part of a trend, then I really dont like the way its going.

So. Anyone know what I need to do to be legally considered a renegade?


I wish my truck had power windows.
(such things exist, they run on compressed air)

That way, when oncoming traffic fails to dim their high beams, they can also illuminate the digit I present as a pithy rejoinder.

As it is, it takes far too long to crank down the window.

12 April 2007

There Is No Spoon

I've been a solo truck driver for three weeks now, and I have no regrets about taking this road.

A lowly occupation, perhaps? Not from my point of view. Truck drivers bear an enormous responsibility. Manoevering vehicles with a gross weight up to 80,000 lbs amidst a crowd of ever-more-zippy "four wheelers" - that don't appear to acknowledge ANY rules - can be quite frustrating. Should there be any mishaps of any sort, a court of law will always judge a truck driver more harshly than operators of passenger cars; because we are professional drivers.

Yes, we are in a big dang hurry, because we dont earn very much, and pay is usually a fraction of our loaded miles [more and more are also paid for empty miles]. Our haste, and our maddening slowness, is more than mitigated by the fact that more often than not, we are looking out for you on the road. There are some caveats that go along with that, of course. Don't expect any quarter if you have a poor grasp of right-of-way, don't grasp the concept of merging with traffic, etc. etc. Its our job to see as much as possible of what's going on around us, and diffuse or evade bad situations as they occur.

I saw The Matrix for the first time about two weeks ago, and bought the DVD about 10 days later. Today my ponderings wandered to the concept of bending spoons in the Matrix. The key is that there is no spoon, you effect change in the "physical" world by bending yourself. In a way, that's what I have done. I cast off the need to be a young professional chemist (or whatever) and bent myself in a new way. The world is different now, to me, at least. My paycheck for week two was just under $500 net. It wont always be that much, but thats not bad at all for a rookie. My bottom line is: Dude! I drive around and they actually pay me for it.

But bear in mind, I'm not one to shy from responsibility. This job ain't for everyone.

25 January 2007

My Letter to Congress (work in progress)

Honorable Senators and Representatives,

Some time ago I resigned myself to accept a dim immediate future. For some six years now, I have been impressed by how my worst expectations have been exceeded. Time and again, a cadre of "noble patriots" succeeded in bending Congress to accept their machinations. They succeeded in thwarting your oversight by hook, by crook, and by righteous indignation. Your membership was repeatedly bullied, misinformed, or left entirely in the dark. Their misdeeds, when brought to light, were defended with bluster, or laid at the feet of minor characters who, coincidentally, had already departed to take a position elsewhere.

Now comes a season of change. You architects of law, you defenders of America from the iron grip of the Executive Branch, do now enter now upon a vast opportunity of compromise. How else can a body, comprised of ideologically opposed factions, legislate on behalf of a people that are equally disjoint? I implore you, all of you, to conspire together to correct a grievous wrong that has been wrought upon our civil service time and again by multiple administrations.

America's recent disasters had no single cause, but there is one privilege of the Executive Office that has consistently been a contributing factor to all of them.

When it was perceived that a change was needed in CIA leadership, it was the President's prerogative to select someone else. While his choice of steward was a veteran CIA agent, that agent's congressional aides were not. Those underlings, inexplicably raised to positions of authority in CIA, precipitated a greivous loss of talent from the Agency.

Prior to the inundation of the city of New Orleans, a FEMA agent called to alert the FEMA director with news of how critical the situation was. That politically-installed Director's secretary was quick to act; top priority was to get reservations at the best restaurant in town. I should be keen to know how kind FEMA was to that establishment after the shambles.

When NASA scientists brought exciting recent discoveries to light, their exaultations were squelched by the embedded political officer. His job was to "make the President look good". [Kindly forgive my conceit here. I have just remembered that these events have not yet led to a calamity.]

Gentlemen and Great Ladies of Government, I implore you to effect a change. If the president must hand-pick these agency heads, let him do so only from experienced (and current!) personnel within those agencies. Americans deserve to be served by experienced artisans in these positions, not political horse traders. The election of a new president is a serious and momentous occasion and must not be treated as the arrival of Santa Clause; distributing shiny positions of responsibility to all the good little fund raisers. If this change can be made by a new law, then I urge you to pass it. If it requires a Constitutional Amendment, then I beseech you to frame it. Give the stewardship of America's bureaucracy back to those who learned their trade through hard work, rather than usurping the position through cronyism.

In closing, good citizens, I wish you peace, for you and for all America. May she find it soon.