About Me

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Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.

The Deal

I stopped blogging in 2013, when life overtook me. My father became ill and died shortly thereafter, and my mother was left with increasing dementia. I became the primary caregiver, and now orchestrate my mother's care and our family estate.

Now, I am coming up for air again.

Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.

My reading list is over here.







Friday, March 13, 2009

Just Push The Button....

Frighteningly, I suspect this will wind up working in the marketplace: it's
...a vending machine that cooks pizza. The machine does not just slip a frozen pizza into a microwave. It actually whips up flour, water, tomato sauce and fresh ingredients to produce a piping hot pizza in about three minutes.
No commentary on how it tastes. Hopefully, the inventor has succeeded at a higher level than the guys who created the coffee vending machine....

Cocktail Annoyance


It goes on everywhere, all the time, but that doesn't stop it from making me clench my mental teeth: calling vodka-based concoctions by classic cocktail names. The grandaddy of all is, of course, the vodka martini. The chocolate martini, and all -ini drinks, are swift followers. But this, reported by Tara Duggan at the Chronicle, irks me:
Signature drink: We loved the delicate, balanced cucumber gimlet ($10), with house-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, orange bitters and a Champagne float.
That sounds like a great cocktail. But it's not a gimlet, vodka or otherwise. A gimlet in its most classic form is equal parts gin and sweetened lime juice, like Rose's. A more modern version is with fresh lime and simple syrup. The vodka gimlet is not such an interesting drink---really just a vodka-lime---but allows for all sorts of fresh flavors and infusions which might not necessarily blend harmoniously with gin. So we now come to the cucumber gimlet (which I actually find better with gin), the basil gimlet (interesting with some gins, but challenging for a lot of drinkers' tastebuds), the ginger-cilantro gimlet, the cardamom gimlet, and on and on, until we've really passed the line on "gimlet" and gone into "-ini" drinks: vodka concoctions served up in a cocktail glass.

Again, let me reiterate: this is an issue of language and nomenclature, not of taste. I think that the drink described above sounds wonderful. You can't go wrong with cucumber - elderflower - champagne combos.

But it's not a gimlet.

Food Fascism


Frankly I have a problem with this: Lucca, Italy has banned kebabs.
Lucca’s center-right city council recently stirred much contention, and accusations of racism, by prohibiting new ethnic food restaurants from opening within its gorgeous historical center.
I'm not sure what they expect this will "preserve," other than a festering anger against the government, racial tension, and a collapsing market economy....

Monday, March 09, 2009

Moralists

I was just listening to a debate on the News Hour about the President's order lifting restrictions on stem cell research. And it pissed me off: once again, despite the President's clear statement that this was in part to clear the air of the false dichotomy between moral action and scientific research, we had the classic back and forth between some christianist bozo, and a geneticist. The gist was "if we let those scientists decide what science the scientists can do, then who knows what evil they will perform on the people's dime!"

And nary a word from the scientist nor the moderator on the fact that those "scientists" are actually people --- taxpaying people. They are your next door neighbor. Your sister. Your husband. Your child. Adding yet another false dichotomy to the discussion. Ugh. And in the meantime, as this folderol helped to diffuse the actual content of the discussion in favor of us-or-them fearmongering, nobody seems to realize that as long as we don't bring the discussion back to the point, as long as we let the frame continue to be the absurdity currently presented, we lose.

It's not about good and evil. Science isn't about good and evil. And the christianists are not the appropriate overseers of the scientific community any more than the SF Opera cast from Aida should oversee the Auto industry (although they might do better than the current crew of clowns...)

I for one am pleased that science is back in the hands of scientists. Let's see where it takes us. If it takes us nowhere, then we know. And if it takes us to new horizons, and to new ways to saving lives, I'd like every single frothing at the mouth so-called moralists sign a document vowing that neither they nor any of their progeny will ever, ever make use of the benefits accrued to humanity by this research they so despise.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Signin' Orders

So Obama has pulled the plug at last on Bush's precedent of reckless authoritarian overriding of the legislature. As the Times notes, President Obama will continue to use his prerogative for signing orders, but as a check against unconstitutional measures, rather than for the expansion of executive power in lieu of explicit constitutional capacity.

Another score for the grownups.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Go, Josh.

Another canny and sane commentary from Josh Marshall:
My guiding views in this whole situation amount to essentially three points -- each of which is in its own way a fundamentally conservative assumption and, I think in each case, widely shared.

First, to the greatest extent possible, those who took the risks and enjoyed the upside should suffer the downside -- a principle that seems straightforward but is far from the way we're running the current response to the crisis.

Second, the financial sector has become increasingly prone to excessive risk taking and spawned a climate of opacity that has bled into fraud. For both reasons, I believe we need a substantially expanded regulatory regime.

Third, I think the financial sector has become over-swollen...I think we've developed a basic imbalance in the structure of the economy over the last couple decades in which the financial sector, the proper role of which is to efficiently allocate capital in (or in other words, service) the real economy, is dominating the economy and organizing the real economy in its own interests.
It's worth noting that this comment allows Marshall to address the current mess on a number of levels. First, morally (in his first point). The implication that this observation infers is further teased in his second point; this isn't at heart a moral observation, but one of philosophical balance----which allows for the devolution of moral behavior. His third comment builds yet again on the second, identifying the larger context of imbalance.

Then again, perhaps it all could be said in simpler terms:

  • Some bums got very greedy and started to cheat.
  • Those bums screwed over all the other folks to keep their greed churning.
  • Those same screwed folks have also (for whatever reasons) been letting the bums run the whole show.
In the end, it all amounts to the same thing.

Time to grow up, and take responsibility for our actions.