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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Further on Iran

Things are still muddled, and while conjecture is rife on the webs, so far the best info (and most concise) that I've found is at ForeignPolicy here, and as always with Josh Marshall.

In the meanwhile, ponder this bit of news.
(06-12) 17:33 PDT Zephyr Cove, Nev. (AP) --

A 53-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being naked near a high school on Lake Tahoe's east shore.
I had no idea...


The elections are done, and Ahmadinejad has been declared the winner, with 68% of the vote. But between Mousavi's accusations of irregularities, today's riots, and the Supreme Leader Khamenei's pronouncement that Ahmadinejad's win is a "divine assessment," I think that this might not be settled in any real sense for a few days---regardless of who takes the title of President.

Also, it appears that the government has put a lid on any communications in or out of the country: texting has been blocked, along with most public outlets.

My gut tells me that this will settle back to the status quo within a week, and we will once again be back to poking fun at the small outrageous spokesman for the revolution.

Friday, June 12, 2009

News Flash From The Obvious Department

(Photo LA Times)

I really want to know where the grant money came from for this project:
The study from Alexandra Horowitz, assistant professor at Barnard College in New York, showed that owners were projecting human values onto their pets.
Ummm....for a six-pack of beer, I could've told them that. Note to indulgent pet owners: you only think you know what your pet is feeling. And what you think comes from you, not from your pet.

(n.b.: The photo is not of professor Horowitz, and was not taken at Barnard College. The dog pictured is not wearing a guilty expression.)

Yet More Twittiness

The folks at HP have done some research into social interaction and social networks. One resulting discovery?
It concluded that many relationships on Twitter were "meaningless from an interaction point of view."

"A link between any two people does not necessarily imply an interaction between them," the team wrote.

Instead, most people using the service tend to interact with very few people, even though they may follow many.

Studies of Facebook and YouTube show a similar pattern, he said.

"Social networks that truly matter - those ones where you are actually communicated in a human sense - happen to be much smaller than the circle of followers," said Professor Huberman.
No surprise there. Nor that HP is using this information to develop and market their own social networking tool. But it does drive the question even harder: how soon will the general public realize that twitter is not a social network, but something far more subversive and (from a marketing and profitability standpoint) interesting?

Tweets And Twits...And Dell

Like I said about twitter the other day: the future is micro-marketing. Apparently, Dell Computers has booked a clear $3,000,000 with their store twitter account:
Twitter let’s [sic] you speak all you want without pissing off anyone who doesn’t want to listen, which makes it a marketing and sales tool that might have the nirvana potential to actually innocuously zero in a prime demographic. Even better: your biggest fans viral market for you, by re-tweeting to their followers.
This may be the vector where the web, advertising, and revenue all finally intersect in a meaningful way.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Compare And Contrast

Ripped from the headlines. Check out this lead from the other day, in the ongoing spat between the San Francisco Supervisors and the Vatican.
S.F. supervisors likened to Nazis

Lawyers for a Catholic advocacy group that sued San Francisco for condemning the Vatican's policy on same-sex adoptions are comparing the city's supervisors to Nazis laying the groundwork for the slaughter of Jews.
Then there's this:
Aged gunman kills Holocaust Museum guard

An elderly gunman opened fire with a rifle inside the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, killing a security guard before being shot. Authorities said they were investigating a white supremacist as the suspect.
Somehow, I hope that the Vatican lawyers are finding some room in the humility-lobes of their brains to be a bit embarrassed at the moment. (Links to the articles is question here and here).

I wonder if Pope Benedict will have the decency to allow an appropriate response.

On The Heels Of Wichita

First Dr. Tiller's murder, now this: a shooting at the DC Holocaust Memorial.
The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as James W. von Brunn, who embraces various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks and other minority groups and has at times waged a personal war with the federal government.
As is usually the case, Josh Marshall has a lead on further information. For instance, here's the gunman's profile. A real mensch, this one. WaPo is blogging updates.

Disastrous Policymaking

So SF has gone and done it again, passing legislation that is well meaning and utterly offensive: we are instituting garbage police.
The legislation calls for every residence and business in the city to have three separate color-coded bins for waste: blue for recycling, green for compost and black for trash.

Failing to properly sort your refuse could result in a fine.
I'm all for composting. And recycling. But in a city where bin scavenging is a serious and increasing problem, where the city is perpetually seeking new means of revenue generation via punitive fines, and where most people are not homeowners, but renters, living in small spaces and often shared spaces, the idea that this sort of draconian measure will do anything constructive is absurd. And sadly, only one supervisor had the nerve to say so.
Supervisors Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd, were the only opponents. "This is a little too much big brother, even for me," Elsbernd said. "We've got a huge problem in my district and a lot of other parts of the city with people who go in and out of garbage cans at night scavenging. Who's going to be responsible for that? Are we creating a whole brand-new problem?"

Elsbernd also questioned assurances that fines would not be aggressively pursued against residents, saying similar promises were broken on legislation against leaving trash cans visible.
As I said, a catastrophe in the making in terms of quality-of-life --- ironically, the very thing this measure is looking to improve. I deeply appreciate the public contra comments from supervisor Elsbernd; I only wish they carried more weight.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tweets And Twits

While the outcome of this study from Harvard doesn't hold any surprises (to me, at least), I wonder if it will have any impact at all on either the twitter model, or its users, or even the perceptions of the non-using public. The key issue in my mind?
"The Harvard data says very, very few people tweet and the Nielsen data says very, very few people listen consistently," Mr Heil told BBC News...the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one.

"Twitter is a broadcast medium rather than an intimate conversation with friends," he said.
I wonder when folks will realize that the great potential for Twitter is not in the social aspect of its use, but in the natural bed it gives for micro-marketing. This is the perfect fertile bed for niche advertisement: not only can a potential customer find what they are looking for, but they can interact with the marketing material if, and how, they want. This is the transformation of individuals into an endless highway of billboards constructed of 140 characters.

Monday, June 08, 2009

From the O Tempores! Desk.

Ripped from the job postings of CraigsList today:
Design college located near ________ has current full time opening in library for a customer service directed person who is willing to work at least one evening per week ( until 9 PM) and one Saturday per week ( 9-3) as needs of students require.
My emphasis. Clearly, they don't teach reading the calendar at this college....

More On Elections

Swedish Pirates?


(Or perhaps, more accurately, "Årrrgh!")

Why I Do Love America

This riff in the NYT by Rachel Donadio on Silvio Berlusconi, and power politics in Italy, makes me think not only of a short bald man on a balcony, but of the pleasure of still being in a world where we can publish stories like this one with impunity.
Italy is not a meritocracy. It is a highly evolved feudal society in which everyone is seen as — and inevitably is — the product of a system, or a patron.
Apparently right now in Italy, there is in the end only one patron, and one system. What happens when Silvio is gone?

Good Morning, America Europe

The Europeans have spoken in all their fractious voices, and the words they've said are:
We Lean To The Right.
The swing from left of center to solid right of center is a disappointing but not totally unsurprising outcome of the elections; a reaction to sitting powers during an economic collapse, and a rush toward the apparent safety of conservative thought, and reactionary nationalism, and authoritarian tendencies...it's to be expected. We even see it here. But some of the less than delightful highlights:

  • The British National Party, a right wing racist, nationalist party (descended from everything Orwell spoke against), gained two seats in Brussels - its first wins in national elections.

  • The far-right Greater Romania Party (PRM), an ultra-nationalist group which was voted out of the Romanian parliament in 2008 for its offensive views, won 8.7%.

  • In the Netherlands, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) of the controversial politician, Geert Wilders, won four seats in the European Parliament with 17% of the vote.

  • In Austria, the misnamed Freedom Party (FPOe) on the far right won 2 of the country's 17 seats.

We are about to have another round of international fun, I think.

60 Years Ago Today

George Orwell's novel 1984 was published. Today his nomenclature and concepts and political insights are part of the fabric of our daily understanding of the world. At the time, it was a massive shout in a sea of murmurs.
"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
As long as the political frameworks that existed 60 years ago continue to frame our world, there will be pertinence to this story.

If you haven't read it lately, read it again.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


It looks like Hezbollah has been defeated in the election --- which had one of the highest turnouts in Lebanese history. The quote of the day goes to Saad al-Hariri, leader of the March 14 coalition and son of assassinated leader Rafiq al-Hariri:
"the only winner is democracy and Lebanon."
Official results should start coming out in a few hours. But for now, I toast the people of Lebanon, and wish them well.