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, October 31, 2009

More Big Food

Not to be outdone by the Lebanese, the French have addressed the Biggest Food Item issue with a 4,000 egg tiramisu. One wonders how the Italians must feel about this.

Weekend Aside

This is it: the great, dreamed-of rock ’n’ roll communion — between band member and band member, and band and audience. Say what you will about art versus commerce, integrity versus selling out — there are far more ignoble compromises than making this many people this happy, ever.
I'm too old to be a hip rock'n'roll guy, and I'm apparently never going to get married; but NYT has profiled what appears to be the best wedding band ever. These guys even know how to survive a bad wedding, one with annoying wedding planners, horrid in-laws, bridezillas, limited bar access, all the things that make, as they put it, a high L.O.B., "Level Of Brutality":
The crowd at a high-L.O.B. wedding may find themselves hearing songs from the DLCB’s alter ego — a band they call Selfish. Unlike DLCB, Selfish doesn’t care about wedding guests having a good time. Van Halen’s “Panama” is on the Selfish playlist, as is anything by Led Zeppelin.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Late Friday Breaking News

...And the most sensible report of the day: Gavin Newsom is dropping out of the CA gubernatorial race.

This is probably the smartest move Gavin has made politically in three years. I only wish he'd come to it sooner, and not wasted so much effort chasing phantoms. We could've used a mayor here in San Francisco the last year.

On the positive side, at least he now has a better chance of having a job next year to support little Montana.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clement Street Traffic Explained

Now we know: bad driving really is genetic.
The driving test was taken by 29 people - 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. Four days later, the test was repeated.

Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time.
Now, if someone would just do the followup study to determine prevalence of the BDG (Bad Driving Gene) in various population groups, and break it down by gender, we'd have something to work with.

And who knows: maybe someday, a cure for the slow left turn from the right lane against the light and into oncoming vehicular and pedestrian traffic?

Light Reading

The House bill for health care reform was unveiled this morning by Nancy Pelosi, with a snarky nod to the insurance industry for all its help, and 1,990 pages of legislative ink. It's on time and under budget, as we say in the consulting world, and while I am already developing headaches trying to even glance over it, the initial reports look promising: strips the insurance industry of protection from anti-trust law, taxes the rich to pay for services, extends coverage to most of the uninsured, provides price control, 2:1 premium ratio caps, and negotiated exchanges, and lots more controversial goodies I'm sure.

Read the whole thing yourself right here (pdf).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NASA Can't Get It Up.

Their new rocket, that is. The Ares I-X launch has been delayed due to poor weather.

Whether or not they should even be bothering with this is still a question: the Ares is meant to replace the Shuttle in order to service the international space station; but there have been so many delays that by the time the Ares is ready for prime time, the ISS will be retired. So we will have a single major launch program serving no purpose, and no major initiatives drawing on new technology or methodology.

I suspect this will simply be yet another push forward for the private space launch industry; I only hope that we can still allow for true research, and don't wind up with nothing but a sky full of Branson - Disney party boats for the ultra-rich.


WaPo runs a piece today that, on the eve of our 8th year in Afghanistan (and in the midst of that war's deadliest month for US troops), looks at that war through the lens of the first US official to publicly resign in protest over the war.
A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
As the administration mulls over strategy, I think that it is both ominous and momentous that this resignation, so reminiscent of others from the past, is being heard. Matthew Hoh sounds like a good man, and an able officer. I can only hope that, as he speaks with Biden's office and others, that he is as able in communicating his moral vision as he is his tactical experience. If this is the realistic portrait of the war in it's 8th year, then this is a war we cannot endure any longer --- any more than the Soviets could.

You can read his moving and all too clear resignation letter here (pdf).

Monday, October 26, 2009

No Peace, Even At Mealtime

The Middle East continues to be a land where no one is content: Arabs hate Israelis as a matter of course, and Israelis despise Arabs as part of their birthright. So it comes as little surprise to see Lebanon and Israel butting heads over hummus. Not who has the best hummus, or even (as they have debated in the past) who really can lay claim to most authentic hummus. No, our hotheaded friends in the Levant are battling over who can make the biggest plate of hummus (check out the picture).

There will be no peace until it can be finally settled as to whose is bigger.

The Economy, Stupid Stupid Economy

California unemployment for September 2009: 12.2%.

California underemployment: 21.9%.

One third of the workforce not able to work full time in the State that, were it an independent nation, would have an economy the size of Spain, or Brazil. And my mayor wants the job of Governor? He's dumber than I thought....

Health Care Reloaded:Harry Reid Grows A Pair

Today's compromise announcement and Senate leader Harry Reid's forwarding of the health care reform bill to the CBO for scoring was another huge step in the tortured path toward refomring the health care system in this country. And Reid did well: he left in the opt-in compromise (which I think is probably the sanest initial approach, and whcih Josh Marshall breaks down for us here), and didn't even bother to include Olympia Gold Snowe's so-called trigger option, which was both daft and a rather blatant stall attempt. As Reid said in his statement, that he can count the moderate Republican Senators "on two fingers" --- and I bet those fingers don't smell too nice.

This is the first truly strong performance from Reid since he took charge, and it is very refreshing to see it. I suddenly have some hope for getting a decent bill to the President to sign, without a great mass of pandering via weak-ass co-ops, triggers, insurance supports and the rest of the ideas which give the appearance of competitive improvement, but have the beating heart of a retrenched status quo.