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, December 04, 2009

Stupid Headline

The BBC, noting the strengthening of the dollar today on the report of jobs improvements here, has put up one of those marvelously misleading headlines that I love. This one?
Gold price slumps as dollar strengthens
It's true; gold fell about 5% today. But in perspective, the idea that the price is "slumping" is absurd. Gold is still at record highs --- about $1200/ounce --- and compared to one year ago, is up by a whopping 37%. And the dollar still looks like crap.

A far better headline might be "Gold eases up as dollar sees small gains".

I am really tired of news outlet needing to create a sense of crisis in even the most mundane announcements. It numbs us to the things that really do require urgency.

Travesty Of Justice

Imagine, if you will, that a murder is committed. Jumping to conclusions due to prejudice, sexual prudery, and chauvinism, the police arrest a convenient, but highly unlikely young woman as the suspect.

In the meanwhile, another man with a history of assault, sexual predation, and violence, has fled the country, been captured by police in another country, volunteered a confession to the above murder, is tried, and convicted.

So what do you do with the original suspect, after holding her for two years in prison?

You save face by convicting her of the murder and sentencing her to a quarter century in prison, all on circumstantial evidence and innuendo.

Yes, this is pretty much what has come to pass between Amanda Knox and the Italian courts. And yes, I believe, despite today's sentence, that she is innocent, and that it is a travesty of anything remotely like justice to carry a trial to this end without either a stronger case, or intercession by the US.

RIP Liam Clancy

The last member left of the Clancy Brothers, Liam, has died today. Beat the drum slowly; sound the fife lowly; a fine singer has left us.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Life Imitates Onion

BREAKING NEWS: School employee accused of advancing knowledge.

No. Really.
Schools officials say Brad Niesluchowski, who was Higley Unified School District's information technology director, downloaded free software on district computers in 2000.

The program, known as SETI(at)home, uses Internet-connected computers worldwide to analyze radio telescope data in an experiment to find extraterrestrial intelligence.
And now the guy has had to resign, and the claim is $1 million in damages. Granted, the dateline on this story is Mesa, Arizona, otherwise known as part of the American Hickbelt, but still....$1 million to uninstall the program? Seti@Home, a legitimate science experiment run out of UC Berkeley, says it can potentially overheat the CPUs on some machines; let's assume a worst case scenario where this guy's unauthorized install of the SETI software burned out, oh, 50 motherboards. At a generous estimate of $3,000 to replace the machines that would be $150,000 replacement cost. Add some additional overhead, and let's give a generous $200,000 bill. No small change to be sure, but I bet I could hire a local geek to uninstall the software for one helluva lot less than $800,000.

Sometimes the world we live in is just too much.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Extreme Generosity is Insane

I love, love, love the idea that the 21st wealthiest person in the world -- Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oréal fortune --- is supposed to be declared non compos mentos because she chose to give away nearly a billion Euros to a friend, a man she considers her "adopted son". My hunch is that she is absolutely sane. She is old; she is obscenely rich, and she has (as do all wealthy folk) family who are hungry for her to die and pass them on her money. The idea that she would give 1/13th of her total wealth to someone she actually likes is probably hard for them, and particularly her daughter, to swallow. Then again, it is a marvelously nasty gesture for a woman to make who is not on speaking terms with her child. This is the action of a sane person; one saner and possibly stronger of will than most of us.

Honestly --- are we to be declared incompetent when we take actions that others disapprove of, simply because it enriches those we choose, as opposed to those who feel entitled to that enrichment whether we like it or no?

I can only hope that someday I too am befriended to the tune of a billion Euros. It would certainly be nice.

You'd Almost Think She's a Democrat

All or nothing has always been a stupid political game that in the end buys us not even nothing, but worse than nothing (cf. our current healthcare market)

TPM gets this from Olympia Snowe:
Yesterday, defying her party's own talking points, she told The Hill that a new CBO report, regarding the impact of the Senate legislation on insurance premiums, is encouraging news for reformers.

The CBO report, she says, indicates that the legislation "makes strides, without question" toward extending affordable coverage. On this score she sees room for improvement: "We have to be sure that we are providing the most affordable plans to Americans, and that's not abundantly clear at this point," she said. "That's what's of concern to me."

The "most" affordable? Right now we are providing crap. The CBO is showing a 14 - 20% decrease in premium costs with the propsed reforms. If she wants it much lower, I'd say we are back on the trail of single payer government managed plans...

The idea that this legislation will provide the "most" or "best" of anything is both absurd and obstructionist; this is a starting point, a mere beginning. I would project further work over the next ten years will continue before we have something that is really at its best.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Quote For The Day

As I keep saying, health claims are about marketing, not health. If it were up to me, I would remove all health claims from food packages. Foods are not drugs. Health claims cannot help but mislead.

- Marion Nestlé, discussing the 'immunity' claim on Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dubai: The Busted Flush

Nobody can beat the Brits at the game of gloriously hyperbolic opinion pieces---especially when the thesis is not only larger-than-life (the downfall of an Emirati economy), but true as well:
"Dubai is wrecked but, like an old tart with a kiss-and-tell contract from the red-tops, threatens to drag the rest of us down with it. In a sense it is merely Britain writ much larger: a despised, criminally underpaid and perpetually ill-treated underclass of imported foreign labourers on top of which squats a fat, indigenous population which cannot believe its luck, doing absolutely nothing other than spending money..."

"But you might have guessed even before 2008 that Dubai was heading for a fall, that its economy did not actually seem to be founded on anything tangible, aside from the exploitation of Bangladeshi labour."

Growin' 'Em Mean And Stupid

Ripped from today's headlines:
"Two teenage girls from Benicia were arrested Saturday evening after they assaulted a classmate, filmed the attack and posted the video on YouTube, according to police.

The girls, ages 12 and 14, were booked into Solano County Juvenile Hall for felony assault after luring a 13-year-old classmate to a field and attacking her on two separate occasions, police said."
Bullies were smarter in my day; if you wanted to be cruel, you did it in dark, secret places and left no trace. You didn't film it and post it to YouTube.


UPDATE: There's more info here. And the motive (with my emphasis added)? "The basic motive appears to be that the suspects felt that the victim may have [been] talking about them."