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, February 06, 2010

Thank You, George Packer

Once again, as always:
techno-worship is a triumphalist and intolerant cult that doesn’t like to be asked questions. If a Luddite is someone who fears and hates all technological change, a Biltonite is someone who celebrates all technological change: because we can, we must. I’d like to think that in 1860 I would have been an early train passenger, but I’d also like to think that in 1960 I’d have urged my wife to go off Thalidomide.
I love technology for the opportunities it provides us; I despise the implicit assumption that any new tool can replace the content it helps us to leverage. As a technologist, and a frequent early adopter: I am definitely in Packer's camp on this issue, rather than Bilton's.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Dinosaurs!

New research has been done which gives us pretty solid evidence of just what colors the dinosaurs were---and increases the support of current theories that the modern-day descendants of the earth-ruling "thunder lizards" look pretty much like this:



Ummm....I mean, like this:




Seriously. Apparently Those Friday night chicken dinners have been dinosaur dinners all along.

The Trouble With Charter Schools

It isn't that they do a poor job. It isn't that they don't achieve great things with students. It's that they function as de facto private institutions while sucking at the teat of federal funding. This article identifies just one aspect of the problem. While it looks at the symptom of resegregation, it identifies the more problematic issue: were these private schools, they would not be at issue. But as schools that draw funding from the government, they need to be bound by the rules that come with the money. That's the deal: if they are going to compete for money toe to toe with public schools, then they need to abide by the same restrictions. As the final grafs note:
...many charter schools set up shop in specific neighborhoods hoping to serve a specific subset of children - often at-risk, low-income, minority students.

That might sound like a noble goal, but it is not one that adheres to the fundamental promise of equity in a public education, said UCLA Professor Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project.

"You can't decide to just serve one group of kids," Orfield said. "If you're taking public funds, you're subject to civil rights laws."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Note To SF MUNI

The Muni system in San Francisco made massive changes and cutbacks to their service system last December; with yet another $60 million deficit to cover in this year's budget, they are looking to cut back even more, raise prices again, and generally piss off every resident of this city who relies on public transit.

But there is a difference between reduced service (which I can except, albeit with much grumbling), and absolutely craptastic service -- which is what we've been steadily receiving since the start of the new year. Queries to Muni return boilerplate "we strive to do our best" responses, without any attempt to respond to specific inquiries. And all the while, service becomes more erratic and unpredictable, and shows no sign of any improvement.

And the drivers are guaranteed a raise each year (yes, guaranteed: their pay is written into the city charter as being pegged at a level to make them the 2nd highest paid transit drivers in the country, regardless of any other issues), and the city supervisors, and the mayor, and the Muni chief all seem incapable of crafting a solution.

It feels like 1999 all over again.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Democratic Assumptions

In Massachusetts, Democrats assumed that they would keep Kennedy's seat in perpetuity, and so keep their hold on the senate 60.

In California, Democrats assumed that they would get the $6.9 billion they were asking for from Washington, and went right ahead and built those numbers into the budget, in order to close the horrendous state fiscal gap.

In Washington, Democrats assumed that if they just compromised a little each step of the way with their enemies opponents detractors, then they would gain bipartisan support for their work, rather than obstructionist procedural headaches.

The Democrats have a fatal flaw in assuming that they will get what they demand, despite the overwhelming contrary evidence of reality, or the lack of strategic thinking about how it will happen. If there is any hope of succeeding with their agenda, the Democratic leadership must be willing to do three things:

  1. Lead with authority;

  2. Craft a compelling story for why they deserve to succeed (and why we should follow);

  3. Plan effectively for failure despite all certainty of success.
As long as they fail to do these three things, they will continue to fail in effectively governing the country, the state, or moving ahead with any large controversial-seeming policy proposals.