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, February 19, 2010

Creepy

This just in from a wine store email:

Hello Kitty wines, produced in Italy:

creepy hello kitty wine ad

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Terrifying

OK. So I can accept that we no longer have anything resembling privacy as adults anymore. But....underage schoolkids? WTF???
According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the Robbins's child was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence.
Big Brother really is watching you. And it isn't pretty.

And Just In Case You Thought It Was Safe

Please remember that even though I might not gripe about it every day, SF Muni is still running over people crashing:
(02-18) 07:29 PST SAN FRANCISCO --

Three people were injured this morning when a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail vehicle collided with a historic street car, a Muni official said.
So, in case you aren't tracking it yourself: Muni has had an average of three or more accidents a week this year. They just made the most significant cuts to service and fee increases in a decade a few months ago. They are proposing even larger cuts and accompanying fee increases for this spring. The drivers are receiving a guaranteed raise in June (it's written into the city charter). And the union members just pretty solidly rejected a package of concessions to help close the multimillion dollar deficit.

A Stupidity Tax?

Maybe. But more importantly, a wakeup call to the many who are simply not paying attention to the implications of social networking, sharing information without real constraint, and the immediacy of the interwebs:
"Seriously, would you put an advert in the local paper saying ‘I’m leaving my house tomorrow at 10am and won’t be back for 3 hours’ or such like?

I’m guessing the answer is no, yet plenty of people are quite happy to do the equivalent online in the name of being social, or playing a game. It really does beggar belief."
Read all about the Please Rob Me site here (via slashdot).

update: Apparently they've disabled the feed for now, but mashable has a screenshot for you to get the idea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Horror, the Horror!

"If I hadn't been a part of the debate, you would already have universal health care," Enzi [U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.] told local business leaders at a Casper Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Monday.
I'm trying to find either the positive spin or the irony hidden in that weirdly prideful statement.

I'm failing.

(h/t TPM: Read more here and here)

It's Selfish Me-ism, That's All

Sullivan points to this blog discussion of why we in the US still have no micro-car market, and continue to flood the market with over-powered, oversized, overweighted vehicles for the vast majority of our (urban) driving needs.
Even the smallest cars on the American market weigh a ton (a Mini clocks in at around 2,500 pounds, if I’m not mistaken). Even the smallest cars are two-seaters, and even the smallest engines can deliver top speeds near 100 mph. For many typical journeys, that’s just a lot more than what a driver needs. What about the potential for something weighing just a few hundred pounds, battery-powered with a range under 40 miles, perhaps a one-seater with room for groceries, and with a typical cruising speed of between 20 and 30 mph? Something like that could eventually retail for the price of a computer, would be far cheaper to run than a car, would be much more energy efficient, and would handle the basic job of getting a lot of people where they need to be. Imagine a future in which you hop in this vehicle which takes you the four miles to the nearest Metro station, drops you off, then travels to the grocery store to pick up the order you placed on your computer before you left, and finally returns to your home and plugs itself in.
I have just one word: rationing.

OK, maybe more than one word. But seriously: this is the same issue as with our health insurance and health care system. In health, we want "cadillac" plans, with the option to get any care of the most advanced, obtuse, and potentially unhelpful (in terms of cost-benefit) no matter what, and no matter when. And we want it paid for. One of the great block in reform is the mere suggestion that preventative care, and focused patient care that actually provides critical services first creates an outcry of socialism, and rationing. We are infatuated with choice, even if we never actually use it.

The potential to go 100 mph is the same: Americans don't buy cars with a tiny engine and a top speed of 85 mph. Even if it makes sense. We want to drive to Safeway at 25 mph, knowing in the back of our minds all the while that if we really, really wanted to, we could peel out at 120 mph, with the kids in the backseat shrieking in delight.

And again, like health care, it would need a mandate: you can't have "a one-seater with room for groceries, and with a typical cruising speed of between 20 and 30 mph" driving in the same lane as a BMW 700 series going As Fast As Possible on our current roads. Either everyone would have to convert, or you'd have to create a 2-tier driving system in every town and city in the country.

Utopian thinking is great, but fallacious. for what it's worth, I'm happy that the era of the Hummer is past, and we are seeing more and more SmartCars on the road. It's a small, American-sized step in the right direction. Avent notes the tactical issues that need addressing in his discussion --- infrastructure, for instance --- but misses the primary driver (no pun intended) of change or lack thereof: The Average American. We are selfish, and we demand choice regardless of our ability to make use of it.

A Sad Passing

The poet Lucille Clifton has died at the age of 73.

When she was teaching at UC Santa Cruz, I was a young student there, and an aspiring poet. Two terms running she declined to accept me into her class. Whether due to a lack of talent, or multicultural proclivity, or some other reason, I will never know.

Educational Progress

NY Times reports on a pilot program to allow high school students to graduate after grade ten, by passing board exams, and move directly to community college:
Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Terry Holliday, said that high school graduation requirements there have long been based on having students accumulate enough course credits to graduate.

“This would reform that,” Mr. Holliday said. “We’ve been tied to seat time for 100 years. This would allow an approach based on subject mastery — a system based around move-on-when-ready.”
This would have been a godsend to me in 10th grade --- when I began my move to take the GED and drop out of school. For the students who are capable, but bored, or out of place, or just ready to move on, this model may be not only effective, but an even better measure of actual achievement than the mainstream standardized testing regimen --- since it will be testing in a context which is not subsumed by the "teach-to-the-test" model.

Of course, I notice that the state in most need of reform, California, is not on the list of those participating....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quote For The Day

"The Democrats, by and large, are the most pathetic bunch of panty-waists I have ever come across. They couldn't sell a Jager shot to an alcoholic."
Andrew Sullivan, commenting today on the current state of things in Washington, and in particular the implosion of Health Care Reform.