About Me

My photo

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, April 02, 2010

Very Good Friday - In Limerick

I'm really not sure what to make of this note, that the Irish city of Limerick has lifted the ban on pubs serving alcohol on Good Friday for the first time since the law was passed in 1927, due to the Munster v. Leinster rugby match today. Particularly when you have the two sides of the discussion presented thus:
"It's a one-off event, it's of huge importance to the city, both financially and culturally," he said.

But Mick Loftus, medical doctor and former head of the Gaelic Athletic Association, said it was a "very sad day for Ireland" and an end to a tradition "going back hundreds of years".
Hundreds of years? Not the ban, certainly; that only goes back 83 years. And Good Friday certainly goes back centuries, but since it is still occurring, I'm not sure that's what Loftus had in mind.

And of course, remember as well that the rugby league is funded and sponsored by Magners, the hard cider giants of the Island.

Personally, I can't imagine watching rugby without having a drink or five. And I can't imagine a rugby fan having to not watch a match of significance without resorting to a drink for succor. The Irish Church, especially in the aftermath of the current sex abuse & pedophilia crisis, just doesn't have the same savor as a Guinness.

Impressive Oversight

There's an Op-Ed in the NY Times about girls' violence, coming in the wake of the terrible bullying incident that has sent seven young girls to be charged with the death of a fellow student, that is notable in what it almost says: that people who decry an epidemic of violence among young girls are merely shouting in the echo chamber of the own self-reflective bubble.

The author makes the valid and useful point that, contrary to some reports, violence among young girls is actually on the decrease, and apparently at an all time low.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports, based on reports from more than 10,000 police agencies, is the most reliable source on arrests by sex and age. From 1995 to 2008, according to the F.B.I., girls’ arrest rates for violent offenses fell by 32 percent, including declines of 27 percent for aggravated assault, 43 percent for robbery and 63 percent for murder. Rates of murder by girls are at their lowest levels in at least 40 years.
He then goes on to note that
F.B.I. reports show assault arrests of girls under age 18 increased from 6,300 in 1981 to a peak of 16,800 in 1995, then dropped sharply, to 13,300 in 2008. So, at best, claims that girls’ violence is rising apply to girls of 15 to 25 years ago, not today.
So far, so good. Then the kicker:
[T]he age groups of the many authors and commentators disparaging girls. Among women ages 35 to 54, F.B.I. reports show, felony assault arrests rocketed from 7,100 in 1981 to 28,800 in 2008.
So consider what we have here: an insistence from a certain demographic (35-54) that violence among girls is on the rise; the statistics to show that violence among girls crested about 25 years ago, when this same demographic was in their early teens; reports showing that this selfsame demographic continues to see increased violence, including assault and domestic violence charges.

Isn't this just a rather painful example of pot calling kettle black? The group who were the most violent in the last 4o years as youths, and continue to be violent, are decrying violence in a youthful demographic who actually are showing less and less inclination to violent acts --- however horrendous the exceptions to that trend may be.

I wish that writers and researchers would go the one extra step and call out the implications of their information: especially when it points to something as directly undercutting the premise of the discussion, as does this. The point of Op-Ed is not to present judicious points of data from statistical science; it is to provide opinion and insight. That's why we write up our findings, instead of just publishing data.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Now, I'm not one to ridicule those who differ in opinion from me; but this is too good an opportunity to pass up:

Yes, it's a little mean to gloat over your opponent's apparent stupidity.

But it feels so good sometimes....

check out the whole Flickr set. it's good for a laugh, especially if the weather is grey.

(h/t Dish)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You can tell a book, and a helluva lot more, by its cover

NYT is running an article on ebooks and their impact on book advertising by the loss of the noticeable book cover. It's a good article, but it addresses the least interesting aspect of this shift in reading habits methods. The free advertising is nice, but this is a massive shift in the way we communicate. Just as we are also losing the ability to connectively and serendipitously browse, via the loss of such tools as the card catalogue, and the waning of library shelves to wander through, so too the aid of public intercourse via shared interest in a book. How can you strike up a conversation with some stranger in a cafe about what they are reading, and how much you enjoyed it, or hated it, or have been curious about it, if there is no way to know what they are reading? Just as we are isolating ourselves into self-reifying and reinforcing cliques of similar ideologies (cf. facebook, fox news, and any current self-selecting online community), we are reducing the basic props we use for communal mingling. I find it sorrowful that are reducing the our life experiences through a sense of expediency, trading off so much texture for some weird reductionist belief in not even progress, but simply "efficiency" or "profit". The worst is that we don't even think to see how we can replace what we lose with anything new; we barely even notice as we dismantle it. In this way I think we are enagaging in something qualitatively different than occurred through much of the 20th century, when progress for its own sake was so rapid and caused much reactionary response.

We replaced the horse and buggy with the motor car, but the cars were (for a time at least) things of beauty in their own right, works of art. An electronic reader is merely....functional.

For the record:
  • Twitter is interesting and useful, but it isn't a method of conversing.
  • Facebook doesn't help you interact with people who don't already share your opinions and prejudices.
  • Reading an eBook on your Kindle with your iPhone earbuds plugged into your head will not provide you with any exposure to the rest of humanity, no matter how enjoyable or rewarding it might be.
  • Web searches do not equate to the physical act of browsing shelves or catalogues or indices, there is a reason we have such things as peer-reviewed journals, Wikipedia is only useful if you know it is a starting, not an ending point, and what you are looking for has little or no controversy associated with it, and
  • you kids need to get the hell off my lawn.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover Eve

כל ִּדְכִפין ֵייֵתי ְוֵיכֹול,
ָּכל ִּדְצִריְך ֵייֵתי ְוִיְפַסח.
ָהַׁשָּּתא ָהָכא,
ְלָׁשָנה ַהָּבָאה ְּבַאְרָעא ְדִיְׂשָרֵאל.
ָהַׁשָּּתא ַעְבֵדי,
ְלָׁשָנה ַהָּבָאה ְּבֵני חֹוִרין

Let all who hunger, come and eat,
Let all who are needy, come and partake of the paschal offering.
Now we are here;
next year - in the land of Israel.
Now we are slaves;
next year we shall be free.