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, April 24, 2010

Misreading the news

I keeep looking at this Reuters headline, and each time at first glance I see, however unfortunately, the word "tomato" in place of "tornado":
Big tornado hits Mississippi, injuries reported
I'm suspecting this is an unusually large piece of fruit.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ugh, Muni!

Ill news after yesterday's gruesome fatal accident. Today it's a train at Castro Station that has drawn blood:
Update 5:50: SFFD Spokesperson Lt. Mindy Talmadge confirms to SF Appeal that a pedestrian on the tracks was hit, killed by a Muni train.
And they say that Muni's safety record is actually improving.

No further comment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ah, Muni!

I think this brings the year's count to 15, but I may be wrong. As far as I can tell, we are still on track for at least one serious injury / high profile Muni accident per week in 2010.

And they just announced the 10% service cuts today.

Things are not looking rosy for the trolleys. Clang, clang, clang.

Update: Here is the lede from today's paper:
(04-21) 15:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A man who stepped into Mission Street in San Francisco's Financial District died Wednesday after he was struck by a Muni trolley bus, pinned against another bus and then run over.
I suspect it will be difficult for even Muni to have a much more succinct, more Rube Goldberg, or more gruesome, accident report.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More On USPS (RIP?)

The Economist has a brief review on the crisis here. They briefly note the key factor in this, which is simply that with encroaching private services, and the interwebs and all, "...this is bankrupting the postal service, which does not receive any government subsidies." My emphasis.

Of course, if you read the comments section, you have the usual trolls and riffraff ignoring that key statement, and demanding a shutdown of this "wasteful" parasite of a government program.

And I say once again: We adamantly fund Social Security and Medicare to the tune of 20% of our national budget, but we complain when the self-supporting and constitutionally mandated postal service finds itself in need of support? How about we spend more time looking at ways to make the USPS more effective, more economical, and more financially sound for the future? This is what the report is implying we do, and yet the voices we hear in response all seem to be saying we should simply kill the thing entirely, and let the service go to a more profitable owner than the US Government, like FedEx or WalMart.

Really Awful News

If there is no massive shift in policy, funding, and the economy, it looks as though we are facing years of hardship in the schools and the teaching profession:
Districts in California have pink-slipped 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 public school job cuts. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June.....

“I’ve been superintendent in five major school districts, and had responsibility for cuts for years — but not this magnitude, not this devastating,” Mr. Cortines said.

And there is no end in sight, he said. He cut his district’s $12 billion budget this school year by $1 billion, has prepared $600 million in cuts for the term beginning in the fall and is looking ahead to a deficit for the following year of $263 million.

“I don’t see this being over in the year 2014-15,” Mr. Cortines added.
For teachers --- and for students --- this is devastating.

Yes, Darling, I Felt The Earth Move

Apparently, it's not tectonic shifts, seismic movement, or even underground nuclear tests that cause temblors: it's women who are responsible for earthquakes:
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran last Friday that they had to stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray...which increases earthquakes," he said.
Sho' nuff.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Depressing News

Not surprising, but disheartening nonetheless.

There are so many factors contributing to the ongoing degradation of the Postal Service; not the least of which is a radical shift in the methods of communication, and the falling level of true literacy as a means of discourse.

While I encourage you (and continually remind myself) to write real letters and postcards to your friends and loved ones rather than electronic versions, it is a losing battle. The physical letter, for all its tangible quality, its lifespan, and the meaning it provides to a reader far beyond the words (choice of paper, style of handwriting, little inserts, scent, the physical manifestations of a communiqué), it has effectively moved from the realm of common interaction to that of marginal art.

The people who are pushing for "privatizing" the Postal Service -- whatever that actually means -- miss the point that this is one of the few processes explicitly declared in our constitution. I have a really hard time with the privatization of basic constitutional requisites; it smells too much like private tax farmers. I imagine that many of the same folks are the ones who refuse to take part in that other constitutional demand, the Census.

Perhaps it just comes back the basic failure of our nation to address the continuing deterioration of the sense of the commonweal: we no longer make the connection between the value that government provides (roads, services, protections, liberties) and the cost of those things both tangible and intangible.

So: take a minute today to write a letter to someone you love. Take care with the words you put to paper, and consider that unlike an email, this piece of paper may wind up in the hands of someone's great-grandchild someday, as they burrow through old boxes in the attic, hoping to discover the tangible sense of who they are, and who we were, and what makes us us.

Morning Thoughts

(Photo: BBC)     
For one thing, I am really, really glad that I am not trying to travel in Europe this week. The volcano Eyjafjallajokull (I dare you to try and pronounce that in mixed company) has thrown a monkey wrench into the works of world travel, and I feel for the millions who are stranded. But I find it of interest that the one comparison and precedent found is the aftermath of 9/11, during which time most everyone spent their energy vocalizing fear and concern and occasionally wrath at those who caused the tragedy and ensuing mess; this time around what we hear is that it's costing too much. Personally, I take the "rather-safe-than-sorry" approach: if there is a decent chance that airborne volcanic ash will turn turn molten sludge in the engines of my flight to London, then yes, I'd much rather be stuck in an airport for a week or find alternative ground/water transportation. And if I ran an airline I think that I'd worry about the massive financial losses with a bit more circumspection, and in closer concert with national governments, than horn on about wanting to get back in the air. Imagine if we lost even 2 or 3 planes over Europe to the volcano: what would the reaction be then?

It's clear that even after the economic meltdown, and all we've seen in the last two years, that unremitting and unrepentent and depressingly short-sighted greed is still the prime mover in the corporate world.