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, May 01, 2010

The Horror, The Horror

One day passes; size increases 3 times over. The potential devastation of this incident cannot be underestimated:
Alabama's governor said his state was preparing for a worst-case scenario of 150,000 barrels, or more than 6 million gallons per day. At that rate the spill would amount to a Valdez-sized spill every two days, and the situation could last for months.
Let's hope that we never get to that worst-case scenario. But right now I'm not hopeful.

More info and graphics here.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Advice To Today's Youth

  1. Fall in love.
  2. Never grow old.

That is all.

Worst Nightmare

I think this would probably happen to me, given the opportunity.

21st Century Vinyl

This is f-ing brilliant:

Free TV : Ustream

Jack White going all analog on us --- via live streaming.
Instead of streaming the audio in a digital format, Mr. White and his crew have pointed a camera and a microphone at a record player spinning “Sea of Cowards” on vinyl at their office in Nashville.

Asked via e-mail why he was using all this 21st-century gadgetry to transmit a form of technology that was basically perfected 50 years ago, Mr. White wrote: “We’re trying to marry the two worlds....This generation needs to be turned on to the tangible side of music, I want to involve teenagers in music in a real way. Teach them that real life experiences, and things you can hold in your hands, are so much more beautiful than mouse clicks and sound bites.”
Rock on, Jack. I love it.

What's Buggin' Me Today

My back has blown out on me in the night, so I am primarily annoyed today at the insistent pain that runs like fire down my spine and hips each time I move. But other then that, I am haunted by the progress of the oil spill in the Gulf. Not only is the catastrophe 5 times greater than initially admitted, but the oil has now reached the Louisiana coast, and looks to remain uncontained for a month or longer. They now say this could be the worst environmental disaster the US has seen, an order of magnitude greater than the Exxon Valdez spill.

I cannot predict the future. But I do know that the Valdez did not destroy Exxon. And despite the chatter in the media that BP will be hit harder in its reputation than in the cost of damages and cleanup (which they have already pledged --- and for which the CEO gets points), I have doubts of the lasting impact to the industry this event will have. The Alaskan waters and coast have now mostly returned to a relatively normal state where the Valdez left black tarred coastline and empty waters. But the damage was done, and the habitat will never be what it was before, any more than a forest can be what it was prior to the cutting of old growth trees, no matter how conscientiously new saplings are planted.

The Gulf will recover to some reasonable state. But the ecosystem will be different in its wake. If you need to find a silver lining in all this, here are a few things to think about:
  • This may put a damper on the "drill-baby-drill" mentality that has swept the nation -- at least in regard to offshore development.
  • With any luck, the efforts for containment occurring now will teach the industry how to better handle this potential in the future, and so reduce risk.
  • The concurrent approval of the first US offshore wind farm in the Northeast may push both the industry and popular opinion toward more effective funding and promotion of alternative energies.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why I Am Irritated by the Writing Of Jonathan Lethem

...Because in his writing, as apparently in his speech, he is able to belt out sentences as grating as this:
[Speaking on Philip K. Dick's work, Exegesis] "...it’s an amassing or a compilation of late-night all-night sessions of him taking on the universe, mano-a-mano, with the tools of the English language and his own paranoiac investigations."
Going at it mano-a-mano with the tools of the English language?


Apparently, Dick's toolbox full of English grammar and vocabulary held a bit more than Lethem's. Statements like that read like they are ripped from the Onion, or from an old Doonesbury strip, rather than the Arts & Lit section of the NY Times.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And In Other News

what with the Arizona immigration law, and the Goldman hearings, and the filibuster of the financial reform package, and the oil spill from the exploded offshore drill in the Gulf we'd have enough nastiness to go around. But no: Oklahoma had to go and criminalize being a woman.

Leaving aside the deeper issues on abortion, the inherent cruelty of this pair of laws is so obvious, and so heartless, I find it challenging to believe that even a legislature full of misogynistic good ol' boys could so overwhelmingly approve.

And yet.

I suspect we'll hear more about this as the year unfolds. And I suspect that with the current makeup of the Supreme Court, when the inevitable challenge comes, this one will be considered a reasonable and prudent piece of legislation.

It's gut-wrenching.

Taking The Blame, Taking A Fall

Following the Goldman congressional hearings today, I am struck really by just one thing: that for better or worse, the actors in this show are either unable or unwilling to admit any responsibility for the outcomes of their actions. Oh, they "deeply regret" the nation's pain, they have "concern" for the "problems caused" (known by the rest of us as the Great Recession), but whether for legal reasons or simple moral density, not one of them grasps that even if they did nothing illegal, what they did was insurmountably wrong.

I've said it many times, and I'll say it again: we have wound up in a cultural moment where, driven by profit and market methods and a mistrust, resentment or even outright hatred of government (or any authority larger than the self), the ruling model of action is not to do what is right, but to do as much as you can get away with. The eight years of the Bush America exacerbated the already encroaching problem; today it is so ingrained in our day-to-day actions and thought process that I doubt we can undo it anytime soon. This time there will be no "have you no sense of decency" moment.

While I'm sure we will continue to muddle along, despite acting with the moral compass of an eight-year old boy with a penchant for bullying and petty theft, I suspect that as a culture it does us no lasting good. And for that reason, listening to these Goldman boys whine before congress that they are innocent of anything other than doing their job, without realizing that it is the very nature of their jobs which is on trial, just makes me sad.

Fritz Sells Anchor

I read this last night, and while it is perfectly reasonable and understandable for Fritz Maytag to want to retire and sell his beloved Anchor Brewery, it makes me wonder about the future of both the product and the business environment that made it. To a great extent, Anchor is Fritz Maytag, in culture (no growth policies, quality and recipe selection, style), and in output. I doubt any other businessmen will decide to avoid growth because it's just better that way. But that was Anchor for the last 25 years.

I wish the man all the best, and I hope nothing but good comes of his moving on. But Anchor will never be quite the same.

Quote For The Day

PowerPoint makes us stupid.

-Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quote for the Day

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."
- Professor Stephen Hawking, on why SETI and extraterrestrial contact might not be such a clever idea after all.