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, June 18, 2010

Collegial Sensibilities

The Myth: University and College sports programs bring in more than enough money to support themselves, and are a financial boon to an educational institution.

The Reality: Sports programs run at a net loss, and cost schools a bundle, despite being disproportionately funded.
Only seven U.S. sports programs generated enough revenue to have an operating profit in each of the past five years. At most schools, the growth in athletic spending has required greater subsidies from the university and state taxpayers and higher fees from the student body, the report said.

...athletic department spending increased 37.5 percent to a median of $84,446 per athlete at 97 of 103 public schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision between 2005 and 2008. Meanwhile, university spending per student overall increased 20.5 percent to a median of $13,349.
So your typical school is spending 6 to 10 times more per athlete than per all their other students, and fees are increasing to continue the growth of that disparity at a massive rate, and we wonder why our nation sees more and more of a dip in our overall educational outcomes, and a dumbing down of discourse?

The Common Indecency Of Man

As I've said time and time again, we have bred a culture -- no longer merely American, but globally reaching -- where individual and communal actions are not determined by what is right or good or even acceptable, but by how much you can get away with:
in a letter, BP said it never follows a federal law requiring it to certify that a blowout preventer device would be able to block a well in case of an emergency. The inquiry stemmed from a hearing in May into the Gulf oil spill from the explosion and fire which sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter to BP in May demanding answers and was dismayed Thursday by the response.

But, at the same time, the British oil giant blamed the federal oversight agency, Minerals Management Service, for not asking it to comply with the law.
As Andrew Sullivan notes, this whinging response is painful to see. I've added the emphasis to that last sentence, just to drive home how unbelievably infantile this sort of thinking is. But it isn't just BP; it's all of us. We jaywalk --- but not when the cop is sitting there on the corner.

BP's laxity is just jaywalking on a corporate, multinational, multibillion dollar scale: 'The cop was looking the other way, and didn't tell me to stop!'

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Business of Business

Once upon a time, the Masters of Industry realized that the new crop of up and coming executives were too limited in their thinking -- competent, but not insightful:
“A well-trained man knows how to answer questions, they reasoned; an educated man knows what questions are worth asking.” Bell, then one of the largest industrial concerns in the country, needed more employees capable of guiding the company rather than simply following instructions or responding to obvious crises.
The year was 1955; the Cold War was raging. McCarthy was ascendant. And Bell Labs set up a 10 month intensive liberal arts program for their best and brightest. Ranging from art appreciation to critical thinking to exposure to the best minds of the day, the program was an absolute success. And yet....
the graduates were no longer content to let the machinery of business determine the course of their lives. One man told Baltzell that before the program he had been “like a straw floating with the current down the stream” and added: “The stream was the Bell Telephone Company. I don’t think I will ever be that straw again.”

...Bell gradually withdrew its support after yet another positive assessment found that while executives came out of the program more confident and more intellectually engaged, they were also less interested in putting the company’s bottom line ahead of their commitments to their families and communities.
Apparently little has changed: at the highest levels, we want the finest minds with the broadest exposure and the great faculties. But we still want them to think like drones in the hive. Is it any wonder that expanding the intellectual ability and horizons of a competent individual will make them more interested in creating a life worth living, rather than suborning themselves to corporate bottom lines? The same glass ceiling in business management theory exists today.

Read the whole op-ed here. On a frustrating wednesday against the backdrop of war, eco-disaster, and global unrest, I think this story made me more unhappy than anything else all day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Luddites Unite And Rejoice

If you love vinyl LPs, paper books and newspapers, manual shift automobiles, and baking your own bread from scratch, or you're just a steampunk fanatic at heart, then here's a new tech gadget for you: a kit that will convert a manual typewriter into a keyboard that can be used with your computer.

I'm almost tempted to buy a kit and convert my old 1934 Smith & Corona machine to a USB input device. Almost. But the idea of typing on a hundred year old manual key entry device and having it port directly into an iPad (as shown in the video) truly tickles me.