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, October 01, 2010


Via Ezra Klein and The Dish, this pdf showing how to provide an itemized receipt for your federal taxes is brilliant.

Now: the pie charts showing government spending are easily accessible; aren't there some crack web developers out there willing to throw a page up on the web with a simple interactive calculator based on those numbers? Just plug in your total tax bill, and get your itemized receipt?

This needn't be a government sponsored issue: some enterprising geek with some basic javascript skills and a little entrepreneurial verve should be able to whip up something like this in a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deep Thought II

After watching the first of the debates in the California race for governor, my mind wanders:

Meg Whitman has spent $120 million to date on the CA gubernatorial campaign; Jerry Brown has spent about $4 million.

Brown is polling at the mid to high 40s; Whitman between 39% - 41%.

Who do you want in charge of the fiscal train wreck that is California: the candidate who spends a literal fortune in order to have a truly mediocre showing, or the candidate who spends almost nothing, and still winds up coming out on top?

Deep Thought

Why is it that three and one half of the top five solutions to creating more jobs and increasing the economic health of the nation are exactly the options against which conservatives are willing to fight tooth and nail? And the bottom five least effective seem to be the bedrock of their agenda?
  1. Increasing Aid to the Unemployed

  2. Reducing Employers' Payroll Taxes for Firms That Increase Their Payroll*

  3. Reducing Employers' Payroll Taxes

  4. Investing in Infrastructure

  5. Providing Aid to States for Purposes Other Than Infrastructure

If you can posit (and I firmly believe that you can) that the positive economic health of the nation benefits the generation of wealth for those who already control large amounts of the existing wealth, then why on earth do conservatives insist on working against their own long-term interests?

(* I only count this as half, since the idea of raising payrolls would to most Boehner/Beck conservatives smack of both governmental coercion as well as cancelling out the benefit of a lower payroll tax.)

The Underwear Gnomes Attack!

SF Chronicle reports that the startup company Xmarks will be shuttering in 90 days. Apparently the profoundly shallow thinking fostered by the 90's interwebs boom really has no place in a functioning market:
For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service. With that investment thesis thwarted, there is no way to pay expenses
So writes the company co-founder.

The problem here is not a lack of good intentions, nor of a competent product. It is the stunning idea that you can create a company without any business plan for revenue generation beyond "I hope we think of something". This was a major reason for the severity of the dot-bomb, and continues to be a barrier to innovation. Just because an idea is cool does not make it a value proposition. If you want to create something, serving it up as a for-profit venture is not necessarily the best, or only way to do so.

Perhaps what we need is more innovation on the business modeling side, rather than just in the technology and products we deliver: If there is a product that is useful, and cool, and provides value, but lacks a profitable revenue stream, how can it still be presented to the public in a viable manner for both the creators and the users?

I think a key lesson to delve into for us is: The providing of value is not always obvious, nor always understood in a short time frame. Innovation may be of enormous value, yet still not provide a reasonable or rapid financial return to the implementers of that innovation. How can we foster creativity of that nature, without disincentivizing the marketplace?