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.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Special Post: Government Shutdown Edition

Well, I have little to say about the clusterf---k in Washington DC, but I have been thinking about two things:

First, the upcoming municipal elections on November 5. I received my ballot and noted that we have three positions in city government on the ballot, each with exactly one name in the lists for us to choose from. That's right: three positions, three uncontested races.

I feel like I should be seeing posters of Stalin on the sides of buildings.

I mean,what the hell? I know we are sort of a big D Democratic company town here in SF, but seriously --- can't we find even one libertarian or independent to run against the three anointed party machine anointees? It makes me sad.

Second,  I have begun to think that free market capitalism as it is currently incarnated is remarkably like evangelical christianity. Both have fervent believers, both demand a certain level of inarguable faith in mechanisms that are intangible, unprovable, and are frequently countered by a reality that acts in the opposite way than those mechanisms would predict. Along with that, both have a huge population of believers who will actively ignore those counters from reality, in favor of their chosen mechanisms of faith. And finally, both believe in the aggressive imposition of their beliefs on others, believing that it is 'for their own good', even if that imposition causes hardship, grief, and human catastrophe.

I think that growing up a Jew in a Christian community has made me sensitive to this unpleasant comparison. For those who grow up Christian, inside the bubble, it may be far more difficult to see the similarities, since the imposition of their own default position has never been something they have needed to address.

That's all. Have fun for the rest of your shutdown (brought to you by racism, hatred, and the letter "Tea Party").

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All it Takes


Yeah. Two dollars and thirty one cents. That's what it takes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

a gnat's whisker

A personal post:

It would seem that I am just pennies away from receiving a miniscule royalty payment from dear old Amazon for my meager writings. So if you are feeling at all generous, please: put me over the top! Click on the Kindle book links above this post, and buy a story for $0.99. You'll get 20 minutes of reasonably informed enjoyment for less than the price of a cup of coffee!

See my Amazon Author Page here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cost Savings? I don't need to show you any stinkin' cost savings!

Sadly, I fear I agree wholeheartedly with Nicholas Carr on the impacts of our current obsession with the replacement (rather than enhancement) of traditional information capture and transfer methods when applied to Medicine -  via electronic medical records systems - and to education, via MOOCS and online "virtual" classrooms. My own immediate response to the RAND survey he points to was less eloquent than his own metaphor. If I recall, after reading the article in the NY Times I was almost compelled to simply respond:
Well, duh!
Sadly, the foolishness is being perpetrated on Medicine now, and Education as we move ahead. And I am in the world of Medical Education. Ouch.

I'm not against the introduction of new more "efficient" ways of either capturing and managing information, or disseminating it. That is after all what I do for a living. But the idea that it is a yellow brick road to cost savings, that each new technology can replace an existing modality, or that somehow a contract with a tech company providing you a tool will significantly reduce your bottom line in either of these fields is simply magical thinking.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why I Voted for Governor Brown

...and why I'm delighted he's pushing the State ahead toward some semblance of sanity:

Budget deficits projected since December 2007:

-- Jan. 2008, $14.5 billion
-- Jan. 2009, $41.6 billion
-- Jan. 2010, $18.9 billion
-- Jan. 2011, $25.4 billion
-- Jan. 2012, $9.2 billion
-- Jan. 2013, none.

(numbers lifted from the SF Chronicle)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

That's What I'm Sayin'

Eduardo Porter has posted an excellent summary of the perversions of a market-driven health care sector in the NYT this week; if you have any interest in understanding why we are in the fix we are in viz rising health care costs and an inability to address them, and more generally why we as a nation and a community need to address the unreasonable encroachment of "business-think" into areas for which it is essentially incompatible, take a minute to see what he has to say:
A shareholder might even applaud the creativity with which profit-seeking institutions go about seeking profit. But the consequences of this pursuit might not be so great for other stakeholders in the system — patients, for instance. One study found that patients’ mortality rates spiked when nonprofit hospitals switched to become profit-making, and their staff levels declined.
These profit-maximizing tactics point to a troubling conflict of interest that goes beyond the private delivery of health care. They raise a broader, more important question: How much should we rely on the private sector to satisfy broad social needs?
Indeed. And the same goes for (as I have said before) schools, and research institutions, and social welfare programs, and infrastructure needs. If we rely on the private sector for communitarian outcomes in areas with perverse incentives at the macro level, then we really are on the road to becoming our own worst enemies. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Year of Living Locally

It's a new year, and with the turning of the calendar, I've made a philosophical choice for this year of 2013: I am forswearing Facebook and associated "social media" as a method of communication. So from here on out, don't expect to find me much there.

I've been removed for the last couple months, and have realized a few things. First, that to my mind the "social media" of today simply aren't. Yes, media. But not social. Being on facebook is not socializing with others, it is browsing the visually present lives of others. and for me those activities are not synonymous.

I find that what I need, what my human spirit needs, is friendship, and close communication, at a depth that requires attention, and proximity---whether of voice or body---to allow for the greatest relation of nuance possible in the discourse that arises. And I crave discourse as well; the asymmetrical models of digital communication simply don't fulfill the same qualitative need as a truly present, immediate conversation. At least not for me.

I find that I need friends, not "connections". And if all I have out in the digital landscape is the latter, then I can do without.

I've read a lot from people deeply invested in the social media world, and those less enamoured of it. I find that it is fascinating as a tool, but also I suspect deeply disruptive in non-positive ways to our capacity to create strong communities, to develop bonds and values external to ourselves, and to be able to develop empathy that is driven by more than the satisfaction of recording publicly our good works and charities. If I fall on one side or the other of a Clay Shirky - Nick Carr divide, then I'm definitely on Carr's side of the fence.

So I am departing the voyeuristically-gilded, narcissistic seas of photo sharing and checking in, and asking that if you are a friend who connects with me via the interwebs, give me a shout on email, or live chat, or pick up the phone and call.

Yes, it is less convenient, less easy, requires more forethought, and more effort.

And that is sort of the point.