Monday, February 27, 2012

No Hope University

Every semester approximately half-a-dozen messages like the following are sent to instructors at No Hope University:
Dear Instructor,

Our son is a freshman at No Hope University and is struggling somewhat with CLASS-2012. I believe meeting with a tutor once or twice a week would be enough to get him on track. Would you be able to help us with this?

(Name of Parent)
or even better:
Dear Instructor-Tutor,

I am looking for a tutor in EASYA-2012 for my daughter Amanda, a freshman at No Hope University. If you are available please contact her directly at amandabanana47(at) If you could let her know your rate that would be great.

(Name of Parent)
[ed: Yes dear readers, with the exception of protected name changes, these emails, verbatim, were sent by real flesh and blood parents to real flesh and blood instructors early February, this year. The name of the institution has been changed because while this sad tale is incredible, it is also believable that this could happen at any college or university in Georgia.]

There are so many ways to respond to these emails...all of which would get you fired. Here are a couple ideas for responses:
  1. The hardest thing for students to "deal with" upon entering college is personal responsibility. If the student is so irresponsible that he not only is failing a class but also needs his PARENT to help him find a tutor, this does not bode well. The fact that a particular instructor is willing to tutor students in EASYA-2012 and CLASS-2012 is not secret; all tutors for a given department have easy-to-find contact information. This information can be found on numerous non-password-protected websites run by the individual departments at No Hope University. If the STUDENT is concerned about the STUDENT'S grade, he can easily find this information (hell, his parents could!) and email the tutor directly. But unless the student takes the initiative and the student takes the time to help himself, more than likely this is never going to work.
  2. From a general tutor's perspective, this has "BAD IDEA" written all over it. Why? If the parent is contracting you to help a (legal adult, but apparently still a) child, the parent is the "client/parent/boss." Moreover, the student/child has zero responsibility in the eyes of the client/parent/boss. For if the student did have responsibility, the parent would be having the child find himself a tutor, or would be having the child pay for the tutor himself. But, the student/child has no responsibility. It's not his fault he's failing. It's the homework system that's confusing, or the instructor who's draconian, or the "system" that made him ill-prepared. So, what's going to happen if the tutor meets twice a week with the student/child, and the student/child continues to struggle with the material and the student/child doesn't magically turn an "F" into an "A"? That boss/parent/client is going to chew the tutor out because "clearly" the tutor is not doing what they're paid to do! Clearly, the tutor doesn't know the subject, or  how to tutor, or what specific needs the student/child has that must be met. It is ALL the tutor's fault, and tutor is disappointing their client/parent/boss.
Sadly, there's really no good way to phrase either of the two points in a response.

Even MORE sad is the fact that having only this type and this level of parental contact makes your life "easy." Many in academia receive letters from parents pleading to change final grades because otherwise a student will lose the HOPE scholarship and be unable to attend No Hope University. Many people at No Hope University have been threatened by parents. Specifically, the parents have threatened to tell their golfing buddy over in administration, Dr. OverPaid, that the grade should be revoked and will be challenged if left unchanged.

The one suffering the most is the professor in a given department who is in charge of transfer credits; he gets phone calls about twice a month from parents wanting to know why their child got a 3 on the AP exam but managed to fail the department's placement exam. Now in these cases, the law is literally on the academics' side. Thanks to FERPA, it is illegal for a professor to post grades outside his door, or email students about a grade on an assignment, or even talk about a grade over the telephone. It is illegal to discuss with anyone but the student (unless you have a signed document from the student regarding the class, the clearance, and the particular individual who is cleared) the grades of the student. So, a professor legally cannot respond to any emails from Mommy and Daddy about Junior's English paper. A professor legally cannot discuss the particular transfer or lack-of-transfer of a student's AP credits with an "alleged" parent. Naturally, this just frustrates the parents even more, but it does in many ways make these conversations go more "smoothly". At least these conversations are shorter as a result.

What makes this whole topic even more sensitive is that we all probably know people in our personal lives who are these parents. Who call professors to ask about extensions or transfers or incompletes or letter grade changes. Who blame everything from genetics to roommates to other relatives for the failures and irresponsible behaviors of their own children.

This needs to stop.

If parents continue to coddle their children through college; if parents do not let their children fail; if parents continue to blame everyone else for their children's failures; if parents continue to threaten professors and instructors; if parents continue to act entitled when it comes to access to their adult-children's lives and academics, what sort of society will develop? To quote The Lion in Winter, "What kind of spindly, ricket-ridden, milky, wizened, dim-eyed, gammy-handed, limpy line of things will [we] beget?"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nancy Jester Unmasked

This late breaking news comes directly from Dunwoody Rumor Central, the unhappy campers who brought you the inside scoop on Dunwoody's Executive Session Kerfuffle. Now lighting up the blogosphere is shocking information alleging Nancy Jester, the DeKalb County Board of Education member shown below is not at all who she claims to be.

And just who is it that they claim is masquerading as "Nancy Jester"?

As it turns out they allege that Mary Steenburgen, shown below, is now playing the part of a DeKalb County Board of Education member whose character's name is none other than "Nancy Jester".

In support of this claim our local rumor mongers offer this:
  • The striking physical resemblance as demonstrated in the preceding photos.
  • The fact that, were it necessary, and it appears not, Mary Steenburgen has access to award-winning makeup artists.
  • Never have Mary Steenburgen and "Ms. Jester" been seen together in public. NEVER!
  • Mary Steenburgen's mother was a school-board secretary giving rise to speculation that she knows exactly how to infiltrate a school board.
  • The selection of the name "Jester" appears to be a purposeful clue intended to mock the intelligence of our community and Mary Steenburgen is known for playing comedic roles.
If this is true then "Ms. Jester", whoever she might really be, has unwittingly settled amongst some of the Smartest of the Smart, in what is widely believed to be one of the Smartest Cities in these here parts. At least by the folks in these here parts. But she has been rooted out, and while conclusive proof has yet to be revealed, that is exactly what this situation, and the good citizens of DeKalb, demand. Proof.

And demand it we will as we are entitled to know just who is running our schools. We must be certain that our schools are directed by a full-time board members and not just a Hollywood star using this as a part-time acting lesson. As this is a most serious matter, a birth certificate, marriage license or any other easily forged document is woefully inadequate. If "Ms. Jester" denies these charges, then we demand exactly what has been lacking to date, Nancy Jester and Mary Steenburgen at a public venue, in person, at the same time.

If this proof is forthcoming, and is accepted as convincing and incontrovertible, then it has been suggested this become a charity event with photo ops, autograph sessions and an open bar. Finally, as an act of contrition, made even greater by the fact that Dunwoody is a "chicken free City", all proceeds will go to Heifer International. Which is not a chicken free charity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dunwoody Chicken Coup

In Dunwoody, sheltering and nurturing "chickens" is an executive privilege reserved for the Smart folks down at City Hall.

The facts are not in dispute: Council met in executive session and one or more perpetrators leaked information that by law must be kept secret. Given their now obvious character flaws it comes as no surprise that cowardice compels them to silence and they have none of the honesty or integrity required to openly confess and face their punishment. They would rather heap insult upon injury, in the hopes they will not be caught, or if caught will receive little more than a slap on the wrist. But by not coming forward these cowards will cost the rest of us $150/hr for an investigator to break open the Cabal and identify at least some of the traitors. Hopefully this investigation will also reveal those who are protecting them as well.

By refusing to confess, by denying their actions, they cast a dark shadow on the governance of the entire city. How many, if any, members of Council or staff are complicit and to what extent? Are others now guilty of obstruction or participating in a cover-up? If, as many suggest, "this has been going on since day one", is this the tip of a very large iceberg? Just how deep and wide does the corruption extend?

There is some merit to the argument that the City Cabal has played fast and loose with the sanctity of executive session for some time, as it is clear now that  the "chickens" have taken over the city and are now protected by a self-imposed and seemingly impenetrable cone of silence. The only secret this City seems capable of keeping is just who has been leaking secrets.

Perhaps the Council should hear no new business, act on no other agenda item except investigation progress reports until the investigation is complete and the guilty suffer the maximum penalty afforded under the law. Perhaps this would restore what is left of the crumbling confidence the electorate has in their City's staff and Council. Perhaps not.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Al's Park Gets Natatorium

As has been detailed here, Al's Park is a "planned City park" to include luxurious landscaping, a modern water feature cascading into a swimming pool and a pool house. Now the City plans an upgrade. A natatorium. And construction is well underway.

Though it has been difficult to obtain an official reason for the upgrade, sources "in the know" have suggested this is directly related to Al being overheard saying "I can't wait for Speedo weather". This comment sent shudders down the spine of all who heard it, or heard of it, and caused quite a stir amongst parents of small children. A rather catty remark regarding "muffin tops" is grinding its way through the rumor mill.

While not denying the allegation, an unnamed city official reportedly explained that the city was powerless to regulate male swimwear, even in a City park. In fact, unless Al appears with "man-boobs" or stark naked there is absolutely nothing the city can do. Consequently a substantial structure is required as a "swimsuit cover up". And make no mistake about it, the City is committed to THIS park. 

As for Al, he will neither confirm nor deny that he owns or would wear a Speedo, but did observe that "every day I wake up Al's Park just gets better and I can't wait to see what's next."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Orwellian Education

Georgia "educators" have won their battle against accountability and will do better than merely return to the opacity of the former status quo. The will begin by replacing the NCLB Pass/Fail designations with a system that institutionalizes their self-congratulatory inclinations.

Some have described the new labeling system as "warm and fuzzy" and the enthusiastic embrace by "educators" is sickeningly sweet:
"These new labels, I think,  are going to be great" 
Really?!? YOU think? But this is followed by:
"they're going to get us away from pass or fail"
Well, you certainly got that right, because what "educators" want to see is a system of "pass" and "pass", where "pass" means whatever the hell they want it to mean.

But since the new labels are not only malleable but intentionally obfuscating, let's ensure we have a clear set of "taxpayer" definitions that not only speak the truth, but expose the hypocrisy of a system that takes credit for others' hard work while hiding their own failures. These are the "educators'" new school labels:
  • REWARD (Educators take all the credit) -- This signifies a school with a statistically unlikely aggregation of "Teacher-Proof" students often correlating with a large concentration of Asian families. Teachers and principals rejoice as they will burnish their reputations on the accomplishments of hardworking students and the parents that motivate them. Only the toadiest of sycophants are allowed to work in these increasingly rare schools.
  • FOCUS (Educators take credit where it makes them look good, avoiding responsibility where it doesn't) -- These are often associated with what few middle class neighborhoods remain that can still offer "student outliers" for the "educators" to trot out at the appropriate times and places so as to take credit for their hard work. These schools are often the proving ground for aspiring toadies and the well connected "educators".
  • PRIORITY (Educators blame parent(s)) -- These are schools formerly labeled as FAILING. These are your regular run of the mill, prison preparatory programs littering the landscape of Georgia education. This is where disenfranchised "educators", often with the wrong friends and from an undesirable family, are sent to retire on the job.
  • ALERT (Educators blame society, parents and government) -- FAILED. Simple, abject, complete failure. No dead-cat bounce. No hope of recovery. This is what makes many a Georgian look forward to the day they can proudly proclaim to be from Georgia. "Educators" found in these schools are on the system's "de-hire" career path.
Keep this handy so you can translate from the finely crafted orwellian blather about to spew from the mouths of "educators" into what this really means for you, your child and your taxes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dunwoody Talking Out of School

On a recent Friday the Dunwoody Mayor and Council held, on short notice, a meeting for the purpose of going into executive session. As we all learned from the Dekalk County School Superintendent search these executive sessions are not held in public and discussions are not made public. In the vernacular, what happens in executive session stays in executive session.

Those are the rules. And as we also learned from DCSS, some folks hold themselves above the rules, to wit, someone is alleged to have leaked information regarding the topics of discussion in the Dunwoody executive session. Naughty boy(s) or girl(s).

Condemnation has already rained down from others in the blogosphere and that is not the purpose of this rant. It will be left to others to ensure guilty staffers are fired and guilty politicians will be pilloried.

There are items of equal if not greater concern. At first blush there is the matter rumored to have been discussed: the sale of all or almost all of the "PVC Pipe Farm" to a developer who will build housing though probably not as high density as the original developer intended. To make up for this reduction in traffic on our roads the rumored proposal includes "mixed use", generally thought to include retail and restaurants. Perhaps a Chick-fil-a?

Some really important questions are raised here. How enduring is a "master plan"? Is the master plan so riddled with loop holes and vague language and therefore so open to manipulation and interpretation that the city can buy property under the guise of "much needed green space" and hardly a year later do a one eighty and propose to sell the property back to developers? Can this city create a plan that will endure one election cycle or is every election to become yet another set of mandates for sweeping change?

And the original financing for the purchase seems so sketch it would make Bernie Madoff blush. Did we really buy the property, as reports indicate we are simply leasing it from the Georgia Municipal Association? And since when did this lobbying organization get into the business of second hand financing? Just who approached whom in setting up this house of cards? How much of this fragile setup was based on the now dispelled confidence that the sheep of Dunwoody would approve the City's "parks bonds"? We were told this property was bought for "parks" and now it is just a speculative real estate deal relying on shaky financing. How many other pre-emptive spending programs were executed based  on "Parks Bonds Anticipation"? The property for the Peachford  Road to Nowhere? And how did this influence the negotiations? Clearly we paid too much for the Peachford property. That or no citizen should ever have complained about County property tax as it appears property in the area is undervalued by half. Was the overpayment because the negotiator was sure the City would soon be flush with cash? Did they "go shopping" too soon?

And who are these people? We need names. If there be consequences, firings and recalls, then let it be for the staffers, the managers and the elected officials behind these speculative land deals and public deceptions. And let it be NOW.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Brookford Ashaven

The staged formation of Dunwoody hit its high point early in the first scene with the orgasmic screams of "yes, Yes, YES!" from our yellowed-tagged evangelists caught up in an artificial, but no less frenzied Pon Farr. By the end of the first act of their convoluted adaptation, the lust was sated, and the muddled second act punished the audience with the antics of two parties who found themselves in a permanent, but ungratifying union they neither liked nor respected. While scenes offered great tragic theatre, the outcome for Dunwoody has become much like a tattoo, a painful, increasingly embarrassing, but permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.

The audience seated to the south end of our theatre of the absurd, perhaps more mature or simply less hedonistic, have little enthusiasm for our prurient display of the political quickie, back alley knee knocker or our pimped out political prostitutes. They seem to have a less than favorable view of the brothel franchises,  "Citizens for where ever" and "over here YES!" that stage our plays.

Though plagued by similar sounding troupes, they hope to put on a different play, one where long after the memory of that first night mellows to a soft patina, a meaningful relationship grows, demonstrating the enduring value of gratification rather than celebrating the fleeting satisfaction of an animalistic urge. They are not inclined to stage "Oh! Calcutta!" but are more interested in an adaptation of "Fiddler on the Roof".

And yes, the representatives of their troupes make out nicely whether the play is a raging success or miserable flop. But to the thespians' credit, the prospective partners in this adaptation are less concerned about sex or wedding scenes and more about the marriage, seeking a union based on mutual respect and trust, eschewing any hasty union resulting from an intoxicating lust. They seem to understand that weltschmerz besets everyone, if they should live so long, and know time is required to build the kind of relationship that endures. Their play will not peak in Scene One, Act One.

If the folks up in Dunwoody would quit humming "Jack and Jill" and just listen, they would hear soft, sincere lyrics from the south:
"Golda? Do you love me?"
Good for Tevia. And good for Golda.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Government "Purchased" Program

It may have slipped your notice but DeKalb County has combined forces with "Purchasing Power" to set up  their very own version of "Aaron Rents" for county employees. It is quite the sweet(heart) deal, but just when did it become a County Government responsibility to set up an internal retail operation?

Operationally it is simple. First, no interest. None. Never. Not now, not in twelve months. Not on TV's, not on computers and of course never on washers and dryers. How does that work? Simple: charge a twenty percent markup. These are prices that would make "Needless Markup" blush and were that interest, it would border on ethical if not legal usury. But this is little more than gouging, which except for plywood after a tornado, is apparently OK. So lesson learnt: if retail is for chumps, then this must be for real losers.

It gets better. The county gets ten percent. Yep. Ten percent for garnishing the wages of their employees and forking the money over to a private, for-profit business. Is that what folks really mean by "Public Private Partnership"?  They've turned the old bromide "business doesn't pay taxes, they just collect them" on its head.

But wait! There's more! None of this could happen guessed it...POLITICIANS! At both the state and county level this was pushed through by our very own North DeKalb elected officials.

One, at the state level, is paid a "fee" for "brokering" the deal. Very tidy. Sounds a bit like this scam was not let out for bids, but what the hell, isn't that what elected office is for? Making deals between government and corporations to garner those hard-earned "brokerage fees"? Of course he says he'll tithe, giving ten percent of his fee, which adds to the county "commission",  in order to cover county costs. What a mench, eh?

And the local yokel politician? Well it is the commissioner's job to establish a smoke screen.
"We can't afford to give them raises, we've raised their insurance and if you can't replace your washer and dryer, you don't know what kind of trouble that is." 
What? Can't afford raises? Not now and apparently not ever, but we sure as hell can make sure you have every opportunity to pay twenty percent over retail. Not WHOLESALE, but RETAIL, and we'll take OUR cut. And "washers and dryers"? Like it really isn't going to be big screen TVs. Are we really supposed to believe the washer and dryer always go out at the same time? And have YOU ever heard of a "laundromat"? Right. Gotcha.

Do we need any other explanation for the lack of traction on ethics legislation than shenanigans like this? Such legislation may risk a politician's real income. Or worse yet, suppose we had a legitimate fourth estate, that investigated the money flows related to friends and family of corporations, and politicians with their friends and families.

We certainly know something is being bought and paid for here in DeKalb, and it is pretty clear it isn't just major appliances.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Version Control

Software products are routinely labeled with "versions" and while this nomenclature has taken hold in the vernacular there seems to be little understanding of "number dot number" beyond "bigger must be better". While that is generally the intent, there is a bit more to it. Version number syntax is commonly:
A bump in the "major" number indicates a release of the product with significant additions to and improvements in functionality and may be incompatible with previous versions and possibly requires additional hardware or a newer platform.

"Minor" number bumps, often called "dot releases", fix significant bugs, improve performance and add minor features or functionality, but are always backward compatible within the major release and do not require a hardware upgrade though there may be significant benefit in improving the underlying platform.

Very often "bug fix" version numbers remain unpublished leaving Customer Support to suggest that users upgrade to the latest version and see if that works. In fact, many of these releases will remain unpublished unless one or more of the users demands a fix to a bug that annoys them.

Conventional wisdom suggests one should never buy One Dot Oh of anything and this thinking is so prevalent that some companies never label a product lower than Two Dot Oh. More fearful companies start at Two Dot Two or higher.This is based on the knowledge, born of experience, that initial releases suffer from "time to market" pressures resulting in feature "postponement" and buggy implementations. In many cases the designers are building what they want, not what their customers need. All too often, they don't even know what their customers really need.

Some take umbrage at the use of "Dunwoody Two Dot Oh", perhaps because there has been no clear indication that significant features have been added or that the "upgrade" will finally expose the need for "new hardware" in several key areas. If they are correct, this is just Dunwoody One Dot Two as we had our first dot release when we played musical chairs with one council seat. There seems to be some debate over whether it was an improvement or not, possibly based on comments like "we're going shopping", but it was a discernible change warranting a dot release.

But the voters screamed their displeasure with Dunwoody 1.x in their most recent visit to the polls and Dunwoody 2.0 started off with a recent executive session (well, they really started off with a "retreat") so there is some hope that this was to address glaring deficiencies in the existing "platform". Key personnel improvements are desperately needed.

As for minor changes, we probably won't see City Hall formally issuing bug fix releases, but things like removal of the blog from the City website will just happen over time. Or given the current level of transparency ( gives Dunwoody a "C-") one is probably safe in assuming there is no bug fixing going on down there. Perhaps transparency would be a good place to start.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Al's Park Progressing Nicely

Al's Park is coming along nicely. As can be seen below, the pool walls are up and need only a few weeks curing before some serious "wet work" begins.

We're also seeing the beginnings of hardscaping that will enhance the curb appeal along the main thoroughfare (dare we call it a "parkway"?)  fronting the park.

The use of landscaping timbers resonates with the intended faux au naturale design of Al's park. It will also solve a long standing mystery as the installation of the wall provides some explanation for the "fire hydrant in the sky" that has stood tall and proud above the sidewalk for years.

A member of Council reportedly stopped by to update Al on the status of bidding on the work to complete the bath house, install the moon lighting and the security system. There is also a commitment, perhaps to be immortalized in writing, to ensure that these systems remain operational, unlike the nearby radar speed sign that has been out of service for six months.

It was previously mentioned that Al could not be happier. That has proven incorrect. Upon seeing the real progress and getting the update on "Works In Process", Al was so thrilled he nearly peed his pants.