Friday, March 30, 2012

Down. Doubled. Redoubled

In recent match-ups Atlanta has consistently placed last amongst regional competition. The fundamental problem is that "Team Atlanta" will bid and play only in spades. To be fair, if distribution points necessary to open include a void in spades, TA might open a club but if any spades are found across the table, then spades it is.

It gets worse. Whenever a competitor sees 150 points in spade honors in their hand and they double the inevitable spade contract, TA never "corrects to lower suit" but instead will often re-double. It is as if TA believe they are playing poker where bluffing can be a successful tactic. It is unclear if they even understand the significance of "all the cards have been dealt".

It would be nice to report that TA's card play is far superior to their bidding, but given they have narrowed their opportunities to spade contracts which they have often overbid and consequently are doomed from the outset, it is difficult to assess their skills. How does one measure the merits of down two versus down three? Doubled. Re-doubled.

This is not the first time Team Atlanta has exhibited single suit mania, but in the past, when it was diamonds, the same mania afflicted all teams in the region. This created a level playing field, where all competitors were equally stupid. As it became clear this approach could not long endure all the other teams learned to make the best bid for the cards they were dealt and became quite skilled at bringing those contracts home. TA on the other hand simply switched from diamonds to spades, continuing a process doomed to failure.

Increasingly many of the best competitions are invitational and unless Team Atlanta abandons their spades only strategy they risk becoming so non-competitive that they will be dropped from the list. They must become adept at bidding and winning non-spade contracts and aspire to one day compete in the more lucrative and difficult no-trump bids. Team Atlanta is already far behind their competition and each delay is another step towards unrecoverable failure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lowering Higher Education

Georgia is making headway in dismantling the integrity of the university system and its institutes of higher learning. The proposals for integrity disintegration will roll up into what our esteemed Guv refers to as "Complete College Georgia" and he intends to see that Georgia colleges and universities print out 250,000 diplomas by 2020.

Lest you think this is much ado about nothing, we have published reports about how students who never liked school have "succeeded" nonetheless. In this sad tale our budding diploma wielder habitually overslept, missing classes that he himself had signed up for. This prompted a call from the professor. And not during office hours or other down time, as apparently this professor shut down class for all other students (presuming any of them showed up) to call the groggy genius. As he relates the story, upon telling her he would make it next time she stated:
"No, you'll be here in twenty minutes."
Wow. Did she really delay class almost a half hour awaiting that "tardy" arrival?

Back in the day, a college diploma even in a field not directly related to the job at hand indicated the applicant was self-motivated, capable of managing their own time and when given a goal, achieving it. Through hard work. An employer knew this was not a person requiring daily supervision but someone who can be presented with a challenge that they will take on. And succeed.

But we as a society have decided "if it ain't FUN it don't git DUN" as the new educational paradigm. And none of our overpaid "educators" object. None are pointing out that many things worth learning require work. Work that often is not fun. Work that is almost always hard. They are no longer accepting only those prepared for college--in intellect, in education or in maturity. Asses in classes means raises in paychecks. Since any ass counts, even a "tardy" one, nothing else even matters.

So what is next for college professors? Will they hold Wee Willee Winkee for every student who raises their hand to excuse themselves in hopes they can assist with a shy bladder? And what about the disruption to the rest of the class? Does anybody in any part of the Georgia educational system give one hair off a rodent's backside about students who are prepared, responsible and ready to learn?

Is that the new koolaid? Are parents demonstrably incapable of potty-training their Kinder now going to be encouraged to abdicate the remaining shreds of parental responsibility? Apparently so. And we seem so enamored of the relatively worthless spawn of this state that we'll toss the baby so we can sip the bathwater.

But expect those babies of merit to land in a state that does care about academic excellence while we mindlessly chase an arbitrary number of diplomas. We will succeed in doing little but proving to the world that a college degree from Georgia means the graduate has endured another four years of "adult high school" and has learned little more than how to drink.

And it can't be stopped. It looks like the Guv and Board of Regents are hell-bent on giving the on-line diploma mills a run for their money as they race to the bottom of the academic barrel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Teachers Debunk Tenure Myth

We won't quibble over semantics, but it is well known that public school teachers in Georgia have job and salary protection commonly known as tenure. Unlike the system for college professors, public school tenure applies to all teachers who manage to hang on for three years, no extra work required, no questions asked. While it is claimed that even tenured teachers can be fired for several reasons, it is expensive, burdensome and requires years. And even though the reasons are alleged to include "incompetence" it is painfully clear from the educators' abysmal performance that what constitutes "competent" in their cloistered world is "abject failure" in any other domain.

For decades teachers and their so called "non-union" lobbying organizations have claimed that this tenure, this job protection program, is necessary to shield classroom teachers from system politics and capricious principles and administrators.  But as we all know, actions speak louder than words, and teachers themselves have acted.

We have on display a cadre of "Cheater Teachers", many of whom confessed to their crimes, using their tenure to delay termination and further milk the taxpayer for all they can. What they offer as justification for their actions drives a stake through the heart of tenure justification: they claim that  principals and administrators made them cheat by threatening them with retribution if they did not.

Clearly tenure does not work.

It did not create a climate safe for whistle blowers. It did not provide any of these teachers a moral crutch for the spina bifada of their character. In fact, it protects only the incompetent, as those, the few, that are competent need no such protection.

The only sane and reasonable option is to end public school tenure now, by eliminating it for all teachers including those who currently ride this gravy train.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Al's Park: A Shocking Betrayal

The City has done a dramatic about face, canceling plans for Al's Park and turning it over to a developer who will build housing on the former park site. While still under construction, this is obviously not a park and the outcome is now all but certain.

The City proper is characteristically unhelpful, but those who know those in the know say they know what is really going on and it is not at all what it seems. And this is all on a need to know basis: off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.

First, the City learned that Al had no intention of spending his golden years "aging in place" to find eternal rest amongst the City's Founding Fathers in the soon to be acquired City of Dunwoody Cemetery. Al also seems to have lost interest in swimming, much like his flirtation with minor league ball during his midlife crisis twenty years ago. On the upside, the City Elite are pleased they never pursued plans to build Al's Ballpark.

But there is also some suggestion the City had other reasons to alter the Al's Park Plan. Apparently the financing for Al's Park was, shall we say, creative. As it turns out, the City never actually purchased the property. You know, as in the vernacular where the purchasing party, the buyer, pays the current owner, the seller, an agreed upon amount of "cash" at which time the seller transfers title, deed and ownership to the buyer. In fact, the City did not attempt to acquire the property through the more common avenue of a "mortgage", instead relying on a commitment from a third party to purchase the property and lease it to the City. One can only conclude that the City's credit rating sucks. Taking this deal to completion relied upon a "Parks Bond" that was surprisingly but soundly rejected by an unruly electorate.

It seems shady financing had as much to do with this turn of events as Al's fickleness.

On another positive note, the happy builder seems to have escaped a rather nasty process, known as a competitive bid, that while common in other cities does not encumber real estate transactions with our Smart City. While reluctant to discuss the process, this builder shows great pride in his workmanship. When asked about the wisdom of building a house on top of what had been a swimming pool he indicated that many homes in this area are sitting on potential swimming pools. Apparently the difference between a basement and a swimming pool is how the water gets in.

It should go without saying, but won't, that Al is a bit miffed. It is common knowledge that he came here to make his fortune, but like many an opportunist he arrived with no intention of spending is final years in a place like this. He rather doubts that those who sit in judgment plan to either.

Many also know that a recent trip back home reminded him of what he left behind and rekindled a desire to get it back. To return to a place where "blue collar" is not a put down, where local pubs sell local beer and barkeeps may "talk funny" but not with a trumped up British accent. A place where folks read, play euchre, and are proud of their bowling league. Where kids play afternoon basketball at the local school's outdoor court--because they can, because it is safe. Where baseball is a pick-up, empty lot, lazy summer afternoon activity, not a cause célèbre. Where the cemetery has been there for generations.

He realized he had given up so much of real value for so little--just to be a winning rat in a race it turns out no one was watching.

But the City is not done playing around with Al. In the event Al unloads his house in Dunwoody before he can "make the big move", the City has informally committed to turn a blind eye to a nearby zoning violation allowing Al and his family to live in a "step down" facility.

Unlike their formal commitments, this may stick. But Al is not so sure, viewing this as just another reason for Springtime in Sebewaing.