Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Treat

As much fun to make... it is to eat!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mid-Morning Watch

Now what do they do if I just sailed away
Who the hell really compelled me to leave today
Runnin' low on stories is what made it a ball
What would they do if I made no landfall
I lived half my life in an eight by five room
Just cruisin' to the sound of the big diesel boom
It's not close quarters that would make me snap
It's just dealing with the daily unadulterated crap
Sail away for a month at a time,
Sail away I've got to recharge mind
Then you'll find me back at it again
Oh I love the smell of fresh snapper fried light
What'd you say, Pouilly Fuisse to round out the night
The mid morning watch is the best time to look
Oh what would they do if I wrote the big book
`Cause I've seen incredible things in my years
Some days were laughter, others were tears
If I had it all to do over again
I'd just get myself drunk and I'd jump right back in
Sail away, that's the way I survive
Sail away, that's just no shuck and jive
It just makes my whole life come alive
The wind whistled thru the cool rigging at night
Crazy crowds boogie to the sound and the lights
Bums down in Capo's he's just havin' a ball
What would he do on another landfall
What would they do if I made no landfall
Oh what would they do if I flew to Nepal
What would I do if I met Lucille Ball
Tryin' to make a little sense of it all
Just tryin' to make a little sense of it all

Thursday, December 19, 2013

School Notes

A random sampling of school related silliness that usually goes unnoticed this time of year.

New form of self abuse.  Apparently some tender young Gwinnett hotties have been posting selfie beav shots and now the big dogs are sniffing around looking to prosecute anyone they can for distribution of child porn. Can self publication also be self abuse? And social media is all atwitter with one allegedly female poster saying "this [...] isn't funny's bullying and I hope yall get caught." By "yall" she was not referring to the originators of the allegedly illegal selfie porn or even those they originally sent it to but to the posted reactions of others who viewed it. And here's a clue for the little darlin': it wasn't funny because you thought it was funny and the humour has not dissipated because you say so if for no other reason than the fact it never was funny.  That any young woman thinks sending a picture of her Vajayjay to a schmuck of a boyfriend improves her self-worth will never be funny.

Having to cheat at cheating. The sixth guilty "educator" has admitted to giving teachers answer sheets so they can correct the wrong answers on their students' tests. On the surface this is just another in a series of "good Germans following orders" but ponder for a while that these "teachers" needed the answer sheets. What does that mean? Well it means the teachers are so ignorant they didn't know the correct answers either. But there is a bright side. They didn't teach to the test because they're too ignorant to do so.

The REAL Santa. Is apparently white. Or so says an unnamed teacher in New Mexico. Is that because black men don't live long enough for a beard to go white? Or that Latinos are so poor they could never get fat? Seriously, has anyone seen a fat black man with a white beard or white haired Latino with that certain gravitas needed to pull off being the big guy? And why can't Santa be a woman? Could it be because THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS? Not even in public schools!?!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hungry For Facts

Tis the season for everyone to feel good by feeding others. And it has become quite the corporate cause du jour[1] and you've probably felt the pressure to save the world from starvation. You may even have heard some of the more aggressive non-profiteers declaring that "every 15 seconds a child dies of hunger." This is rather deliberate deception is promoted by the "If Campaign"[2]. While Jack Handy of the If Campaign refused to address the deception head on (in a relatively recent More or Less programme) he did justify the use of the tactic arguing that it resonates more than "three million a year", humanizes the problem and provides a depiction of scale and urgency that even the little people can grok.

The UN Food Programme's Jane Howard disapproves characterizing this as a misleading headline grabber and the UN avoids using these tactics as the situation changes from year to year and the use of old data could be perceived as deceptive. Since malnutrition (not exactly hunger) is only one factor in the deaths being used in this calculation it also leads to overcounting by multiple non-profiteers each advancing one of these multiple causes of death. The fact is there are other underlying causes and while nutrition is contributory it is not the only or primary problem. When the fundamental problem is not lack of food to eat but not knowing what to eat programmes that do not focus on education may cause more harm than good.

The reports being used by the If Campaign come from the Lancet and Robert Black of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University with the shock headline based on the Lancet report of estimated data based on a survey. Mr. Black's research shines a harsher light on Hunger Profiteers. He points out that most nutrition related deaths are occurring in non-famine, non-conflict areas (India, Nigeria, Asia,...) where there are sufficient resources in-country. The factor creating nutrition deficiencies range from cultural avoidance (e.g., milk, meat), the fact that even pregnant women often are last at the table and that many people simply do not understand the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diet. A full quarter of these deaths are due to inadequate breast feeding. In many locations up to six months of exclusive breast feeding is recommend for proper nutrition and to avoid exposing infants to contaminated food.

Confronted with these facts the If Campaign acknowledges that one cannot get all the information from their bumper sticker campaign line but still claim it creates the right engagements to lead to further discussions. A reasonable conclusion is this discussion revolves around "how much money are you pledging" rather than a deep dive into real issues and concrete facts. When further challenged Handy slyly pointed out they do not use the word "starvation" and if there is any confusion it is because the audience "inferred" that.

Robert Black is more upbeat. He has seen a decrease in excess deaths that he attributes to increased awareness regarding nutrition. Apparently folks really are starving for knowledge but thankfully there are fewer of them.

[1] You may have wondered how we can justify legislation requiring the use of food (corn) for automobile fuel if people really are starving to death. 
[2] The "If Campaign" is based on the tagline of "there is enough food for everyone IF" where the "if" is primarily "give us your money."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fair Slice

It seems impossible to teach math without toothpicks and pizzas but in computer science it's all about cake*. Specifically when addressing fair division the analogy used is Cake Cutting. The goal is equitable (fair?) division of oft indivisible assets and has found utility in asset allocation in divorce settlements. The research goals are systems that are Pareto-optimal**, envy-free, and maximal. Algorithms include Cut and Choose, Last Diminisher, Divide and Conquer, and Adjusted Winner.

For this discussion "maximal" is not a consideration but Pareto-optimal and envy-free are and since we are concerned with a 2-person problem we'll start off simple with Cut and Choose.

As an overview let's cut the cake.

In the good old days Mum cut the cake and choose who got each piece--you and your self-centered older Sis. This resulted in you and Sis examining the other's plate and concluding that plate held the larger piece thereby failing on our two important criteria. It was neither an equitable allocation nor was it envy-free. In fact one has to wonder how so many have concluded "Mum always liked me best."

When Mum's not around and Dad's watching football then Sis generally wields the knife dividing the cake into a two thirds piece and a one thirds piece then declares these "halves". You get the "smaller half." This is arguable less equitable in distribution but disregarding intensity cuts the envy in half.

Cut and Choose is simply this: Sis cuts the cake and you choose who gets which piece. Sis can cut where ever she likes but will cut as closely as she possibly can to equalize the pieces lest you give her the short piece. Consequently she will be equally pleased with either piece as it is she who ensured they were equal sized. You will be at least as pleased as you choose the one you feel is best. Equal division and envy-free.

A hybrid approach is to allow Sis to cut and cut wherever she likes and then let you cut the larger piece to a size you deem equal to the smaller. Then you subdivide the remainder in a similar fashion with you cutting first. Rinse...Repeat...Until only a small crumb remains. This is laborious and time consuming and is often expedited by having an objective third party (Mum) equalize the pieces reserving the excess for other purposes. Like herself.

Dunwoody has become quite accustomed to playing the role of big Sis when Mum's not around cutting and taking the choice bits for herself. With cityhood there were inherent limits to selfish behaviour in that Dunwoody is not the exclusive taxing authority but shares that with DeKalb County. Not so with the proposed Dunwoody Independent School District since DeKalb County Schools will no longer receive any tax revenue from properties within Dunwoody.

Like big Sis, Dunwoody will make the cut and would like to be the sole unfettered Chooser guaranteeing an inequitable distribution. But in seceding Dunwoody will also point towards a solution. In fact they already have. In Representative Taylor's Report it is disclosed that Dunwoody will leave $8600 per student for DeKalb County Schools to educate children in DeKalb. This is a clear statement that Dunwoody believes that a child in DeKalb (which also means in Dunwoody) can be properly educated for $8600  per year. Now they are quick to point out that with the same millage rate Dunwoody would take in over $12,600 per student per year but it bears restating: Dunwoody claims that a student can be properly educated for $8600 per year. In fact Dunwoody claims they can do even better as they tout anticipated fiscal efficiencies due to their smaller system with lowered administrative overhead.

Given approval by the Legislature and voters across Georgia it appears that Dunwoody will be granted the option to unilaterally choose whether or not to "Cut the Cake" with an a priori assignment of the pieces. Any hope of equitable envy-free distribution rests on use of the hybrid approach with the State Legislature playing the role of Mum. This is easily done and need not be post facto. The legislature simply needs to ensure that the applicable law requires that new schools operate with per student expenditures equal to or less than that of the system they leave behind:
"To ensure efficacy of newly created City Schools these schools will operate on a budget not to exceed the per FTE budget of the existing System after the City Schools separate. This budget limitation will be in effect for ten years after which the budget can only be raised with approval of voters in the City."

* Food seems to be the Computer Scientists' friend beginning with the analogy of the dining philosophers.
** This is a ten dollar word for "fair" but anyone, especially computer scientists who've grappled with "fair" allocation of resources know there is no such thing. Consequently the ten dollar word is preferred. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


Whenever three or more are gathered to complain you would think you had inadvertently walked in on a twelve-step meeting. You're probably in a church. Folks are milling about, chatting and sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup until the meeting is called to order. Attendees speak in a fashion reminiscent of a testimonial. It is a church after all. More than not speakers begin with something like: "My name is Bob. I've lived in Dunwoody since before God invented rocks and I'm here to say..." and then roll into a less-than-complementary observation or a why-question.

Such was the case at a recent townhall meeting sponsored by the newly elected Dunwoody Councilman. The event was video taped and YouTubed by (no surprises here) Councilman Heneghan. Fran Millar was in attendance as was the outgoing Councilwoman. The format was open mike with the audience encouraged to voice their concerns. No surprises here either.

The WOW! factor comes from the blogosphere with one local opinion outlet characterizing the crowd as haters--an opinion seconded on another site. There was indeed an audience comment berating bloggers who strike thru snide comments as engaging in grade school humour. OK. To be fair they actually will give pretty much anyone a blog* which most bloggers use as a modern day megaphone for their opinion. But hate is a pretty strong word to level against folks who are also voicing their opinion albeit in a different forum that others may see as outdated.

There was also some dead horse beating and some critical comments regarding City sins of omission and commission. Testimonial from no less than Fran Millar supported one corpse flogging and called out the City on one act of gross negligence. One would therefore think it might be difficult to lambast those hosting and attending this meeting by pointing out that listening is insufficient while at the same time neglecting to point out that is nonetheless necessary. Or perhaps not?

It appears that Dunwoody suffers a greater chasm between internal factions than one would conclude from a fairy ring of yard signs, red tees or red letters. After the constant pleas for citizens to become engaged come the protestations when those who do and have engaged are not properly aligned in their thinking. Or maybe these folks are not as savvy as those of us equipped with a keyboard, an opinion and just a bit too much time on our hands**.

While it is two hours of your life you will never get back it may be worth your while to watch the videos and decide for yourself if these folks rise to the level of haters. It is also up to you to determine if listening is necessary but not sufficient or if engaging your neighbors and constituents is just another unnecessary distraction undermining good governance.

* Making it hard to determine exactly how many bloggers were in attendance. 
** You mean like those of us here at TOD?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Report Report

The much ballyhooed Dunwoody Independent School District Feasibility Study has finally been made available to the public. You are strongly encouraged to read it and form your own opinions. Though there are plenty of nits to pick this is a look at the bigger picture and what can be learned from this report.

Authorship is clear with specific individuals named and proper consideration given to a Graduate Research Assistant. Sadly the same cannot be said for the commission of the report, research directives or editorial guidance as no individuals are named but instead we are given to understand the report was commissioned by the City and a recently formed community group. It isn't clear what the study cost nor who specifically paid for the effort.

However it is a matter of public record that Representative Taylor was privy to drafts of the document and it is not an unreasonable stretch to assume that he also gave specific research direction as well as editorial oversight. Therefore we shall refer to this as "Representative Taylor's Report." The tone of Representative Taylor's Report is convincingly arrogant[1] and there can be no doubt this work is by and for Dunwoody.

The overarching purpose of Representative Taylor's Report is to support his drive towards an independent Dunwoody school system and to that end his report is largely defensive. Representative Taylor and his entourage have come under fire for re-segregation and questions have been raised about the financial operations of an independent system. A stretch goal is to support Representative Taylor's recent flip flop from "Dunwoody Schools can do a better job with less" to "we're going to tax you at the same rate as DeKalb[2] and spend the money however we want." In effect the politicians behind this effort were safe in saying they can do better with less because they never had any intention of letting that happen. However this preemptive lobbying may draw increased attention to shaky financial aspects that Representative Taylor may wish were overlooked.[3]

It should come as no surprise that Perimeter Center (and other Dunwoody businesses) can finance Dunwoody's Schools. Businesses are already a significant revenue source for the City and the Schools will not share any of the tax revenue with the County. It is notable that a secessionist City School System will mean a dramatic shift from State and Federal revenue sources to local tax revenues and the recent real estate bubble is a warning against operating in this manner without a rate cushion. More troubling is that businesses are the majority funders yet are disenfranchised with regards to governance.

Representative Taylor's Report belabours the point that DeKalb Schools are now and will remain majority black and the same is true of the Dunwoody cluster. The focus is exclusively on race and ignores other demographic issues (e.g., special needs students) that are often a more significant issue in a schoolhouse setting.

The issue that no one on either side seems willing to openly discuss is that this secessionist movement is not about segregation--it is about subjugation. The student body will remain majority black but what about the teacher corps? What about principals and staff? Central office administrators? The local Board of Education? It is a sure thing that the further you move from the students' chairs the larger the proportion of whites in positions of authority. It is all but certain that the Board, the Superintendent and top administrators will be exclusively white. The only people of color Dunwoody Independent School District students are likely to encounter in a school setting are janitors and cafeteria workers. Naysayers need a coherent explanation as to why Dunwoody which is not exclusively white has a Mayor and Council that is and a City Hall staffed disproportionately with whites and provide some plausible reason why Dunwoody Schools would not follow suit.

An independent school system has potential to be a good thing for Dunwoody but advocates must provide some assurances beyond "just believe" to ensure enforceable commitment to responsible system creation and operation is in place.
  • The per FTE expenditures must be capped at the same level as DCSD after Dunwoody withdraws--commit to doing better with less and set the tax rate accordingly. 
  • Representative Taylor's Report touts operational efficiencies [4] that Dunwoody would employ that would result in additional saving--the five year startup plan should clearly show these efficiencies accruing to the taxpayer in the form of rate reductions. 
  • The operational plan should include proportional representation from the business community with Board nominees presented by the business community for approval by majority vote of City Council thereby providing a transparent process for a public-private governance partnership.
  • Transparency in operations must far exceed that of the DeKalb system or the City of Dunwoody with pro-active dissemination of financial data, contract information and employee CV and training. The public must have no doubt that the best and most capable employees are in place and that all facets of District operations are professional and auditable by the public.
Representative Taylor and his supportive colleagues run a serious risk of being outed as just another bunch of tax and spend empire building politicians distanced from their conservative roots and detached from their constituents. If they persist they will paint for the world a picture of Dunwoody where the darkies play in the back yard while the rich plantation owners sit on the porch sipping sweet tea.

[1] We will assume that Representative Taylor is well aware that the DeKalb County School District owns, staffs and maintains all the schools in the Dunwoody Cluster and this far exceeds what his report deprecatingly refers to as "supervision."
[2] In Representative Taylor's Report and his public speeches it is increasingly clear that he advocates a "same tax rate" rather than a "same expediture" models as the former represents more money. Page 12 of his report is a relatively shameless pandering to teachers by suggesting a raise and further implying that given more money teachers will do a job they currently are not doing.
[3] On page 13 the authors mention smaller class sizes in the context of increased spending but cite research showing that smaller class sizes are ineffective suggesting that capital expenditures needed to support smaller classes is politically untenable or seriously undermines the case for financial viability. On page 11 the authors briefly hint at a significant CapEx issue when pointing out they assume that Dunwoody will acquire school properties under the same attractive terms as City Parks.  No substantive information is given in support of this assumption suggesting that it is necessary to support financial viability.
[4] On page 13 of Representative Taylor's Report the authors point to significant savings thru outsourcing and on page 9 they offer an unsupported assertion that resource allocation by principals will provide efficiencies. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bread, Keyboards And Triangles

The profound and inevitable disaster that is is becoming undeniable and those of us on the Dilbert side of the Pointy Hair Boss vs Engineer relationship can only smile in amusement as knee-slapping laughter is considered impolitic. Even the lowest estimates of money spent indicate this was a disaster in the making. Taking the low estimate $174 million spent to date* this represents an incredible army of programmers. If you take only $80 million as technical workers and the rest dedicated to management and G&A it is still enormous. The industry budgets $250,000 for a man-year of software development at North American rates. Not off-shore which is a five for one price or H1-B which is half price. Conservatively this means the feds put 240 man-years to develop a system that 3 guys built in 3 days** on their own. Clearly the Feds put too many developers on this for it to ever succeed.

But why the disparity? How can 2 man weeks kick ass and 240 man-years beget an unusable, fragile piece of internet crap? Is it simply that anything the Federal government touches immediately turns to shit? As it happens it is a bit worse than that. Many engineers in corporate product development and IT groups see the same thing day in and day out. They could write the script.

  1. Effort estimates were success-based and milestones are slipping.
  2. Management turns up the heat with "work harder--we tried smarter and that didn't work" resulting in little more than an existence proof that software development is like baking bread--when it is not done on time turning up the heat produces a very undesirable outcome.
  3. Developers approach management asking for more time pointing out they've hit the keyboard bandwidth barrier*** but are mistakenly relying on bobble-head bosses' assurance that they understand Brooks' Law. They don't and assign more programmers instead of allocating more time. The project gets later faster.
  4. Reality forces management to accept that the project jumped the shark at the keyboard bandwidth thingamajiggy and reluctantly negotiate the Iron Triangle**** resulting not only in schedule slip but in "de-featuring" the commitments.
At this point cost in dollars and political capital is out of control. Obama's ratings in any area on any scale by any metric have tanked. As for money David Powner, the director of IT management at the Government Accountability Office, responded when asked how much it will cost to fix the website: “We're kind of blind to that.” Ahhh, what cost to clean that egg off the face of POTUS?

Though this project has serious systemic problems related to ignorance regarding modern software development techniques the real problem is that the Federal government should never have been engaged in health care in this fashion in the first place. If the goal was shifting resources from Medicare to Medicaid then enact legislation to effect the changes. If the goal was to define minimal levels of insurance coverage or eliminate "previous condition" exclusions this too can be handled in the regulatory arena. 

Governments need to stick with what they do best, regulation and oversight, and stop meddling with those things that will ultimately be resolved by competitive players in an open market. And governments large and small would be well advised to steer clear of software development. 

* It isn't clear if this is total development or just fixes after the rollout disaster. 
*** Originated by a member of TOD in response to management pressure to accelerate development: "even if I knew exactly what to type it simply cannot be typed that fast--I'm at the keyboard bandwidth barrier."
**** When, What, and How Well. You can pick at most one, influence another and have no control whatsoever of the third. The Iron Triangle is not flexible. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Trains, Teams And Automobiles

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.

Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
And I'm wondering what it is I should do,
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
It is silly season and folks blessed with an eye, half a brain and the sense god gave a pigeon to sit on a statue are being twirled around by traffic related nonsense like a lawn chair in a tornado.

The first bucket of nonsense comes from the Clowns To The Left Of Us and is all about trains. Or lack thereof. In particular is the concern from the ITP-er's who pontificate that while god is good them there trains is great. They're attempting to leverage the Braves move to Snob County to push for a train from Arts Center to 75/285. Not just any train--a MARTA train. Their rather twisted logic seems to be "if you get the Braves then you must become MARTA-fied." Something is going to break when we straighten out that little pretzel of logic.

See these same train-vangelists had not a care in the world that there was no train service to Turner Field. No more than they cared that Turner Field was located in a crime-ridden armpit of the City. But now that the nasty ole ballpark is moving they are all excited about another live/work/play ground just like Atlantic Station. And if you've been paying attention to the crime around Atlantic Station you can be pretty sure they have everything they need to pull it off.

The other tidbit otherwise known as fact is just where the folks buying Braves tickets live, work and consequently will be coming from. What they prefer to ignore and wish you would as well is the inconvenient truth that based on ticket sales these have never been the Atlanta Braves they've always been the suburb's Braves. So a MARTA train to the new stadium would just be a train from nowhere unused by the Cracker Jackin' crowd. What it would do is maintain job access for current stadium workers as all things ITP are about jobs programs for protected connected minorities.

They also ignore the fact that the Braves want a major upgrade in employees as well as environment. And Braves fan base are dropping a pretty penny taking the family to see the game and they just might make a day of it. When you're going to drop a couple hundred on the game why not take the day off and have a mini staycation? Because that's not what MARTA's for?

But we're also sandwiched between the Jokers On The Right who control state government and have been quite pissy of late because the electorate held them to their word forcing them to end the 400 toll and quit raiding the funds for their pet projects.

We've heard these Chicken Littles lament the loss of jobs though in fact all they really care about is the loss of money they can spend. Politicians and bureaucrats. Predictable. Pathetic.

They've co-opted the media who have given free ink to all things disastrous on the newly liberated section of road. We're told there will suddenly be twenty to thirty percent more cars on that slice of paved paradise than a mere week ago--as if by magic.

And magic it is.

We're not told where these cars come from. Do they think that Bubba and Essie up in Alpharetta will start thinking they should be partying in Butthead because it doesn't even cost that gosh darned dollar to get there anymore? Really Bert? REALLY?

No. In fact these cars are going to come from surface streets and "alternative routes". You know the ones racing thru your neighborhood.

And even if there are twenty or thirty percent more vehicles then guess what? We can handle it. Want to know why? Because we don't have to stop at the damn toll booth that's why.

At the end of the day the Braves get new digs in much upgraded surroundings. The fans get something to do before and after the game other than scurry around in fear of their lives. MARTA gets a chance to get their act together swallowing what they've already bitten off before they try to choke down any more. Folks on 400 get a better cheaper commute having paid in full and then some for the road that gets them there. And taxpayers get a few more employees off the public payroll no matter how indirect that currently is.

Everyone wins except those who have been stealing from our wallets and those a bit overinfatuated with all things ITP.

Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.

Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
And I'm wondering what it is I should do,
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made man,
And your friends, they all come crawlin,
Slap you on the back and say,
Please.... Please.....

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
'Cause I don't think that I can take anymore
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made man,
And your friends, they all come crawlin,
Slap you on the back and say,
Please.... Please.....

Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you,
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
Stuck in the middle with you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Light Up Dunwoody

Remember Hope and Change? Remember Yes We Can? Remember Dunwoody Yes!? What these have in common is an ephemeral foundation of hope fueled bravado and a wonderful sense of self. And more than a heapin' helpin' of a condescending understanding of just who knows what is best for everyone.

Here in the Wold we have a shining example of how poorly these enthusiastic hope-filled endeavours age with nightly displays right up in the village. Go see for yourself.

What you'll find is a sight that to many is somewhat garish. The picture doesn't do it justice so you really should go see for yourself.

Now you're probably wondering what's the big deal with a business using its storefront for, well, business. Seems legit. But you would be wrong.

You see when our little group of community organizers decided they should be deciding they decided that NEON signs are verboten in the Village Overlay. But if you get a chance to stop by you'll find these aren't NEON lights. They're just UGLY lights.

Now maybe the existing ordinance shows what happens when folks who think they know what they're doing and don't try to do something they really can't. Maybe it shows the cracks in a political ecosystem based on earning merit badges in your local HOA, at church, then moving to DHA before finally earning enough patches to sit on Council.

Maybe this display really does violate existing ordinances and that is even more troubling. After our recent contentious election there are now calls for governance. But what can that really mean? Does Council enforce our ordinances? Hell, do they even author them or simply sign off on documents drafted by staff? Should we call in the Mayor to put an end to these violations? Could he if he even wanted to?

Or is the simple fact of the matter that there is no place for governance nor statesmanship in Dunwoody. We're being managed not governed so ask your boss, the City Manager, if this way of Lighting Up Dunwoody is OK or not.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Does Jesus Drive?

With the demise of Pontiac what is a brother to drive? Well Chrysler stepped up with the answers. First it was the luxe 300 sedan--and it didn't hurt when they reached into urban hippity hop royalty for star endorsements. Now we're looking at the Challenger which plays a starring role alongside LL Cool J in NCIS-LA.

So it didn't take very long for even our over-militarized police forces to observe that a significant proportion of these cars are driven by African Americans. On the one hand this is simple testimony to effective marketing and advertising. On the other hand this correlation is now being used to profile drivers for issuance of DWB citations.

Even here in DeKalb.

Turns out DCPD have been using this technique and also ripping a page right out of Dunwoody's play book: calling in the dogs.  Citizens of Chrysler are being stopped and then detained and held until a local indicate on cue dog is brought in to ensure the vehicle is searched regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says. Local TV investigative reporters have yet to divulge how the Police guarantee contraband is found but they have made quite the stir with the Chrysler Crisis. Nor have they investigated how low local Police have lowered the bar of "probable cause" but apparently it is synonymous with "refusal of search."

We know this is happening and is a growth market but what happens when our African American brothers are tapped out? Perhaps it will be time to turn our Police attention to our brown skinned neighbors from South of the Border.

So we find ourselves asking:
"What Does Jesus Drive?"
In short, how do we profile these drivers? Turns out this is easier than we thought.

Just read the name. Even your average 'roid ragin' patrolman can connect these dots. Under the circumstances and with our history of tolerance it should come as no surprise that Dunwoody sees the opportunity to be a leader in aggressive Law Enforcement against this demographic conveniently located along our periphery.

But it isn't just about Law Enforcement. It's about community outreach. Consequently our PD has gone into the community to ask for their assistance to ensure that even officers who have difficulty with hispanic surnames and Mexican place-names can meet their quotas. The community has gladly stepped up.

This community participation promises to propel Dunwoody ahead of all our local and even national competitors in the race to enforce our laws based on race, creed and culture.

But what's next?

Contrary to popular opinion here in the Wold there is not an inexhaustible supply of blacks and hispanics. Perhaps we need to consider what is surely the next question:
"What does Moses drive?"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dunwoody 2.0?


Whenever version numbers are truly meaningful and not just a marketing tactic a major release has some key attributes beyond feature additions or changes to the UX.

Often the new version is incompatible with data and configuration files used by the previous version. In almost every case an upgrade tool or import plugin facilitates migration to the new version but it is labourious and not without risk. Such incompatibilities are an inherent element of forward progress.

An important side effect of these large increments in functionality is the load placed on the existing platform. It is not at all unusual to find after a major upgrade that the system is slow. Often to the point of being unusable. With each major upgrade there is an associated increase in the minimum performance and capacities to support this newer and better version. In cases where a system upgrade is driven by the adoption of a newer version of software it is not at all uncommon to replace the underlying platform and hardware at the same time the applications are upgraded. Experience has taught many a techie that is ultimately what occurs so you might as well cut to the chase.

Though some may think we have a major version upgrade the facts cannot support the assertion. What we've done is swap out one of our key apps and it isn't clear if that is a bug fix version, a minor feature release or even a feature downgrade for the sake of system stability. It is very unlikely that app is a major version upgrade and if so it remains only one of seven apps.

And since initial boot up we've done virtually nothing to the underlying platform and hardware. Now some may contend that replacement of an improperly installed platform component was an upgrade but this was really just routine maintenance like swapping out a failed spindle. We didn't switch to SSD or cloud storage and while we may have installed a bigger replacement the only discernable difference is that the whole operation cost a lot of money and was only a little more inconvenient than it was avoidable. At the end of the day the total cost was much more than would have been required to replace the entire platform at the time. Had we only known.

But it does point to a circumstance all computer users know: systems are not immune to the second law of thermodynamics and move constantly towards increased entropy. Systems rot. Platforms rot. As these platforms rot otherwise perfectly well behaved applications become slow, produce errors and ultimately fail. Often not due to any failure in the app itself but because the underlying platform is failing.

There are a couple of common ways to address platform rot. The first is to weed out the failing components and replace them with new components that are compatible with the remainder of the pre-existing platform--there is a market for EIDE drives albeit on ebay. This approach retains whatever perceived value exists in the platform but locks the overall system into a constant decline towards obsolescence. This is why an entire platform evaluation is often done when an individual platform component fails. It has so often proven to be a false economy to scrimp by spending on a single component when the incremental cost of a platform replacement is dwarfed by the generational increases in capabilities and performance a new platform offers. In other cases the root cause of specific component failure lies with another defective component--if you must keep replacing the fuse then the problem isn't the fuse. Consequently it is not uncommon to replace the underlying platform while retaining the existing applications which are then only upgraded as user-facing situations warrant.

We already have one sign of platform rot and responded in a very limited fashion by removing the defective component. Now we have a new and more disturbing sign of rot. Two of our key apps attempted to access data regarding the genesis of Project Renaissance and unrelated budget item details. Both sets of data should have been readily available but platform errors indicated these were missing with no indication that they had ever been stored or reliably backed up. As these are unrelated data items this is indicative of systemic failure. It is also clear that this platform does not support ECC memory and it appears parity checks have been disabled. What is not clear is how long our key apps have been operating with incomplete and inaccurate data. However there is no doubt that as this situation progresses it will continue to degrade ultimately resulting in errors of such consequence that the previous platform failure will pale in comparison.

Given the current state of affairs we are not only not at Dunwoody 2.0 we don't even have the platform in place to get there.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Zero Tolerance For Rights

You may have noticed the hubbub around some schools' zero tolerance weapons policy. Some described these rules as draconian and applaud those in authority who are working to bring "common sense" into the mix. Sounds good.

But...if you are blessed with only a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution (the legal document not the boat--that's U-S-S) you are or should be very concerned. Let's look at only one case as reported in the AJC:
[...]two Cobb County students were arrested within weeks of each other after police found knives in their cars parked on school grounds. [...] In one case, 17-year-old Cody Chitwood, an avid fisherman and senior at Lassiter High School, had filet knives in his fishing tackle box in the trunk of his car.
and continues with a quote from Mike Huckabee on the matter:
"He had it locked in a tackle box in a car."
That's the gist of it and since the article is primarily about the politics around zero tolerance it isn't surprising that a number of questions are left unasked and unanswered:
  1. What EXACTLY initiated the questioning of students? We will assume these students were ASKED before their PARENT'S vehicles were searched.
  2. What legal basis supports the search of a private vehicle? 
  3. Was there probable cause? For what exactly?
  4. Was the vehicle owner's permission obtained before the vehicle was searched?
We should all take note of what happens to constitutional rights and civil liberties when a government agency decides it knows what's best.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Obama Taps Hutmacher

Beltway Dramedy Central is churning out the juiciest rumour of the Obama not-so-leak-proof administration: Obama will tap our very own City Manager to repair the damage.

No shit. Really.

What put Hutmacher on Obama's radar screen was Dunwoody's CAD-to-CAD interface. Not that it works but more importantly that it probably never will. What impressed our Promiser-In-Chief was that Hutmacher has been able to royally bungle a simple operation with only two moving parts and has not only escaped personal accountability but is receiving a raise! And there has been no mention of the Mayor at all. You only need compare this with Sebelius' handling of the fuster cluck to understand Obama's keen interest. Folks want her fired and Obama's ratings are in the shitter.

And this epic fail doesn't even account for the fact that the underlying service--Chattcomm--will never deliver on its promise--thus foreshadowing Obamacare. But the harsh political reality is that when you have someone this adept at working the system it doesn't matter if the (other) system works.

Closer to home our local rumour mill has it that Obama himself reached out to Hutmacher as well as to key members of Council and the Mayor to ensure a smooth transition for our boy wonder. It is told that salary has been agreed upon with the only remaining hurdle being the number and value of deals that can be awarded to current and former sweethearts.

Not since Ryan Seacrest left has Dunwoody had something this big to be this proud of.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Science Fair Projects

Ever get tired of those papier mâché volcanoes masquerading as real science of some sort. Well some folks never do.

Seems we have yet another presentation of what to date is a non-existent report on the feasibility of a School System for Dunwoody. Same talker. Same alleged report. But now the numbers in the report need jiggering and since this is political jiggerers are not in short supply. Previously the delay had been because the City of Dunwoody funded the effort and it was therefore up to the City to publish. What is unexplained is just why a junior rep is large and in charge with Citizen of Dunwoody Tax Dollars and acting as gatekeeper to a report we're paying for.

While still beating the same "we can afford our own schools drum" the State Rep is now quoted as saying "I really did not want to deliver any report that was going to be picked apart." Given he'd surely prefer we simply take his word for it without any report whatsoever that statement is credible in the extreme.

And he has a good point.

The report will be picked apart based on minutia like grammar, minor contradictions and omissions because that is largely what will be made available in the report itself and that report is likely all we shall see for our money. The omissions are expected to be the largest and most egregious of the shortcomings and are all but guaranteed to include:

  • lack of raw data sets
  • lack of data analysis tools (spreadsheets, databases, etc.)
  • lack of defined methodology adequate to validate the analysis
  • lack of detailed research assumptions
  • lack of editorial and research guidance--which areas require detailed analysis and which do not
  • lack of meeting agenda and minutes
  • lack of detailed meeting notes from researchers and other attendees

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to conclude that a report spearheaded by a politician will be lacking with regards to scientific rigor. If this report is published on paper then it may well be the case that it is best used as raw materials for yet another volcano.

And much like the CVI studies before it this one is also funded to a given conclusion--that Dunwoody deserves to break away from DCSD and set up its own schools. Given the reasonable assumption this effort is being done on behalf of the City (we are paying for it aren't we?) and that the Mayor has recently been quoted as saying
"One thing I've learned as mayor is to not trust experts. I've seen too much bad testimony in court by hired experts. As a result I have to go on my own observation."
we are again left to ponder whether this is not just a waste of paper but also a frivolous waste of our tax dollars. Seems all we really need to do is ask a politician.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fair Tax

If there is one thing that is really hard to type it has to be "Fair Tax." It's even harder to get your head around. Nonetheless that or something very similar was blurted out by a spectator during the run up to Dunwoody's Council elections in the context of one of the candidates receiving an exemption from DeKalb County School taxes which is offered to qualifying senior citizens. Some observers questioned the candidate's eligibility while others suggested that a common tactic is to manipulate income timing in order to qualify for the exemption which once acquired is held forever. But the interesting whiner is the one who questioned the political viability of someone who doesn't "pay their fair share."

This notion of "fair share" especially in the context of "you should pay YOUR fair share for my kids' school" carries a lot of weight in the 'burbs which as we all know are dedicated to the worship of children. Fair enough. We all knew this when we moved here.

But what is the scope of this educational fair share principle? Our arbitrary geo-political borders make this a relevant and interesting question. What do we say to the retired couple who raised their kids in Michigan but now live as empty nesters in the Wold? No takee no payee? Hardly. Same for the single homeowner or the childless couple. You pay YOUR fair share. As determined by someone else.

But what about groups? You know: Dunwoody. Dunwoody is increasingly adept at separating itself and justifying these breakaways by observing that Dunwoody pays more out than it receives in services sort of like that single gentleman around the corner. This is now the talk in the Wold regarding schools--Dunwoody pays so much more in taxes than it would take to fund just OUR schools and consequently Dunwoody can easily justify the cost of its own school system.

But what about our social contract? You know, like the one that forces those childless retirees to pay for this or any other school system from which they receive no benefit? As a group does not the very same argument for that taxation apply to those living in Dunwoody--those collectively known as citizens of Dunwoody? Do we not have an obligation to fund the educations of children who simply happen not to live in Dunwoody just as those retirees pay for children who don't happen to live in their house? Are we as a community not party to the same social contract as that childless couple down the street?

Or are we just picking and choosing the rhetoric that supports our pre-ordained march to Dunwoody, Dunwoody, uber alles?

Thursday, October 31, 2013


From the legal section of the online Free Dictionary we get the definition of consideration:
Something of value given by both parties to a contract that induces them to enter into the agreement to exchange mutual performances.
So what would be "consideration" in the context of our most popular social contract--public education? On the one hand taxpayers pony up cash that is converted into a public education. That part is simple.

But what of value do students or their parents offer? Is it a commitment to acquire the education paid for by others*? Is it mere words or are students and parents held accountable for meeting this commitment? To date it has been the former.

Maybe it's time to balance out this contractual equation. Since it is impractical to ensure that students and parents do not or cannot renege it is clear equity will only be delivered by addressing the other side of the equation. That we can fix.

* We'll not go into it here but if you start with a simple average of $10K per student per year you can do the math and figure out how long it will take for the average family with three children to pay back the cost of their children's education. We should all live so long.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Juxtapose For A Moment...

When the Clean Sweepers made the public pronouncement of their collective candidacy at a Council meeting they immediately entered a quiet period. This caused much amusement in the blogosphere and they were roundly ridiculed for kicking off a campaign that started with refusal to disclose or discuss why they are running and what they intend to do if elected. As pointed out earlier Council cannot really do much of anything but folks in the Wold wanna hear the talk even if our elected officials are structurally crippled and can never actually walk the walk. We just love talk.

In fact we love it so much we'll gladly accept talk in lieu of facts. Recently we heard talk about a report resulting from a feasibility study that is claimed to show that Dunwoody can afford its very own school system. Isn't that special. And the report of the report comes from no less of an authority than our very own state rep who has reportedly read the report. Or so he says.

But that is only talk because mere schmucks like you can't have this alleged report--if it really exists. See, our public servant (to date unknown exactly which public he serves but it ain't anyone wantin' to read that report) has access to this alleged report that the public is denied. Why? Because public dollars, our tax dollars right here in the Wold were used to pay for this effort and the City allegedly hasn't seen the alleged report. If that doesn't make sense you haven't lived here long enough. In any event, at the time of this writing said alleged report remains unavailable. Some say unwritten.

Now this isn't just about a public servant lording it over the wee people of the Wold with his high and mighty "I know things you don't know--nanny nanny boo boo." No this is about juxtaposition and the missing outcry from the Wold's blogosphere. Where are the boo-birds who gleefully rained their intellectual droppings on the Quiet Candidates? Why are they not equally critical of the rep who claims to have read something you're not allowed to see? Are they fond of kowtowing to politicians who act like some medieval priest maintaining exclusive access to the scriptures? Apparently so.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


A recent PolitiFact Georgia in the AJC contains this nugget:
"Gov. Nathan Deal removed most of the school board for financial mismanagement and micromanaging that put the district at risk."
As they like to say at PolitiFact this intrigues us. Why? Because it simply is not true.

Gov. Deal gained legal authority to remove the board (it isn't clear if partial removal is supported by the law but that's not germane at this point) was granted by SACS when the school district was placed on probation by that accrediting corporation. It came down to direct testimony provided by Elgart to the State BOE. His stated opinion was that the district stood a better chance of regaining his approval without the board than with it and thereby granted Governor Deal not only legal authority but political cover. Since Elgart runs the accrediting corporation his opinion in this case is an adequate substitute for a threat.

Now a real politifacter might argue one degree of separation by contending that the district is on probation because of mismanagement and micromanaging. Does this pass the smell test?

Not really.

If actions speak louder than words then Elgart has clearly stated that this is not about financial mismanagement or micromanaging. After all we have Crawford Lewis who has admitted guilt in criminal actions as Superintendent while at the same time Elgart was awarding Crawford and his system (now under scrutiny for racketeering) accolades. But if all you can hear are words then Elgart's own statements attest to his understanding of decades long problems of mis and micro-managing that nonetheless garnered a gold star from Elgart's corporation.

No matter how you slice it, dice it or spin it Deal's removal of two thirds of the DeKalb County School Board wasn't because of financial mismanagement or micromanaging so we rate this Politifact as in-your-face-propaganda.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Man In The Mirror

I'm Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It's Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .
The upcoming City elections are expected to see low voter turnout. This has some folks in the Wold worried as they fear that the upstart Clean Sweepers may have enough enthusiastic backers to gain a majority when only a small minority of registered voters bother to go to the polls.

These worried Agents of  No-Change have good reason to fret and even better reason to know it. Many of those now sweating the upcoming exercise in democracy are the same ones who helped manipulate the system that brought us the landslide approval of the citihood referendum by scheduling the vote so as to intentionally depress voter turnout. Remember that we voted for citihood in July of the year that saw Obama win the November election and lord knows the Dunwoody Yes! crowd did not want Obama backers weighing in on their city. Still don't.

So these worry warts are painfully aware that folks aligned with or simply immune to the status quo tend to not be very energetic whilst those advancing change tend to be enthusiastic. This is especially true when the agents of change have enough backing to actually believe a run at an office has a chance. Now things have come full circle and CfD and DY! are facing opposition that tactically looks exactly like they do.

But perhaps all this worry is for naught. Perhaps the Smart People of the Wold will see the Clean Sweepers as the vocal minority of whiners that the Agents of  No-Change have branded them. But perhaps not.

In any event when one considers that the City is really run by the City Manager and his staff who for the most part don't even live here one realizes that Council and Mayor are mostly kept around for rubber stamping, photo ops and other entertainment. So ask yourself: which gaggle of bozos portends to yield the best entertainment value? Vote accordingly.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Size Matters

Putting aside all protests to the contrary in most cases size matters. Unless it is a tax bill or a cellphone most folks and in particular men are going to argue the bigger the better. You know: big hands--big gloves. And who doesn't want big gloves? But this is not about gloves.

This particular diatribe is about schools.

Most folks including teachers and such will argue that the smaller the class the better. Now teachers have a vested interest in this reasoning as smaller classes with a stable student population means more positions with less work and probably more pay. But they avoid the near occasion of the perfect class size of one as that is more commonly associated with home schools from which the teachers and admins see little revenue. As in none. No teachee no payee. But this is not about class size either.

This is about something a bit more subtle that rears its ugly head as a logical inconsistency in the Charter School movement. Perhaps it even rises to the level of a contradiction. It all starts with one of the foundational elements of establishing a Charter which seems intended to resonate with the hippocratic oath: first do no harm. The no-harm clause is basically this: the charter is established on the basis of meeting certain academic outcomes for the students and in return Charter Schools are given wide latitude regarding how those goals are achieved and if those goals are not met the charter is revoked. Hence no harm.

Sounds good. Even a bad charter does only a few years damage to a smaller set of students while district wide trial and error fad adoption hurts everyone. This appeals to the secondary justification of risk containment. Not mitigation per se but containment nonetheless.

And it is a very appealing concept. The charter succeeds and prospers if the students succeed and prosper. And isn't that what we taxpayers are paying for? What the charter aficionados describe is a pay for results scheme. This runs contrary to traditional public schools which have historically received more money for poor performance based on the totally unsubstantiated belief that more money will solve the problem. In the case of charters this is reversed and is not so smoothly gradated and becomes binary: succeed and survive; fail and disappear.

Here is where size comes in because this very appealing story begs a question: if it works for the charter school or system why doesn't it work for the classroom and specifically the classroom teacher?

Strangely teachers claim they have no autonomy though in the same conversation many will complain that they don't get the instructional support and classroom materials they need--instead they have to do it all themselves. Is that indistinguishable from autonomy? If you were to split another pitcher you would probably hear about how teachers today are reduced to presenting dramatic interpretations of canned scripts. Is that too much support?

The question remains: why do teachers retain their jobs while their students wallow in abject failure and when will teacher contracts be tied to outcomes just as the charter is?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chamblee Dunwoody Linear Park

The City of Dunwoody is taking an uber-green approach to converting the section of Chamblee Dunwoody between Dunwoody Road and Spalding into a linear park. They are doing this in slow motion by simply letting nature take it's course. God, whoever she may be, has stepped up by creating one of the first trees for what will become a thriving forest.

As nature takes her course we can see this two lane waste of asphalt self-reduce to one lane followed by a slow restoration to a country lane and finally regaining its former glory as an Indian trail. No concrete required.

It has become clear that there was no grant money available to support a more timely creation of a park nor is there any available to remove road saplings and the City arbor-toire is more concerned about trees that might belong to individual citizens. Some were concerned that had grant money been available this stretch of asphalt would have become another concrete interstate to nowhere. Another observer was overheard commenting that were this tree growing in the gutter at his house the City code enforcers would be all over them like white on rice. But when it is in the City's gutter...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Are City Schools On The Pogrom?

Since before the City of Dunwoody was formed there have been various rumblings about racial motivations behind actions in the Wold. This has resulted in one court case that was dismissed pretty much out of hand and a more recent federal case that appears to be moving forward. While the latter is not specifically charging racism events including the Parks Bond Referendum have made it clear that race plays a significant role in how the City deals with PIB apartments that are home to a significant minority population.

It was during the Bond discussions that individuals highly placed in the Dunwoody power structure let it be known that a significant problem in some schools were the children from the PIB apartments and that replacing those apartments with baseball diamonds would address that problem. Since then the City has been relentless in nurturing the perception that there are many problems with the minority population in that area.

Now that we're looking forward to either a Dunwoody Charter Cluster or Dunwoody City Schools will this City be able to cast off the mantle of racism they've so willingly shouldered? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Given that the impending breakaway is from a DeKalb system with its almost exclusively black power structure in order to create a system controlled by whites charges of racism are sure to surface. Given this City's track record on diversity and inclusion it seems increasingly likely that failure of these initiatives is the price Dunwoody will pay for a debt already incurred.

Monday, October 7, 2013

City "Inspectors" Target Fairfield

A key tool in Dunwoody's anti-apartment apartheid efforts is strict code enforcement with special rules that apply to multi-family residences which the city defines as apartments and condominiums though in practice it seems to apply only to attached dwellings. Or perhaps there are no detached condominium communities in Dunwoody as there are in other locations.

This all started on April 12, 2010 when Council implemented the "Multi-Family Code Compliance Program" which requires both interior and exterior inspections of multi-family residential complexes. Consider for example a ramshackle condo like the Fairfield unit shown below.

Local news outlets have independently interviewed the Mayor and the City Manager both of whom confirm that all apartments and condominiums in the city are subject to the inspection program regardless of age of the complex or form of ownership.

So if it hasn't happened already city agents will soon be knocking on doors in Fairfield demanding entry to search the premises for "Code Compliance." No warrant necessary. All the while there could be any number of Code Compliance infractions right across the street at Magnolia Walk and this city cares not a whit as these detached clutter homes are separated by several feet. Two places within a short dog walk of one another but one is subjected to forced "inspections" and the other could have raw sewerage leaking into the basement without a care in the Wold.

Normally you would think that the City would "overlook" their responsibility to force inspections on homes as nice (and clearly well cared for) as those in Fairfield. And normally they would but the looming federal lawsuit that accuses the City of using code enforcement to harass undesirable apartments will have lawyers paying close attention to even the appearance that these codes are enforced in a less than even handed manner. It would not be surprising to find that lawyers advancing that case have made open records requests regarding the time and results of inspections of the Fairfield Condos as well as other communities throughout Dunwoody. Or maybe the City could help by putting a color-coded star on the front of each unit they inspect so the public will know what we have in our community. Isn't that what governments like these do?

Clearly City Hall believes this is a small price to ask of such a small number of our second class citizens if it means that Dunwoody can address the problem of apartments in our otherwise fair City.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Abraham Nemeth 1918-2013

A gifted mathematician, computer scientist and teacher, Abraham Nemeth is most widely known for the Braille code he developed for the transcription of mathematics texts. Nemeth leaves this world a better place than that which he entered through the many lives he has touched through his work. His students' contributions to science and society are in no small measure due to Nemeth and act as a living testament to his legacy and a life well lived.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Red Capers and Bulls' Spit

First they ignore you,
Then they laugh at you,
Then they fight you,
Then you win.
--Mahatma Gandhi*
Given what's been posted lately on some of the well respected Dunwoody blogs it would appear that Dunwoody's very own Red Shirts are well into the third phase and we're still a few weeks from the polls. They could go all the way.

The original source of the Red Shirts' discomfiture was the feeling that they were ignored which in their minds fell far short of the promise of small government and local control. Or perhaps they didn't realize that even with local control that real power rests with the self-chosen few. They didn't spend much time in the High School cafeteria did they?

Then they started making appearances at Council during the public comment sessions. You know--engage the system. They were snickered at by Council and generally derided on blogs and in the local print media. They did get in some of their own digs but when decorum is shattered by snide comments and giggles from Council it is not a fair fight. But then again incumbency never fights fair.

Now the Red Shirts are being excoriated in the blogosphere for using what appear to be exactly the same tactics used by Dunwoody Yes! and Citizens for Dunwoody back in the pre-referendum days. Anyone who attended those so-called forums and information sessions know they were as fair and balanced as a homecoming pep rally. Citihood proponents hardly displayed any mental agility as they were preaching to the choir and since when did witty repartee replace thoughtful statesmanship as a qualification for governance? And we'll not here rehash the withholding of key information by the pro-city groups prior to the referendum. But in today's blog-bashings what is of particular note is the suggestion that the Red Shirts are copying off each other's crib notes when in fact it is the Red Letter bloggers who write in lockjaw lock step as was often the case in the march to citihood. Perhaps great minds do think alike or perhaps it is a form of high-brow humour. Or maybe some folks just never outgrew the High School cafeteria.

That is indeed the common thread running thru our revolutionary days of change and into our new found love of the status quo--it has always been about the status quo. There has always been a power structure in Dunwoody and now that the City is incorporated this power has been extended beyond mere watchdog to conduit for elected City officials and singular platform for successful candidacy. The Red Shirts neglected to genuflect before them and receive the broad sword's tap on their shoulder.

The blogosphere's reaction indicates the Red Shirts are perceived as a legitimate threat to this long established status quo but it is yet to be seen if they will make it to the end of the path described by Gandhi. This time.

* Mahatma Gandhi, born 2 Oct 1869.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Wizards, Curtains And Emperor's Clothes

A rather strange system of logic has taken hold in the Wold and it is exposed by the juxtaposition of why we should defend the status quo at City Hall yet take great exception to the status quo at DeKalb County Schools. 

The bumper-sticker thinking argues that a reaction to perceived problems should be proportional to the individual tax one pays for each circus event. To wit: since property taxes levied by the city are much, much smaller than that of the DeKalb County Schools then long before one gets their knickers in a tangle over anything in the City they should first direct their outrage at all things DCSS*. Only after that outrage is exhausted should one turn their attention inward towards all things wild and wonderful in our fair City.  There is no doubt this is a deflective tactic.

 But it stirs some ponderings.

First and foremost is the whole local control meme. Wasn't that exactly why we formed a city in the first place? So we could have efficacious control over a responsive government as a direct consequence of some principle of locality? Isn't that the same principle of locality that we'll use to justify a breakaway City School System? And since this local control makes all things more responsive addressing City issues should be easy and supportive of the City Schools justification.  There really should be no harm in pushing the Easy Button before we mount up and joust with the very large windmill down in Tucker. Right?

From another perspective all these two targets of ire really have in common is that they are represented by numbers printed on the same bit of paper. Herein lies befuddling complexities.

Some folks don't actually receive that bit of paper. Turns out that those poor undesirable slobs shacking up in apartments pay these taxes via rent without ever seeing the actual bill. That way they don't know they're not getting a homestead exemption and can't deduct property taxes from income taxes either. But in the fashion of the Wold let's classify them as takers not makers and move on.

There is also a certain appeal to worst first. It does seem to work well when paving roads and it resonates with the philosophy of don't sweat the little things. But there is a spot of a problem here. Those amongst us who actually bother to sweat anything (the unwritten end of the sweaty things comment is that all things are little) realize that when things are little only a drop of sweat suffices but when allowed to become monsters there is no workout session powerful enough to sweat a thing that big. And isn't that the second pole holding up the breakaway City Schools tent?

There is another problem with the worst first mantra and that is the rather arbitrarily restricted reading list. Why not pull out that 1040 or better yet your last paystub of the year? Look at them numbers. You know--the amount you're paying for state and federal taxes. Are you happy with the entertainment value those dollars are buying? Then go fix that and then we'll talk about DeKalb Schools but only after you address the problem with Social Security and Medicare which for some of us carry frighteningly large paystub prices as well.

However if one believes some things are tamable and others not then one might argue that now is exactly the time to expend a few drops of sweat getting City Hall pointed the right direction before it is totally out of control like the grunting sweat hog that is DCSS.

To even consider this a reasonable view one must first accept that City Hall might be wandering from the path of righteousness and there are those amongst us who will not tolerate that notion or those who speak of it. Thankfully we have DCSS to occupy their time whilst others sweat the little things.

* We'll stick with DCSS for DeKalb County School System even though the term appears to have been deprecated. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Is Means

When politics crashed head on into facts during the Clinton administration the American public was challenged to parse statements ultimately devolving into a serious discussion of the meaning of the word "is".

But we've grown quite a bit since then. Now we no longer confront these kinds of issues head on preferring to accept political deceptions and deflections until confrontation is absolutely unavoidable. This is no more true in public education than in any other political arena. The upcoming challenge in language parsing is being brought to you by the stampede towards "Charter Clusters" in DeKalb and the language being redefined is "Local Control".

Now "Local Control" is near and dear to the hearts of all Dunwoodians as this was an important rallying cry in the citihood movement. It was also inseparable from "Taxation Without Representation" and when you ask yourself "Local Control Of What?" you inevitably arrive at one and only one answer: money. And such will be the case this time around.

For those not paying close attention the current Charter Cluster proposals distance themselves from central office policy, procedures and politics. Sounds good especially if you're of a mind to vilify DCSD central office. But in so doing the proposal also distances the Cluster from the will of the voter as the voter elects a board which hires and directs policy for a Superintendent from which these Clusters are severing all ties. Except the money.

Now when you hear "Local Control" in these Charter discussions you may be thinking this is a great thing as you'll now have a more direct say in the goings on at the public school in your neighborhood and more control over how resources are allocated and your money is spent. After all with the current system you may well find yourself in a distinct and powerless minority. Unfortunately the new system would degrade your position from "practically powerless" to "structurally removed from the equation altogether."

Perhaps a simple example would help. In a not so random selection let's look at a small but typical Dunwoody cul de sac with sixteen homes of fairly intact households representing two votes per home for a total of thirty two votes. Now due a combination of demographics and the restriction of votes to households with children who could attend the local school this is reduced to eight votes--one vote per child. This is a reduction of 75% in voting representation on that street--three quarters of the voting representation is lost simply due to the fact that the disenfranchised ONLY pay taxes. These folks still vote for school boards but let's keep in mind that the main goal of Charter Clusters is to separate themselves from district management and oversight. The money will flow in and 75% of the voters who now have some say (no matter how small) will soon have no say whatsoever.

If even minimally observant you will note that none of the Charter advocates will support the notion that those who they wish to strip of a voice should also be excused from paying. Somehow THAT is part of some lopsided social contract.

What you will hear are many justifications for this system and it will be touted as far superior as parents of school children will run the school or at least have a direct hand in running the school. Now imagine this: a principal, a counselor and a parent are having a discussion regarding that parent's child and that child's capabilities and preparedness for certain activities and materials. Your job (as a mental exercise) is to ponder the order you would rank these three individuals with regard to objectivity in this situation. Once complete you will have a better understanding of why more than one teacher has stated more learning would take place if all their students were from an orphanage.

Hopefully this helps as you ponder what Local Control means with the new Charter Clusters. The final definition is still a work in progress but one thing is certain: it will contain the word "cluster."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?

To every thing there is a season,
   and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and time to die;
   a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and time to heal;
   a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
   a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
   a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose:
   a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend and a time to sew;
   a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
   a time of war, and a time of peace.
It must be rough being a Dunwoody politician or candidate these days what with being lambasted for "quiet periods" and berated for the legal fallout from "executive session leaks". How is an ordinary politician to know when to prattle on and on and when to have nice cup of STFU?

Some claim it is very simple. If you speak bullshit as the average politician is wont to do when addressing a group of potential voters or find yourself lobbying for a pet project then feel free to blow a mighty wind. On the other hand if you are about to be actual-factual about a matter in the works but yet to have properly lined the appropriate pockets then put a cork in it. This rather cynical view boils down to simple do's and don'ts for politicians to follow. If you know what you are about to say is a lie or at the very least misleading then by all means blather on. And on. If you know for certain that what you are about to say is true you should immediately excuse yourself. No questions asked and certainly none answered. If the truth of the matter is uncertain one must first attempt to verify the truth and should that be inconclusive err on the side of silence.

For those in the real world this is all very baffling--particularly the executive session kerfuffle. If you work for a publicly traded company you probably get the quarterly "quiet period" email directing you to remain silent about any knowledge you may have regarding the company prospects as quarterly reporting is imminent. If you're an executive or know an executive then you are aware that some information is simply not to be discussed with anyone. Not friends. Not close associates. Not spouses. Not even your dog.

The single largest inflection point in the modern America's discourse between politicians and the electorate is election day and upon that day begins the great and dramatic distancing of the elected politicians' actions and almost all of their previous statements. Is there any remaining member of the voting public that really believes to be honest and true anything emanating from a politician's mouth? The only remaining mystery is why some protest that the politicians are not speaking often or long enough. Baffling.

Perhaps Alison Krauss has it right when it comes to politicians: "you say it best when you say nothing at all."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

STEM Crisis: A Political Myth

If necessity is the mother of invention
Then I'd like to kill the guy who invented this
The numbers come together in some kind of third dimension
A regular algebraic bliss
Let's start with something simple, like one and one ain't three
And two plus two will never get you five
There are fractions in my subtraction and x don't equal y
But my homework is bound to multiply
Math suks math suks
I'd like to burn this textbook, I hate this stuff so much
Math suks math suks
Sometimes I think that I don't know that much
But math suks
I got so bored with my homework, I turned on the TV
The beauty contest winners were all smiling through their teeth
Then they asked the new Miss America
Hey babe can you add up all those bucks?
She looked puzzled, then just said "Math Suks"
Math suks math suks
You don't even have to spell it, all you have to do is yell it...
Math suks math suks
Sometimes I think that I don't know that much
But math suks
Geometry, trigonometry and if that don't tax your brain
There are numbers too big to be named
Numerical precision is a science with a mission
And I think it's gonna drive me insane
Parents fighting with their children and the Congress can't agree
Teachers and their students are all jousting constantly
Management and labour keep rattling old sabers
Quacking like those Peabody ducks
Math suks math suks
You don't even have to spell it, all you have to do is yell it...
Math suks math suks
Sometimes I think that I don't know that much
But math suks
If you've ever taught anything even closely resembling a STEM course then you have certainly heard a student excusing their ignorance with "Professor TOD, I just don't do math".  Students at every level say this for one reason only: it works. Society accepts it. Parents accept it: "my kid is the creative type--math isn't her forte". Hell, even teachers accept it. And that is what really suks.

Or is it?

It seems this common mythology surrounding acceptable innumeracy gives unjustified validity to the business drumbeat and chant of "we need more STEM for our high tech industry and America isn't delivering". Those in the field and especially those who've become unemployed as we continue the expansion of our H1-B visas have known for some time this simply does not ring true. And now they have the voice of Robert N. Charette a contributing editor to the IEEE Spectrum singing to their choir. In his recent article in the Spectrum Mr. Charette shows clearly how the numbers just don't add up. Especially not if you're the type of businessman who believes supply and demand are somehow related.

Mr. Charette points to the demand side showing that US business and industry is creating 277,000 STEM jobs per year. That's right--over one quarter of a million jobs per year. That's the demand. Sounds pretty good and if you're as innumerate as Mister Boofay you're probably thinking that IS a righteously large number way bigger than what our homegrown supply can meet.


The supply side figures don't support that supposition. Turns out we are producing 252,000 STEM bachelor degree holders per year. Still short of the demand by 20,000.  But wait! There's more. We pump out 80,000 Master's, 20,000 PhD's and 40,000 Associate's degree holders per year. Now we're over 120,000 over the demand. That's right. We have an almost 50% surplus PER YEAR over annual demand.

And yet industry moguls are whining about the lack of talent and while they are currently importing 50,000 H1B visa holders they demand more. Clearly this is intended to create a wage depressing oversupply and will inevitably contribute to the under and unemployed in STEM. And even if there were a short term supply issue the US is blessed with 11,400,000 STEM degree holders who currently work outside the STEM fields---that does not count the unemployed. Yet that number alone represents a forty year supply of STEM workers in an environment where we are already generating about 50% more STEM graduates than the current demand.

So...if your twoddler giggles when she plays with her toes or smiles at the ceiling fan or even prefers the taste of the blue crayons to the green then just smile and let it go. She may grow up to have the same understanding of numbers as a squirrel (zero, one, infinity: no nuts, my nut, look at all them nuts) but as it turns out that's OK.

Maybe that is what really suks.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bloody Mike

The temptation at times like this is to channel your inner Thug Kitchen but that would be only a pale imitation of a living classic. Since this is about a libation let the inspiration be Straight--No Chaser if only because the punny name sounds as cool as the music.

It has been a longstanding mystery in TOD why folks take a perfectly good drink and spoil it either by adding booze to a good drink or worse yet pouring water or something worse into perfectly fine spirits. Michaeleen O'Flynn had it right.

Today's libation is a "manly" derivative of a Shirley Temple literally and figuratively beefed up. Booze is optional and frankly not recommended. Mise en place seem more than it really is but most items are those required for any good Bloody Mary (IE: not from a mix):

  • V8 (low sodium preferred)
  • Horseradish
  • Worcestershire Sauce (is there any other than Lea & Perrin?)
  • Tabasco sauce though any preferred hot sauce can deliver the heat
Beefing up the Bloody Mike brings these to the party:
  • Beef Stock (avoid bouillon or high salt products)
  • Beef-sicle swizzle stick (a small kabob of steak tips, charred on the outside, bloody raw on the inside)
Assembly could hardly be simpler:
  1. add a skosh of horseradish to a glass with adequate ice
  2. one splash of tabasco
  3. two splashes of worcestershire
  4. two shots beef stock, stir to mix base ingredients
  5. top up with V8, stir to mix
  6. fresh ground pepper to taste
  7. top off with that beef-sicle swizzle stick--no umbrellas here

And...Bob's your uncle!