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?