Monday, December 29, 2014

Monkey Trial

An Argentine appeals court has recently declared that a non-human, an orangutan in this case, has basic legal rights. High ranking officials of PETA wet themselves upon hearing the news. They couldn't contain their excitement either. President Obama interrupted our vacation away from him by announcing his support of the court decision as "a small step for mankind but a giant leap for other Hominidae" especially at least one species of the genera pongo. This is what happens when White House speech writers take a holiday.

Some deeper thinkers are not quite so effervescent. They see this as opening the floodgates to illegal importation of orangutans and other primates, that once in the country will demand the same rights as those imported legally. Though some are dismissing these concerns as hysterical over-reaction some consideration should be given to the overall impact this might have to society. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

NIMBY Overlay

There is a move afoot to build residential town homes in place of the Class C (Class B on a good day) offices sitting behind the new Stainless Steel Obelisk along the newly almost finished Dunwoody Parkway. Being attached housing it will naturally be higher density than nearby one entry/exit cul de sac mazes littering Dunwoody and outside of number and area (81 units on 8 acres) not much else is known. Will these look like re-purposed Post apartments or will they be of the quality of Fairfield? Faux Williamsburg, trendy loft look or neo-abandoned warehouse?

Of course this development will require rezoning and this is where the Dunwoody Homeowners Association comes in. They are against it. Seems odd, but the DHA seems to be the only organization on the planet that DOESN'T want to grow. Wow.

Even with the unknowns isn't this exactly what re-development is about? Isn't that one of the key justifications of the enormous cost of re-paving Dunwoody Parkway? And what would be the alternative? Allow the existing office buildings to continue a slide into decline? Demand for that type of office space has been severely impacted by technology empowered work-at-home business that no longer needs to pay rent to get the job done. Of course the every ready "traffic impact" bogey man has been pointed to but seriously folks the reason there will be more traffic is because these homes will be occupied and the current offices are largely empty.

Maybe what we're really watching is a pitiable struggle for relevance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Skinny On Phatt Al's

A new gentleman's club is slated to open in Dunwoody next year. Phatt Al's. Unlike past clubs that survived (or some say, thrived) by operating more as a bar than an entertainment venue Phatt Al's does not serve alcohol. They serve coffee.

The owners of Phatt Al's are combining what some see as a recent surge in the almost universal popularity of coffee venues with an entertainment genre that has never wavered in popularity for centuries. That said, recent revelations indicate the linkage between a good cup of joe and a fine appreciation of the human form.

And Phatt Al's is not just riding a fad. They have a solid business model deriving revenue from membership fees augmented by beverage sales generated during member visits. Three levels of membership, Gold, Platinum and Diamond start with annual fees set at nearly $1000.00 per week and average beverage prices hover around $20 and members are encourage to purchase drinks for associates who are between performances.

And what does a member get for this money? First is the atmosphere of a top notch, exclusive private club with the kind of personal attention not found anywhere else in to world. Baristas are competition and award winning with many known for their own creation of custom drinks. It is not unusual for a member of Phatt Al's to have their own signature drink with more than one convinced their is the best latte in the world.

Service associates are held to standards far above other clubs and are compensated accordingly. A recent press release from Phatt Al's indicates they impose a total ban on tattoos and scars must not be visible from any viewpoint. Victoria may keep her secrets but not at Phatt Al's and coffee does not soften rough edges as alcohol is reported to do. And discretion is another important service at Phatt Al's which has been described as Cheer's meets Las Vegas--everyone may know your name, but what happens at Phatt Al's stays at Phatt Al's.

The various membership levels also come with additional perqs. Upgrading from Gold to Platinum give the member access to extended hours and rental of rooms for private parties. Diamond includes complimentary limo services with a private entrance and access to the Diamond  Café with private booths and all the double-cream  Café au Lait you can handle. 

The news of a Phatt Al's in Dunwoody is not expected to be well received in the community or at City Hall. Rumors abound but word is leaking out that Staff are investigating regulating coffee or caffeine in such a way that the Constitutional end-around used with alcohol will apply here as well. Outcry from coffee shop operators and the public have yet to be  factored in and it isn't clear that such input is desired or will be accepted. There is precedent.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

She IS Good

Within hours of swearing in Dunwoody's Prophetess of Transparency to replace the opaque and disgraced former commissioner DeKalb County was awarded Ballotpedia.org's highest rating (A Plus) for transparency.

Correlation?

Causality?

Coincidence? We think not.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Software Estimation

On a good day estimating the scope of a software development project is problematic. Based on success rates it appears intractable. Without arguing whether or not setting up a web site constitutes software development it is interesting to note that our newly sworn in County Commissioner is "already working to create a web site that will show real-time information about her office's spending." So sayeth the AJC. The interesting part is that despite the preliminary work "she said she hopes to have the website ready in about a month, but it could take longer."

No joking.

This could just be adept politician-speak, where every apparent commitment comes with a caveat you could drive an epic fail thru or it could be a voice of experience that understands no software effort ever comes in on time and under budget. Not with all the requested features anyway. Or maybe she's thought better of hiring friends or family for this project as that would not be a good start towards good governance. But it would help her fit in with the rest of her colleagues on and beyond the Commission. Or perhaps she is seriously considering hiring the yahoos responsible for Dunwoody's CAD-to-CAD (non)interface and is certain that will make the project open ended if it ever works at all. Deliberately choosing to fail on the first and only known transparency project should give everyone pause.

Given the decades of software development experience in the community of The Other Dunwoody, we would like to offer a time tested software estimation technique:

  1. ask the programmer how much time it will take to develop the feature or product, making sure you get the estimate they honestly believe in and not the inflated estimate they know their managers expect
  2. take that estimate, double the number and go up to the next time unit (e.g., 1 day -> 2 weeks)
We are guessing that the CAD-to-CAD bozoids told our previous Most Eminent City Manager that this simple interface project would take two months at the outside. Seems like it has been a bit closer to four years, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Forced Pregnancy

The zygote known as Cliffside is not only the product of compulsory copulation but now has gone just a bit too incestuous for comfort. But let us set aside talk of the hillbilly soap opera for now and focus on the more important and terribly inconvenient fact exposed by this knee-shaker.

This city cannot pay its own way.

The wrangling over Northlake Mall and the surrounding businesses demonstrates very clearly that the citizens of this proposed City of Cliffside cannot or will not pay for their precious little city and its promise of "local control." This is neither new nor surprising. But because the fight over the authority to redistribute business wealth to resident/voters is between two prospective cities and is not city vs county the issue is naked, stark and in plain view.

Cities are parasites pure and simple. They take money from businesses to support the political power structures housed in their city halls and if you are unconvinced spend a few moments and ponder the newly formed partnership between Brookhaven and the Pink Pony. The folks behind citihood stampedes have always known this but this time around we have two cities, Cliffside and Tucker, conjoined at Northlake and any attempt to separate the two will result in the death of at least one.

The real problem is this situation exposes the lies underpinning the successful citihood movements. How can it be that this economic engine is absolutely necessary for city viability yet at the same time taking it away from the county has no negative impact? That was the gist of the argument around Perimeter Center when Dunwoody was formed. It begs the question: if the county can do just fine after all the business centers are gobbled up into cities then why can't the cities do just fine without gobbling up these centers in the first place? The lie is exposed and the liars are exposed as liars of the most odious sort.

Where power grab and prevarication intersect it is not uncommon to find hypocrisy. Such is the case here. Though "local control" is the banner they rally around the real force behind citihood is money. In DeKalb's denser, richer northern areas the prevalent perception is "we send all our money south and  don't get anything in return" which can be viewed as selfishness or a reluctance to contribute to the greater good but is nonetheless used to fan the flames of anger and rebellion. Effectively.

Then they turn around and do exactly the same thing to businesses that they have just successfully accused the county of doing to them. Take their money, spend it elsewhere while giving them no effective representation when spending decisions are made. To bring it closer to home, how, EXACTLY, does the Cheesecake Factory benefit from road paving in a cloistered subdivision like Redfield? Yet that is what they and many other businesses in Perimeter Center are paying for.

And there are racial overtones. After all this is DeKalb and in DeKalb "North" is code for "white" and "South" means "black." And we cannot pass this off on the ignorant inbred racism of Southern Whites as many of those in the north are also Northern Transplants and where they come from liberalism flourishes because it is not challenged. Ironically, even with self-segregation it takes only a few short years before they are ready to trade in their membership in the Knights of Columbus for a chance at becoming Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. So while it is politically incorrect (and ineffective) for these folks to openly discuss their views on race it is interesting to observe they carry a racism that is more raw and closer to the surface than anyone who lays claim to being Southern by the Grace of God.

It is not that forming these cities will not hurt anyone, it just won't hurt anyone these folks care about.

Monday, December 8, 2014

STEM-ing The Tide

Hardly a week goes by when we don't hear "STEM" this or "STEM" that. It generally arrives via mainstream media and sometimes it is of, by and for mainstream media. Sometimes it comes from titans of industry, potential employers of STEM capable workers.

Then there are the educators.

STEM is definitely buzzword du jour, but sadly is not amenable to being watered down and made warm and fuzzy as there is always a chance you'll be given an objective test with right and wrong answers. From the employers' point of view "learning math concepts" is far less useful than actually being able to add, subtract, multiply and divide (in your head) or sort out a word problem that might be related to feed rates in a milling machine. K-12 long ago banned any school related activities that are not "engaging" and "fun" and these kinds of mental calisthenics and agility simply are not "fun." To inject "fun" they would really prefer that "STEM" become "STEAM" and then "steAm" progressing to "steAm" at which point all the hard stuff is gone and they are left back in their comfort zone of subjective fuzzies.

Then there is an inconvenient truth. Employers know what they want to the point they have pre-employment tests and screening. These requirements are either not shared with the K-12 tribe or educators simply don't want to listen. To be fair, some notables in industry, especially those pushing for H1B visas, advance their cause for more high-tech workers by allowing folks to believe that means more engineers, scientists and mathematicians. This is blatantly false. We have a surplus of those. What these employers really want are technicians and technologists. Someone from ITT Technical Institute who can keep the servers online and the network humming, not a PhD from MIT. They need more graduates from Southern Tech who can design and develop a product and already have more than enough GaTech grads to research new core technologies and advance the state of the art. You could make a Computer Scientist a programmer but it is waste of everyone's time and money, something for-profit operations try to minimize.

The knock on effect of this comes from parents. What parent doesn't think their special snowflake isn't the next Feynman, if only he is properly nurtured, engaged and entertained? Who would really want their daughter to be a plumber (charging $75/hr, $110/hr evenings and weekends) when they really should be a physician or a physicist (is there a difference)? Too many parents have misguided expectations and ambitions for a life that is not theirs to live and is not aligned with current or future realities.

So what will we, in the Great State of Georgia, do?

The Board of Regents is going to mandate that colleges and universities improve their graduation rate. There are a couple of ways to do this, with the most beneficial to society being higher and strictly enforced entrance requirements. Students who do not need remediation have a demonstrated ability to learn and are more likely to graduate, on time, than those who have not learned what they need to have learned to be in college in the first place. This would put back-pressure on K-12 forcing them to either do their job or expose their failure.

Not going to happen.

What will happen is that Georgia colleges and universities will put in place more administrators, "graduation coaches" and remediators at the expense of capable instructors in front of capable students. Graduations rates will go up because that is what is mandated and that is what those in the Gold Dome are paying for. Diplomas will be printed at whatever rate necessary to ensure the flow of funds. We have  learned nothing from our recent cheating scandals.

But employers still have the final say. They find they must test applicants for minimal literacy and numeracy and a majority of credentialed applicants fall short even with the current, yet to be diluted, system in place. Even those minimally acceptable are incapable of doing the job without extensive training and the situation is so bad employers are having to go outside of the U.S. to find capable trainers.

We have allowed our education system to become so detached from the core mission of imparting knowledge and allowed this failure to span so many generations that we not only do not have minimally capable students, we don't even have "educators" who have a clue about what to teach or how to teach it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Prestidigitation

Sleight of hand. Misdirection.

All magicians start out their performance indicating that everything they do you can see. No tricks. Nothing behind the curtain, no secret compartment in the hat. And sure enough they pull a rabbit right out of that hat.

But you knew that was going to happen. So next time your favorite magician takes the stage don't watch the hat or look for the rabbit. Pay very close attention to everything but that and you will see your now formerly favorite magician putting your money in their pocket.

Isn't that magic?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Preparation H

Turkey day certainly brings out the turkeys. A flock of spandexed pedal pushing prize turkeys were cycling north on Roberts approaching Austin elementary. Turkeys? Why say?

That's because they refused to use the bike lane preferring instead to stack cars up behind their slow asses. Keep in mind that taxpayers, present and future, have  kowtowed to these pissy little brats to build out bike lanes whenever we touch pavement. Then these jerks refuse to use them and wonder why normal folks consider them to be just another bunch of entitled whiners.

And how do we know there's not a hemorrhoid amonst the bunch? Because they are all perfect assholes. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Good Run Cut Short

It is generally the policy of The Other Dunwoody to avoid promoting the nicer places in the Southland in order to prevent them being overrun by selfish and shallow outsiders. Today we make an exception due to an incredibly exceptional event.

Cinco Y Diez is closed.

Take a moment to let that sink in...

...that's right, Cinco Y Diez, certainly amongst one of the finest restaurants in the foodie heaven of Athens GA has, in a move that is certain to shock anyone fortunate enough to dine there, abruptly closed its doors. It is absolutely gobstopping that with the backing of Hugh Acheson, his business partner Melissa Clegg and the culinary prowess of Executive Chef Whitney Otawka (formerly of Farm 255) that Cinco Y Diez not only did not succeed but had such a short run closing after only 10 months.

Based on cuisine, bar, service and overall execution this place was outstanding. For those familiar with Five and Ten, the award winning Acheson restaurant formerly at this location and now a block north, you would never recognize the interior. The building was clearly gutted and the dingy cramped interior replaced with an open, clean layout fitted out in the trendy modern industrial decor. Service second to none. Excellent bar service. Drinks properly made and a wine selection more than up to the task.

And the food...

In it's brief life, three visits (alongside two at big brother restaurant Five and Ten) left TOD diners with the inescapable conclusion the Cinco Y Diez was well positioned to give big brother a run for his money. While neither is/was a restaurant with easy to obtain reservations both are accessible when  date night and amateur hours are avoided. And while you are catching the kitchen at its best each staff has proven time and again they carry thru consistently from beginning to end of each dinner service.

At Cinco, no dish sampled was anything less that outstanding in flavour and presentation. And what that woman can do with a mushroom--the deconstructed tamale was to die for. One diner, a fan of onion rings (real onion rings, not those grease stains served at the Varsity) noticed them on the menu as part of the evening special and asked if the kitchen would serve just the rings. Done and done. When you can elevate the lowly onion ring to the level of Cinco you are in the presence of a top notch chef and kitchen.

And excellent service did not stop with orders off the menu. When one patron ordered a scotch and soda, well brand, the server deduced, rightly in this case, that the patron was thrifty. Upon finding there really was no "well brand" at the bar she returned to inform the patron that the bar does serve Johnnie Walker but that would be seven dollars and would that be all right? Wow. First the service. Then JW and soda for SEVEN dollars? Where in daVille can you get that drink at that price even with rude service? Hell, a baked potato at McKindrick's costs more than that. For a freakin' potato.

And perhaps therein lay the problem. In an interview Acheson bottom lined it: "The end result is a business that couldn't make it. That's it." Earlier in the same interview Acheson remarked that "you have to sell lots of F&B [Food and Beverage] to stay afloat" and as Shopsin famously noted "the profit is in the liquids." Perhaps that scotch should have been priced closer to Ten than to Five.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Landline Luddite

This PSA is for all the folks out there in daVille who still have a landline.* Something Earnestine would be proud of. One ringy dingy... Today's rant is driven by the incessant robocalls from schmuck politicians during the recent election cycle.  And it is the best thing since caller-id: call blockers.**

Call blockers are devices that connect to your home phone wiring and cut these schmucks off at the knees. Works with telemarketers too. They come in a couple of flavours but they generally have these features in common:

  1. you enter phone numbers to be blocked
  2. you may enter wild cards for area codes or exchanges
  3. when a call comes in that matches these lists the call blocker automatically dismisses the unwanted intrusion
There are some variations on the theme. 

First is how they connect to your phone wiring. Some devices attach to any phone jack and act like just another answering machine. Devices operating in this mode will answer the unwanted calls so you don't have to. At least one blocker wastes twenty seconds of their time on unresponsive silence which you can use to answer the line if you inadvertently blocked a "good" number. These devices always let the phones ring at least once which some consider to be a disadvantage. But you do know there is an incoming call and there is a certain pleasure in knowing if it only rings once some telemarketer is talking to the virtual back of  your hand. 

Other devices connect between your incoming phone line and the rest of your phone wiring and are capable of suppressing the first ring (Caller ID information is transferred between the first and second rings). Consequently you will never be disturbed by any caller you have blocked. Often these devices offer more advanced features that allow live callers a way to ring your phone.

All call blockers allow you to enter numbers to ignore either by capturing the Caller ID or by keypad entry or both. This is commonly known as  a blacklist and the simplest call blockers implement only a blacklist. Others manage a second list of numbers that always ring thru--a whitelist. This  lets you block entire area codes but allow the one or two numbers of folks you want to hear from get thru. One fairly advanced unit has an "automatic" mode that in effect is a greylist. Any number not in ether the black or white list goes to a voice prompt requesting the caller to enter '0' to ring thru effectively blocking robo calls. Almost all politician's calls are robo calls. 

Most will block calls where Caller ID delivery has been disabled as well as other "unknown caller" CIDs. Some devices also block outgoing calls and market this as a parental control feature. Parental control is a myth. Believe in unicorns if you must but never delude yourself into believing you have any control over what your child does, who she talks to or how she communicates. Don't pay more for this feature.

So before the 2016 presidential election goes into full swing you may want to Google "telephone call blocker" and find which option works best for you. 


* Includes Cable and VoIP services.
** We all know the national Do Not Call Registry is worthless.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Interstate Parade

You know what these are, don't you? Surely you've been in one. Perhaps you've headed one up. In case you seclude yourself in your live-work-play community an "Interstate Parade" is when some asshole blocks the left lane, plodding forward into open pavement all the while forcing an unwilling entourage to drudge thru his shit.

These parades have a couple of causes.

Sometimes it is a DFC listening to the arse end of the latest iPhone and as is so often the case when the driver's synapses stop firing she matches the speed of the vehicle on the right oblivious to the implications of the miles of open pavement ahead and the dozens of cars immediately behind. That's because driving (and courtesy) have taken a backseat to her wasting what few brain cells she has on some nonsensical drivel, probably dissin' on last night's fuquebuddy.

Sometimes it is an angry vigilante who feels it is their government given right to discourage speeding. By others of course. Unfortunately for this particular breed of idiot what the guv giveth the guv taketh away and it is now against the law to park your ass in the left lane and impede traffic. That's what they call stacking up a dozen cars in your rearview mirror--impeding traffic. Now that being a left lane bandit is illegal anyone who does it is just as big an asshole as any speeder and quite a bit more dangerous.

So if you're going over the river and thru the woods this holiday season you are likely to find yourself in the midst of an Interstate Parade. Just don't head one up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What Are YOU Looking At?

Fascinating Scenery
If a Lube Job Isn't Enough
Definite Improvement By Smell Alone
Turn Your Back On Illegal Immigration

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ebony And Ivory

DeKalb just keeps on keepin' on.

We've recently closed out the first round of James vs Ellis without even a TKO. Urkel was given an OJ pass because some on the jury thought he was just too damn good lookin' and his kids are cute. When someone is found not guilty due to mental defect it is supposed to be mental defect on the part of the defendant, not the jury.

Of course there were pundits punditting that this was racial as the jury was all black (jury of your peers remember) though mostly women without additional peerage. There was also some discomfort in some circles over two extremely successful and ivy league educated black men going for each other's throats. Others, mostly in north DeKalb, dismissed it (privately) as just another example of inherent tribalism that cannot be driven out by western culture or education. These folks binge-watch Zulu, shake their heads and mutter "See, I told you."

Just as those folks were writing this off as another black-on-black crime, albeit white collar, the whole Elaine Boyer fuel-air bomb ignited, leveling the landscape. She copped a plea with the Feds (to keep her pension), tucked tail and went into hiding leaving a p-card-less chief of staff to handle "constituent services" which until that time had consisted mostly of fine dining--on a county p-card. Of course the suspicion of malfeasance went beyond Mizz Elaine and there is also an ethics complaint filed against the currently-on-the-payroll (should Snow White take on Mizz Boyer's role she has promised to send all the current dwarves to work in some other gold mine) chief of staff. Given the expenses disclosed by the AJC that all kinda makes sense, unless you're a salesman accustomed to a company Amex that you can use to take any ole bidness contact to the Pink Pony.

Anyway it is at this point things get really crazy.

Lee May, Urkel wannabe, replaces Issac Blyters, who is black but past his use-by date, with John Ernst, who is white, as Chair of the DeKalb Ethics Board. Who even knew we have one? While it may not have been planned, having a white in charge of this board is most fortuitous especially when almost all elected and perfunctory positions with the government are held by blacks. Think of it this way: should a white man be in the position of investigating an ethics complaint against a black official the race card will be played on first lead. Deliberate or blind luck they have been dealt the Ace of Race and in DeKalb politics that suit is always trump.

But this turns out to be white on rice.

In a media interview regarding the job at hand, Ernst made the rather unfortunate comparison between DeKalb's potential ethics violators and termites. Insects of the destructive white kind: "sometimes when there's termites in the building, the homeowner doesn't care how they get out. If they leave, they leave."

Not so fast there Johnny. If you're eradicating termites by burning down the building some of us would like to get our loved ones and prized possessions out before you channel your inner Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. There also seems to be an issue with the fact that while there are blacks suffering from ethics complaints there was no mention of black termites, which are rare if not extinct. Apparently the former Commissioner's chief of staff considered this a directed attack of some sort and retaliated with an ethics complaint against the Chair of the Ethics Board. This is what the IT developers working on the CAD-to-CAD interface describe as a recursive call to the shit() function.

For deeper understanding we again refer to the movies, in this case The Quiet Man, wherein a certain Sean Thornton returns to clean up that wee cabin and make it habitable again. Noble goal but it ran afoul of the incumbent man-about-town, the not-so-good Will Danaher, who did not take kindly to the prodigal son's intrusion. The movie is noted for one of the silver screen's longest fights that ends, as most good fights should, in a bar. And that is precisely the inspiration we need.

At the very next Snow Jam we will get these unnecessary combatants down to the Dunwoody Tavern and get them all tankarded up. Then we take them out back and challenge them to write their names in the snow. The one with the biggest letters wins. All they win is the admiration of the community but we win some peace and quiet.

In closing, should anyone of Asian origin find themselves offended by references to yellow snow TOD apologizes in advance with the hope that no offense is taken where none is intended. We should all be so lucky.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Neo-Faux-Williamsburg

Have you ever heard of the Dunwoody Village Overlay? Do you remember when Brewster's Ice Cream came to the Village? The first time? Then you probably know that folks around these parts are very protective of their Williamsburg image. At one point they got so pissy that there was going to be hell to pay until that ice cream shoppe bricked up and shingled over.

And thus it came to pass.

The overlay requirements were one of the first bits of "run your life" legislation taken up by this Smart City. It includes, in painful detail, what you can and cannot do to the front, back and sides of your buildings. Brick and mortar colours. Paint colours. Window aspect and orientation. Overhang. Doors. Shingles... At one point, possibly to this day, the sidewalk lamp posts, trash cans and benches were specified down to manufacturer, model and colour.

And then we got these.




And not just one, but many. Right smack in daVille. All. Over.



Looks like someone downtown, at Smart City Hall, has a friend in the stainless business. Kinda cuts the legs out from under any bitchin' about how the MARTA bus stop shelters don't fit with our Village theme.

But wait! There's more! daVille is blessed with a brand spanking new obelisk. As you've probably already guessed it is made of sparkling stainless steel.



Puts "neo" and "faux" ahead of Williamsburg.

What makes this an obelisk? Well you will notice there are no doors, no secret passage ways, no gozins or gozouts.


All the way 'round.


Given the non-faux-Williamsburg food trucks and the stainless invasion of daVille that poor slob who bricked up his ice cream parlor must be feeling pretty silly about now.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mary, Mary

Though the cancellation of her most recent series is still fresh in many minds Mary Steenburgen is back making the rounds on casting couches looking for another role in a different if not new series. Some friends and insiders are concerned that as a method actor Mary has not had sufficient time to release from her previous character in an ill-fated series that was almost universally disliked and abruptly cancelled. More than a few casting directors share this concern and worry that she is not ready to take on a new role but would likely bring the previous character onto a new stage. Only the most star-struck fan would suggest that her previous gig warranted a spin-off.

Mary's motives are unclear. Some feel there is an intra-family rivalry with Ted around his recent success on CSI. Some say she wants to squelch rumours she may be washed up. Though she has attempted to distance herself from from the previous program by suggesting she was a brilliant star in an otherwise lackluster cast others have suggested the cast's performances were not nearly so bad nor hers quite so wonderful.  Her closest confidants are encouraging her to take an extended break to prepare herself to take a new approach to a new role that will surely come along.

It is hard not to wish Mary the best but it is nigh on impossible to believe this rush to the Next Great Thing is the best for anyone.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Props

As much as it pains to set aside gadfly for gladfly it is time for credit where credit is due. And once again it is Councilman Shortal who has seen thru the Smart City's BS and spoken out against it.  This particular BS centered around the tax-hike fueled budget presented to Council wherein the grow-at-all-costs paradigm was applied to police department budgeting.

Councilman Shortal wants to know "what a lieutenant can do that a sergeant isn't doing now" to which the obvious answer is "cost this City more." Shortal's preference is that if more officers we must have then those officers be indians rather than chiefs. Furthermore he would really prefer that the budget be more focused on infrastructure (e.g., roads and sidewalks) over bloating the police force. He is spot on.

Shortal seems to have an insightful understanding of facts that should be, but apparently are not, obvious to all. Dunwoody's borders, it's geographical expanse is fixed and will not change.  Territorial expansion is not going to drive the clear need for more officers of any rank, but especially not the higher ranks. Population may increase but Dunwoody has been quite aggressive in limiting high density development. Population growth and demographic transformations will not drive police expansion either. Significant percentages of Dunwoody crime emanate from the Perimeter Center area most notably the mall--the crime rate per square foot at the Ravinia complex is significantly lower than Perimeter Mall. Even with that, the Mall itself is limited in growth opportunities that might drive crime and consequently police force expansion. Making the Mall a safer place requires presence but not an army of high ranking officers.

So Councilman Shortal is on target in suggesting that we may need more mall cops but we certainly do not need more desk jockeys.

While Shortal is spot on and should take a well-earned bow, he does pull up short. Clearly we need to end the interim positions. We need to hire a police chief that is aligned with the Dunwoody reality. One who understands this city will grow in quality, but the footprint is fixed and the demands relatively stable. That Dunwoody is not a place to grow your budget and head counts by double-digit percentages year over year. We also need to make progress on hiring a capable, experienced City Manager who will oversee operations including the police force. Dunwoody voters and taxpayers deserve no less.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Random Number Generator

Randomness is a very important tool in cryptography. Not so much for speed limits.

But that appears to be what we have with our new variable speed limit signs on top end 285.

If you enter 285 at Ashford Dunwoody heading towards Spaghetti Junction you will pass more than four of these signs, spaced about an eighth of a mile apart, before you get to the Doraville Speed Trap. One recent morning the sign at Chamblee Dunwoody read 55 MPH, the next was a slowdown to 45 MPH and the very next one (near the GM plant) was 65 MPH.

Seems a bit odd though it was clear that drivers were no more paying attention to these signs than they did the previous, low-tech, low-cost ones. From the very beginning those who drive this stretch of interstate knew just how silly these signs are doomed to be. Drivers ignoring any signage undermines the key assumption of the ill-fated plan: that drivers will observe the signage and obey the currently posted speeds.

We've been told that the speed is set according to "where you are going" rather than to the immediate conditions near the sign. This in no way explains the 55-45-65 MPH sequence. We've also been told this is about safety, about wreck avoidance and prevention. Of course any wreck on 285 has the knock-on effect of bringing traffic to a standstill so safety and congestion management are inseparable. Still, this is nonsense.

Perhaps a more likely explanation of this silliness is that the agency controlling  these signs is seeking an IGA with local law enforcement putting in place a revenue sharing plan. Until then speeds will be set to minimize speeding tickets but once the agreement is in place then speeds will be manipulated according to the revenue needs of these agencies. Perhaps they will even set the signs at the shoulder to a different speed than the one right across at the barrier wall (they are not always showing the same speed) so the Local LEOs have discretion on how much they get for which ticket (and ticketed party).

Or perhaps it is just another case of grant-grubbing out of control.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boots On The Ground

On promise of anonymity a White House staffer reports that Obama pulled back from the very brink of putting U.S. boots on the ground in Kobani. Upon hearing that Kobani was to fall and the Kurds destroyed the First Lady stormed into the Oval Office and demanded the President take immediate and decisive action. Thankfully an intern, a Yale post-graduate who cannot find better work, informed the First Lady that Kobani is not "Chobani" and that Kurds are an indigenous ethnic group and not a milk byproduct. Apparently the loss of her favorite Greek Treat would rock the First Lady's world.

At first she would not be convinced assuming, as First Lady's so often do, that she is right and everyone else is wrong. In support of his case the intern pulled up Google Maps on his phone showing that Kobani is indeed a town on the border between Syria and Turkey. Disaster averted.

While this did convince the President and the First Lady that her yoghurt was indeed safe the intern was fired on the spot. Apparently all things Google have been banned by the administration because Google have taken measures to secure Americans' personal data making it absolutely necessary that Federal Officials obtain a warrant to get all up in your business. No good deed goes unpunished by this administration. Not by Google and not by a lowly intern.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cultivating Ebola

In a recent BBC interview a health researcher suggested models were showing Ebola cases in West Africa would peak in January unless additional efforts were applied to care for the infected. Were that to happen the peak would occur a FEW MONTHS LATER.

The backup singers in the Bleeding Hearts Club Band are already screeching "Lies, Lies, Damn Lies" but this is in fact the case. Have you asked yourself why this outbreak seems to be much worse (in number of cases and fatalities) than previous Ebola epidemics? Bear in mind, you really do have to ask yourself because the CDC either does not know or would lie to you.

The real answer turns out to be quite simple.

Ebola is extremely virulent and in previous outbreaks it quickly ran its course amongst the group that went skinny dipping in the animal reservoir where the virus hangs out when not killing humans. The very speed with which it attacked that limited population meant it did not have time to spread beyond the village that went all bat crap crazy. Left to its own devices, Ebola is inherently self-limiting. It attacks. It ravages a community. It burns out.

But then westerners, the U.S. in particular, step in and declare a WAR ON EBOLA (hashtag StopEbolaNow) and by slowing progression amongst the initially infected, they support the spread of the disease outside that limited community ensuring that even more die. So what the U.S. and its CDC are really doing is turning an epidemic into a pandemic exposing the truth that their War On Ebola is in fact a War On The World. With its PC fueled agenda the Obama administration shows more concern over offending African nations than protecting the American people. But at least he is consistent.

So not only are the CDC and the Obama Administration bringing Ebola to America and doing a damn fine job of spreading it around, they are helping kill more people in Africa--the only people they really seem to care about.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Downtown

So go downtown
Things will be great when you're downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything's waiting for you

The Ballet has taken their pas de deux to the burbs. The Braves are hot on their heels. Surely the Hawks are giving relocation its due consideration. Dante Stephenson tried (twice) to make a go of it in Underground only to go under. Way under. In an attempt to salvage something the ASO had (as in past tense) performed at Verizon amphitheater in the northern burbs. City proponents prefer to speak of perceptions. Of crime. Of inconvenience. Of filth. Of course that is a self-delusion as long as there is so much evidence on display making what they see as a perception a very real thing to most. About the only fact not in question is that most folks from the burbs only come downtown to work. Then they go back to their live-play sub- and ex-urban communities. As it turns out the hyphens in live-work-play as simply shorthand for "commute to".

And it isn't just the urban core--the ATL. The Atlanta paper made a move to Perimeter Center. Then they threw themselves a housewarming party calling it a Wine Fest. Perhaps they watched all the folks surrounding their new digs and thought this would be a sell out (pun intended). Of course they sold tickets but the prices were more along the lines of a rent party than a wine tasting. By abstaining, the folks flittering about PC effectively RSVP-ed "NO" causing the AJC to cancel due to lack of interest.

Basically Perimeter is no more a Play-Station for folks who live around these parts than downtown Atlanta. Coffee before work? Sure, at the chimney Starbucks. Work lunch at Perimeter Mall? Expensive, but every now and then. Drinks after work? Only if we leave early. Work that is. Use some of your "fun time" to schlep back down here for some extremely expensive wine? Yeah--NO.

Perimeter may be a nice place to work. Certainly a great place for business entertainment at one of the expense-account restaurants. But as a place to spend precious free time looking for fun it is just another downtown.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fly, Delta

If you ever get the chance to go to Dallas
Take it from me pass it by
'Cause you'll only sing the blues down in Dallas
Take it from me don't go and cry
"Dallas", Roger Bartlett, 1974
Being a corporate entity we all know that morals do not apply to any actions taken by Delta. This has been no more evident than with their recent pissin' and moanin' regarding events around an airport near Dallas. Not Dallas, Georgia, but Love Field near Dallas Texas. Dallas (TX) is kicking Delta out of Love Field (they will still fly in/out of DFW) and Delta has chastised Dallas, expressing disappointment "that the City of Dallas has made the decision to reduce competition and travel options...".  That warrants a big ole high flyin' WTF. How 'bout this Mister Delta: how about you apply that same logic regarding the airport over here near the other Dallas? You know, support competition and travel options by throwing your support behind commercial service at the Paulding Airport. Say what? Not going to happen? Oh, so your definition of "competition" is "we win and everyone else loses." Another mystery solved.

Later in the week the AJC reported that Delta's lawyer was whining that Dallas had decided that "available gate space should go to hometown favorite Southwest...". Would Delta like to give up some prime gate space at Hartsfield, or would they prefer to maintain their status as "hometown favorite"? Exactly.

Again, Delta is a corporate entity with no soul, no moral fiber and expecting it to behave inconsistent with that nature would be sure to disappoint. While shameless hypocrisy is consistent with that makeup the pissy attitude exposed by the juxtaposition of homonym and diametrically opposed actions breaks more than a few camels' backs.

So fly, Delta. Please. Just spool up them big ole jet engines and fly away...far...far...away.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Airborne Ebola

We've been told all the ways that Ebola does NOT spread and the agenda seems to be convincing the public that it is not an airborne contagion. Well, sorta.

You may have noticed this is not the first outbreak of Ebola and it seems to come, die off (with many of its victims) and then after taking a break comes back. With a vengeance. But where does it go? The answer is the same as with other contagions: animal reservoir. Animals are successful at harboring contagions, including Ebola, until an opportunity arises to (re)infect a human population. Then it is off to the races.

So far only one animal has been found that harbors Ebola. Bats. So technically Ebola is carried in the air. It just requires a bat to help it along. This explains how the spread of the disease does not track movement of infected humans as much as one would expect. It tracks the migratory patterns of the bats.

We know how the virus transfers to humans. Bats are part of the human food supply in that part of the world and folks pick up Ebola when making bat charcuterie.  No word yet on how bats get Ebola.

But now we've allowed folks to bring Ebola to the United States-hell, we've all but invited them in. Thank goodness we don't have any bats.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Honky Town Blues

In Birmingham they love the governor (boo, boo, boo)
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Now tell me true

Now that the Civil Rights Barons have fled to the next honey pot taking their unrighteous indignation with them let's have an honest conversation about who was really insulted by Bruce Levenson's comments--Southern Whites. The inflammatory remark centered around his observation that the attendees at the games are predominantly black and that these fans show up late, don't seem to engage and don't spend money. The Barons who made themselves rich by whipping out their bully horn every time a white guy says something other than "here you go" to about anyone with melanin claimed Levenson didn't respect the Black Man's money. Dissin. But it turns out they share the same love of money as Bruce and once it became clear there was none coming their direction they tweeted on out. Hashtag gone.

But sweet Jesus Levenson did take it one toke over the line when he waxed poetic about Southern Whites and their terror at being surrounded by blacks. By implication he is asserting these Southern Whites would spend more money. Just not around Black folk.

Well, it is time to represent.

First off he doesn't want Southern Whites, he wants Yankee transplants who by and large came here to make more money than they did in the frozen north. Consequently they have more money and the fact is he just wants some of it. He would love the same fan base as the Braves: the rich Yankee transplants who have self segregated to the northern suburbs. But he's stuck down by the gulch giving free tickets to folks so the stands look full and even then they don't show up on time. Maybe they had to work late.

Second, being white and living below the Mason Dixon don't make you a Southern White. And since this guy seems to have a mail order degree in demographics he must know that Southern Whites are much more likely to be the son of a son of a share cropper than heir to the plantation. For us it's a proud day when your firstborn lives in a house that didn't arrive on wheels and the family reunion counts a full head of teeth before a dozen kinfolk show up. We ain't got much money, can't afford to self-segregate in one of those high fallutin' gated communities and we are therefore much more likely to find ourselves in the company of Black folks. Go figure.

But we also don't have enough money for Levenson which seems to be the only reason for him to be layin'  a hatin' on Southern Whites. But you know what? It don't matter and we don't care.
Well, I heard Leven-son sing about her
Well, I heard ole Bruce put her down
Well, I hope Hawks fans will remember
A Southern Man don't need him around anyhow

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Guest Post : Ebola, The Press And The CDC

This drifted into TOD's in-box about 21 days ago and of course we thought nothing of it. Then a fever set in...
I'm left to wonder what is NOT being reported by media, including AJC, about the ebola patients and their care here. I have questions, including the following:
  1. The doctor and aide worker were both following a safety protocol in Africa. Because they both contracted the disease, we must conclude either (a) the safety protocol has flaws, or (b) someone in the chain of care did not follow the protocols. Which was it? How are we to be assured this will not be repeated in Atlanta?
  2. All protocols require strict adherence to pre-ordained rules. Each person in the loop, from the lowest janitor to the most talented surgeon, must do exactly as the rules require each moment of each day. Mathematically, statistically, this cannot be maintained indefinitely—especially over a long period of time, in the stress of life-threatening actions and disease containment. An argument for chaos theory (ala Jurassic Park), there will be a breakdown somewhere. It's human to make mistakes. The CDC over the last months has proven that even their highly-trained personnel do not follow all procedures all of the time. So far, the CDC has dodged the bullets of disastrous accident results, but the laws of probability suggest that it's just a matter of time. Add the stress of 24/7 requirements, a growing number of patients, and consequently a worsening ratio between the number of trained health workers and the number of patients, and the probability of containment drops off a cliff that a lemming would envy. What are the plans in place for breaches of containment? The public has a right to know.
  3. The treatment of ebola requires blood transfusions and IV fluids. According to the media, nothing else can be done. What follows is that there is nothing being done here for these patients that was not already being done in Africa. The only reason the CDC would be involved in bringing these two patients to Atlanta is to further their knowledge of the disease. These two people are human guinea pigs. The only reason to bring them to the USA is to study the effects of the experimental medicine they both received in Liberia. Labs here are better than labs in Liberia. What is the public not being told?
  4. Emory has advertised the safety of their isolation unit. Let the public see some of those safety built-ins. The air circulation system is a closed loop, but ebola is not spread by air. Are there any walls or ductwork or pipes shared with other parts of the hospital? Are medical wastes handled differently in this unit than they are in the rest of the hospital?
  5. The media repeats that ebola is spread neither by air nor by mosquitos. That it is not airborne has been proven in labs. But from what is in print, the only reason mosquitos are not considered agents of spread is that no one has proven that they are. More importantly, has anyone done studies involving two of most big-city disease spreaders—cockroaches and rats? I have personally attended the grand opening of an infection control center in a large US cancer ward (in the South, but not in Atlanta), and witnessed cockroaches running across the floor as the ribbons were cut. Roaches are known spreaders of other non-air borne diseases. How are these vermin being handled in this situation?
  6. The screening of travelers from West Africa at US airports is a waste of time. Experts stress that an infected person may go 3 weeks before symptoms appear. How will someone at a screening center know that? Required blood tests? No one is going to be responsible for that. And what about people who had intermediate stops in other African, Asian, or European destinations? Is it not ironic that laws make it more difficult to bring a pet dog into London than an exposed Liberian into the United States?
Talking heads saying nothing new, footage of a patient in a moon-suit, interviews with ambulance cleaners, pictures of planes with pod-containments—these are all nothing but sound and sight bytes for broadcasting to an ignorant public too trusting that we are really being informed of anything substantive at all.
Like many others we in The Other Dunwoody were initially dismissive of this missive. After all we'd been told that proper procedures were in place, not only in Africa, but in the U.S. That should any visitor display symptoms these would be immediately recognized as Ebola and prompt and effective treatment would ensue. That was before we DID have the first case diagnosed in the U.S. That was before we learned that the infected individual went to the hospital, not once but twice, having been send home the first time without a correct diagnosis. That was before we learned that the infected individual had contact with school children. That was before we learned the many things we are just about to learn...making the above concerns look like the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, September 29, 2014

At The Other End Of The Barrel

Since the recent episodes of Cops Gone Commando the world, and by that we mean politicians, have focused an increased but insufficient amount of attention on the para-military "police" force they have created across the country. Naturally this forced the commanders of the Commando Cops to retaliate.

This includes some of our local Andy's and Barney's.

A neighboring city has taken up the "we're in an arms race" mantra. This harks back to the 1997 North Hollywood shootout where cops faced long gun and machine gun fire with .38 calibre handguns and the occasional shotgun. The official response seems to have been "I want a machine gun! Everybody else has one!" Of course this has a rather undesirable knock-on effect. Especially if you're of the belief that only the chosen ones should own guns and normal, free people in the U.S are certainly not "chosen." You see, there is a public reaction to firepower wielded by cops: if that's what a cop needs to protect me from the Bad Guys[TM] then that's what I need to protect myself from the same Bad Guys[TM]. Chicken-Egg. Vicious Circle. Take your pick. But when the cops start sporting AR-15's don't be all that surprised to find "ordinary people" doing the same thing.

But Dunwoody is best of all. Billy says Military Training is a great policing tool. OK... So would that be "tactics?" Like we see when our military forces are doing a sweep thru a village in Afghanistan? Coming soon to a neighborhood near you! Can't wait.

Then there is the military equipment. Our arsenal includes an Armored Personnel Carrier: such a big toy for our little boys. But Billy claims it is just a "ride" and not as "militarized" as what the real army has.That it just looks menacing. But isn't that exactly the same argument coming from the cold-dead-handers? The ones who say their AR-15's are not the military, fully automatic version. That they just look like a military weapon.

And that is where it get's funny.

Many of the folks who want you to hand in your gun are the same ones doing a Michael Dukakis in their tanks whilst sporting a uniform from the Idi Amin estate sale and now they're using the gun nut's argument to keep their toys.

You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Word Smatter

Let's start this piece on local government propaganda with the plain truth:
The City of Dunwoody is increasing your property taxes.
In it's official capacity as the City bidet, the Dunwoody fan rag headlined "Dunwoody to hold line on taxes" reporting that Mikey and Billy are proposing that property taxes should remain level. Really? And just what does THAT mean? Well, if you are a tax and spend politician it means that you are keeping the tax rate the same and reaping the windfall from rising property values. If you are a limited government conservative then you will propose a revenue-neutral budget and therefore lower the tax rate.

So which set of yahoos do we have running this city? You guessed it--the former. The local bidet does disclose, probably with great reluctance, that it is indeed the tax rate that is remaining the same. Of course this is indirectly justified by invoking the boogey man of  The Great Recession (that IS over isn't it? property values ARE rising aren't they?), comparing bad to worse (Dunwoody's tax increase compared to DeKalb's) and touting all the wonderful things they intend to buy on their spending spree.

This is the very essence of effective propaganda: a partial truth constructed to mislead and misdirect with the real truth buried in distractions and deflections. While amusingly reminiscent of Mister CEO touting HIS payment of OUR taxes (with our HOST taxes) we were sold on better. We were sold the myth of local government where our neighbors would run the City in an honest and open manner unlike anything we would ever see from Decatur. While we've certainly had quite a few disturbing revelations regarding DeKalb County, these kinds of antics at City Hall leave one wondering if the only difference is we haven't found out what is going on at Perimeter Center. Yet.

At the end of the day what they say and how they do it matters. Words matter. It is the difference between honest governance and just another bunch of unseemly, greedy politicians.

So let us now close with the plain and simple truth:
The City of Dunwoody is increasing your property taxes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Guest Post: Educator Speaks

Today's regular programming is interrupted by a pop-up post from a guest author. While you may read this and think "that's my kid they're dissin'" we assure you that any resemblance to any child, genius or idiot, is purely coincidental. Without further ado... 

I'm in the middle of a culture shock.

My previous institution was a very large public state school. 40,000-45,000 students. It was a decent school despite a decent party reputation. You'd have the gamut of students: jocks trying to stay academically eligible (which was sometimes a challenge…for them and for their instructors), Greeks bearing zero gifts, first-generation college students, and the brainiacs trying to save money going to the in-state school for undergrad (knowing full well their grad school would leave them up to their eyeballs in debt).

My current institution is less than 5% of the size of the last place. Private. "Highly selective". It has graduated dozens (in the plural) of Rhodes scholars. At the first faculty meeting, I learned the lower quartile of incoming freshmen "only" scored around a 1300 on the SAT math+verbal. One year of tuition, board and room is 20% more than my pre-tax annual salary. The student union has two grand pianos, but only one TV.

Which university, do you think, would create a more enjoyable teaching experience for a professor?

I was surprised by the answer.

There are a few problems in teaching students who lie in the intersection of "highly intelligent" and "very wealthy". In no particular order:
  • These students would not have been offered entrance if they weren't "complete packages". They are very sharp and very hard-working; they've traveled the world, speak multiple languages, play musical instruments or "sports" (the quotation mark is to indicate the athletes are more in the golf and lacrosse leagues than baseball and football). They were--without having to do more work than they were trained to do--the best at everything they ever attempted. And--by sheer numbers alone--that can no longer be the case. Put 2000 people used to being in the top five on one campus, and the nuts are off the buggy.

  • Some kids take this really well. By some, I mean about 20%. They adjust, learn to take constructive criticism, and have a cheery attitude. And given their natural intelligence and work ethic, that makes them ideal students. Seriously, you couldn't ask for more, and they are the students you rarely see at larger schools (again, just by sheer numbers). But then there are those who internalize every point deducted. They've been perfect their whole lives and now they aren't; they become depressed, stressed, and hyperactive. They are the reasons why every stall in every women's restroom on campus has a flier about bulimia. As an instructor, you feel guilty because you know that it's your assessment of their understanding that is making them "lose it" (for lack of a better term); however, you know that your assessment is correct and so you really just feel sad for these kids. I'm guessing about 30-35% of the student body's in this category. The last category, and also the majority, are those who interpret "I didn't get an A" as "it's not me, it's them." They're the combative ones. The ones that say "Just so you know, I'm an 'A' student" like it's a threat.  The ones that speak to you in ways that--if it were reciprocated--would get you fired in a heartbeat. The ones that make you pray their first spouse takes them to the cleaner because you don't know how to make a voodoo doll.

    At the larger schools, this problem isn't as pronounced. Perhaps it's because not all the students are type-A, A-students to begin with. But they seem more understanding of the fact that "Some of these classes will be hard. And I will not always be the top dog." This doesn't mean that the students don't want to do well. But it means they are more "realistic"; if they see they're performing at the class average, they recognize that that just means they are average. They may not like it, and they frequently will work their butts off to get a "B" or "B+", but they don't take it personally. And they don't take it out on the instructor. They realize, "Hey. I'm just not as good as some of the others at this."
  • Office hours. At the big state school, there may have been a University-approved minimum number of weekly office hours; however, I can guarantee you it wasn't enforced. Many professors were "by appointment only" and they never checked their emails. Or, they'd post office hours, but only show up if you had made an appointment prior. Consequently, if you actually were there, with your door open, during the times you said you'd be there, your students were like kids at Christmas. They would come whether they had just a quick question about one particular section, or major and fundamental questions about the entire course. They WANTED to see their instructor outside class. They were appreciative of ANY time--and they all would mark office hours of the professors they had in their calendars and/or their phones so they knew when to show up.

  • At the current institution, it doesn't matter how many office hours you have. But now, the reason is different. It doesn't matter because first it's significantly harder to get students to come at all. This again probably comes from the fact they're not used to needing help or asking for help, and they're embarrassed because they're clearly a disappointment to the whole world or because they're angry this school with all its money can't hire someone who realizes just how awesome they are. The other reason why the number of office hours doesn't matter is because the students who do come have zero respect for the schedules of their instructors. They will send emails "informing" their instructors that they are "on the way"--whether it's during office hour time or not. They will ask if it's OK to meet right before class, or right after class, or right after THEIR last class (no surprise, they never want to meet BEFORE their first class). And, of course, the INSTRUCTOR'S first/last class is never mentioned or suggested. And the institution recognizes this; my teaching mentor told me the best way to ensure my students respected my time was to work from home as much as possible. 

    The reasons for this again are many. First, the students again probably aren't used to needing help, so they don't realize that help is not always available. Next, they are probably used to instructors bending over backwards to spend any time with them BECAUSE they were the top students (and who wouldn't want to spend more time with their top students?). Again, as an instructor, you feel bad and want to accommodate; ANY academian has had a moment where she realizes she's not the top dog, that she's struggling. And it's a hard pill to swallow. You want to be available to your students; but you cannot pander to them. And letting them trample over your life and dictate your schedule is pandering.
  • Parents. In seven years of teaching at the large state school, you want to guess how many parents contacted me? Zero. In seven years. Hundreds to thousands of students and I heard from zero parents. My department head would probably hear from about a dozen a semester--which at the time I thought was insane. But again…24 a year out of 40-something thousand students? That's practically nothing.

  • The new faculty orientation at the current institution scared the crap out of me. Multiple talks were given on ways to deal with parents. We were told to expect to hear from about 10 parents a year. Maybe more or less, depending on your grade distribution. You would think, thanks to FERPA, this wouldn't be a discussion (or at least it would be short). Even if biologically and emotionally and financially we are talking about their child, legally we are talking about an 18+ year-old and therefore a legal adult. It is against the law for me to discuss the grades and specific academic performances of any of my students with their parents. There are no exceptions. It is the law. There are certain schools that offer a form students can sign so parents can call the REGISTRAR and get access to grade reports; however, as an instructor, you still can't really tell the parents much of anything.

    But try telling THEM that.

    To some extent (and to as much extent as someone who is childless and makes less than a year's tuition can have), I get it. You're paying a lot of money and you want to know why you're not seeing the "results" you'd like. But that's something you need to take up with your KID. If you really believe the school is worth the above-average cost, and if you think the school itself is above-average in academic rigor, then you should believe the school is capable of making above-average decisions in hiring. You shouldn't feel the need to question the intellectual authority of the faculty. And when you challenge a professor's assessment of your child's performance, that is exactly what you're doing. The professor has the PhD, not you. The professor has the published work and the years of college teaching experience, not you. You're 100% correct that you know your kid better as a human being; however, the professor's job is to judge your child's competency in ONE subject, not their worth as a human being. Go to the bathroom and read a flyer. This is like paying $60,000 for your child's wedding, and blaming the caterer for any ensuing marital problems. The money went to the child and was effectively a "gift". The child's the one you should be speaking to harshly, not the instructor.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Know Shit

A knock-on effect of the ethical challenges facing DeKalb County politicos has been a recent War of Word. And that word is: transparency.

One contender to the throne that until recently had been kept warm by Ms. Boyer is pledging an open checkbook register. OK. A sitting Councilman with a deserved reputation for informing citizens wherever possible felt compelled to re-iterate in a personal testimony. When ARE the next elections? A former City Councilman has suggested that if Dunwoody would only throw open the kimono the world would be delighted at how transparent this City really is. Really?

Perhaps not so much.

But to be fair there really isn't a great example for Dunwoody or it's citizens to learn by as opacity is the first tool all politicians use to manipulate whatever truths they are forced to concede. As a public service (as you well know, we at The Other Dunwoody are all about public service) let's look at things that would make Dunwoody an exemplar of transparency:

  • You MUST be proactive. This is not only the cornerstone of any transparent organization it is required to establish and maintain trust with stakeholders.  This must become such a part of the City's DNA that it would never need to respond to FOI request because the information is already in the public domain. 
  • You MUST be prompt. Data and documents must be published within 24 hours of trigger event (e.g., signing a contract) or acquisition of data or documents.
  • Publish data in machine readable form. Alternative publications are fine, but when data are involved machine readable is table stakes. 
  • Publish "easy data" quickly and frequently. Easy data are readily acquired or delivered, usually electronically and require no curation or redaction. An example would be call detail records on all City land lines and cell phones. And of course this includes "the checkbook."
  • Publish curated data on a routine basis but as frequently as possible. These are data that require some level of redaction with a good example being traffic citations where it may not be appropriate to publish some of the offender information.
  • Publication of triggered event information sets must be comprehensive. A triggered event is something like a successful contract negotiation at which point all related information (memo's, meeting agenda/minutes, call records, etc.) are published as a package even if those data and documents that may have already been published.
  • Routine internal operational reports must be published at regular intervals which at the very least should be 7 calendar days before City Council meetings. These reports should include internal staff reports as well as work-related correspondence with vendors. 
This level (which TOD considers a minimum level) of transparency is not supported by existing government processes and information infrastructure and will require some upgrades in both areas. IT needs to put in place systems that automate the acquisition, process and publication of data such as Call Detail Records and email metadata (SMTP headers). They will also be required to archive emails (if they do not already--no IRS email kerfuffles allowed) and to maintain strict version control of all City documents. Activities must be managed as cohesive units with data and documents collected and published in full at the appropriate milestones. For example, when a grant proposal is submitted that proposal and all documents leading up to it (emails, meeting minutes, status reports, Call records, draft proposals, etc.) are published to the public as a single module.  Similarly, negotiations with current or future vendors would result in publication of all related data and documents the minute the deal is sealed. 

Because we can already hear the folks at City Hall gagging and sputtering something about "we wouldn't even know where to begin" as a part of this particular public service effort we'll get the ball rolling with just a few of our favorite items that should be in the public domain:
  • The ever-popular "Check Register"
  • All Call Detail Records
  • Traffic Citations
  • All radar sign speed records (mobile and fixed signs)
  • Grant proposals and all related documents associated with each individual grant effort
  • All records on unsolicited grants (the Lenco Bearcat leaps to mind)
  • All data and records between the City and subordinate groups including the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Citizen Committees
  • All data and records within the aforementioned subordinate groups
  • All internal status reports (and there should be quite a few)
  • All records of cold-call solicitations (who accepted the call, how did the effort progress)--a perfect example is the negotiations with Tree Top Quest, a poster child for opacity
Some folks (most likely at City Hall) will complain that this is just too much work--too costly. But frankly that is a lie. The fact is that most of these data and documents are created and managed electronically and the cost to implement processes supporting transparency are quite small. But it does beg the question: if transparency is such an important thing that politicians will run on it or stand by it then isn't this small cost acceptable? Or maybe they'd just prefer that we don't know shit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Expensive Words

It may have been a cut-and-paste by the ubiquitous Staff and it may have seemed expedient at the time but these words and their (ab)use is likely to cost Dunwoody taxpayers a pretty penny:
The purpose and intent of the City Council in establishing the R-100 (Single-family Residential) District is as follows:
(a) To provide for the protection of neighborhoods within the City where lots have a minimum area of fifteen thousand (15,000) square feet;
(b) To provide for infill development in neighborhoods having fifteen thousand (15,000) square foot lots in a manner compatible with existing development
(c) To assure that the uses and structures authorized in the R-100 (Single-family Residential) District are those uses and structures designed to serve the housing, recreational, educational, religious, and social needs of the neighborhood. 
This comes from the Dunwoody Zoning Ordinance and is the statement of purpose and intent for R-100 zoning which covers residential lots under one acre (by implication of the other R-x00 codes) but over 15,000 square feet. Generally in law a legislative statement of purpose and intent is used during court proceedings to clarify gaps or vagueness in situations where the letter of the actual law (or code as in this case) does not clearly apply or convey the legislative intent.

In the situation with the Dunwoody Club Forest decision which is political at best and wrong at the very least a judge will most likely be called on to assess whether the Dunwoody City Council followed their own intent.  They have not. Council have stated, in the code, that their intent is to provide for, not deny, infill development. The winners of the debate as it stands today invoke the "in a manner compatible with existing development" clause, but the reality is that two very nice homes on generous, over 15,000 square foot lots, is not incompatible with surrounding nice, but older homes on similarly sized lots.

And the judge may consider whether the Dunwoody City Council has been consistent. They have not. If their intended use of this clause is to prevent "incompatible development" what say they to the development going on right now at the pipe farm? These appear incompatible with existing development as all of the neighboring, existing developments are apartments. In this case "consistent development" would be apartments as had been planned before the real estate bubble burst but which are instead, thru direct City interference, being replaced with single family residences.  Not compatible. Not consistent. Not likely a judge will look the other way.

The fact is the Dunwoody City Council has (ab)used zoning language they approved to do what they want, when they want and in a punitive fashion. We should all be concerned about the costs of these actions. Not just in dollars, but in integrity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Corrupting Farce

Much has been said of Boyer's recent career implosion but a common thread seems to be "the system itself is fundamentally broken" and that as it stands it is a powerful corrupting system that would defeat the best of us. A lot of folks believe this and further believe that Boyer's slide into the abyss is proof positive.

Clearly folks in daVille are not buying any of this. How say? Well, if you really did believe this would you take one of your finest, your most highly regarded local luminaries and push them through this ethical meat grinder? And if you did would you not expect the same putrid sausage we always get coming out the other end?

The only way to make any sense of this is to conclude either that quite a few folks do not believe the system is all corrupting or they have found the one candidate immune to the corrosive agents running thru DeKalb politics like ebola in Africa. THEY have found the Saint George fitted out to slay our dragons. Really? Isn't that pretty much what all supporters say of  THEIR candidate? And is it not true that without fail we have caught these white knights wallowing in their own mud?

You do not put a prime cut thru the sausage grinder and profit well from it. It seems like smart people (and we are smart, aren't we?) would fix the real problem instead of using this failed system to destroy our best and brightest.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Where's Waldo?

Can you tell this guy

 from this guy?




Don't feel bad.


Neither could these two guys.




Thursday, September 4, 2014

Forced March To Citihood

A couple of thugs down at the Gold Dome have started flexing their muscle by giving an ultimatum to the Lakeside, Briarcliff and Tucker citihood teams:
Set your city borders by date certain or we will
We will skip over the arrogance of the ultimatum as arrogance is one of the main ingredients of any ultimatum and cut to the chase. Why is it considered a fait accompli that there must be any new city at all, or that any, even if desired by someone other than politicos, would be viable? Of course none of that matters as the powerful and politically connected will have their way no matter who must pay.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fitting Tribute To City Founders

We need one of these located at the entrance to City Hall as a fitting memorial to what got this City started* and remind everyone what they are about to encounter as they enter this Smart City Hall.


And as the region's upcoming City wannabes start their zombie-like drive to citihood the more normal citizens should ponder just what kind of people are about to control their lives.




* Notice the bird atop the back right neck and appreciate the symbolism.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Old Hickory House Collapses

Financially that is.

Juxtapose this with one certain County Commissioner's office staunching the flow of P-Card money and you have to wonder if this is a coincidence. Will others establishments soon fall?

Monday, August 25, 2014

CADtastrophe

Unless you're new to this blog you're pretty aware of the ongoing Dunwoody quagmire known as the "CAD-to-CAD Interface." If you are new this blog you really, Really, REALLY want to click here now. And if you went to the latest City Council meeting you were treated to our local elected thespians putting on another episode of As The Stomach Churns.

The theme of this episode was "Why We Will Sign A New Contract When CAD-to-CAD Remains Broken." Our original multimillion dollar contract is up and the new multiyear multimillion dollar contract is recommended by Staff for approval. Some on Council suggested using this opportunity for leverage over (at least one of) the CAD operators. Staff would have none of that and instead offered a rusty knife that others on Council used to figuratively hack off their scrotum and deliver their balls on a silver platter. Too good an offer to pass up they say. Too good indeed.

But to whom do they offer this City's finest mountain oysters? That is an interesting study in modern political organizational structure. Chattcomm is a totally opaque organization that seems to serve little purpose but to provide jobs for City Managers' friends and family as it is these folks, from shareholding Cities, who appoint the Chattcomm directors. It is worthy of note that the directors are not listed on the Chattcomm website and being a pass-thru corporation they skim whatever they want off the top as they watch our dollars go by.

But that's OK because outside of cash-flow skimming and friends and family opportunities Chattcomm is little more that a front for IXP, the company that actually provides the service. But Chattcomm does provide that one degree of separation that insulates corporate cronies from the ire of the citizenry who pay their bonuses. Of course that is a service to IXP and not to us.

While IXP is supposedly retained on a service-based contract the recent CAD-to-CAD disaster has demonstrated changing vendors is not even as simple as moving from Microsoft Word to LibreOffice. Mayor and Council have seconded that emotion by declaring that we dare not threaten to continue with the existing contract's continuance clause lest Chattcomm dump us. "Then where would we be? We can't go back to DeKalb." At this point the knife had been wielded.

Instead what was suggested was that we sign on for another five years and then we can use the "six month notice exit clause" to buy time for "contingency planning." WTF? This City's Staff and Elected Officials have had damn near two years for "contingency planning", something they are either incapable of or willfully intend not to do.

But is this really nothing more than simple cronyism? Or is there more in play? Perhaps Mayor and Council are building a case for buying a stake in Chattcomm. If that is based on the notion that ownership will somehow address the CADtastrophe that contradicts their current excuse that Chattcomm cannot fix the problem as it lies with the other CAD vendor.  Or perhaps they are building a case for a Dunwoody Fire Department which would eliminate the need for CAD-to-CAD altogether. Only problem with that is there is at least one city in DeKalb that uses Chattcomm but has found no existing need for CAD-to-CAD and they do not have their own Fire Department either. One of them is right and one is wrong and it is hard to side with the Smart Team that has pissed away so much money on something that still doesn't work.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

War With Drugs

It was recently reported that some Amtrak employees were acting as confidential informants for the DEA funneling passenger information to our government's drug overlords on the sly. Upon learning of this executives at Amtrak were furious. Just not for the reasons you might think.

Amtrak has always been a Jekyll-Hyde organization claiming to be either an independent business operation or a government bureaucracy whenever the situation best suits their agenda. In this case they wanted to be more government and less business. That's because what incensed them about the CI's on their payroll wasn't that it compromised passenger privacy and in so doing impugned the organization's reputation and damaged its brand--oh no--what had them upset was that the DEA did not come to them with an IGA--inter governmental agreement. Why is that such a big deal? Because had the DEA entered into an IGA that would have given Amtrak a portion of the money from DEA assets confiscated from Amtrak passengers.

What we have done in this country is allowed the government, at all levels and in all areas, to declare a made-up war on a social calamity, create criminals where there were none before and create a revenue stream that would make Mexican Cartels jealous. Government confiscation of Americans' assets has become big business and as everyone in business knows business must either grow or die. This one is growing like a cancer.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Setting Expectations

While there is the theory of unmet expectations and the injustice of low expectations what we are witnessing in Missouri is people meeting expectations. Just not the expectations we would hope for.

By militarizing thieir police forces governments, large and small, are clearly setting the expectation that mere citizens are untrusted combatants. We are the[ir] enemy. It is not surprising to find that mere citizens react like combatants when treated like combatants yet these police statists use that behaviour for a post-facto justification of their inciteful tactics and policies.

There is some hope.

The ongoing tragedy in Missouri is peppered with such gross missteps by the local LEOs that is becoming clear that we should no more be giving these folks this kind of fire power than we should ISIS. And it is by no means certain which group intends to do the average American more harm. This has been so blatant that it has gotten the attention of politicians across the country and on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps now someone will investigate this ill conceived plan to militarize U.S. police forces and pull the plug on this insanity.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New City 101

What starts our as something small but intense:


Grows into something bigger and potentially more dangerous than you thought possible:


Take care. This all happened in Dunwoody.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carts And Horses

Well over three years have passed since this city (AKA, Hutmacher and his Staff) identified the need for automated CAD-to-CAD integration and rapidly closing in on three years since it was supposed to be operational. It isn't and Hutmacher has gone on to much greener pastures (which includes appointing a ChattComm board member) and has left us holding his bag. Who's the douche now? Given his rather pathetic track record with technology it is not surprising that this project is way over on  time and budget. After all, it does require actual work rather than merely cutting a P.O. for your buddies.

And it has gotten worse. So bad in fact that Staff recommended that Staff be removed from the hot seat and instead Staff would hire a consultant. Heat and kitchen but let's not mix metaphors. This should have been done in the first place or, as former Councilman Ross pointed out, the City could have taken IXP up on their $120,000.00 offer to make this happen. For whatever reason Staff didn't like that. But then, as now, Staff leads the Mayor and Council around by their shoat rings so only now do we have technical help. Because now Staff says so.

This rather recently retained consultant has done many of the things, like requirements analyses and technology assessments, that should have been done before any development plan was penned. It gets better. Though Staff long ago identified the NEED our consultants are now assessing whether or not an automated CAD-to-CAD interface is even feasible:
"Given the recent transition to Kimball for project management, we are still diagnosing the feasibility of project completion."
Perhaps they should investigate the feasibility of project cancellation. We are three years late and the budget and schedule are out of control and Staff still doesn't know if the project is feasible.  How smart is that?