Thursday, July 31, 2014

InterWeb Alzheimer's

The European Union seems a bit scatter-brained of late. They would like you to be as well.

As we move thru the interweb age to a world where our intellect is crowd-sourced we find that the web doesn't forget as well as humans. Folks in the EU would like to fix that. Sort of. See, they don't want the interweb to forget, the just want Google to forget where things are. Alzheimer's for the interweb.

It works like this.

Suppose you are a now famous and powerful politician with an indiscretion in your distant past--something along the lines of driving your Citroen 2CV off a bridge, a nasty accident made all the more tragic because your mistress drowned in that lightweight but non-bouyant car. Should have been driving a Beetle. Anyway, this event was plastered all over Le Monde just as one might expect given that you come from a well known family who made their fortune in pastries, donuts in particular.

But that was then and this is now. Now you are a powerful member of the socialist party and have done many, many great things for your country and fellow citizens. Can't exactly remember what they are but you're pretty sure they are really important. But this interweb thing is a real problem because every time someone does an interweb search for your name the first five pages of results are about the wreck, pictures of a drenched and besotted younger you and more recently morgue photos of THAT girl, what was her name...yes, Marie Josephine (sorry, had to google it).  And you think that is just plain wrong and since you are now a powerful politician what you think counts for a lot.

What you'd like to do is not only expunge the unflattering record but rewrite it in glowing terms, but realistically you know that is not going to fly. In fact, you're all but certain you cannot have the records actually hidden away. But what you can do is make that nasty ole google-thingy forget where that stuff is located. So you trot your ass down to the EU and you push thru rules that require internet search engines to forget where things are. But only those things you don't like. While you cannot make all those things go away the interweb search engine is our window to your world and therefore you can control which things we can find to look at.

Pretty sweet, huh? Just like a donut. Warm and sticky and missing something in the middle, it is that petite je ne sais quoi that makes your life seem so much better than it ever was.

Monday, July 28, 2014

We're Walking. We're Walking.

There are pedestrian friendly places and then there are pedestrian centric places. With the former you have a pretty good chance of crossing the street without getting run down. With the latter as you approach the curb at a marked crossing auto traffic actually stops while you cross. There is a town that would best be categorized as one of the latter within a reasonable distance of daVille, but we're not going to tell you where*.

But we will tell you what it is like and offer a few reasons why Dunwoody will never be like this.

It is a town, not a city with a population of around 12,000, so about one fourth that of Dunwoody. It covers approximately 6 square miles putting it just below one half of Dunwoody's 13. The town was founded in the early to mid 1800's celebrating its sesquicentennial before Dunwoody was envisioned. Except in the outer fringes bordering a lake the houses are older with ample yards and blessed with trees that were planted before any of the current residents, no matter how old, were even born. A tall building downtown is two stories and while some residences might reach three it is a stretch as you'd have to count either the basement or the attic or both. The downtown definition of "apartment" would translate here as "house for rent" and multi-tenant rentals top out at "duplex."

The approach to the town from the nearby highway requires visitors to traverse not one but two roundabouts. And these are not the sprawling wastes of space we see in Roswell but are double lane (in the circle) yet quite compact. This facilitates pedestrian traffic by keeping crosswalks close by. It also gives visitors a gentle clue about priorities in this little town. The highway also separates the newer lakeside area from the older, more historic town center.

While Dunwoody has Perimeter Center to fill its coffers this little town has a real Main Street with many small shops and restaurants in buildings that come right to the sidewalk so by and large the locals actually pay for their own town. Where there is parking it is parallel or slant-in and free of charge. For most businesses along Main Street, particularly restaurants, outdoor dining is behind the building between the building and parking at the rear (where most parking is located). Some restaurants do not have a street front presence at all and while this makes them harder to find they are well worth the effort. Like Dunwoody this town hosts a college but one that is significantly smaller than Dunwoody's Perimeter campus and is a significant component of downtown. Also like Dunwoody it appears to be relatively free of homeless bums and blessed with enough Mexican labour to keep the place neat and clean.

This little town grew organically over an extended period of time. It is mature, even old. Where we start our pontifications with "I've lived in Dunwoody for X-number of years" it is not uncommon for adults in this town to be fourth or fifth generation and they generally do not feel the need to brag about it. It is their town, their birthplace and their ancestral home. Dunwoody is a neo-bettendorf with a better name and a serious identity crisis.

It is, as most small Southern towns, built around a single dominant industry. People who gathered around that industry joined together sharing common interest and formed the town. Dunwoody is the byproduct of the greed of suburban transients whose anger was born of sending tax money southward and receiving less than we felt our due in return.

But this is about walkability.

The little town has a relatively flat aspect. While this is the South and heat is unavoidable, mature trees provide ample shade (which does nothing for the humidity). Sidewalks are where they need to be and go from curb to storefront on Main. Streets that would be four lanes of traffic in Dunwoody are two lane with parallel parking at the curbs which are then separated from traffic by bike lanes. Pedestrian centric goes foot in stirrup with bike friendly.

Crosswalks are well marked and never more than a city block apart--if that far. On each side is a small pole with a container for orange flags. Should a pedestrian be worried that they are not seen they take a flag on one side and deposit it in the container on the other side after completing their journey.  You are your own crossing guard but the fact is you don't really need to be.

Drivers making a left turn are required to yield to crossing pedestrians. And the crosswalk light that would cause this to happen turns to "walk" at the same time as the left turn signal goes green and if there are enough pedestrians or they take long enough to cross then you're just not going to make that turn.

You're probably wondering how this can be anything but Redneck Frogger. Perhaps you think it is a form of that Southern Malady that causes folks to pull over for a funeral procession. Maybe it is something in the water. It is actually much simpler. This town has two speed limits: slow and slower. To be more precise some areas sport a blazing fast 25 MPH speed limit while most areas, including Main Street are set at 20 MPH. And these limits are universally observed and no one seems to believe that their horn is directly connected to the gas pedal of the car ahead of them. The chicken-egg dilemma is whether the limit is observed due to diligent enforcement or if observance obviated the need for enforcement. In any event you don't see speeders so you don't see them pulled over.

You could say this town is an "existence proof" that true pedestrian communities can be built. Perhaps. But not here.

In Dunwoody the flags would probably be red but it wouldn't matter as they would quickly be stolen. In this little town folks don't lock their doors or chain their bikes. One renter lost his keys and rather than get replacements simply left his doors unlocked. For the last six months of his lease.

There are 25 MPH postings in Dunwoody and not just at key hours in a school zone. But outside of those school zones these limits are never enforced or observed. They are rarely enforced in school zones. The simple fact of the matter is Dunwoody would never tolerate the perceived cost in time and convenience required to achieve what this little town has. Consider the public comments should someone suggest that Chamblee Dunwoody and Mount Vernon in daVille suffer a 20 MPH speed limit. Three minutes is not enough.

This town is not a product of the bureaucratic fa├žade we call Complete Streets and was not built by Federal grants according to a distant, detached, dictatorial social architect's blueprint. Instead this is a cohesive community willing to accept the costs in time and money to make a pedestrian centric community a reality with a long term commitment to keep it that way. And it is the citizens who for the most part pick up the tab. This is not in Dunwoody DNA.

This town is nearly heaven on earth for those who live there--as close to Mayberry as  you're likely to find.** If we're being truly honest and self-aware all of us in the Wold know we'd rather watch Mayberry on TV than actually live there.

* This unanimous decision was reached by the TOD editorial board with almost no discussion whatsoever. To a person the board is "American by birth and Southern by the grace of God" and have just about had it with many of the finest places in the Southland being ruined by carpetbaggin' Yankees and we'll have no part in the ongoing destruction of our homeland. 
** We admit that we have not done an exhaustive search. But we're working on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sleeping Thru Class

Researchers have finally proven what every parent has always known: children who do not get enough sleep do not learn as well as those students who've had a good night's rest. Furthermore their research shows that naps just don't cut it. What students really need for peak performance is a solid eight to ten hours of high REM sleep.

With researchers characterizing America's childhood sleep depravation a crisis the White House leapt into action. Obama has directed the Education Department to craft a pilot plan to expand some existing schools to create public boarding schools and is redirecting funds to provide grants to kick-start these efforts. The grants are expected to cover all startup costs and increased operational costs for the first three years and while the money will originate with the federal Department it will be allocated by each state's Department of Education.

Initially these schools are expected to operate where identified need is greatest but a spokesman for Arne Duncan made it clear that "this affects more than just traditional at-risk children--this is an issue that cuts across all segments of America," adding "we expect these programs to take hold throughout each and every state." Further comments indicate that the DOE sees this program as imperative to fostering a well educated population that can support civic engagement and become productive members of society who can actively engage in our democratic society.

When asked how this might impact parents the spokesman replied "parents are welcome at all school events that are open to the public and will certainly maintain visitation at most holidays and key events like birthdays. Furthermore all religious events, like confirmations and bar mitzvahs will be held offsite with parents attending by invitation." He made it clear that this was in the best interests of the student and well within the purview of public schools in America: "when we find children being abused we protect them, when hungry we feed them and when they come to use too tired to learn we will take them in and ensure they have adequate rest. That's what public schools are for."

Supporters of the program tout the educational advantages and point out that there is no cost to the participating schools and suggest that local systems would be foolish to walk away from Federal grant money. Though few in number some outspoken critics see this as an unnecessary expansion that will overburden public schools that are already taxed to the limit.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Like A Trolling Stone

A recent photoessay in the esteemed Rolling Stone Magazine is an attempt to bring sister publication Jane's weaponry related information to the masses but sadly misses its target. To help clear up matters we at The Other Dunwoody would like to play "Good Gun" to RSM's "Bad Gun" by providing some concrete examples of guns that we (and all other sane individuals) will allow you to possess. To assist the average gun-nut we will provide an acceptable example as well as examples that have been modified by gun-slinging anarchists in ways that make them wholly unacceptable.

It is summertime so let's get started with the community pool favorite--the water pistol. Acceptable:

Isn't that just the cutest thing? Looks like a fish that spits--like that archer fish you've seen on the National Geographic channel.


Wow, what can we say.  Just too damn realistic -- this is known as the "appearance test" which this squirter fails in epic fashion. Furthermore it looks like a scary gun. Huge magazine...semi-automatic...Darth Vader black...all bad things.  Just keep in mind: if it looks like something a LEO might have, on the beat or in full SWAT regalia, then you should not have anything that even looks like it.

Also, under no circumstances should a water pistol be loaded with booze and shot into anyone's mouth no matter who at the frat party thinks it is a good idea. That is one of the few occasions where a real gun is useful if only to improve the gene pool as we're convinced that only stump water drinking southerners would do anything so stupid in the first place. And who needs them anyway?

Now we come to the dart gun. Remember those? With the little suction cup on the end that wouldn't stick to the TV even if you licked them? Acceptable:

Just like we all remember.


Don't let those pink tips fool you, this is one menacing assault weapon lookalike. Are you seeing the beginnings of a trend here?

A modern derivative of that ole time favorite is the nerf gun which launches (we don't like to say "shoots") harmless little bits of foam. Good fun for all the family. Acceptable:

There's lots to like about this sweet little toy. First it is brightly colored with "Nerf" plastered across the side minimizing the chance your little darlin' will get herself shot impersonating a "Bad Guy[TM]" and make for entertaining courtroom drama should a 'roid ragin' officer knock her off anyway. An additional advantage is the fact that it mimics a revolver and as we all know that is not a semi-Automatic. And that's a Good Thing.


Seriously folks. A machine gun? Can't we simply explain the origins of "the whole nine yards" to the little nippers? Do we really need manipulatives?

Then there is the hometown favorite--the rubber band gun. Acceptable:

This is by far our favorite. Easy to operate--so simple a child can use it. Intuitively obvious in setup. Excepting for thalidomide babies we recommend this for children of all ages. For those and folks who just must handle an object we prefer this:

Dirt simple and downright pretty.

While we could pick on the machine gun or gatling gun versions of the rubber band gun that would be too easy and quite frankly obvious. Clearly those are instruments of the devil. But what we do find unacceptable that you might find enlightening is:

While this is quite similar in appearance to the acceptable version of the rubber band gun this is designed to fire multiple times in succession without a manual reload operation. This clearly crosses a line and we feel it is impossible to justify this level of firepower.

And finally the venerable cap pistol. Acceptable:

These guns depict a limited capacity revolver of questionable accuracy (and who really wants to encourage accuracy?) and is equipped with a red barrel extension clearly indicating this is a cap pistol. This is for operator safety should they be playing cowboys and indians (politically incorrect but a matter for another blog) in near proximity of one of our paramilitary peace officers who tend to shoot anything that moves, even shadows.


In spite of the barrel indicator this fails the "appearance test" as it just looks like a weapon of mass destruction. Again, who needs such firepower?

And absolutely unacceptable:

This is not to be confused with a cap pistol in spite of the misleading name of percussion cap pistol. This is a potent firearm capable of dropping an opponent at twenty paces (ten apiece) with a success rate of at least one in four. If you own one of these you should hand it over the next time your local APC patrols the neighborhood but for safety's sake please wear only your underwear and make sure you keep your hands held high. It makes for a cleaner center of mass shot minimizing unintended fratricide and there won't be a hole in the suit they bury you in.

So there you have it. An everyday guide to common sense gun control.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Two Big To Fail

The shakers and movers trying to shake and move their way to the cities of Briarcliff and Lakeside have decided to form a conga line and dance down to the Gold Dome to jointly promote their merged effort to form the city of Cliffside.

Arrogant? Yes. These two groups have been sparring over prime business tax revenues as if they are the only two that can lay claim when in fact several key pieces really belong to Tucker. Or so would say an objective outside observer. As would almost anyone who has lived around these parts for a couple of decades.

Greedy? Absolutely. By joining forces they hope to (and will) force Tucker (against THEIR community will) to cede prime revenue generating properties because all these crusaders for local control simply cannot afford local control. At least not on their own. They need tax revenue from non-voting businesses to pay for what they will then call "Their City." These folks are part of Romney's forty seven percent--takers, not makers.

Bullying? Without a doubt. And they will bring in their back pocket muscle--State Reps and Senators--to ensure that resistance is minimal and easily steamrolled. Tucker will be eviscerated and left with little choice but to sink into decline or be annexed and lose its identity.

And that will be a great loss since of the three communities it is Tucker which has the most cohesive, longstanding sense of community. It is so strong that newcomers are often surprised to learn that Tucker isn't already a city. Now the forces of greed and arrogance will conspire to ensure it never is.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Raise The Minimum Wage

We need a higher minimum wage in the United States but not for the reason you may think.

The real problem is that millions of illegal aliens are flowing thru our porous border attracted to "a better life" which in practice means "a job paying at or below minimum wage." Illegals are drawn into working in fields, fast food and service jobs and generally are treated to near-slave conditions. To staunch this flow of instant criminals we need to raise the minimum wage.

You might be wondering how a pay increase would make the Rio Grande biathlon less attractive but it is really quite simple. They come here for the jobs and significant increase in the minimum wage will price those jobs out of the market.

Then who flip our burgers and pick our berries?

Robots will.

We live in an age where an internet search company is making cars that drive themselves and aircraft are pilotless. You'd think we could make a machine that picks strawberries. Since the good ole US of A has been behind the rest of the industrialized world in minimum wage we simply have not had the need for low-wage replacing automation to the degree other countries have.

Japan has vending machines with face recognition that offer suggestions based on gender and body type. Mickey Dees uses kiosks in high-wage Europe to replace ordering and cashier duties. Can a smart phone app be far behind? Amsterdam sports vending machines for hot foods including burgers and fries.

Processing is increasingly automated. Again Europe leads the way. The Germans developed a re-hang robot that automates the process of moving chickens from the kill line to the eviscerating line which remains a manual job in the US. The brits are using robotic milking machines to address farm worker shortages and to move labour up the value chain.

And it goes all the way back to the dirty end of the supply chain. The EU sports a program, cRops (clever robots for crops) currently targeting high value crops. In Salinas California they have automated lettuce thinning. Research in Europe and the US are exploring the use of computer vision to ensure that crops are picked at peak freshness. Others detect pests. Big data is going down to the square metre with micro-management of water, fertilizer and pesticide application. Wine grapes are being picked by machine. The world has an automated cucumber harvester.

So let's raise the minimum wage and give automation a sporting chance at improving all our lives.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

HYPEned Security

The Adminitstration (that would be the United States Executive Branch) issued a notice to all air carriers that passengers on flights to the U.S. must examine battery powered electronic devices to ensure that they are indeed what they appear to be and not a bomb. Apparently they believe that terrorist might be hiding bombs inside a laptop rather than simply shorting the Li-ion battery igniting the small fire-bomb that all laptops come with as a standard "feature."

So now everyone not only has to undress and get a body image (too bad the government won't pick up the tab for MRI's) but you also have to prove your phone/laptop/ipod is charged and functional.

Or maybe not.

Suppose, hypothetically speaking, that you are in Europe, in an EU country and are heading back home. Due to a variety of issues you do NOT have a direct flight which at booking time you may have considered suboptimal. Au contraire mon frere.

As a pretend mental exercise consider what might happen if you change planes in another EU country. Hmm...sounds interesting. Hypothetically speaking of course.

You might board a flight from about Brussels to Frankfurt?...yeah that looks good...and it turns out that your boarding pass is your ID. After all you did authenticate yourself to get it AND you are staying within the European Union--at least as far as BRU security knows. You pass security at BRU (which online resources indicate could take as long as fifteen minutes) and enter the secured area, find the gate and board your flight to Frankfurt.

After disembarking in Franfurt you are in the secured area and go to the gate for your flight to the Good Ole' You Ess of Eh. And you wait. That's why they call it a layover. The plane begins boarding and at the jetway they check...that you have your passport. 'Cuz without your passport they would have to fly your dumb ass all the way back and hope they can get the money out of you for the extra flight.

So there you are. On a flight home with absolutely no pre-boarding check that your cell phone ain't da bomb.

Hypothetically speaking of course.

If the United States wants to ensure that these bombs don't make it into the U.S. why don't they just check at the U.S. immigration and customs? If they think it will keep bombs off the planes they really need to examine the aforementioned Li-Ion issue.

If the U.S. thinks this is so critical why don't they do it themselves? And pay for it. And go face to face with the public and tell them this is being done "because we say so."

That's NOT hypothetical.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Plating Up

When challenging the fact that there are APS third grade students who do not know the alphabet the sometimes spokesman for DeKalb County Schools shot back with "it's not the teachers' job to teach the alphabet it's the parents'." Setting aside that the fact itself is not even faint praise for APS' K-2 remediation efforts this is quite an interesting retort.

One explanation is that it is just a flippant remark made in the heat of a discussion. But there really was no discussion. Furthermore this particular mantra of "it's the parents" has been adopted by Thurmond to deflect any criticism of his bureaucracy. Not his fault--it's the parents who aren't stepping up.

And it seems very reasonable to insist that parents step to the plate. Or is it? What if we went a little more literal with that and demanded that parents teach the alphabet...perhaps over a hot bowl of alphabet soup? Have you ever wondered how it is that parents of children receiving free lunch also get food stamps? One of these clearly is not working. So why don't we insist that parents on SNAP actually use our money to feed their kids?

You won't find much support for that in Thurmond's educrat cronies because that would mean they would lose money. Every one of those free lunches comes with funding and knock on effects based on poverty are not easily dismissed either.

So Thurmond, his spokesman and those like them have created a very distorted world of public education where it is the parents' responsibility to teach and the teachers' responsibility to feed.

Still think public education can be fixed?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dead Letter

Do you have email? Of course you do. If your laptop or smartphone is stolen do you lose all your emails? Of course you don't.

Why not?

Because this is the 21st century. These days it is only a copy of an email that is stored on your computer if it is even stored there at all. How can you tell? It's easy. Can you get to your inbox from a computer AND your smartphone? Can you access your email from a library computer? Of course you can. That's because all your emails are stored on an email server somewhere way over on the other side of the internet. And backed up.

That's the way things work in the 21st century.

The IRS doesn't want you to know this. The IRS wants you to believe that all their executives' emails are stored in only one place. On their laptop hard drives. And they want you to believe there are no other copies and no backups. And they want you to believe they lost a large number of emails that pose a very real threat to their  bureaucracy.

Do you believe?