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's highest rating (A Plus) for transparency.



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


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.