Thursday, December 31, 2015

When All Else Fails...

...lower your standards.

The good folks running education in neighboring South Carolina have made enormous strides in upping graduation rates, often approaching 90%. How did they do this? Did they steal a page from the APS playbook and encourage failing students to withdraw into a private school? Not at all. They just started handing out credits and diplomas.

When it comes to educators it is just as easy as turning a knob.

How were these fine educators exposed? Well, even in South Carolina you need to perform on the SAT or ACT to actually use that high school credential to get into college. On those tests these pitiable children, lied to by their teachers, by and large did not pass both the verbal and math sections of the ACT. In one school, touting an 85% graduation rate, not a single graduate passed either section.

And don't kid yourself that this is just South Carolina. The Feds are all in with Every Child Succeeds. Georgia has taken it to a new level mandating that the University System up their graduation rates. Given that in public schools, K-12 and college, there is no accountability-not in the classroom, not in the administration, not in the Boards of Education and not in the Board of Regents-Georgia is willfully creating a system of diploma mills. One feeding the other.

You probably are wondering why the government, our elected officials, would undermine our public education system. Pretty simple really-corporate relocations. Georgia is getting corporate relo-s but we're also losing some to Alabama and South Carolina. Part of the table stakes is "an educated and trained workforce." Fortunately for the state government and all our educators it doesn't have to be real--sort of like downtown crime, "we want people to FEEL safe when they come downtown." And corporate America is jiggy with it too. They started the ball rolling with "Master's in Computer Science, or FOREIGN EQUIVALENT" opening the door for less that scrupulous foreign education systems/governments to pump out credentialed, but often unqualified, holders of "Foreign Equivalents." Companies knew there was no equivalence but it WAS cheaper. The CEO of NCR had a brief encounter with reality commenting about their next relo to Tech Square when he said he really wanted access to the Tech's programming talent. NCR needs programmers from ITT, not Masters in Computer Science from Tech.

Is there anything anyone can do to prevent government and business interests from pushing a pliable education system into diploma mill status?

There is only one organization in America that can put an end to this - US News and World Report. Recently they adjusted their metrics to account for situations where grad students are filling the teaching roles of PhD wielding professors. At least one major R1 in Georgia has responded by hiring a significant number of non-tenured, PhD instructors. They are readily available because academia turns out several hundred more PhDs per year than they can otherwise absorb--they practically litter the job market. The non-tenure status (probably a good idea in general) means easy-hire-easy-fire in the event USN&WR pivots to some other criteria, say research metrics. They will, they always have.

What we need USN&WR to pivot to is remediation. Sufficient demerits for remediation will eliminate it from our R1 universities in order for them to maintain their ratings. This will  apply back pressure to the K-12 system which is, as in South Carolina, pumping out well credential, unqualified graduates incapable of embarking on an R1 calibre education. Lots of good could come from this but don't expect dramatic or even measurable improvements in Georgia's K-12 public schools. These will hew true to the internal mission of "Everything They Learned, They Learned In Kindergarten."  It is more likely that the State will establish "Acceleration Academies" for remediation and finally offer adequate support for Technical Programs throughout the state. At the end of the day that is what businesses really need and is achievable, though aspirational for the State of Georgia.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post : Good Grits Charlie Brown

In spite of calls to "Quit it with the food posts" TOD has offered this space for a holiday, hell, a Christmas, food post. A few members of TOD met up with this poster at Eddie Izzard's Force Majueure Tour stop in Athens as the Charleston show sold out before they could score tickets. Dining at one of the finer Athens' restaurants an order of shrimp and grits was secured. The general consensus was "Friends Don't Let Friends Make Bad Grits." So here we are.

While the guest author generally writes and speaks like the author of  Thug Kitchen we requested the language be a little less R-Rated. Nonetheless some of the juicy bits have been redacted and some wording exchanged for the original, spicier expressions. While humor was compromised content remains undiluted.

Without further ado...

Lobster Broth Grits With Brown Butter Lobster Medallions

I am Calinky. South Calinky to be precise but some of my favorite relatives lived and are buried up north in blue sky Carolina. Being a Calinky I know pluff mud and I've been to the Chitlin' Strut. I know the Shag ain't what you think it is and I know Dukes is the only mayo. I know ramps and poke weed and I know anyone who eats 'em is antisocial or dirt poor. Or both. I've gigged my share of frogs, the hoppity kind, and my crawdaddies are fresh from the creek. I cook in my mother's mother's cast iron and grill on my daddy's PK.

And I know grits. We're not talking hominy we're talking grits. One thing I know is if you're gonna make good grits you gotta start with good grits. And good grits don't come out of a bag with an old man on the front looking like Hillary Clinton on a bad hair day. And "Instant" ain't got nothin' to do with grits.

Good grits come from Anson Mills though in a pinch Carolina Plantation ain't bad. What makes Anson Mills grits so good? They start with good corn--heirloom dent corn as grown by American Indians. Then they work real hard not to screw it up. The let it field ripen and cold mill it. And when you get it, the freezer is where you store it.

Nowadays way too many folks can't say "grits" without saying "shrimp 'n'" first but fact is this seems to come from Yankee Honey Pots (like Hilton Head) with the idea of keeping carpet baggers from dumping sugar on Plain Ole Grits. Can't fix stupid, ain't gonna try. If we're gonna put some kinda sea roach on grits we're going to the palmetto bug of sea roaches, the lobster.

I'm gonna tell you how to cook grits 'n' lobster. Pay attention.

You'll need good grits, lobster tails, some butter and some water. Maybe salt but probably not. Oh, and some kind of garnish. Most folks stick with chives or parsley but cilantro, if you can stand it, has more to add.

You need to start a couple things pretty much at once. Put your grits in a pot and with minimal water, bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. They'll soak a while. At the same time start a quarter stick of butter in a cast iron frying pan and put it on low heat to melt and slightly brown.

While that's going on, cut the lobster tails into sections by slipping the edge of a chef's knife into the gap between top shell joints and cut all the way thru. You'll end up with five pieces and a tail fin. Use a grapefruit spoon to fish the meat out of the shell rings. If you're careful you can get leg meat. Pull out any intestine and drain on paper towels. If you're trying to economize you can cut the larger pieces in half. Put the shells and a half stick of butter into the smallest sauce pan that will hold them. Heat to melt the butter, cover the shells with water, bring to a boil then drop to a simmer. Simmer for five to ten minutes or until you get tired of watching.

Strain the lobster shell broth into the grits, add the remaining grits, bring to a boil and reduce to a low boil/high simmer. You probably have too much liquid and you'll want to slowly reduce. You need to pay attention and stir occasionally.

As the grits reduce you cook the lobster slices. The butter should be browned and you won't need to increase the heat. The lobster will take a couple minutes on each side. Shell sides will go red and the meat white. Flip, finish, drain.

By now the grits should be done, and by "done" we mean al dente. They're called grits for a reason.  At this point you're mostly looking for consistency. Swirl the spoon in the pot and if it holds a trail they're done. If you think they're too thick add water. You should check to see if salt is needed but the lobster broth is probably salt enough.

Plate up.

Grits into bowls. Lobster distributed evenly amongst bowls and your favorite garnish on top.

Et Voila!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Wish

Speeding is a problem throughout Dunwoody and one of the worst routes is North Peachtree threading thru quiet but hilly residential areas and sporting a 25 MPH speed limit along a majority of the route. It should come as no surprise that a significant number of cut thru drivers (and some locals) exceed the limit by more than 10 MPH. Officials seem to love absolutes but 10 MPH over in a residential 25 MPH zone is significantly worse than 10 over on 45 MPH Ashford Dunwoody.

Don't expect enforcement to play a role in addressing this problem. Not only is DPD primarily Perimeter Mall Cops and unless or until someone's children lose playing North Peachtree Frogger we'll not see any enforcement. Even if we do it will be short lived serving primarily as a DPD PR stunt. This is despite a ballooning budget that not only outpaces inflation but even the rates of increase of college educations.

But we have a chance to make lemonade and quite a bit of it as we have two lemons. Whilst the DPD is standing Perimeter Defense we've been assaulted by Torpy's Spandex Army. These folks have waged a campaign with the kind of disregard for others and religious fervor one associates with ISIL and until recently have met with token opposition at best though Buckhead recently dispelled their invincibility. And Dunwoody is blessed with many riders who, as Torpy has observed, intend to self-enforce their rights to the road forcing auto traffic to queue up and slow to the pedaller's speed. No matter how slow that might be.

And there is our solution. While it is conceivable that some fit Lance-a-lots might top 25 on some downhill stretches for the most part hitting 25 will be uncommon. Combine this with the militantly arrogant, almost gleeful, rolling traffic obstruction and we have our solution to drivers speeding in the area.

The City need only make one change to score a win-win-win.

We need to change our paving plan to incorporate bicycle riders and not just bicycle lanes which to date have been totally unrelated. We need to ink an IGA between the City of Dunwoody and the fascist Bicycle State in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs (BSDSS) that requires consistent routing and properly timed bike-ride/traffic-calming crits before we pave or even stripe-out another foot of bicycle lane.

When this operational plan is in place we'll see slower traffic in a residential area, undisturbed Police operations and the BSDSS will get to exercise their legs and their rights in a worthy cause.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Master's Of Education

Our Feducator In Chief recently erased No Child Left Behind from the educational blackboard to write a new rule: Every Student Succeeds.

The political BS swirling around this had to do with NCLB's characterization as being test heavy and the fact that the tests carried real consequences. It should be duly noted that the consequences fell largely on educators who by and large represent votes. And votes often make the difference between re-election and unemployment.

It also represents a pendulum swing back towards the hens running the hen house. In the most subjective way possible. Just look at the loop holes. While NCLB emphasized "Child," ESS speaks only of "students." And guess who decides who is, and more importantly who is NOT, a student? That's right--educators, the same folks who will, in the absence of deplorable high stakes testing, define "success." Do not be too surprised when we find that in just a few short years students are succeeding all over the place but if you look closely you'll find academic ditches filled with mere children pushed aside because they are too difficult to educate.

We also got a verbal slip up from the Great Orator: the era of one size fits all is over. Really? Is that to say Feducation has not only terminated NCLB but has also mortally wounded Common Core, the poster child for one size fits all?

One thing is certain. We've (re) entered a new phase of education in America sure to be strikingly similar to the morass that drove us to NCLB in the first place.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Peekaboo Menorah

Peekaboo Menorah. Sounds like a skiing JAP doesn't it?

But it isn't. It is the wonderful compromise negotiated by Team Menorah during the Light Up Dunwoody Xmas Tree belly bucking. These hard negotiators are the kind that use Trump's The Art of the Deal to prop up a table with a broken leg.

But they did get their Menorah.

There are a couple of problems with this layout. If you happen to be southbound stuck waiting for the jerk to turn left out of Dunkin and you find yourself right beside this display you can pretty much see nothing. Because you're looking at the side of a flat Menorah.

Then there is the obvious issue when headed northbound.

You'd never know the Menorah is there because by the time you're past the tree you're looking at the side of the Menorah. And you'll have to be quick to see it in your rear view. In the blink of an eye you'll be looking at something completely different.

It does not get any better if you're walking since getting closer just makes the sign look bigger.

And yet the tree looks fine from nearly every angle because it is really more of a big cone than a tree. You know, like the styrofoam cone your great granny pinned gum drops on to make a kiddy Xmas Tree. Except bigger. And with lights.

Clearly the Tree People won having reduced the Menorah to landscape lighting for the Xmas Tree.  Seriously, if you wanted to hide the Menorah any better you'd have to put it inside the tree.

Cannot wait until next year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ask The Right Questions

The Fourth Estate has been dropping the ball regarding questions.

Case in point is the recent screw-up around the Secretary of State's release of our personal data. These bozos handed out all the data necessary for bad actors to steal your identity so if you've not done so already you might want to freeze your credit.

And what is the reaction from media? Well, they want information on the chats the SoS had with recipients who have returned or destroyed the data. Wink, wink. Nod, nod. Media attention has resulted in the Secretary issuing a promise of credit monitoring (so you know when you've been robbed) but has done little to offer insight into the SoS's Oh Shit! moments.

A bigger problem is that media are not asking the right questions.

The scape goat who was fired ratted out the process causing the security breach and in so doing did a little name dropping. Turns out this work is not done BY the Secretary of State's office but is actually done FOR them. By a yankee company: PCC Technology Group. These people, whoever they are, already have access to all the data required to manufacture the security breach and probably much, much more. That is where the questioning should begin.

Just who are these people? What security clearances (or even certifications) do they have? Background checks? Does the company outsource or offshore any activities? How are data transferred to and from their systems and how do we know it is secure? Is it link security? Are log files secured? Where are the data REALLY stored? "The Cloud?" Where is it processed? How is access authentication implemented and how are accesses logged and monitored? What security reports are delivered to SoS? What security audits are performed, how often and who initiates and pays for them?

Have the Secretary of State resign and then what do we do? Government has systemic problems often caused by a blind rush to outsource their work and our security to crony companies and those are the problems that need investigation.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New Christmas Trees

The Parkway deforestation brought to us by what's-his-name has been fixed by a Ramblin' Wreck.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Yet All We Talk About Is CO2

Look At Where That Methane Comes From

Looks Like That Cow May Be A Problem

Yeah, Cow Looks Like The Apex Gas Bag

Growth Without Bound

Enjoy That Burger Because YOU"RE Worth It

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Personality Politics

Our local elections are now in the books and the immediate, reflexive reactions have settled down. Of these reactions perhaps the most interesting was the notion that the vote for Dunwoody Mayor was largely about personality. The supporting argument is that when Council votes mattered the winner and the incumbent almost always cast their votes the same direction. As is common in political arguments it ignores that fact that the Mayor is a tie breaker whose vote is rarely recorded. Or maybe the soon-to-be-former Mayor's insistence on name and address before addressing Council, which some considered a violation of good manners and others considered arrogant, tipped the personality scale in favour of the challenger.

Or maybe not.

A notable few of our current crop of professional politicians seem less involved in personality politics and more fond of photo-op politics. For these, the Mayor included, it is almost as if there is a law requiring their presence in any picture of a positive event. They seem to expect voters to believe that there is some kind of causal relationship to the hard work of others forged by a snapshot. Politicians have many ways of demonstrating how stupid they believe voters to be and this is one of them. Perhaps voters are not quite so dumb and know that getting your picture taken is an activity, not an accomplishment.

Let's hope they make that point again at the next opportunity.