Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fifth Stage Of Drunk

If you're an aging Parrothead you may have heard Mister Boofay's rendition of God's Own Drunk wherein he enumerates the Stages Of Drunk* which reaches a tipping point at stage five, Fuck Dinner, sliding downhill rapidly to God's Own Drunk (And A Fearless Man).

It would be easy to pick on a local politician who blew a 225 at 2:25--in the AFTERNOON--but better comics that TOD can take that on. Anyone who knows anything about drinking, anyone who has ever been commode-huggin' drunk, knows exactly what was on that dash-cam--a hardcore drunk. It takes practice and lots of it to blow a 225 and not be staggering and slurring yet if he'd not been speeding he'd still be wastin' away in his own little Margaritaville.

More interesting than the event itself is the reaction around it, especially in the Republican power structure. Fighting their normal inclination to throw him under the bus they are rallying 'round. Why? Because his opponent in the primaries is our own local version of Donald Trump who is not kissing the right arses or licking the proper boots. And it is not just moral support. The AJC reports donations from fellow Republicans and the Likker Lobby, key parts of the incumbent's power structure. Both political parties are monstrous machines of, by and for the insiders--just look at another recent AJC report on incumbency, massive war chests and buying power--that are increasingly distant from and angering those they negligently consider loyal constituents. They will tolerate no outsiders nor internal disrupters. They are as drunk on their own power as their candidate was when behind the wheel of that car.

The saying goes that a man has a drink ... the drink has a drink ... the drink has the man. What do the Republicans have?

*Also attributed to Lewis Grizzard, another that only old farts remember.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Making The Streetcar Succeed

Recent uncomfortable news about the Streetcar Named Expire is unflattering to the operation, the operators and the aficionados supporting it. They claim a ridership far below original projects and at the same time can only account for $0.50 per rider in revenue. Keep in mind that the fare is $1.00.

This discrepancy calls into question the veracity and integrity of everyone even remotely associated with this hundred million dollar boondoggle. Yet there are calls to expand this literal train wreck many times over throughout the city. Proponents tout the economic benefit glossing over the fact that many projects they attribute to the streetcar were started before the first track was laid. They also talk about reconnecting neighborhoods bifurcated by the evil cars and their downtown connector--another brain-dead idea brought to reality. But truth often maintains a safe distance from agenda driven self-interests.

But all is not lost. There is an excellent location for a streetcar operation--Hartsfield between the MARTA station and the International Concourse. There is a screaming need for efficacious transportation between these two endpoints, no intermediate stops required. Now a monorail would be nicer, but the trend du jour is named "street car." Let's just do it where it makes some sense.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Crash Course

Pull up the pants--it's too late to save the shoes.

It's getting deep out there in EduLand. Mother Meria is quoted by the AJC as saying:
"We have kids coming all the way through the system, and they are still reading at a fourth-grade level and they are in the 11th grade."
No surprises there. We bump into these folks every day. But then she squizzes out a big floater:
"It is amazing we are graduating students with this kind of lift that has to happen to get them to graduation.”
Damn right it is "amazing." In fact it is absolutely unbelievable. As in "we do not believe it." If her Willy Wonka Candy Factory of Education can wave a magic wand moving a student up 8 grade levels in reading in one year while facing senioritis then why doesn't she perform this magic in the 10th grade? Or earlier? Or maybe we can fire all the K-11 teachers.

Carstarphen fools no one. She is not uplifting these kids to get them to a level worthy of graduation, she is dropping the bar to a level a fourth grader can easily clear. Many of these students waving an APS diploma have not earned one with attendance let alone learning. And the few teacher-proof kids who actually learn something along the way have a worthless diploma too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Seventy Five Percent Solution

Developers want to do what developers do--develop property. And they do it for one reason only--to make money. And we have some developers who are going to develop apartments in Dunwoody's Perimeter Center.

Now they can't say that straight up. They have to spin (AKA deceive and mislead) the issue. First they'll say they're not building apartments, they're building condo's. But they have a problem which they will make your problem. And that problem is these units get built all at once but the retail real estate market won't absorb them all at once. Sales will take time. Rentals are quicker so they are going rent these condos making them indistinguishable from apartments. Plus this is a recurring revenue stream whilst sales are one-time transactional. This will not be rental by individual (like you renting your Four-Four-and-a-Door) but by a developer. A developer who will most likely hire a rental management firm to handle the day to days. Quacks and waddles like a duck.

The City negotiated a long term goal of seventy five percent owner occupied, except that is a "goal" five years out and the developer intends to put up for sale only fifty percent on day one. And the developer has already voiced his displeasure and intent to get a more favorable hearing from Council: "We hope by the time it gets to the council it will be more of what we are looking for."  The developer's mouthpiece acknowledged that seventy five percent was better than the ninety percent owner occupied the Planning Commission advocated saying: "We've had 16 banks talk to us ... and they can't finance at 90 percent owner-occupancy."

The fact is it will never be seventy five percent owner occupied. It will probably never make it to fifty percent. And it gets worse. The FHA will not give loans on these units because the developer will start, maybe, at fifty percent rental and the FHA only allows that if the remaining units are owner-occupied as a principle residence. Out of the gate FHA approval is highly unlikely. So who cares? Well one might expect Millennials to be a demographic most likely to apply for and get FHA loans. Who wants them around anyway? Oh, wait ... WE DO! Or so we say when catering to apartment-building developers.

And cater we do. There is a brash prevarication claiming this development will not spill over to our neighborhoods and won't affect homeowners' quality of life. Really? REALLY? Have these folks never heard of a silly little thing called SCHOOLS? Do schools not affect our quality of life? Have we included a no-children, adult only restriction? Can we? And just who might be interested in these schools anyway? You guessed it! Those pesky Millennials again. This "line of reasoning" sounds like a thinly veiled shill for the developers.

If these are condos, and that is what the developer calls them, then the appropriate level of owner-occupancy is one hundred percent. Zero rentals. Now if the developer needs a government handout, good luck finding one who doesn't, it is real simple. Write into the Declaration of Condominium that each and every unit can be rented for five years total over the entire life of the unit. To make sure they don't just amend the document, ensure that it can only be amended by a super-majorly of individual principal-residence owner-occupants and only after these residence own over fifty percent of all units. After the five years are used up the unit sits empty or you price it to sell. Hard. Stop. Oh, and whilst it sits empty you still get to pay the Condo Association fees.

Ain't gonna happen.

At the end of the day here is what we know: residential units will be built; many, then most, then almost all will be rental; there will be negative impacts on our infrastructure; there will be negative impacts on our schools; and the developer will not pay a dime in impact fees. And there are those amongst us who are happy to help out a poor developer. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Guest Post : Omaha! Omaha!

Without further comment.

My daughter's grandfather, The Old Man,  grew up in Council Bluffs Iowa and got to the big city of Omaha Nebraska by crossing the Missouri River. During the Depression years he took the view, as many did and still do, that joining the military for good shoes, a full belly and warm shelter was far superior to living off the economy. He did and on 7 December 1941 the Iowa National Guard transitioned to regular Army. First Army. V-Corps.

He first set foot in France on the morning of 6 June 1944 and to get to Omaha Beach he had to cross the English Channel. But unlike many others who went and returned, he was not one of those veterans reluctant to tell of that day, that battle and the days and battles that followed.

The Old Man spoke of more than D-Day. Of North Africa facing the much-respected Rommel's Afrika Korps and much-loathed sand. Of Bradley and Montgomery, the Good and the Bad. Of liberating concentration camps, his photographs proving the horror of the Holocaust. Of racing to Berlin to beat the Russians to German weapon technology.  But he always came back to D-Day. Comrades in arms who did not make it off the beach. Those who did.

He saw the courage of young well trained soldiers facing the savagery of war executed with German precision, their machine guns and artillery pre-sighted awaiting the invasion. A dropped ramp was a dropped shield. The seas were higher, the LCI further out, packs heavier and the resistance stronger than expected. Some craft did not survive the mines and artillery. Some soldiers didn't get off the boat alive, others did but never reached the beach. More died on the beach. Survivors learned staying together, staying on the beach allowed the enemy to concentrate fire and continue the slaughter. Get on. Get away. Get over. Get up.

The Old Man was in ordnance and his job was to move fallen arms and munitions from the water's edge to infantry on the shingle--a battlefield supply line to the front. He spoke often of the young men, America's finest whose lives ended with their bringing this ordnance ashore.  Frequently he spoke of one young soldier, blond and handsome, cut down before he even had a life. Only medics had more personal contact with the brutality of war. On that day, in that hour, the most dangerous place on earth was Omaha beach. The Old Man's job required he stay on that beach.

My job involves travel, most recently to Paris. My drive north to Normandy was much easier than their drive south and I would have been remiss to not visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer overlooking Omaha Beach. He would have haunted our home the rest of our lives.

The approach to the memorial is from the east into a garden flanked on each side by walls inscribed with the names of those lost but never found. Topping the steps of the colonnade I was confronted with a field of grave markers framed between two flags waving in a stiff, gusty wind.

A circular chapel rose from the center, a Mont Saint-Michel surrounded by white-capped sea. To the right below a steep cliff lies the beach they took that took many of them. Beyond that the channel that brought them here angered by the wind.

We have all seen pictures of military cemeteries with white markers perfectly aligned in rows and columns. Soldiers on parade.

We know the patterns in the field of these alignments, north, south and diagonal. These images are a pale, one dimensional ghosts of the reality.

Standing there I realized that every marker is the same height following the contours of the land like the whitecaps on the channel. They differ in no other way than Cross or Star. There is no rank, no prestige. Captains and Generals rest amongst their men, now their brothers in arms equal in their sacrifice and honor. Interspersed amongst the known dead are their fallen comrades who were never identified. Unidentified but equally honored.

As I left I paused at the colonnade turning for one last look at their field of honor and it struck me that I, and they, were facing west to the United States. Looking homeward. I found myself asking, to no particular one, Private Ryan's Unspoken Question: "Did I earn this? Have we earned this?"

Their answer returned in a gust of wind delivering a blow to the stomach. And this old man wept.

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's No Wonder

From the AJC

"Here's the hardest-to-hire list, with comments from the experts:

Data scientist
This job analyzes big data, a field that's difficult to define. The job varies by company and industry. CareerCast thinks 4.4 million such information technology jobs will be open next year.

Software engineer
The Conference Board estimates there will be three jobs available for every 2016 college graduate with a computer science degree."

Let's ponder this a bit.

First there's the data science/scientist thing. Not really that hard to grok. As one might expect, the Wikipedia entry on Data Science offers as good a definition as any out there. To put it in an internet of thingy context tis the data scientist who figures out that knowing when you open the fridge is not nearly as useful as when you use the toaster oven. Some say it is art others say it is just statistics. Either way big business thinks it is a real good reason to up the H1B visas.

Software engineering on the other hand is a worm-feast. Where to start?

Engineering is a licensed profession like being a doctor or lawyer except in most jurisdictions the legal beagles turn a blind eye showing more concern that your nail salon has licensed practitioners than just what yahoos are developing dosage control software for an X-Ray machine. Radiation burns not keeping you up  at night? Then consider this: image how many Licensed, Professional Software Engineers are working on those self-driving cars. You really want to bet it cannot be hacked?

Turns out there is one state licensing Software Engineers and it is no surprise it is the same state that went after Novell for their "Novell Software Engineer" credential--don't mess with Texas. They seem to take a similarly dim view of folks claiming to be a pediatrician simply because they can print it on a business card. Texas licensed the first Software Engineer in the US in 1998 and racked up a whopping 44 in the following 4 years. Doesn't speak to strong market pull-thru from the unlicensed and incapable. The likelihood that any of the software that touches your daily life has even been looked at by a real Software Engineer is as close to zero as can be imagined. Hell, the likelihood it was even written by someone with a first world education is pretty damn small. After all, if you're going to use third world practices to build software you might as well get third world labor to do it.

You can be pretty sure if someone has "Software Engineer" on a business card that is exactly what they are not. Becoming an actual Engineer requires more math, physics and chemistry as well as supervised experience than the average hacker would tolerate. And make no mistake, they're not Computer Scientists either. See, a Computer Scientist is going to prove an algorithm works (or doesn't) using that math stuff. You know, the crap that was so hard you became a programmer instead of a Scientist or an Engineer. And that is what "Software Engineers" really are: programmers. And that is on a good day. The rest of the time they're just coders.

Deep down the folks running big business know all this and when honesty bursts thru as it did with NCR's president they will fess up to needing programmers. But they do this state and our R1 institutions a disservice when they pull our best and brightest out of PhD programs because they need someone to drive Hadoop or hack some java code in a Point of Sale system. They need ITT Tech, not GaTech.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

They Kicked The Can Down The Road

The can that WAS at C-D and Dunwoody Road

Now just across from Oak Pointe

Monday, April 4, 2016

Twisted Twee

It was nice to get the new Christmas trees

Left tied you get a Twisted Twee

Saturday, April 2, 2016

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming For Broken News

That a part of DeKalb County government that does a pretty good job pretty much anywhere else is an Epic FAIL here is nothing new and usually not very noteworthy. Equally unsurprising is that the water main under Chamblee Dunwoody between the two ends of Harris Circle has failed. Again. As it does every 8-9 to months.
Saturday after Friday's April Fool's repair
In order to effect this temporary repair it is necessary to close a valve near Roberts and to relieve pressure by opening fire hydrants down stream of the repair. See?

Pressure relief valve
It is also not uncommon to relieve pressure on the repair for several hours. It is significantly less common to continue the water waste for a day. So uncommon that one of The Other Dunwoody approached the fine ladies and gentlemen of Fire Station 12 on Roberts to inform them of the open hydrant and lowered pressure as that might be of concern given their line of business. It was also suggested there might be a reason for Water Works to leave the hydrant flowing so they indicated they would check on the situation.

As of Saturday afternoon the hydrant looks like this

It just keeps pouring down the storm drains