Sunday, 31 August 2008

So Where Would I Move?

So where would I move, if I could move to my choice of fantasy lifestyles? Its a question that pops up every month or two and I waste an hour thinking....pondering...and wondering.

Eventually, after years of traveling and thinking....I've come down to ten places that I really could pack up and move to....for the sake of just living (not working). These are in no random order.

1. Coos Bay, Oregon. I've been through the area on three occasions and I usually get out and spend an hour, two hours or even three hours just sitting on the side of the beach. There is the sand dunes area just north of the town....which I usually spend another hour or two. And as you drive further north to Lincoln City....it only gets better. Its a beach of solitude, where one would prefer to sit in a lawn chair...sipping tea.....and thinking. The problem though with Coos Bay....is that there are no real jobs after the lumber industry or local tourism. And amusingly enough...the people you bump into.....remind of folks in the backwoods of Kentucky.

2. Ring of Fire, Ireland. The Irish drive you mad with their woes, sorrows and sad tales. You'd like to just hand them another drink and tell them to walk away. But then you have the scenic life there to contend with. Everything is green and you can feel a mist in the air. I'd move there in a heartbeat, but then that bar scene would depress the heck out of me.

3. Fort Morgan, Bama. There is a historical theme to Fort Morgan, and then there is the beach. Most Bama folks have never been to Fort Morgan. They'll tell you about the history and where it is on the map.....but they've never been there.

4. Flagstaff, Arizona. Unlike most of Arizona, Flagstaff is a higher elevation....where the summer temperature might be 85 to 90. The flip side is a winter blast of low temperatures for four months. No matter where you turn....pine trees. There is an age factor of the town....where you see a historical situation. The great thing is that you are an hour away from the Grand Canyon and three hours from Vegas.

5. Tucson, Arizona. Except for the heat....I've always had a thing for Tucson.

6. The western coast of Denmark. I've spent six weeks of my life there, on three vacations. The people are friendly. The beaches are pure. And the temperature is perfect. The only negative is the cost of living ($10 a gallon for gas). I don't know how Danes make it. And then there is the pizza problem (they make the worst pizza in the world). Yet, I'd go in a heartbeat, to stay.

7. Leiden, Netherlands. Its a rare place where bike trails outnumber streets. It was made to transverse by foot or bike....rather than by car. Its a half-hour ride by train to Amsterdam. I spent a weekend there, and came away with a desire to return.

8. Rome. The crime, the heat, the traffic, the gypsy population, the dirt....it should persuade you pack and leave. But then you have the character of the city, the history, the food, the wine, and the coffee. Its a love-hate situation.

9. Curon Venosta, Italy. In the middle of the Italian Alps...is this mountaintop. You're burn half your brakes getting there and back. Just driving there from the nearest real town....is a two-hour trip. The view is what drives you to stay....and the cool fresh air. But after October....you can forget about driving up there without hitting some snow.

10. Pulaski, Tenn. I grew up across the state line....but came to like the small community of Pulaski. Its got character and small-town feeling. Folks there are real and full of life. You couldn't ask for nothing else.

My Addiction

I admittedly have an addiction. Yes, this....I will admit....is my problem....ice cream cones.

I cannot pass a stand at a county fair, a street fest, or just the front of Wal-Mart....with finding myself drawn like a magnet to the ice cream dispenser.

It is an addiction. My hands tremble. My palms sweat. My saliva level jumps 100 percent. I feel heat upon my back and neck. And then my survival tendency kicks in. I have to have one. So I buy it. After about three minutes of enjoyment, the sudden rush occurs. I feel a "high" of sorts. I feel calm and my tremble disappears.

Its a bad addiction....which there aren't any real rehabs for this type of problem. The only real cure is to avoid county fairs, fests and Wal-Mart. I don't like that method of "cold turkey", so I go back for more on another day. I'd like to find alternate addictions, but the more I look....the more attractive the ice cream cone becomes. And after all....its just one....for right now anyway. I might have an urge for a second....but I always convince myself that its not necessary and just walk away.

Life is complicated enough as it is....and these minor addictions might be just ok....at least in a ethical way of viewing things. I'll probably die with a ice cream cone in my hands....and someone will make a comment or two on my tombstone about this...."if he had just given up the ice cream"....but....oh well.

Notting Hill (16th time)

I watched Notting Hill for the 16th time last night.

There are around a dozen reasons why I watch it (I even own a copy). First, there is the street scenes which entice me to move to Notting Hill and just live the rest of my life there. Then there is the acting by the supporting cast. Spike is probably one of the best characters ever written. Then we have the acting of Huge Grant...which he should have gotten an Academy Award.

Then we come to the music of the movie....which has one of the best arrangements of any movie ever made. I could listen to the soundtrack over and over.

The final reason? The last five minutes of the movie make it one of the greatest scripted moments of film history.

So Notting Hill falls into my top ten movies of all time easily. And I'll probably get another sixteen views within the next three years.

Clayton County Georgia, Continuing

Since Friday's episode of the termination of the county eduction certification.....things have been pretty messy.

First, what most folks may not realize is that Clayton county is not alone on this list of county's under review. Shocking? Clarke county also finds itself on a warning list. Their episode started earlier this year when some parent complained to the southern conference that handles accreditations when the county education board made the decision not to renew the contract of former Cedar Shoals High School Principal Tommy Craft. Curiously, this came after Craft was pressured to hire a board member's relative as assistant principal. In the complaint....the parent said "a perception ... that the board interferes in the retention of persons best qualified to serve in leadership positions."

The amusing thing for Clarke county is that the accreditation folks came up and tasked the district for a "action plan." The best that the board would offer was a proposal from the school board calling for a team-building exercise involving the superintendent and the board and tightening of ethics policies designed to limit board members' involvement in personnel matters, including the hiring of board members' relatives. The best part of this story......is that the team-building exercise was held, but the board then decided against toughening its ethics policy.

My guess...in six months...Clarke county gets screwed next. This episode in Clayton county won't faze them a bit. They were surge on and be just as foolish.

Continuing on....parents were busy on Friday afternoon in Clayton county.....calling the school district outside of the county, to discuss registering their kids there. Then they discovered that you actually have to live in that county (taxes, property, rental, etc). They thought this had been fixed in a legislative session earlier in the year, but no....it was discussed and then dropped. So you can't waiver out of the "living in the county" requirement. Again, shocking for these folks.

The county board meeting on Friday? Well....at some point...they were going to close the doors again, for a group session only. One member immediately got up and walked out....refusing to operate in such a manner. Their main problem now is to figure out how to fill the other board seats which by most options that shown....are some type of county election. Apparently the county commission doesn't have the authority to appoint folks.

As for SACS, the accreditation organization....some folks on forums in Georgia are suggesting that they are out of touch and ought to be brought into court. I'll admit that this was only mentioned five or six times....and might be a radical approach. SACS obviously knows that the county board was corrupt and bringing down the school system. It would be questionable if they were hiring competent teachers or just friends of the board.

There has also been a suggestion on the forums that SACS is working with some land speculation folks to help them buy up cheaper property at the end of the Atlanta airport....cheaply. Clayton county lies at the very end of the airport, and theres been talk of expansion. So a suggestion comes out that SACS gives out the warning then trips up the county....making property cheaper. I don't personally buy this idea....it'd destroy SACS if such a allegation was proven true.

What to expect on Monday? With just three members left on the board....I'm suspecting that the internal pressure with those three is tremendous. I'll predict that one resigns by mid-week and the other two by the end of next weekend. It'll be left to the governor or the state assembly to fix the problem from that point on. The exit of kids? Yes.....by the end of October....I'm predicting 3,000 kids leave the county via some method....living with relatives or with some church group out of state. The teachers remaining? Well....this is a curious thing. Why would you stay in a system where the accreditation is gone? Those teachers who were within five years of retirement....probably will give up and retire early. I think there will be an impossible task in recruiting teachers for July 2009.

Now some personal opinions.

In Bama....there is a university (I won't recite their name, but this isn't Auburn or UA), which has a major computer systems degree program. The town next to the university has major technology companies spread throughout the area, which pay fairly well. The companies won't recruit to any major degree within the local university for upcoming graduates with the engineering or hardware degrees. They consider the program at this university to be inferior and not up to standards. Most folks will readily admit that the math skills of these graduates generally are lacking. The companies run off to Auburn or UA for alot of their new employees. The university continues their systems degree program and proudly advertises how it'll help you get a job....but the truth is that this education system is a failure. No one talks in public about this.....they just kinda accept it. The companies with cheaper paying non-technical positions end up hiring these guys. Life goes on.

I grew up in the south and readily saw the school system as capable but always having a taste of corruption. They hire friends of the board or friends of the teachers. The construction projects always have some friend of the board involved and one can only suspect that payoff's occur with each project. Most don't know a thing about ethics and just look the other way. If you even discuss ethics with a board member....they look at you....as if you were foolish.

There is a program within the Department of Defense called Troops to Teachers. You have a guy retiring after twenty years with a degree and smart. The program introduces the guy to the system and helps to find teaching jobs where teaching certificates can be gained at a later date or in a short one month session.

The interesting thing is that most school boards and teachers unions in America don't want to utilize the Troops to Teachers program. These retired GI's....don't want anything to do with unions....and they are rather blunt about that fact. These guys won't accept ill behavior in the classroom. The retired GI's demand discipline and expect respect. Typically, their results shock fellow teachers and school administrators....because they turn around schools in a short period of time. Their chief weapon? They demand authority in the classroom....accepting of no punks or brats.

The case of Clayton county interests me. I'd like to think that these guys can work their way out. But things look rather dim.