Sunday, November 30, 2008
The feature and very long article is devoted to Michelle Rhee, the head of the Washington DC school system and her attempts to raise to an acceptable level, which of course should be but would be unreachable of 100%, instead of the 36% High School students in the DC system that are proficient in Math and the 39% that are proficient in reading.
The root of the problem may be in the tenure system which protects incompetent teachers and administrators. The process of ridding a system of those parasites is difficult and almost impossible,, but can be done by a determined administration and supported by a committed Board of Education.
Tenure was once a necessity to protect teachers and principles from a vindictive board membership or political pressure. Too often political patronage or nepotism has been the criteria for employment. Often quality personnel were fired to fulfill that practice.
Today however, protected by a strong union and protective laws against firing without cause, this stranglehold is not needed. In fact it has become detrimental to quality education.
If we are going to have good schools and keep students interested in education we must have quality teachers. Those that are sitting on their butt waiting to collect their pension must go.
Doctors and others whose profession is vital to our well being are required to have periodic license renewal and are subject to requirements that assure that they are up to date in their field. Should educators not be held to similar requirements? I would think so.
The subject of school reform is an unpopular one but if this nation is going to survive without the turmoil we see every day it must be addressed. No biyearly change in administration will help. The place to start is at the grass roots, public pressure.
Where does Plainfield fit in? We have a school system only slightly better than that of DC. Our problems are many. We do have a new administration that to date like its predecessors has been able to "Talk the Talk:. Will it be able or willing to "Walk the Walk"? The others did not.
The bigger question is the Board of Education. Is it another clone whose membership consists of those with ties to a political entity which has run a slate st every election. Can those members be independent? Others who have been elected and had not been on the "slate" may suffer from tunnel vision of their specific agendas. Our hope is that there are sufficient numbers on this board whose primary interest is in quality education and will do everything in their power to try to accomplish that goal.
And finally, neither Administration or BOE should fall into the Council's trap of condemning what appear to be negative comments by the public which were intended to be constructive.
Communication must be a two way street.
A random thought, obviously the Dutch no longer have deer. As I learned to my sorrow Deer consider tulips a superb meal.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Plainfield Plaintalker today also is devoted to the budget. As pointed out, the process for years- at least two decades of which I am aware has been at best amateurish and sloppy. We could question the entire fiscal control operations practiced by various administrations at times as bordering on non existent, Certainly many of the accountant's recommendations have never been implemented.
This is not only the fault of the present administration but of two decades of previous administrations revolving door responsible fiscal officers. The positions seem to have become political bouncing balls.
The switch from a logical calender year to an illogical fiscal year in view of the State.s policy of December fund allocation determinations accounting was never adequately explained. We were told that the State requested the use of a Fiscal Year. Granted for accounting purposes that could be acceptable but why start in July, there is no legal basis and Feb.1 would be more reasonable if the Calender year were unworkable.
I presume that it would be possible that the 2009 Council could pass a mandate that the next budget due July 1, 2009 be an interim one with a 2010 year budget be prepared for that calender year. This is doable but probably would take several Ordinances amending the Charter.
Until I had played with the scanned slide the figures in the dome were non existent. Part of the problem resulted from the major portion of light in the room coming from the windows in the dome and not having ultra fast film ..
Thursday, November 27, 2008
"is there anything you liked yesterday? At all? Your entire day? Maybe a good meal? "
This is " anonymous' comment to my Tuesday Random thoughts. I felt that it was not worthy of posting, however I did go back to read what I had written and still can not find anything that would merit the impression that I had an unhappy day either Monday or Tuesday.
My comments about our new President-elect reflected my conviction that his will be a constructive administration. Perhaps a misguided " anonymous" reacted to the term "centralist" with the impression that I as either an extreme rightist or a far leftist was disappointed that Obama doesn't plan to turn the world upside down. Anything is possible.
My remarks about the Council meeting do reflect an unhappiness that all Plainfielders should feel when a Citizens Committee authorized by the Council is given short strife, 15 minutes, to present its report. And to have this compounded by having the lame duck Council President criticise the report as non substantive and critical of the city government.
Plainfielders can not be happy if meeting times are scheduled for the convenience of the members of the city government. Council members, City employees, Board of Educations whether elected or appointed are all servants of the public with specific responsibilities and obligations especially when dealing in public matters. Obviously for meetings of public interest the time scheduled should be convenient to the public. To do otherwise indicates a desire to keep the public uninformed. The PMUA has become so autonomous that its meetings are always during the normal evening meal time.
My comment about publishing legal notices only in the Sunday edition of the Courier was a constructive valid one. The Courier does an excellent job as the only media that presents pertinent local news. "Anonymous" please read Mark Spivey's excellent article in today's Courier on CBAC's report and the Council's reaction Unfortunately the new format with the type point used in the classified ads section is so small that for many it is illegible and overlooked.
What did I like "yesterday" and today? I was up before 7AM, retrieved my newspapers from the driveway and lawn. Had a good breakfast- the most important meal of the day. In scanning the obituaries I did not find my name nor that of anybody I knew. I had a good satisfying evening meal, and was able to attend the Council meeting..
I feel that anybody who has something to say should not hide. Anonymous comments are as valuable as a Confederate dollar. Some that are not worth posting under comments like this one have value because they can be subject matter for a posting. I do take satisfaction in knowing that many anonymous take the time to scan my blog and I hope find poypourri interesting.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I finally scanned the last of the "France slides" reproduced here. Appropriately it is a view of the entrance to the walled city of Carcassonne, one of the strongholds of the Cathor Heresy.
From childhood when I first saw a picture of Carcassonne in a book I had always wished to visit that city. Fortunately it was not touched during WWII. The walled city served as the set for the Arthurian movie Camelot.
Here are some shots starting with the first view of the city from the super highway that crosses that part of France. The second one is a telephoto view from the same spot.
The next three are a few views of the battlements, and the last is a view of the modern town well below the old city.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Since there had been legal notice the the budget would be presented for adoption at this meeting, time was permitted for public comments although the adoption has been deferred for a special meeting on Dec. 15 at 7 PM to adopt changes and another special meeting Dec.22 7 PM. I am concerned that Council Burney gave the Council a choice of 6 or 7 PM for the special meeting time. There should be more consideration for the public's ability to attend these meetings rather than the convenience of the Council members. They should not forget that they are by law servants of the citizens.
For those who have expressed the fact that Dec 22 is the first day of Chanukah (an orthodox variation of the English spelling) the meeting is actually set for the second day of the Holiday. Jewish Holy Days begin at sunset the day before and end at the next sunset. I will not go into the story of Chanukah, however it is in most family's a home holiday marked by the lighting of the number of candles for the corresponding number of the day of the holiday. This is traditionally accompanied with a small inexpensive gift for the children increasing in value up to the eighth night. In the Reformed households the candle lighting may be deferred until dinner time. That could be the only inconvenience this meeting's time could cause.
Bill Amirault's presentation of CBAC report was not scheduled and if the time allowed for that report is an indication, this committee's work will receive the same reception as that of the earlier groups.
I wonder if the Administration really expected to receive any bids from non-profits to operate the Dudley House.The legal notice was placed in a Sunday edition of the Courier. How many potential operators read the Courier? How many people can even read the miniature print in the legal notices?
In response to a question about the delay from April to late the fall before the work to bring the building into conforming standards , the City Administrator note that there was a wait for grant money Marc Dasheild still expects to have Dudley House licensed for 2009. Will any operating grant funds be available then?
The meeting was being taped for TV presentation. The bright lights need for the room bothered those seated on the street side of the room.
Today's Courier had an article on the lack of progress in the City/Solaris issues. No surprise. The paper had an excellent editorial about those who fight to reestablish acute hospital care in Plainfield.
Apparently "Trinitas" the Elizabeth based hospital feels that with the absorption of the health Center's OB program ,they should be known as the TRINITAS REGIONAL HEALTH CENTER. No need for a hospital here we enjoy service from Solaris and Trinity.
Looks like Obama is going to be a centralist as he assumes his Presidency. The outlook is good and I am in favor of the emphasis on the PWA programs.
Since the Middle Ages, Heresies have played such an important role in European and American history. I have posted with a few pictures and a tidbit about the Cathors.
A recent book was published about all the various recognized heresy and the impact on the Church including those that led to the Protestant revolution. It does not deal with the religious wars in Europe and ultimately the American colonies. Most interesting reading.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The Langeudoc region of France is one of great beauty and of history dating back to before the Gauls occupied the area. There are prehistoric sites called "oppididium" that archeologically rival the Druid sites in England although none approach Stonehenge.
However, this part of Europe in best known as the stronghold of the Cathar Heresy from the mid 12th century to its final crushing in 1309. The Albigenisian Crusade proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1208 marked one of the bloodiest eras in history with Christian mercilessly killing other Christians in the name of the "true faith".
In 1209 the city of Beziers surrendered to Crusaders after only a token resistance however the Crusaders proceeded to sack the town slaughtering tens of thousand citizens irrespective of age or sex. Thousands who had sought refuge in a church were killed when the Crusaders burned it to the ground with them inside.
This area at that time was on the borders of Spain and for protection castles had been built on various mountain tops. One of these was Montsegur whose ruins are perched at a precarious 3000 altitude in the south of France near the Pyrenees Mountains about 40 miles southwest of Carcassonne.
In 1243–44, the Cathars were besieged at Montségur by 10,000 French troops at the end of the Albigensian Crusade. In March 1244, the Cathars finally surrendered and when they refused to renounce their faith approximately 220 were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog
Myths and legends apart, the history of Montségur actually is both dramatic and mysterious. The siege was an epic event of heroism and zealotry: a veritable Masada of the Cathar faith whose demise is symbolized by the fall of the mountain-top
Supposedly before the fall of the castle a small group escaped at night carrying a mysterious object. The rumor was that it was the Holy Grail. Apparently the Nazis were thought to give some credence to that rumor and tried to incorporate the site into their lore.
Whatever the truth may be the ruins are not those of the Cathar castle. That castle was completely destroyed after its captured. Over subsequent years new fortifications were constructed on the site and what exists today is referred to by French archeologists as "Montsegur III" and is typical of post-medieval royal French defensive architecture of the 1600s.
The first two photos are of Mountsegur. Because of the light color of the ruins it was impossible to get good contrast from the sky. The first one was taken with a long telephoto lens, the second with the normanl 50mm lens from the distant road. This gives a good idea of the impregnable position of the castle.
The last two show the Corbier countryside. The Corbiers extend inland parallel to the Mederteranean sea from Languedoc to the Pyrenees
Note to Dan: Perhaps you should contact Greg. Somewheres in my other 5 or so binders are my Italy slides. Tuscany is among them along with memories of some great wines. I apologize for my senility since I am unable to locate the site of the pix in question. Deducing from the group of slides in which I found this one, it must be in a village in the Corbiers region.
Sometime next week I will start on a binder with about 500 slides. Since I have several it will be a surprise to me when I scan the first 20 on a sheet.
For today until I can remember my Random Thoughts here are 4 shots that I am fond of. The first is a Farm House near the Canal de Midi, I do not recall the location of the second picture in Southern France I had thought that the blue in the background was the sea but on closer inspection there are hills in the background , and the last two are in the Corbiers, a small village and a town that may be Tuchan.Note how the church dominates the town.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
What is most encouraging is his plan to re institute the PWA type program which willnot only help rebuild our infra-structure but create employment for those who will and can work. This is not a dole and is important for self esteem.
Too bad we have to wait to Jan. 20, but at least the frame work will be in place and Congress will have two months to be prepared to act without delay.
We are living in momentous times and our new President-elect looks like the MAN.
Speaking about politicians who seem to have plans for "change" read today's Councilman Burney's Blog . I have addressed the failures that I am aware of in Plainfield's emergency response plan- if there is one. Questions in the past have resulted in only vague evasive answers. The public is entitled to know the details of our emergency response.
Wlkepedia's entry on this canal
The Marne-Rhine Canal (French: Canal de la Marne au Rhin) is a canal in eastern France. It connects the river Marne in Vitry-le-François with the Rhine in Strasbourg. Combined with the canalised part of the Marne, it allows transport between Paris and eastern France. The 312 km long canal was opened in 1853. The canal is suited for small ships (péniches), maximum size 38.5 m long and 5.05 m wide. It has 155 locks. The Marne-Rhine Canal is connected with the following navigable waterways: Marne River in Vitry-le-François, Meuse River/Canal de l'Est near Commercy, Moselle River/Canal de l'Est in Toul, Moselle River in Pompey, Canal des houillères de la Sarre in Gondrexange, Rhine in Strasbourg
More interesting facts from other sources
"With its forests and lakes, the landscape around the canal is simply outstanding. On your way you'll see a number of monuments including castles and windmills. When you arrive in Alsace you will be using the Artzwiller lift with its tunnel and inclined plane, a feature unique of its kind in Europe! The boat lift carries boats and canal barges from the upper to the lower canal, travelling up a 41% slope for a distance of 128 metres. The Marne-Rhine canal crosses Alsace and Lorraine for a distance of 152 km including 58 locks, travelling via Nancy, Lagarde and Saverne."
"The Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane is a part of the Marne-Rhine Canal. Located on the territory of the commune of Saint-Louis, between the towns of Saint-Louis and Arzviller in the department of the Moselle, it enables the canal to cross the Vosges Mountains. The structure opened in 1969, replacing 17 locks to provide for a change in level of 44.55 metres (approximately 138 feet). The inclined plane comprises a single chamber, reminiscent of a giant bath tub, which is called a caisson and slides laterally up or down the hillside on rails set at an angle of 41 degrees. The caisson is counter-balanced by two weights each of 450 metric tons, and the length of the lifting ramp is 108.65 metres (about 335 feet). The design is believed to be unique in Europe. Prior to the construction of the incline, barges needed 8 to 13 hours to traverse the 17 locks and 10,200 cubic metres of water was needed to operate the series of locks. The incline can be traversed in 4 minutes and requires only 40 cubic metres of water. Because the design uses counterweights to balance the weight of the caisson being moved, the entire operation can be run by two 120 horsepower electric motors, which causes a surprisingly small energy consumption."
The vast European canal systems connect the Baltic, Black, North, Mediterranean Seas; the English channel ,the Atlantic Ocean; the Oder, Elbel, Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Marne, Garrone, Mossel and other navigable rivers to afford a slow but safe inexpensive inland transportation system. The more expensive trucks and railroads have not replaced the barges as has happened in the United States.
There are many so called hotel barges that travel on many of the French Canals. They carry between 6 to 32 passengers and tie up at night. All have day excursion trips and are an ideal way to see local areas of France. There are also on some canals small boats for up to 8 that can be rented.
We had enjoyed our two barge trips as well as river boat trips on the Rhine, Moselle and Danube. They are perhaps the best way to get to know the countries.
Strasbourg shares with Brussels as the home of the European Union's Parliment, and also is the site of many of the Council of Europe's agencies. I would recommend reading about Strasbourgh in Wilkepedia its history and historical sites including the oldest continually operating Apothecary (Pharmacy) in the world.
The photos are of Aigues Mortes
The foundation of the city is attributed to Marius Caius, around 102 BC, but the first document mentioning a place called " ayga mortas dates from 10th cedntury. Louis IX (Saint Louis) rebuiltit in the 13th century as France's only Mediterranean port.A that tim was="" embarkation point of seventh and the eighth crusades.
The town is actually several miles inland and the port, as such, would have been in nearby lagoons and estuaries, linked to Aigues-Mortes. The 1,650 metres of city walls were built in two phases: the first during the reign of Philippe III the Bold and the second during the reign of Philippe IV the Fair, who had the enclosure completed between 1289 and 1300.
The Constance Tower, completed in 1248, (Two views below)is all that remains of the castle built in Louis IX's reign. It was almost certainly the gatehouse tower, designed to be impregnable with its six-metre-thick walls. A spiral staircase leads to the different levels of the tower. From 1575 to 1622, Aigues-Mortes was one of the eight safe havens granted to the Protestants. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 caused severe repression of Protestantism, which was marked in Languedoc and the Cévennes in the early 18th century by the "Camisard War". Like other towers in the town, from 1686 onwards the Constance Tower was used as a prison for the Huguenots who refused to convert to Roman Catholicism. In 1703, Abraham Mazel, leader of the Camisards, managed to escape with sixteen companions.
As an apology here are three more pictures.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Councilman Burney's Blog about the one seat ride into NYC is interesting but a represents a rehash of 30+ tears talk. When DOT took over passenger operations on the defunct CRRNJ and built the ramp connection to the old Lehigh Valley tracks so that the Jersy City Ferry terminal operation and the bay bridge could be abandoned the promise was made that access to Penn Station was the ultimate goal. Even then an additional tunnel under the river was contemplated as a necessity.
During this time interval the electrified Gladstone and Denville/Dover lines were modernized and converted to be compatible with the existing Amtrack lines. However all plans to electrify the Raritan Valley line were abandoned as too expensive, as was a the new tunnel that would be needed to carrier the extra capacity. This was in a time of relative record setting prosperity.
The concept of hybrid Diesel/Electric Locomotive is not new and I believe have been used on other Metropolitan lines sin the past. Perhaps the LIRR or the NewHaven lines, that I would have to research. as to a new tunnel, by the time it is built or even funded I think the time table, and I can be corrected, is not before 2020 to be operational. This was the proposal before the market collapse.
Before we have too many hopes for the Raritan Valley lines, remember North Jersey has priority, Also what ever happened to the proposed Light Railway system?
OBAMA WATCH: Despite the fact that the selection of his incoming leaders reflects a return to the Clinton Washington of old and new a true change, he has chosen wisely with perhaps, to me. one exception.
Obama is avoiding Carter's mistake of surrounding himself with people who had no concept of Washington and National politics. He continues to impress me as a very astute politician and certainly seems on the right road restore economic and social confidence in the United States. If his adviser's input is not too radical to create resistance, I hope Congress will not go off the deep end with their own, and to date destructive, agendas.
My exception is of course, Hilary as Secretary of State. Yes she will be an improvement over today's gofer. Yes, her international exposure and of course President Clinton's foreign relationships cab stand us in good stead. However I do not know how effective she will be in her new role. As a carpet-bagging power seeking opportunist politician I can not envision her being subservient to the President.
You judge this individual, who became a resident of a safe state in time to receive the nomination for the Senate and who ran for reelection stating that she had no intention of seeking any other office ,but would fulfill her term as Senator. The best thing the Democrats did was to deny her the right to become President.
I hope that this lame duck but one party controlled Congress will not sabotage every attempt to mitigate today's crisis. What is more important, this country's welfare, or some self centered incompetents using private jets to travel to meet with Congress? Those individuals and their peers must be dealt with by their stockholder's not boards ASAP, but first things first.
A note of disappointment; No one has identified the Canal City. No surprise but I hoped that I would get more replies (non posted). Another clue The city's name suggests that it is in the wrong country. One more day.
Friday, November 21, 2008
What city is this? No prize offered not even a wet noodle. One clue, it is not one of the two most famous for the canals European cities. Send your answers and I will post the correct one tomorrow.
In the 1400's a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat