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They Got Dem Ol’ Computer Blues

Barney Looks at SBCC’s Computer Registration Troubles


TECHNICAL FOUL-UP: “A total failure,” as one Santa Barbara City College official put it. “We’re all sort of mortified, terribly embarrassed.”

About what? Losing a football game? No. A sudden lack of Adult Education students? Actually, just the opposite. So many Santa Barbarans with a lust for learning swarmed in to take classes that the new $120,000-per-year computer registration system went bonkers. The software couldn’t handle the demand.

Barney Brantingham

Computer geeks predicted 400-500 people would be signing on when registration began at 10 p.m. on August 17. But more like 2,000 people hit the college cyberspace, resulting in long, maddening delays. And at that hour, all the offices were closed, meaning would-be students had a devil of a time getting help.

Maggie Gold said she had to go into the Wake Center the next day to register, along with countless others. “I sat three or four hours” waiting to sign up, Maggie told me. “People were frustrated.”

What especially irked her and people like City Council candidate Cathie McCammon is the same snafu occurred when Adult Ed first switched from paper registration to computer last December. And again at the spring registration.

This is the third time” the computer system fouled up, complained McCammon, who wanted to take two classes and spent from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. before managing to register. “I know it crashed at least once. The computer just didn’t have the capacity.”

Ofelia R. Arellano-vice president for Continuing Education at City College, and not the official I quoted earlier-acknowledged the problem but told me a new staggered registration system should solve it. Arellano, who said she joined the college just after the computer system was installed last year, said officials from the vendor (Augusoft Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota) conferred with the college’s technical people and came up with the 400-500 demand figure, using Lumen Software.

I don’t know where they got that number,” Arellano said.

School officials, trying to fix the problem, have looked to see which courses had the most registrants. If you thought they might be the Three R’s-readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic-you’re wrong. At the top was ceramics. Second was jewelry-making. Sorry if that disillusioned you, but it gave officials a clue. When registration opens again on December 8, it will be at 8 a.m., when offices are open. And only ceramics classes will be available, limiting the demand. The next day, December 9, you can only register for jewelry-making and ceramics. The next day, all classes will be open.

Arellano said the $120,000 annual cost will carry the program through December. I don’t know exactly who’s to blame for this mess. Maybe the ease of going online energized the education-minded. I asked Arellano if the college should exact some sort of penalty from Augusoft for the triple-header goof, if in fact it was its fault and not skewed info from the college. “We are discussing with them appropriate remedies for the problem,” she said.

ELECTION NOIR: Sweet little Santa Barbara, where elections used to be financed, partly at least, with bake sales, is looking more like a film noir from a Ross Macdonald novel. Big dough poured in by mystery men from strange places-Russia, Dallas. An unlucky 13 competing for City Council, all waving endorsements and no clear leaders visible yet. Sleazy polls, hit-piece mailers, shockingly overwrought online smears by previously respected folk. Friends losing friends over building-heights initiative Measure B.

Speaking of film noir, at the Ensemble Theatre Company’s opening of Gunmetal Blues on Saturday, October 3, a Hope Ranch attorney insisted that if B passes, “It will turn Santa Barbara into a slum.” (Really? Worse than two holes in the ground-La Entrada and Fess Parker’s waterfront hotel-to-be-plus the long-derelict Californian Hotel?) At the Ensemble reception, I urged mayoral candidate Helene Schneider to announce whether she’s for or against Measure B. She smiled sweetly and demurred. Helene’s apparently ahead in the race and isn’t about to rock the ballot. She says she’ll follow the wishes of ye olde publik. Gunmetal Blues is a boozy semi-musical, featuring a private eye (Christopher Halsted), clever cliches, and actors playing multiple roles. The bar pianist (John Massey) and the blonde (the sensational JJ Rodgers) unleash more characters than the council race. The election seems as surreal as the play-almost as bloody-and we’re waiting for the last act.

FOOD AND LAUGHTER: Janet Caballero, who started the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre by setting a few benches around a stage in the barn, with herself starring in the very first production, Everybody Loves Opal, in 1971, died last month in Las Vegas. The Circle Bar B now fills 86 seats (with backs) most nights, and it is run by actors Susie and David Couch in the tradition established by Janet and her husband, Ruben. Specializing in delightfully well-acted farces, it is still one of Sue’s and my favorite theaters. A memorial service for Janet will be held at the LoberoTheatre Courtyard on Monday, October 12, at 4:00 p.m.

PINK MARTINI: They held an Arlington audience in the palms of their talented hands, these dozen singers and musicians of the storied Pink Martini. Led by a young woman of many voices, styles, and languages, China Forbes, and a world-class pianist in founder and Artistic Director Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini filled the theater with rhythms from around the world, with a murmuring cello, blaring trumpets, an insistent trombone, bongos, pounding drums, a guitar, and a violinist who launched into a Fritz Kreisler solo. Thanks to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures, now celebrating 50 years, for bringing this joyous band to Santa Barbara.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.



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