Friday, September 22

Holy Hard Water, Jacksonville

We finally got enough ahead to put on the new roof that didn't really help with insurance rates, and the next improvement probably has to be a water softener, since we have especially hard water. In fact, based on our zip code, we have hard water bordering on mineral water. For 32225, it's 339 ppm of minerals or 20 grains per gallon for figuring out your water softener. Here's a link to the JEA water hardness by zip. No explanation as to why JEA doesn't soften the water for us just a little bit. Probably too expensive, but it costs all of us, either in buying a water softener or in appliance and plumbing destruction that needs repair or replacement. Our shower heads go bad quickly, our dishwasher keeps getting broken parts, and our hot water heater had inches of crusty stuff in the bottom of the tank last year, so I know the hard water is, in fact, hard on our house.

When I ran the numbers for a water softener we would need (you take the grains per gallon x gallons per person x number of people, I got 6000. That translates to a 48,000 grain capacity water softener (5,751 – 6,850). I am assuming the average of 75 gallons per person per day.

The problem is that if we add one more person, which many houses our size could accommodate, that would put us in the 64,000 grain water softener range. I'm thinking we might want to opt for the larger unit for resale, since a 4-bed and 3-bath house should be able to house five or more people. But it also looks like I'll have fewer options if I go for the larger capacity, so maybe 48,000 is good. Or maybe there's a 56,000 unit out there. Anyhow, it'll be somewhere just under $1,000 for the water softener. Hoping the installation doesn't double the price.

I'm not sure if realtors or neighbors tell those of us who are new to Jax that it might have some of the hardest water they've ever used. Our zip code's 20 gpg ranks among the highest I saw in any of the cities with supposedly the worst hard water in our country. The caveat for a lot of the other cities was that city water might be significantly softer than surrounding areas based on water source. Obviously, JEA uses the hardest water source available, so lucky us. Even though my former hometown of Milwaukee is in the "Extremely Hard" area of the map, the Lake Michigan water distributed to homes was 8gpg/137 or moderately hard, so fine for home use. If salt does a number on hard water, couldn't we just mix in a little salt water to our system? We have a lot of salt water all around. I realize it's a different process, but it just seems frustrating.

Thursday, September 7

Clay County Dad Has Made One-Third of Book Complaints in State, Should Probably Homeschool

I'm not a huge proponent of homeschool. I think kids should have the social interaction of school and they benefit from the different teachers. But I'd like to make a suggestion to the whiney dad in Clay County that the world would probably be a better place if he homeschooled his little darlings.

I believe everyone in our country has the right to a free, public, liberal arts education. However, if a child is too violent, that child eventually gives up his right to that education. Or if a child skips school so often that he can't perform the work required to pass, then he also gives up the right. And if a parent makes a third of all the complaints in an entire state against using books at his kids' school, he also gives up the right. Why? In all the cases, it's about what's good for the many versus what's good for the few. If we let a violent kid continue to beat up his classmates, those other kids are negatively affected. And if we pass kids to the next grade level who don't earn the grades, the school's reputation and the value of the education earned by classmates suffers. And a parent who wastes time and resources just so he can prove how much he doesn't trust the decisions made by the school board elected by the many is just as much a nuisance to the school district.

Maybe no one has thought to ask this guy to pull his kids out of the school district. They might be worried he'd submit a complaint form if they do. But I don't really care, so I'll ask him to send his kids elsewhere. Like home. Online school doesn't have a library, so that's an option. Or, since he's such an expert, he can just teach the kids himself. He probably has a real doll of a wife who could handle it if he has to go off to work. And if they both work, then maybe a classical academy is the right setting, although he might be surprised how many classical books were written by homosexuals or how many classical paintings depict naked people, sometimes engaged in homosexual activities. Or send the kids to a private school and then join the school board there in order to police the staff. I mean, who has time to research all the books your kids' school might have? And does this guy's employer know how he spends half of his work day? Take it from a dad who has embarrassed his kids a few times: stop. Just strip-search your kids every day after school before you lock them in the dog kennels in their bedrooms in order to make sure they're not reading books about gay penguins. Or use the book about gay penguins in a teachable moment about why sodemny is wrong or why book-banning is so good.

Honestly, if this dad needs a new hobby, they exist. He could volunteer at the schools to maybe do lunch duty or monitor recess. He could help distribute food to those less fortunate or help them find meaningful employment so they aren't taking food from his family. He could distribute Bibles in North Korea. Lots of stuff. People would like you more if you had a meaningful hobby, or even an unmeaningful one, like watching the grass in your yard grow or racing RC boats in your pond. Or drinking heavily. Or sexy-time with the wife. But the best hobby would be to write a series of children's books that would be appropriate for all kids. Most brilliant and self-important people are amazingly creative and talented, which means writing several books for kids ought to be a snap.

So, to recap, I hope this dad sends his kids elsewhere with school choice vouchers and finds a new way to annoy others, maybe even a blog.

Sunday, August 27

Get The Plank Out Your Eye, Neighbor

My block is parked full of cars on the street. It's a problem. I'm not generally part of the problem because we use our garage and driveway to fit our four cars. I don't like that it's a problem, but I don't tend to say too much, probably because saying too much leads to interactions like the following:

My daughter parked on the street across from our house because my wife was gone and the wife's car gets the garage. I told my daughter to park there for the hour or so it might take for my wife to get home. There are no parking restrictions on our block, and we generally get all the cars in the driveway by bedtime. Anyhow, the neighbor, who I have seen all of five times since I've moved here six years ago, comes out while I'm adding something to the trunk of the car. "You're not planning on parking that car here," (or something to that effect) says my neighbor. "No, my daughter just parked here until my wife comes home with the car," I returned.

That's ok so far. Just a neighborly "don't park in front of my house" interaction. Problem is, I could sense the attitude, and it was really unwarranted. We never park in front of this lady's house. And if we did, it would be quite legal. However, what I knew was illegal (and I never reported) was her broken-down Nissan Juke that sat right there on the street for at least six months.

"I just didn't want it to be one of those cars that sits out in front of my house," she returned, probably thinking I'd agree and move on. But I really couldn't, because she was busting my chops for the one and only time I've parked in front of her house on a public street, when she'd left a car that needed to eventually get towed away sit there in the way of everyone on the block for so long. So I dunked on her with, "It's not like that Nissan Juke that sat there for six months."

"Excuse me!" she said, probably in a bit of disbelief that I knew her car had rotted there for so long. Then she went on about trying to have a nice conversation and that was her car and yada yada. But the fact is that, even if it was her car, if it doesn't move for half a year, it's parked illegally. Realistically, if it doesn't move for a week, that's illegal. Also, she definitely wasn't trying to have a nice conversation, and I learned from another neighbor that she's been leaving notes on people's cars for years who dare to park in front of her house.

So I made the neighbor mad by calling her out, but I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything wrong. Sure, I should have just complained about all the other people on the block parking on the street. Or I could have played dumb and suggested some other neighbor Juked her house for six months. Or I could have just let her grumpy-ass win and moved my car immediately. But she doesn't really deserve that kind of victory.

Because I pay attention, I was able to Dikembe Mutombo her attempted dunk, wag my finger at her, and then tomahawk dunk on her sorry ass. But I know that feels really salty when that happens, so I have to be careful to not get honey poured on any of my vehicles parked in front of her house on public property. And guns, of course.

I'd really like to smooth things over at this point, mostly because I smacked her down so bad. Except I forgot to mention I knew her broken-down Juke was, in fact, broken. In which case she'll (in her own reality) possibly think I was just ripping on her for parking her car there daily. I mean, I guess even working Nissan Jukes are broken down most of the time, but this one definitely did not move for months. She knows that, but her not knowing that I know it might complicate my clear victory. And again, I don't really need a victory. I'd rather have a friendly neighbor, but she didn't seem to want that.

Really, this is all just nonsense. 1st world problems and all. But now there's a grudge, and when I see her again in a year or so, I won't wave or smile or anything, which makes me almost sad.

Saturday, August 12

Who Wrote Florida's Private-party Auto Sales Law?

I guess I'm all for saving paper, but I'm also in favor of saving headaches and hassles. That's why I have to wonder who wrote the laws governing private-party auto sales in Florida. Probably not anyone who has ever sold his own car. My guess would be the auto dealers because selling your own car is more of a headache than it needs to be.

Fine, I'm sure part of the intent of the law was to save paper by encouraging Floridians to house their electronic titles online with the state. The DMV guy told me it was safer that way. I guess, but most people don't break into your home to steal your jewelry and car title. Maybe if you have a really sweet car, but that's not 99% of us. Also, I'm pretty sure the Florida DMV sold my email address to the highest bidder based on junk email I received after I moved here, so there's that.

Fine, I don't have a physical title to my car, but it's mine, and I can sell it whenever I want. Nope. If you opted for the e-title, you need to sell your car at the DMV (tax collector's office). You know, that place you never want to go to. Florida expects you to show up with the buyer and your identifications and do the whole deal right there while in line for several hours. Right there where the counter employee can see how much money really changes hands so that you can be taxed appropriately. I'm sure that's how the legislature passed this law, believing it would cut down on all that tax-evasion by dishonest private-party sellers. And it has, mostly by attrition, as in very few people who have an e-title ever sell their cars in the prescribed manner. I was told by a counter employee that the younger generation is cool with selling cars at the DMV, as they are used to meeting at police stations or mall parking lots to sell their stolen iPads.

I bet Florida WAS a haven for guys buying cars at auctions with their uncles' dealer licenses and then selling the cars under their girlfriends' names. Back when Craigslist still existed. And those guys should have gotten busted, I agree. But most of us just want to have the right to sell our own car on a Sunday to some guy from church who just totaled his car and needs a new one, and with cash that no one should be flashing around the DMV.

Of course, dealers have full access to the electronic system, so the complete and utter inconvenience of completing a private-party vehicle purchase is super-easy at a dealership. It's probably built in to the "Dealer Fee." Let me tell you about Florida dealerships, however. Two sold me cars that would not have passed an inspection (if we did them) and one sold me a new car that was really a demonstrator. And those were all reputable ones. They generally pay wholesale (trade or auction), kick the tires, sell at retail, and then add $1,000 in dealer fees. And they've partnered with the state to ensure buying and selling our own cars is too much of a hassle to bother.

You know, I'd be fine with the system if it also ensured all drivers had insurance, but that's obviously not happening. One dealership did take care of a recall for me before they would hand over the car, so that's one positive, I guess. Also, when my car was totaled, I didn't have to fish around the house for a paper title because insurance companies can apparently also access the e-title -- just not the owner. Yes, you can order your paper title. I don't think it was a significant fee, but I decided against it (again) because I somehow want to believe an electronic title is sufficient. And it probably is for most of us, most of the time.

Anyhow, if you are an impulse seller or like undercutting the government on taxes, then be sure to get the paper version of your title.

Who Do You Know Causing Trouble in Jax? Summer 2023 Edition

I was going through some recent neighbor posts of suspected thefts and other naughty activities, so I figured why not link out to the photos that have been shared so that the faces of those who are innocent until never arrested can be fresh in everyone's mind. Most of these people "probably" stole stuff. Most of them will get away with it. I guess contact JSO if you know who someone is in the photos.

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 Another Case Against Pitbulls
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Satisfamily - Articles about being happy as a family
Passive Ninja - Web Design in Jacksonville
McNewsy - Creative Writing
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Voucher School - Pros and Cons of School Vouchers
Luthernet - Web Design for Lutheran Churches
Sitcom Life Lessons - What we've learned from sitcoms
Mancrush Fanclub - Why not?
Epic Folktale - Stories of the unknown
Wild West Allis - Every story ever told about one place
Educabana on Teachers Pay Teachers (mostly ELA lessons)
Real Wisconsin News - Satire from Wisconsin
Zoo Interchange Milwaukee - Community website
Chromebook Covers - Reviews and opinions

Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

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Tuesday, July 25

Are Wealthy Gen-Zers the Most Annoying People on Earth?

I meet a lot of wealthy people. Most of them are just like you and me, just bigly richer. Some of them like to tell me they're no conspiracy theorists but there's a podcast I ought to listen to. That's not even terribly annoying. But Gen-Z rich kids might be tops on the list of annoying.

I just read that only 35% of Gen Z always tip at a sit-down restaurant. That's mean and annoying. I'd say about 20% of Gen Z tip when using Uber Lyft. Probably less. But the fact that they are fine buying daily $10 drinks at Starbucks while not tipping waitresses at real restaurants isn't all that makes Gen-Z annoying.

They check out in a way that makes them seem like they don't care. And maybe they don't. But, honestly, I'd rather deal with a checked-out Gen Zero than one who wants to talk. Especially a rich one.

I heard one conversation where wealthy mommy, who had just taken Bryce on a skiing trip, suggested they go to the Caribbean next month. But Bryce didn't like the available waves for surfing or whatnot, so he wanted a different island. I've noticed that most Gen-Zeros who live in Ponte Vedra know absolutely nothing about Jacksonville, as if they live in a bubble or something. (They do.) Sometimes, it's just the constant repetition of a given word, like the Lacrosse team boys who kept saying everything was so sick. Or was it lit? Or fire? Or epic? Or legit, boss, tight? I don't know, but when three teenage boys keep saying the same word over and over, I was so not amped.   

But one conversation took the cake when it came to annoying Gen Z kids. Mom, Daughter, and BFF got a ride from me. Daughter says she has a pleasant natural odor and does not require deodorant. Both girls are so happy they thrived while on an exotic vacation. BFF had a life-plan to marry rich, send her kids to a high-end private school, and vacation in the Hamptons. I thought she was kidding, but I'm sure now she wasn't. They all congratulated themselves on BFF"s mom who is so magnanimous to take off work as a doctor to be a volunteer nurse at their ritzy summer camp. And their siblings had ridiculous nicknames, one based on a an animal, that is probably terribly cute for the family but surely won't be his name when he takes over for daddy as CEO. Daughter also drops the f-bomb every other sentence with no negative reaction from Mommy, who seems to enjoy it, meaning the family is probably nouveau-riche and from the East Coast, possibly Boston (the birthplace of swearing). BFF had an interest in a mutual acquaintance to be her future sugar-husband (Carlton, perhaps), though Mommy pointed out he had a girlfriend, to which BFF said he'd just dumped the ex because she wasn't a 10. Maybe BFF was a Boston 10 (I didn't get a great look), but I just couldn't imagine she was a 10 in very many zip codes. Plus, I couldn't imagine any girl trying to be a 10 for a guy who claims he deserves only a 10. Whatever, I'm sure they'll be happy.

Honesty, the conversation was just teens sounding rich and dumb until they spent a full 10 minutes talking about some social media star they both really liked who had gotten a nose job and now feels so much more confident and how pretty she was now (maybe a 10?) and who she was dating and what her career was and how old she is now and her sister and just so much nothing that I began imagining the situation I was in as one of those depictions of your own personal hell: stuck driving rich teen girls around and having to hear them discuss just about anything, hoping they won't talk at all. Just like Carlton will be thinking a few months into the marriage, wishing he'd stuck with that 9. 

The Best Auto Jumpstarter I've Owned

This Autowit Super Capacitor is better than all the other chargers and jumpstarters I have owned. And I have used plenty because I've owned diesels in Wisconsin winters along with older vehicles with electronic gremlins. 

Basically, a super capacitor takes power that still exists in the battery in order to concentrate it for a jump. Or it takes that power from another battery (even a cell phone charging brick). In my experience with the device, it has always worked to start my 1986 Bertone that probably needs new wiring. It also worked to start a friend's Mitsubishi stuck in a parking lot. All with the volts (or is it amps?) in the batteries themselves. 

Even if I had to use another battery because my own is too dead, it's still not potentially wrecking the two cars involved in the jump. Charge it at one battery and then hook it up to the other.

Also, unlike battery jumpers, there is no battery. The battery-powered jumpstarters I've used end up with a dead battery in a couple of years, often before they even are useful. This super capacitor is supposed to be able to work forever, since it's not dependent on a battery of its own. 

It doesn't need to be plugged in or prepped in any way. Just leave it in the trunk until needed. And it works. However, it's not instant, meaning it takes about 5 minutes to get all the juice together--remember, it's not an actual battery.

I honestly own three, but I'll probably be buying a fourth. I want every car I own to have one of these. I know, it's over $100 and you might never need it. But it's so much better than $20 jumper cables or $50 jumper batteries or $100 battery chargers. 

Search New Jax Witty
Related Stories
Thanks for reading. See more of my content:

Satisfamily - Articles about being happy as a family
Passive Ninja - Web Design in Jacksonville
McNewsy - Creative Writing
Educabana - Educational Resources
Brave New Church - Church Website Design
Voucher School - Pros and Cons of School Vouchers
Luthernet - Web Design for Lutheran Churches
Sitcom Life Lessons - What we've learned from sitcoms
Mancrush Fanclub - Why not?
Epic Folktale - Stories of the unknown
Wild West Allis - Every story ever told about one place
Educabana on Teachers Pay Teachers (mostly ELA lessons)
Real Wisconsin News - Satire from Wisconsin
Zoo Interchange Milwaukee - Community website
Chromebook Covers - Reviews and opinions

Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

Contact Me

Tuesday, July 18

Three Challenges to Commercial Development in Jacksonville

A newsy source wrote about the opportunities and challenges for new development in Jacksonville. I've always heard people say there's a lot of potential here, but I've never read much about the challenges, so I was intrigued by the three problems identified by one outside developer looking to succeed in Jax.
1. Legacy developers
This is the old boys club, and I guess those of us who get frustrated by the same old folks always getting their way aren't alone. Outside developers also see it. The good news is that outsiders with deep pockets can actually tell local legacy families to go sit in a corner. I would be amused if I got to see this happen, but it probably won't be televised. Also, those outside developers are probably just as seedy, so I guess it's not a big win for the little guy.

2. Military presence
I thought that the military was unilaterally loved by everyone in Jacksonville, but the fact that the biggest employer in town is the military apparently is a challenge to commercial developers. I suppose Jacksonville doesn't have the same need for office space and the federal government would own or purchase all the property it needs for its purposes.

3. Downtown
It's kind of ironic that outside developers (who probably want to build the hell out of every inch of land south of the JTB) are complaining about our crappy downtown. Please, old boys club, outside developers, and city government, help to get a handle on downtown. About a million of us are underwhelmed, as are any tourists who show up. Maybe visit a dozen cities that have better downtowns and then start making changes everything based on how much better it could be. Really, any dozen cities of similar size would do the trick.

Friday, June 23

How Can A River Ferry Not Be Jacksonville's Biggest Money Pit?

I was driving along the 295 and noticed that the Merril exit had a little symbol on it depicting a car on a boat. Proportionally, it looked like a tow-boat for a car, but I took it to mean it was the exit for a ferry. As I continued over the Dames Point Bridge, I saw that the Hecksher Drive exit also has a ferry symbol. Problem is, the problem was already solved, meaning anyone on the 295 only needs to cross the bridge to avoid needing the ferry. I suppose there might be one tourist every decade or so that gets excited and exits in order to take a river ferry, but that's not a very good ROI for the sign. It's kind of like having a sign for the Matthews Bridge at the Dames Point Bridge. Anyhow, the sign is dumb, but what about the ferry itself?

I saw that it was closed for maintenance for several months. Maintenance sounds expensive. I don't have any clue as to operating costs or land costs or anything related to ferries, but it seems like a costly luxury when a bridge exists. I'm going to guess there are parking lots, ticket buildings with employees, at least one large boat with several more employees, etc. Even if the tickets are from an automated kiosk and people park themselves, it's a huge freakin boat, right? 

I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it seems that the Mayport Ferry has lost between $500,000 and $1 million a year for the past 30 or so years. Probably since the Dames Point Bridge was built. It's changed ownership several times (because it loses money), and now it's owned by JTA. I'm sure someone got rich back in 1874 by running the ferry, but 1874 is never coming back again, people.

JTA claims 400,000 passengers per year. I'm not sure the number of vehicles or whether cars are counted as a single passenger even if it's stuffed with people. Either way, every rider would have to kick in an extra dollar (minimum) in order to almost break even. But I'm sure all the expensive studies have shown the most you can charge a pedestrian to cross a river (and then have to pay to cross back) with nothing of interest on either side is $1.

So the best plan was to upgrade something or other, closing the ferry service for a few months. An upgrade probably has not resulted in higher ticket prices, and I really doubt it will result in more consistent ridership, so it was probably done to make sure the ferry was safe. At what cost? Beats me, but it probably wasn't cheap or free. 

I'd love to hear the argument for continuing to fund the ferry. If it's historical, then I'd like to see an old boat. If it's useful, then I'd like to see who benefits the most from the ferry. If it's tourism, then I'd like to see where people are from who use it. If it's economical, then I'd like to see it break even. Honestly, I want the ferry to make sense. Even a little bit of sense. I just don't see how. 

Tuesday, June 6

Yeah, Begshoppers Are Annoying

I was reading a story about begpackers in Asia (and how people over there find these people annoying) when I got to thinking about begshoppers in Jacksonville. Those are the folks who show up to Walmart or a gas station with their vehicles in order to beg for gas money to get back home. Just as the general consensus in Asia is that college-aged guitar players should not embark on tourism without the funds, my thought is that local folks should probably not venture out in a car without gas.

I guess most of us assume the asking for gas money is a ruse in order to get drug or booze money, but the fact is that these people do generally have cars right there, and they will have to add gas in order to get back home. So it's not a total lie, I guess. But still stupid.

Most people who own cars also have a place to live. Plus, they have a means of transportation to get to work, but instead of working, they are begshopping. One of the begshopper families that hang out by the airport drives a fairly nice black Camaro. They just roll up on everyone they see with the same story of needing gas to get home as they drive all around River City Marketplace, asking for gas money.

Would I feel more like donating if they said they needed money to buy groceries at Walmart? Or if they needed cash to make payments on their nice Camaro? Honestly, I can't imagine a scenario where I would give begshoppers money, but the scheme only has to work on a few victims per day to get a few hits of meth.

Harrell & Harrell 'The Right Size' Ad is Hilarious

Maybe Harrell & Harrell was going for a sassy, naughty response to Morgan & Morgan. Maybe the law firm just got really lucky and never thought about it. However, the result is one of the best clapback ads ever created.

For context, Morgan & Morgan created a series of commercials and billboards claiming that size matters. It's because Morgan & Morgan is the largest injury law firm on earth or something. The phrase also has a sexual connotation. The ads didn't take it too far, but everyone knows the debate about male size and whether it matters. So a big law firm is saying that size matters, and they are kind of using sex to sell, even if the Morgans aren't the sexiest men alive.

The genius of Harrell & Harrell's ad campaign is that Holt Harrell probably is the sexiest lawyer alive. And the billboard, with a photo of Holt, reads, "The right size." That's freakin hilarious! Plausible deniability allows one to say it's just in response to some large law firm that doesn't really know who you are, but if you acknowledge the use of sex in the Morgan & Morgan ad, then the response ad is doing the same thing. It's not the size but how you use it, right? Morgan & Morgan is just too big and too firm. 

When you are a handsome, wealthy lawyer-veteran like Holt Harrell, you're probably more worried about lining up donors for a potential Senate bid than a pissing contest with Morgan and Morgan, but Holt won it anyhow. Because of the ad, you assume Harrell drives a sensible family sedan instead of a monster pickup truck. You assume he shows up for court well-rested rather than hung-over. You assume he is polite to the judge. You assume he holds you afterwards; or holts you. Most of us associate law firms with one-night-stands: you're ashamed to do it, but you kind of want it to be good if you're going to bother. But Holt Harrell is the lawyer you'd be proud to bring home to dinner with the family.

My wife used Milwaukee's biggest and most advertised law firm when she got into an accident, and it worked out OK for her, but when she finally met the man behind the "one call, that's all" catchphrase, she said it was like meeting a rock star. And that was after all his minions did his bidding to get the settlement. I told her he probably meets all the clients once just to see if they'd make good billboard photos, but she didn't really make enough money to get plastered on a giant sign. You don't imagine Holt Harrell checking out clients once just to see if they're billboard-worthy. That's a big, sleazy Orlando-lawyer move. And it's not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean that makes all the difference.

New Roof Miscommunications Lead to Buyer's Remorse and This Review

My neighbor recommended CNR Roofing in Jacksonville because of the warranty and price. Assuming the company is still in business, workmanship is guaranteed for 10 years rather than the typical 5 years. I liked that, too, so I added CNR to my list of roofing estimates. 

The salesman told me what they'd do and materials they'd use and how it was all quality, and I was pretty much sold, so I asked if I could get a cash or special-financing-rate credit card discount or offer. I was told 1% cash discount. That was cool, though I assumed my other options were to pay with check or credit card (also about 1% cash back depending on the card). I was wrong.

CNR pushed the date around to account for rain. That's not a big deal when it was pushed back, but when it was pushed up, I didn't have time to get cash in hand (though it was in the bank). When I told the salesman this, he said just pay with a check, and in my mind, a check would be the same as cash when compared to a credit card (which I know charges fees to companies), so I saw it as a green light to pay partial cash and the rest a check. Nope. I was later told cash or check was all they took, and I lost my discount because I didn't go get $8,000 from the bank, even though I was also told it costs then money to process cash, so I was confused. I thought they'd want cash for maybe paying a worker cash once in a while or whatever it is companies sometimes want cash for, and I was willing to go get the cash, but then they didn't really want it and seemed to want payment immediately, even though the roof was done a day early. I hadn't slept much in the previous 24 hours, so I went with it. 1% isn't such a big deal if the job's done right.

However, even before I didn't get my 1%, I had let CNR know that a rusty nail went through my foot the night before. I was very surprised to hear that I wasn't getting my discount AND that I need to be careful in my yard. No apology discount or immediate calling for a crew with magnets. Or an inspection of the yard together. Just be careful. After my overpayment, I headed outside to inspect, hoping the crew had picked up some nails since the previous night (they finished in the morning of the second day). I found over a dozen nails in the yard. That's worse than just be careful. All told, I found enough nails in the yard, plant pots, the shed roof, etc., to make the yard officially dangerous. Even the nails not in the yard itself, like the ten or so on top of the shed, would eventually end up in the yard. Honestly, if I wanted a crappy job of a roof tear-off, I would have done it myself. The photo I took of the nails I found does not include one my wife found (which she handed to the workers) and the one in my foot (which I tossed into the dumpster before cracking open a beer for self-healing heal).

We chose to keep cars in the garage to protect them from the elements, and we assumed the dumpster would leave when the crew was finished. Nope. I couldn't pick my kid up from school or use my vehicle to get to work. Again, probably just another miscommunication, but enough to make me feel like there should have been better communication. As in, "Have cash on hand for the discount (even if we go a day early), and have your cars out of the garage for as long as it takes because our dumpster leaves when it feels like leaving. And be prepared to clean up your yard yourself."

If I'd known all that, I'd be much happier. In fact, if you hire CNR, now you know. I think the roof is fine, and I hope they stay in business 10 years, honestly. Being from Wisconsin, my expectations are just high, even when Florida proves time and again that even big-ticket purchases are just barely adequate in most cases. I'm not saying you should pay twice as much to ensure a better roof experience or go with a cut-rate company that uses worse materials. Mostly, I'd just say to not expect an excellent experience no matter which Florida roofer, car dealership, plumber, painter, contractor, or whatever you choose. I've seen the results of those and more, and it's just not all that good.

After the roof was done, the bills paid, and my clean-up complete, my insurance guy told me to get a wind mitigation report from the roofer. He said roofers and contractors in Florida can fill out the form. Again, nope. While someone at CNR could take a class and be qualified, they are not, so that means an extra $80 to $135 needs to be in your CNR roofing budget. Also, the inspector said my underlayment was basic and not necessarily the better material insurance looks for, so I guess I misunderstood the sales pitch that said CNR used something better than other roofers. 

I was told when I paid that I could leave the CNR sign up as long as I wanted, so I walked down to the street as the bill collector was leaving in order to remove the sign. The job is done, and I hope it's the last I have to deal with CNR or any other roofer for a very long time. I obviously do not recommend using CNR roofing for those of you who expect the best, but as long as you know what you're getting, I'd say the company is worth an estimate.

I wanted to add that my bill to CNR for poor cleanup, storage of their dumpster, and lack of communication comes to $280. I'll update this page if the company decides to pay the bill. Cash or check would be fine.

Places to Advertise Community Events in Jacksonville

My son is in another school play, and this time I decided to try to drum up a little attention. However, I don't know exactly how to do it, so I want to document what I have tried to get a community event publicized, especially when a few hurdles existed from the outset.

First off, Duval County Public Schools have terrible websites, so while I don't think the school he's at has publicized the event, it's really hard to tell. On top of that, the tickets didn't go on sale on the GoFan site until less than a week before the event, which means all the meathead parents with kids in sports didn't see it as an upcoming event, nor could I use the link in material publicizing the play. Basically, the plan seems to be that no one will show up, and because no one will show up, there's no reason to publicize it. I don't like that plan, so this is what I tried:

About a month before the play (in this case it's Noises Off at Fletcher High School), I tried to add it to a couple of local events websites. Because I didn't have a link to tickets or an official website, I provided my own information. Folio Weekly ended up adding the event (Hooray!), while visitjacksonville did not (Boo! Hiss!) The only problem is that Folio Weekly doesn't rank high when it comes to theater events, and Jacksonville (no surprise) is all about the for-profit theater companies and their list of re-hashed productions. Anyhow, much love to Folio Weekly.

My next step is to get a document printed and posted wherever someone will let me in the East Arlington/Beaches area. I'll start with my church because my wife works there and the people know James. I went to the Pablo Creek Regional Library with one ad, but the library staff said I couldn't post it anywhere, which means a local public school can't post event info at a local public library about a literary event. My son was technically in charge of distribution of the rest of the printouts. I don't think he tried any local businesses, instead opting to hand them to fellow actors to each post one somewhere.

In the end, not much was advertised. We learned that Folio Weekly allows legitimate events, but it's not the calendar that tends to show up in Google searches. We learned that the library should change its policy and the high school should promote academic activities as much as sporting events. We learned that kids (even friends) don't attend plays, nor do most teachers or community members who happen to hear about them. That said, better execution of advertising will occur in the future because of what we've learned. If the play's appropriate, we'll try a local mom blog in the future, too. But I really believe a door-to-door canvassing with the printed playbill around the school might be the best way to let people know, since most people aren't actively searching for the information. We can ask the neighbors to post the info at work or pass the word to someone who might be interested.

Jacksonville's Bus-ted

Two stats about Jacksonville jump out to me as someone who cares (at least a little) about public transportation: we are among the worst cities for public transit usage as well as pedestrian deaths. Those two stats may not be related, in that I don't believe a more robust public transit system would make crossing Beach Boulevard outside of a crosswalk any less dangerous. However, the answer to anyone's question about transportation in Jacksonville is clearly that you better have a vehicle of your own. The traditional solution for a city like Jacksonville would be to expand the bus system (or that weird skyway dealio) and/or improve pedestrian access. What if we went totally against the grain and did NEITHER? Hear me out before you decide I'm some kind of misanthrope. 

Everyone hates the bus: riding it, getting stuck behind one, paying for empty rolling rectangles so one old-ass lady who talks to herself can get to the hairdresser. Also, everyone who isn't a daredevil hates daredevil pedestrians, which includes morons on bikes, motorized bikes, scooters, golf carts, and anything else of dubious legality clogging up roads, paths, and bike lanes (and often going the wrong direction). We also hate giant wastes of money like re-creating the skytron or creating pedestrian bridges.

I have urban planning credentials and I'm supposed to love public transportation. But, really, no one loves it. Planners can see it as the best alternative and commuters can accept it as the only alternative, but they'll never love it. In fact, in several years of taking urban planning classes at UW-Milwaukee, I never saw an urban planning (or any other) professor getting off a bus. Maybe a few biking profs and even walking profs, since the surrounding neighborhoods are fairly upscale. But no bus-riding profs. They weren't totally hypocrites, just pragmatists, since the fastest way for those professors to get to UWM was to drive. And in Jacksonville, the fastest way to get anywhere, even to the next neighborhood over, is to drive.

Granted, we could decide as a city that bike, e-bike, and other motorized devices are important, in which case we'd need to create separate connecting grids (and probably bridges) for these paths. Turn all major roads into highways with no pedestrian access. Basically, two separate systems.

The only way to fix our current roadway problem is to literally cut new roads. Not just widen the three major roads in one direction, but double the roadways in that direction (or at least stop having major thoroughfares dead-end into country club neighborhoods). Maybe increase bike and golf car lanes, but not the bus.

I read this study that promoted the economic impact of the bus system, but it's a farce, claiming a $200 million economic impact. OK, right, the poorest people in Jacksonville riding the least-used buses in the country generated $200 million? Well, not exactly. $74 million of that impact was from salaries paid to bus drivers who drove mostly empty buses (and probably lots of managers). Most of their salaries are paid by taxpayers. Another $23 million was in savings realized by the people using the buses. So these people saved on owning a vehicle, but their savings are also a result of our taxes, since JTA only took in $10 million in ticket sales in the study year.

The other economic impact is from $118 million in total added value. I think I can confidently say not a single resident of Jacksonville would believe a crappy bus system adds over $100 million in added value to our lives. I'm not sure if that's partially based on value of the buses themselves (which we buy or lease) or the fact that a few dozen people use the bus to get to work. A lot of public transit leaders will make the mistaken connection that local businesses along the transportation corridor benefit from the bus, but those are pawn shops and SNAP benefits grocery stores. It's not like a bus route is going to spur hotels, luxury goods stores, or sit-down restaurants, if they spur any business at all. 

Anyhow, the bus probably adds very little value and it probably costs taxpayers a lot more than the $74 million in salaries because of the millions in equipment and infrastructure. With only $10 million coming back from fares, I'd guess the city is $100 million in the hole every year, though I wasn't able to find actual numbers for you.

So what could be get for $100 million a year? You'd probably be able to partner with a ride share or taxi company to provide a much better experience for a fraction of that price. Everything is so far away to use the bus for most transit in Jax. JTA can't do anything about the fact that most of us need a car just to get out of our neighborhoods. Or the fact that our city's nearly half the size of Rhode Island.

I'd take the top bus lines near downtown and keep them. I'd continue some flyers to and from popular spots. And then I'd tell everyone else that the city will kick in x% for using Uber Lyft or whatever. Even if we paid $2 a mile to ride share companies that would hopefully pay drivers over $1 a mile, the total cost would be under $130 million year (based on miles traveled). No retirement plans for drivers or elaborate bus stops or bus purchases. It could probably cost much less (like half that), but we're talking high-end. And you'll have to offer these drivers more than a typical ride to pick up smelly people with no chance for a tip. But in a city like Jacksonville, some kind of hybrid mass transit and rideshare solution might work the best. At least it would be more convenient.

The only thing buses can do that rideshare fails at is reducing congestion, but I'm not sure most people will notice, especially if fewer buses mean fewer chances of getting stuck behind one.

Why Isn't There an NCIS Jax?

I think the various NCIS and FBI shows are all that's on CBS, which is fine, but I just wonder why we don't have an NCIS Jacksonville TV show. Instead, we have Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol as our most important local police drama. NCIS would be a good fit because we're the second biggest Navy town and we have as much crime as any other big city. 

We have stupid Florida crime, which is mostly only available in Florida. While the other NCISs focus on criminal masterminds, NCIS Jax would be more about criminals who rob banks and then walk to their apartment complex across the street. Or folks who have kennels with 30 pit bulls in their yards. Or geniuses who 3D print fully-automatic gun modifications to sell out of their garages. Or dentists who practice dentistry in their living rooms. Or executives who try to sell public utilities to get rich. Really dumb, immoral crime that's the bread and butter of the Keep Florida Free movement.

Maybe NCIS Jax could also investigate Navy guys who rent in neighborhoods beyond their means with a bunch of buddies and refuse to take their recycling out on the right day of the week, letting it sit beside their house as an eyesore. I'd appreciate that storyline. NCIS Jax wouldn't even have to worry about Writers Guild strikes because stupid crime in Florida pretty much writes itself. As in, today we need to investigate the guy who keeps gardening in the nude. Or we have to decipher who wrote a blog post about Ron Desantis without permission. Or which teacher let students read a Judy Blume book. Big crimes.

The Jacksonville NCIS officers should be decidedly Florida in their law enforcement, evading questions from the press and turning off body cameras when convenient. They should pull people over without just cause and use Guantanamo-style interrogation techniques. It could also have a Baywatch vibe with some surfing and tail-chasing in between drug busts and murder investigations.

Getting a Ticket in JAX: No Easy Way Out

Someone in the family got a ticket in Duval County. It's a traffic ticket issued by a lazy cop who never asked any questions, probably because his very job as a Beaches police officer depends on how many tickets can be issued. Anyhow, the ticket exists, but the way out seems like we're stuck paying full price no matter what, and that seems to be the way it's stacked against us.

Pay and Add Points
You can just pay your ticket and accept the points. Insurance companies claim they don't discriminate based on points, but they might, and you can also eventually lose your license.

Pay and No Points
If you take an online class for $6, you can save $12 (on our particular ticket), but there's also a $20 state fee and $10 fee to get the proof you passed the class, which Duval requires. So you're spending an extra $24 to avoid the points.

Pay Online
Add $7 to pay online. I forget the scenario and whether we had to pay this or not, but there is some kind of online fee for the convenience of an instant transaction that costs Duval a lot less than $7.

Pay and Notarize
Add $7 for some kind of notarized payment option. Maybe this is in-person? I don't remember, but it seemed stupid whatever it was.

Don't Pay
Add $20 if you avoid paying by the due date. You still owe the money and the fees and you'll get the points, just an extra $20 for your decision to avoid the payment.

Pay a lawyer
Several law firms said they'd get you out of the ticket and points for about half the price or the ticket itself. That sounds good, if it works. If I had been the one receiving the violation, I probably would have rolled the dice with an attorney, but we didn't want to have to deal with it in this instance, especially since I checked the intersection and confirmed we were in the wrong. Also, I have to question a system that allows you to nearly automatically get our of a ticket with a lawyer. Also also, the lawyers warn against trying to represent yourself, but that should be just as good of an option, though it does require taking time off work or school with no guarantees.

In the end, it seems like the best option is to not get caught. I see so many bad drivers that don't get caught doing pretty insane stuff that I'm always surprised when someone gets a ticket for going 10mph over or coasting through a barely-red light.

How Does Jacksonville Compare to Finland, Home of the Happiest People on Earth?

Jacksonville is trying a new Blue Zone experiment that is supposed to make people healthier and happier. I hope it works better than that treating crime like a disease thing we tried. Blue Zones are based on places on earth where people live longer, and we assume living to 100 makes you happy, so we're going to push it on ourselves. Fine with me, but the happiest people on earth are supposedly the folks from Finland (whether or not they live to be 100), so I'm wondering if we can also learn something about happiness from them so that our 100 years aren't just a miserable extra 20 years of life. I'll take a look at the tenants that make Finnish people happier and see if they fit with Jacksonville's new mission to make us live longer.

1. We don't compare ourselves to our neighbors.
OK, so maybe Jacksonville isn't as bad as Los Angeles on this one, but what can be more American than comparing yourself to your neighbors? And not just the numbnuts next door who don't edge their lawn or store their garbage in the right place. I'm talking about your neighbors in Ponte Vedra or San Marco. I think comparing yourself to your neighbor is built into American capitalism, and it helps provide us with the drive to succeed. Even in a quasi-socialist retirement community like The Villages, neighbors with almost no rights to change their homes' exteriors race to replace perfectly good driveways with custom driveways that express something terribly interesting about themselves, like which college they root for (but in reality just expresses that they have more money than the neighbor with the boring old concrete driveway). But people in Jacksonville aren't all living off pensions, so you'd assume we have to be more mindful of our spending. The problem is that when you need a new car, you really need a new SUV or pickup truck, even if you don't haul much or go off-roading. Why? Maybe people want to impress themselves with the sheer size of their own vehicle, but I'm thinking it's to impress the neighbors, especially if we can't afford to live in their neighborhoods. 

It's totally possible that people in Finland buy expensive items to enjoy, but I think the question is whether that expensive item is for your own enjoyment or in order to show those around you how much money you spent in order to enjoy that thing. The outward materialism I saw when visiting Southern California was what you'd expect in a place where outward appearance makes or breaks careers, and I wouldn't say Jacksonville is any more about showing off to the neighbors than the other places I've lived (Milwaukee, KC).

2. We don't overlook the benefits of nature.
So here's one where Jacksonville does pretty well. Our parks are not rated all that high compared to other cities, but we do have a lot of them. The weather is nice fall through spring, and plenty of people enjoy being outside during those months. People like to fish and hang out at the beach. Homeless people love biking all over town, and people with homes love biking down at the Beaches. That said, there are days when I do several hours of yard work in the summer heat and don't see a single neighbor venture out. I'd say that overall, Jacksonville has ample outdoor places to be that could be improved with more to do once you get there, and that's likely a goal of the Blue Zones initiative.

3. We don't break the community circle of trust.
So, this is Florida. I don't think there's much of a community circle of trust. In fact, I'm not even too sure what this means, other than maybe the idea that if you let your kids walk to the park alone, you don't have to worry about some guy in a white van taking them for a ride. That's probably the idea: in Finland, citizens don't worry about getting shot by gang members, getting abducted by child molesters, getting molested by clergymen, getting scammed by contractors, getting stabbed by panhandlers, weird doorbell rings after midnight, getting shot by your neighbor for making a y-turn in his driveway, or having your dog attacked by your neighbor's pitbull. For most of us in America (and especially in Florida), the circle of trust probably stays in your own home and does not extend to the community. Maybe it extends to church. But the JEA and Douglas Anderson scandals demonstrate how that circle of trust does not extend to government or schools. And if you rent an apartment in Jacksonville with roommates, that circle of trust might not extend out of your own bedroom. I guess I'd have to say that Jacksonville has not earned my trust because way too many of my fellow citizens take advantage of the trust of others in order to benefit themselves. 

Jacksonvillians may live to be 100 because we learn to live healthier lives, and we may do that, in part, because of our relationship with the outdoors, but in order for us to be happy enough to WANT to live to be 100, we should work on being satisfied with what we have and trusting our neighbors. Maybe if we all build really high fences around our compounds, we won't see what our neighbors own and we won't have to worry about people breaking in, but I doubt that's how they do it in Finland.

Monday, June 5

There's No Culture in Jacksonville?

I overheard some Gen Zers at the doctor's office talking about Jacksonville. They said Jacksonville has no culture and that you gotta watch your back when making friends. However, they also seem to agree that enough money can make your Jaxperience better.

Of course, the GenZers weren't working while at work, but that's nothing new. 

They were all three of them transplants to Jacksonville. Two Lantinos and a Black person--I got the impression that they felt the race part mattered, as in people of those races specifically are more cultured in other parts of the country. Something about always doing things the same way in Jax. They mentioned restaurants and how people look at you funny if you want to try something new. Like if you wanna try Whataburger instead of Checkers? The new person got the recommendation of going to Riverside, so I guess that's where culture is supposed to exist in their minds. One of the three had lived here a year and just gone to the beach for the first time, though I'm not sure the beach is high culture. Also, one mentioned the Jaguars as an example of culture, though the other two didn't agree, and seemed to offer clubs and restaurants instead.

One  of the three, when asked why Jacksonville lacked culture, just said, "New York City; need I say more." To which I would have said yes because I truly wasn't sure my view of culture was the same as theirs. For example, I heard the word diversity used a lot in the conversation as if it was a synonym for culture. While I might agree that I see culture as a diverse collection of music, art, architecture, idea exchange, etc., I'm not sure diversity itself creates culture. According to one study, Argentina is the least culturally diverse country while central African countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria are the most culturally diverse. However, as a tourist looking for "culture," I'm sure all of these GenZers would head to Argentina first and then tell their friends about all the great cultural experiences they had. Why? I believe their definitions of culture would shift because they are not from Argentina, and the country would have art, architecture, public markets, parks with fountains, old bridges, cathedrals, museums, universities, ethnic restaurants, and maybe even an opera house. You know, culture.

My own kids, who grew up being forced to visit art and history museums on a regular basis (and are also Gen Z) seemed to agree with my talkative new acquaintances. They said culture in a community had to do with the different kind of people in that community. Diversity, again. I tried to explain to them that they were only partially correct, which led to us talking in circles, as tends to happen when one tries to correct GenZers. I guess there's an instapot hack on TikTok for every eventuality. 

So getting back to Jacksonville, my own neighborhood is much more diverse than the one I grew up in back in Milwaukee (the most segregated city in the US). But here, I live in East Arlington suburbia with an HOA to ensure I don't get out of line. Back home, I had two parks, a college campus, several small retail stores, a Mexican restaurant, a hospital, and a zoo within walking distance, as well as a fancy-schmancy 1920s neighborhood and a low-rent public housing building. The whitewashed suburban neighborhood is not a cultural experience, no matter who lives in the homes. Maybe that's what the comment about New York City meant, but I can't really be sure. I just know culture has to be something more than you HOA amenities building.

Friday, June 2

Please Hire My Daughter!

When my wife and I decided it made sense for our daughter to get her license to drive to school, we really didn't fully understand the financial implications. Sure, we knew we'd have to provide a car, but the insane used-car prices made that investment skyrocket. We also knew we'd have to provide insurance, but that was the hit I was not prepared to finance. It's about $4,000 extra a year to insure our daughter, and our son is about to get his temps. Very ouch, especially after we provided one vehicle worth around $10,000 for the kids to destroy. Anyhow, for our daughter to keep driving for anything other than school, we really need her to get a job. I'm hoping someone out there has a good part-time position for a 16-year-old who is honest and responsible. Here's a link to her website that I built. She still has to fill some stuff in, but it gives a bit of a profile. She's looking for anything from East Arlington to the Beaches. She'd be great dealing with customers, even annoying ones. She's not going to ask for too many hours, but she'd be reliable when she's scheduled. So if you or anyone you know has a job for her, use the contact form in this website to let me know. 

Also, I might want a job, too, so feel free to check out my resume.

Saturday, April 29

Finally, A Breasteraunt Near Me

I didn't even know the term "breasteraunt" existed, but now that I do, I'm excited that one of these fine establishments is coming to Kernan and Atlantic June of 2023. I suppose I should have guessed that Twin Peaks was more than just an outdoorsy sports bar but more of a Hooters-style gentlemen's club for the family.

I ventured to the Twin Peaks website to do a little recon, and I discovered that the waitresses wear black and red flannel "shirts" and Daisy Dukes. Unfortunately, the cooks and dishwashers don't get to wear those sweet threads. There's also a Man Card that I assume is for VIPs who spend their lunch breaks getting some twin peeks before heading back to work and then home to the ball and chain. Sign me up, I guess.

As far as the food goes, who really cares, right? But it's wings and burgers and lots of fried stuff that looks tasty enough. The only menu item that seems a bit titillating is the Twin Peaks Sundae that has side-by-side scoops of ice cream, each with a cherry on top. I suppose some drunk dad will motorboat it in front of the kids, but it's not like Mom has to order some inappropriately-named taco or clam dish. I didn't even see melons as a side dish, but I'm sure guys will try to create their own menu items for fun.

I'm sure the UNF girls who don't want to work an actual gentlemen's club or become a sugar baby for some CEO will flock to the opportunity to make Double-D-sized tips. The position is called a Twin Peaks Girl. Here's a description of the job from the Twin Peaks website:
The essence of the Twin Peaks Girl is based on female sex appeal, and encompasses her knowledge of sports, food, beverages, having a fun energetic personality, and her ability to meet and maintain the Twin Peaks Image & Costume Guidelines.
The wording of the job description confuses me a little. I guess for some guys sex appeal requires knowledge of sports, food, and beverages. I'm happy if my wife pretends to like sports a little bit and allows me to watch football instead of taking her shopping on Sundays. The description says she needs to be flirty and fill out the costume in all the right places. I assume these last two skills/natural endowment are more important than her knowledge of wing sauces or Weiss beers to her sex appeal, but you never know with these millennials and GenZers.

I suppose Twin Peaks should go on the bucket list of somewhat awkward things to do with my son or Bible study group. I hope it becomes a decent local Packer bar if nothing else because then I'd have an excuse to survey the landscape.

Friday, April 14

San Pablo Construction - Neighborly Thoughts

I haven't checked out my neighbor complaint app recently, so I decided to read one about the construction on San Pablo, just to see how neighborly everyone can be about the issue. Here's the initial post: 
For everyone that complained to the city about the construction work being performed at night on San Pablo, thank you for making long traffic delays and problems while we’re trying to go to work and take our kids to school. All because you didn’t want a little bit of noise at night.
I lived through Zoo Interchange construction in Milwaukee, and I can tell you that some of it would have been impossible at night, but that's a major I-94 interchange as opposed to a road widening. Let's see how neighbors build each other up:
Lunch time this week San Pablo was at a slow crawl, one lane closed, I needed to make a left across San Pablo. I would say 30 cars wouldn’t let me make a left. I kept inching up and they would go around me to go nowhere. I was blocking their lane and they would still drive around me. So if you see a white jeep, yeah that’s me doing 25. Payback.
While a lot of commenters just agreed with the original post, the previous response added another element to neighbors not necessarily loving each other. The next guy probably always knows the local weather forecast if anyone wants to hear it:
I could never figure out why anyone would use San Pablo as a through road when Hodges is so much faster.

Others point out that Google sends people that way, but it might also have to do with two schools and lots of housing. Also tourists and new citizens. Basically, you've got A1A, San Pablo, Hodges, Kernan, St. Johns Bluff, and Southside. Take your pick, but it sucks to drive 2 miles out of your way in each direction to get where you're going. 
People don’t think things through. That’s the nicest way I can put it
I guess no one wanted to defend the decision to abort overnight construction in order to turn this forum thread into a bloodbath. If I lived on San Pablo and had complained, I think I'd be happy to step back and watch the madness from a distance, too, especially if I had a work-from-home job. 

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Thursday, April 13

I-95, US 1, and A1A

I was taking US 1 (Hwy 1 or Philips Hwy) to St. Augustine when someone asked if it went up and down the coast and whether it or I-95 went to the Keys and all sorts of questions I hadn't considered. So I decided to write about the general rules for our main north-south roads in the Jacksonville area. 

US-1 does run the entire length of Florida, but it's kind of weird to start, coming through Georgia (Folkston) as 301 or 15, then turning into 23 or Rte1 or 15 at Callahan. And then it becomes Philips Highway after it cuts through Jacksonville. Also in Jacksonville is Alt1 (MLK Expressway and Hart Bridge), though I'm not sure where it hooks back up with US-1 south of the river. Since Hwy 1 follows New Kings road for a time, the route from Florida to Georgia probably follows generally the Kings Road that was built in the late 1700s that was supposed to diagonal from Macon through Cowford (Jacksonville) and down to St. Augustine and eventually New Smyrna. I believe the Old Dixie Highway is also part of this route. Anyhow, after Jacksonville when it veers towards the northwest, US-1 is a main thoroughfare that goes north-south along the Atlantic coast of Florida, staying west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

A1A is the road that goes up and down the coast that generally stays east of the Intracoastal. It's often the road next to the oceanfront properties. You can drive it right past Mar-a-Lago or the Kennedy Space Center. But A1A does get cut off by some inlets along the way from Amelia Island down to Miami, including the St. Johns River here in Jax, meaning you have to cross the Intracoastal and often use US-1 in order to pick A1A back up again. Therefore, a trip along the A1A along the entire Atlantic coast of Florida would be mind-numbingly long. If you could get lucky and average 35mph along the way, it would still be over 10 hours from Miami up to Fernandina Beach.

When you want to speed through Florida, then the I-95 is your road. Generally, it's further from the coast than the A1A or US-1. Around Miami, you also get the turnpike and I-75 going north-south alongside the 95. It's a dangerous road, and I think it's used by a lot of drug mules and people escaping from other states, but it's fast. Jax to Miami in about 5 hours. 

Sunday, April 9

Trying to Understand Stand Your Ground

Two recent cases in Northeast Florida have me questioning the stand your ground law more than ever. One involves a bar fight and the other road rage, but both seem to allow more than you'd expect from a law meant to be used to protect responsible gun owners.

The St. Augustine bar fight went down like this: two guys get into a fight. One is losing the fight, so he pulls out his gun (which was banned in the bar) and kills his opponent. He's acquitted and only charged with a misdemeanor gun charge.

The other case is the local road rage story where occupants of two cars are getting into it. The passenger (wife) in one car throws a water bottle into the other car. The other driver shoots back with a gun. He's not charged because of stand your ground. The first driver retaliates with a gun instead of another water bottle. He is charged with attempted murder but will probably also use the stand your ground defense.

Do you see the problem here? The stand your ground law is encouraging people in non-lethal situations to retaliate with lethal force. The man losing the bar fight had no reason to assume he was going to be killed by getting his ass kicked. Most of us deserve an ass kicking once in a while. But he was a bitch and grabbed his gun, and I'd say if you bring your gun into a bar where no one is supposed to have one, you're planning on using it if you get into a bar fight. Just as importantly, the decision makes it nearly impossible for any male in his fightin years to NOT bring his gun everywhere he goes, since it's likely every other male also has a gun, and it's legal to kill anyone who might kick your ass.

Honestly, even at my age, I see a ton of people around Jacksonville whose asses I could pummel in a fight. But I guess that's not an option anymore, because the moment you win a fist fight, you're now the assailant and can be shot dead because of our rights to protect our property from British soldiers.

The other case is similar in that Lady MacBeth only tossed a water bottle at Dad 2. That's bad and should have led to an arrest, but it apparently created a justified shooting situation. Unless it was a 20-pound jug of water that crashed through the windshield, I'm thinking you still just call 911 and let the po-po handle it. 

Yes, Dad 1, after he realized his daughter had been shot, should have pulled over to tend to her instead of firing on Dad 2 (shooting Daughter 2) in return, but the gun escalation had already begun, and you could argue that returning actual gunfire is much more standing your ground than bringing a gun to a water bottle fight.

I know, maybe the bar fight guy who got killed was a kickboxer who was himself a deadly weapon, and a pickup truck/ water bottle combo is probably a deadly weapon, but it just feels like every shooting where people are disagreeing will lead to the stand your ground defense. In a state with millions of guns and a new conceal carry law, I'd say that means none of us should ever have any disagreements with anyone ever.

A few months ago, I saw a sports dad (justifiably) yell at an athletic director who employs a very awful coach. The dad was fairly fit, and the athletic director is an old-ass man. Based on Florida law, I assume the athletic director could have shot the dad dead because he would have taken an ass-pounding in a fight. Instead, they both yelled and then eventually talked it out in the parking lot. Even if the dad had pushed or punched the athletic director, it should have then ended with some kind of assault charges and nothing more. The other parents would have broken up the fight. But our law allows and, in a way, encourages a similar situation to end in a shooting. Even if the old man had been the first to throw a punch or pull out some pepper spray, the shooter who responds seems to get a huge benefit of a bad law.

Thursday, April 6

What Does it Mean to Get San Pabloed or Hodged in Jacksonville?

The other day, I got San Pabloed. I've also been Hodged plenty of times. You can get San Pabloed or Hodged at San Pablo or Hodges, but the general principal likely exists in other places around Jacksonville as roads reach capacity. Getting San Pabloed or Hodged is what I call it when you get stuck while traveling in the right or left lane of Atlantic or Beach (east or west) because the turn lanes to San Pablo or Hodges have reached capacity. This usually occurs during the afternoon rush hours. It might be because two elementary schools brilliantly sit across from one another on San Pablo or because hundreds of middle managers are getting home to let the dogs out after work. 

My usual method is to stay in the middle lane on Atlantic or Beach. The empty bus can kill you in the right lane, and the left and right turn lanes fill up and back up into traffic. A lot. In true Jacksonville style, I'm sure the answer will be to widen the roads, add longer turn lanes, and hope for the best. But that's still several years off. Maybe a few more inverted scissors intersections to mess with tourists.

So it's not going away. You will get San Pabloed or Hodged at some point in Jax. It's not as bad as getting Blandinged (which is just not going anywhere in any direction with 14 lanes), but it still sucks.

Saturday, April 1

What Happened to the Dames Point Bridge Lights?

I was excited when I heard that the Dames Point Bridge would benefit from some lighting at night. I figured it would look cool. 

When the lights first came on, I was a little disappointed because it seemed that the lights could have been designed better or that a percentage of the lighting was still off. In fact, I think some nights the lights were only half on. 

Then, after about a month, I thought the lights appeared to be pretty good: you could see it from all directions, at least. Or maybe I just got used to the semi-lit look. Anyhow, the Dames Point Bridge was lit, and it looked good. Good enough. 

Then, after a couple of months of hearing positive comments about the pretty bridge, I noticed that the Dames Point was only half lit. One side only. Bridges don't look cool only half-lit, but we seemed to try it for a couple of weeks. 

Eventually, however, the lights went off completely, and that's around the time of me writing about them. I haven't done the research as to why the lights went off. It doesn't really matter. I can tell you that tourists liked them when they were on, but I can't confirm those tourists spent any more money in the region or bothered to go downtown. 

In the end, the lighting of the Dames Point Bridge may end up being a metaphor for Jacksonville: lots of potential, slow to get going, great for a while, sputtering, and then failure. As an outsider who has become an insider, I'd say that maintaining some attention to detail would be a positive improvement for a city that does not need to continually sputter and fail. Let's light the bridge and keep it lit. Let's start some projects and finish them. And then maintain what we finish. People notice. 

A few days after I published this article, the lights came back on the Dames Point. However, several of the lights seemed to be out, while others were continuously flashing. Maybe we need to get an electrician on the bridge to see if the connections are good. If the light bulbs are flashing because they're going bad after a few months, that's going to be a long-term problem with whatever bulbs were purchased, and the bridge will look half-ass for years to come.

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