Saturday, January 28

Why I Asked For A No U-Turn Sign on Kernan

I probably won't get a No U-turn sign at the entrance to my neighborhood, but it was worth suggesting. In two years after Kernan was rebuilt, I saw maybe one U-turn at Kernan Forest, but in two months since the Goodwill was built, I've counted about 20. And I don't have a camera set up...just me. If there are several u-turns per day at an intersection not built for them, then something ought to change.

I looked up some dimensions online and found that there's and inner and outer turn radius limit for a U-turn. When the median is very thin, then the inner turn radius is too small, which makes the outer turn radius spill into the second lane. However, with an outer turn radius needing to be at least 24 feet, and our roadway lanes being 11' (sometimes 12' wide), that's why you'll see No U-turn signs at many four lane intersections. For example, McCormick at Monument has a No U-turn sign. And similar to that intersection, I've seen pickups not make the U-turn at Kernan and Kernan Forest. However, right now it's legal to try it on Kernan, and you don't always get an arrow to turn, like on McCormick.

The solution isn't as bad at Kernan Forest as it is at McCormick and Monument, since you could just have traffic enter the neighborhood traffic circle and circle back out, though it might make more sense to create a dedicated u-turn spot in the median between Kernan Forest and Goodwill.

You might be wondering what happens when there's an accident at an intersection where no sign exists yet isn't designed for a U-turn. Well, I've told my family to be very careful exiting the neighborhood, since u-turners with a green arrow or yellow flashing arrow still have the right of way, at least until city engineers finally put the intersection into compliance with code. But it's also a good reminder at every intersection to be aware of the illegal turns you WILL see in Jacksonville, since signs, traffic signals, laws, and basic common sense don't apply at most intersections.

Friday, January 27

If You Can't Open The Doors at Starbucks, Use the Drive Thru, Old Bag

I'm normally not all that rude to old ladies who expect me to hold the door. In fact, I generally do hold doors for them, particularly if we are both entering a business together. I'm not a male chauvinist or against women's rights; I try to be nice to women. However, I recently messed up at Starbucks by not holding the door for an old lady, and I feel marginally bad about it.

The drive thru had a long line, so I went inside. The old hen in question wasn't entering the coffee shop with me. Rather, she was pecking around on the inside of the store. I realize now she was waiting for me to open the door for her, but since I'm not a regular at Starbucks, I saw a confused old bat fluttering around a table that possibly had some Coffeemate or sugar cubes or napkins. In reality, she was waiting for me to pull the door open and then hold it for her.

Since I didn't realize she was asking for help (and she didn't initially say anything), I walked in. As she left, she gave me a dramatic "Thank you!" and I knew I'd missed my chance to help someone out. That part makes me feel a little bad. However, and this is important: if she was getting too much to handle, why didn't she use the drive thru? 

Honestly, no matter how old you are or how much of a lady you think you are, if you decide to go inside a restaurant when there is an available drive thru option, then you're telling the world that you're capable of managing. I don't care if the car line is long and you have an expired wheelchair sticker on your rear-view mirror.

Besides, all she had to do was push the doors open with two drinks, something I did a couple minutes later. I live with a torn ACL and remnant of RA (perhaps punishment for being rude to old ladies), and I can manage pushing open a couple of doors. If I'd seen her struggling to open the doors initially, I would have helped, but she just waited there like she was waiting for the Grim Reaper, and it's hard to assume people want or need help. Also, it's freakin Starbucks, home of liberalism gone woke, and there isn't some kind of wheelchair accessible automatic door? To me, it's Starbucks that didn't hold the door for the old lady, but Starbucks probably would suggest she use the drive thru.

Monday, January 9

Support the Arts in Jacksonville: Go See a Play



Sure, you can watch the family-friendly stuff at the Alhambra Theater or venture into downtown for a highbrow experience. And you should. However, for my money, I've always enjoyed high school plays. And since the actual money is $6 and free parking, it's worth every penny compared to Alhambra's $70 plus drinks and tip or $50 plus parking for a downtown experience.  If you're looking for live entertainment on a budget, check out a local high school play

The preceding link is to the Fletcher High School GoFan Performing Arts site, but you can probably find a list of local schools and their plays. I know the performing arts school got into some hot water recently with its choice of a play dealing with sexuality, but you're mostly going to get the same fodder at local high schools as the big theaters, meaning stuff you've seen before or based on something you've seen before.

My kid will be in all of Fletcher's productions from 2023 until 2026 because he has fun acting. Even if your kids aren't in high school, however, seeing a high school play is a good way to see some local talent before they get too talented.

January 13th and 14th 2023 - Romeo, You Idiot

Wednesday, January 4

Jacksonville Vehicle Pet Peeves: Lights

I do a lot of driving at night, so I'm kind of an authority as to the lackluster vehicular lighting on Jacksonville roads. Whether other drivers have too many lights or too few, it's an annoyance that can sometimes be a safety concern.

Dim-Witted
The most obvious lack of lighting in Jax seems to be none at all. This is mostly from people not using the most obvious safety feature in existence -- the Auto setting for lights. It's also possible that complicated LED lighting has caused more failures than in the past-- I believe this to be the case for some of the taillight issues. Or just drunk people. The net result is a lot of people seem to have missing lights, particularly tail lights. Sometimes tinted lights or license plates render actual lights ineffective, but it's mostly lights burned out, fuses blown, or lights turned off. Maybe some people just like to drive with parking lights on, too. Please, just set your lights to Auto and forget about them. Also, try hooking up your trailers so that the wiring works.

Too Bright
Some people drive around with their brights on, but that's not really the biggest problem in my opinion. It seems a lot of lights, especially on big, stupid pickups, are aimed wrong. If you lift your whole truck or just the front, you really need to aim your lights lower. People will spend $10,000 to lift their pickups and then skimp on the simple adjustment that would make the vehicle legal to drive (and avoid blinding other drivers). Florida law says your lights can be up to 54 inches off the ground, but you also need to aim the light lower than that at 25 feet against a wall. If your truck is lifted only in the front and you don't re-aim your lights, they are blinding and fairly useless.

Too Many
I'm not talking about the Hyundai Tucson and all its weird little lights, since those are just stupid looking and not a hazard. I'm referring to the aftermarket fog light strips (sometimes multiple) or even the use of fog lights in the hopes of looking cool. I've also seen add-on brake lights or light-up car-model-script tail lights. Some diy folks will slap stick-on red led strips on the bumper for reasons. It's really best to leave the lighting alone unless you need to replace a bulb because more lights are way less important than working lights.

The Circus
Back when I was in high school, the kids started lighting up the area below their cars with neon lights. I even knew a guy who made a pretty good living off the trend for about a year, or the amount of time it took local police officers to pull the cars over. Like high-waisted jeans, the unlikely trend is back, in the form of LED lights that last about 3000 times as long as neon. They can change color, flash like Christmas lights, and generally turn any respectable vehicle into a clown car. Still, consumers love these lights, and they'll light up every nook and cranny of the car with the marvels. A slight glow to show off your big rims and expensive suspension doesn't bother me, but bright, flashing lights shooting off in all directions is a road hazard. If your vehicle isn't a spaceship, it's white and amber lights in front with red and amber lights in back (with white backup lights). When you add color-changing headlight surrounds in red, that's illegal because you have the wrong color in the front. As a driver, I am also distracted by red and blue lights that seem like police lights or any flashing lights. I'd also mention that flashing brake lights is a dumb trend as you don't need them, and they are especially annoying in rush-hour traffic. 

My recommendation is that you leave your car lighting alone and use your talents to add majestic lighting to rooms inside your house. LED toilet seats, backlighting around the television, and lighting above and below kitchen cabinets are pretty cool. You can even slap your Instagram sticker on the wall in whatever room you upgrade so everyone who is enchanted by your skillz can follow you.

Local Dating Scene: Mostly Mistakes by Men

I recently asked a local woman about dating after divorce, since both my wife and I agree it would be quite difficult (not that we're interested in finding out). Still, I was interested to discover what this woman (who told me her divorce made her very happy) thought about the dating scene. Her stories seem to prove men continue to make the same mistakes all their lives when it comes to dating. It's funny and sad, but the saddest part is that I only got to hear a handful of examples, even though she claimed to have many more. Anyhow, in case you're wondering what it's like to date after a divorce in Jacksonville (likely Anywhere, USA), here are some reasons to stay married. We'll call the woman I met Lucy because 50 First Dates.

The Movie Closeup Featuring Mr. McTexty
Instead of dinner and a movie, this guy decides to just catch a film together. Lucy and Mr. McTexty sit next to each other in the empty theater. He decides to hold her hand, and she's cool with that. However, at some point early in the film, she senses that his face is right next to hers. Lucy figures the guy is hoping she'll turn to him for a kiss, but she's only just met the guy  and doesn't want to go there. The crazy part is that Mr. McTexty doesn't get the hint, and he keeps his face right there waiting for the next hour. Lucy feels uncomfortable for the duration of the movie, but even after getting shot down like a bogey in Top Gun, Mr. McTexty decides the date went so well that he texts Lucy continuously for the next several days, telling her he had such a great time and wanted another date. Maybe he was planning on sitting on the other side of her at a different movie. Or right next to her in a booth at a darkly-lit restaurant.

My reaction to Lucy's story was to tell her about Dave from back in high school. He was super-flirty and silly around girls, and most of them made fun of him, but the technique only has to work once. Or once in a while. So I was generally dateless back then yet Dave was outkicking his coverage with all kinds of lady friends. If Mr. McTexty has a 10% success rate in empty theaters with women he couldn't possibly land with a real date, he's probably doing just fine. Even if he creeps out the other 90%.

The Spanxman
Lucy had gone on a few dates with Spanxman when she goes over to his place. At some point, she removes her Spanx. I was not told if this was an entire body suit or high-waisted shorts, but it's basically a tight-fitting, modern girdle that women who return to the dating scene use to recapture their college bodies in cute outfits but are probably removed well before any happy-action-fun-time begins. Since Spanx doesn't sell a discreet carrying case, Lucy leaves hers somewhere at Spanxman's place. When he talks to her to let her know he has her undergarments, he also reveals he's been enjoying smelling them because they smell like her (obviously). Once again, Lucy is creeped out and another guy who thinks he's being sexy gets shot down.

Not to defend the Spanx Sniffer, but I did mention to Lucy the Ed Sheeran song where he sniffs his bedsheets that smell like his special lady. I get Lucy's point, however, because I have compression shorts for baseball that make me all sweaty. Even after a really good game, I would never toss them at my wife and encouraged her to sniff away. Also, it's a lot like panty sniffing. Also, he probably tried them on. And lastly, because I know you were wondering, Spanx sells products for men that enhance your "pecs."

The Business Witch
Lucy started dating a guy (we'll call him Darrin) who she described as too nice in the dating scene. Before he found Lucy, he went out with a business witch but didn't break it off because he didn't want to judge. Or because being a witch fits into that category of girl you've kind of thought about but never would ask out, like women with full-body tattoos or who are professional weightlifters. Anyhow, this woman wasn't really a total witch--she just uses witchcraft to try to make her business perform better. I guess religious people pray to God for business success, but if you don't believe in God, your options are limited. I told Lucy she should be concerned the business witch might have a Voodoo Doll of her boyfriend, but after saying it, I wasn't sure if mainstream witches in America use that type of magic. I was intrigued by how magic or witchcraft works in making business better, like if you cast spells on clients or use magical scents in your store to make people buy stuff. Or maybe a hex on your competition.

OK, this one's a stretch to say it's in any way Darrin's fault for not dumping the business witch because he was too nice. However, as a guy, I don't buy that he was too nice. Whether she's a hot witch, a hot Russian spy, a hot Christian blogger, a hot married woman, or a hot illegal immigrant, most guys are going to hold onto the hot, crazy woman until something better comes along for fear of being all alone and shriveled up, like a dried toad used in a potion.

The Married Booty Call Co-worker
Lucy talked about a co-worker who used the employee texting system to contact her at 10 pm. He asked if it mattered to her that he was married. It did, so he stopped texting, but she did say that he'd hooked up with another co-worker earlier in the year. This proves my earlier point that your game only has to work some of the time. Obviously, a certain percentage of single ladies at work must not mind that you're married. Or, he felt a little guilty after the first co-worker and decided he'd lead with the whole marriage angle, but then he's learned his lesson and will most certainly not ask next time. Lucy also figures she's dated several married men from the dating app (never on purpose). All this leads to the relationship rule that Booty Call Co-worker and Spanxman broke: Avoid being honest. I have a friend who would also add that when you get caught, deny everything. Maybe it sounds like what politicians do, but remember that they win elections that way. I've never been able to be dishonest myself, but I can look back now and say I would have had many more dates in high school and college using dishonesty as my starting point.

The Ex-machinegunna
Lucy briefly mentioned the ex, saying that he did the "typical" driving up and down her block with his guns in the front seat of his car. And that he's already remarried. I bet he wasn't honest with his new bride when discussing Lucy, at least about how he tracked her every purchase and yelled at her for buying name-brand soda. And the guns in the front seat thing. I also assume Lucy knew better than to tell her potential new boyfriends that her ex might be driving by the house during their dates, unless she saw it as a test of their pecs.

Til Death Do Us Part
Eighteen years into our marriage, my wife tossed out my Big Dog Milwaukee Bucks jersey, and I nearly lost it. For her, cleaning means throwing things away, while for me, it's more about finding a place for the things to be stored out of her sight. I was angry, but I wasn't going to leave or toss my compression shorts at her. She'd have to throw all of my stuff away and sign us up for a line dancing class for me to really fly off the handle. Mostly because I love her, but also because I can be relatively  honest with her and avoid awkward first dates with women whose exes may be hiding in bushes with assault rifles. 

I also want to reassure Mr. McTexty and Spanxman that there are women for you out there. Just try a little less honesty, whether you think she's the one or just the one for now. Even if she's a witch.

Wednesday, December 21

Illegal Traffic Stops in St. Johns County

I don't really want to help any criminals out of trouble, but I also don't want to see the rights of my fellow citizens trampled by overzealous police officers. I was recently the victim of an illegal traffic stop in St. Johns County, and I'm hoping that by writing about my experiences, you'll be prepared for a similar trampling of your own rights.

I'm sure there are some law and order folks out there who feel that any police officer can pull any driver over at any time. I'm not one of those people. Police officers need probable cause to pull you over in Florida/ free America. If they observe you running a red light or speeding or if your lights are out at night, that counts. Maybe if you're driving erratically or if your vehicle matches that of a suspect. Even if there's a planned DUI roadblock (though I have yet to see one in Florida), I can see it. We also have a loud music ban that creates probable cause to the chagrin of many teens. Windows that are too dark will lead to some debatable stops, and I was once pulled over for not having a license plate light (which is a legal stop but pretty borderline). However, in St. Johns County along Highway 1 coming out of St. Augustine, I was pulled over just because.

Technically, the officer started with the explanation that my lights looked kind of bright when he pulled me over. He didn't ask for a license and registration, and I hadn't gotten them ready because I wasn't planning on having to prove anything. I told him I had auto brights, which are legal. I did not have my fog lights on. He asked me to show him the difference between normal and brights. He also said dealerships can adjust the brightness. My vehicle has 150,000 miles, 75% at night, and exactly one traffic stop for excessively bright lights, so I'm thinking nope. The officer never mentioned speed (I wasn't speeding) or erratic driving (there wasn't any), so the sole reason for a nerve-wracking traffic stop was possibly slightly bright standard lights. No illegal lighting, lack of lighting, too dark tint, obscured license, etc. Nothing. 

At the end of our conversation, the officer said he was just pulling over people looking for DUIs. The problem is that he detained me, ran my tag, wasted my time, and forced me to allow him to see inside my vehicle and talk to me, all without probable cause, making it a violation of my rights.  

If St. Johns County wants to set up mandatory DUI checkpoints, then follow the rules for doing so, and go right ahead. The problem with illegal stops is that people develop a distrust for police. I don't think I was being profiled, but was this officer going to stop a Maserati, also for no reason? I bet cops avoid pulling people over for no reason if the vehicle exudes a sense that the owner might know the right people, whereas my vehicles are more average. However, all of us should have the same expectation that we will not be harassed by law enforcement if there is no probable cause.

Lastly, had I been under the influence or transporting illegal drugs, an illegal stop of my vehicle makes prosecuting the real infractions more complicated than if I'd been pulled over for a legitimate reason. I assume most lawyers would be able to get the case thrown out if the initial stop was illegal. Therefore, St. Johns County Sheriff's should put an end to illegal traffic stops.

Driving Games Jacksonville Style

My daughter was telling me about a driving game she played with someone who was originally from Missouri (where driving games are probably still a thing) called My Cows. Basically, you claim cow herds. And there's some mechanism by which you can lose your herds, I guess if someone else sees a cemetery. That's a cool game in Missouri or Wisconsin (and some parts of Florida), but driving entertainment in Jacksonville is much more refined, and we don't have enough cows, so I've come up with some local games.

My Abandoned Building
It's like the cows game, but you claim abandoned buildings in Jacksonville. However, if you see new construction, you can blast your opponent's cache of abandoned buildings.

What I'm Thinking in the Rain
This was my original Jax driving game. You just come up with the thoughts of the pedestrians you see when there's a torrential downpour.

The Fashion Police Have Issued a Warrant for...
Jacksonville isn't exactly Los Angeles, which is apparent when you see people (including me) walking around. An extra-large purple workout suit? Leather pants on a hot day? Plaid shorts with a striped shirt? I've seen them all, and you will too if you look. Pretend you're one of the mean girls and have fun. Just remember to keep your windows up or your voice down.

Pitbull Name Game
Killer, Daisy, Cupcake, or Scooby. It doesn't really matter. Pitbulls are everywhere in Jacksonville, so I made this game up just for that breed. However, if you're in Ponte Vedra, just change it to Doodle Name Game. Also, once you decide on a name, you have to sing the song. Killer, Killer, bo-billler, banana-fanna fo-filler, me-my-mo miller, Killer. Something like that.

Homeless Dream Ride
Identify a homeless person and then pair that person to a vehicle currently on the road with you. Then give a reason for the choice as a dream ride. Like the BMW will remind him of when he was a banker in New York.

Pickup Truck Bingo
You'll need some bingo cards for this, but the it's very easy to get a lot of variety. White F-150, Black Ram, Blue Silverado, etc. You can also have more general slots, like Japanese or Heavy Duty. You want El Camino, go ahead.

Hauling at the Moon
For this game, you identify the item that's being hauled by a Jacksonvillian that is most likely to fall out or off of a vehicle. Pickups, trailers, open trunks, roof racks, bike racks, handheld roof surfboards, etc.

Cheers!
I might have been drinking when I came up with this game, and I don't exactly remember what it was about. Maybe drunk drivers. Sure, why not. Let's just say it's what you yell when you see a vehicle that should get pulled over for probable cause (no headlights, erratic driving).

Pin the Pin on the Address
Get out your phones for this one. Someone picks an address in Jacksonville and then everyone else drops a pin closest to where they think the address might be (without looking it up). Closest wins. This game works because Jacksonville is stupid-big with stupidly-named roads.

Bus Stop Confessions
When it's your turn, choose a person at the bus stop and imagine what their deepest secret might be. Nothing obvious, like, "I enjoy yelling at people on the street." More like, "When I was a vice-president at AOL, I enjoyed getting snail mail," or, "I'm wearing Christmas pajamas under this outfit."

I'm Firm For The Law
Pick a word like Gavel or Lawyer. Yell it when you see a law firm billboard or bus seat ad, or hear a law firm ad on the radio. First to say the word gets the points and the winner with the most points gets to say, "I am the law!" at the end.


Pound Sand, Chumps

When I read the words our mayor tweeted to a local lawyer, I wasn't sure what it meant. Sure, the mayor was upset because the lawyer was questioning why a large GOP donor (and special friend of Curry and Desantis) had an access card to enter police stations, but I'm not sure how bringing light to the situation warrants saying a guy has no moral compass and should pound sand. Also, what does pounding sand mean?

I looked it up, and apparently when you tell someone to pound sand, you're saying they don't have enough sense to do anything worthwhile. Because pounding sand is a worthless endeavor. I guess it's a beach thing, like saying, "Former JEA CEO (who I barely know and whose plan to make a lot of people I don't really know rich was illegal and unrelated to me), go pound sand." Or, "Former Sheriff who moved out of town and barely showed up to work (and who I barely even know), pound sand. Or, "Former good friend who I didn't know was under investigation for sex crimes (which resulted in me accidentally defending him), go pound sand." 

I'm sure all the investigators who looked into the JEA sale or Sheriff Mike Williams's retirement plans also had no moral compass. The problem is that the defacto moral compass in Jacksonville for politicians and public servants seems to point straight at themselves. Maybe their buddies, too. I was hoping the guy who was buddies with Curry and Desantis maybe sent something incriminating in the mail before he offed himself in the post office parking lot. Or I guess we could go down the conspiracy road and say he was planning on mailing something incriminating but something happened to him before he got out of the car and the letter got misplaced. Or he was planning on mailing a confession revealing his own misdeeds along with those of dozens of those he financed in politics, but the line was so long that he just gave up.

The thing is that these self-righteous politicians and fat cats don't tend to give up. They deny everything or scapegoat one guy, and the machine keeps on steamrolling the rest of us who don't have moral compasses pointing directly at ourselves. And so we get cynical and frustrated, or at least wonder to ourselves how we too can build a business that helps soldiers relocate and have millions of dollars leftover to donate to politicians, along with time to serve on the college board of governors, hang out at the police station more often than the county sheriff, and participate in some kind of illicit sex crime that was apparently news to everyone. Maybe money can't buy happiness, but it sure seems to buy a lot of friends. 

Anyhow, I guess I want to tell all those of you with a very obscured view of a moral compass who disagree with me to pound sand, chumps. To those who question and investigate (all four or five of you in Jacksonville), thank you for at least adding a level of difficulty to the local corruption.

Thursday, December 15

Haretna for Gyros Review

My family likes us some gyros, sometimes. In the case of Haretnas, however, we won't be returning. We got a Restaurant.com deal to try the restaurant, and the fact we didn't pay full price is the only our experience would be rated as almost acceptable. Like 2/5 stars. At full price, 1/5. Really.

When I walked in with my daughter at around 8pm, I asked if the place was still open. A pair of blue-hairs were seated in one booth having long ago finished eating, while a disheveled man sat in another booth with no food. The main employee was doing paperwork. There might have been a cook in the back. But this is a large restaurant inside, and it seemed bleakly empty. The main who told us to sit wherever also claimed the restaurant was open, so we went with that. 

It's reasonable to assume some of the food on the menu is fine, but we just like gyros, so that's what we order. I'm always a bit worried when a place lists the gyro meat as being either beef or beef/lamb mix. This place claimed to use beef and lamb. We ordered the platter that came with fries, except our server said there were no fries. That's because they shut the fryer down because they were basically closed, which he should have told us from the get-go.

$12 for a gyro platter isn't outlandish, but the offer was for us to now get a side salad instead of fries, which was kind of a disappointment because both of us were hungry. But it got worse when we actually got the food: the salad was just the same lettuce that was already sprinkled on the gyro, so just more of something that may or may not belong on a gyro. But worst of all, the amount of meat on the pita was about half of what I generally expect on a gyro. You could literally fold this pita up like a burrito, with half of the food inside consisting of lettuce and Tzatziki. Maybe onions, too. It doesn't matter, because it just wasn't very good. The meat, the pita, the sauce. None of it. It was about as good as the Trader Joe's prepackaged gyro meat with a sauce submitted to an online forum by some old lady from North Dakota. But mostly it was a big doughy pita without much on it. 

My daughter didn't touch her salad, partially because there was salad as part of the gyro, and partially because we were going out to eat. We eat salad nearly every night at home, so it's just not special to offer your high school kid two puny salads as part of a restaurant experience.

At some point, the server/owner/accountant/janitor told us they were short staffed. Fine, then say you're closed when someone asks. Or just close down and invest in a food truck. I know, I sound bitter, but if you're going to stiff a customer on a "platter," offer something better and make the gyros better than usual instead of serving what seemed like warmed up leftovers from another restaurant.

What sucked is that I was visibly disappointed, as was my kid, but our guy just went back to working on folding napkins or counting receipts. I had to track him down just to pay. At least the coupon brought the price down so that I based my tip (for nothing) based on a lower price. I always leave a tip, but this was very close to me leaving without. In fact, if I was in charge of this restaurant, a customer would have gotten the meals and an apology for free. Maybe a dessert. Anything to acknowledge how sucky you felt about it all. Oh well, at least I have the internet so I can vent and you can put this restaurant in the "don't bother" category, at least for gyros.

Wednesday, November 30

Florida All Set to Take Down Teachers Unions

I was a teacher in Wisconsin when the state, under Scott Walker, took on the teachers unions. The unions lost, and I was eventually laid off without cause. Plenty of other teachers were laid off, but even more we're simply told to do more with less. By the end, I had very little love left for my union or my job, wishing I had the thousands of dollars I'd paid back. Like Florida, Wisconsin was a purple state with a bright red governor. Like Walker, Desantis has stuck his nose in education, and he probably believes a big win against unions would cement his place in the White House. 

De Santis has recently backed school board candidates across the state, replaced Democrat-leaning school board members, mandated a civics curriculum to be taught, promoted barely-educated military personnel to become licensed teachers, and asked schools to burn books while avoiding the discussion of woke topics. That's a lot more intrusive than Scott Walker ever got in Wisconsin, yet Walker was able to bring the biggest union in the state to its knees. I figured Crist's choice in running mate (teachers union boss) might sway Desantis to attack the teacher unions, but since the Democrats didn't mount a real campaign against him, I guess there was no point in spooking teachers.  

But now might be the right time. St. Johns County teachers just voted down a pay raise for the first time, and that's probably not the only union in the state complaining. If county budgets are suffering, onw way to ease the pain is to eliminate collective bargaining. School districts want to pay new teachers more and old teachers less, but pay schedules don't allow it. With no unions and voided contracts, schools can change to fewer total pay lanes while saving tons of money in health insurance and pension benefits-- my district no longer paid my retirement contribution for me and bought high-deductible insurance for our group, while also freezing my pay to the new lane, essentially cutting most total compensation packages by roughly $10,000 per year without it looking like my pay went down to outsiders. Those outsiders were already paying their own retirements and had worse insurance, so it was acceptable to them. Of course, the lack of a union meant class sizes could increase and schedules could change (going from five classes to six), thus requiring fewer teachers. I got caught as a mid-career teacher who didn't have extra certifications but was still heading for the next pay increase. 

But think about the numbers. $10,000 less per teacher per year and about 30 fewer teachers (out of around 200) because of new schedules, along with the ability to fire teachers who might someday cash in on retirement benefits. My medium-sized district could save around $2,000,000 on salary and benefits and then another $1,500,000 on non-renewal of contracts. Probably another $1,000,000 (probably way more) down the road by hiring all new teachers who may or may not put in 30 years with the district. On the other side, teachers were told we no longer had to pay money in union dues, which obviously didn't make up for the losses, but I guess was something.

When I got to Jacksonville and eventually started teaching, I told a union rep about what happened in Wisconsin and my reluctance to join the union. She had never heard about Wisconsin and seemed confident no such situation could possibly occur in Florida, but she's so wrong. If King Ron wants to come for public school unions, he will. Didn't any teachers or unions question why the governor was weighing in on school board elections? Sure, it might just be about indoctrination and control for parents, but the next logical step is going after those who don't agree.

Several school boards have already severed ties with superintendents viewed as too liberal for mandating masks. Another school board member posted to social media asking for parents to rat-out teachers who show movies before breaks. It's not a very far leap to start looking at teacher total compensation packages and whether a change could save money to build more football stadiums. The power structure in Wisconsin needed to vilify teachers as greedy and lazy in order get the general population behind dismantling the union, and it wasn't all that difficult. Old wives tales like, "If you can't do, teach," were all the rage, along with publicly posting salaries. Anti-teacher pundits focused on summers off and the union protection of obviously bad teachers. Soon, we were all lazy, greedy, criminal, dangerous, and naive (for being in unions). We were the cause of budget shortfalls and high taxes, and because our jobs were so easy, anyone could replace us. 

While Scott Walker believed dismantling the unions would thrust him into the White House as the ultimate fiscally-conservative candidate, Desantis might just see it as the final feather in his cap. Or, if the teachers are lucky, he'll see it as an unnecessary fight because he's already got enough power to force teachers and school districts to behave. More than likely, the teachers unions in Florida will behave like the Democratic party of the state and just give up (while still collecting dues). And the state will slowly chip away at union power and public opinion until it needs the money from destroying the union. At 160,000+ teachers in our state, if budgets could save $10,000 a year on each individual, that's $1.6 billion a year in savings. Luckily for teachers, our state finances are currently doing ok, so maybe ignoring it will make it go away. That was often my technique for student misbehavior, and once in a while it even worked.

Sunday, November 20

FDOT, Councilmembers' Last Chance to Save Lives in East Arlington Jax

In the five years I've been in East Arlington and I've personally seen one accident, heard about another, and seen/heard about/experienced countless near-misses along McCormick Road at the entrance/exit of Grace Lutheran Church and School. I've contacted local government officials without a response and brought it up several times to church leadership with a non-answer that our hands are tied, but someone will be killed at a very fixable school entrance, and I just wanted to propose a solution that works now that McCormick is being rebuilt so cars can drive even faster past the church and school.

I'd drawn up something several years ago, but maybe that was too complicated because I proposed a double u-turn lane on McCormick westbound and then a new exit for the church. My new idea just shifts McCormick one lane over as it passes the church, resulting in a short entrance turn lane and then in a dedicated exit lane that becomes the right turn only lane to Kernan. It's a technique used along the Kernan and Beach area of town, and it has the potential to save the life of a young mom with her kids. The primary change is stripping away half the boulevard from Running River to Bridgenorth Ct., or about a quarter mile.

Grace has been amazing over the years at NOT causing DOT problems for the major thoroughfare. Traffic does not line up on McCormick, and parents on the adjacent side street are even instructed to let traffic by. Administration has solved the challenge of higher enrollment by snaking vehicles through the lot. But vehicles, many heading to Mayport, speed by at 60+mph.  A recent School Entrance sign is a mere joke with no fines or flashing lights to encourage any speed adjustment. It's as much about abrupt lane changes as speed, however, as people are constantly weave around traffic without signaling. In fact, when I leave the school, I generally wait for both lanes to be clear.

I have my wife drive through Running River and its speed bumps every day instead of trying to deal with McCormick, but that isn't an option for most parents who live further away. Grace doesn't employ (or ask the city to employ) traffic police or crossing guards. It hasn't asked for a traffic signal that would disrupt traffic flow (though one a Running River would also do the trick). Lutherans aren't always in-your-face complainers, and we're good at dealing with challenges, but at some point the city of Jacksonville needs to admit the school isn't going away and it should be recognized as a school stuck on a road where people drive like maniacs. A little help would be nice, and the reconstruction of Merrill, Fort Caroline, McCormick, Wonderwood is the perfect time to make a change before the worst-case scenario happens.

Tuesday, November 15

Here's Another Reason I'm Glad We Missed Out on Sutton Lakes House

Back in 2017, we had an offer in on a house in Sutton Lakes (near Atlantic and Kernan). We lost our on the short sale to who turned out to be the father-in-law of the realtor. We were upset at the time because we needed a house, and the location seemed pretty good on paper (we were offering from afar). However, after driving through Sutton Lakes, I was kind of relieved, but now that the Kernan widening is finished near our current house and Sutton Lakes is about to get Amazoned, I'm so appreciative of that realtor's self-dealing that I may send her a note of thanks.

Sutton Lakes is already a pain to navigate because of speed bumps and street-parked cars, and because it's freakin huge. And there's one entrance off Atlantic, along with a weird afterthought ghetto entrance from Alden to the south. Living there would have added 10 minutes to any commute, even if the proximity to Atlantic seemed perfect.

Now, with Amazon wanting to add a delivery station to airport land across the street from Sutton Lakes, good luck everyone. Since Sutton Lakes Boulevard doesn't cross Atlantic in a straight line, we're talking about an extra set of lights so that both sides of the intersection can be cleared. Semi trucks to and from the 295 and delivery trucks in both directions. Yep, I can't think of a better time not to be living in Sutton Lakes, except for when they found a dead body in the one pond and then the alleged killer just kept living in the house next to the pond for six months. That had to be awkward for the neighbors: "Hey, sorry about the mysterious death of your ex-girlfriend in the pond behind our houses. Can I borrow a cup of sugar and the number of the lawyer who's keeping you out of jail?"

Just to add insult to traffic congestion, I noticed that land along Atlantic just to the east of Sutton Lakes is also being cleared. A mini neighborhood, a Family Dollar, another apartment complex? Luckily, I don't have to care. 

25% of Duval County Homes Owned by Investors - Is That Bad?

When I was taking urban planning classes in college, I learned some "truths" about cities, according to my professors. People like bridges. Urban sprawl is bad. Homeowners care more than renters. Widening roads doesn't alleviate traffic. And on and on.
 
Government can control some aspects of these perceived truths more than others. While Jacksonville might not be building any new bridges for people to gaze upon, our government probably does have tools for some of the commonly accepted truths of planning, including home ownership.

Government regulation isn't always necessary when it comes to homeownership, and I'm not entirely sure the negatives of investor-owned homes warrant regulation, particularly if the main negative result is increased prices and gentrification until saturation. That's what happens if investors buy up homes for cash (outbidding families) and then perform quality work on the property. This results in higher sale or rent prices for the area, at least as far as the market can bear.

Of course, one could argue that it's silly for rental investors to buy up properties and then rent those to the unfortunate families who tried to buy the same homes. Worse, those families will probably be looking to save up to build in St Johns County. Assuming you can save anything when rent is $2500 a month (that's what I pay for TWO mortgages). I hope my new rental neighbors will adhere to less than 50% of income put towards housing/utilities and that they therefore make over $75,000 a year. That's a different clientele than for the same houses that rented at $1500 a month when we moved in a few years back.  

The problem is that these home rental investments, even if they charge a lot, need to see profits for investors. It's not like my house in Milwaukee, which I keep nice because I might return someday and because I care about my tenants. So when the investors have to lower the rent $200 a month in order to attract tenants (which just happened next door), that's $2,400 less in anticipated profits per house per year. I am sure the investment companies are seeing that there's a limited pool of qualified applicants who are willing or able to pay over $24,000 per year for rent alone, especially with thousands of apartments in large complexes being built. 

Assuming a bursting housing bubble in the near future, I would be interested to see the investment company strategy, since lower home value should precede a falling rental market. I assume the companies will sell the least profitable properties first, with my assumption being the properties in the worst locations (lower rent and more vacancies). Then again, that's kind of the traditional target market for rentals. Also, if these investment companies see diminished returns, will they really keep the properties looking good? If these investment companies end up like Carvana or Zillow, I wonder what that will mean for Jacksonville's real estate landscape. I guess we'll find out.

Bottom line is that the initial investment into a large percentage of local homes for rental purposes might renew some neighborhoods that probably needed a little work. I saw a lot of paint and new roofs in my neighborhood, and better than neglected homes. I just wish renters cared a little more about their own living conditions.

Thursday, November 10

Fletcher High School Should Have a Mascot -- Some Ideas

What does a senator look like? That's the question every student who attends Duncan U Fletcher must ask at some point. A senator doesn't look like a giant F, nor a skull and crossbones, but those are the primary images associated with the school as of 2022. I think Fletcher can do better.

I suggested to someone recently that the school choose Uncle Sam as the mascot.
Even if the school wants to stick to the F, you could slap some Fs where Sam normally has stars on his hat. I know, Uncle Sam wasn't really a senator, but he's a patriotic figure. I don't think there's really a general senator look, besides old white rich man in a suit.  That's an ok mascot, I guess. Maybe bald and wearing a Navy hat. 

When I searched for "senator Halloween costume," I got all Roman senator hits. That's not too bad, actually. US senators may be kind of boring, but a Roman senator is pretty sweet as a mascot. And you don't have to worry about being PC with the whole female senator thing because they didn't exist in Rome. Walmart even has a purple Roman senator costume for $26. I think I'll snap one up for my kids even if that doesn't become an official mascot.

I guess Fletcher could keep it simple and just use its namesake as the mascot, so instead of a generic senator, Duncan U would be THE senator himself, complete with heavy wool suit and handlebar moustache. He looks a little like the Monopoly guy. Actually, the only other team to be called the Senators that I know of was the Washington Senators (now Nationals--what's that?). I found two of their old-timey insignias, one showing a Monopoly-looking guy pitching (while smoking a cigar). The other depicted an outfielder catching a ball up against the Capitol, but the odd spotlight on him makes it look like he's about to be nabbed by the coppers (perhaps a January 6th rioter). Since Fletcher High School plays more than just baseball and it isn't even located in a state capital, using these wouldn't work.

While Duncan Fletcher was a senator, his wife was some kind of spiritualist, so Fletcher High School could take that angle with a witch or wizard mascot. Maybe both. And it would confuse the opposing teams, who'd be like, "I thought you were senators or beach rats. What's the meaning of this?" 

Speaking of beach rats, I also like the idea of a dirty, disheveled rat. Like a homeless rat who lives on the beach and eats leftover french fries and washed up jellyfish. And who also could kick other mascots' butts in a bar fight (by cheating). Like Chuck E Cheese on meth, except wholesome (for the kids). So Chuck E Cheese on a Keto diet. Maybe with an eye patch.

When I first suggested a new mascot, someone in the house also thought of Fish. It's kind of general, but the alliteration works and you could change the species every few years if desired. Starkist has a giant Charlie the Tuna outfit, and I'm sure all kinds of Florida high schools have purchased plenty of other fish as mascots. Like Ponte Vedra High School. They have a dress-up shark as well as a real one that wanna-be-funny seniors hung from the rafters. (Side note: I told my kids that if I was in high school and played against the Sharks we'd all have called them Sharts along with lots of funny signs, images, and sound-effects. But I guess kids are more refined these days). The good part of being fish is you can have an early-season fish fry fundraiser. The school I taught at in Wisconsin always did a corn roast, though since the mascot was the Indians, it probably should have been a maize roast.

Sticking with the alliteration, Fletcher could be the Flamingos. I know, we don't have any Flamingos locally, but we also don't have any jaguars around here. Flycatchers and Fulmars are European birds that are pretty cool. Fulmars are like bad-ass seagulls that nest on cliffs and live to be 40 freakin years old. Since we're in Jacksonville and people love them some dogs, maybe French Bulldogs. I saw a house in Florida just got broken into and someone stole 20 French Bulldogs worth $100,000, so these are expensive dogs apparently bred in home breeding factories. French Bulldogs would allow Fletcher to have a mascot similar to Georgia, just smaller and cuter.

The main point here is that an F is not a team mascot. Students, alumni, boosters, and everyone at the Beaches ought to demand something better for the school. Since schools don't have newspapers anymore, I'm hoping this article can reach someone who cares just a little bit and can move the mascot /real insignia idea forward.

Tuesday, November 8

Florida Lottery Addicts: Thank You

There's another $1 billion+ lottery jackpot, but I won't be playing. Just winning. Even though I just read some bleeding-heart article about predatory gambling practices used to entice poor people to buy lottery tickets, I pretty much am A-OK with poor people, rich people, tourist people, and even foreign people paying for my kids' college.

Lots of people have bad habits that cost them either money, time, health, or happiness. An old lady might go on Kohl's shopping sprees. Men buy sports cars or giant pickups. Watch porn. Do drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Sometimes, I'll click on article after article on Wikipedia for three hours straight. We all do something habitually, and some of it costs money. As long as you're not costing me money by entering state-funded gambling addiction programs, I am totally fine with you spending your hard-earned cash on pieces of paper. Think of them as receipts for my kids' college tuition. Or your own kids. Sure, if you put $20,000 into the lottery, you'll only win back $12,000 on average, but you'll be paying $8,000 towards my kids' education fund. You might only win back $1,000, or you could win $1,000,000,000. It doesn't bother me either way.

Now, if your own kids are starving for food or attention, and your gambling addiction leads to family problems, I feel bad for you. Maybe you need to play more often in order to finally win big and join the upper class overnight. I'm totally kidding: use some SNAP bennies and get those kids some Cheetos when you're at the convenience store playing the Lotto. Maybe a Lean Cuisine, too.

I don't get excited about corporate welfare on the backs of the middle class, but I just don't have a problem with free college on the backs of those who want to get rich quick. My kids don't go to college for free when you invest in Bitcoin or when you bet on the Jags to win the Superbowl. They don't benefit when you binge drink in Jax Beach or spend five hours watching TikTok videos. There are all kinds of ways for you to be a total loser and not send my kids to college, so please continue to choose to be a loser playing the lottery. There's even a chance you'll be a winner, though there's a better chance my kids will get their college paid for by you, and I can live with those odds.


Wednesday, November 2

No tebow ..

I was trying to use my stylus to write the title of this article about notebooks, but my phone thought I wanted to write about "no tebow .." That's kind of weird that Tim Tebow (or his half-meadow wife) would be mistaken for my hand-written word "notebook," but maybe it has something to do with the misuse or non-use of the actual word in the Jacksonville area (and the reason I wanted to write an article about notebooks). The word confusion probably has something to do with where I'm from versus the locals versus all the other transplants to Jacksonville, but we seem to have a bit of a miscommunication about what a notebook is or is not. 

One of my kids got a class supply list that included "notebook paper." Another class wanted a "three-ring notebook." Still another class demanded a "spiral." The notebook paper is probably loose-leaf paper. It doesn't come in a notebook, nor can it be added to a typical notebook. However, it can be added to a three-ring BINDER. The problem is that some teachers around here think the three-ring binder is a three-ring notebook. Not really. There are at least two kinds of notebooks: the spiral notebook and the composition notebook. I believe my kids had a teacher who asked for a composition notebook but really wanted a spiral notebook. A spiral notebook has a metal wire that spirals around as the binding. A composition notebook has a glued binding. These notebooks have paper inside them already. A binder is empty but can be filled with loose-leaf paper, after which point you could call it a three-ring notebook, I suppose.

This stuff isn't really all that complicated. And it probably shouldn't bother me as much as it does. It's nowhere near as confusing as the fact that no two teachers in DCPS give out assignments in the same format, as some use Teams, some use One-Note, some use paper, some use their own websites, some use third-party websites, and some just tell the kids something in class. And these are the professional teachers, not ex-military and other heroes who don't know a thing about education. 

But more importantly, what ever happened to Trapper Keepers. Those were all the rage when I was in middle school. I know, it was just a three-ring binder with cool stuff added, but that cool stuff was pretty cool.

In conclusion, today we learned A. no Tebow and B. a notebook is a notebook is a notebook.

Blowhard County Sheriff's Pressers Invite Behavior He Condemns

I get this Florida sheriff in my news feed who likes to tell the stories about the stupidity of his constituents. Criminals who get caught by the police or shot by responsible homeowners. He's all about the consequences. If you break the law, you'll get caught or killed, and you'll deserve it. He had even said it was good that one burglar looked like grated cheese after being shot by a homeowner, and that's a weird description, though it goes to show how far he wants to take the heroism of defending your property.  But what happens when swift vigilante justice meets misinterpreted neighborly neighborliness? Pretty much what you'd expect. Also, it's complicated.

So a father and son, who may generally love the sheriff for berating criminals, decided to chase down a neighbor who had merely dropped off a misdelivered package. Instead, they fired shots at a woman parked in their apartment complex with dark tinted windows and the engine running, assuming she was the getaway driver for whatever was stolen by the neighborly neighbor from their front porch (or from other apartments he'd successfully burglarized). She was not associated with the good neighbor at all.

The sheriff, in his typical manner, lumped this father and son dream team along with other criminals because they left their homes with guns to shoot at suspected criminals, whereas he said that staying at home and shooting criminals is a-ok. Or if the lady had exited her car and threatened bodily harm on one of the gunmen. Or if they see a shoplifter at Walmart.

Problem is, if you keep missing the porch pirates while they are robbing you, you're eventually going to take your guns to town. In any given situation in Florida, there's a 50/50 chance you have the right to shoot someone around you. In the situations where it's perfectly legal, 2nd Amendment supporters are quick to point out the effectiveness of the laws. That's great, but there are also tons of really stupid people in Florida, and I bet most of the stupidest own guns. Probably multiple guns. Fear-mongering by local the news, county sheriffs, politicians, gun shops, and fathers-in-law leads to vigilantism. As a nation, we've bought into the notion that guns save as many lives as they take and prevent as many crimes as they commit. 

I live in Jacksonville, so I know the stories of getting no response from the police for minor incidents. Broken car windows, porch pirating, etc. And I can probably legally shoot someone dead on my porch or driveway, but what if they are riding off on my bike or running down the street with my catalytic converter? Or if I catch them wearing my stolen Reggie White jersey a week after a burglary? Just like we get hurricane awareness packets, local governments in Florida should send out shoot-your-neighbors-dead awareness packets that detail when we can and can't kill people. I bet Pops and Junior thought they had every right to shoot at people on their shared apartment complex property who were suspected of stealing, hoping to be highlighted as local gun heroes by the sheriff if they took out the local porch pirate syndicate.

Monday, October 31

Don't Ever Work With Someone Who's Bi-Polar

I got some sage advice from a guy who started talking to me at the Avenues Mall Food Court while I waited for my daughter to hang out with her friends. He's a furniture upholsterer who apparently makes $100 an hour, but he was scheming on how to get out of paying for a meal. We discussed strategy, and he seemed to think his best bet was the white girl working at the Asian restaurant because Asian restaurants don't keep food inventory and white girls are more likely to feel sorry for him. That's what he told me, at least.

Instead of enacting his strategy, the guy decided to talk to me some more. I know his real intent was for me to give him the money to buy dinner. But I was waiting next to the food court because I didn't even want to buy myself a meal, so I wasn't going to spring for a guy who can earn $100 an hour. In fact, I told him that when he got paid for all those mall upholstery jobs he had for the next week, he should buy food for everyone in the food court. He told me that the fact I would suggest such charity meant I've never been rich (he's right). I was half-joking, but his slight was a misstep on his part if he was still trying to get a free meal out of me.

He decided to tell me why he, a guy worth $100 an hour, wasn't going to eat a paid meal all weekend. Apparently, he is in business with a bi-polar woman. He warned me never to enter into a business relationship with someone who was bi-polar, and I can imagine the condition might prove to be a challenge for the business. (So too would going into business with a sleazy scammer, so I'd probably warn all the bi-polar ladies out there to watch out for a guy who does upholstery work.) He tells me his bi-polar "silent" business partner has suddenly cut him off. The problem is that he owes her $20,000, so he says that's why she needs to keep funding him. Now, he didn't tell me what the $20,000 was for, but I'd assume professional upholstery equipment, maybe a vehicle, and apparently living expenses. Perhaps a shop. I don't know, since I started my website business with about $500 for web hosting and business cards. Then again, this guy was definitely a go-big-or-go-home type of cat. Especially when it's someone else's money, I'm sure. 

So the guy is a big thinker and big spender, making $100 on the slide as he runs up debt on bi-polar Sugar Momma's credit card, so she eventually cuts him off, leaving him hungry at the mall. He showed me the text from her and everything, so I can confirm she canceled him from her credit card. I was wondering how her being bi-polar led to him squandering $20,000 of her money, but I really couldn't think of a diplomatic way of asking. I guess the fact that she's demanding an eventual return on investment is crazy of her. Actually, if you decide to silently invest thousands of dollars in some guy who shows up to do some work for you in Florida, you are a little off your rocker.

I kind of wonder at the eventual outcome. He seemed to think that he'd be getting back at her for de-funding him by no longer working to establish his own business with (presumably) more of her money. His thinking is that she will come to her senses because the only way she'll get her $20,000 plus dividends back is to ensure he gets established. I suppose if she truly is bi-polar, he'll eventually re-convince her of his talents and vision. But it's also possible a responsible family member or lawyer got involved to put a stop to the obviously flawed business arrangement. Maybe one of his buddies charged her a retainer to help her get out of the contract with him. Anyhow, this article should serve as a warning to all the rich, crazy, old ladies who live in Florida. Also to the entrepreneurial craftsmen who think scamming those old ladies is easy work.

Advice Column: Workplace Party Pooper Replies

Dear NewJaxWitty,
I recently went to a work conference where there was a lot of partying. Attendees of the conference included my former boss (who had stabbed me in the back and nearly got me fired) and a current boss (who ranted on at a meeting saying I should be fired). I learned that their failings as managers had led to a misconception of me that has since been mostly straightened out. However, neither person has apologized for their roles in making my life a living hell for several months. At the conference, I was asked to join them at the after-hours party. Since I don't particularly like these two people, I declined. I was then called a party-pooper by my current boss. I'm not good at comebacks, so I just left. What should I have done? 

The Party Pooper

Dear Pooper,
It's a classic method of those who have risen to their highest level of incompetence to forget when they fail, since it's probably most of the time. Nobody really likes their bosses so much as they have to put up with them, so you're not wrong to want to avoid partying with them. Comebacks are easy to screw up in this scenario, especially if others in the room don't know the details of your disdain. The best course of action is probably to attend the party and wait for the bosses to get drunk enough to say or do something really stupid, but that backfires if you also get drunk (which you'd obviously want to do). Avoiding the party will make you look anti-social to your fellow employees, but getting wasted and then accusing your bosses of being ass-clowns would actually look worse. 

Here are some other comeback options, depending on what you're looking to accomplish:

Snarky
You and (other boss) pooped on my party last year and made my work-life hell, so we're even. Almost.

Sexy
My spouse has a party waiting for me when I get home, so I'm saving my energy.

Been There
I promised my parents I wouldn't call them again to bail me out after a night of partying.

Sexy, or Scary
The last time I let it all hang out, I literally let it all hang out.

Old School PSA
That's harassment, and I don't have to take it.

Me Time
I've got an incognito web browser, unlimited data, and a nice hotel room waiting for me.

Biblical
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1, ESV)

Responsible 
My AA sponsor might not agree.

Raging
If we're snorting lines off hookers' tits, I'm in.

Better Off Without You
I joined this amazing book club after listening to a podcast on NPR about the diaspora of the hegemony of the pedagogy of the oppressed, and I need to finish my book. Or else I could talk about it at the party, I guess.

Sinister
The last two times I partied, someone died.

Priorities
I'm this close to figuring out the entire Q-Anon mystery and the voting machine conspiracy, and my country needs me.

Reverse Psychology
I like the people I work with too much to party with them.

Work Wife
I've been working hard all day at this conference to be a better employee. I'm just tired, and I have a headache.

Vague
I have a few things I need to do first, so I'm probably going to show up in a little while. Maybe.

Duty Call
I need a nap, but if you're still partying at 3am, definitely call me.

The bottom line is that you should not feel pressured to participate in workplace social events that could lead to you feeling embarrassed. That said, inept managers who lack the ability to lead will always shift blame to others for poor numbers or a hostile work environment. Your lack of participation, if not understood by co-workers, gives these managers a potential target. 

Saturday, October 8

Here's Why I'm a Lutheran in Jacksonville

My church challenged me to "go," and this is the format I prefer over going door-to-door. In general, Lutherans don't "go" very much, so encouraging us to share our faith is normally about the words rather than the actions. Based on my electronic doorbell, I'd say it's pretty much Jehovah's Witnesses and nobody else going door-to-door. And "roof inspectors."

As I said, I'm Lutheran in a mostly non-denominational or Baptist city. Less than 1% of us are Lutherans, and that includes LCMS, ELCA, and WELS, whereas about 30% are Baptist or non-denominational. But I'm not writing this in order to convert those folks to my way of thinking about grace, communion, or baptism. It's all fairly similar, and the Christian church has bigger fish to fry. And speaking of fish fry, I'm not even trying to convince Catholics (10% in Jax) that the Reformation happened for good reason and that it's so 16th century of them to still be Catholic.

I'm writing because a reader might be thinking about attending a new church or sending their kids to a new school in East Arlington. I'm at Grace Lutheran. Besides the fact that we don't tend to "go" and do enough, I like it there. If you were brought up Lutheran or attended a Lutheran school, it's worth checking out. If you don't know anything about Lutherans or even Christianity, it's also worth checking out. 

Our pastor said he doesn't like the terminology of "church shopping," and I'd love to agree. However, I assume most non-Lutherans or non-Christians who are interested in my church will be church shopping. At other churches, you might shop, decide to join, and then also decide to get baptized. Lutherans would want the Holy Spirit to lead you. Like your personal shopper, I guess. 

Non-denominational churches will each have their own set of rules. You might agree with all or some of those tenants. LCMS churches follow the national LCMS rules. That can be beneficial. I suppose it can also be limiting. I like knowing what I'm getting and knowing where it's coming from. My pastors have been trained and certified by a governing body, and the school is accredited by LCMS, too. We have several hundred years of tradition and debate surrounding important church topics. Some churches can be just fine with a charismatic pastor who has an online degree in metaphysics, but that's kind of a gamble to me.

If something is missing in your life, maybe church can help with that. You'll meet some new people, and maybe you'll participate in some meaningful volunteer opportunities (or help us come up with some).  Even with the guilt and victim complex felt by many Christians, religious people tend to be happier than non-religious folks in most countries (sorry, Ecuador and Spain). In fact, religious Americans are very happy at a 10% higher rate than those who are not religious. That includes all religions, but I think plenty of Christians are happy. At least they always have hope. That means you can totally disagree with the state of things yet believe it will get better; and if it doesn't get better, you'll die and go to heaven where it will be better. That's easier than trying to create a perfect society through hippie communes or a VR world run by a billionaire tech nerd.

Anyhow, Grace Lutheran Church and School is on McCormick Rd, in between Monument and Kernan. You've driven past it plenty of times and now you know what it is. Stop in for Sunday service. I'd recommend the 11am contemporary service for new folks unless you're into old-school chanting and organ music. 

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