Sunday, November 20

DOT, Councilmembers' Last Chance to Save Lives

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. 

Wednesday, September 28

If You're Wearing the All Balls No Brains Shirt, You're Kind of Forced to be Like The Guy Who Would Wear That Shirt

While waiting for my own kids in the high school pick-up line, I've seen one student a couple of times. I notice the kid because he wears a shirt that reads, "All balls, no brains.” It's not as obviously ridiculous as the giant pickup with the obnoxious exhaust and "Don't tread on me" flag, but the young man is still making a claim he may not be able to back up when push comes to shove.

My dad used to wear a "Beach Bum" t-shirt. Once after a contentious baseball game, a kid from an opposing team said to my dad, "You've probably never been to the beach!" Touché. When several of my friends used to wear obligatory early-90s Big Johnson t-shirts, I probably told them, "You've never even seen a big Johnson." Basically, if you're trying to be awesome because of your ironic t-shirt, you've got to be ready to whip out your swimsuit. 

Just like the Big Johnson shirts, however, the All Balls shirts aren't meant to be literal. I'm sure a literal interpretation would be against dress code. It's also a silly visual because really old men with dimensia and sagging testicles represent a better literal interpretation of the moniker. But the meaning is the challenge of this message. This young man is saying he will do anything to demonstrate his coolness, and that's dangerous. Like, if you ask him to eat a stick of deodorant. Or bite the head off a small fish. Or jump down a flight of stairs. How can someone wearing such a bold message say that doing anything is just too stupid? 

I can only hope that his friends have the sense not to ask him to cook a NyQuil chicken or stuff marshmallows, nutmeg, or whey protein in his mouth. I hope they don't ask him to swim across local ponds or file his teeth to look like a vampire. The problem is that they are dumb teenagers (we've all been there), so if they can get someone to ride a bike blindfolded while wearing a tutu, they will.  Wouldn't you?

Monday, September 26

AAA Roadside Assistance Kinda Sketchy in Jacksonville

You can blame the pandemic or the recession or the great resignation, but my latest experience dealing with AAA in Jacksonville was quite a bit worse than my last, even though it did end up with me getting back on the road. Here's the story.

My car had an error code along with three hard starts leading up to the problem. The error code had to do with the oxygen sensor or catalytic converter, so I wrote the hard starts off as having to do with a failure in the emissions or exhaust system, which I was planning on addressing. Besides, the car started, just kind of weirdly. But that's all really besides the point, since my car was starting and running, and then it was dead: no start, clicking, lights flashing, etc. I had all the classic signs of a dead battery. I've owned about 20 cars in the last 30 years, and I've put new batteries in all of them, so I have seen the signs. The hard starts were not starter-going-bad starts, and I didn't have the gradual depletion associated with a bad alternator. Basically, I was 99% sure a jump would start my car.

The AAA experience for getting help is actually pretty good. You call the number or go online, they send you a text, you fill in a quick form, and then they send you a link to a map with your helper's location. Except this guy wasn't really on the map...it kept saying he was down in the Murray Hill area, 20 miles away. And then he was on the 95, and then at 45th and Moncrief. Then back in Murray Hill. I don't understand that. At some point, my jumper guy called and said he'd be 45 minutes. His name showed up as something like Milli Vanilli, so that's what I'll call him. Even though I couldn't track him on the map and he seemed to alternately be in Murray Hill and Moncrief Park, eventually, he just showed up. It took like an hour or hour-fifteen from when he called.

He was driving a little white car, but I don't recall seeing any AAA or other markings. Milli Vanilli jumped out of the car wearing an orange vest and knowing my name, so I figured he was legit. I popped the hood. He grabbed a handheld jump starter that seemed well-used, sporting some duct tape as a battle scar. The guy didn't have a flashlight, but he hooked the cables up and told me to give it a try. Almost. He played with the cables. Again. More playing with cables. I noticed the dome light never got much brighter as he screwed around under the hood, but he kept trying to find the right connection and telling me to try it. To me, it didn't seem like his jump starter had enough juice, or maybe there was corrosion in the cables. But Milli Vanilli was the professional AAA sent me. 

When he declared he'd give it one more shot by ALSO hooking his own car to the battery, I wondered if he'd ever done that one before. I sure had never tried two charging sources for a jump, and I'm not even sure that it would help. It didn't. 

Milli Vanilli then told me it wasn't the battery and I would need a tow. He said he wasn't a mechanic but it might be the alternator. I told him it was the battery and maybe his jumper was weak, but then he got a bit in my face and said his jump starter could start a semi. Taking it any further would not have helped me, so I just went back to my car as he angrily unhooked all his charging devices. He told me I'd have to call AAA again to start a new request, now two hours into my ordeal.

I started the process again, requesting a tow. AAA said I'd get it at 7:42 am, about an hour after I should have been running my kids to school. But now it was after midnight. Just me and several homeless folks hanging out in a parking lot. Since I had a dead battery, it took a full minute of playing with the window to get it to go back up so I could lock the car and try Walmart for a portable charger. 

Just as I was heading to Walmart, however, Ryan called. He was the tow truck driver, but he also asked about what was happening with the battery. I described the situation, and he said he'd give the battery a shot before towing me. Apparently, my basic AAA plan got me 5 miles of towing, so I would owe $85 on a tow to my house from 20 miles. Luckily, Ryan was only 30 minutes away rather than the 7 hours estimated by AAA.

Ryan showed up with a light, a battery cleaning kit, and tools. He made sure the connections were good, got his jumper out, hooked it up properly, and jumped the car on the first try. Since he was heading back my direction, he followed me home to make sure I made it, which both of us knew wasn't totally necessary as the alternator was working properly (he checked). Ryan had also shown up on the map when I requested him, and I followed him all the way to my location. So he was professional from start to finish, just two hours later than I wanted.

What's crazy is that Milli Vanilli only exists in order to help people with battery, tire, and gas issues. He's not a mechanic, and I appreciate that, but it would be good if he could properly assess and then jump a dead battery. It's like if he worked at McDonald's and his only job was to put the fries in the fryer, get them out when it beeps, and salt them, but he kept forgetting the dang salt. And then telling the customer that he knows salt and salt's not the problem.

I'm not saying that the next time I have a battery situation and need AAA that I'll ask for a tow truck right away, but it's tempting if those are the only employees who know what they're doing. Also, I'm not totally sure what was wrong with Milli Vanilli's efforts, since Ryan was so thorough. Was it a bad charger and a stupid idea to add his car to the series, a bad cable, or battery corrosion? I've had all three issues in the past. I'm somewhat responsible if my battery was corroded, but I think that's part of car jumping 101. That and having a flashlight.

If you have AAA and need roadside assistance, I wish you the best of luck. If you get a call from Milli Vanilli saying he's on his way, you're going to need it.

Saturday, September 24

Queen's Harbour Doesn't Immediately Lower Flags for Queen's Death

The Queen of Great Britain recently died. I know because my daughter told me. And it was in my wife's news feed. And our governor said flags in Florida would be lowered to half-staff, so I wouldn't assume it was another mass shooting. But if I'd been a resident of Her Majesty's namesake neighborhood, Queen's Harbour, I may not have known, since flags there remained at full-mast (if that's the hyphenated word for it). For two full days, at least.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe in a monarchy. While I don't wish any monarch dead, I also don't really see Queen Elizabeth II as any more important than some other 96-year-old at the local nursing home. As Billy Shakespeare said, and I'm paraphrasing, monarchs return to dust just like the peasants. Eaten by worms and all that.

I guess the American peasants in Queen's Harbour are telling the British Monarchy that it's not legitimate by refusing to fly the flag at half-mast. Since we're all finally equal in death, why bother honouring the Queen at Queen's Harbour, right? I tend to agree, but I am kind of surprised. If any pretend-English-nobility neighbourhood in Jacksonville should have its American flag flying low for the old British bag, it's Queen's Harbour. Unless, of course, it was really named after Queen Isabella of Spain during the Spanish rule of Florida. Or maybe it was named for Queen Elizabeth I back when the Brits had Florida. I don't really know how old the neighbourhood is because I'm not allowed in.

Thursday, September 8

Florida Universities and Colleges for Bright Futures

I created this list of colleges and universities in Florida when I learned about Bright Futures and was trying to see if my kids could afford to win the scholarship. Living on-campus or paying local rent/transportation is not as cheap as you might imagine, and since I created this analysis in May of 2021, rent has probably gone up in most places. That said, we can assume rent has gone up proportionally, and the affordability should still be similar as a comparison. 

Rankings were also from 2020-2021. These don't tend to change drastically, but it's always possible. I went from top-ranked to lowest-ranked, since my kids were interested in the "best" colleges and universities in Florida. I'm sure most of them are fine, and if it makes sense based on rent or sports or major fields of study, I think my kids can do well at any of the campuses. 

For us in Jacksonville, room and board would be free for UNF or using Bright Futures to get two years at FSCJ. However, FSCJ is unranked. Also, my kids claim they want the college experience. Maybe your kids prefer the college experience over free rent at home. It's worth seeing what that will mean for their student loans. I don't think there will be another loan bailout for kids entering college now, so it's important to know how to manage costs. That's why I also provide a handy cost-estimator at the start of the college list. If you share rent costs with other people or choose a dorm, you can do it all a little cheaper. Even at the low $500 a month rent, however (no food), "free" Florida college will cost $24,000. Add $3,000 a year for food alone, and you're looking at $36,000 college costs if you're very budget-minded (assuming your parents were offering free room and board for comparison). Dorm estimates do include room and board, but only Gainesville was slightly under $15,000 per year as of 2021. 

Florida colleges and universities

Rankings via US News and World Report 

Rent using Rentcafe or *Zumper, Apartments.com, or other. Rentcafe may use average for all rent rather than 1 bedroom or studio like some of the others, 


Rent Cost Estimator

500/month x 12 months x 4 years = 24,000

1000/month x 12 months x 4 years = 48,000 

1500/month x 12 months x 4 years = 72,000

Dorm (room, board, books, and expenses - collegefactual.com)

10000/yr x 4 years = 40,000 ; 15,000/yr x 4 years = 60,000

Sunday, August 21

Google's Finally Killing SEO, Again

I barely bother reading articles about SEO anymore. I never got great at manipulating the system, and I've always been frustrated by the amount of real work I've put into my writing compared to SEO wizards. On top of that, I've heard for years that Google's Search was finally demoting the poorly-written, seo-heavy content that often outperforms my own articles. But one day before I read yet again that Google was defeating SEO optimization, I was sucked into reading an article that had clearly been computer-generated. Looking back on my week, I'd say more like one article a day had been either reworded or generated by some kind of SEO program. Supposedly, Google is going to fix this. Again.

I remember talking to a wealth SEO lady a few years back who sold businesses on mostly useless articles and click funnels. She was rich because Google allowed her to manipulate the searches, and she had happy clients who benefited from her SEO wizardry, while I sat there wondering why no one was even reading some of my best articles. And the ones people did read never made me any affiliate money. Of course, I've always written on what interests me rather than on what I believed could get me click funnel victims, so there's that. Still, her wealth and how she made it bothered me, with Google seemingly endorsing her techniques. Right before that business meeting, I'd read SEO was getting a crackdown on Google Search. But I'd read the same thing several years earlier, when I first tried to build my own business. Since then, I think I see more useless, computer-generated or third-party content. More click-bait as real news in my feed. More SEO millionaires.

Sometimes the best article on a subject is on some old Angelfire website written by someone who's been dead a decade. However, anyone can take that top article and rewrite it with SEO wording and photos in order to steal the top spot without any authority, personal experience, or intent to help others. Maybe the new Google Search update will finally figure out why most of us ought to be disappointed with our search results and news feeds, but I won't believe it this time any more than the other times I've heard the same rhetoric.

If a lawn care business out of Houston or an HVAC company out of Massachusetts have the best articles about why my grass is dying or whether I should buy a heat pump, I'm fine with those results, but I'd probably prefer a good local article. I know local doesn't always exist, and most HVAC companies want you to hire them rather than give free advice, but when the top articles are useless or stolen (and some good ones are buried a few pages deep), it shows that Google still has an SEO problem. One that I can only hope gets resolved.

Saturday, July 30

Jacksonville Light Boat Parade 2021 Disappointment

There are times in life when you're glad you didn't invite family to come visit you. We've had a few of those experiences in Jacksonville, our latest being the 2021 Light Boat Parade. Our first and likely last time seeing the parade, even though all the locals have told us it's a must-see.

The boat parade is one of those local traditions we'd heard about ever since we moved here. Prior holiday disappointments had included the Christmas lifeguard chairs and the 4th of July at Jax Beach. But this isn't just a chair decorating/advertising event or a drunken college party. It was one of Jacksonville's true showcase events, like the Christmas tree at The Landing. Wait, that was also a local holiday disappointment--a tree in a half-empty mall thingy filled with homeless panhandlers.

But Jacksonville is bold, and we've moved past The Landing and toward a homeless park rather than a homeless mall. I didn't check out the local vendors at the park formerly known as The Landing because I was sure word had gotten out in the homeless community that a lot of folks with cash might be there. Also, I didn't need to buy a hot tub or beach-view art work painted in someone's garage studio. 

We chose a spot on the Southbank riverwalk to view the parade. We also brought our dog, which was a mistake, as the riverwalk was mostly full when we got there. Not realizing that you're supposed to bring chairs and huge strollers to block the walkway, we sat on a curb a little ways west of the DCPS building. We got there with maybe 15 minutes to spare, but we seemed to have some of the last public seats available. We felt like we'd made it. I might have even demanded high-fives from the fam.

But then nothing happened. We sat there until the official start time and we saw one or two boats cruising back and forth to get to a presumable starting location, but no parade. The guy next to me, who wore a walkie-talkie, came to sit with his family and said there was a delay, but his communication device never provided an update, nor did he (and his job there seemed to literally be to sit with his family).

Eventually, my daughter and I headed back to the car to get water for the dog. We figured if we missed the first wave across the river, wed at least see the boats up close on our side. But we got back to our seats and still no parade. In fact, families with young ones were starting to leave for their cars when we returned. The dog was restless, the kids were restless, and the wife was disappointed. We decided to walk the riverwalk further west in order to move and maybe see some boats sooner in the eventual parade, since it starts on the north side and then meanders over to the south. 

The people who'd been sitting for more than an hour did love seeing our dog along the route, probably because they were trying to entertain themselves and their poor kids. That kind of made it a nice walk. Plus, it was cool to see all the people who wanted to participate in a well-run community event. Too bad they were all as disappointed as we'd become. 

Based on our photos, I'd say the first boats that made the route along the northbank and back to the southbank arrived around 7:30, making it an hour-and-a-half wait for us. Much more for the seat-saving folks. I later learned that someone in city government whose sole task that day was probably to have the railroad bridge in the proper position had not done the job. That person was probably sitting in the crowd with his/her family and a turned-off walkie talkie. Speaking of which, the worker who sat next to us and had his own walkie talkie did not know why there was a delay and didn't receive a single communication while he was sitting there for an hour. You'd think somebody would have got on the horn and asked if anyone knew how to fix the bridge situation.

So we sat there a long time, which probably affected our expectations and subsequent disappointment. It was a parade of drunk wealthy people just as interested in showing off their boats as any light displays. Most of the displays were half-assed, and I know because that's how I do my own Christmas lights. At least all the rich folks were having fun on their boats, and that's really the point, right?

If you're new to the area, I guess you have to try the light parade at least once. I'm sure it won't start late for you. As for us, we had to leave early because the dog and kids were restless. And the wife. Me too, really, since it felt like we'd just witnessed the first awkward attempt at a mass public event rather than a yearly tradition pumped up by all the locals.

Lest I lament without suggestions, I would recommend the Girvin Christmas light experience. And we also did a gingerbread house/ historic house tour thing that wasn't bad in some half-abandoned part of downtown (I know, that's most of downtown). The Christmas lights put on by the Shriners is gone now to make way for apartments or a shopping center, but they were also borderline ok. If you like lots and lots of white lights on really old buildings, then St. Augustine is your jam for the holidays.

Monday, July 25

Should I Support the Duval County Public Schools Referendum Version 2022?

Even though my kids were attending a private school when the last referendum for Duval Schools came a begging, I voted for it because the schools were in need of maintenance and improvements. However, two years later and now two kids in a Duval County school, I have seen ZERO facilities upgrades. My kids' school has $24 million to spend, but this was the second summer in a row without a single brick being laid for the $12 million new classrooms to get my kids out of portables. I'm not sure if I can vote for the new referendum if the district can't spend the money it currently has to make schools better.

Here's what DCPS says the new money will provide: 
"65% of the revenue would be used to supplement teacher pay, 12.5% would be used for arts and athletic programs at public schools, 12.5% would go to charter schools, and 10% would go to pay increases for district staff."

To me, it looks like a total of 75% will go to teacher or staff pay/raises. I taught in the district for a year, and I'd say it's deserved, but as a parent with two kids in core classes illegally stuffed to the gills, I'd rather see more core teachers than more pay for gym teachers. If the referendum would guarantee reduced core class sizes, I'd vote yes and maybe even work in the district again.

I'm all for arts and athletics. However, I'd again ask if that means more teams and student participation or just new art tables and uniforms. My daughter just missed making a JV team last year for a sport that cut more than a dozen freshmen and could have had a freshman team. Maybe 12.5% more money would have made that team possible, but I don't know. 

I can unequivocally say that I can't support 12.5% of my extra tax burden to fund charter schools. These schools compete for students and funding while rewarding suspect for-profit companies that mostly prove that pilfering a district's best students results in good schools.

So there you have my opinion on the 2022 DCPS tax referendum. If I knew it supported core teachers, more sports participation, and better public schools, I'd vote yes in a heartbeat. I'd like to say I trust DCPS to spend millions of dollars wisely, but the lack of transparency in how or when the last referendum money is being spent leads me to believe this money may be better off in my own pocket.

Sunday, July 24

Jax Local Ad of the Week: Milano's For Easter

Milano's is no stranger to being the local ad of the week. Its Valentine's Day ad from 2021 was a classic, but this new Easter ad is also an awesome example of ads that don't quite make sense but do make you want some Italian food. Let's see if we can identify everything odd about this photo. 

Forks and knives
Part of the fun of eating pizza is getting to shove it in your mouth with your hands. This family, however, seems to be intent on eating pizza with utensils. It's borderline child abuse to be cutting up pizza into bite-sized pieces for the kids, but it's downright un-American for Mom and Dad to be eating it that way. Do they think they're dining with the Queen of England? 

Weddings
It's perfectly OK for this family to have a kid without being married. However, parents who force their child to eat pizza with a fork and knife should be prepared for all kinds of badgering from the child if they continue to live in sin. I suppose it's plausible that Mom takes her wedding ring off to eat pizza, but that would make a lot more sense if she actually used her hands to eat it.
 
Fresh fruit
A basket of fresh fruit is a pretty good indicator that this meal is being eaten at home rather than in the restaurant. That's sort of odd, right? If I wanted to show that I made some good food at my house, I'd show my family enjoying a meal at our kitchen table (or even at the patio picnic table we never use), but I don't think I'd show us eating our home-cooked meal at the beach. Anyhow, there's fruit, but that's not the only odd thing...

Cut fruit
The oranges in the fruit basket are CUT! Nobody has any fruit on their plates, so the assumption is that this family cuts oranges and then puts them back in the fruit basket to spill sticky orange juice all over the other fruits until morning. Or...

OJ
Speaking of orange juice, that seems to be the drink of choice. Fresh squeezed, perhaps?
I have to assume that if you were to poll a million people asking them what their favorite drink with pizza would be, exactly zero would choose orange juice. While some beers are slightly orangy in color, I can't imagine a family that forces a kid to eat pizza with utensils and keeps a basket of fresh fruit stocked is going to pour a pint of  Brew Free! Or Die Blood Orange IPA for the little girl. So they all drink orange juice or maybe orange soda with cut-up pizza.

Weird salad utensil
I know it's hard to see dimension in a photo, but the salad utensil looks like a wooden spoon turned sideways. Or a wooden spear. Neither of these utensils would be great at serving salad, which might be why no one seems to have eaten any salad. It's possible this family eats super-healthy, so it might be salad and cut oranges for dessert.

Last supper seating
Personally, I enjoy sitting across from my wife. This was especially useful when the kids were little disasters throwing food and making messes. I could watch the chaos from my relaxing spot on my side of the table. This family, however, all sit on one side of the table, like in The Last Supper by da Vinci. I guess it's an Italian thing, but Mom has to reach over her daughter to get to the fruit, while Dad had to reach over her to get to the 'za.

Whole pizza still there
Speaking of the pizza, either this family served itself from the far side of the box (which makes little sense given their seating positions), or there's a whole pizza sitting in front of them as they each eat one single piece from another box? I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt and assume they spun the pizza around after taking pieces from the side not seen in the photo, but no one really does that. Also, the kid is eating s slice of pizza that has something green (spinach?) and what look like onions. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

Disappearing cabinets in ephereal bricks
If you look close at the background, this family meal gets really freaky. There's a fancy kitchen counter with a bottle of wine (or maybe champagne for mimosas). Then the brick backsplash. Then, right behind Dad's head, an upper cabinet exists and disappears into a brick wall. Is this brick wall in the real restaurant, implying the family is both at home and in Milano's? Are they stuck between two dimensions? Do they have a faux brick sheet hanging from the ceiling? Maybe it's some kind of empty tomb metaphor because this is an Easter ad. Wine into orange juice and extra slices of pizza. 

I can't explain it, but I also love this ad because of how complicated someone decided to make it. Honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever see another ad with this much strange going on that also looks perfectly normal on the surface. I just imagine the photo shoot filled with a bunch of artsy Gen Zers who have never had a family meal and never cook anything that can't be microwaved. This is what young people in the ad world imagine a family dinner to be, and the decisions that went into the ad reflect a society where families don't eat together or all the members are on their devices and not paying attention to what's even on the table. My family, for example, would have some napkins, parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes, but these marketing pros settled on a fruit basket.






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Thursday, July 21

Another Year, Another Pitbull Story

I think it's been about a year since I wrote my last anti-pitbull article, so it's probably good that I saw my neighbor/attack-dog owner as a reminder that I don't like pitbulls. By association, I don't really like their owners very much. If you own a pitbull, you also don't like me because my opinion is that they should be turned in like AR-15s to either be destroyed or used in special military operations.

Anyhow, I saw my neighbors new pitbull, purchased or "adopted" after his other killer dog had already attacked our dog. And the new one looks like a pitbull you'd see in an actual pit, fighting other dogs. Whereas the neighbor feigned innocence with the other dog, saying it was a mixed breed dog and not a pitbull, the new one is 100% pure-bred trashy pitbull. Every so often I see a pitbull owner who also picks up a beagle or cocker spaniel or some other scared-to-death breed in order to seem a bit more civilized, but the folks who initially pretend to own a mixed-breed, harmless dog and then go out and add a giant pitbull to the household are really special. The thinking is that your other pitbull only viciously attacked another dog once, so it makes total sense to double the chances for another attack. Or a mean dog needs a mean friend. Or that you really like your dog even if it's a menace, so you should adopt another one?

I do understand that since the average income level of pitbull owners is lower than the rest of us, it would seem to make sense to adopt your next dog from the humane society. Of course, 90% of the dogs at the Jax Humane Society are pitbulls, so there you go. I actually wondered how many times the same pitbull ends up in a humane society for adoption. I mean, the people who had the dog from a puppy decided it was too much to handle, so I can't imagine some old lady with a kind heart will figure out how to control a six-year-old killing machine.

Also, this year when we went to the veterinarian, he was nursing a hand wound that would not stop bleeding. He volunteered that he'd been bit by a pitbull. Without us asking or assuming. He didn't blame bad owners (like some people do) or unwarranted reputations. He just said some breeds are worse than others. And he was right.

Always remember that everyone who does not own a pitbull judges you if you do. That includes your homeowner's insurance company. Owning a pitbull is like ear gauging or face tattoos: it probably seems really cool until most people are scared of you.

I know, that's the whole point. You have a small paycheck or other appendage, and you're compensating. It doesn't work. Get a hella hot girlfriend or stupid big pickup truck instead. Or a jet ski or Rogaine or new false teeth. You could even adopt a kid from Bulgaria or purchase Jaguars season tickets. There are all kinds of ways to prove you have some culture and a little extra spending money, but owning a pitbull is not one of them.

If you want to see the available pitbulls for adoption, take a look here. The list includes other dogs available, but it will mostly be pitties because those are the ones that people don't want but our city refuses to send elsewhere. 

Wednesday, July 20

Tag em and Bag em, Jacksonville

Moving to Florida, I noticed that more abandoned cars littered the roadway than other places I'd lived. At first, I assumed this was a result of more tourism, more poverty, or hotter weather. However, after living here for several years, I've come to the conclusion that we've got more abandoned cars because of policy as much as any other factor, and that policy should probably be updated.

I drive the same route every day, just like many of us who commute to work. I've noticed that the same abandoned vehicle sits at the side of the highway for several days, especially if it's just parked and not in obvious distress. However, these parked vehicles represent a major crash hazard if someone needs to swerve into the shoulder. I've even seen some abandoned vehicles on I-95 that didn't fit on the tiny shoulders and ended up in the traffic lane. I've seen plenty of vehicles right at on-ramps or off-ramps, too.

 The policy seems to be to give these vehicles at least two days to be moved before they are towed away, but I'd say that they ought to be removed immediately if there's any chance an accident could be caused. And there's always that chance. The policy should be to give an abandoned vehicles owner until the next rush hour to move it or lose it. If your car breaks down at 7am, then it's got to be gone by 2pm. Or make it a blanket six hours from the time it's tagged.

Even the actual tagging of abandoned vehicles is pretty poorly done around here. Most vehicles that are well off the road or have been in an obvious accident receive an orange tag. A tag lets the rest of us drivers know the situation has been acknowledged by the authorities and we don't need to stop to help out. Every abandoned vehicle should be tagged as a courtesy to those of us who wish to be good Samaritans if needed. When I was in St Johns County on a recent weekend evening, I came across a vehicle that had run off of Highway 1 in the fog. I circled back in order to check it out (parking and exiting my own car in the fog), but no one was in the car. I later called to police department only to find out it was a known abandoned vehicle. That means I endangered myself and other drivers in the fog in order to attempt to help someone who was long gone. Yes, I could have called the sheriff from a safe location a mile away before investigating, but if someone had been injured behind the wheel, it made more sense to stop to see. And I probably wasn't the only passerby to check out the crash scene that had not been tagged to let us know there was nothing to be done. But if I was the only one who stopped, that's kind of sad and scary for those of us who might someday need someone's help. Moving cars as soon as possible, or at least tagging them, makes a lot more sense than what seems to be the current practice in Northeast Florida.

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