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?

I was watching an episode of MST3K from the early 90s when the host made fun of the No Fear t-shirts as a thing, and then I remembered this original version of the All Balls No Brains shirt. I guess No Fear is more unisex, at least. 

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 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 - Cost Analysis

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,, 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 -

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

University of Florida


Ranking 30

1,325/mo local rent

14,830 / yr on-campus

Florida State University


Ranking 58

1,288/mo local rent

16,790 / yr on-campus

University of South Florida


Ranking 103

1,432/mo local rent

17,036 / yr on-campus

University of Central Florida


Ranking 160

1,432/mo local rent

16,180/ yr on-campus

Florida International University


Ranking 187

1,754/mo local rent

17,300/ yr on-campus

Florida A&M University


Ranking 241

1,288/mo local rent

17,648/ yr on-campus

Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton

Ranking 272

2,127/mo local rent

20,580/ yr on-campus

University of North Florida


Ranking 272

1,173/mo local rent

New College of Florida


Ranking 82 in colleges

1,473/mo local rent

Pensacola State College


Ranking 30 regional colleges s

1,081/mo local rent

South Florida State College

Avon Park

Ranking 37 regional colleges s

662*/mo local rent

University of West Florida


Ranking 36 regional university s

1,081/mo local rent

Florida Gulf Coast University

Ft. Myers

Ranking 68 regional university s

1,333/mo local rent

St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg

Ranking 68 regional colleges s

1,443/mo local rent

Seminole State College of Florida


Ranking 70-91 regional colleges s

1,223/mo local rent

Broward College

Ft. Lauderdale


2,056/mo local rent

Chipola College



550*/mo local rent

College of Central Florida



1,167/mo local rent

Daytona State College

Daytona Beach


1,187/mo local rent

Eastern Florida State College



853/mo local rent

Florida Gateway College

Lake City


699*/mo local rent

Florida Keys Community College

Key West


1,600*/mo local rent

Florida Polytechnic University



1,164/mo local rent

Florida SouthWestern State College

Ft. Myers


1,333/mo local rent

Florida State College--Jacksonville



1,173/mo local rent

Gulf Coast State College

Panama City


1,126/mo local rent

Indian River State College

Ft. Pierce


941*/mo local rent

Lake-Sumter State College



958/mo local rent

Miami Dade College



1,754/mo local rent

North Florida Community College



725*/mo local rent

Northwest Florida State College



993/mo local rent

Palm Beach State College

Palm Beach Gardens


2,002/mo local rent

Pasco-Hernando State College

New Port Richey


1,062/mo local rent

Polk State College

Winter Haven


1,052/mo local rent

Saint Johns River State College



933/mo local rent

Santa Fe College



1,325/mo local rent

State College of Florida--Manatee-Sarasota

Bradenton, Venice, Lakewood Ranch


1,342/mo local rent

Tallahassee Community College



1,288/mo local rent

Valencia College



1,432/mo local rent

Coolest Street in Jacksonville

I get news and weather updates from Boston once in a while. I'm not sure why. Anyhow, a recent story from Bean Town says that one of its iconic streets has been named one of the 33 coolest streets in the world. The travel website TimeOut is so cool that it chose 33 instead of 25 or 50. So Newbury Street in Boston is cool. It has the best new restaurants, funkiest speakeasies and chic-est boutique hotels in Boston. But what about Jacksonville? What's our coolest street?

San Marco Boulevard, San Marco
Old-timey shops and whatnot, walkable. Nice. Pretty.

Park Street, Riverside
Bars and nightlife. Where the cool kids go to be seen, at least the ones who maybe also think they are intellectuals. 

St. Johns Avenue, Avondale
Fancy area with neat shops and restaurants.

Bay Street
So maybe a couple of bars and drunk people wandering after a game or concert.

1st Street,  The Beaches
So there's a big gap between Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach along 1st Street, but it's bike-able. AB Town Center on Atlantic is a neat little area. Jacksonville Beach is perfect for trust-fund kids out carousing. And the beach is a few steps away.

Town Center Parkway
Ha ha ha ha ha! The St. Johns Town Center is so frustratingly horribly planned that it's amazing to me that it has remained so popular. All the fancy stores you could want packaged in an un-walkable, nearly un-driveable outdoor mall. You can sit in traffic on Town Center Parkway and see most of the stores, wishing you had the kind of job that could afford you the time and that Audi S8 parked at Nordstrom's during normal work hours for the rest of us. 

Vermanth Road
I was told by a friend that Vermanth Road in Arlington is the only so-named street in the United States. If that's true, then only about 65 households live on a street by that name, and that's pretty cool. That said, it's just a normal few blocks in Arlington, so it may not seem that cool unless you know how unique it is.

I once heard someone from Jacksonville talking to someone from Atlanta, and the guy from Atlanta said something about Moncrief, so the dude from Jacksonville was like, "You know Moncrief?" And the cat from Atlanta was all, "People all over know about Moncrief." I guess that's cool? But I wouldn't really suggest you go and check it out. Just ask someone.

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