Friday, December 22

Support the Arts in Jacksonville: Go See a Play

James Jaeger as Capulet

Fletcher's next play:
April 19th and 20th, 2024: House of Blue Leaves

Tickets (when available)

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.

Not all of the performances at local high schools will be stellar. You need a big cast, it's not as popular as football, and performing in front of people isn't everyone's cup of tea. But these kids really do deserve a real budget, a dedicated director, and an audience. If you think you support the schools by paying property taxes and attending the alumni football game, then you are losing out on an opportunity to support kids with real-world skills.

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. Scroll down for the list of dates for Fletcher High School productions. 

The plays I saw as an educator in Wisconsin seemed to have a much larger budget (and audience)  than those I've seen in Jacksonville. While this doesn't affect the acting (exactly), it does affect how the students see themselves as actors. It's hard to feel like you're a real star when you perform one or two shows over a single weekend that are less than half full, on top of having to buy any costumes yourself (and not everyone bothers). I remember seeing a production of Miss Saigon at Pius High School in Milwaukee that had a full-sized helicopter on stage, and Tosa West's production of Showboat must have had 50 dancers on stage for several numbers. And many of the suburban schools had auditoriums named after people who probably donated heavily to the theater. We don't have less total wealth than in Milwaukee metro (higher per capita income), so it's more of a values/priorities situation, and I'm hoping that can change.
April 6th and 7th, 2024: Barefoot in the Park

January 19th and 20th, 2024

October 20 and 21, 2023
Twelve Angry Jurors 
You may also know this play as Twelve Angry Men

April 21st and 22nd, 2023- Noises Off

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

What happens to those stars who are no longer stars? Not this.

Saturday, December 2

I Guess Homeless in Park and Ride Would Fill the Lots

There's a Park and Ride lot over on Monument by Craig Airport and Blue Sky Golf. Most people don't know the Park and Ride exists and nobody has used it in the six years I've been here. Maybe for Jags games. So basically, it's an empty parking lot for about 350 days of the year, living on as a reminder that we don't have a usable bus system that takes people where they want to go in an efficient manner.

For big cities with employment downtown, buses can be useful. You can maybe avoid traffic in special bus lanes, and you can avoid parking. However, nobody really wants to take the bus. In Jacksonville, which is way more spread out than other cities, literally no one DOES take the bus. Especially people with other resources. 

I'm sure all of our park and ride lots were created with a good intent: get people out of their cars and conserve downtown parking, all while polluting less. It might work in other cities, or it might work if we as a community provided an incentive (like cash) to workers who use the bus. Since buses and dangerous autonomous vehicles aren't going to catch on in Jax, let's just re-purpose some of the facilities. In Milwaukee, authorities have been trying to remove the homeless from the park and ride camp, but I kind of think it might work here. 

There was this one guy who was living in Ed Austin Park for three years. He was creepy because he was in a white van and kids are all over the park. I contacted the police, but I guess they were too busy protecting the Wawa parking lot, or maybe there's no ordinance against living in your van in a park next to the playset. That guy would have been better off in a park and ride lot. Kids don't hang out in empty parking lots. In fact, nobody hangs out there. And when several homeless people with cars hang out together, they become a community, and they can benefit from sharing resources (like barrel fires when it's cold). 

Mostly, I just want to be able to keep an eye on all the homeless folks. I'm not saying I want to actually see them or interact with them. I just want them to be in one place rather than in the woods next to my neighborhood playset. I guess leaders in downtown want to cage them inside a fence somewhere, which is admirable in a concentration camp kind of way, but I figured setting them up with some barely-running cars in never-used parking lots is just as good as prison camps downtown. Set up a hose and a usb charger maybe. 

As a bonus, maybe Jacksonville can get some federal transportation funding because our park and ride lots are finally being used. 

Tuesday, November 7

Are We Funding Home Improvements For Rest of Florida?

My Safe Florida was expanded to every Floridian at around the same time it ran out of funding completely. Which is almost as frustrating as my take on the program below.

Back when the My Safe Florida program started, I checked it out. From what I could tell, I didn't qualify because of our home location outside of the wind-borne debris regions of the state. I ended up footing the $15,000 bill for a new roof, and I'll probably have to pay full price for new windows. However, when I visited the official My Safe Florida website, I didn't find clear eligibility requirements. In fact, the site seems to imply everyone who owns a home in a Florida can upgrade roofs and windows with the government paying 2/3 of the cost (except they're currently out of funding and have a huge waiting list). I wonder if the original map I saw is or was ever a requirement. If it is, then our taxes in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Orlando are paying for 2/3 the cost of upgrades in Miami, Tampa, and Ft. Myers that can save homeowners $1,000 on their insurance. 

Sure, my $15,000 roof would have probably been a $25,000 roof under program guidelines, but if a grant was going to pay 2/3 of that, my super-hurricane roof would have only cost me around $8,000. And I'd have a stronger roof and lower insurance. Of course, that's why there's a waiting list. I can pay $5,000 for cheap, builder-grade replacement windows in Jacksonville, while some cat in Tampa can pay $5,000 to get $15,000 ultimate storm-proof windows. And lower insurance. I just saw one website claim average homeowners insurance is the same in Tampa as Jax, which makes no sense if they are in some kind of wind-death-zone and we're not.

Since my roof was kind of an emergency (canceled insurance), I'll take the hit, but I will certainly look into the My Safe Florida option for windows. However, if what I'd initially read about the program is correct, instead of getting discounted hurricane-proof windows, I'll just be paying full price for regular windows while also helping to buy some grandma in Ft. Myers new windows for her house. If the state is going to limit a program like this, at least offer those of us not in the wind debris zones cheaper insurance or 1/3 price tickets to Disney or something.

Monday, November 6

The Jrue Holiday Dilemma in Youth Sports

Just a few weeks after Jrue Holiday got traded away from another team (my Bucks), my daughter got "demoted" from her varsity basketball spot. Even after making the team in 9th and 10th grade. Even after showing her relentless defensive and hustle-points skills. Even before that, she didn't get the playing time she'd earned, so I told her she should have been showing her skills on JV for the past two years. But it's still a demotion, like a guy who's consistently the best defender in the league who keeps getting traded. As a parent, it's kind of hard to figure out what to say. Especially as a parent who has learned the importance of defense over time.

I was always good at defense, even in basketball. However, I also knew how to score in the low post, so in alleyball games, I normally tried to outscore the opponent. My only time spent playing organized basketball was for a high school church league (basically all the guys who got cut from their high school teams). In this scenario, I played hard-nosed defense, got lots of rebounds, set monster screens, and always looked for my guards (because there were always four on the court with me). I averaged a single-double (rebounds) and fouled out in several games. But we were league champions, mostly because I didn't try to score or dribble through double-teams. Even though I knew how to score points, my team was better when I played a hustle game, kind of like Jrue Holiday. The problem is that even Jrue Holiday probably had to be a ball hog on offense at some point in his career in order to get noticed, and it seems like he'll never get enough respect for making the players around him better. And that's also where my daughter is stuck as a basketball player.

She was chosen to be on a varsity team (that played at about a JV level) both 9th and 10th grade. The team regularly got blown out, and she regularly sat on the bench while the starters stayed in the game. When she did get to play, she was a fan-favorite for the hustle, and she seemed to make other players play harder, but that never translated to more playing time. And then a couple of star freshmen show up and she's relegated to JV for her junior year. As a parent, I don't have much to tell her. I used a hustle scoring system for her last year, and she probably led the team per minute in the kinds of stats no one seems to keep, like batted balls, virtual assists, screens, boxing out, getting back on a fast break, and passing out of the press. But fans, teammates, and coaches always seemed much more impressed with girls who would dribble through a double-team and turn the ball over or miss several contested three-pointers before finally, mercifully hitting one. My daughter did everything I told her to do to play the game the right way for her, and she did everything the coaches asked of her, and it resulted in her name being removed from the board in the gym. The reason given? Since she's 5'2" and can only point guard, she needs to be able to dribble through the double-team. Never mind that she successfully locked down D1 prospects on opposing varsity teams or outrebounded every guard she ever matches up against. She's the only guard I've seen in two years watching varsity girls play who could legitimately be the One in a Box and One defense. Like Jrue Holiday, I've seen her take over a game from the defensive end of the floor, but you have to be watching for that kind of thing. Her stats would never show what she did, and I'm not sure her teammates realized what was happening (because they were part of it). She was the one player who could come in and energize everyone else, but she couldn't do it by scoring 20 off the bench or dribbling around like a fool, so it's not valid.

When my daughter really got interested in basketball, I went to a couple of UNF games with her. I've also looked up D1 and lower schools online. The fact is that women's basketball is a tall girl sport. Also, kind of surprisingly, a heavy girl sport. She's short, strong, and fast. That can work in basketball, but it takes the right kind of coaching. For example, her team lost to one team that had a bunch of girls who looked like rugby players. Instead of playing basketball, they played rugby. Some teams look like track athletes, and they tend to run a lot. My daughter's team looked like a bunch of short guards who all had very good basketball skills, but they sat back in zones and dribbled way too much. And no one played much defense, like many talented guards I've known over the years. Jrue Holiday is different, like my daughter, but when your team loses (or doesn't win the NBA championship), people don't dig deep into defensive stats to determine your value. You just get blamed for not being the scoring machine that maybe you could be if you concentrated more on offense and ignored fundamentals a bit more.

I continued to play baseball for many years, even after I couldn't quite hit homeruns anymore. I could still bat for average, but no more doubles or stolen bases, either. However, I got better at defense. So good, in fact, that the last team I was on when I was over 45, I actually started at defense with a designated hitter. And while my hitter might have scored one run in the big game (the team's first playoff win), I was technically more valuable by making three solid plays and one amazing play at 3rd base. If I'd made a single error or missed the diving grab, we likely would have lost the game. Problem is, if my designated hitter got a homerun, or even an RBI by getting walked with the bases loaded, his stats looked more impressive than mine. My son played one year of high school soccer, and his experience was similar. He's fast and a solid defender, but his team spent most of the game playing defense (almost never advancing the ball past midfield). Therefore, he would inevitably be there when the other team scored. He seemed to blame himself more than his teammates did, but it felt like another example of offense getting any glory while defense only gets blame. And that's on a team that averaged one shot on goal per game.

In reality, defense is exactly as important as offense in any game. We don't celebrate great defense, though. MVP awards, Heisman Trophies, and most accolades are presented to top offensive players, and it's just an added bonus to say Michael Jordan also plays great defense or Barry Bonds also won some Gold Gloves. People will make a blanket statement about defense winning championships, but most of us aren't armed with stats to back it up. People get excited about razzle-dazzle dribbling and three-pointers, not the screens or rebounds that made those plays possible. So a few great defenders like Holiday will make their way to college and the NBA because they also play solid offense, but I'd say a lot more poor defenders who can score play the game than great defenders who can't score. Also, defense is kind of boring to most people.

Will the Bucks be a better team without Holiday? Will my daughter's team finally do well with her being sent to JV? You know, there's a chance, with a change in coaching and mentality, that teams can make up for defensive deficiency with new schemes or just more offense. Last year's coach seemed to imply the stars of the team needed to get better in order to beat my daughter's defense rather than everyone learn how to play defense like her. Frustrating, yet probably typical. But when the offense isn't working or the tone of the game needs to change, good luck if those kinds of players aren't around anymore. 

Wednesday, November 1

No, You Can't Help Me, B^π¢#

I thought my neighbor was high-strung for coming out and asking about the car I had temporarily parked (partially) in front of her house, but this Karen down by the Beaches took it up a notch. I pulled in front of her house, which was right next door to where my son was attending a Halloween party. I stopped my car, with the engine running, to wait for him to come out of the house next door, and this lady comes at me with a sassy "Can I help you?" 

I ignored her because why should I bother and also my son was calling me, so I answered the phone, and she budded in with another, "Can I help you?" And I start thinking that she must really think I need help or think that her asking me if I need help is really going to scare me away from sitting in front of her house on a public street. So I tell her I'm waiting for my son, but I basically don't give her any more info than that, because I can and will stop my car on a public street when necessary. 

I understand that there are a lot of creeps out there, and maybe someone broke into Karen's husband's pickup last month, but this was Halloween night with a bunch of parties happening. Also, I was driving my little convertible, and not some vehicle that should have been suspicious, like a rusty white van. Also, she was wearing a cat outfit. I know that is not evidence of anything; just an interesting detail.

Within a couple of minutes, my son is outside and on his way to my car. That's when I see Mr. Concerned Husband coming out to check out my car because he didn't just tell his catty Karen wife to go scratch a fence post. Mr. Concerned Husband never says anything to me, which he probably got yelled at for, since I saw catty Karen out in the driveway monitoring his interaction with me.

I totally believe that people have the right to protect their property, and I'm sorry that catty Karen has had some problems in the past, but coming at someone like she did probably won't fix the past. In fact, I remember exactly where she lives. If she would have treated me like that back when I was a teenager, her house would have suffered the consequences nightly for at least a week. I know it's your castle and all, but it's probably a good idea to avoid pissing off strangers right in front of your house. And maybe catty Karen was a guest at the party rather than the owner of the house, which actually makes a lot more sense now, especially if she doesn't really like the owner of the house because she stole her idea for a costume that made her look sexy but not like a total slut. So I guess what I'm saying is "No, B^π¢#, you can't help me. But thanks for asking."

Saturday, October 28

This Guy Probably Owes Me Money

I know the general rule of thumb in Jacksonville is that people can haul whatever they want in their pickup trucks and not really worry about how much flies out of the bed. It's a perk of owning a pickup truck in an area that has very little traffic enforcement beyond speed traps. However, when I got stuck behind this clown the other day, I was sure somebody would end up with a flat. Unfortunately, it was me. Since this guy was on Philips Highway, I'm probably not his only victim, either.

Discount Tire was fairly good about not taking too much of my money to replace the very expensive tire, but I'm still out more than $150. This guy's job of garbage removal probably paid him about that much, but my guess is the debris he left for the rest of us will end up costing everyone much more. 

Please, if you're going to haul junk in your junky pickup, at least make an effort to wrap the junk up or take some of the loose screws out or get a van for a van job.

Tuesday, October 24

Back to Office Challenges

I met someone tasked with implementing back-to-office measures for a local company, but it's apparently quite a challenge. I've read about this subject a bit, but I've never met anyone on the management end of the situation, so it was interesting to learn how the bosses see it.

The person I met did not make the rules for return, but I was told there are industry best practices that many companies use. However, the Jacksonville corporation was implementing its own rules. These rules were seen as restrictive and kind of old-fashioned by the industry insider. For example, re-establishing large conference room meetings that would probably only have a few employees taking part in. And something to do with attendance. I'm not totally sure, but the point was that a lot of companies pre-covid had working systems that could be emulated, yet a local company decided to create rules that I was told won't work well.

Part of the problem with the local company rules was that they weren't paired with incentives. Stuff like free pastries. I'd read about UberLyft passes. Maybe a pingpong table. I don't know what all of the incentives would be to induce people to get out of their pajamas, drive 45 minutes, hang out with other people who don't love their jobs, find childcare, and have to find reasons to sneak out early every day. I guess on-site childcare helps. Casual Mondays? Anyhow, I was told workers are rebelling hard without incentives.

That said, the industry insider I met told me that a company in the Midwest (where people tend to value rules and work) had a 25% attendance rate on a given Wednesday, with even lower attendance on Mondays and Fridays (this person said the office was basically empty). And that's with implementing both rules and incentives. Basically, it seems like members of the laptop class are going to continue to make their own work schedule for as long as they can, and it seems like they can for as long as they have their jobs.

End Game
Large companies own or lease a lot of space for employees. It's a huge expense that a lot of employees don't believe is necessary, but employers still believe in it. Work Dead Zones seem to exist on Mondays, Fridays, every day for school pick ups and lunches and whatever else workers got used to at home.

Just like the UAW possibly overreaching on auto worker compensation, typical office workers may learn their jobs can be performed overseas. Office workers might learn how AI can help them just in time to see it do their jobs, but I don't know for sure. As someone who has had to show up in person to all my jobs, I couldn't imagine flipping off my boss in the way many American workers can and do, so I'm intrigued by what will happen next. Will workers adjust to keep their jobs or will the industry adjust to keep their workers?

By the way, if you run a local office and want to replace someone with a fat paycheck who refuses to come into the actual office, I'm available. English degree, French minor, Urban Planning certificate, 12 years teaching high school English. 10 years building websites, creating content online, and renting property. I can do a lot, and it doesn't have to be at home.

Monday, October 16

UF Ranked Best Florida University Again

The University of Florida was once again ranked among the best in the country and certainly the best in Florida, this time by Wallet Hub. In a tie for 13th place (slotted in the 19th spot) is UF, tied with such schools as Columbia, Brown, Vanderbilt, Carnegie Mellon, and Penn.

I told my daughter, who is a good student and wants to attend Florida, that it's a caught in a circle right now: the school keeps getting accolades, top students keep wanting to attend, those top students drive the school into getting more accolades, which means even more top students want to attend. 

I guess the only criticism I can think of would be that a school that is so selective for incoming freshmen based on GPA and SAT scores must have very, very different standards for the athletes. But since all those top-ranked kids enjoy watching top athletes compete, I guess it doesn't bother them too much. I suppose there may be a few dads with kids who get denied who might want to see football team running backs SAT scores. 

Also, the bookstore on campus has entire Tim Tebow sections, and I don't know if it's because he continues to buy items or because he has a factory in Singapore keep sending them to the store:

Source: WalletHub

Monday, October 9

Charter Schools Need to be Cut From Public School Funding Immediately

As of 2023-2024, charter schools in Florida should participate in the new universal voucher system rather than operate as bastard children of public school districts. Charter schools were created to use public school district money and resources to slowly kill the traditional public school. And maybe provide a better education in the process. But the process has changed, and charter schools really need to be funded solely by vouchers rather than public schools districts at this point.

Parents are given the choice to use available vouchers for their kids to attend private schools. The vouchers pay some or all of the tuition, and efficient private schools don't need to charge parents more than the voucher amount. Therefore, if charter schools are both effective and efficient, vouchers should be able to pay for operating expenses. In fact, taxpayers also need to stop paying for charter school building improvements. The classical academy that fired a principal for showing classical nude artwork is a perfect example of charter schools being more like private schools than public schools, and it's a good time for these schools to stop using the public welfare system of school districts and prove they can compete against the traditional private school.

Private schools in Florida have been at a disadvantage to charter schools for years, but that really needs to change if vouchers are being used. If we are saying that it's ok for public money to pay for religious schools, then the same money is what other special schools created to compete with public schools deserve. I know, some people would argue for vouchers also for public schools, but public schools do need to provide for busing, lunches, special education, etc. If private schools and charter schools are going to be able to selectively exclude students, then vouchers make sense for those schools. All private religious schools need to come together to pressure the state to even the playing field between their own schools and charter schools that have mostly been operated as private schools that receive public money.

Saturday, October 7

Why Do We Send Fire Engines to Ambulance Calls?

I was driving a refugee from Kyrgyzstan to a doctor's appointment when he asked me a simple question for which I had no answer. Why do fire engines show up to ambulance calls when there is no fire? At the moment he asked, I had nothing to explain it beyond that any emergency along a road could spark a fire, but I kind of second-guessed my own reasoning as soon as I said it. Since the question stuck with me, I Googled it, and the online answers weren't much better.

One answer I saw a few times for why fire trucks respond to ambulance calls was that the firemen who ride along are all trained in first aid. But a big-ass, $1 million fire engine when there is no fire? I didn't even see anyone else trying to argue a fire might result from any emergency situation, though I can still see it for a bad car crash or any emergency at a gas station or fireworks plant.

One answer I didn't give was strong unions, but I have to believe that's part of the equation. In 2020, there were 36 million calls for fire departments, with a mere 1.4 million fires. With about 1 million career and volunteer firefighters in the US, that means the average firefighter gets called to maybe a couple of fires. Sure, big fires may need multiple departments, and several engines might race to a single fire. Still, if JFRD gets 150,000 calls per year, we can assume about 6,000 fires. With 1300 employees spread over 70 stations, let's assume 20 firefighters respond to the average fire. OSHA says 4 are needed, and websites I've perused say 10 to 20, so let's go with 20x6,000 fires = 12,000 firefighters responding to fires in Jax in the average year. Divided by 1300, and it's about 10 fires. But maybe let's say half those guys are paramedics or chiefs or whatever, then 12,000/650 or closer to 20 fires per year. That's why I mentioned the strong union that probably pushes for a full fire engine response to as many emergencies as possible, since most of us wouldn't presume to get full-time salary for doing our actual jobs 20 times or less per year, while lifting weights and playing cards the rest of the time. Or possibly running some other business from the station.

The reality is that if most people knew how many actual fires the average fireman fought per year, they'd probably be disappointed, which is kind of sad. If the police respond to fewer murders, we congratulate the department, but since firemen aren't cruising around trying to prevent fires, they are judged more on actual calls for service.

Anyhow, since most people would go nuts if they knew how few times firemen put out actual fires, I assume fire trucks respond to ambulance calls because you can fit a bunch of guys on the truck and it counts as a response to a call. I read that fire trucks contain the first aid stuff for those who need medical assistance. And I'm really cool with 20+ first responders showing up to help an old lady who fell in the kitchen, just in case. I guess I'm just with the refugee who asked why the fire engine was involved. When I drove past the firehouse a few blocks from my house, I saw a dozen crew-cab pickup trucks in the lot. Can't the fire department just deputize a personal vehicle and slap one of those strobe lights on top? I mean, no first responders in Jacksonville use actual sirens, anyhow (which is weird and dangerous but true), so why not just the Starsky and Hutch strobe light. They can even slide across the hood to get in if they want. Also, each station could probably afford some 12-passenger Econolines rather than pay for maintenance and depreciation on huge actual fire trucks.

I guess another, dystopian option would be to neurolink a bunch of prisoners (who also lift weights a lot) to use them as firefighters. And then blow up their brains if they try to escape while fighting fires. I guess that's a suggestion for another discussion and almost totally unrelated.

Anyhow, with the total number of calls for service being high in Jacksonville, I'm not suggesting cutting staff or anything. All I'm saying is that the practice of using fire engines as glorified ambulance chariots might be outdated and deserve a re-think. And use your sirens.

Thursday, October 5

Where Can I Volunteer in Jacksonville?

I saw a social media post by a new neighbor looking to volunteer somewhere, and since my wife has asked similar questions, I thought I'd compile a few of the ideas in an article, mostly based on neighbor ideas and a few of my own experiences. 

Several neighbors mentioned BEAM, but no one provided a lot of details beyond helping those less fortunate. If that's your jam, then I guess look up BEAM.

Humane Society
Some people volunteered here, but some said it was dirty. Jacksonville's humane society is basically a Pit-Bull rescue that's constantly over capacity and offering free pits to everyone, so please don't volunteer here. 

Animal Rescue
If you want to help non-pit-bull animals, then you can volunteer with specific breed rescues. I guess look them up based on your preferred breed. 

Timucuan Parks Foundation
I guess you pick up garbage and plant some stuff. Actually, building those raised trails and clearing ADA paths is probably important volunteer work that would be pretty blistering all summer long. We have a lot of parks and very low taxes, so we probably need volunteers.  

Mission House
People who need help with food and (I believe) temporary housing. It's at the Beaches, so it's a more discerning homeless population. I guess the bonus here is a beach day after you serve.

Pinecastle, Inc.
Looks like this organization helps people with disabilities in group homes and a day program. PossAbilities Plus seems to also offer vocational training for those with disabilities, or as they describe it, "special needs and exceptional abilities."

If this is your kind of thing, please do it. Haven and Community Hospice were mentioned.

We Care Jax and Mayo Clinic were also mentioned, as well as Hubbard House. However, those folks didn't say what those places offer for volunteers.

At Your Church
Most churches look to share or create opportunities to serve. I'm sure some are much better at this than others, and you also (sadly) have politics play a role. My church doesn't do a whole lot outside of its own walls or for the wider community, but even cleaning the church or helping a fellow church member with yard work is volunteering. I work the Bread Ministry at my church, which entails someone getting day-old bread from a store and someone else taking it to the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. It's not terribly interactive or even totally healthy (lots of sweets), but it's filling a need from a waste product.

Lutheran Social Services
Like Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services offers a number of social services and volunteer opportunities. I signed up and was asked to drive refugee families to medical appointments, but you can teach skills, set up apartments, distribute food, and probably lots of other stuff. And I don't think it's all about refugees, so you can check out LSS or Catholic Services online. 

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Wednesday, September 27

Recent Scares at Fletcher High School Sober Reminder of Gun Culture

With two kids in high school, I'm concerned about a lot of issues. Kids might dabble in sex, drugs, and country music. They might get injured playing sports or doing a social media challenge. They have to get into college. The usual concerns. Oh, and they could get shot in a mass shooting. Recent events at Fletcher High School are a reminder of the ever-present threat of mass shootings in America, even if the actual events were fairly harmless.

It began with a Code Yellow and a gun. Well, not a gun. A suspected gun that turned out to be a toy gun. As parents, we were assured the guilty party who accused someone of having a gun that was just a toy would receive severe punishment. I don't know the whole story: maybe there was a threat, maybe there was a joke, maybe the snitch knew the SWAT team would would do a takedown or his nemesis. In some ways, it doesn't matter, as teens have made false accusations and threats since teens have existed. In a gun culture, however, it's more real, even if it's fake. It could happen, and it has happened. Lots of kids have died, so any accusation is taken seriously, and the resulting fear is real.

The next even was a typical Fletcher v Sandalwood sporting event. Trash talk, rivalry, etc. It led to a fight and an overturned table (a la Jesus in the temple). Some say a gun fell to the ground in the melee, but most accounts focus on the loud noise of the table that caused people to scatter. Everyone at the game knew the stories of other mass shootings, so everyone ran. Luckily, no one was trampled to death. And there was no gun fired. But there certainly could have been a gun, with or without security, as items can be tossed over fences and players who arrive early likely aren't fully checked (I could be mistaken on that one). Besides, the parking lot is right next to the stadium, and probably half the parent cars are carrying. 

In a kind of crazy twist, we received a message that two vehicles that were somehow (maybe) associated with people involved in the fight were later pulled legally? over by police and found to be "legally" carrying assault rifles. I realize I might be alone in thinking the ownership of AR-15s should be illegal, but can't we all agree that no one has the need to be transporting assault rifles after 9pm on a Friday night? My assumption was that friends were called to pick up friends who were at the game, and automatic weapons came along for the ride. Like when I was in high school and ventured out with a friend to find the Werewolf of Walworth County and I brought my Daisy BB gun, just in case. Sure, an AR-15 with silver bullets might have made more sense, but I'm pretty sure assault rifles were illegal when I was in high school (which makes even more sense).

So we're gun crazy. Parents are afraid of losing their kids and kids are afraid of other kids. The best answer from politicians and police is to arm more people and arrest more people. Schools secure more buildings, limit more exits, extend reach to parking lots, etc. My kids decided they wanted to have the typical high school experience, and, unfortunately, that's what they're getting. For every mass shooting in our country (and there are a lot), I bet we have dozens of threats, hit lists, manifestos and all kinds of crazy-ass BS, all rooted in the gun culture. As it somewhat extends to college, the workplace, and the roads, I assume my kids will get the true American experience of paranoia throughout their entire lives. Maybe it will get so bad that retirement communities will eventually experience 2nd Amendment rights first-hand.

Or we could start fixing it now. Take guns away from anyone who is crazy, stop allowing assault rifles, and prosecute parents whose kids commit these crimes with family weapons, just as a start. In general, handguns and assault rifles are manufactured to kill people. Hunting rifles and shotguns are for killing animals, and I am fine with people killing animals.

Friday, September 22

Holy Hard Water, Jacksonville

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27

Get The Plank Out Your Eye, Neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Another Case Against Pitbulls
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Sitcom Life Lessons - What we've learned from sitcoms
Mancrush Fanclub - Why not?
Epic Folktale - Stories of the unknown
Wild West Allis - Every story ever told about one place
Educabana on Teachers Pay Teachers (mostly ELA lessons)
Real Wisconsin News - Satire from Wisconsin
Zoo Interchange Milwaukee - Community website
Chromebook Covers - Reviews and opinions

Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

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Tuesday, July 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Auto Jumpstarter I've Owned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related Stories
Thanks for reading. See more of my content:

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

Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

Contact Me

Tuesday, July 18

Three Challenges to Commercial Development in Jacksonville

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

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

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

Friday, June 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6

Yeah, Begshoppers Are Annoying

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

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

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

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

Harrell & Harrell 'The Right Size' Ad is Hilarious

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

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

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

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

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

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