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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