Elmo and Barbie Better DaysFollowing on the heels of Bulemic Barbie's rehab, Mattel is dealing with a seriously diseased Elmo.  Apparently Elmo has ingested large quantities of lead, leaving him partially mentally retarded.

Reports are that Elmo is no longer able to count to ten with confidence and has in fact forgotten the alphabet altogether.  On a recent episode of Seseme Street, Elmo was supposed to let the audience know that the show had been brought to them by the letter "W" but Elmo froze on screen and stuttered that he couldn't read the cue card. The Count simply shook his head yesterday when asked about a skit with he and Elmo counting baby chicks that went awry.

Elmo's on again off again girlfriend Barbie stated that "Like, he's in really bad shape.  He feels way bad that he's letting the kids down.  And like there's really very little the doctors can do to reverse the damage.  But, like everybody's get well wishs for Elmo are totally appreciated though."

This affliction apparently has roots in Elmo's last trip to China where he consumed exotic foods and tried various herbal medicines designed to fight off puberty for another year and keep his voice high pitched.  Another theory was that he had an adverse reaction to possibly lead-based paint used during a celebrity "rehab a shanty" charity outing along the Yangtze River in China.  The river is known to have pollution problems as well and the toxicity may have simply overwhelmed Elmo's permeable fabric skin and plush insides.

Elmo's direct employer Fischer-Price (a Mattel subsidiary) is reluctant to assign blame to the Chinese, however, other stars, including Cookie Monster, the Grouch and Dora the Explorer recently canceled trips to the country.  A Mattel spokesman discussed the situation with Real Wisconsin News on Friday, stating that, "The whole company is behind Elmo.  His condition is a freak occurance.  It couldn't be foreseen that working with people who don't honor contracts, have no regard for other people's safety, steal pretty much everything they can and have little rule of law might create any unusual risks.  On a brighter note, Elmo has stopped maturing completely now, so he'll be able to at least sing Elmo's song, which he hasn't forgotten, in his beloved Falsetto.  Now please excuse me, we're having a little problem with toy cars and Barbie's dog's crap."

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Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Florida Teacher Pass Guide
    Several attractions offer free admission to Florida teachers. However, many of requirements are slightly different, so I thought I'd write them down so that I can remember (as a teacher) how to sign up for my free pass.

    Keep in mind that your kids (and non-teacher spouse) will still cost you money at all these locations.


    Crayola Experience in Orlando

    Teachers get in free with a valid ID, and it has to state "Teacher" on the ID. You can also get a year pass, not that it's any different. I am not sure if the Crayola Experience checks your ID against a state database to see if it's valid.


    Legoland
    Legoland requires a lot of documentation in person from a teacher:
    Guest must present their valid FDOE Professional or Temporary Certificate, a recent paystub (within 30 days) and current Florida photo ID to receive this offer.
    Once you confirm that you are a currently-employed teacher, then you get in for free. It does not seem to be a yearly pass. However, you can visit some linked destinations, as well:
    FREE standard Teacher Passes are also available at Madame Tussauds Orlando and SEA LIFE Orlando.

    Seaworld
    Teachers need to sign up with some other website that tries to verify if you're a teacher (and probably offer you products you might want). Once signed up, you can order the pass on the Seaworld website. I was not able to get verified with my school ID alone before I had a Florida teaching license, even though that's also supposed to work. Here's what you get once verified:
    The card provides Florida teachers with unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando through August 31.
    The evoucher is sent to your email, or you can print it out at home from the website. You take it to the ticket booth and get a teacher card.


    Kennedy Space Center
    I thought getting in as an educator here was supposed to be easy, but there are some fairly strict requirements, according to the website:
    Active Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands Teaching Certificate
    Active badge with photo that shows the title Teacher or Educator
    Letter on school letterhead signed by the principal listing the name(s) of the teachers attending the field trip
    I am sure the marketing department wants to follow up with all schools sending teachers on field trips in order to see if entire school groups will show up. Yes, your principal will probably play along, but most teachers know getting to attend parks and museums for free is not generally about scheduling actual field trips for the students. And it's called a study pass. That's implying there might be a quiz at the end.

    Skeletons Museum of Osteology
    OK, I don't have any interest in seeing 500 skeletons. But free is free, right? If I was hanging out in Orlando with my teaching badge, I might check it out. The FDOE site says it's free with "valid school credentials." The museum website does not appear to confirm this.

    Escape Rooms
    I have no interest in escape rooms, and they're not even free, so don't bother.

    Tour St. Augustine 
    You need to email the company to arrange your free or reduced tour. This one is all about trying to book a student field trip, so be ready for a sales pitch.


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  • Male Fashion and Lifetstyle: Cute Kids at the Gun Show
    I've always heard that women dig a man with kids. Since I was happily married when I had kids, I guess I wouldn't know. If you happen to be an uncle in search of a special lady, however, I'd recommend babysitting in order to show off the kids at a gun show.

    Sure, I had a dad belly myself in the preceding photo, but I still had some muscle left in my arms, and the best way to show off those guns was by holding a kid. Unlike holding a beer, you look responsible. Plus, little ones are so squirmy that they actually do make your muscles work, so you're not just flexing for no reason, like when you stand in front of the mirror at the gym. If you're a single uncle on the prowl, grab the kids and head to the mall, grocery store, or library, and watch the magic happen. 

    I would not recommend taking the kids to the bar or an actual gun show. Or anywhere that you could lose them easily. Maybe go to the park, but most of the hotties there are going to have kids of their own. You don't need to be a homewrecker, and you certainly should not use a toddler as your wing man if that's your intent. Anyhow, the morality of the whole scenario is kind of up to you. I'm only here to guide you with the basics of looking more handsome by adorning yourself with children. 

    Luckily for me, my wife thought I was more handsome with the kids in tow. If you are a husband with a strained marriage, then she might see you with resentment when you get to grab the kids and look all handsome while she's busy doing the real work around the house. Just ask her how you can help once in a while.

    Honestly, I think the best thing a man or woman can do in order to look good with kids is act as if that's where he or she wants to be. Others respond well to moms and dads (and uncles on the prowl) who look like they are having fun with the kids. That's not always easy, but if you can make parenting or babysitting look easy, then people assume you can handle anything, even a high-maintenance girlfriend.  

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  • Guide to Running a Hurricane Newscast
    Before I begin this article, I want to state that I am grateful that Hurricane Dorian missed Jacksonville, and I am also very aware that the storm's destruction was catastrophic for some. This article is not about trivializing a hurricane. It's more about trying to fill air time when the hurricane shows up and is just a wind storm in your area.

    The only torture worse than waiting for a hurricane to hit is watching hours of news leading up to the event. And then hours of news people trying to make a small, off-shore hurricane seem like something else in order to keep viewers tuned in. The news channels know a lot of people are watching, so the show must go on, and on, and on. The stars are the weather people, but you need the anchors to provide words such as "devastating" to describe storm potential, as well as general assignment reporters stationed at important spots in order to monitor that which needs no actual monitoring.


    I can't talk about the other channels too much, since Action News JAX is the channel that comes in on my antenna better than any other, but I sure can talk about the Fox 30 / CBS 47 news reporting of a hurricane. This article was compiled over two days, so it might seem as disjointed as the news coverage of Dorian, but it gives you an idea of how I see the business of covering a hurricane. It happens that this particular hurricane did not do a whole lot to Jacksonville, which (you could tell) was a general disappointment to the news media that needed to be explained rather than hailed as extraordinarily good luck.

    Ads and Weather Team

    Mostly, the ads indicate that something bad is, was, or will be happening. Buresh is calm and will help me make it through. It does not mention the reporters, whose job it is to add to the chaos and fear. But that's cool, as long as Buresh is there for us. Also reporting weather will be Garrett, who is seemingly more handsome than any man deserves to be (and is therefore a little suspect), as well as Corey, and Stacey. They will save us from the evil that is nature. God-like, I suppose, though Stacey Garvilla, in her flowing dresses, often seems more like a sea witch--the good kind. Also, I did not see Marithza Ross in the two days that I watched on-and-off, but she also probably has some supernatural qualities. 

    The most important part of the newscast is the weather, so we get a lot of that, but it's changing all the time, so the weather people need others to keep us entertained while we wait for new info-graphics or updated maps. Until the weather team has been on the air for the better part of 24 hours straight, they are pretty spot-on. You can tell that Buresh starts to get tired at some point when he's walking in the wrong direction or peering into the wrong camera, which he never does when he's well-rested. He tries really hard not to seem cranky or embarrassed about the fact that the high winds are about 5 miles offshore rather than battering our coast, but you know that he's trying to convince people it made sense to cancel school for three days for a storm that's equivalent to an afternoon thunderstorm. He also knows that he needs ratings, and that he needs to keep it together enough so that we believe the next hurricane forecast rather than assume it's all about sensationalism. It's not, at least for the weather team.

    Anchors
    More worthless than normal, the anchors are really there to direct traffic. Out to the reporters when the weather team needs to work on their computers. Back to themselves for expert opinions on being good-looking on TV. Then over to the weather team, sometimes with a question that's already been answered 30 times during the past two days of coverage. Lots of thoughts and prayers, along with reminders to be safe. If it was a family, the anchors are Mom and Dad, the meteorologist is your straight-laced-know-it-all, god-like grandpa, and the sports guys are your dopey uncles with beer-holder hats (and luckily not part of the hurricane coverage). And the reporters. They are the tattle-tale cousins and siblings who are always looking to get a better Christmas gift from Grandma if they bust you for riding on the ATV or climbing the silo without permission.

    Reporters
    Russel Colburn is in St. Augustine in his Storm Tracker Jeep, driving up and down the same flood-prone street, and continuously resting on his laurels on how he drove around in the last hurricane when it flooded the town, showing us video of that rerun over and over, like Uncle Rico making awesome throws on VHS. At one point, Russ assures us that his Jeep is made for this kind of stuff, so we don't have to worry about him. He also calls attention to the 360 cam on top of the Jeep, and I start to wonder if he takes it home and washes it every week instead of spending time with his girlfriend. From what I can tell, Russel is driving up and down the same street. Or maybe he is just showing us a loop of a drive he took several hours ago and he's sitting in the Jeep in his driveway. And you know the other reporters are all wondering why Russel gets to drive around like he's the Pope while they all stand in water to get stories. 

    Someone is near the Beach Boulevard Bridge. This is presumably because the bridge will be closed at some point. She's also near some boats, so we get to see them dance around behind her once in a while. Maybe the someone is Megan? Moriarty...you know, she reminds me of my wife a few years back. In fact, why are most of the reporters still in college at Action News Jax? Is this an internship? Maybe Miss Moriarty was by the bridge. Maybe it was Christy "Page" Turner, who says the words "Action News JAX" with a special emphasis on the "s" sounds, possibly as some kind of subliminal message. The good kind. I don't think it was Amber Krycka because she was standing near another bridge by Jekyll Island. Wait, were most of the men on the beach and women next to bridges? I thought Lorena Inclan was also next to a bridge somewhere. Weird.

    Ryan and Jamario are on the beach. Each of them shine flashlights on the dunes and then out to the water, which isn't really all that intense. Businesses are closed, but it's late at night, so that makes sense, anyhow. Both of them also say that they are monitoring something or other. And they both let the water creep up enough to get their shoes wet. It's like when you go to Summerfest on a sweltering day with that girl from school who's all innocent and nice, and then a downpour rolls in, and she goes and stands in the rain, arms reaching up in ecstasy, in her white concert shirt. Except this is Ryan and Jamario instead. 

    Dani Bozzini is somewhere, but I don't even care where she is, since she talks like she just got off work at the steel mill. Or out of prison. She tells me something about the place she's at and all I can hear is this loud, brash girl my sister tried to fix me up with at a bar one time. All the other people at the bar were looking at us, so I didn't hear a word she said because I was all worried about what those other people were thinking. Still, I'd probably hang out with Dani at a bar.

    Ben Becker stands in the water, which probably makes the waves look bigger. His camera operator avoids showing all the families enjoying strolls on the beach as Ben reminds us about how the pier fell down twice before. And that the construction crane (near the people sightseeing on the beach) could fall down at any time, since it's rated at getting through winds of 150mph, and our 40mph winds are somehow somewhere near that. Buresh and his hand puppet Garrett agree that you could maybe add 20mph to the winds up at the top of the crane, not based on any science or reasoning, but on the fact that they want to shut Ben up before he starts making any other outlandish claims. Until next time Becker's number is called, the crane is not in any immediate danger. In between being live, I imagine Ben going over to the crane and trying to rock it back and forth to get the party started.

    Elizabeth Pace is standing in water in a neighborhood. She interviews a guy who seems annoyed by her because he has somewhere to be walking to, and she says  the word "again" like she's either Canadian or from East-Coast old money. She tells me about the jackasses making a wake in the street water, and the only one that I've seen doing this is Russel (The Love Mussel?), who actually got yelled at by the fuzz live on the air for making a wake in his beloved Storm Tracker Jeep. Pace rhymes with face, and Elizabeth has a pretty face, but she just needs to say her "Action News JAX" sign-off in some kind of special way (like C. Turner) so that I can pick her out of a lineup of reporters, which would include Amber K and several other young blondes who seem to work part time while attending UNF.

    Bridget Matter is standing in, and then walking in, a St. Augustine street, which is filled with 6" of water. She could be walking on the dry sidewalk 30 feet away, but it makes more sense to get in the way of traffic in order to show the audience what 6" of water looks like in a street that she admits floods quite often. Probably right after Mom and Dad in the studio reminded us to stay out of flood waters because of snakes, bacteria, and debris.

    For all the constant warnings to residents to stay out of the water, it seems that the first instinct of every reporter is to go stand in some water. I'm sure that's in the Hurricane Reporting Handbook by Jim Cantore. I also found it ironic that the news reporters kept pressing local sheriffs about whether or not people who got IN the water to surf or whatnot would get arrested, almost as if they were tattling. No police officer wants to have to arrest some gnarly righteous dude who's just trying to catch a monster wave. He'd probably rather arrest Ben Becker for standing waist-deep in the ocean near the pier for no good reason, other than to keep people going for a nice walk on the beach out of the frame.

    Final Thoughts
    Hurricane news coverage is all about manipulation of the audience. The news channels will say again and again that they are not sensationalizing the coverage, but the reporters are all stationed in places that they are hoping will provide something sensational. We are shown pictures of past destruction, either from the storm upon us or from previous storms, and that's certainly meant to frighten viewers. Sure, the weather team is calm and scientific, but everyone else is part of a circus set up to attract the most viewers. If the city or the news wants to use the sensational to get people to evacuate, that's one thing, but once the coverage of the event starts, I'm not so sure it's what I want to see as I ignore evacuation orders in my home--I'd rather know if there's water or wind coming my way. That said, I totally understand why it's done, since I'd change the channel pretty quickly if I had to watch Bachman stumble over simple words for hours on end. Mostly, I'd just tell reporters to stop standing in the water so much, since it makes the practice seem like the cool thing to do. It's not like I need to go stand in my pond every time it rains just to confirm it's wet outside.

    Search New Jax Witty

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  • New-to-Florida Guide to Pressure Washers
    I got the dreaded letter from my HOA that I was in violation of something new. This time, it was the driveway and sidewalks that were deemed dirty, so it was suggested that I pressure wash them. While I'm not a big fan of pressure washing houses or cars, as it can (I assume) create leaks or strip paint, I figured washing concrete was a DIY job I could handle. However, I needed to decide if a rental or a purchase was in order. 

    I first thought rental. That would have cost me $75, assuming I would have gotten the pressure washer for a day. Since I have some issues with my hands, and it seems that there's lots of squeezing of triggers, I'd assume I would have wanted it for the full day. There's also the hassle of having to reserve it for the weekend, or else get the item after work and hope the sun doesn't set too fast. I had two weeks to comply with my HOA demands, so there was probably time, but I also decided to see which pressure washers I could buy for a reasonable amount of money. 

    The Home Depot rental would have been a professional gas unit, but I wanted to see what I could get in electric. Obviously, the average homeowner does not need an industrial-strength pressure washer sitting around, especially a gas one that requires maintenance. There are all kinds of websites that claim to rate pressure washers, but I get the feeling that they are all just AI-created sites that take Amazon ratings and put them into paragraphs. The good thing is that those sites at least eliminate some of the cheap Chinese knockoff units. Granted, all the units are probably Chinese, but some that are sold seem to inflate numbers and use inferior fittings and pumps. In fact, I'd stick only with brands that seem to be real and that offer a 1 or 2-year warranty. These include AR, Sun Joe, Greenworks, Karcher, and Stanley. 

    When you search on Amazon, there will be a lot of "Sponsored Links" to units that look quite a bit like the units named above, more impressive numbers, and about 20 5-star reviews. That's a clear sign that those are knockoffs. They might be made in the same factory in China, but I'd be careful with those. 

    I had decided on either an ARor Karcherpressure washer at first, though the Karcher seemed too pricey for the numbers it put out. The Sun Joe I liked had more lower-star reviews. Then I read some more, and I talked myself out of and into several upgraded or downgraded versions. Here's the basics that I was looking for: around 2,000 PSI and around 1.5 gpm. If those two numbers are about that (and not inflated), the reviews seemed to indicate the unit would work to kill dirt on my driveway. 

    After going back and forth on Amazon, I ended up finding a Stanley on Walmart (also on Amazon) that met my criteria and could be at my house in one day, which was important at this point, since the HOA letter was now about a week old. The two mega-companies are selling the unit for the same price, so it's more about which billionaire you want to support. The numbers on mine: 
    2,150 PSI
    1.4 GPM
    25 Foot Soft Flexible Hose
    35 Foot Power Cord
    0°, 15°, 25° & 40° Nozzles
    2-year warranty 
    When I got the box, I could tell parts (pump, at least) were made by AR. That probably explains the better warranty. But would this electric pressure washer work on my Florida driveway and sidewalk? 

    Yes and kind of. 

    I tested the unit out with the 0° nozzle, and I could tell that it was powerful enough to take dirt off the sidewalk.I could also tell that this laser beam-type nozzle would take hours and hours of frustrating work to finish a driveway and sidewalk. It kind of made a bunch of squiggly lines of clean surrounded by lots of dirt. 

    I then used the 15° nozzle, and it worked pretty well. Still, I could tell it would take several hours of work to get the job done, but at least this nozzle was more like a paintbrush than an erratic pen. 

    I also tried the 25°, but it required me to get very close to work, which basically made it the 15° nozzle with me bent over more. 

    Several hours later, I was done. I've read that the concrete scrubber attachments for these electric models don't work all that well, but I cannot confirm or deny that. What I can say is that for $150, or double the amount to rent a machine, I was able to buy a power washer that had enough pressure to do the job, eventually. 

    If I find other projects around the house before the next driveway and sidewalk cleaning, that's a bonus, but I figure I'll clean the concrete once a year and make the purchase worthwhile before the warranty is up. This pressure washer, like many others, has a foam cannon for cars, so I might have to try that out, too. But mostly, I'm satisfied that it did the job it was supposed to do. 

    One note, however, is that there is no lock on the handle, which means my hands got very tired until I wrapped a wire around it like I have for my old lawnmower. This is obviously not recommended by the manufacturer and could be dangerous, so I'm not telling YOU to do it, but if you have to squeeze a trigger for two hours, it will probably annoy you. 

    This is probably the best unit I could get for a few reasons: 
    It has a 2-year warranty, and even the ARs only have 1-year.
    It uses the standard quick-connect attachments as opposed to proprietary, and I might get an attachment to take care of the sewer main line. 
    It has enough power to get the job I wanted done without the need for gas power. 
    It's electric, so no maintenance. And quieter than gas.
    It's small enough to fit in the yard shed with my lawn mower. 


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  • Male Fashion and Lifestyle: $100 Shoes
    If you've read some of my other blogs about male fashion and lifestyle, you're not impressed right now. $100 shoes! That's way too expensive, and I agree. But I'm not talking ONE pair of shoes, my friends. That's FOUR pairs of shoes. $25 each, on average.

    I got a new job, and my old shoes were looking a little rough, as you can see in the photo. I had wondered why I was sliding around while going in for my interview in my $12 suit. Anyhow, I had a few days before the job was to begin, so I figured I'd splurge on some new shoes. My daily cross-walkers were in bad shape, too, so I decided two pairs of dressier shoes and two pairs of walking/standing shoes would be nice. But the way I shop for shoes, it's kind of a gamble. 

    I sometimes get shoes when the kids get theirs if there's some kind of BOGO deal or something. Or I get the really cheapo Academy Sports house brand, but I'd checked those out recently, the style was a little too young for me. That's ironic, since $30 shoes at the local sporting goods store must be targeted at cheap oldish guys like me, not millennials with cash to burn. Anyhow, with the brick and mortar stores not doing it for me, I spent about 30 minutes on 6pm.com. I'd gotten shoes there before, and I was fairly happy with the results. You just have to remember that these are going to be total clearance aisle deals, which means last chance before they head off on a plane for Uganda or somewhere, which means some of the shoes are really stupid looking. 

    I've been the same size since middle school, so that's not much of a problem. You can search for just your size. I was prepared to up or down a haf size, but I didn't have to in the end, since my daughter liked the black dress shoe in my normal size. Unfortunately, that was the only shoe that came which felt a little too big, but still manageable. I think it's free returns or whatever, but for $25, I told my daughter I'd just donate any pair that didn't work out. 

    Two pairs of Avia cross trainers or whatever the sporty shoes that you don't really play sports in are called. Avias used to be a decent brand, and these are pretty nice for $25. Better than some of the $40 shoes I've gotten in the past few years, anyhow. I also got some black dress shoes that have kind of a casual look to them, since I'm not trying to impress too much. And a pair of brown shoes for those days when brown shoes work best. Three or four times a month, from past experience. The dress shoes, even though they are not real leather, should last me a few years. The Avias should last at least as long as most shoes like them that I buy, maybe a year or so, even though my wife says I should replace them more often. 

    The bottom line is that I have new shoes that will look good enough for some time, and I didn't have to take out a loan to get them. If you make all kinds of money, then these Clarks are Amazon best sellers at $50 or so, and they look a lot like what I got. If you want to impress yourself and about one other person at work, then these Gordon Rush shoes, which also look similar to my $25 shoes, can be had for $225. You can then join the ranks of guys who talk like this: 
    Well, I always considered myself an a. edmonds guy. But this oxfords immediately caught my attention while perusing at bloomie.
    But just in case you don't hang out at Bloomie's too often, you might want to try your luck at 6pm. 

    Search New Jax Witty

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    Brian Jaeger - Resume (I'm always interested)

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  • Why a Private School Parent in Jacksonville Supports the DCPS Sales Tax
    I went from being a public school teacher to a private school parent. I don't always love public schools, but I also don't think private schools are for everyone. However, the existence of strong public schools should be a goal for ALL parents, public and private. 

    You can bury your head in the sand and your money in the pockets of the private schools, but Jacksonville needs a strong public school system for your private school to matter. It's tempting to just write the public schools off, invite friends and family to your private school, and figure the whole problem is solved. The problem is that Jacksonville still has a very large public school system, even if your kids aren't in it. That means your kids might have friends, neighbors, competitors, and even rivals who attend the local public schools. You should want those children to do well in school, and you should want them to be good human beings. Addressing facilities concerns is always part of running a school, and private schools have to rely on tuition and donations, while public schools have to rely on referendums. While there's a lot of bureaucracy in a large public school, there are also checks and balances, and the powers that be are not going to build something extraordinarily ridiculous just to spend more of your money. They will build and maintain school buildings. 

    As a private school parent, you also want to kick the charter schools out of the equation, if at all possible. Charter schools are in the business of stealing. These schools steal the best public school students, but they also steal a fair share of private school students, taking some of your kids away. They operate without all the restrictions of public schools, yet receive public money. These schools are often run by groups from other countries who live in mansions and hire only family members. Or they are run by Americans who pad the pockets of local politicians for favors and drive swanky cars. Yes, they are also sometimes run by people who want kids to get a great education, but even those charter schools steal students away from your private school. These schools should not benefit disproportionately in a sales tax for Duval Public Schools. In fact, I'd argue they should not benefit at all, and you probably should, too. 

    I assume that the goal for those in politics who want to stop any kind of DCPS sales tax (or make it as much about charter schools as public schools) are looking to kill the public school system in Jacksonville. The argument would be that a network of charter schools could provide the same services at a lower cost, with the added benefit of eliminating one of the largest unions in the state. If you're a private school parent, that probably seems enticing. However, a public school system is a stabilizing force in a city. I don't think most of us have the imaginations to even consider the ramifications of opening up Duval to nothing but charter schools. Every two-bit educational consultant in the country would flock in to get a piece of the action. There'd be winners and losers, with losers shuttering schools after years or maybe months. Yes, we can create a free market system for schools in the city, but it's scary to think about how that might look. And if it's really bad, like worse than DCPS now, then your kids and their accomplishments will look weak because there's no real competition. 

    Whether Duval's public schools get smacked down by investment in charter schools or non-investment in facilities, a poor public school system will continue to send more and more families to St. Johns County. Sure, you can still live here and send your kids to the local private school, but the other families who just want a decent public school will leave Duval for another county, leaving you to live in neighborhoods with retirees, childless millennials, and others who may not share your values. 

    Lastly, we need decent public schools in Duval because we might need to use them at some point. You might lose that hotshot job you now have. My own kids will graduate from the k-8 school they are at. You might even realize that there are some benefits to sending your kids into a good public school so that they can learn about people who aren't just like their parents. If you're stuck in Duval and the public schools are lacking, then your kids will be stuck in something you'd rather they not have. But that does not have to be the case. 

    Private school parents pay just as much for Duval County Public Schools as public school parents and charter school parents. Usually more, based on property taxes. Even though my kids go to a private school, my say counts as much as those other parents, and I say that Duval County Public Schools needs to have facilities that are on-par with other large public schools in the state. I also say that charter schools do not deserve ANY of the money, but if they do get some, then I say private schools should be able to get some, too (why not?). I say that I want Duval's students to be able to compete with, challenge, and push my kids, whether they are currently at the same school, will be for high school, or even if they don't meet until college. Mostly, I say that Jacksonville only stays relevant as a city if it can make its public schools desirable to all those people moving to the Sunshine State.  

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  • Does HOA collect police reports for crimes in my neighborhood?
    Someone on Nextdoor was asking this question, and I was tempted to respond that the only thing HOAs collect is money. The real responses to the question ranged from, "It depends on your HOA" to "That's not part of what an HOA does." While I can understand that crime is separate from house paint and green lawns, since crime is the #1 factor in property values, HOAs probably need to DO something when it comes to crime.

    I read that in a town in the Southwest, an HOA was being sued because a house that had been deemed a nuisance was not foreclosed on, resulting in a child being killed in a drive-by shooting meant for the residents of the nuisance house. I agree with the people bringing the lawsuit. If the HOA's sole purpose is to maintain property values, then people who bring crime to the neighborhood should be forced out, just like someone who might never mow the grass or  pay HOA dues. 

    When one of our neighbors brought two violent incidents to our block, I wrote to my HOA and to the owner of the rented house. I mentioned the lawsuit above to the HOA, and I told both entities that other neighbors had confirmed to me that the police showed up at the house several times before we'd moved in. I myself had seen a member of the household arrested a couple months before the violence. So three incidents in about four months, and I decided it was time for the family to move on. I never really received much of a response, but the family DID move out within a couple of weeks. Maybe the family realized it was time for a fresh start, but I'd like to think that getting involved helped to push them. However, I also believe the HOA and rental company would have either not known about it or ignored the problem without my letters. 


    Crime, however, is often a result of people from outside of the neighborhood. That crime itself may not be the responsibility of the HOA, but installing a trail camera on a cell phone plan with a solar power battery pack might do the trick to capture trespassers. Any kind of camera, really. See if the police will install one. Even a fake camera might deter one crime. I'd let a wifi camera on my street use my guest wifi, as well, and I assume some of my other neighbors would, too.

    The HOA could go semi-all-out and install an automatic gate without a code, along with a powered camera that stores video. If there's no code, anyone can get into the neighborhood, but it slows people down and ensures everyone entering knows they are on camera. The good news is that the roads are still public and part of the city.  

    Maybe HOA bylaws need to include more about crime and nuisance homes, especially in an area like Jacksonville. Crime is spread out in this town. Maybe back when my HOA was formed in 2004, there was no crime in East Arlington, but that's not the case today. Homeowners need to expect more out of their HOAs, as property value is more about crime than a nice pool and paint color of the houses. 






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  • Jacksonville List of Neighborhoods
    I keep seeing all the Jacksonville neighborhoods as backdrops to maps, but I have yet to see them listed for those of us who like lists. So, after using the government websites to find the GIS maps that contain the neighborhoods, I was able to extract the lists of areas in Jax that appear on maps. It could be useful to those of you who also like lists and deal in real estate or something where you'd need the names of all the neighborhoods here.


    The lists are in alphabetical order by region. Jacksonville is big, so it's divided into six planning zones: A (Arlington and Beaches), N (North), NW (Northwest), SE (Southeast), SW (Southwest), and U (Urban Core). I wanted to make a visual grid map using a table, but it's just so big. Also, I do understand alphabetical, but it would be nice on a map if the letter-number combinations were adjacent, but that's just an opinion, and we're pretty much stuck with alpha order now. I think a couple of names were cut off because of length, but this is a fairly comprehensive neighborhood list for Jacksonville/Duval.

    It's also interesting to note that if Jacksonville ever made the move to un-consolidate, the six zones would be the most likely separate cities.


    A01 Alderman Park
    A02 Arlington
    A03 Arlington Hills
    A04 Arlington Manor
    A05 Arlingtonwood
    A06 Atlantic Blvd. Estate
    A07 Atantic Highlands
    A08 Beachwood
    A09 Beacon Hills & Harbour
    A10 Charter Point
    A11 Clifton
    A12 Cobblestone
    A13 Colony Cove
    A14 East Arlington
    A15 Empire Point
    A16 Fara Ways Forrest
    A17 Fort Caroline Shores
    A18 Gilmore
    A19 Girvin
    A20 Glynea/Grove Park
    A21 Golden Glades/The Woods
    A22 Hidden Hills
    A23 Hogan
    A24 Holiday Harbors
    A25 Holiday Hill/Century
    A26 Holly Oaks
    A27 Lake Lucina
    A28 Love Grove/Riviera Ma
    A29 Mayport
    A30 Monterey
    A31 North Beach
    A32 Oak Haven
    A33 Park Ridge
    A34 Regency
    A35 St. Johns Bluff
    A36 St. Nicholas
    A37 Sandlewood
    A38 Southside Estates
    A39 Spring Glen
    A40 University Park
    A41 Woodland Acrea
    A42 Woodmere
    Atlantic Beach
    Baldwin
    Jacksonville Beach
    N01 Biscayne
    N02 Biscayne Terrace
    N03 Black Hammock Island
    N04 Blount Island
    N05 Brown Island
    N06 College Park
    N07 Copper Hill
    N08 Dinsmore
    N09 Duval
    N10 Eagle Bend
    N11 East Point
    N12 Forrest Trails
    N13 Fort George Island
    N14 Garden City
    N15 Highlands
    N16 Hollyford
    N17 Imeson Park
    N18 Jax. North Estates
    N19 Jamestown
    N20 Little Marsh Hill
    N21 New Berlin
    N22 North New Berlin
    N23 North Lake
    N24 Oceanway
    N25 Pecan
    N26 Pumpkin Hill
    N27 San Mateo
    N28 The Cape
    N29 Turtle Creek
    Neptune Beach
    NW01 Allendale
    NW02 Biltmore
    NW03 Bulls Bay
    NW04 Carver Manor
    NW05 Cisco Gardens
    NW06 College Gardens
    NW07 Commonwealth
    NW08 Crystal Springs
    NW09 Edgewood
    NW10 Edgewood Manor
    NW11 Grand Park
    NW12 Harborview
    NW13 Lackawanna
    NW14 Lake Forrest
    NW15 Lake Forrest Hills
    NW16 Lincoln Hills
    NW17 Magnolia Gardens
    NW18 Marrietta
    NW19 Mixon Town
    NW20 Murray Hill
    NW21 New Town
    NW22 Normandy
    NW23 Normandy Estates
    NW24 Normandy Village
    NW25 Osceola Forrest
    NW26 Panama Park
    NW27 Paxton
    NW28 Picketville
    NW29 Ribault
    NW30 Riverside
    NW31 Riverview
    NW32 Robinsons Addition
    NW33 Rolling Hills
    NW34 Royal Terrace
    NW35 Sherwood Forrest
    NW36 Tallulah/ North Shore
    NW37 Whitehouse
    NW38 Woodstock
    NW39 45th & Moncrief
    SE01 Arrowhead
    SE02 Avenues
    SE03 Bayard
    SE04 Baymeadows
    SE05 Baymeadows Center
    SE06 Beach Haven
    SE07 Beauclec
    SE08 Bowden
    SE09 Brackridge
    SE10 Briarwood
    SE11 Craven
    SE12 Deercreek
    SE13 Deerwood
    SE14 Deerwood Center
    SE15 Del Rio
    SE16 Englewood
    SE17 Goodbys Creek
    SE18 Greenfield Monor
    SE19 Greenland
    SE20 Isle of Palms
    SE21 Julington Creek
    SE22 Kilarney Shores
    SE23 Lakewood
    SE24 Loretto
    SE25 Mandarin
    SE26 Mandarin Station
    SE27 Miramer
    SE28 Monclair
    SE29 Pickwick Park
    SE30 Pine Forrest
    SE31 Royal Lakes
    SE32 San Jose
    SE33 San Jose Forrest
    SE34 San Marco
    SE35 Sans Pareil
    SE36 Sans Souci
    SE37 Secret Cove
    SE38 South Riverside
    SE39 South Point
    SE40 Southwood
    SE41 Spring Park
    SE42 Sunbeam
    SE43 Tiger Hole/ Secret Wo
    SE44 Windy Hill
    SW01 Argyle Forrest
    SW02 Avondale
    SW03 Cedar Hills
    SW04 Cedar Hills Estates
    SW05 Chimmey Lakes
    SW06 Confederate Point
    SW07 Duclay
    SW08 Duclay Forest
    SW09 Fairfax
    SW10 Herlong
    SW11 Hillcrest
    SW12 Hyde park
    SW13 Jacksonville Farms/Te
    SW14 Jacksonville Heights
    SW16 Jax Heights West
    SW17 Jax Naval Air Station
    SW18 Lakeshore
    SW19 Maxville
    SW20 McGirts Creek
    SW21 Normandy Manor
    SW22 Oak Hill
    SW23 Ortega
    SW24 Ortega Farms
    SW25 Ortega Forest
    SW26 Ortega Hills
    SW27 Otis
    SW28 Settlers Landing
    SW29 Sweetwater
    SW30 Venetia
    SW31 Wesconnett
    SW32 Yukon
    U01 Brentwood
    U02 Brooklyn
    U03 Downtown Jacksonville
    U04 East Jacksonville
    U05 Fairfield
    U06 Hogans Creek
    U07 LaVilla
    U08 Longbranch
    U09 Midtown
    U10 Mid Westside
    U11 Moncrief
    U12 Phoenix
    U13 Springfield
    U14 Southside
    U15 Tallyrand
    U16 29th & Chase

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  • Top 4 Spots in Jacksonville's Arlington Neighborhood
    I was on the News4Jax website when I saw an "article" about local restaurants. The article said it was about Arlington restaurants, and I figured it wasn't that big of a deal that my location was being used to show me stories relevant to where I was. However, after reading the short blurbs about the top 4 restaurants in my area, I saw the disclaimer on the bottom of the article:
    This story was created automatically using local business data, then reviewed and augmented by an editor.
    So, I was not only reading an article that accessed my location in order to serve the right content, but the content itself was provided by the businesses being reviewed. Sure, the star-ratings were from Yelp, which is semi-reliable, but there is no real indication that these four restaurants were the top-rated restaurants on Yelp. I assume that they were the four Arlington restaurants that paid to be part of an advertising article promoting them.

    You can see from the address bar that the article title was "Check Out The Top 4 Spots in Jacksonville's Arlington Neighborhood." While I'm sure the four listed restaurants are just fine, it's disturbing that this content was served to me on a NEWS website as NEWS. It's clearly blatant advertising, paid placement, and not a real review or opinion by a human being. 

    What's next? Top four crimes this week articles that pull information from JSO's Crime Map? I know, there's no ad money in that, so probably not. The point is that if pretend articles are being pulled from content on paid-service websites and placed on news websites, then we're in trouble. As readers and as writers. Even the images are from Yelp, which means user-submitted. No one did any work on the article in question, and more than likely, the "editor" is in India, curating and augmenting hundreds of pretend articles every day, never having eaten barbeque ribs in her life. 

    With so much data out there, it's nice to get a quick guide to some decent local restaurants to try, so there's a value to articles like the one that I thought I was reading. I might even like the listed places. It might even be accurate. But it's also wrong. 


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  • My Messy Office
    My messy classroom, home office, and garage all indicate the same thing to people: I must be careless, cranky, and uncaring. That's according to a study that showed two different work spaces to participants. A messy workspace left people with a negative perception of the unknown worker who occupied the space.


    That's kind of sad, since my mess is part of my creativity. Actually, I have to have a mess somewhere in order to function properly. I used to have a junk drawer when I first got married because my wife is pretty much the opposite of a messy person. She allowed me one junk drawer on the main level, and about half of the three basements we had. And most of the garage. And the tool shed. Those were my messy places.

    In Florida, we don't have the built-ins with drawers or a basement, so I have to be better at hiding my messes. It's frustrating, to say the least. The whole point of having a mess is that what I need is right there for me when I need it. I don't want to venture into the garage attic to find what I need. I don't want to have to page through file folders for tax documents when they are all stuffed on my desk where I need them. There should be a pen sitting out and within reach from any location in any room.

    The most frustrating, however, is the fact that I can't always find my writing notes. I'll take notes while out at a bar or while at church. Observations for later. And those notes need to be out in the open to remind me of what I need to be writing, like Christmas tree ornaments in my office space, or else I won't ever write those ideas. Then they just get stuffed in a box, which is suffocating for ideas.

    I also have to wonder if my bosses over the years have assumed something negative about me because my school desk was always messy. I tried to keep it way in the corner, but it was very, very messy. But that was because I was usually working on planning new lessons, revising old lessons, grading papers, writing, thinking, researching, and contacting people. Sometimes, I'd be testing out video production equipment, hooking various electronic devices into my computer to see what they could do, and generally figuring out if I could improve as a teacher. But it looked like I was somehow careless to outsiders.

    All in all, I'm lucky to have a wife who forces me to clean once in a while. If we were both like me, the house would be a disaster all the time, and people would be afraid to come over. And they'd probably think that both of us are careless, cranky, and uncaring.



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