Is modern technology a net benefit to society, or does it do more harm than good? It's a topic I've been pondering more and more in the past few years, and a theme that I've discussed with several different people in recent months. I could elaborate on each point in far greater depth and use lots of citations and all that jazz, but considering my audience (if I have any, that is), I believe I'd be wise to resist the temptation to turn this blog post into a grand essay and instead keep it reasonably concise. Some of these same arguments apply to television, video games, and above all, cell phones, but those media are another story for another day.

Academic/Business
  • Internet research greatly assists academic research, but often encourages students to rely on dubious sources like Wikipedia (or worse yet, answers sites, or Googling things without even clicking on the pages in the search results) instead of higher-quality, peer-reviewed articles.
  • Computers allow innumerable new ways for businesspeople to communicate and collaborate, but they also introduce just as many computer bugs and glitches to disrupt work.
  • The Internet provides many ways to save time finding information, but also allows employees to get paid to waste time checking Facebook or irrelevant YouTube videos, or worse yet, viewing pornography or other inappropriate material.
Ethical/Legal
  • While many forms of copyright laws are clearly anachronistic, it's not an exaggeration to say that the majority of material on the Internet is probably in violation of one or more intellectual property or privacy laws. And regardless of the current status of arbitrary laws penned by mortal man, much online activity makes it easier than ever to violate obvious ethics standards and to view material that isn't exactly beneficial to one's morals and sanity.
  • The online world is really good at keeping records on what we do. While this explosion of data has many legitimate uses, I can't help but wonder whether the stuff people posted on the Internet in their earlier years will come back to haunt them someday. Old MySpace pages are an especially common source of embarrassing "tell-all" blogs and chronicles of human folly. Sure, it's possible to write under a pseudonym, and to try to delete your original posts, but no matter what you do, it often takes very little digging to find stuff that might jeopardize one's employment or domestic harmony.
  • The Internet has helped evaporate any sense of privacy existing on this planet, whether it's threatened by big government, big business, identity thieves, vigilantes like WikiLeaks and Anonymous, or the voluntary exhibitionism prevalent on sites like Facebook and Twitter. I still think the spirit of liberty and democracy is fostered by the feeling that some matters are no one else's business. As lawful as the "if you don't do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" argument sounds, many innocent things could set us back a few notches if certain information leaked out to the wrong parties. In particular, even insignificant transgressions could put applicants for police/security jobs or for positions dealing with sensitive financial privileges at a disadvantage - not to mention candidates for political office!
Political/Social
  • Along with the rise of cable news, the Internet makes it easier for the shrillest fringes of the political spectrum to gain influence at the expense of better-informed, more moderate commentators. It also makes it more convenient for people to seek out more opinions that validate their existing opinions and filter out voices that might challenge or question their beliefs.
  • The various combinations and permutations of "social media" might allow us to become acquainted with a wider variety of contacts, both people known in real life and otherwise, but might tend to cultivate superficial relationships rather than meaningful friendships.
  • Since the beginning of time, humans have been adept at treating one another unkindly. However, the lack of face-to-face interaction makes the Internet fertile soil for trolls and bullies, and I fear these destructive attitudes might carry over to real life, even as these troublemakers grow older.
  • Things like online games and social networks are fun but can be addictive to susceptible individuals. Obviously, the people who have starved to death while playing MMORPGs or killed an irritating baby who was distracting their Farmville session are extremely rare cases. However, many young (and not-so-young people) spend the majority of their free time "plugged in" to an electronic device of some sort, and this can lead to problems ranging from eyestrain to obesity, as well as distracting them from other, potentially more meaningful activities.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot to mention this little detail: A lot of the people on the Internet are really, really stupid, and the E-net provides lots of innovative ways for stupid people to let the world know precisely how stupid they really are.
I'm not saying it's wrong or bad to use the Internet - there's lots of wonderful things the online world lets us do that would've been unthinkable a couple of decades ago, from discovering gifted artists you never otherwise would've heard of, to providing a medium for sharing alternative viewpoints from people around the globe. Twitter might have even played a role in helping overthrow a totalitarian regime or two. Even though I've always used the Internet in a relatively responsible way, I find my productivity, creativity, and personal sanity go in a positive direction when I keep my "plugged in" time to a healthy limit.

- Vinny

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I survived my first wall of text of the campaign without winding up as a bloody heap, so I felt it was safe to ramble about politics one more time before the election wraps up. Feel free to ignore this boring "fair and balanced" commentary - it's fair and balanced because I'm not exactly in love with either of the candidates.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Barack Obama's response to the recent events of Hurricane Sandy has been praised by most observers. One of his statements was particularly interesting: "We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy... If they need something, we figure out a way to say yes." If he could apply those principles to every day of his administration - by removing obsolete/stupid federal laws and regulations, and by pressuring local governments to do likewise - I suspect government would be far friendlier to job creators, and the President would probably get more support from the business community.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On the other hand, Mitt Romney and the Republicans would have the election in the bag if they rescinded their hardline stance on immigration. Native-born whites will be a minority in this country within a few years, and the Asians and Hispanics that make up the bulk of new immigrants are increasingly voting Democratic. These voters usually don't share the Democrats' liberal social views - especially Latin immigrants, who are almost universally Catholic - and have traditionally been sympathetic to the GOP's pro-business stance. However, immigrants are unlikely to support GOP candidates who insist on doing anything within their power to toss hard-working family members out of the country.

Sure, illegal immigration is problem if these immigrants are committing crimes or cheating the welfare system, but most immigrants come to this country to seek a better life and to work hard at jobs that natives are unwilling to do - not to sell drugs or leech off the welfare state. The only proven way to decrease illegal immigration is to increase unemployment rates - when the economy tanked in 2008, thousands of immigrants went home because of the lack of work. People migrate to America because they want to live here, and responsible politicians have a responsibility to keep the door open for legal immigrants and find reasonable compromises for the issue of illegal immigration, rather than blockading efforts at making progress.

This is another topic for another day, but much of America is literally dying - not just major Midwestern cities like Detroit and St. Louis, whose populations are a fraction of what they were 50 years ago, but small towns across the nation. Take a drive across any state, and if you skip the ever-sterile interstates, you'll find dozens of declining small towns. Some of these towns have been decaying since the days Elvis lit up the stage, but I can't help but think that some of them could be quickly revitalized if bright, motivated, industrious young people moved in. If federal and state governments provided a modest amount of capital and guaranteed a work permit for immigrants (legal and otherwise) to settle in such towns, we could make quite a difference in American society. Better yet, this would stimulate the struggling construction industry and allow growth without having to clear new land.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's amazing just how little coverage has been devoted to global warming and other environmental concerns during this year's campaign. I guess you can't think about the future of the planet when you spend all your time whining about the opponent making abortion slightly easier or slightly harder to obtain, and rewording your opponent's stance on foreign policy.

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People often accuse Mitt Romney - and rightfully so - for frequently reversing his position on major issues. Let's not forget, however, that Barack Obama had one of the most liberal voting records as a U.S. Senator, and it wasn't until his 2008 campaign that he tried to gain the support of moderate and independent voters.

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Dear Obama: It means so much to me Jennifer Lopez endorses your candidacy, especially when I hear a prerecorded message every day from the shamefully rich pop diva beseeching me to vote for you. And I appreciate getting three robocalls from the Republicans. These really brighten up my day, and my life would not be the same without them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Our current president would be far more awesome if his name really was Bronco Obama.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Considering the average American's limited knowledge of political science, it's important to remember that the president's power is limited. In fact, the Federal Reserve probably holds greater power over the economy than the president. People often blame Obama for economic maladies he has very little control over. Conversely, Obama spends an awful lot of time blaming George W. Bush (though rarely by name) for the events leading to the "Great Recession." While almost everyone agrees that Bush made a lot of costly mistakes, it's unfair to blame him for all of the bad policies that lawmakers, the Fed, and key players in the financial markets colluded into enacting. Every recent Commander-in-Chief has inherited problems, and after four years in office, the window of opportunity is quickly closing for Obama to pass his problems onto the previous president.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The election isn't just about Democrats and the GOP, even though the big two parties are certain to win. Third-party candidates are always full of interesting characters, from people who would be serious contenders if given full ballot access and sufficient funding, to idealists, radicals, and plain old oddballs. Perhaps no political party is as big an oddity as the Prohibition Party, which continues to field a candidate every year. Believe it or not, the Prohibition Party split into two competing factions - one led by Gene Amondson, and another by Earl F. Dodge - during the last campaign, but the party has wisely merged back together after the deaths of both former leaders. This year's candidate is less of a modern-day temperance crusader, and more of a Republican who's too hardcore to garner significant support from the GOP, making him less interesting than previous Prohibitionists.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One of the dangers of the rise of the Internet and bazillions of cable TV news stations is they make it far easier for people to find ways to validate their own beliefs, rather than encouraging them to seek a variety of opinions. This is a terrible thing for democracy in general, because truth almost invariably lies in the center, not on the fringes of the political spectrum that Big Media and the Internet make the mistake of emphasizing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Writing about American politics and reading transcripts of the debates is so much more fun when you're listening to video game battle music. The diverse quirky fight songs from the EarthBound series are the source of my current battle music binge, although remixes of Guile's Theme from Street Fighter 2 worked wonders while analyzing the debates earlier this month.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If I was a gamblin' man, I'd pick Obama to win the popular vote something like 50% Obama-49% Romney-1% independent. As untrustworthy as polls are, most metrics show Obama with a very narrow lead in key battleground states. The election will probably be decided by the first-time voters who came out and supported Obama enthusiastically in 2008. Will younger, black, and Hispanic voters stay home, now that excitement about Obama has waned? While John McCain was a more likable guy than Mitt Romney, just about everyone who cast a ballot for McCain in 2008 is going to vote for Romney this year, and it wouldn't take many middle-class, independent voters to shift their support to the Republicans - and for a few hundred thousand minority voters to stay home - to put Romney in the White House. It's going to be a tight race, and whoever Americans vote for, I pray that the word "recount" will not have to enter into our national lexicon this year.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two posts within a month. Unthinkable. Now I'll have to go ten months or something between blog posts, to balance out that flurry of activity. Have a good one, folks.

- Vinny

musingsthoughts barack obama mitt romney election 2012 politics presidential campaign

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And there's these two guys with funny names who are begging everyone to vote for them and finding innovative ways to bash their opponents. I can't believe I've gone this long without posting some kind of commentary on the election, whether on my utterly forgettable old NeoBlog or on the microblogging minefield of Tumblr. I was planning to post a long, drawn-out critique of each candidate. However, the Denver debate addressed a lot of the main faults of each candidate, so I think I'd be wise to keep it relatively short and sweet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First of all, the incumbent. His name is Barack Obama. You might've heard of him by now. There's no question he's a gifted public speaker. Even if it's unfair to compare his prepared speeches to the extemporaneous debates of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun that once riveted the nation, it's refreshing to hear a skillful speaker in this era of shoddy oratory. Obama's amazing at giving prepared speeches, and he's a great campaigner, but once he gets off the rails of prepared speeches, he frequently falls short. Romney really put Obama on the defensive in the debate - something the former governor has rarely done during the 2012 campaign. Obama's lack of knowledge of the way real businesses operate really flustered him during the debate, and while Obama avoided committing any clear blunders ("The private sector is doing fine" or "You didn't build it"), Romney clearly held the upper hand on economic matters. As much as Obama claims to be a champion of the middle class, his policies have been more beneficial to Wall Street than Main Street. Stock prices have soared, while unemployment - both real and hidden - remains high, with companies wary of hiring new workers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Obama's opponent has some flaws, too. In particular, Mitt Romney's plans on taxes are a concern. Now, I'm certainly not saying taxation is fun - the same European countries with the highest taxes also have stagnant growth and unbelievable unemployment rates, and teenagers on the Internet who advocate socialism often realize once they have a real job that paying even moderate tax rates isn't such a jolly good time! However, Romney's tax plan seems too extreme. While extending the Bush tax cuts is generally acknowledged as necessary to avoid massive tax hits for the middle class, Romney wants to go beyond that and cut most taxes even further. There's no denying that lowering taxes rates will stimulate growth - that's Economics 101. I agree that killing tax loopholes and making draconian cuts to the multitudes of federal bureaucracies that don't add value would help balance the budget and would make America a better nation. However, I don't know how we can have tax cuts, Medicare funding, a strong military, and a balanced budget. Some deficit spending is tolerable, but the massive debts accrued by both Obama and George W. Bush have already compromised America's solvency, and this country can't do four more years of financing government on a credit card - which could happen if Romney is elected and Congress defeats Romney's cost-cutting maneuvers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Throughout the race, it looked as if Obama held a decisive - but not insurmountable - lead. Romney's performance in the debate seems to have evened the score, since the debate was generally held as a rousing victory for the Republican candidate. I hope that the next month will bring us more intelligent, civil discourse from the two candidates and less of the shrill crossfire from useless party stooges like Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh. Either way, it's going to be an interesting final month leading up to the election.

Political advertisements aside, you might believe the future of the universe is at stake in a single election. News flash: It's not! It's a chance for registered voters (or, if you really want to split hairs, the Electoral College) to decide which guy gets to make mistakes while heading the executive branch of the U.S. government for the next four years. No matter who wins, this man only holds a limited amount of power, thanks to the Constitution's "checks and balances." The most extreme ambitions - and often, the most inoffensive proposals - of the president are tempered by the democratically-elected Congress, the Supreme Court, and last but not least, the American people. And let's not forget that the executive branch isn't a one-man show - the assorted underlings appointed by the president hold a great deal of power of their own, even if they're theoretically accountable to the nation's head honcho.

Sure, the presidential election is important, but we shouldn't lose sight of what little it may mean in the grand scheme of things. Nor should we allow it to cause us to overlook state and local elections, which may carry far greater weight in our daily lives.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That's all the fun I'll have this time. Maybe I'll post again in a couple of centuries, and maybe I'll gripe about the Jaguars' uninspired offense or their superstar punter next time.

- Vinny

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And no one's around to read it, did it really happen? Either way, I felt like revisiting one of the first issues I ever blogged about and giving it a sad but instructive conclusion. Then I felt like tacking on some other random things that no one will read anyway.

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So Mac Brunson's finally made a public apology and coughed up a nominal settlement to blogger Tom Rich. It's about time. Was Brunson sincere in his contrition, or was it just part of getting people to shut up about an ugly lawsuit? I can't say. I'm not the One who has the capacity to judge man's hearts. It would be nice if he really is sorry for doing wrong rather than just sorry for getting sued.

Either way, it feels good to get this debacle over with. Unfortunately, no reparations can undo the inestimable harm Brunson caused to the image of his faith, his church, his city, and himself. Personally, he shook my faith in the institutions of organized religion and organized government at a time when my confidence in those things wasn't very high, and he gave the nonreligious ample ammunition to attack Baptists and stereotype all of us as being enemies of the freedom and dissent. That's a pretty big price to pay for trying to get a personal enemy to keep quiet!

Were all of Tom Rich's attacks on Brunson completely fair? I'm not sure. The appeal to silence is a strong argument in favor of Rich's allegations, however. If the FBC Watchdog ever posted something that was untrue or misleading, I'm pretty sure Tom would've been open enough to accept a comment or arrange a personal meeting with Brunson. Since Brunson never delivered anything resembling a rebuttal, other than publicly calling his opponent a coward and a sociopath, it's pretty safe to say that Brunson was the one in the wrong.

All of us are going to face criticism, especially if we seek out positions of influence, power, and authority. Some of this criticism will be fair, and some of it won't be. How we handle that criticism shows the world what we're made of.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm getting the vibe that this year's presidential campaign is going to be even uglier and more misleading than the past couple of elections, which had enough mudslinging to keep us going for a few decades. The incumbent is already playing hardball with constant attacks on his opponent, even before Romney emerged from the free-for-all of GOP primaries. When the wrasslin' starts this early, I think we can be pretty sure that we'll be looking forward to a barrage of misleading, slanderous attack ads this fall!

Barack Obama doesn't need to play this hard in the campaign. Besides the system always being slanted in favor of incumbents, Obama has the advantage of an economy that's beginning to show signs of life again. A growing economy is good news for an incumbent president in an election year! Sure, the recovery's been a lot slower than most of us would like, but the economy is what voters really care about, and Obama should milk this growth for all it's worth.

Still, the hyper-emotional language we're already hearing ("war on women," "war on caterpillars," "war on whatever else pundits can make up") never fails to amuse. It would be refreshing to see candidates who can address serious topics in a rational manner... but I'm afraid we'll just get another load of democracy-destroying vitriol this year.

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I'm probably going to regret writing about such a charged topic, but the Trayvon Martin case warrants a passing reference. Was Trayvon's shooter a saint? No. But Trayvon was far from the innocent, baby-faced kid the most popular photograph of him would indicate. Would Trayvon be alive today if he was white? Yes, but remember that this isn't the only time that would be true! Blacks are still treated and perceived differently from white people in America, no matter how much we pretend that racism is a thing of the past. That said, young African-Americans aren't doing themselves any favors by emulating the thug lifestyle. To help prevent situations like this from happening in the future, we need nurturing citizens that improve the lives of young black people - not new laws that are unlikely to have any real effect.

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Will Blaine Gabbert ever be an NFL-quality quarterback? I don't know. His first season in the NFL was pretty terrible, as we all saw. Most of the time he looked like he was terrified of the prospect of actually being hit. If you dread getting squashed by surprisingly athletic 290-pound men, you shouldn't be taking snaps in the National Football League. There are bigger concerns than keeping your gorgeous blond locks looking sharp! You're a quarterback, not a teen pop idol.

That said, Blaine's recent interview with Gene Frenette really boosted my respect for the young quarterback. He showed a lot of humility and admitted to some of the mistakes he made (and did a much more effective job than that pastor I mentioned in the first part of this blog!). Even if so many of us would've rather seen a certain Jacksonville-born quarterback wind up here, I'm hoping we'll see Gabbert make a big improvement this season. How much so will determine how far the Jaguars go this year.

Perhaps the Jaguars signing decent receivers will improve the Jaguars' prospects for a decent air game. Then again, I see a lot of parallels between Lee Evans and Jerry Porter, and we all know how much the latter deal helped the team.

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Sometimes I make the mistake of blogging about Cubs baseball. On paper this looks like the weakest Cubs team in 10 or 15 years. It looks mighty strange to see people like Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Sean Marshall wearing other uniforms. But who knows. Some fresh blood probably won't hurt.

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I've probably said enough for this post. Maybe I'll start blogging every week or two, or perhaps I'll even move this blog to somewhere it'll earn more attention. Don't bet your bottom dollar on either of those happening, though.

- Vinny

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To be honest, I'd almost forgotten about this blog. I've been pretty good about keeping up my GameSpot blog the past few months, but this blog has lain fallow since the end of 2010 - and that's quite a long time!

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There's not a person on this planet who would've benefited from the passing of SOPA or PIPA, so I'm very glad that the bills seem to be destined for the graveyard of bills buried at the bottom of Capitol Hill. The bills' demise is good for everyone from random teenagers making YouTube videos to startup businesses to the big media companies themselves. SOPA and related proposals gave more power to Big Media to arbitrarily shut down things they didn't like, but the bills did little that would be likely to reduce the kinds of counterfeiting and other organized crime that really harms content creators on a large scale. If America really wanted to reduce piracy, we'd get tough on China and other totalitarian regimes where censorship gives people no choice but to pirate things they want.

While I don't generally support or condone piracy of music, movies, software, and so forth (except in cases when it's the only way to obtain such media, as with, say, a small number of Japanese-only game releases), media companies have a hard time grasping the fact that some losses from piracy are a cost of doing business. Whenever you sell something that can be copied easily, rapidly, and inexpensively, you're inevitably going to lose some sales because illegal copies will be made, whether on a small scale (copying a CD and giving to a friend) or a very large scale (organized crime that mass-produces convincing counterfeits of media, especially in the Third World). In this respect, piracy isn't much different from a restaurant losing money when a new waitress drops a plate full of dishes, or a grocery store having to throw away a small percentage of produce due to spoilage, or a plumber having to redo a job that wasn't done right.

Piracy does hurt content creators, but it's an expense that really isn't avoidable - most methods for fighting piracy will either alienate fans, suppress free expression, or, perhaps most likely of all, result in a poorer product (through things like draconian DRM). Sure, losses through piracy do hurt corporate profits (and have an indirectly impact upon jobs and tax receipts), but it's also unclear how high those figures really are. A good example might be video game ROMs for old games - someone who downloads and plays an old video game for an obsolete system (a product that is still legally under copyright but is something the original holder can earn little, if any, future revenue from) might subsequently be inspired to go out and buy the latest sequel to that game.

It's a little hard to muster up too much sympathy for Big Media, which has remained relatively unscathed through the Great Recession while individuals and other companies have been hit hard in the past five years. However, the solution to piracy isn't enacting constitutionally-dubious laws made by politicians with little understanding of how the Internet works. Rather, the best way to mitigating piracy is embracing free speech and free expression throughout the world, and creating an environment where media companies are encouraged to produce creative, innovative products.

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Yes, it's election season again. I have a hard time embracing any of the Republican candidates (or Baracko, for that matter), since most of them seem like rather morally dubious people. Ron Paul has the most interesting ideas of the bunch and seems to have the most solid principles of them, but I have a hard time seeing a Libertarian running as a Republican actually winning a presidential election. Mitt Romney's moderate views probably make him the most electable candidate, unless opponents can convince the electorate that his Mormon faith is an issue, or that packing your dog on the roof of your car while going on a vacation to Canada is an unpardonable offense on the level of King George III's Intolerable Acts. A more legitimate concern is that Romney has a hard time demonstrating that he possesses any actual beliefs or convictions about much of anything, as he has tended to avoid committing to any particular position - which could be unsettling to voters and may also provide fodder for Obama to throw out the old "flip-flop" word.

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In the past, this blog has traditionally done little except cover random opinions about the National Football League, especially that little-followed team in my own city. While I'm not a big fan of firing coaches at the drop of a hat, getting rid of Jack Del Rio was the right way to go - he had lost control of the situation, and it's not like he's ever been a star coach at the head coach level. JDR is clearly much better suited to a role as a defensive coordinator or other assistant position. While new coach Mike Mularkey has consistently generated mixed results in the past, at least the assistants selected seem sensible - including keeping interim coach Mel Tucker on board.

And yes, the Jaguars should've drafted Tim Tebow two years ago. Just saying. It's true that "hindsight is 20/20," but anything would've been worth getting even a fraction of the publicity "Tebow Mania" has wrought, even if Tim Tebow might not have been as successful on the Jaguars, a team with a considerably weaker defense than what the Broncos have.

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It's kind of rare I blog any more, since I'm busier with real life nowadays (like finishing over a year's worth of education in the course of a single semester), and since I find the online world less interesting these days (most of the forums I use have been hurt by cannabilization from the hyper-commercialized and narcissistic cancer that is Facebook, or else poisoned by the attitudes that exemplify 4chan and other image boards). Still, I'll see if I can find time in the future to keep this blog more interesting. In the meantime, here's signing off again.

- Vinny

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After seeing the Jaguars play so horribly in some games earlier this season (like against the Chargers and in the first Titans matchup), it's almost incredulous that they'd be leading the division and quite comfortably in the playoff hunt. But if they can keep up that dominating rushing attack, who knows what could happen?

While Maurice Jones-Drew's career-high 186 rushing yards were laudable, don't overlook the offensive line - and guys like Greg Jones and Zach Miller - who had amazing games opening holes for MJD (and other runners).

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WikiLeaks, the rogue media organization, has been getting lots of attention by disseminating thousands of classified documents. I don't know all the details of this situation, considering I haven't personally studied the leaked documents, but I applaud what they're doing as long as they focus on the really juicy stuff and redact names of ordinary people who might be harmed by the release of certain information.

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I don't feel like writing too much today - it's just too cold to type particularly fast. If the weather stays as cold as it was last winter, that would be truly unprecedented in Jacksonville's recorded history - having a very warm summer followed by a very cold summer - and would either make me believe Al Gore or else buy a 1960's muscle car to get our carbon back into whack!

Maybe I'll start posting more often - and longer - if people start reading this. Until next time, that's all folks.

- Vinny

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Yes, this is my first blog post in five months. Since I just got a new Internet connection that's pretty perky - when it works - I might post a little more often. Then again, I might not. And I might get mauled by zombies and quit posting because of that.

Recently I've revived Crazyreyn's old FAQ Contributers Wiki. The new page is viewable at http://faqcontributers.wikia.com/wiki/Video_Game_FAQ_Contributers_Wiki. There's still a lot of work to be done, however, as most pages are just stubs. Still, it might be pretty cool eventually.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are back to their old ways, it appears, earning an impressive victory one week and then playing absolutely terrible football the next week.

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Maybe next time I'll actually have something to say.

- Vinny

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Vinny's back with his latest tales of sex, race, and wrestling, all sponsored by Pepsi. Which brings us now to a word from our sponsor: Every Pepsi refreshes the world.

Or maybe not, since this author doesn't sell ad space to Pepsi. I think I'm back to my old pattern of posting about once a month. I'll try to maintain this not-too-vigorous pace of monthly blogging or maybe even post a little more often than that if I start feeling more inspired.

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Let's start with a few observations from the world of TV commercials. As we all know, in any commercial, the brand being advertised has a flat 1.000 winning percentage against "leading brand," "competitor," "the other guys," or, especially, the ever-inferior "imitator." This is true whether they're advertising pesticides, paper towels, or pain killers.

Very frequently on TV commercials, the various products are represented by human actors. And it's always laughably easy to know which one will win. When every product representative is of the same gender and race (like in those satellite ads), usually you can guess which one will win based on looks (hint: the fat guy loses).

However, when the actors are of different genders, the winner will almost invariably be the female one (unless it's a kids' board game, in which case girls almost never win). As for race, African-Americans do fairly well in one-on-one competitions or when "prescribing" a product to someone else, but they usually lose when more than two products are being compared.

Lastly, Hispanics are surprisingly rare on commercials. I don't know why that is. You don't see many people who look "a little" Hispanic, in fact.

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Yeah, the NFL Draft is coming up sometime soon. And I'm not even going to post my mock draft, even if I can probably do as good a job as Mel Kiper Jr. can. I don't know why the professional guessers feel compelled to spend thousands of hours analyzing arbitrary decisions that will require 5-10 years to determine whether they were right or not.

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Remember that fake wrestling federation I mentioned last time? Well, it had already folded by the time I made my last post (again, most of that was actually written in early January, but I couldn't get on very often during that time period). Anyway, MFGG Wrestling is running shows again, with me booking the matches! Check www.forums.mfgg.net/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=6232 if you're interesting in joining.

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If you've got any questions or comments, just e-mail me at VHamilton002@gmail.com. Until next time... After a while, crocodile.

- Vinny

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Yes, Vinny's back with a new batch of controversial comments and dubious criticism. It's been a while (over three months) since I've posted anything, since I've been pretty busy with Christmas and with my new FAQ for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Some of this post is already out of date, in fact.

A small number of you may have noticed that the city of Jacksonville was recently eliminated from contention for hosting a possible 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup. While that's a lost opportunity for extensive economic impact and international acclaim, we can take consolation in the fact that Wrestlemania 2012 may be coming to the First Coast. Wooooooooo!

I used to think professional wrestling was worthy of a Stupid Medal. It still might be, but I don't care any more because I'm now a professional wrestler myself - sort of. I recently became one of the first members of the New MFGG Wrestling federation (www.forums.mfgg.net), and I'm the #1 Contender for the MFGG World Title belt! (Update: It's already folded, but I might revive it at some point.)

Please don't give me that garbage that says watching pro wrestling is going to make some lunatic jump on the roof and kill someone while practicing wrestling stunts. People like that need to be at the funny farm (where everything is beautiful all day long) anyway and spend all their time watching the beans grow. If violence on TV really bothers you, go pick on Jack Bauer and his 24 brethren. He's usually exalting the joys of enhanced interrogation procedures (I mean torture) and doesn't seem to mind squashing unarmed women.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I know I'm a little late, but every year those media people (and Congressmen) make a ruckus about how much they want the national championship of football to be determined through a playoff format. I'm not too keen on 8- or 16-team playoffs, which would destroy the current bowl system and would result in teams playing an NFL-length schedule.

However, here's my plan:

1. Abolish the current BCS Championship game. I never understood the reasoning behind playing two BCS games in the same city in the same week.

2. Abolish automatic berths for each of the "BCS conferences." What that means is in some years, NO representatives from one of the BCS conferences will get to play in a BCS game. This year, for example, there would have been five teams from the BCS conferences (Iowa or possibly Georgia Tech would have been relegated to a non-BCS bowl), and Boise State, TCU, and Florida would have been the at-large teams.

3. Go back to the old system of playing four BCS bowls, and play a true "BCS Championship" after the conclusion of those games involving the top two teams in the BCS rankings. Another way it could happen would be to arrange a #1 vs. #4 matchup and a #2 vs. #3 in two of the traditional big four bowls.


And while we're on the topic of college football bowls, I'd suggest the NCAA eliminate a handful of the real stinkers involving even-record teams from small conferences. I don't want to go back to the old days when high-ranked teams might miss out on the postseason (like Wyoming in 1996), but I don't think anyone would shed a tear if 3-8 of the weaker (and less solvent) bowls go the way of the Bluebonnet Bowl, the Aloha Bowl, and the Silicon Valley Classic.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm still willing to bet a nickel that Florida head coach Urban Meyer won't be coaching the team this fall. But I'm not betting any more than that, and even if he doesn't return, I think Steve Addazio is likely to be a quality head coach.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Jacksonville Jaguars ended this season like a dying mule, losing their last four games and looking downright awful in the process. A team as inexperienced as the Jaguars should finish the season on the way up instead of getting worse at the end. True, Indianapolis and New England were strong teams, but there was no excuse for losing to Cleveland and for playing as badly as they did during those games.

Although as Gene Frenette noted, it's a wonder a team could give up 44 sacks (with just 14 of their own) and win even seven games.

Like most of you, I have mixed feelings about the Jaguars drafting Tim Tebow. While there's no question he could be a leader on a team that runs a little low in the leadership department, I'm not sure he could really duplicate his college feats in the NFL. My main concern is his almost exclusive use of the shotgun in college. Drafting him is undoubtedly taking a big risk, but not drafting him is probably an even greater risk. The Jaguars obviously have many gaps in their youthful team, and David Garrard is obviously a capable quarterback. Still, considering the 15,000 people who would get season tickets if the Jaguars drafted Tebow, and considering that both Jack Del Rio and David Garrard will probably be out of town if the Jaguars don't reach the playoffs next year, I wouldn't be surprised if Tebow was a Jaguar next fall.

I'd also like to say congratulations to Jaguars great Mark Brunell finally winning the Super Bowl as a New Orleans Saint, even if he's just a holder nowadays.

I can't say congratulations to GoDaddy, CareerBuilder, CarMax, or quite a few of the other Super Bowl commercials, however. It's OK to wear pants, and soft-core porno is NOT mandatory in a Super Bowl ad and won't make your car go any faster. And while those Bud Light commercials were funny, they seemed to serve as counter-commercials that prove what happens when you overuse the products they're trying to sell.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two useless facts for you: Each of past 13 Christmas Days has been rainy or had a high under 60 degrees Fahrenheit (or both). In addition, the last two days of the year (December 30 and 31) have had above-average temperatures every year since 2002. Yes, I spend a lot of time looking at NOAA records to satisfy my curiosity.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you'd like to compliment or berate me, you're invited to shoot off an e-mail to VHamilton002@gmail.com. Please practice some degree of civility, though, or I'll jump down from the roof and practice my trademark 7 Star Frog Splash on you the next time I see you walking down my street. Then you'll remember to be civil next time.

- Vinny

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I'm certainly not going to win any awards for creative titles this time. This is my first post in over a month, when I said that it's safe to go trick-or-treating without worrying about those sex weirdoes who put old razor blades in the Snickers and turn into bats at night.

And to reinforce that idea, I didn't go trick-or-treating, but I did pick up a piece of candy thrown at the Terry Parker High School homecoming parade, which had probably been stepped on by many a cannabis-stained sole (or maybe something a shoe laced with something a lot worse than weed). And you know what? I ate it! And that caramel pop was really yummy and didn't make me high out of my mind! I'll now need surgery to repair the eight-inch laceration in my throat from the razor, but it was good candy! Then again, maybe I'm making up that last part.

As for Parker's football team, they went 0-10 this year - their worst season since they went 0-10 in 2003. Their parade was a bit of a disappointment, too - it was shorter than ever before (or at least shorter than any of the 16 I've been to in the past 17 years), and prerecorded rap music for the Ladies of Affinity replaced most of the band music. Someone told the "DJ" that one of the songs was "really inappropriate," too, although I missed that. And the police have gotten less effective at closing the streets.

~ ~ ~

Yes, I did make my last post - the one where I said not everybody is out to getcha - the day after Somer Thompson went missing, although I had actually written it weeks before. I don't care if anyone thought that was somehow distasteful. Again, situations like hers are exceptionally rare, and we must not allow paranoia to conquer our lives. We can't shackle ourselves just because of what that stupid safety tip on the back of the junk mail said. As old Pat Hank told us so many years ago, life and peace aren't so dear to be worth the cost of chains and slavery.

~ ~ ~

I'm sorry, but I can't resist putting this in about Ronald and Misty Cummings and their short-lived knot. It was a bond forged from youthful lust (well, he was almost a decade older, but anyway), yet tempered through tragedy. I thought the well from which their eternal love sprang would never go dry, since they did and loved the same things - in particular, they liked the same drugs.

They and their wonderful families seem to be on first-name basis with the cops and the dealers, too.

~ ~ ~

It's hard to believe that the Jaguars are now in position to reach the playoffs, considering how badly they've played a lot of the time and how narrow their wins have been. But that's football, and football doesn't care if you've given up more points than you've scored.

~ ~ ~

Hence the title of this month's post, I shouldn't conclude this post without being thankful for family, friends, good food, and bad Detroit Lions football.

~ ~ ~

I've probably offended enough people for the time being. If you'd like to tell me why you're offended, just post a comment, or e-mail me directly at VHamilton002@gmail.com.

Until next time, sayonara.

- Vinny

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Yep, VinnyVideo's still blogging. I just haven't posted in a while - other things seem to have taken priority in the past couple of months.

The Jacksonville Jaguars looked like a totally different team in their past two games, beating the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans by high scores in a decisive fashion. With a 2-2 record and a whole bunch of weak teams (that means you, St. Louis Rams) coming up in the schedule, the Jags are, quite seriously (whispering), playoff contenders.

The Jaguars' pass protection was considerably better Sunday in their 37-17 dismantling of the Titans, and it was mostly because they had different starting offensive tackles - veterans Tra Thomas and Mo Williams instead of top-drafted rookies Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. While Monroe and Britton are undoubtedly going to be the Jaguars' tackles of the future, it's going to be interesting to see what Jack Del Rio does about the O-line for the rest of the season - especially if the Jaguars are competing for a playoff spot. I wouldn't be surprised if he opts for more of the players who will help him win immediately, especially if he feels his job might possibly be in jeopardy.

~ ~ ~

Edit: After seeing the Jaguars lose 41-0 yesterday to Seattle, they don't look like much of a playoff team. And Tra Thomas wasn't much better than Eugene Monroe at left tackle during arguably the worst game in franchise history.

~ ~ ~

I don't think I made this very clear in my last post, but one of the most cogent reasons why I don't like opposing unchecked suburban sprawl is that the endless retail expansion doesn't provide much in the way of jobs, especially good-paying ones, and the traffic and the pollution that comes with traffic tends to make the city less livable for people who want better jobs.

~ ~ ~

You probably know how much I despise bureaucracy and legal absolutism, but why do so many new driveways slope straight from the street without a dip (eliminating the curbs)? I'm sure this violates building codes, and if such a driveway is between your house and a storm drain, it'll take days for the water that accumulates after heavy rainstorms to evaporate from the front of your house. Plus, it's a great way for sand and silt to accumulate around your own driveway, and removing that is about as much fun as listening to the Jaguars lose on the radio.

~ ~ ~

I've finally finished reading most of Tom Rich's FBC Watchdog blog from beginning to end, and after reading it for myself and being allowed to come up with my own conclusions about it, I've found that I agree with the vast majority of what he says. Most of the content was well-written and engaging and paints a brilliant indictment of FBC's leadership.

Although, in my new video about this incident, I should've given as much blame to Robert Hinson as Jim Smyrl, although both have engaged in some pretty shady conduct.

~ ~ ~

I'm pretty sure that retailers (the same one I criticized as contributing to suburban sprawl) have finished bringing out all of their thoroughly tacky Halloween merchandise and filled the shelves with low-nutrient foods of every type (unless you count sugar as a nutrient). I really shouldn't have to tell you this, but there have been exactly zero confirmed cases of sickos trying to cut or poison trick-or-treaters by inserting razor blades or household poisons into candy. No one has ever been charged or convicted of passing out tampered or tainted candy, and probably every single one of these stories has been either an outright hoax or a horrible glitch in the manufacturing process. I'm not encouraging people to eat candy that seems to have been tampered with, but you're 1000 times more likely to get sick from eating too much candy, or from eating one of those moth-eaten Snickers bars that ditzy old Grandma Mildred has had since Halloween 2004. Yes, moths do chew through plastic and eat chocolate. They really do.

And I'm not saying there aren't sick people out there, but you're still more likely to be struck by lightning twice in the same day than to be a victim of a random physical or sexual assault. Again, I wouldn't discourage anyone from skipping the house of that weird neighbor who makes them uncomfortable, but you must remember that you put your life on the line every time you step in a car (even Felipe Massa), and going trick-or-treating is a lot less risky than driving.

Perhaps a more rational fear is common petty crime, but the kids who are getting introduced to the joys of gateway drugs (that means you too, cannabis) are out wandering the streets every night, not just October 31.

And feel free to flame me about this, but I am one of those heretics who believe that celebrating Halloween - even dressing up as a witch! - will not turn one into a devil-worshipping weirdo.

The real dangers on Halloween are getting hit by cars (which can be prevented by using common sense and ensuring that all costumes are reflective enough to be seen by motorists, even drunk ones) and throwing up from over-consumption (which is easily prevented through dietary temperance). So if you or someone in your family is going trick-or-treating this Halloween, use common sense and you won't have anything to worry about - unless Katie gets the only Marshmallow Peep Pumpkin this year.

~ ~ ~

That's all I feel like writing for now. Maybe I'll do another post in a month or so. Until next time, that's all folks.

- Vinny

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Yep, VinnyVideo's still blogging. I just haven't posted in a while - other things seem to have taken priority in the past couple of months.

The Jacksonville Jaguars looked like a totally different team in their past two games, beating the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans by high scores in a decisive fashion. With a 2-2 record and a whole bunch of weak teams (that means you, St. Louis Rams) coming up in the schedule, the Jags are, quite seriously (whispering), playoff contenders.

The Jaguars' pass protection was considerably better Sunday in their 37-17 dismantling of the Titans, and it was mostly because they had different starting offensive tackles - veterans Tra Thomas and Mo Williams instead of top-drafted rookies Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. While Monroe and Britton are undoubtedly going to be the Jaguars' tackles of the future, it's going to be interesting to see what Jack Del Rio does about the O-line for the rest of the season - especially if the Jaguars are competing for a playoff spot. I wouldn't be surprised if he opts for more of the players who will help him win immediately, especially if he feels his job might possibly be in jeopardy.

~ ~ ~

Edit: After seeing the Jaguars lose 41-0 yesterday to Seattle, they don't look like much of a playoff team. And Tra Thomas wasn't much better than Eugene Monroe at left tackle during arguably the worst game in franchise history.

~ ~ ~

I don't think I made this very clear in my last post, but one of the most cogent reasons why I don't like opposing unchecked suburban sprawl is that the endless retail expansion doesn't provide much in the way of jobs, especially good-paying ones, and the traffic and the pollution that comes with traffic tends to make the city less livable for people who want better jobs.

~ ~ ~

You probably know how much I despise bureaucracy and legal absolutism, but why do so many new driveways slope straight from the street without a dip (eliminating the curbs)? I'm sure this violates building codes, and if such a driveway is between your house and a storm drain, it'll take days for the water that accumulates after heavy rainstorms to evaporate from the front of your house. Plus, it's a great way for sand and silt to accumulate around your own driveway, and removing that is about as much fun as listening to the Jaguars lose on the radio.

~ ~ ~

I've finally finished reading most of Tom Rich's FBC Watchdog blog from beginning to end, and after reading it for myself and being allowed to come up with my own conclusions about it, I've found that I agree with the vast majority of what he says. Most of the content was well-written and engaging and paints a brilliant indictment of FBC's leadership.

Although, in my new video about this incident, I should've given as much blame to Robert Hinson as Jim Smyrl, although both have engaged in some pretty shady conduct.

~ ~ ~

I'm pretty sure that retailers (the same one I criticized as contributing to suburban sprawl) have finished bringing out all of their thoroughly tacky Halloween merchandise and filled the shelves with low-nutrient foods of every type (unless you count sugar as a nutrient). I really shouldn't have to tell you this, but there have been exactly zero confirmed cases of sickos trying to cut or poison trick-or-treaters by inserting razor blades or household poisons into candy. No one has ever been charged or convicted of passing out tampered or tainted candy, and probably every single one of these stories has been either an outright hoax or a horrible glitch in the manufacturing process. I'm not encouraging people to eat candy that seems to have been tampered with, but you're 1000 times more likely to get sick from eating too much candy, or from eating one of those moth-eaten Snickers bars that ditzy old Grandma Mildred has had since Halloween 2004. Yes, moths do chew through plastic and eat chocolate. They really do.

And I'm not saying there aren't sick people out there, but you're still more likely to be struck by lightning twice in the same day than to be a victim of a random physical or sexual assault. Again, I wouldn't discourage anyone from skipping the house of that weird neighbor who makes them uncomfortable, but you must remember that you put your life on the line every time you step in a car (even Felipe Massa), and going trick-or-treating is a lot less risky than driving.

Perhaps a more rational fear is common petty crime, but the kids who are getting introduced to the joys of gateway drugs (that means you too, cannabis) are out wandering the streets every night, not just October 31.

And feel free to flame me about this, but I am one of those heretics who believe that celebrating Halloween - even dressing up as a witch! - will not turn one into a devil-worshipping weirdo.

The real dangers on Halloween are getting hit by cars (which can be prevented by using common sense and ensuring that all costumes are reflective enough to be seen by motorists, even drunk ones) and throwing up from over-consumption (which is easily prevented through dietary temperance). So if you or someone in your family is going trick-or-treating this Halloween, use common sense and you won't have anything to worry about - unless Katie gets the only Marshmallow Peep Pumpkin this year.

~ ~ ~

That's all I feel like writing for now. Maybe I'll do another post in a month or so. Until next time, that's all folks.

- Vinny

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Last month's blog post actually got two responses. While hardly positive, at least someone responded! This burst of interest was probably because of the title (Sex, Sex, And More Sex), even if it was nowhere near as risqué as it sounds. And this time, I'm throwing in an Erin Andrews reference just because I know nobody's going to find my thoughts on Jacksonville urban planning to be particularly exciting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To be honest, I'm kind of concerned about the direction in which Jacksonville is heading as a city, primarily for three reasons:

1. Poor city planning (or lack thereof)
2. Lack of real character and originality
3. Crime and related social problems

A couple of major urban development meetings have been held in the past year where participants designed their models of a future Jacksonville, using LEGO bricks of various colors to represent different kinds of development and strings to represent major roadways. While different people and different groups designed different things, all came to the conclusion that Jacksonville isn't laid-out very well. There's some density downtown (along with dense traffic) and dense job opportunities, including with the port expansion. However, most of the rest of Jacksonville is just endless suburban sprawl, leading to traffic issues, long commute times, and a high dependence on the automobile to get around. It also makes the city relatively unfriendly to buses and bicycles, and limits future public transportation options. We also built far too much retail and restaurant space earlier in the decade when people thought demand for such services would continue to grow exponentially forever. Well, it didn't, and now we're left with many retail establishments sitting empty and deteriorating. For example, Buddy Freddy's, near where I live, has sat vacant for seven-plus years, and it's all rusted and boarded up. Maybe someone should've fixed it up (or torn it down and built new) instead of putting up another new empty strip mall across the street. Around Regency, too, the list of vacant buildings includes Sound Advice, Toys 'R' Us, and Barnes & Noble, besides smaller places like Miami Subs (vacant for over six years) and Whistle Junction/Ryan's (vacant for about three years).

This brings up a similar problem: A lot of Jacksonville just isn't very interesting. East Arlington is full of endless beige houses (ALWAYS with white trim, of course) that all look exactly alike, all laid out in exactly the same way (refer to my SimCity 3000 Text Dump and search for the section around N. A. Miliutin or lollipops on a stick). When these houses were built, they were fairly large and had nice amenities, but I'm not sure how well they will hold up as time goes by and people find new things (like in Nocatee and other new developments) that are newer and more interesting. This same problem has affected many older Arlington apartment complexes, too. While they were seen as high-end 50 years ago, they sure weren't as they got older and newer and bigger things were developed (and when they started getting HUD subsidizes). Today, those "nice" apartment complexes are often hotbeds of violent crime, drugs, and vice.

Crime and its accompanying social problems (and vice versa) is another issue. Not long ago, Jacksonville was racking up amazing homicide numbers, well over 100 annually. While it hasn't been quite as bad this year, our homicide rate is still several times higher than New York's. While getting more police in bad areas has probably had some positive effect on the crime stats, the underlying social problems are still as bad as ever. I'll try to be as diplomatic as I can about this, but there are some bad areas in Jacksonville. I've seen them. They're not ghettoes, either; they're often right next to where regular people live and work. And these bad areas are full of people who are irresponsible, stupid, and sometimes downright bad. These areas tend to be predominantly (or almost exclusively) black and low-income, but the problems aren't because of race or income level. These students go to the schools with the worst students, and because the most qualified teachers are usually careful to avoid signing on to these schools, they tend to have the least effective teachers. And this group of people is having the most sex, starting at the youngest ages and with the fewest control methods, so they're reproducing more than anyone else, and the very high rates of births out of wedlock isn't going to do anything to help the poverty that affects such areas.

I'm not pretending to have all the answers to life's questions, but these are all the solutions I can come up with for issues I mentioned: I'm all for freedom, but I think the city should make it a bit tougher to build more uncontrolled sprawl and should promote planned development around future sources of job growth (the port expansion, renewable energy, etc.). Things like Nocatee and other pedestrian-friendly communities are also worth encouraging, but these developments must be located near sources of good-paying jobs. And I think having more police patrolling the worst areas might help, and more services for at-risk kids would also help much more than the beloved "lock 'em up and throw away the key" philosophy (unless you're Lawtey, Starke, Waldo, or some other speed-trap/jail town). In the future, the city will have to get draconian on government waste and maybe even increase taxes a bit, but I'm not going there for now.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moving on, I have a hard time understanding why people (mostly male people) find ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews so infinitely sexy. She's certainly nice-looking, but what makes her so much better than any other blonde out there? For that matter, Jill Arrington was a lot better-looking sideline reporter, and there are many reporters (Lesley Visser, Lynn Swann, etc.) who have been more competent. Erin Andrews, in my opinion, isn't particularly knowledgeable about any of the sports she covers, and she usually sounds like she's mad at everyone. And she's getting too old to wear those tacky outfits from the juniors department. Also, if some sicko was going to film me nude, I'd sure rather be doing something other than staring at how beautiful my hair was.

Of course, Suzy Kolber, with her dangerous turtleneck/jacket combos (and hitting the mandatory retirement age for sideline reporting), was amorous enough to make Joe Namath fall for her ("I love you! I want to kiss you!"), at least with the aid of the right booze.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On an even more unrelated note, I've seen a few people (mostly male people) lately with disturbing hairstyles (mohawks). When I watched the World Cup 2006 games from Germany, I noticed about 15% of the kids who escort the players out to the field (whose usefulness may be disputed) had gone with at least moderate mohawks. It's my fear that this could be a new fashion trend.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jacksonville Jaguars preseason is underway, and they lost last night to Miami in their first preseason game. The rainy weather near the end didn't help their play, and neither did playing on a muddy baseball field, but I wasn't too impressed by all the turnovers and penalties and other sloppiness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Regardless, that's all I have to write for this month. If all goes well, I'll have another post by mid-to-late September. If you'd like to comment on anything that appears in this blog, please do so! And if you'd like to contact me privately, try shooting an e-mail off to VHamilton002@gmail.com. Replies may be slow, but I will send a reply to anything that's legit.

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My blog-writing career hasn't been around too long yet, with this being my second full post, so a racy title seems like just the ticket to attracting a wider audience. After all, I've found that throwing around the word "sex" has a tendency to boost interest and response on blogs and message boards. And similarly, the mere mention of this amorous word tends to wake people up in irrelevant lectures, pointless board meetings, and sermons for groups of old people. If you wish to read explicit discussion of sexual matters, however, you will have to look elsewhere, as this post only deals with the issues like gender equity and morality - and the latest edition of Skirt! magazine.

Recently, the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA), the governing body for Florida high school sports, announced that the schedules of high school sports other than football and cheerleading would be significantly shortened for the next two years. Because this would disproportionately affect girls' sports, a prominent local Olympian of the past got mad and got six female athletes and their parents to sue the FHSAA. I don't think this lawsuit has much merit. I'm all for equality, but this policy only shortens schedules instead of eliminating sports altogether. For most high schools (and even many NCAA universities), football is the only sport where gate receipts exceed expenses like coaches and uniforms, and these "profits" are used to help finance other sports, which lose money. By fighting the FHSAA's policies, girls' sports will only be hurt, not helped. Although I must say that three girls in the state doesn't make football a "coed" sport.

If you ask for it, you'll get it. The Florida Times-Union, my local newspaper, has begun merging its Skirt! magazine (formerly delivered to newsstands all over town) with the Monday Lifestyle section. We've been invited to talk about Skirt! on our blogs and on Facebook and Twitter - and that's what I'm about to do! While Skirt! occasionally includes an interesting commentary from a community leader or an occasional witty story, it's mostly just a big piece of fluff (in all probability, pink fluff), not unlike most of the newspaper's content in general nowadays. In contrast to Tonyaa Weathersbee's columns, which denounce everything as racism, in Skirt!, every world event is viewed through the rose-colored glasses of sexism. Now that I think about it, I'm probably the only person in Jacksonville who mentioned Skirt! in his (or more likely, her) blog, and they were probably hoping I'd say that it was something other than pink fluff.

As you may know, I'm very disillusioned with the agendas of both the far right and the far left. I don't usually even bother reading the letters to the editor in the Florida Times-Union any more, but recently they were debating over what conservatives should believe. Among other things (including some apparently contradictory ones like keeping government out of citizens' lives and winning the war on terrorism), someone mentioned family values. I think it's kind of ironic that a lot of the same people who get riled on abortion and homosexuality (not that I'm advocating that) have what would have, until recently, been considered extremely progressive ideas on no-fault divorce. That was one of the biggest attractions of Soviet communism for Americans on the liberal fringe in the 1950's, in fact; in Russia, divorces could be finalized almost immediately. I know a Sunday school teacher who recently dumped his wife of 30 years and wanted it all finished within 30 days (some details have been changed to protect the innocent).

My last two paragraphs were spent bashing the left and the right, respectively, mostly in connection with things printed in the Florida Times-Union. Other than the lack of serious content, the most irritating thing about the 2009 Times-Union is lack of balance. The letters to the editor, editorials, and the ever-edifying "Rants and Raves" almost always serve as a punching bag for the rightmost fringe. In contrast, most of the writers (incidentally, this is particularly pronounced in Skirt!) are extremely liberal.

And by "lack of serious content," I refer to the Rants and Raves (75% of which are written by fools, and about 20% by total idiots). The sports R&Rs are especially dimwitted. And A.M. Stir, where we're always learning about the hottest viral video or whatever Diana Middleton saw on MySpace last week. And, of course, 2 Cents, the dank dungeon of bad sports commentary.

That said, sports columnist Robert McGinty did make a good point in 2 Cents a couple of weeks ago. I'm tired of those stupid Flomax commercials with all the fat old men playing golf and always having to "go." And I'd like to see older, married men occasionally portrayed in a positive light in the media; that means you, Kevin James. It would also be nice to see TV shows and movies that portray marriage as being more fun than promiscuity and perversion. And on an unrelated note, I'd also vote for legislation banning TV advertisements for ED drugs like *bleep*. I'm all for free speech, but TV ads (especially on network TV) are just trying to sell you stuff, not free speech. These ads have inspired many an uncomfortable conversation, and besides, I'd pay $20 to any American male between the ages of 12 and 90 who would actually ask his doctor if he's "healthy enough for sexual activity." Big Drug has its suave lobbyists and its friends in high places, though, so don't expect the VinnyVideo Act to pass anytime soon.

A recent survey estimates that 100% of people using online dating sites prefer people who are fun, sophisticated, romantic, and good-looking over those who merely pretend to be. The Florida Times-Union (and most other newspapers) have been hurt by Internet news sources and by classified-ads sites like Craigslist. In response, they have tried to take on the appearance and format of Internet news, becoming fluffier along the way. The problem is that a newspaper can't be a Web site, and for that matter, a Web site can't be a newspaper.

Secretly, VinnyVideo believes that all distinctions between sexes should be abolished (along with age and race, though not religion and culture). This is the hidden agenda that has influenced all of the Mario-style video games he produces. Really.

It appears that my latest post is winding down. I probably wasted a little too much of my time (and the world's Internet bandwidth) complaining about the plight of the newspaper industry, but at least I was able to tie everything in somewhat to my aforementioned theme. What's great about writing a blog is that calling yourself a "blogger" automatically makes you seem like a real journalist now, even if all you write is a rehash of someone else's commentary along with a few random personal anecdotes. Fun! There's no telling when I'll post next, but based on recent patterns, sometime in August seems like a good bet. Urban planning, a highly sexy, provocative topic, will be on the agenda. And I still don't like Mac Brunson.

If you'd like to post a comment on this blog, please do so! Even if it just says "vinnievidyo is a f00l" or something, it would make me feel a bit better just knowing that someone's reading this blog. And if you'd like to contact me privately, send an e-mail to VHamilton002@gmail.com. That's zero-zero-two, of course, and please remember that I don't get on very often to check my mail.

And... "Go Cubs Go." I don't care if you think otherwise.

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I really can't believe I'm writing a blog about this, but I am. This blog focuses on events and issues in the city of Jacksonville (Florida, of course), especially in the Arlington area, while occasionally rambling on to social and political issues, health and nutrition, Major League Baseball (probably about the Chicago Cubs), video games, YouTube, kazoo playing, Winston Churchill, opera, or whatever I'm in the mood to talk about.

The current author, who goes by the name VinnyVideo on assorted Web sites, is believed to be between 10 and 35 years of age and is most well-known on the Internet for the dozens of video game strategy guides he has written; so many, in fact, that he is ranked in the Top 20 in the world in writing complete video game FAQs. VinnyVideo has uploaded several videos to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.com, none of which have attracted much interest. He is also an amateur programmer who has produced two Mario-style fan games, Marioy 2 and Darunia-Saria 2008, with a third (Aventura de Luigi) on the way. Both released games are available at MFGG.net. Little is known about VinnyVideo's real-life interests, as he tends to prefer to keep the real world separate from the Internet world. VinnyVideo maintains another blog on GameSpot.com that is also rarely updated and talks about news and commentary relating to video games and his FAQ-writing. The blog that you are about to read, however, contains little or no discussion on video games and focuses on Jacksonville stuff.


This is old news by now (I haven't had much of a chance to replace the "test pattern" with something a little more meaningful), but I'm not really wowed by the Jacksonville Jaguars' new uniforms. They're not bad, but they're not great either. I understand why they might have felt the need to establish more of a solid identity, especially for a small-market team, and using five different uniform designs every year can muddle that identity. I hope the new fabrics will eliminate the "soaked" look we saw in so many preseason games, caused by the moist mixture of sweat and wet grass. I'm really tired of the tapered stripes (the preferred look of 99% of college football teams in second-tier conferences, as well as an increasing number of NFL and high school teams), although at least these don't resemble anyone else's tapered stripes.

As for the Jaguars' draft, I have mixed feelings. Offensive linemen are the safest picks for a high draft pick; the vast majority of linemen picked early in the first round have been Pro Bowl-caliber players (Robert Gallery being one of the few recent exceptions). And the Jaguars certainly had a need for a lineman. But I question spending both a first- and second-round pick on offensive tackles, considering how much the Jaguars spent on Tra Thomas and Tony Pashos and remembering that capable players like reliable Mo Williams and emerging Uche Nwaneri may end up on the bench.

I agree with many of the Jaguars' recent personnel cuts. I'm not going to miss Reggie "Dance After a Five-Yard Gain" Williams or Matt "Drops" Jones (alternatively nicknamed "Stupid") in the shoddy receiving corps, or Khalif "Sacked" Barnes at left tackle. However, Mike "Insubordinate" Peterson was the Jaguars' leading tackler in 2008 in limited duty, even if Jack Del Rio wasn't going to tolerate any more of this doghouse-dweller. Not bringing back Fred "Old, No Longer Fragile" Taylor, the longest-tenured Jaguar was a disappointment, although they treated him with a little more respect than they did Mark Brunell when they got rid of him. I bet he'll have a great year with the Patriots. And I also don't know why they had to cut Paul Spicer, who was a leader type on a team that has very few leader types.


I don't normally enjoy seeing people's homes get torn down, but the demolition of the Justina Road apartment complex is going to be a very positive thing for Arlington residents and businesses and probably for the apartment's residents themselves. In a former era, these apartments were pretty nice. But today, the apartments are in horrible shape (a front-page photo in The Florida Times-Union showed someone who had graffiti all over the inside of his own home) and are a hotbed for crime (the manager ran a drug ring). I'm afraid to go near them. Perhaps some of the people living there will be able to move on to a more positive environment, away from old "friends" and hangouts.


That was a really wet week - and on Monday and Tuesday, a record for lowest high for those days. I got about a foot and a half of rain here, which is about one-third of Jacksonville's average annual rainfall. Regardless, this is a rather short paragraph. I should be able to do better than this.


The recent First Baptist Church scandal, where pastor Mac Brunson used his bodyguard to track down the identity of a blogger critical of him, is, in my mind, the most disgusting and disgraceful incident to occur in Jacksonville in my lifetime - probably, since the civil rights era. While other stories, from The Cop with a Badge to The Buried Alive Murders to The Xbox Killings to the teenager who stabbed his younger female neighbor 30 times and slid her body under his waterbed, may be more gruesome, I hold preachers to a higher standard than people who are on drugs and/or clinically insane. A few thoughts on the incident:
* I saw the blog back in January before the scandal broke. It was prickly but less mean-spirited in tone than most message board forums. While anonymous criticism isn't the best way to deal with most problems like this, in this case it probably was.
* The FBC Watchdog blog is dead-on about many key points. First, hiring your wife to a position that is essentially directly under you is not a recommended practice, and in many organizations is a direct violation of established policies. Second, I can think of no worse time to begin a private school, considering that this is the worst economic slump since the Depression and that there are probably too many schools (especially private schools) anyway. Even with the high tuition, some church money is probably going to be used to get the school up and running, and these funds could be better spent in other ways. And lastly, $300,000 is a LOT of money to pay a preacher. I don't care if that's less than what a lot of "megachurch" pastors get paid; $300,000 is a lot of money, especially in Jacksonville, where the cost of living is still much lower than most large cities. Also, a church could theoretically lose its status as a nonprofit organization by paying its leader an unreasonable salary. One could also question whether a preacher needs a security staff and a royal army of servants.
* I'm disappointed in Google for cooperating with an investigation that was so clearly unlawful and unconstitutional in so many ways - not that different from that terrorism investigation a few years back, in fact. Regardless, this story further demonstrates the need for legislation that protects people's privacy from the government, in addition to the scammers, spammers, and stalkers.
* One of the favorite words of 21st-century evangelical leaders is "witnessing." Well, purging members of your church from the membership rolls (as close as Protestants can get to excommunication) and threatening to arrest them if they ever come back is most definitely witnessing, too, and it's the complete opposite of going to Africa to hand out bread and scriptures to hungry orphans.
* Blame should also go to the deacons and the various boards of First Baptist for not issuing any kind of reprimand or apology for Mac "Handcuff the Heretics" Brunson letting down his church, his faith, and his city. I would seriously question the character, if not the faith, of a pastor who called a member a "sociopath" and "nut" for making valid criticism about him. I think the members and leaders of FBC should strongly consider suspending, if not dismissing, all people involved in this travesty.
* When I write a video game strategy guide, I usually include a short dedication on the final line, usually to a family member or friend. Macky would be horrified to know that Thomas Rich was the recipient of the dedication for last month's Super RBI Baseball guide. Mac Brunson should be thankful that I've already released my fangame Darunia-Saria 2008, where the player briefly ventures into an allegorical, hypocritical church in the Moral Values level (perhaps the most daring level in my most daring fan game). One of the screens shows a fake satirical pastor message that changes every time you enter the level, and it might now need to say something like "Stop Writing Your Sociopath Blog, You Nut." (There is a rumor that a D-S 2009 with new characters and music has been finished, but I won't let anyone see it.)

For purposes of full disclosure, the author is a Southern Baptist who once went over two years (three if you throw out the 2004 hurricanes) without missing a Sunday morning service. I've only been to FBC once (right before Dr. Jerry Vines left), though. Ironically, one of my ancestors was a pastor who crusaded against what he felt was the evil of paid preachin'. That might be a little extreme, but I just felt compelled to remind you of that. I could write even more about this, but I've chosen not to.


I doubt anyone will remember (or care), but May 22, 2009 was the tenth anniversary of the grand re-opening of the Regency Square branch of Jacksonville Public Libraries. I remember going to this momentous occasion, where people were literally jam-packed enough to surely cause a violation of local fire code (someone was even wearing a FIRESTORM 1998 T-shirt, ironically). While I was delighted that the library was back in business after a 20-month hiatus and massive delays, I was horrified to see what the architects had done to the place. Gone were the defining brick floors in the checkout area, the massive terrariums, the walk-in train in the kids' area, the pencil and pen dispenser, and worst of all, the revolving entrance door! I know they made the building a little bigger, adding computers with Internet access (and Netscape browsers!) and a meeting area, but the new building was a sterile, lifeless replacement for one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the Arlington area (a community that has a definite lack of buildings with architectural distinction). I'm not going to get into the service (which markedly declined in the next few years) and the books (they stopped getting in many new books for several years). Perhaps part of the problem was me growing up too much in those two pivotal years, but I must say I didn't check out as many books there after the re-opening as I did at the Southside and Beaches branches. I guess I'm just engaging in useless griping, but I still haven't gotten over it.


If you'd like to comment on anything in this blog, please post a comment! Just use some degree of civility (you can check the Neoseeker Terms of Use if you want), or you could get moderated or make the author decide to disable public posting. But please write in if you enjoyed this blog or hated it or found something interesting or if you have your own opinion, even if it's something related that isn't discussed in this post. And if you'd like to contact me personally, write to VHamilton002@gmail.com (again, please use decent grammar and try not to be too mean or I might not reply).

By the way, I should give the Neoseeker administrators some credit here, considering they were nice enough to host this blog and all the video game guides I've written. They even let me start a blog even though I haven't made the required 50 message-board posts, since I've written so many guides and obviously aren't going to be posting porn or anything else inappropriate. If you want to know something about a video game or computer hardware, Neoseeker is a great place to go.


Stay tuned for the next post, which should occur in June or whenever the author feels like it. The sarcastic nicknames may or may not return.

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***THIS IS A TEST***

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