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A dozen things that happened in April that would've been called SO FLORIDA had they happened in Florida

I did it for January, and I did it for February, and I did it for March, and so now I'll do it for April, too, okay?

1. A jury convicted a woman of fatally stabbing her boyfriend with her high heel.

2. A crocodile was captured outside a strip mall.

3. A boy who had gone missing was found inside a skill claw machine.

4. Somebody is pooping on slides at playgrounds.

5. Giant flightless South American birds that look like ostriches and can run fast and are hard to catch got loose.

6. A man was arrested after wielding a samurai sword at a pizza parlor.

7. A father strangled his son over too much time spent playing video games.

8. A woman getting booked into jail had hidden her gun in her vagina.

9. A man got on Craigslist saying he wanted to have sex with a horse.

10. People found 25 killed cats in bags hanging from trees in a suburb.

11. A guy out for a drive stumbled onto a 10-foot python in a forest by the road.

12. Somebody dumped a dead black bear on a bench on a college campus. "Things happen," a student said.

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So I asked Ben Montgomery if Florida is in the South and he responded by drawing ... this

What's the meaning of the pickle?


What's the meaning of the pickle?

Is Florida in the South? Is it? It's a good question. It's a forever question. Because there are a bunch of answers -- here's one -- and all those answers do is lead to more questions. And I'm pleased now to be able to throw into the mix this map for which I can't quite come up with an adjective.

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What Florida's preeminent culture writer has to say about whether or not the Sunshine State is in the South

You saw the post from earlier today? Now here's Jeff Klinkenberg:

Yes, Florida is in the South, but some places in Florida are more South than others. I can find the South in the Keys, in Miami and many parts of the Everglades. Okeechobee region is pretty much all South and then up the spine of the state. Then of course I very much feel the south in North Florida and the Panhandle. True Floridians, like many Southerners, have a true sense of place. Things that make Florida Florida, and the South, include climate, critters, geography, food, water, art, music and a way of doing things. That might mean hiking, fishing, hunting, looking at birds, eating oysters. Many Northerners who move here never see what's directly in front of them. They usually don't know what they don't know. There's a cultural ethnocentrism at play. Christ, some people are afraid to drive off the Interstate. When they pass away, they are not buried here. Their remains are flown back to New York, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania for burial. They never considered themselves Floridians or Southerners. Some place else was home.

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... the story of a place in a particular moment of time ...

Florida's largest city in 1884.

Florida's largest city in 1884.

Know what's super cool? These are super cool.

Florida Verve via the Times' Craig Pittman: The panoramic map, or bird's-eye view, was one of the most popular forms of cartography in the United States during the late nineteenth century. Panoramas adorned the walls of homes, and politicians used the maps to promote the prosperity of their respective cities.

Interesting, too, considering the last post, these words of Michael Gannon: As the change of centuries drew near, Floridians took understandable pride in the growth and development that had taken place. It was clear that Florida's economic position was different from that of her sister states from the old Confederacy. Though once an emerging cotton state, after the war Florida had moved away from cotton, and her population, predominantly southern in origin, became engaged in different activities: timber, cattle, citrus, winter vegetables, and tourism.

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Is Florida in the South?

Mike Wilson's FiveThirtyEight is trying to figure it out. The Washington Post riffed on it too. The answer, of course, is yes, and also no. I once used McDonald's sweet tea as a way to address this ongoing state-specific conundrum. And former Times staffer and current Sports Illustrated writer Thomas Lake? He took a drive when he worked in Jacksonville:

The biscuits shine with shortening at Pouncey's Restaurant. The iced tea could be candy.

The quail wallows in buttermilk and turns golden in hot fat. You're at the crook of the Panhandle, 35 miles southeast of Tallahassee.

They call this town Perry, the Tree Capital of the South. You will soon leave the South if you stay southbound on U.S. 19. You have been warned. Don Lincoln, publisher of the Perry News-Herald, tells you the frontier lies just 67 miles away. "Once you leave Chiefland heading south," he says, "you are heading into enemy territory."

He means Yankees. Sherman is dead, but they've come nonetheless. Now they want sunshine. Transplants outnumber natives in Florida more than 2-to-1 (in Jacksonville it's about even), and the bulk of them come from the North. …

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Killing people is wrong, except when killing people is right, which is the argument for capital punishment

We were just talking about this. Anyway, everybody knows what happened yesterday in Oklahoma (better yet), but remember when it happened in Florida? The Times' Chris Tisch and Curtis Krueger back in 2006:

STARKE — A death row inmate who had argued that Florida's execution procedures were cruel hung on for much longer than usual after his lethal injection Wednesday evening, once again calling into question the way the state kills condemned prisoners.

Angel Diaz winced, his body shuddered and he remained alive for 34 minutes, nearly three times as long as the last two executions.

Department of Corrections officials said they had to take the rare step of giving Diaz a second dose of drugs to kill him.

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Being in Tallahassee. Making some laws.


Being in Tallahassee. Making some laws.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Let's start with this paragraph: Gov. Jeb Bush initiated an effort to save Florida's springs in 2000, convening a panel of experts to recommend what should be done. The Legislature passed only one of its recommendations, then repealed it shortly thereafter. Scott's administration dismantled the initiative in 2011. Click.

Let's continue with this paragraph: When U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson married his wife, she was already wedded to another man, according to a new court filing by the congressman's lawyers, seeking an annulment on the basis of bigamy. Click.

And then this quote: "I think our time is coming, but let's face it, how many restaurants deserve a nod in Tampa?" says Ferrell Alvarez, chef-owner of the dynamic new Rooster and the Till in Tampa's Seminole Heights. "Maybe two or three. Orlando and Miami have more. It's a matter of Tampa catching up with the rest of the U.S." Click. …

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Some of what hockey legend and Tampa Bay Lightning co-founder Phil Esposito said in the May Florida Trend

Phil Esposito.


Phil Esposito.

Seven things I underlined in his "Icon" interview in the new issue of the magazine:

1. I loved playing hockey. It was orgasmic.

2. I admit it. Nothing came before hockey -- not my wife, not my kids, not my mom and dad. If it's wrong, it's wrong. I don't regret it. It's the way I am.

3. Everybody thought I was nuts trying to bring hockey to Florida. But to me, Florida is paradise, and why wouldn't you want to be in paradise? People told me it's football country. They love football. They love wrestling. They love boxing. They love car crashes. Well, we got all of that in hockey!

4. My daughter was tops, no doubt about it. It's coming up on three years from when she died. How do I deal with it? You just do. Was I the best father? Probably not. Could I have been better? Absolutely. We can all say that. I had to live my life, and she had to live hers. That's how I deal with it. …

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Do take a moment to read what Ben Montgomery wrote about the Chicken Train to Crazy Town

Tomorrow's paper tonight!

Janet Feldman did not need four dozen rotisserie chickens. Who among us does?

But the 57-year-old Davie woman who makes outfits for strippers is not someone who minds her own business when she discovers a wrong. If society's moral fabric is twisted, she irons it smooth.

"When I see a wrong," she says, "I right the wrong."

The day she took all the chickens, she was trying to prove a point. Trying to look out for the little guy. She was on a mission.

So from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. on a workday not long ago, she drove from Publix to Publix in South Florida — 11 stores in all — and walked out with a total of 47 free delicious spit-roasted chickens.

"If my mother was alive . . . dear God," she said. "This is not what she wanted for me."

Maybe we should fly back a little.

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

The headline of the day? House okays letting teachers have guns. "This is the sixth gun-related bill that we've done this session," said Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat. "Meanwhile, background checks have not been discussed. It's no wonder Florida has the nickname the Gunshine State."

Florida's awful high school graduation rate used to be even worse.

One of the most-read stories right now on is essentially a brief about that Trader Joe's opening in Tampa more than a month ago. Why?

A woman in Gainesville used her car to ram her husband's tractor and a guy in Sarasota threw a bucket of pee on a code inspector. But remember. Remember! "... strange things and heinous crimes can happen anywhere."

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The death of the death penalty almost everywhere — but not in Florida!

Saw this the other day from the Economist. If you'll recall, what do Florida, North Korea and Iran have in common? Here's something to read from the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida:

... we should all insist that the possibility of horrible and irreversible error in Florida’s implementation of the death penalty is minimized.

That is the point of legislation pending in both Florida’s House and Senate — SB 334 by Sen. Thad Altman R-Melbourne, and HB 467 Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, both entitled “Sentencing in Capital Felonies.” Sadly, it does not appear that either chamber is willing to take up this issue.

The proposed legislation, which is also supported by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Civil Liberties Union, would require that death sentences be recommended by a unanimous jury — just as a unanimous jury is required for a guilty verdict.

Of those states that use the death penalty, Florida and Delaware are the only states in which a simple majority (for example, a 7-5 vote) can recommend death. …

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The question of Charlie Crist in Peter Golenbock's forthcoming Jim Greer book

The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.


The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

John Romano in his column today:

Golenbock — who said the book will be released on June 20 and not on June 1, as Amazon said — described it as a look at the inner workings of a political party. When asked about the portrayal of Crist, he paused for several seconds.

"There are some aspects of the book that treat him kindly,'' Golenbock said. "There are other aspects that detail when he didn't do the right thing.''

Does the book have the potential to damage Crist's run for governor? Crist's camp seemed so dismissive of Greer's claims that it didn't even entertain the question.

My guess is the book will be a minor headache for Crist. There will be unflattering stories and maybe a shady insinuation. But, at this point, it's hard to imagine any earth-shaking revelations. Especially when everyone else will be rushing forward to suggest that we consider the source.

Greer had his chance last year to place his hand on a Bible and tell the truth in a courtroom. He had a chance to defend himself and point a finger at his enemies. …

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7 things I underlined in the most discouraging column I read in this morning's paper

Did you read it?

1. Among 334 larger counties in the nation, Pinellas County registered the biggest annual decline in weekly wages — down 4.3 percent to $802 — from September 2012 to September 2013.

2. Among larger metropolitan areas nationwide, Tampa Bay ranks among the 10 with the lowest average increase in wages and salaries from 2009 to 2012. In 2009, Tampa Bay wages averaged $40,590. By 2012, they averaged $42,230, an increase of just $1,640, say BLS data.

3. The number of workers making less than $13 an hour now exceeds prerecession levels by almost 1.9 million.

4. More jobs is a good thing, right? Sure, but there are nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession.

5. ... higher-wage jobs constituted 41 percent of recession losses, but only 30 percent of the recovery.

6. Lower-wage work is concentrated in administrative and support services, food services, retail and tourism — our specialty — which pay median wages below $13 an hour.

7. Is it really getting better?

This, too, ran in today's Times: In essence, the poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones.

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Saturday night's Bollywood Oscars opening act in Tampa.

PETER W. CROSS | Special to the Times

Saturday night's Bollywood Oscars opening act in Tampa.

Good morning. It's Monday, April 28, 2014, which means it's ... almost May.

This weekend's Bollywood Oscars were the latest in a long, long line, of course, of Tampa trying to tell "its story" -- through Super Bowls, national political conventions and international awards shows.

"It's about more than just the party. It's about creating an identity for the city that we haven't ever had before. We've been somewhat of a faceless, nameless place in the eyes of the world. Everyone knows where Miami is. Everyone knows the mouse in Orlando. But not many people know about Tampa. This is our chance to expose Tampa to a whole subcontinent that's never seen it before," mayor Bob Buckhorn said in yesterday's paper.

"It tells the world who we are," Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said in today's paper.

The phrase of the day: vindaloo vaudeville.

This, meanwhile, from the Times' Bob Trigaux, was a dispiriting reminder: Florida spends roughly half per public school student compared to New York or Connecticut and Florida teachers remain among the poorest paid in the nation. Also this. This too. …

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I can't wait to read the Jim Greer tell-all

It's by St. Pete's Peter Golenbock and it says here it's coming out June 1, "a Shakespearean tale of friendship and betrayal to rival Hamlet ... the harrowing story of Jim Greer, a man loyal to a fault to Florida governor Charlie Crist, his benefactor." Greer's version of his life, the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell says, has him as a victim. Back in October 2010 I wrote about what we didn't know before Greer's ascent.

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