Clear78° WeatherClear78° Weather

13 things that happened in June 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 I did it for April, and I did it for May, and so now I'll do it for June, too, okay?

1. A Republican Congressional candidate changed his name to Cesar Chavez and also became a Democrat to try to appeal to Latino voters.

2. A man tried to get out of his deckchair and found his testicles had become stuck between two slats of wood.

3. A nest of snakes was discovered in a sewer pipe when a contractor set up a video camera.

4. A steer got loose in city streets before cops killed it.

5. A couple cleaning an apartment found a python under a couch cushion.

6. A boy found in an abandoned house a mummified corpse hanging by the neck from a belt in a closet.

7. An angry beaver attacked a man getting a kayak lesson. "This beaver was upset about something," the trainer said.

8. A mother was arrested after she had six kids ride on the hood and trunk of her Chevy Malibu because their clothes were wet from a pool and four of them ended up in the hospital when she took a corner too fast.

9. A burglar was caught because he logged onto Facebook in the house he broke into but forgot to log off. …

Full Story

People who live in Florida should know what happened 50 years ago in St. Augustine

I was just thinking out loud on Twitter about how newspapers should do history more often — and along comes Craig Pittman with the must read of yesterday's Times:

No city in Florida embraces its past with as much ardor as St. Augustine. As the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, history is its main industry. Hordes of tourists and busloads of schoolkids troop through its streets to watch the (pretend) guards patrolling Fort Matanzas, to fire the (fake) cannon at the Pirate & Treasure Museum, to sip from the (phony) Fountain of Youth.

But there is a part of St. Augustine's history that its residents have only recently begun to come to grips with — a painfully real, painfully violent episode from which the city has yet to fully recover, although the nation continues to reap its benefits. …

Full Story

The letter to the editor of the day comes from Denise Goodner-Robbins of Seminole

In lieu of Sunshine — it feels a little late for that, and it's been a busy, disjointed day — I'd just like to highlight my favorite part of what she wrote:

Frankly, if your child reaches eighth grade and has to ask you what masturbation means, then shame on you — you are failing your child.

Full Story

Sunshine

I seriously should be working. But I can't help it.

1. Doesn't get much more important than this: The same samples of bodily fluids that helped put Paul Hildwin on death row for a 1985 murder in Hernando County persuaded the Florida Supreme Court to overturn his conviction and death sentence on Thursday.

Prosecutors in his original trial relied heavily on now-outdated scientific evidence that claimed to show semen and sweat found at the crime scene likely came from Hildwin, the court's ruling said.

Modern DNA testing not only disproved this, but demonstrated the samples belonged to William Haverty, the boyfriend of the victim, 42-year-old Vronzettie Cox.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a significant pillar of the State's case, as presented to the jury, has collapsed and that this same evidence actually supports the defense," the court said in a 5-2 majority ruling.

"We vacate Hildwin's conviction for first-degree murder, vacate his death sentence, and remand for a new trial."

2. Here's the New York Times on the Hildwin news.

3. Florida Memorial University is now home to the Trayvon Martin Foundation. …

Full Story

Dan Ruth went full curmudgeon on the Twitter treasure hunts in St. Pete ... and I kind of agree with him

Remember this story from earlier this month? Here's the column in this morning's paper:

Far, far, far be it from me to get all curmudgeonly about this, but the recent spate of mystery fairies hiding various sums of money all over St. Petersburg was — how to put this as gently as possible — a supremely stupid idea.

Too nuanced?

Furtive benefactors hiding envelopes of cash around cities and then posting Twitter feed clues about where to find the moola has been all the rage in recent months. Think of this as sort of a poor man's 21st century version of the old 1950s television show The Millionaire, in which tycoon John Beresford Tipton secretly wrote seven-figure checks to unsuspecting recipients.

The Internet largess made its way to our fair shores, where people logging on to locally based Twitter accounts were sent around to find the lucre, including $10 and $100 bills.

This could be the start of a new reality series — The Hundred Dollaraire.

The two Twitter accounts eventually reached 2,000 followers, or lemmings, or perhaps dupes looking hither and yon for the secret stashes of cash.

How nice. Read it all.

Full Story

Sunshine

Quick this morning because I'm in the thick of some work.

1. Florida is still the nation's leader in "zombie foreclosures," and Tampa Bay is the fourth most zombified metro area, Drew Harwell reports.

2. Better: Says here St. Pete's "downtown is emerging as one of the nation's special urban centers ..."

3. Already one of the largest celebrations of gay pride in the United States, St. Pete Pride is getting even bigger in a year of firsts. The biggest change is the first night parade on Saturday, with the St. Petersburg mayor in attendance for the first time. Pride also expands to four days, with a kickoff party Thursday and a concert on Friday by Mary Lambert, the Seattle singer-songwriter whose work on the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gay rights anthem Same Love soared to the top of the charts worldwide. It ends with a festival on Sunday.

4. Florida's population continued to get older last year from a combination of natural aging and new residents, and the state had the highest rate of residents older than 65 years old, according to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

5. Headline of the morning? Opa-locka man gets prison for taking lobster traps. …

Full Story

Congrats to the Times' Ivan Penn

He won a Gerald Loeb award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the beat reporting category for stories on the proposed Levy County nuclear complex and the broken Crystal River nuclear plant. That's a big deal. "This is among journalism's highest honors, but the real gratification is knowing that Ivan's relentless reporting brought an issue of great importance to the attention of the citizens of Tampa Bay," said Times editor Neil Brown. "That's the mission of the Tampa Bay Times, and we appreciate the recognition of that."

Full Story

I read the Risky Business climate change report so you wouldn't have to

Some stuff I underlined in the latest directive to stop arguing like idiots and to do something:

1. The U.S. faces significant and diverse economic risks from climate change. The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity.

2. ... each region of the country has a different risk profile and a different ability to manage that risk. ... We must take a regional approach to fully understand our climate risk.

3. ... sea level rise could seriously threaten the Southeast's coastal infrastructure, given that some of the regions major cities (e.g., New Orleans) are at or below sea level while others (e.g., Miami) are built on porous limestone that allows water inundation even in the presence of a sea wall. …

Full Story

Sunshine

Morning. Your seven (and then some):

1. The mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg agree: Cooperation is the only sensible future for their cities. "The days of us fighting over bridges and artificial lines are over," Tampa's Bob Buckhorn told a crowd of several dozen people Tuesday. "We're competing against San Diego, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and Nashville. Not each other." This should be true.

2. The whole Florida consumer confidence thing is a monthly puzzler. Consumer confidence? Are the people being talked to just not paying attention? This latest spike is especially baffling. My theory: I think every few months people just get tired of being dour and lie. …

Full Story

The thing about modern Floridians and their relationship with heat and humidity

Here's Jason Feifer in the new Popular Mechanics (if the piece is available in digital bits for free, I couldn't find a link):

I noticed it the first time I entered her apartment: no air conditioner. How could that be? "I just open the windows to let in the breeze," she said, as if it were obvious. As if we lived in some prehistoric time. That was grounds for dumping her right there. I needed a woman who took control of her environment, who did not gamble with comfort. But it was February, and I was being presumptuous to think we'd last until June anyway.

Friends are confused by how poorly I tolerate the summer air. "Aren't you from Florida?" they ask. Yes. That's the point. Living in Florida means enduring small bursts of heat as we scamper between cooled boxes. I never had to acclimate to 90 degrees. Nobody should have to. ...

Air conditioning is our savior -- but also a giant energy hog. An unfortunate conundrum.

Full Story

Illuminating the remnants of one of North America's largest and earliest examples of urban planning ... in Miami

People look to Florida for their freak fill. They miss so much. The most interesting thing about Florida is the juxtapositions. Here's the AP's Jennifer Kay:

The remnants of a prehistoric Native American village glowed faintly in the twilight Monday evening, history almost lost in the glare of downtown high-rises and the gleam of South Beach across the bay.

Archaeologist Bob Carr led a handful of students in placing 400 glow sticks in the postholes that form one of roughly 10 circular features in a vacant lot spanning half a city block destined to become a hotel and entertainment complex.

Full Story

Completing tasks to show that you're completing tasks

So clear it's almost real.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

So clear it's almost real.

Six things I underlined in Lisa Gartner's story this morning:

1. Technology magnets.

2. QR codes.

3. ... the building's wireless was down.

4. "Flipped classroom."

5. "Blended learning."

6. "Teach your students to be patient, just like you have to be, right?"

Full Story

How did a San Francisco ad agency wind up producing an interactive installation for the Dalí Museum in St. Pete?

Stuart Elliott in today's New York Times:

An agency known for its creativity has developed an interactive installation for an exhibition at a museum that is devoted to an artist known for his creativity.

The installation is the brainchild of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the San Francisco agency that works for marketers like Adobe, the California Milk Processor Board ("Got milk?"), Frito-Lay, Häagen-Dazs and the National Basketball Association. The artist is the famed surrealist Salvador Dalí, and the museum is the Dalí Museum located in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The exhibition, called Marvels of Illusion, began at the Dalí Museum last week and is scheduled to run through Oct. 12. The exhibition, which explores the artist's fascination with double imagery and optical illusions, features a painting from 1976 that is part of the museum's permanent collection and goes by the lengthy title of "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)." …

Full Story

Sunshine

It's Tuesday. Ready set go.

1. Bob Trigaux in this morning's Times: Nationally, the average weekly wage of $1,000 has not budged in the past year. Throw in an inflation rate of 1.5 percent in 2013 and wage earners lost financial ground.

The Tampa Bay market is hardly better. Hillsborough County's average weekly wage in the fourth quarter of 2013 hit $960. That's a paltry gain of only 0.4 percent from a year earlier, and less than an inflation rate that wasn't all that high in the first place.

People employed in Pinellas also had little to crow about. Their average $900 weekly wage rose just 1 percent in the same period. In Pasco County, the good news is the 1.6 percent wage gain slightly outpaced inflation. The bad news is the average weekly wage in the county was an anemic $695.

Back in 2004, Pinellas workers averaged just $720 in weekly wages. But wages were growing at 4.2 percent back then. Hillsborough's average wage then of $776 was rising at a brisk 5.4 percent clip.

That was then. Now it's tough to tout a genuine recovery with rising costs and flattened paychecks. …

Full Story

Sean Daly's stories from 2013 that were honored by the Society for Features Journalism

John Woodrow Cox dominated the short feature category, Ben Montgomery got some nods, and Bounty did, too -- and of course also Sean. Here are his stories SFJ recognized:

1. Country and rap music are more alike than you'd think:

Naive, flimsy, idealistic. When country singer Brad Paisley, a white man from West Virginia, and rapper LL Cool J, a black man from New York City, buddied up in April for the duet Accidental Racist, critics, fans and tweeting detractors unleashed great booing rhetoric about how the song was a weak examination of race relations.

Paisley crooned: "I'm proud of where I'm from, but not everything we've done."

LL riffed: "Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood / What the world is really like when you're livin' in the 'hood."

The political brouhaha died quickly enough, mainly because the song's biggest miscue was that it was musically lousy. But amidst this fallout about racial differences, there lurked a simmering truth:

Rappers and country stars are actually a lot alike when it comes to their particular art forms. Weird and unlikely as it sounds, they share the same template. Read it all.

2. Midtempo (think Miley Cyrus) is the new uptempo in pop: …

Full Story