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Two Articles in the LJS

July 29, 2005 at 2:21am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

A couple quick comments about the front page of this morning’s LJS:

First, “State treasury jobs a Nesbitt family affair” is a really unfair, exceptionally biased article by Nate Jenkins. The core point of the article—that it is unusual that three related men all work in the same small state agency—is valid. It’s certainly something the public has a right to know about, although I, personally, would not have assigned it front page status. But that validity is tarnished by the fact that Jenkins’s article is very poorly written. He includes biased and inflammatory phrases like “the family gathering on the state’s dime,” for example. He apparently interviewed only one state senator while fishing for quotes. He makes no mention of any attempt to determine if this is the only political cronyism or nepotism going on in Nebraska. In short, whether or not it was his intent, Nate Jenkins comes off looking like a reporter giddy about the prospect of bringing down a politician by slinging a little mud. Grow up, Jenkins.

Also on the front page—in fact, dominating most of the front page—is a sappy piece about Chuck Hagel titled “Criticized for being HIS OWN MAN”. Gag. I could tell just by reading the title and looking at the “I’m a victim/feel sorry for me” photo that it was a column by Don Walton. I was correct. Don Walton, you see, is a liberal pissed off about living in a conservative state. He’s the type who just doesn’t understand why all those dang conservatives don’t “get it” and see how obvious it is that President Bush et al. are idiots.

To see him get on the Hagel bandwagon is rich. Chuck Hagel, you see, wants to run for president in 2008. He is no fool; he knows that in order to gain any name-recognition at all he must differentiate himself and generate early headlines. He is doing that by strongly o

pposing the Iraq War, or at least Bush’s handling of it. Democrats take that as proof that Bush’s foreign policy sucks rocks; Republicans take that as proof that Chuck Hagel is some sort of lefty sympathizer. Walton fills the article with assurances that Hagel’s publicity seeking has nothing to do with his presidential aspirations. Right. The argument goes that Hagel wouldn’t risk ticking off the right wing of the Republican Party if he really wanted to run for president. Folks who believe that are wrong. In order to generate the requisite attention in preparation for 2008 Hagel has to take gambles. This is one of them. He is gambling that there will be enough people around in 2008 who dislike Bush’s foreign policy so much that they will guide him through the primaries and into the general election. And besides, he’s safe on nearly every issue except foreign policy. Foreign policy is what gives him an identity through the primaries; in every other regard he is a perfect presidential Republican. Or so he hopes.

Hagel’s Iraq War disagreement is probably the only thing he has in common with Walton. Not that Walton cares. Walton is following the oh-so-stereotypical path of a Democrat drooling over Hagel. “See! See! A Republican—a Republican!—disagrees with Bush on the Iraq War! That means Bush is wrong! Hagel is a genius!” Whatever, buddy.

The headline’s assertion that Hagel is a victim for “being his own man” is hilarious. Hagel is hardly “his own man”. He votes with the president no less than 94% of the time, and with his party no less than 92% of the time. Of our two senators, Ben Nelson is by far closer to being “his own man” than Hagel who, based solely on these numbers, is closer to a party puppet than an indepent voice.

The whole article reads like a very transparent attempt by a bitter lefty (Walton) to spit on a powerful neocon (Bush) by embracing a single-issue ally (Hagel). In the process, Walton hopes other Lincolnites will join in the indirect Bush-bashing by feeling pity for poor, oppressed Chuck Hagel. Good luck with that, Don. You’re going to need it in this state.

Lunch Was Great. And Terrible.

July 28, 2005 at 8:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I ate with The Missus at Bison Witches today. My Smoke Stack sandwich was very tasty, as usual. My chili, on the other hand, was awful. Terrible awful horrible. A vomitorious concoction of moldy socks, soiled underwear, and yak urine. I have never had a bad meal at Bison Witches before today and their chili has always been superb. But not today!

If you go to Bison Witches today for Pete’s sake don’t order the chili!

Blind Lincolnite Plays Video Games

July 28, 2005 at 2:41pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Brice Mellen’s story is pretty impressive. He is a video game fanatic. And he’s blind. How does he do it? Practice, practice, practice.

Perhaps the coolest part of the story is his career goal: he wants to study video game design. He’ll get a few raised eyebrows, I’m sure. But a guy like Brice can only be good for the video game industry.

Married Babies Having Babies

July 27, 2005 at 8:24pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

My my, a 22 year-old Falls City man sure has stirred up a fuss. That’s what happens when you marry a 14 year-old who you impregnated at age 13.

These situations are not all that uncommon, and they highlight the futility of criminalizing social behaviors—in particular those that are criminalized primarily because they make most of society say “ick”. And really, what is it, other than the “ick” factor, that makes the Falls City guy a criminal? I hear things like “It’s just wrong.” Why? “It’s gross.” What makes this gross, and why should your concept of gross put people in jail? “22 year-olds shouldn’t even want to date 14 year-olds.” What’s your point? This guy obviously did.

It seems odd to me that this 14 year-old girl can legally be married and give birth to a child, but she cannot drive for two years, she cannot buy certain video games for three years, she cannot watch movies depicting the act that impregnated her for three years, and she cannot purchase or consume alcohol for seven years. That’s not to say that she should or should not be allowed to do any of those things, now or when she is “old enough”. But I often wonder why 16 year-olds are old enough to drive but not vote. 18 year-olds are old enough to vote and die in combat, but not drink alcohol. And why 14 year-olds are old enough to have sex—but only with guys of a certain age—and give birth, but not marry. All of the age limits we assign to social behaviors are arbitrary. Why that age and not some other age? Why any age?

Any time I see a 20-something guy hanging out with young teenagers I think to myself, “Why the heck would he want t

o do that? Young teenagers are annoying!” So seeing a 20-something guy marry a 14 year-old really boggles my mind. I don’t know if I think it ought to be allowed or not. But I do know that thinking it is “icky” is not a valid reason to criminalize it.

Strange Marketing Strategy

July 27, 2005 at 7:35pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Journal Star pulled an odd marketing move this morning. They distributed free newspapers throughout my neighborhood. Each free newspaper was inside a plastic bag telling the recipient how he could subscribe to the Journal Star, how cool the Journal Star is, yadda yadda yadda. That sounds pretty reasonable, right? Well, yeah, except that the free newspapers appeared to have been delivered only to homes that already subscribe to the Journal Star!

When I saw the free and subscription newspapers sitting side-by-side on our front porch, I assumed they had delivered the free copy to everybody. But while walking Daisy it became evident that only certain houses received the free copy. That’s when I noticed something strange: along our whole walking route I never saw a free copy of the paper sitting alone. it was always sitting next to a regular subscription copy of the paper. (They were easy to tell apart since they were packaged in different bags.) Not every house that had a subscription paper also had a freebie, but every house with a freebie also had a subscription.

I suppose it is possible that 1) I just didn’t notice some of the houses that only received the free copy; and/or 2) the folks who received just the free copy had already taken it inside. But both explanations seem improbably. The first is improbable because I made a conscious effort to look at each house’s front porch along our walking route. The second is improbably because I walk between 6:00 and 6:30. A few people in my neighborhood are up and active at that time, but not many. After over a year of walking the same route every morning, I know pretty well which folks are active and which are not at that time. Most of the houses along the route are very quiet at that time.

Anyway, I figure this is just the result of a lazy paper carr

ier delivering the free copies. He can do nearly the same amount of work delivering the extras to houses that already subscribe, rather than doubling (or more) his work delivering extras. In any event, I’m just thankful for the extra copy; it means that I get to have a copy of the paper on the bus, while The Missus gets to keep a copy at home to read over breakfast and lunch.

A Mid-Summer Night’s Freeze

July 27, 2005 at 7:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I wouldn’t be a proper Nebraskan if I didn’t write at least one post about our mini-deep freeze of late. Every Nebraskan is legally obligated to comment, to as many people as possible, on every dramatic change in weather patterns. Likewise on any especially stable weather patterns. Likewise on pretty much any weather phenomenon at all. It’s in the Constitution somewhere.

It is odd coming off a long stretch of 95+ degree days and hopping straight to 50 degree nights. Not as odd for me, perhaps, since it got that cool in the evenings in the mountains where I stayed over the weekend. But it still feels funny.

I always enjoy listening to the Global Warming fanatics (both believers and non-believers) during these hiccups in the “normal” weather pattern. Global Warming believers insist that both the heat wave and the cold snap are proof of Global Warming. Non-believers insist that the heat wave is a normal summer occurrence, while the cold snap is proof that Global Warming is not occurring. It’s a beautiful thing, watching the two sides talk past each other.

Three Little Pigs

July 18, 2005 at 3:33pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Who needs the Big Bad Wolf?

Ethanol Not Worth the Energy?

July 18, 2005 at 2:42pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

There is a lot of debate about whether or not ethanol is worth it from an energy standpoint. The question is, does ethanol result in more energy being output than it what it takes to make the ethanol in the first place? A recent study says no.

The Journal Star didn’t make a big deal out of the new report in this morning’s edition, but this is actually a very big deal. If ethanol is a net energy loser, than so-called “green” energy initiatives—such as the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s switch to ethanol and biodiesel—are actually harmful to the environment and to taxpayers’ pocketbooks. If this report and others like it are true, you are paying the government to waste energy, and as a bonus you get to choke on a bunch of excess pollutants as well.

The report says that ethanol requires 29% more energy to make than it outputs. The ethanol industry says there is a net 60% gain in energy. Clearly one or both of those sources are lying. The ethanol industry likely does not include in its numbers the amount of energy required to harvest the corn, water the corn, fertilize the corn (and to make the fertilizer), and so on. That would explain why their numbers are so optimistic. Some reports I’ve seen have included such ridiculous energy inputs as the amount of energy put into the corn by the sun, so their numbers are untrustworthy. That doesn’t seem to be the case in this report:

In assessing inputs, the researchers considered such factors as the energy used in producing the cro

p (including production of pesticides and fertilizer, running farm machinery and irrigating, grinding and transporting the crop) and in fermenting/distilling the ethanol from the water mix. Although additional costs are incurred, such as federal and state subsidies that are passed on to consumers and the costs associated with environmental pollution or degradation, these figures were not included in the analysis.

It is clear that the public are not being given the straight facts on ethanol by the ethanol industry. That’s not a huge deal to me; any industry will typically provide only those facts to the public that improve the public’s perception of that industry. Fair enough. What does bother me is that both the feds and the State of Nebraska are in bed with the ethanol industry in the form of agricultural


subsidies, marketing, and direct endorsements. We can’t trust the government’s ethanol numbers any more than we can take at face value those from the industry itself. With so much at stake, and with so many people concerned about the issue, we need to force ourselves—and our policymakers—to take a long, hard, fresh look at ethanol policy.

A Relatively Lincolniteless Weekend

July 18, 2005 at 2:37pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I didn’t make as much progress on Lincolnite this weekend as I had hoped. Oh well. It’ll just have to wait until I get back from Utah.

Lincolnite 5.0Alpha By Monday?

July 15, 2005 at 10:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I keep hacking away at Lincolnite in my spare time and I continue to make progress. I’m going to set a lofty goal for myself for this weekend: to have operability in the Articles, Blogs, Articles, News, and Directory sections. That doesn’t mean they will be finished, mind you. Just that the skeleton of functionality will be there. The Blogs are already at that point, so I can check them off. The News section is close, I’ve hardly touched the Articles section, and the Directory doesn’t even exist yet.

Wish me luck!

Men on the Street

July 15, 2005 at 2:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Is it just me, or have there been more transients hanging around Downtown these past couple weeks? Having lived, attended school, and/or worked in and around Downtown since 1997, I’ve become pretty familiar with the transient population in Downtown Lincoln. I don’t know them by name or anything, but I can tell you which men have been around for a while, which ones I haven’t seen in a long time, and so on.

There is always turnover, of course. But recently there seems to have been a sizable influx of new men hanging around. (Sizable is, of course, relative. I’m talking a half dozen or so individuals.) What makes them noticeable is that they don’t seem to “fit in”—they hang out in unusual places, for example. And most noticeably, they panhandle. The regulars almost never actively solicit assistance from the average passer-by.

This new batch of transients hasn’t caused any problems to my knowledge, so their presence isn’t really something to be concerned about. But they have been noticed, not just by me, and not just by people who would be the type to notice these sorts of things. It really makes you wonder who these guys are, why and how they came here, and why they all showed up at pretty much the same time. In fact, that wonder may be a good thing. It may get the average Lincolnite to think a bit more about Lincoln’s homeless and transient populations. Or it may have negative consequences, perhaps scaring folks out of going Downtown.

The Oven Shines

July 14, 2005 at 2:36pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Oven continues to impress me.

I had been craving Indian food for a while, so The Missus and I went to The Oven last night on our weekly date night. The atmosphere, the food, and the service were all excellent as usual. I tried a new dish, chicken tikka madras. Oh my. I know very little about Indian food, but I know what I like. I really like chicken tikka madras. Most people would call the dish spicy; it was, but to my tastebuds it was nowhere near “oh my God call the fire department!” Nestled within, however, were several thin red chiles. Wow, they sure were fiery last night! The first one caught me off guard and gave me the hiccups. After that, though, I was prepared. They had a kick, but with a great flavor.

I still can’t get used to some of the colors used in Indian cooking. The bright yellow mulligatawny and fire engine red chicken tikka still catch me off guard. As a guy coming from a pretty straight-up southeast Nebraskan-style cooking background it isn’t really surprising that the colors startle me. Growing up, the only bright colors I saw in my food were red (Heinz Ketchup) and yellow (Velveeta). But I’m learning!

A Bridge to Nowhere?

July 14, 2005 at 2:23pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Yesterday’s Journal Star carried two articles that seemed to conflict a bit. Perhaps somebody can explain to me how the two situations jive with one another. On page 1B there was an article titled Hiker/biker bridge over North 27th planned. On page 3B there was Appeals court rules against city in bike trail. The LJS made no effort to connect the two stories.

That strikes me as odd, considering the trail that the $1.76M bridge is a part of has effectively been cut off by the appeals court ruling. In other words, this new bridge will go…nowhere. The city could always reroute the proposed bike trail through the neighborhoods west of 27th Street. But that is, to say the least, a less-than-ideal solution.

It could be argued that the bridge over 27th Street near Y Street is also valuable for your average pedestrian who just wants to cross 27th Street in a manner that doesn’t involve dodging cars. Fair enough, there may be a few of those people out there. But using a pedestrian bridge to cross a four-lane street requires traveling way out of your way. Most pedestrians are lazy. They will take the risk of crossing the street rather than walking three times the distance via the bridge. Consider 27th & Highway 2. Pedestrians who just want to cross Highway 2 on the east side don’t use the bridge, they cross Highway 2 (illegally) the old fashioned way. The proposed bridge won’t require going nearly as far out of the way as the Highway 2 bridge, but the principle is the same.

So if the bridge connects to a terminated bike path, a

nd it doesn’t serve any purpose for getting pedestrians across 27th Street, what is it good for? Not much, I propose. It strikes me as another silly—and expensive!—attempt to “pretty up” North 27th Street in a way that makes community leaders feel good about themselves without actually doing anything substantive to improve the neighborhood. In other words, the bridge runs the risk of falling into the same category as those silly—and expensive!—pseudo-antique street lamps in the area.

Tom Osborne Field is ... Striped?

July 12, 2005 at 11:56pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Brian Rosenthal is reporting that Tom Osborne field is “colorful.” It sounds to me like he’s not a big fan of the new look. He compares the field to Oregon’s football field, which means it looks something like this.

No Smoking Ban for You

July 12, 2005 at 3:16pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

“This restaurant allows smoking. If this offends you, please feel free to visit one of our competitors,” the sign reads. “If you choose to come in, then you enter at your own risk. Thank You.”

I’m a little disappointed that no restaurants in Lincoln tried this technique after the

fascist, nanny state, paternalistic “I know what’s good for you and you don’t” ordinance

smoking ban went into effect.

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