Latest Blog Posts

Re-Genesis

July 20, 2005 at 12:38am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Last night I was reunited with a long-lost friend.

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Terror in the UK

July 19, 2005 at 2:15am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

For those of you familiar with the law review world, you know that the journals pick up the hot topics of the day. When I was a former law review editor but a mere three and a half years ago, I must have reviewed dozens of articles on the then hot topics – Bush v. Gore, Napster, the debate over China’s accession to the WTO, the SCOTUS boy scout’s homosexuality discrimination case, etc. A few years ago while doing research on European human rights law, I picked up on a neglected area of research – the European Convention on Human Rights – and specifically how it relates to the UK’s human rights law in regards to actions taken against terrorists, real and alleged, with cases like McCann and Others vs the UK, Brogan and Others vs the UK, and others, focusing mainly on the UK’s war against the IRA.


Earlier this year, I co-wrote a short case brief with some very motivated UNL students on the Al-Skeini decision, involving the alleged detention and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Basra by UK soldiers, in which the High Court of England and Wales ruled early this year against the UK for violations of the European Convention, which the UK has adopted almost wholesale into its domestic law. Our article focuses on the extraterritorial reach of the ECHR and how it applies specifically to the UK in light of its intervention in Iraq and membership in the Council of Europe. In the article I analyzed other key ECHR extraterritoriality cases and how they related to Al-Skeini, specifically the Cyprus cases (Turkish military occupation of Northern Cyprus), the Bankovic case (NATO intervention in Yugoslavia) and the Ocalan case (Turkish abduction of a Kurdish leader in Kenya’s internatio

nal airport). 


Following the G-8 transit system bombings earlier this month, I have since been contacted again by journals asking me about this piece’s availability – which is no longer available since I accepted publication from another journal this spring. It is a sad commentary how the recent tragic events in the UK have spurred interest in this important facet of international law. In anycase, I am currently looking for advice/insight on updating my article before it goes to printing this fall. Comments are welcome on policy and law recommendations and predictions, as well as general discussion on this topic.

Another Great Guild Wars Weekend

July 19, 2005 at 1:41am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I spent a good chunk of this last weekend playing Guild Wars – a new arena.net MMORPG that came out earlier this spring. GW, basically, is another swords and sorcery MMORPG. You get to choose a character from 6 different human classes, including the typical ones (warrior, monk, elementalist, ranger) and a few non-typical ones, such as the mesmer and necromancer. Unlike most of the other MMORPGs I have played (Asheron’s Call 1 and 2, Final Fantasy Online, World of Warcraft) you can actually multi-class your character. I chose to play a mesmer/necromancer. The mesmer is basically a casting class with spells designed to cancel out or negate other classes (i.e. cast a spell to slow down fighters) and the necromancer is also a caster with a variety of curse related spells, also intended to “negate” other characters. Why would I choose such a strange combination? Well, the game isn’t called “Guild Wars” for no reason – the heart and soul of the experience is in team PvP play – which makes it entirely different in structure from the usual MMORPGs.


Let me explain. Instead of typical grinding to level 100 or what have you, there is a skill cap of 20. I reached level 20 after only 6 weeks or so of gameplay on the weekends and some evenings. You proceed in the game by winning various missions that take you across the fictional world of Tyria, defeating NPC monsters and finishing quests. At any time during the game, you also head to PvP arenas where you can take on other real life players with your characters. Once you hit level 20, you don’t really gain any more levels or increase your attributes or skill levels, but you do earn hard earned “elite skills” specific to your class as well as unlock various ways to increase your character’s PvP abilities. My character is nearing the end of completing the storyline and exploring th

e entire game world. However, by defeating more people in PvP play, you gain the “faction points” that enable you to unlock the various elite skills and weapons/armor that will make your character stronger. The PvP play is addictive. You can form teams and take on others, or your entire guild can invite other guilds for battle, and both your character and guild gains fame for defeating enemies. Right now, the rivalry is entirely international with Guild Wars players playing in 3 regions: North America, South Korea, and Europe. The majority of the time, the Koreans own the “Hall of Heroes” – where the guilds fight each other – followed by N. America and lastly Europe. The thing is, whoever has “favor” in the “Hall of Heroes” – ie whoever’s guilds are winning the most battles – affects the non PvP play as well. So only if North America has favor can all people playing on the North America servers access certain zones and dungeons critical for character advancement. This is a unique facet of the game which sets it apart from all of the other MMORPGs I have played. This PvP play is intense, and makes the game more accessible. Instead of logging in to grind every night and finish missions that can take up to an hour to complete, you can head straight to the team arenas to fight against real players in brief “annihilate the enemy” or “protect your shrine base” environments pitting your team of 4 against another 4 players in fast and furious battles that last no more than 3-5 minutes.


I may write a longer review later, but suffice to say, Guild Wars has been an enjoyable experience for me. The graphics are fantastic, the interface is easy to use, and you don’t have to worry about “the grind” where you go to bed and wake up to find that everyone else (ie the high school kids on summer break) is level 999. Pretty much the majority of players are level 20 now and when it comes to fighting, the victorious are those teams who play well together and know their tactics. In this sense, the game is sort of a swords and sorcery version of Counter Strike.


One more important thing to add – there are NO monthly fees to this game. You pay your flat out $50 for the game and that’s it. Arena.net will likely have an expansion out within the next 6 – 9 months or so (they gotta make money somehow), but its nice to have a game on that you know you aren’t paying for on a daily basis. This will give Guild Wars some staying power. It will be interesting to see how it fares when Dungeons and Dragons and the Middle Earth MMORPGs come out later (which I believe won’t be until Xmas or later).   

I imagine I’ll be playing Guild Wars solidly for the next few months. I do wish, however, that someone gets around to putting together another, more creative MMORPG that takes place in a non-swords and sorcery world. I have heard many negative things about The Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies and Anarchy Online (sci-fi worlds) and dabbled briefly in the hideous Planetside (I removed that one from my computer about 2 weeks after purchasing it). My dream is for some developers to put together either an H.P. Lovecraft based MMORPG or something akin to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I also wouldn’t mind seeing a sci-fi MMORPG based in the “Star Trek” universe.

Chiles!

July 19, 2005 at 12:32am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I have jalapenos! And habaneros! And serranos! And kung paos!

Well, they’re still maturing, but the fruits are starting to show up. Huzzah! The kung paos are the most developed (and plentiful) right now. Just for kicks I grabbed one off one of the plants and took a bite. It was a bit mas picante than I expected. (The Missus complained that her cheek burned after I gave her a quick kiss.) That inspired me to look up the Scovilles of my chiles. The run-down:

Jalapenos: 3,500 - 5,000
Habaneros: 100,000 - 350,000
Serranos: 10,000 - 25,000
Kung paos: 7,000 - 12,000
Anaheims: 800 - 1,400

For some reason I was under the impression that serranos were less picante than jalapenos. Guess I was wrong.

Go Team!

July 18, 2005 at 7:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I often get songs stuck in my head. Once a song is in there, I hum it, whistle it, finger it (get your mind out of the gutter—I mimic the fingerings that would be used to play it on the trumpet), or bob my head to it. Currently playing in my head is the Coach theme song.

I’m just sharing that with you so that you, too, can have the Coach theme song stuck in your head.

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

welfare

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.

Send an E-Mail, Go to Jail

July 15, 2005 at 12:18am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

A number of e-newsletters are in big trouble, thanks to new laws in Utah and Michigan. I love how politicians think that regulating these sorts of issues will actually solve anything, as opposed to criminalizing innocent behavior and doing nothing to stop the behavior they meant to criminalize.

Any law gurus (calling Mr. T!) care to analyze the situation?

The Ice Man Eateth

July 14, 2005 at 8:02pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I saw Ice Man today! He was eating at Chipotle with some girl. I really wanted to go up to him and say “Dude, you were, like, so gay in Top Gun. That volleyball scene was soooo homoerotic. How come the director cut out the Ice Man / Maverick make-out scene?” But I didn’t.

Curiously, he looked just like he did in this photo, but he was wearing a green jump suit instead of a white dress uniform. And he hasn’t aged a day. In fact, that’s the strange part about the whole experience. I think Ice Man must have invented a time machine to hop from 1986 to today. He must be smart. He didn’t act all that smart in the movie.

Strange.

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.

Firefox, You’re Ticking Me Off

July 14, 2005 at 12:39am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I’m a big fan of Firefox. It’s a great web browser. I find it far more enjoyable to use than Internet Explorer, Opera, or any other browser I’ve ever used. I’ve loved Firefox ever since I first got my hands on it, which was sometime back in the Version 0.8 stage or so.

That being said, sometimes Firefox really ticks me off. Lately, in fact, it crashes on me about once per day. They aren’t random crashes, either. They typically occur when I visit pages that run heavy scripts or code of some sort. A page heavy on DHTML killed Firefox today. That was after an earlier crash, the cause of which I don’t recall. Two crashes in one day is unforgivable, especially crashes caused by activities Firefox needs to be able to handle if it’s going to claim to be the best web browser available. I don’t have any proof, but I’m tempted to say that I have more crashes with 1.0.4 than I had with earlier versions; I don’t recall this kind of grief happening a couple months ago.

I realize Firefox is just at 1.0, and 1.0s will always be somewhat immature. But daily (or even weekly) crashes are something up with which users will not put. At least, not the users that Firefox needs to attract in order to become a true competitor to Internet Explorer. Firefox 1.1 is due within the next few months; I hope that version gets rid of some of the crashy behavior so that more people will be willing to give Firefox the chance it deserves.

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