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Pop Culture

March 17, 2006 at 11:34pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The current trend in pop culture—that’s the culture of pop (soda), of course—is that bigger is better. Why drink a 12oz can when you can drink a 20oz bottle? Heck, why not go for an entire liter or more? So it is fascinating to me that Yia Yia’s has so far resisted the urge to enlarge their drinks. They continue to serve pop in big glass mugs that probably hold about 16 fluid ounces, a good chunk of which is taken up by ice.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal. You can just get a refill, right? Wrong. Yia Yia’s charges $.25 for drink refills, a practice that is practically unheard of these days.

It’s tempting to ask why Yia Yia’s continues to engage in such a practice. Surely the modern American consumer (and especially the fatter-than-the-average-American Nebraskan) would revolt, right? Wrong. Obviously the method used by Yia Yia’s is sustainable. If it weren’t, they would have changed. Their customers haven’t forced them to change, so they haven’t bothered. Their small servings and extra fees for refills still work.

I wonder: why do Yia Yia’s customers put up with this? Is it because it is seen as “quaint”, and therefore acceptable? Is it because the other things that make Yia Yia’s such a great restaurant are so overpowering that the pop issue doesn’t matter? Is it because most everybody drinks from Yia Yia’s large beer selection, rather than going for boring ol’ pop?

From my perspective, I think it’s kind of neat that Yia Yia’s does their drinks that way. I’ve found that I can nurse a pop for an hour or more through an entire meal and post-meal conversation. In the end I drink significantly less than I would if the glasses were larger and refills were available, and yet I don’t leave Yia Yia’s feeling any thirstier or less satisfied than I would had I had a super-sized drink instead. I’m not anti-pop by any means, but I try to keep my empty calories and caffeine consumption to a minimum.

I wonder how often customers complain about Yia Yia’s practice. Or does anybody really even notice how unusual Yia Yia’s is in this respect?

Jeff Korbelik Does Doughboyz

March 17, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Jeff Korbelik has finally discussed Doughboyz (Korbelik’s articles aren’t really reviews) in today’s Ground Zero. His conclusion: their pizzas are tied with those at Yia Yia’s for best in town. Compare and contrast with my review of Doughboyz and then head on over and check it out for yourself.

Gee, I Wonder What the Dog Smelled…

March 16, 2006 at 6:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

A bomb-sniffing dog identified a potential bomb threat at Cox Arena at San Diego State University, hours before the start of NCAA men’s basketball tournament action there. Was it an explosive device?

“A bomb-sniffing dog noticed something in a hot dog cart,” [college spokesman Jack] Beresford said. “They got a hit on something that was in the cart itself.

Hmm…

Power to the People

March 16, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

More good news: LES will benefit from the new 790 megawatt coal-fired power plant being built just across the Missouri River in Iowa. Coal technology is getting much cleaner, and it’s one of the cheapest and most reliable forms of energy available. (Not as clean, cheap, or reliable as nuclear power, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish!)

The Journal Star article describing the plant was written by Algis J. Laukaitis. I think he must have been hurting for filler, because I had to laugh out loud at the sheer awfulness of his opening paragraph:

Coal plants are like dragons: They breathe fire. But instead of burning things to a cinder, they generate electricity.

Fortunately the rest of the article reads much more easily.

Good Development News

March 16, 2006 at 1:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve focused a fair bit on bad economic development news lately, so here’s some good news: the Planning Commission has approved nine potential West O projects. The projects may or may not happen, but it’s good to see some action happening along the huge stretch of land declared blighted last year.

In other news, I heard that children living in a new development around 84th and Highway 2 will go to Calvert Elementary—at 45th and Calvert, over four miles away. So much for neighborhood schools.

March Madness

March 16, 2006 at 4:28am By: D.M.B. Posted in D.M.B. Sports Report

IT’S AWESOME BABY!!!  WITH A CAPITAL A!

That’s right the big dance kicks off Thursday with 16 games.  That’s right 16 games in one day.  For any sports fan, it really doesn’t get any better than March Madness.  To me, these early round games are the best.  It has the most potential for upsets, it has the most potential for buzzer beaters, and there are a lot of games.  Start around 11am and end at 11pm (or later) with a 2 hour break in the middle.  Now lots of people like to bet in pools, in fact, it’s probably the second most gambled on sporting event besides the Super Bowl.  Now if you’re looking for last minute tips for filling out your bracket, then this is probably the wrong place to look.  But I’ll give you spme sound beginner advice with 10 tips on winning your pool (or at least do better than throwing a dart at the wall):

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What Would You Ask?

March 16, 2006 at 2:00am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I haven’t talked about our adoption in a while. When I thought of this topic, I figured it would make a good post to generate some feedback.

One of the things about open adoption is that there is a very good chance that we will either speak with or meet the birth mother prior to the adoption taking place, or perhaps even before she makes her decision about who she would like to be her child’s adoptive parents. Let’s say you’re going to meet the birth mother for the first time. She is pregnant, and she is trying to decide if you will be the person the child inside her calls mom or dad. What questions would you ask the birth mother? What would you tell her?

The Missus and I have obviously thought a lot about those questions. But there’s no way we have thought of everything, and frankly, there aren’t many resources describing what to do at this sort of a first meeting. So I wonder, dear reader who probably has no plans to adopt, what comes to your mind?

Fight Cancer, Eat an Habanero

March 15, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

This is one of the coolest ledes I’ve read in a long time:

Capsaicin, the stuff that turns up the heat in jalapeños, not only causes the tongue to burn, it also drives prostate cancer cells to kill themselves, according to studies published in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research.

As a big capsaicin fan and prostate cancer opponent, this makes me very happy. Plus, there’s just something cool about the notion of suicidal prostate cancer cells. Hmm…band name?

Hussein v. The United Kingdom: Inadmissible

March 15, 2006 at 12:37am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

As a follow-up to a somewhat high-profile yet legally trivial development that came about last summer, today the European Court of Human Rights announced that Saddam Hussein’s case against Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom – all members of the Council of Europe and parties to the European Convention on Human Rights – was inadmissible.

Basically, his argument rested on two doctrines of ECHR case law: 1) Occupying European powers of a foreign nation have convention obligations to uphold human rights in areas they control (although there is debate on whether the occupied area must be within Europe or can be outside of Europe); and 2) European powers in custody of a prisoner bear responsibility for transferring him to a non-European jurisdiction where he may be subject to torture, inhuman treatment or the death penalty. As applied to this case, Hussein was arguing that Iraq was basically under occupation of European Convention signatories who were about to deliver him to Iraqi jurisdiction after a “show trial” that would issue his execution. The legal argument makes sense, but his obvious problem is that it doesn’t fit the factual scenario: He was captured and detained by US troops, not European ones, and the CPA was effectively a US occupation, and not a European one. You can read the entire decision here – its only a few paragraphs.

Interestingly, in its discussion of the legal issues, the Court cited two cases in which it found that the ECHR applies extraterritorially only within Europe – Loizidou v. Turkey and Cyprus v. Turkey (Turkish occupation of Cyprus) – and two cases in which the Convention applied outside of Europe – Ocalan v. Turkey (Turkish abduction of Kurdish leader in Kenya) and Issa v. Turkey (Turkish military incursion against Kurds into Iraq). This seems to suggest that a division may remain within the Court as to whether or not European nations have Convention obligations to uphold human rights outside of Europe.   

Peter Tomarken Hits a Whammy

March 14, 2006 at 2:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I was a huge fan of Press Your Luck back in the day. Sadly, host Peter Tomarken was killed in a plane crash Monday.

In honor of Tomarken, read about Michael Larsen, the man who took Press Your Luck for $110,000 by paying attention.

Facelift at 10th and Van Dorn

March 14, 2006 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The land north of Van Dorn between 9th and 10th Streets is about to get a facelift. I’ve been waiting for the empty lot that currently fills a portion of that block to fill in; I had no idea plans were in the works to redo the entire block. The block is much better suited for commercial use than residential. Hopefully the developers give the building(s) a nice look that fits into the neighborhood’s low-key character.

“Lincoln is a difficult place to do business”

March 14, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It’s hard to disagree with John Camp’s assertion that “Lincoln is a difficult place to do business” after the City Council voted 4-3 to go with Mayor Seng’s 175,000 square foot restriction on big box retail at the Prairie Village North development. The developers followed the rules and even offered up extras (like covering $5 million in upfront infrastructure costs). The City, in return, changed the rules half-way through the game and sent the developer back to the drawing board.

Mayor Seng’s latest rationale for her preferred size restriction is many anchor stores in Lincoln’s “neighborhood centers” occupy 52 to 72 percent of the total retail square footage. A 175,000-square-foot store would fall within that range in Prairie Village North. There is not, of course, any actual such restriction in City ordinance, the Comprehensive Plan, or elsewhere. Mayor Seng is imposing a false requirement on developers constructed on a whim in reaction to a development she doesn’t care for. If Colleen Seng wants to enact some sort of “maximum ratio” for anchor stores, so be it. But she needs to have the integrity to write it down where developers can see it before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars following false leads and being strung along by the City. And for that matter, Seng’s Magic Ratio needs to be vetted in the appropriate manner, before the public, the City Council, the Planning Commission, and others.

It doesn’t matter what you think about Wal-Mart. It doesn’t matter what you think about a 230,000 square foot development at 84th and Adams. And it doesn’t matter if you like Mayor Colleen Seng or not. This situation is a perfect illustration of the unreasonable hurdles we ask investors to clear before we allow them the “privilege” of doing business in Lincoln. The City of Lincoln continually changes or muddies the existing rules in the middle of the process, or enforces odd and unreasonable rules, leaving investors scratching their heads. Such behavior is self-destructive and it needs to stop.

It is not too much to ask for a community to clearly outline its expectations of investors, and when those expectations are met, to welcome those investors—whether they be Wal-Mart, a restaurateur, or a homeowner—with open arms. Instead, we stand guarding the front door with our arms crossed, asking of each investor, “What makes you think you’re good enough for the likes of me?” Is it any wonder they bristle at our attitude?

Old School WoF on Family Guy

March 13, 2006 at 6:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Did any of you catch Family Guy last night? Did you notice the Wheel of Fortune clip? In it, Peter got to select prizes with his cash, just like they used to do it on WoF years and years ago. I used to love yelling at the contestants through the TV, “No you idiot! Don’t pick the lamp! Pick the juke box! And who goes on a game show to win a couch? You should’ve chosen the NES you bozo!” Then again, I was probably 8 at the time, so what did I know?

I think it would be great if Wheel of Fortune would do a “Flashback Week” once each year where the contestants get to pick prizes like in the old days. Or am I the only one?

City Workers Smile Big on Pay Day

March 13, 2006 at 6:44pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

As a thought-provoker, Sunday’s Lincoln Journal Star article on city personnel wages and benefits was very welcome. I currently know very little about how governments determine personnel wages and benefits. Hopefully the thoughts the article generated in me will spur me to learn more.

It would be easy to freak out after reading an article like this, and I fully expect the predictable rants to show up in the Journal Star’s letters to the editor throughout the next week or so. I don’t think a freak-out is in order. There are way too many complex variables involved for a single day’s newspaper coverage to justify any sort of conclusion.

That being said, you know there’s a serious problem when there exists a widespread belief in two simple truisms about government employment: 1) the pay and benefits are beyond excellent (for most occupations) for the work required; and 2) you practically have to murder somebody to get fired (and even then you might score a nice severance package). Now, if Wal-Mart had that sort of a reputation, fine. But my government? Those aren’t the stereotypes I want my tax dollars to support. I grant that relying on stereotypes and generalizations is tricky, but, as I so often say, stereotypes almost always originate in reality. It is extraordinarily unlikely that this is one of the stereotypes that deviates from the usual pattern.

Are the city’s wages actually “high”, and therefore a problem? I think they are. I don’t believe that Lincolnites get the bang they deserve from the bucks they pay toward personnel costs. I don’t think the separation between what we pay and what we ought to pay is great—I’m not talking 25% or anything like that—but it is definitely nonzero. What’s my justification for that assertion? I don’t have one. It is based on nothing more than a “gut feeling” analysis of the situation. Therefore, I am completely open to changing my mind. I would love to hear reasoned arguments to the contrary.

At this point I don’t have a proposed solution. I think it would be unwise of me to offer specific solutions to a “problem” that may not, in fact, be a problem. I need more numbers, more comparative data, and so forth. I can, however, offer some general ideas that I’m sure others have already considered, and which ought to always be on the table. One is to decrease the rate at which wages are increasing. Over the past decade Lincoln has rushed to get its wages to “catch up”. We’ve caught up, so we can ease up on the accelerator. Second, we can make pay raises rarer and more difficult.

I’m going to ask friends and family members what they think about Lincoln’s wages. I’ll post back here if they have anything exciting to say. You folks always have exciting things to say, so I look forward to reading your comments.

Barry Collier staying

March 13, 2006 at 3:45am By: D.M.B. Posted in D.M.B. Sports Report

The university announced that Barry Collier will stay on as the men’s basketball coach at Nebraska.

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