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Hysterics

July 25, 2006 at 2:15am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Robbie had his mom and I in stitches tonight. Robbie was on his back on the floor. I had been playing with him for a while, when I decided to do some exercises with him in the form of various sports officiating signals: arms up for touchdown; arms out for safe; a punching motion for out; a chainsaw motion for strike three; arms up and down for double dribble; and arms spinning for traveling. Robbie has always enjoyed having his arms moved around, but apparently tonight he really had a grand old time. So grand, in fact, that for the first time ever, he got hysterical. Now, Robbie has laughed before, but it has always been “tee hee hee” and that was it. This was different. This was continuous, honest-to-goodness, “dad, you’re hilarious” laughter. That got me started laughing. The Missus, having observed this whole scene, started laughing. And soon the Wilsons were all giggling uncontrollably in the middle of the living room. Pricess stuff.

On an unrelated note, The Missus pulled the trifecta today: she had close encounters with spit up, pee, and poop. Good times!

C-Span Porno

July 24, 2006 at 4:10pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Oh Yes… This Thursday morning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be holding another hearing on John “Serial Abuse” Bolton. If any of you were lucky enough to catch the earlier committee hearings last year, it was darn good drama and entertainment (among other things). Let’s see how the Chuckster and the rest of the committee perform for this one. By the way, it was recently announced that Johnny will be coming to UNL as well in September as part of the E.N. Thompson Forum. I hope that area hotel staff have already been warned.

Chopping Block

July 24, 2006 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

City traffic engineer Randy Hoskins’ job is on the line in the latest budget discussion. I’m not sure if it’s personal, as has been alleged, but I have to think something is behind such an odd move. Money alone doesn’t seem to me to be enough to dump the position.

Lincoln needs a traffic engineer. Our community is too large not to have one. There are too many roads, too many signals, and too much planning to do to not have somebody guiding that work under one vision. Getting rid of Hoskins’ job would be a tremendous mistake.

I’m neutral, however, on the question of whether we ought to, instead, get rid of Randy Hoskins himself. He has done somethings I have liked, and he has done some things I don’t agree with. If I were king I would probably have a chat with him to see if he could change a few of his ideas, and if not I would look for somebody else to take over. But for now the (limited) evidence I have shows him to be competent enough. I only bring this up because Karl Fredrickson, Director of Public Works, has made the accusation that Councilman Jon Cook wants to dump Hoskins for personal reasons. Scrapping an entire position just because of a personal spat would be a tremendous error.

But if the move isn’t at least partially personal, why would the Council suggest getting rid of such an important position? Why would a city Lincoln’s size want to try to operate without a traffic engineer?

Bits and Pieces

July 24, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

  • I survived the college soccer referee physical on Saturday. The physical consisted of four parts: (1) a 12-minute run; (2) a ten-meter “box drill” involving sprinting, sidestepping, and back-peddaling; (3) a linear sprint-sidestep-sprint-sidestep drill; and (4) a shuttle run requiring you to run 30-30-30 meters, rest for up to ten seconds, and then do another 30-30-30-30 meters. I only made it 2,750 meters in the 12-minute run, short of my goal of 3,000 meters, and I didn’t do too hot in the box drill. But I broke the scale in the shuttle run. Overall I think I ended with either the highest or second-highest score. That says less about my fitness than it does about the other referees’ fitness.
  • Robert has been semi-regularly sleeping 6-7 hours at a stretch overnight. He has a ways to go, but he’s getting closer to making in through the night.
  • In other Robert news, he’s still a big talker. Lately he has been adding many new sounds to his vocabulary, and sometimes you’d swear he’s trying to mimic you.
  • A good friend from high school is moving back to town after a few years in the D.C. area. Welcome back, Katie!
  • On the other hand, another good friend is moving out west to Imperial. Sounds like he has a great job opportunity out there. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say more than that, so I’ll just stop there for now.
  • The garden is pumping out veggies these days. Especially my two Hungarian yellow wax pepper plants; they’re going nuts. Guess I’ll have to whip up another batch of my stuffed peppers. Cream cheese, cheddar cheese, turkey sausage, and a blend of spices. Mmm.
  • I need a big stump removed. Anybody have a recommendation for a good stump remover in town?

Ali’s New Beef Kabob

July 23, 2006 at 10:01pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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It’s been a while since I last visited Ali Baba’s Gyro joint with Mr. Wilson and Swoof. Today, I was pleased to see that Ali’s has recently introduced a marinated beef kabob to its menu, and couldn’t help but order this new item. Like their famed chicken kabob, for $5.99 you get the grilled, marinated beef kabob, a salad, bread, potatoes and dip. The heavenly scent emanating from the cellophane carton was driving me mad as I took this home, and someone I found the will power to take a snapshot of the meal before tearing into it.

Verdict: The beef kabob - which was cooked to about medium - was very good, albeit not as tender as I would have liked. I am not sure what kind of marinade they use, but it gave the beef a nice hint of flavor. Perhaps a bit more salt could have been used to retain some of the natural juices. Regardless, it was pretty good and I am not unhappy for ordering this new item, and my coffee table now is littered with greasy napkins and the remnants of this fine meal. However, in my opinion Ali’s chicken kabob (with the brushed on “tandoori” spice) is still the king of their menu.

A Light Act of Civil Disobedience

July 21, 2006 at 6:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I led a mass act of civil disobedience last night. About a dozen other Lincolnites and I all broke the law together. It was great.

Highway 2 is being resurfaced, and portions of the road are closed from 6:00PM to 6:00AM. That’s all fine and dandy. But as is typical of Lincoln’s transportation planners, nobody bothers to change the timing of the traffic lights. The result? A backlog of vehicles on 27th Street at Highway 2 waiting for ... nobody. 27th Street traffic received 20 seconds of green light (I timed it), then sat around for 60 seconds while nobody traveled on Highway 2. After waiting through a few frustrating light cycles, I found myself at the front of the line waiting at a red light. Next to me was a large pickup. We apparently had the same idea at the same time, because we hit the gas simultaneously.

What I saw next in my rear-view mirror was beautiful: car after car streamed through the intersection. It was civil disobedience at its finest. And amazingly, not a single vehicle was damaged by the non-oncoming non-traffic. Eventually two goody-goodies made their way to the front of the line and waited patiently at the red light. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Seriously, though, what’s the deal with leaving the traffic lights on their normal pattern? That just breeds disgust for road work, road workers, and transportation planning in general, and there’s already plenty of that going on in Lincoln. Assuming that construction vehicles may have needed to cross the intersection occasionally, a four-way stop (flashing red all four directions) would have made the most sense.

Last Jamm

July 21, 2006 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

July Jamm is done after this weekend. A lot of Lincolnites are mourning the loss of a big community event, but they don’t mourn the loss of July Jamm itself. Why do you think that is? Why is July Jamm seen as unfriendly (admission fees, fences make attendees feel like cattle), while Ribfest remains so popular?

And the big question: how would you design a community festival to replace July Jamm?

Friday Five

July 21, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Five things Lincoln can do to begin moving up from sixtieth place:

  1. Ditch the “we’re Omaha’s kid brother” mentality
  2. Make economic investment in the community easier;
  3. Actively promote and support local entrepreneurship;
  4. Build feelings of ownership and responsibility for local (neighborhood) parks and other public goods;
  5. Improve civic engagement and increase ownership of public decisions.

Those are just a start. What’s on your list?

Super Awesome Podcasts of 2006

July 20, 2006 at 11:53pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

This year has been a good year for podcasts so far. Here are a few of my favorite podcasts from the first half of 2006:

Way back in February, Studio 360 did an entire episode on violence in popular culture, featuring an interview with the author of “Fight Club,” how they make the “punching” sound effects in movies, and an essay by Jack Handey called “My Speech to the Martians.”  The Handey essay is a must listen.

Episode 113 of All Songs Considered was the first time I ever heard Omaha’s Tilly and The Wall, and also has some really nice and rare tunes from Coleman Hawkins and Tommy Tutone.

The Politics of Culture did two related, excellent podcasts – “The Role of Print Media Today” and “The Media Morphs: Producing for Multiple Digital Platforms” - devoted to the future of print media, the internet, and the delivery of news and entertainment to new platforms like iPods.

Radio Open Source did a World Cup primer the week before things got started to get the blood pumping. Open Source covers all sorts of topics and its almost always informative in some way.

Finally, there is episode 110 from the Filmspotting guys. Filmspotting is the bestest, smartest, fastest, must listen/must subscribe podcast out there on popular culture that was once known as “cinecrack” for its addictive characteristics. The founder of filmspotting used to do a dinky movie review show at the University of Iowa’s KRUI a few years ago. Then he and his partner moved on to do (what is now known as) Filmspotting - one of the most popular podcasts out there with a truly international following. And now these two guys have their own show on Chicago Public Radio. Its that good. In episode 110, listen to them rip into Al Gore’s documentary, and do battle over…Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House. Classic. 

The Tamale Lady

July 20, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Does anybody remember the tamale lady?

The Missus was telling me last night that when her family first came to Lincoln (circa 1992), they used to buy homemade tamales from a woman at Russ’s on 33rd and Highway 2. But there was a catch: the tamale lady was a secret. She quite literally sold her goods out of the back of the store, and only at specific times. She quickly sold out to her regulars. Then one day the tamale lady disappeared without explanation. Russ’s employees only said “She doesn’t work here any more” when asked about her.

Does anybody remember the tamale lady? What happened to her?

Fifty Two

July 20, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Inspectors have found fifty two problems with Lincoln’s new fire trucks. Some of the problems are less serious than others. Hang on to your butts, the roller coaster continues.

I wonder: why isn’t it standard procedure for the actual instructions to the manufacturer to be sent to the City for verification? Seems like that could have headed off this problem. If Lincoln said to EDM, “Build it this way,” but Lincoln found out immediately that EDM told the manufacturer “Build it some other way”, alarms would have gone off. And if they didn’t, well, the City should have been paying better attention. Or is that how things work and the process failed in this case?

Sweet Sixty

July 19, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Is it just me, or is Melissa Lee’s celebration of Lincoln’s sixtieth place finish in a CNNMoney poll of the best places to live a little ... off? Sixtieth place just doesn’t sound all that exciting to me. It’s not bad, mind you, but Ms. Lee’s gloating seems a bit over the top. Actually, it sounds like another example of the Journal Star’s ongoing insecurity over Lincoln in comparison to Omaha. Since Omaha was way down the list at 97, this gives the local rag a chance to strut. That’s fine, I guess.

(On second glance, Omaha isn’t number 97 at all. Omaha came in 7th in the list of cities with a population over 300,000. To me that sounds like they scored better than Lincoln, not worse, although a direct comparison is difficult since we’re talking about two different lists. Omaha typically scores better than Lincoln on these lists, so I’d be very surprised if Lincoln actually topped Omaha by 37 spots.)

In any event, I’m not all that impressed by a Top-60 finish. Even though this is just a goofy little analysis with some arguable methodological decisions, it still is a decent rough indicator of how we’re doing. I think it says we’re doing OK. We can, and should, do better than OK. I’m not saying we have to hit #1, but reaching Casey Kasem territory would be nice, don’t you think?

Too Cool

July 19, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

What do you keep your thermostat set at during these hot summer days? Some businesses keep their buildings really blasted cold, which makes me wonder if they are trying to freeze out their customers so they can all go home. It’s the outdoor to indoor temperature difference that really gets me. For example, if it’s 100 degrees outside and a business has their A/C set to 72 degrees, I darn near freeze my buns off. And I like to be cold. But give me a 30 degree temperature swing when I’m covered in sweat and I start to feel hypothermia coming on.

The Missus and I keep our place at 78 degrees in the summer. That, plus a couple ceiling fans, keeps things comfortable (and affordable). What’s your setting?

It’s Like a Foreign Country

July 19, 2006 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

International adoption is so common these days that many people seem shocked that we adopted domestically. A typical conversation goes a little like this:

Person: He’s so cute! Where did you adopt him from?
Me: Boston.
Person: No, I mean which country was he born in?
Me: The United States.
Person: ... Really?

I don’t think folks mean to be so surprised. They are just so accustomed to children being adopted from Russia or China or, thanks to Angelina Jolie, Ethiopia. And indeed international adoption is almost the default these days. Some people do it because it is easier for them. (Older couples are welcomed by some countries, for example.) Some people do it because they are afraid of open adoption. (International adoptions are almost always closed.) Some people do it because they want a white baby. (Russia is popular for that reason.) Some even do it because they feel like the act of adoption from some countries is tantamount to offering humanitarian aid. And there are, of course, dozens of other reasons that motivate folks to adopt internationally.

The Missus and I are in no position to question anybody’s motives since we stated very clearly from the beginning that some of our motivations were very selfish. Still, it’s sad to me that more people aren’t willing to adopt domestically. I wonder why not? I suspect fear—fear of legal hurdles, fear of a birth parent changing his/her mind, fear of the child seeking and finding his birth family and establishing a relationship—plays a big role. Some of the fears are no doubt legitimate, but most are probably not. I know I began with a bunch of fears. Some of them could still happen. But so far all of my fears turned out to be rubbish.

In any event, Robert is all American, born in the U.S.A. But I’ll be honest, having spent almost two weeks in Boston, it’s a lot like a foreign country. They speak funny, they drive funny, and they eat a lot of fish. To this midwestern boy that practically makes ‘em European!

Make Your Cuts

July 18, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

What cuts would you make in the city budget? Would you try to tackle all $4 million needed to keep property taxes from going up, or would you settle for less?

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