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Welcome to Bizarro World

July 5, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Can you imagine what it must be like to move from Burma to Lincoln, Nebraska? Talk about a lifestyle adjustment.

OMALiNK’s Plan for Public Transit in Lincoln

July 5, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Chris Stokes, president of OMALiNK, proposes in today’s LJS letter’s to the editor a plan to assist public transportation in Lincoln. The gist: give a chunk of StarTran’s budget to private transportation companies.

Maybe that’s a good idea, maybe it isn’t. I think Mr. Stokes needs more room to make his case. He needs to explain the costs of his plan a little better, for example. Consider these numbers: Mr. Stokes says that each of his vans costs $53 per hour to operate. He proposes running “numerous vans 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Lincoln”, providing service “in each quadrant of the city”. Let’s start with one van in each quadrant of the city operating 24/7. The math:

$53/hour/van * 24 hours/day = $1,272/day/van
$1,272/day/van * 4 vans = $5,088/day
$5,088/day * 365 days/year = $1,857,120/year

Compared to StarTran’s 2006-2007 budget of $9,212,023, that comes out to 20% of the budget just for four vans serving a limited population. Note that these numbers don’t include any profit for the private companies involved. Mr. Stokes says he is asking for “just a small portion of the funds that go to the StarTran bus budget”. Twenty percent of a relatively small budget seems like more than a “small portion” to me.

Peaceful Slumber

July 5, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I can’t believe it. Robbie slept through the night despite all kinds of commotion just outside his bedroom window. Good job, buddy!

Ray’s is Out as Median Maintainer

July 5, 2007 at 1:06am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Thank goodness the Ray’s Lawn Care / Ken Svoboda median mess is over. Well, pretty much over, anyway. Ray’s is out a couple tens of thousands of dollars and they’ve taken a heck of a P.R. hit, but at least this can all be put behind us now. I hope.

We Lincolnites need to ask ourselves if it’s really worth the trouble to keep trying to have pretty medians. How many plants can actually survive among the poor soil and pollution present in a median? And of those that can survive, how many are actually pretty enough that we want them there?

Personally, I very strongly prefer planted medians over concrete medians. Concrete is ugly. Concrete buckles and cracks. Concrete is boring.

Here’s my plan for the city’s plantable medians: they should be put up for adoption. I propose a program not unlike the Adopt-a-Road and Adopt-a-Trail programs we are all familiar with. Anybody—a business, an individual, a club, a neighborhood association—can “adopt” a segment of median, from one block up to as much as they can reasonably handle. Any applicant would have to explain their plan for the median, and they would have to prove their ability to keep the median in good shape. Applicants could plant flowers or grass; they could plant trees (where appropriate); they could put up sculptures (assuming they are safe); or they could even arrange rocks and other items in artsy or geometric patterns. Signage would clearly indicate each segment’s maintainer(s). Thus, businesses and groups could use the program as a P.R. booster. And if their median is ugly and ill-maintained? Those signs suddenly cause people to say, “Boy, Business X sure doesn’t care about our community!”.

One problem: there would have to be rules governing the sorts of messages that could be conveyed in the medians. Can a business advertise in the median? Can the churches along Church Row on 84th Street litter the entire stretch with messages like “JESUS SAVES!”? Can a political party decorate the medians with elephants or donkeys? The rules would probably have to prohibit words. What about logos? I suppose this sounds like a complicated problem, but I think a reasonable policy could be constructed if you sat a group of Lincolnites around a table for an hour or two and let them hash it out.

Another alternative—a simpler alternative—is to just pave over all the medians around town. Blah. I hope we don’t have to do that.

Two More Buildings Bite the Dust

July 3, 2007 at 5:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I forgot to mention this morning that the buildings that formerly housed Wasabi! and Taste of China have been reduced to rubble. Here’s hoping that positive news about the Catalyst One project will come soon.

Turco on Trial

July 3, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ricky Turco has been ruled competent to stand trial for manslaughter in the death of Megan Churchill. I would love to sit on that jury. Not that I necessarily want to convict the guy. I just think this whole situation has been fascinating, and I would love to sit in on the jury discussions.

Memories of a Fireworks Tent Manager

July 3, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

You legally can start blowing stuff up in about 35 minutes. Woohoo!

I used to be a big-time fireworks junkie. I’m sure my friends and I drove our neighbors nuts. If the constant bang of firecrackers wasn’t enough to drive them nuts, there were other annoyances like smoke and the constant danger of fire caused by our dangerous experiments. (Have you ever shot an arterial shell horizontally? Good times.)

Ten years ago I managed a fireworks tent for the first time. I operated a Sav’n Sam’s tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot on North 27th Street. It was a prime location, for two reasons: One, it drew a constant stream of traffic. And two, Wal-Mart’s clientele matched our primary market almost perfectly. What was our primary market, you ask? Relatively poor white families. I didn’t really know that when I first started, but it quickly became clear. It also quickly became depressing. Many folks came in and spent a lot of money—and I mean a lot of money—on fireworks, when it was clear that fireworks probably shouldn’t have been their priority.

That first year I made a hefty profit. If I recall correctly I walked away with about $1,500 for 72 hours of fairly hard labor. Not bad for a recent high school graduate. Thanks to my friends and family, we ran one hell of an operation. Our tent was clean and organized even when there were dozens of people packed inside. Our cashiers were awesome at keeping the lines moving. (I’ll bet some of them can still tell you how much a ground bloom flower [$0.06], 48 shot color pearl flower [$0.49], and red box artillery shell [$3.99] cost.) When it was all over I had handled thousands of dollars in cash and checks, and I had slept about 8 hours in two nights. Overall, the first year was awesome.

There were a couple interesting incidents that first year. There was the guy who came back with an obliterated tube from an artillery shell. He angrily insisted we were selling dangerous products. I think I handled him very well. I never once told him, “Sir, you’re an idiot. You put the shell into the tube upside down.” I eventually sent him home with a free replacement product and my sincerest (ha!) apologies. And then the bastard called the fire marshal on me. Once the fire marshal arrived and saw the damaged tube, he agreed with me that the man was a moron. Still, he had to take a sample product out behind the tent and launch a few test shells. It worked just fine.

Then there was the guy my dad literally threw out of the tent. I didn’t see it happen, but apparently a drunk guy bumped into a “foreign” man who didn’t speak English very well. (I want to say that at the time I thought the man might have been from Iraq, but I might be mis-remembering.) Drunk guy started harassing the man, who was startled and confused. My dad saw the whole thing and intervened. When it was clear that drunk guy wasn’t going to be rational, my dad chucked him out of the tent, bouncer-style. Nice! I think we sent the other man home with a few free items.

A little girl left her coin purse in the tent that first year. It had a couple bucks and change inside. I felt bad for her, so I kept it around, going so far as to take it back to the tent all three years that I managed it. I never saw her again. My original plan was to give it to a “needy” child during my last year, but that year went so poorly, I forgot about it. I think I still have that coin purse somewhere.

The wind darn near killed us during my second year. It was awful. It didn’t help that Sav’n Sam’s used the cheapest tent vendor possible. I pleaded for help multiple times, but I got nothing. That is, until a particularly hefty gust of wind snapped one of the poles and one of the pieces whacked a woman in the side of the head. Have you ever tried to simultaneously call 911 on a cell phone in 40 mile per hour winds while evacuating customers from a collapsing tent? That was interesting. We sent all of the customers away with whatever they happened to have in their hands at the time the tent fell. The injured woman was extremely unhappy, and I don’t blame her. She must have reached a settlement with Sav’n Sam’s and/or the tent company because I was never called to testify or anything.

The third year really sucked. It stormed on the night of the 2nd and the 3rd, both times causing extensive damage to the product and the tent. I had a crappy new location. And the management of Sav’n Sam’s was really, truly awful that year. I came very, very close to closing up shop and walking away. Needless to say, that was my last year managing a fireworks tent. Not coincidentally, it was also the last year Sav’n Sam’s existed, at least in Lincoln. Ninety percent of my cynicism for fireworks was created that year.

What are your most vivid fireworks-related memories? Has anybody else out there ever managed a tent?

Sticky

July 3, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

When I walked out of the house this morning I felt like I was suddenly immersed in that pink liquid from The Abyss. The air was thick. WeatherBug tells me the humidity is sitting at 86% right now.

Bleh.

Hagel Town Hall in Lincoln

July 2, 2007 at 10:32pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Reminder: Senator Hagel will be holding a town hall meeting tomorrow in Lincoln on the war in Iraq and national security:

Kimball Recital Hall, UNL City Campus, 12-1:30PM.

I Need a Name

July 2, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I have been doing freelance web development work on the side for a while now, and I would like to do even more. So far I have just been doing business as myself, but going forward I would like to formalize things a bit. First, though, I need a name. A while back I thought I would go with Center Coast Solutions, but for various reasons I don’t like that as well any more. Can you help me come up with something better? (Or tell me why I should stick with CCS.) Some things to think about:

  • My work consists of website design and web development, with an emphasis on using Expression Engine. I have done and will continue to do work for local and international clients.
  • Lincolnite is—or rather, will be—an important part of my work as well.
  • The Mr. Wilson “brand” is already known among the community of Expression Engine users and developers.
  • The name, or some logical variant of it, must be available as a domain name.

Like I said, Center Coast Solutions was an early contender, but now I’m not so crazy about it. A friend suggested something with Menace in the title. He loves it, but I just don’t feel like a very menacing guy. Do you have any suggestions?

If I end up using your idea I’ll buy you lunch.

Little Flirt

July 2, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Robert had his first kiss on Friday. It was adorable.

We went to Southpointe for their Friday evening concert series. Robert was dancing and grooving to the music. Nearby, another one-year-old sat with her grandpa. When she saw Robbie, she went to dance with him. They walked around together and flirted for a while, drawing all sorts of attention to themselves. At some point Robbie must have decided they had courted long enough, because he walked right up to her, put his hands on her shoulders, and planted a big, sloppy kiss right on her lips. I think at least 50 people simultaneously let out an “Awwwww!”

While everybody else commented to their neighbors that the kiss was the cutest thing they had ever seen, I sat in silence and thought to myself, “And so it begins…”

The Death of Hyde Observatory?

July 2, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ken Runge wants to know why more deference hasn’t been given to concerns expressed by Hyde Observatory staff regarding light pollution from the current and future Talent Plus buildings. I can see why he is concerned, yet I don’t know if I care. I like the notion of having a place like Hyde Observatory, but let’s be realistic: it sits smack in the middle of the city. Compared to all of the rest of the light pollution the Observatory deals with, Talent Plus is small potatoes.

Are there any astronomers out there who can tell us how much light is too much light for an observatory to deal with? Are we going to have to consider moving Hyde? And if we do consider that possibility, do we think it’s worth it?

If the Terrorists Come By Bike, We’re in Trouble

July 2, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I can’t say I’m all that concerned about terrorists hitting the Lincoln Airport, but c’mon, how does a wayward bicyclist end up lost on the runway? Shouldn’t there be, like, a fence or something?

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