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Show Me The Hand

October 31, 2011 at 1:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I love that Lincoln will have 80% coverage of countdown crosswalks by the end of next year. I’m not sure how much good they do for pedestrians, particularly outside of Downtown, but for drivers the signals are extremely helpful. I use the signals to help time my approach to intersections, which in turn helps me keep my gas mileage up.

Now if we could just get Lincoln to implement flashing lights at non-major intersections after, say, 10:30pm. That one will probably never happen, but I’ll continue to gripe about it just in case my whining does any good.

Where in Lincoln is this?

October 31, 2011 at 12:06pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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First Visit to Babylon

October 28, 2011 at 1:24pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

My father and I stopped in to Babylon (southwest of 48th and Highway 2 in Briarhurst Center; 402-421-1005) for lunch on Thursday. I could hardly let a new restaurant go unvisited for long when it’s located so close to my house.

Babylon serves up a variety of Mediterranean cuisine. (Menu exterior [PDF], menu interior [PDF]) Unfortunately for you folks, I know next to nothing about Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods, and I don’t have the built-in fondness for those foods that I have for, say, Mexican food. I’ve eaten a couple gyros in my life and I’m familiar with kebabs. Beyond that ... I’m not worth much. Keep that in mind while reading.

Before we get into food, let’s talk about the restaurant itself. Babylon sits near 48th and Highway 2 in Briarhurst Center. Situated in the back of the small strip mall, Babylon occupies the location that formerly held Oh Yummy, a Japanese/sushi joint. Some of the previous tenant’s decorations remain, but overall the decor is simple and sparse. All seating is at tables—no booths here. That gives the restaurant plenty of flexibility for larger parties. The down side is that with no booths and no walls in the dining area, there’s nothing to break up the space. That’s not a huge problem, but if the restaurant stays with us for a while they’ll want to think about some minor remodeling to give the dining area more character.

Service was fine on our visit. That’s pretty easy when there aren’t many patrons, but I’ve seen plenty of restaurants screw up service even when you’re the only table in the house. We were greeted warmly and invited to choose our own table. The waiter, a younger, smiling gentleman, was very pleasant and helpful. He passed the test of providing a specific answer when I asked what was his favorite item on the menu (sambusas). He also passed my father’s preferred method of ordering at a new restaurant: hand the menu to the waiter and say “You pick something for me”.

The restaurant does need to work on the timing of food coming out of the kitchen. My father’s soup came out first; then my soup and entree; then my father’s entree. Of course the soups should have come out, then the entrees after sufficient delay. Other timing issues, such as checking about drink refills, inquiring about the food, and so forth, were all fine.

Now the food. I began with the okra soup. I chose it for reasons even I don’t fully understand. I’ve only had okra a couple times in my life, and I had no idea what an okra soup would entail. That being said, what arrived was comparable to a variety of tomato soup with pieces of cut up okra. The overall flavor was tasty, but the broth was oily for my preference. I know oils are important in the region’s cuisine, but I’m just not used to it.

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For my entree I chose the sambusa, since the waiter said it was his favorite. Think egg rolls here. The presentation was nice, with the main dish placed encircling the plate and a simple salad of greens, cucumber, onions, and tomato in the center. It turned out to be a very “safe” meal for somebody who isn’t entirely comfortable with the cuisine. There were no scary, foreign flavors; no sneaky ingredients. It was basically seasoned beef inside a fried shell. It would make a good dish for a tentative beginner.

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My father began with the lentil soup, which the waiter chose because my dad said he likes spicy food. It wasn’t actually very spicy, though it did have a subtle twang to it. My father enjoyed the flavor, but the texture—while not unpleasant—caught him off-guard. The broth was thick with not-quite-fully-pureed lentils. The texture reminded me a bit of a thick mulligatawny. In any event, the soup bowl was bone dry by the time my father was finished with it.

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For his entree the waiter selected biryani with beef. Again, this turned out to be a pretty “safe” dish for somebody still getting his feet wet with the regional grub. The rice was “drier” than my father expected or is used to, but it seemed appropriate for the context of the dish. (Again, our ignorance of the cuisine is showing.) He only made it a little past half-way with the entree, but because he was full not because he didn’t enjoy it. The rest went home in a box.

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Overall the restaurant appears to have a good start in every area except support from customers. (I saw three carry-out orders go out while I was there, so maybe that’s a segment that will grow over time.) The food is tasty, it is presented very well, and portions are generous. The atmosphere, although it’s not going to win any awards for interior design, is sufficient. Service needs some tweaks out of the kitchen, but is friendly, helpful, and speedy. Prices might scare some people away, but they shouldn’t. You get what you pay for. Besides, sandwiches can be had for as little as $3.95. Still, Babylon might consider offering a few smaller lunch plates for $7 to avoid the psychological barrier that kicks in when dishes get too close to the $10 mark.

In sum, it’s a welcome addition to my neighborhood. It joins plenty of other food options within a couple blocks, including two bars, a gourmet grocery store, two bakeries, a bagel shop, a home cookin’ joint, and Sonic. A sign indicates that a cupcake shop is about to move in next door. If Babylon can get some momentum going, I look forward to it being part of the neighborhood for years to come.

Babylon Has Opened

October 27, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Babylon Mediterranean Cuisine has opened in Briarhurst Center just southwest of 48th and Highway 2. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I do have scans of the menu they gave to The Missus:

I was hoping to give it a try today but I’m not sure if that will happen. Let us know if you stop by.

LPS Stays Put

October 26, 2011 at 1:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

After months of speculation, the Board of Education has chosen 59th and O for its new office building. The decision isn’t particularly surprising. The Board appeared to prioritize certainty over uncertainty, and the 59th and O location offered the fewest unknowns.

The last alternative was a location near 70th and A, near Lincoln East High School. I preferred that location primarily because I wanted to see the O Street lot return to the tax rolls. All the jibber jabber about 70th and A becoming too congested struck me as unrealistically paranoid. I admit that I have very little experience with that part of town at rush hour, but I am quite familiar with it before and after major events at nearby Seacrest Field. Traffic seems to flow just fine, all things considered.

Regardless, by choosing the O Street lot reconstruction can begin fairly quickly. I’m eager to see what the architects come up with. It won’t be difficult to improve on the former building’s design. The question, however, is if they can do it while satisfying the public’s desire for a humble house of red tape. That will not be a small challenge.

[Your Ad Here]

October 25, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Lincoln could be awash in advertising if the City takes on every option presented in a marketing report shown to the City Council. There would be ads, signs, vending machines, and more every which way you turn.

The City won’t go quite that crazy, of course. Sure we can use a little extra cash to help out the budget, but we have our pride. Our fine community won’t become Nelnet, Nebraska, just yet. (Unless…)

I’ve suggested before that Lincoln should more aggressively pursue advertising opportunities on its properties. Wouldn’t the now-empty fences on the ball fields at Holmes Lake and Mahoney make excellent billboards? Surely there are several companies that wouldn’t mind tossing in a few bucks to support park maintenance in exchange for a tasteful and context-appropriate sign at the entrance. And all those miles of bike trails? Every time I run on that blank concrete I think about the Burma Shave advertisements of years past. (Mile after mile / Minute after minute / Just for fun / Or in it to win it / Gatorade.)

Marketing and advertising can go too far, of course. We need to be cautious. But we oughtn’t let our fears about what could happen paralyze us from examining perfectly palatable possibilities. There are very simple options available to us that could help support specific City activities. Let’s go after them.

Lincoln Goes to The Smithsonian

October 24, 2011 at 4:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Lincoln, as seen by a short-term resident:

After those acid trip sunsets, that’s the thing about Lincoln that rocked my world. That you can’t really mess up too badly. You can marry too young, get a terrible tattoo or earn $12,000 a year, and the sky will not necessarily fall. The housing is too cheap and the folks are too kind for it to be otherwise. Moreover, when you live underneath a sky that big, it’s hard to take yourself too seriously. Its storms have a way of sweeping into town and jolting your life into perspective. That jolt was Lincoln’s gift to me. It comes in handy every day.

Neal O No!

October 24, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Neal Obermeyer’s cartoons will no longer be printed in the Lincoln Journal Star. Mr. Obermeyer didn’t give a reason, although he did note that he didn’t know it was coming. I suppose that means we’re free to concoct our own crazy theories explaining the cartoon’s end. I like to imagine it involves dirty backroom pressure applied by the likes of Jon Bruning, Dave Heineman, and the rest of Neal’s most popular caricatures. In reality it was probably brought on by something boring like budget cuts.

Incidentally, Neal’s final cartoon talks about incoherence:

Neal Obermeyer cartoon

That seems like an appropriate way for Obermeyer to go out, doesn’t it?

(I kid, Neal! I kid!)

Where in Lincoln is this?

October 24, 2011 at 1:14pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

Read more...

The Clock is Ticking

October 21, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The City and UNL have come to an agreement to have the Huskers play basketball at the arena. That’s great and all, but I can’t help but think just how soon 2013 is. After all this hubbub over an arena, it’s still strange to me to think that the thing is actually going to be finished 24 months from now. Well ... it had better be finished.

Let’s get to work!

Wapiti Do!

October 21, 2011 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Add elk to the list of unusual animals found in Lincoln backyards. An elk made its way to The Knolls (southwest of 27th and Old Cheney) yesterday. Unfortunately it was injured and scared so it had to be killed, lest it go on a residential rampage. I hope at least its meat can be saved.

I’m not sure the elk counts as the strangest animal found in The Knolls. The Missus once ran across a wayward peacock in that area. And for what it’s worth, my dad swears he once saw a cougar loping across Old Cheney just east of The Knolls. Perhaps the City should make the vacant lot at 27th and Old Cheney into a wildlife preserve.

Fifteen Percent

October 20, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I missed this bit of information yesterday, but The Missus caught it for me. According to HHS’s 2011-2012 child welfare budget, lead agencies will serve 15% fewer children than in the previous year. That number is comical. At a time when the State and lead agencies are scrambling to come to terms with a harsh report from the State Auditor (and rumors continue to swirl about KVC’s impending bankruptcy), how can anyone possibly believe that the system will improve its performance by fifteen percent?

There are several ways to serve the equivalent of 15% fewer children. One is to get cases through the system more quickly. That could happen by more quickly reuniting kids with their parents, or more quickly finding permanent homes for the kids elsewhere. Based on what we’ve seen of the system over the past 15 months, improving that process by 15% over the span of the upcoming year is unlikely. It would require many changes that can’t just happen overnight. Case management needs to improve substantially, for example. Case managers have far too many cases to juggle and as a result necessary paperwork gets neglected, cases aren’t actively followed up on, and so forth. Also, interaction with parents needs to improve. In my experience there is very little active effort to help parents get their kids back—parenting classes, treatment options, and even just clear communication about expectations are all missing or insufficient. Some parents are beyond help of course, but many families can be saved with more active assistance from the State.

There is another way to serve the equivalent of 15% fewer children. It is the option I fear we’re going to see more of. The child welfare system can simply choose to bother itself with 15% fewer kids. Suddenly certain types of abuse and neglect can become not all that bad. The standards for returning kids to their parents can be decreased. And so on. Certainly no individual employees would stand for placing kids in danger, but broken, inefficient systems permit bad decisions to occur and to go unnoticed. Given the lack of effective leadership and oversight to date by Kerry Winterer and Governor Dave Heineman, we have little reason to trust HHS to get this right.

Or my concerns could be for naught. HHS could spontaneously morph into an effective manager of the private agencies working for it. The agencies could suddenly find that they have all the resources they need to be competent, speedy, and efficient.

... but I don’t recommend taking that bet.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

October 20, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

This is a perfect autumn morning, isn’t it? Cool and crisp temperatures. Blue skies. Barely a breeze. A bit of frost on the ground.

Not that I’m surprised. We’ve been blessed with oodles of beautiful mornings since school began. I’ve walked my (soon-to-be) son to school each morning and we only needed an umbrella once.

All that being said, I can’t help but feel like Mother Nature is pre-emptively asking us for forgiveness for what She is about to do. Time will tell!

What Would Get You to Protest?

October 18, 2011 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I noted yesterday that I’m not the sort to join the Occupy Lincoln protest. But what would get me out on the street to chant and rant, I wondered? I just don’t have the personality for on-street protesting, so a generic answer is “not much”. But that’s not a very satisfying response, is it? I can probably do better. Since this blog is dedicated to Lincoln, let’s stick largely to local topics, although with State government and UNL here, many state-level topics may apply as well.

Waaaay back in 2004 I got fired up over threats of eminent domain abuse in Downtown Lincoln. John Q. Hammons wanted to build a hotel at 17th and Q, and he wanted City assistance in moving existing property owners out of the way. I recall being very angry over the thought that Lincoln would force out perfectly legitimate property owners—almost angry enough to strap on my protesting shoes. Fortunately the City ultimately stayed out; unfortunately, the hotel didn’t happen.

I could see myself getting pretty feisty over threats to some of Lincoln’s best parks. Holmes Lake, Pioneers Park, and Wilderness Park come to mind as areas that I would hit the streets to protect, depending on the specific threat.

So there are two things that would get me up and at ‘em. What sorts of things would you go to the streets to fight for?

Occupied

October 17, 2011 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m very eager to see how the Occupy Lincoln protesters are treated, and how they behave themselves. If you haven’t been following along, similar Occupy Whatever protesters around the country have generally behaved themselves, whereas some police officers—notably in New York City—have been anything but professional. And you know how it is—the rotten apples spoil the broth. Er, you know what I mean.

Not that I expect any trouble here in Lincoln. For one thing, the protest is a bit ... tiny at the moment. The odds of it exploding into a big kerfuffle are pretty low. Furthermore, LPD isn’t widely known for its brutish behavior. If anything I’d expect local cops to pick up donuts each morning for the protesters. Come to think of it, that’s not a half bad idea.

I’m not the protesting sort, in general, so you won’t see me camped out Downtown. Besides, I’d rather camp out on Governor Heineman’s lawn so I could greet him each morning with reveille until he wakes up to all the problems going on at HHS. Considering Dave’s history of obliviousness, I think the Occupy folks have a better chance of effecting change.

Are any of you planning to join the protest?

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