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Where in Lincoln is this?

January 30, 2012 at 2:09pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Unsolved.

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Ignite Lincoln Night in Review

January 27, 2012 at 2:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ignite Lincoln 3 was held last night at Bourbon Theatre in Downtown Lincoln. Folks who weren’t there keep asking me how it was. It was a whole lot of fun.

I say that despite being in a nervousness-induced coma for half the night. I was presenter #14 out of 16 so my tension had plenty of time to build. Still, I managed to pay attention to almost all of the speakers. (Sorry Hope and Collin, I pretty much missed yours!) Here’s a quick overview of the speakers:

  • Steve Ramos: “Pinball: A Game Of Skill” (Website | Twitter)—Steve did a great job starting things off. Going first is rough, but a relatively unusual topic like pinball was a nice way to break the ice on evening.
  • Shane and Sunny Dwyer: “Great Pictures With Any Camera” (Website)—They kept it simple and relatively informal with some nice tips for basic photo composition.
  • Jane Garrity: “The Startup Visa: Helping The World’s Entrepreneurs Create American Jobs”—Jane made an excellent, simple case for the importance of tearing down Visa hurdles as a way to boost the American economy.
  • Calvin Pappas: “Silicon Valley To The Silicon Prairie” (Website | Twitter)—Calvin argued that Nebraska has plenty of resources to compete with Silicon Valley, and that we ought to do it our own way rather than stealing directly from their playbook.
  • Julie Beno: “The Secret Life Of Librarians”—Julie was a hoot and she achieved her goal of demonstrating that librarians are about much more than just putting books on shelves.
  • Steve Maly: “Get Real” (Website | Twitter)—Steve reminded us to be the real us, not a fake us. The crowd loved it.
  • Jordan Pascale: “The Evolution Of Reporting” (Twitter)—Jordan is watching you. No, really. He and other Journal Star writers are keeping in touch with goings-on around Lincoln via Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. Got tips for how they can use social media better? Let ‘em know.
  • Shauna Groenewold: “And They Lived Happily Ever After” (Facebook | Twitter)—Shauna told a nifty story about how social media (and Ross Nelson and Jon Miller) helped save a wedding.
  • Tanner O’Dell: “Attraction of Awkwardness” (Website | Twitter)—One of two high schoolers, Tanner made the case that we should all embrace our awkwardness.
  • Shane Farritor: “Becoming More Creative” (Website | Facebook)—Shane talked about creativity and the importance of taking small risks.
  • Brenda Ealey: “Intellectual Freedom”—Brenda’s presentation focused on the importance of keeping information free, and she used Walter the Farting Dog as one of her case studies.
  • Hope Edwards: “Serve To Lead”—Hope, the second of the two high schoolers, was behind last fall’s LPS Student Serve day. She talked about the day and about how if a couple high schoolers can kickstart an event involving 9,000 students doing good, then anybody can make a difference.
  • Collin Caneva: “Turning A Headwind Into A Tailwind” (Website | Facebook)—Collin’s talk focused on using headwind (adversity) to your advantage and turning it into a boosting tailwind.
  • Brent C. Wilson: “A Foster Family’s Tale” (Website | Twitter)—That’s me! I talked about our family’s two years as foster parents, culminating in the December 22nd adoption of Joey and Keishor.
  • John Coffey: “Nebraska Sucks!” —John stole the show with his excellent tale of how Nebraska sucks ... people back after they’ve tried (and tried and tried) to leave.
  • The Colonel Mustard: “Modern Representations of Expressionism: In Freedom of Thought and State of Being” (Website)—The folks behind “X Files: The Musical” and “Jurassic Park: The Musical” ended the show with a song and dance number.

Overall the mood of the evening was energetic and vibrant. Then I went and made folks cry. (Dammit, Wilson!) I’m a terrible crowd estimator but the theater was packed. I’ll guess there were ... I don’t know, 300-350 attendees? There were more people than there were seats.

The emcee for the night was Ross Brockley. Ross was ... well, not for everybody. Nathan Johnson summed it up pretty well: “Ross Brockley hit on all the important issues: politics, creeping on high school girls, and racism.” Any comedian is going to have some misses. That’s expected. But Ross at times forgot who was the focus of the night. For example, rather than building on the crescendo after John Coffey’s presentation and allowing The Colonel Mustard to finish the night with a bang, he completely deflated the energy in the room. It was tacky and uncomfortable.

But don’t let that give you the wrong impression. Before last night I was cautiously optimistic about Ignite Lincoln. Now, I’m 100% sold on it. It was fantastic. Thank you to the event organizers, all of whom are volunteers. Thank you to the presenters, each of whom did an excellent job. And thank you to sponsors Firespring and Turbine Flats for the financial support to make it happen.

Lincoln, Nebraska, Gong Capital of the Midwest

January 26, 2012 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

So ... apparently Lincoln is the home of Gongs Unlimited, a gong distributor featured by the Wall Street Journal. Big gongs, little gongs, cheap gongs, expensive gongs—you name it, they’ve got it.

I can’t say that I plan to be in the market for a gong any time soon, but this is a classic example of how there are all kinds of businesses in town that most of us aren’t aware of. And even the businesses we are aware of often do things we don’t know about.

The Sidewalk That Eats Ankles

January 25, 2012 at 12:55pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

A portion of the sidewalk/trail at Pioneers Park will get a facelift thanks to a $148,800 grant from Nebraska Game & Parks. Thank goodness.

The sidewalk has been up for rehabilitation for quite a while. Heck, portions of it were in sad shape back when I used to ride my bike to the park as a kid. I do some running at Pioneers Park and it’s generally much easier to run either on the streets or cross country rather than on the crumbling, unlevel sidewalk.

I see that a portion of the work will “level the trail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act”. Leveling will be great, but I wonder if they’ll also modify some of the steep portions of the path. Those portions, though far from ideal for the casual user, are also kind of fun.

Speaking of Pioneers Park, I spent quite a bit of time running out there recently. I was running for mileage so I ran all over the park. I tell you what, people use every square inch of that park, and they do some unusual things in some of the less-accessible portions. I didn’t witness anything particularly naughty—except for the grinning fellow who probably wasn’t smoking tobacco—but boy, you’ve got to watch out that you don’t accidentally step on a napper’s head or interfere with a dog’s game of Smell Everything! when you come around just about every corner.

Come Watch the Bald Guy Turn Red

January 25, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Tomorrow night I’m presenting “A Foster Family’s Tale” at Ignite Lincoln. The fun and fast-paced event starts at 7pm on Thursday at Bourbon Theatre (1415 O Street). Both the Daily Nebraskan and Journal Star have previews.

Admission to the event is free and doors open at 6:30pm.

My presentation is a very condensed version of my family’s experiences with foster parenting in 2010 and 2011. Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to smash two years into five minutes. How? Well ... I suppose you’ll have to show up to find out. While you’re there you’ll hear other speakers talk about pinball, Twitter, librarians, awkwardness, and Nebraska’s suckiness. I met most of the speakers last night and I can’t wait to see them in action.

Oh, and as for the title of this post? When I get in front of a group of people my shiny bald head tends to turn red. It doesn’t matter if I’m nervous or excited or mellow. So if nothing else, you can come make fun of me for that while sitting back and enjoying a beer. Sounds great, right?

But Wait, There’s More!

January 24, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

If you were annoyed by the amount of road construction—and related road closures and detours—in 2011, you’re going to hate 2012. Lincoln has a whopping 44 projects coming up in 2012, touching 17.4 miles on 95.5 blocks. Compare that to 2011’s 16 projects over 7.2 miles and 46.5 blocks. You can see the details for yourself (PDF). Some of the highlights include:

  • Milling and overlay work Downtown, plus 7 new traffic signals
  • “Microsurfacing” on several streets, a procedure that is supposed to be a lower-cost way to extend the life of streets
  • South 56th Street from Randolph to A, and Pioneers Blvd. from 48th to 56th, are being widened to 2+1
  • A whole bunch of water and sewer upgrades and maintenance

Personally I find all the construction to be a beautiful thing. It’s a pleasant change from not long ago when we hardly saw any road work, leaving us with many areas of woefully under-maintained infrastructure around town. Judging by, say, the comments section at JournalStar.com and social media venues like Twitter and Facebook, I may be one of very few who feel that way.

Where in Lincoln is this?

January 23, 2012 at 1:37pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Because Child Welfare Needs More Trouble

January 20, 2012 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Foster Care board could ask director to resign

I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on Carol Stitt’s performance as performance as Executive Director of the Foster Care Review Board. But I will say that the timing feels unusual. I’m not aware of any substantial complaints against her, and axing the director before LB998 is considered—which would completely restructure the Board—is unusual.

Perhaps Ms. Stitt has been up to no good, or maybe she finally stepped on one too many toes at HHS and the Powers That Be want her out. Or ... well, this is all just speculation of course. I guess we’ll find out more after today’s meeting.

Imagine a Cornhusker-Free Lincoln

January 20, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Lincoln’s Cornhusker Hotel is having all kinds of problems these days, and now it has even lost its Mariott franchise effective February 5. With new competition for the hotel popping up in the Haymarket, the timing couldn’t be worse.

I realize there are many steps before this could happen, but can you imagine a Cornhusker-free Lincoln? It just wouldn’t feel right. The Cornhusker is an institution in Lincoln. Or at least it was when I was growing up. Perhaps now that Downtown’s activity has shifted north and west that isn’t as true any more. Is it still widely thought of as Lincoln’s premier hotel, or has that title shifted over to Embassy Suites? Or does Lincoln even have a premiere hotel?

It would be a shame to see The Cornhusker lose its Mariott franchise at a time when it could use some help. Perhaps the investors and such can work something out. There isn’t much time to do that, though.

Carpet Bagging

January 18, 2012 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m having a difficult time understanding why Bob Kerrey and his supporters think it would be a good idea for him to run for Ben Nelson’s Senate seat. Perhaps one of you can explain it to me.

This isn’t about Kerrey’s politics. Rather, why would anybody think that Nebraskans would vote for a man who hasn’t lived in the state for over a decade? I suppose it’s not unprecedented that we would do such a thing. The 3rd District elected Lincolnite Tom Osborne, after all. Apparently popularity can trump residence concerns. But Bob Kerrey is no Tom Osborne. Tom Osborne was a statewide hero of epic proportions who never really left the 3rd District in many folks’ eyes. Bob Kerrey completely bailed out on Nebraska and hasn’t looked back until this current bit of opportunism arose.

I wonder who is pushing the idea that Kerrey should run. Is he crazy enough to believe it’s a good idea? If so, that ought to disqualify him right off the bat. (Not that insanity has ever stopped a politician.) Perhaps a core team of advisers has suggested it’s wise. Or maybe it’s all the state Democratic Party. Surely they’re desperate so they’ll probably say just about anything to get him to come back.

If he does run, expect some entertaining—if childish—attack ads. They’ve already started, in fact, complete with petty name-calling. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were required to have an emotional maturity greater than that of a 3rd grader before running a political ad?

Anyway, I ask all of you: other than instant, statewide name recognition, why would anybody think that Bob Kerry running for office in Nebraska is a good idea?

Occupy’s Eviction

January 18, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Occupy Lincoln’s days are numbered. The City has told the Occupy folks to be gone by March 1 in order to make way for construction equipment for the upcoming Centennial Mall renovation. It’s not yet clear how they will react to their upcoming eviction.

The City of Lincoln has been very patient with Occupy Lincoln so far. Not that they have much choice—City ordinance doesn’t outright forbid camping in public right of ways which, for whatever reason, is how Centennial Mall is classified. It will be interesting to see what happens next. No doubt the protesters will put up a bit of a fight. They’ll want the headlines to make ... well, whatever point it is they think they’re making. But unless LPD goes in with unrestrained violence, I can’t imagine any of those headlines having an effect anywhere near what the protesters would hope.

I wonder, are there other “unexpected” public right of ways where the protesters could go instead? Will they switch to a different type of protest? I guess we’ll wait and see.

How Many Taxi Companies Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb?

January 17, 2012 at 11:55am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Add OMALiNK to the ever-lengthening list of companies applying to offer cab service in Lincoln. Lincoln’s cab situation has quickly gone from one type of farce to another.

I’m not sure what the Public Service Commission should do at this point. They can’t let all of these companies operate. Er, well, they can, but then one is forced to wonder what it is the PSC is good for. The argument for PSC involvement is that they help maintain quality and consistency while avoiding the sort of vicious “excessive” competition that harms service providers and customers alike. Of course, as we all know the flip side to that is we’ve ended up with a PSC-enforced monopoly all these years and customers have—you guessed it!—been screwed. So whatever it is the PSC has been up to, it hasn’t been helping customers.

Neither can the PSC get too picky about which new companies to allow to operate. That just sets up all kinds of legal battles if it’s done incorrectly. If they let in one company, how do they choose which one? Do they let in two? Three? Lincoln clearly isn’t large enough to support all of the applicants—at least not on a full-time basis. But choosing a magic number, and choosing which company(ies) fit the bill, won’t be easy.

I wish I had a better foundation to form an opinion about what happens next, but having only taken two cab rides in my life (in San Diego and Dublin) I don’t feel particularly knowledgeable about taxi service. I want to yell “Economic freedom! Cabs for all!”, but reason tells me that’s a dangerous proposition. If the “let ‘em all in” approach were guaranteed to only, at worst, hurt the companies themselves, then I wouldn’t be quite so concerned. However I don’t think that’s where the harm would end.

What do you suggest we do about this?

Where in Lincoln is this?

January 16, 2012 at 1:11pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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Happy MLK Day!

EDIT: Solved!

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Render Unto Caesar

January 13, 2012 at 12:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’ve been advocating for a wage increase for State Senators for many years. Is it finally time? Scott Lautenbaugh thinks so. He has put forward a resolution to increase wages to $32,000 from today’s puny $12,000. That sounds about right.

This pay increase resolution, like all the others before it, will cause much moaning and gnashing of teeth. “They only work 2 or 3 months out of the year!” they’ll holler. “Nobody should get rich in the Unicameral!” they’ll cry. And so on. The arguments against a raise are tired and familiar. I even agree with some of them. I just don’t agree that they apply to the present context.

I want a broad spectrum of Nebraskans to be able to serve in the Unicameral. I want them to be paid modestly, but not meagerly. I want to respect the work they do and acknowledge the year-round activity required to do the job well. I want to emphasize to Senators that they are not quasi-volunteers making a sacrifice to serve on my behalf; rather they work for me and I compensate them accordingly. I want them to be rewarded for doing a job for which few meet my standards.

Thirty-two grand seems like a fair amount to me.

Lighting a Fire in Lincoln

January 10, 2012 at 3:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

A while back I mentioned Ignite Lincoln and encouraged you all to put in an application to speak. Well, they’ve announced this year’s list of presenters. You’ll probably recognize a couple names.

Right up top is Steve Ramos, aka Beerorkid. He’ll be presenting “Pinball: A Game of Skill”, no doubt featuring his Borkade. I’m so jealous of that man’s pinball machines.

(I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed though, Steve. I was rooting for “Frozen Corn vs. Frozen Peas: It Makes a Vas Deferens To Me”. Next year, perhaps?)

If you’re like me, you’ll probably recognize a few other names on the list. And then there’s me down there near the bottom. I will present “A Foster Family’s Tale”. I went through several different ideas, but the folks I consulted all encouraged me to go with the story of our foster parenting adventure. Condensing it all into five minutes isn’t easy, but I hope folks like the finished product. My rough drafts so far have waffled among sentimental, horrifying, infuriating, funny, and educational. Hopefully I can strike a successful balance.

Tickets for Ignite Lincoln are free, by the way. You can pick up earlybird tickets right now. I hope to see you there!

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