Latest Blog Posts

Is This Diamond a Pearl?

May 31, 2012 at 1:11pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

So this is kind of neat. Apparently Nebraska Department of Roads is considering the use of a “double diamond” interchange at NW 48th Street and I-80. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but fortunately there’s a good video explaining how it all works.

The ultimate goal, I guess, is to decrease left turns across traffic. To do that, though, you have to use some trickery. In this case, the trickery involves flip-flopping traffic from the right to the left side of the road. From above it makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure how obvious it is to a driver who has never seen such a thing before. No doubt the Lincolnites who still haven’t figured out roundabouts will panic, but that’s no big surprise.

As I watched the video for the first time, my mind began to wander away from NW 48th Street to a much different intersection. I wonder if, somehow, double diamond-esque principles could be utilized in the 14th / Old Cheney / Warlick area. The City has solicited proposals from three different firms for that cluster of fun so now is the time to be thinking about these things. Could “flipping” traffic address some of the area’s problems? If you figure out how to make it work you’ll be a hero to all the folks who have to drive through there.

Switcheroo

May 30, 2012 at 11:45am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Folks who live near 27th and Grainger Parkway are up in arms over the likely arrival of Walmart to the area. Meanwhile, the new LPS District Office development—which will include Whole Foods—is widely praised. What a difference a retailer makes.

The two developments have far too many differences to make a fair comparison. Still, it’s fun to contrast the two welcomes. Walmart was reviled from the moment it was announced; Whole Foods, save for some minor concerns about traffic, parking, and lighting, was greeted warmly. Those differences were largely based on popular perception of the retailers. It’s easy to see why. One of the retailers is run by an ardent capitalist and global warming denialist who compares unions to herpes and loathes Obamacare.

The other is Walmart.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I couldn’t care less about the new Whole Foods or the proposed Walmart, either based on retailer reputation or the development to which they belong. Both are legal, properly zoned, correctly permitted, and so forth. After that ... well, it’s just the luck of the draw whether neighbors get a “good” or “bad” development. Neighbors are welcome to fight, but at least in Walmart’s case it seems far too little far too late. Walmart has fought off entire cities before. A couple hundred pissed off neighbors don’t hold much weight, unless they’ve got a really good alternative in hand. In this case they don’t.

There must be something about South 27th Street that draws NIMBY-esque controversy. There was the Alzheimers facility near 27th and Old Cheney; the daycare near 29th and Pine Lake; the CVS back at 27th and Old Cheney; and now Walmart. If you live on South 27th, check the zoning of nearby properties. You might be next. And given the rapid acceleration in land uses, the next one’s likely to be a doozy like a Federal prison. You’ve been warned.

Where in Lincoln is this?

May 28, 2012 at 1:18pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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Today we honor all fallen service members and their families. Have a nice Memorial Day all!

EDIT: Solved!

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Wally World’s Unwelcoming

May 23, 2012 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ooooh, this is going to stir up a hornet’s nest.

Walmart has announced plans to build a smallish 125,000 square foot Supercenter at South 27th and Grainger Parkway, just north of 27th and Yankee Hill. Neighbors aren’t going to be happy. Not only is this Walmart we’re talking about, it’s a Walmart mere blocks from Wilderness Ridge and other upper-middle- to upper-class neighborhoods. The LJS comments are already bubbling with disgust.

Love Walmart or hate ‘em, they know what they’re doing. And there’s no stopping this store—the land is zoned B-2, exactly like the land on which Super Target sits a mile away at 40th and Yankee Hill. No doubt many neighbors will be surprised by that. I sure was. The property, after all, is surrounded on three sides by relatively low-density residential areas. That seems an odd place to zone for a “big box” store.

Still, we all knew a Walmart was coming to that general area eventually. They were hot-to-trot for the development at Highway 77 and Warlick Blvd. that never materialized and you knew they weren’t going to give up. I figured they’d opt for something closer to Saltillo Road and the mythical South Beltway, but what do I know?

Out of all of this, you know what gets me most? The fact that 27th and Yankee Hill is about to become a traffic mess. When I was growing up, 27th and Yankee Hill was way out in the boonies. Heck, 27th and Pine Lake was way out in the boonies. Remember The Acreage out on Saltillo Road? That place was waaaaay the heck out there. These days Saltillo Road is a short hop from Lincoln proper.

This place is growing up so quickly.

Mall Closed

May 22, 2012 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m a little confused about what actually happened when the City Council banned tents on Centennial Mall.

The Mall is now considered a park and it closes at 11pm. I didn’t like that idea from the first moment I heard the proposal. Centennial Mall should be a 24/7 public space, for symbolic reasons as much as anything. It should be “open” space in several meanings of the term. Barring structures (including tents) makes sense. Barring all activity after an arbitrary time? That’s unnecessarily restrictive.

But wait, what’s this? The LJS article ends with:

People can use the parks for rallies with advance permission, and they can use the Capitol steps, the steps of the county courthouse and the Centennial Mall sidewalks.

Emphasis mine. Does that mean a group can hold a rally after 11pm as long as everybody stays on the sidewalk? That’s odd. Aren’t there laws against loitering on a public sidewalk, impeding the flow of foot traffic, and so forth?

Ultimately the practical impact of these changes is very minimal, hence the almost complete lack of public interest in the matter. In some ways it’s unfortunate that Lincolnites don’t care more about their public spaces and the restrictions placed upon them. Yet it’s hard to blame the community for being pragmatic. Look back at the past few decades. How often have Lincolnites mobilized and stormed Centennial Mall for anything? Even the Occupy Lincoln protest, though meaningful to the participants and despite its duration, was an entirely forgettable event. In fact, the irony of Occupy Lincoln is that the only thing they accomplished was making their protest illegal. Mission: failed.

So the mall is closed late at night now. I guess I’ll have to come up with an alternate destination for this summer’s camping trip.

Where in Lincoln is this?

May 21, 2012 at 5:18pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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$1.3 Million

May 18, 2012 at 1:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Not bad for a day’s giving.

The final tally for Give to Lincoln Day 2012—including online, offline, and matching gifts—is over $1.3 million from nearly 4,800 donors. Phrased another way, that’s about $5 for every Lincolnite. I’m not sure what everybody had in mind for the event, but that seems like a pretty nice one-day total to me. I hope Lincoln Community Foundation does a nice post-event wrap-up for us.

Foster Care Closet raised $1,730 from 31 individuals. That amount will help provide approximately fifty kids in foster care with five complete outfits. Thank you to those who gave yesterday; to those who give to Foster Care Closet in other ways; and to all of you involved in some way with foster care.

I suspect Give to Lincoln Day is will be an annual event from here on out. With this kind of success, how could it not be? Thank you to Lincoln Community Foundation and their partners for putting it on. Good work, Lincoln.

The Best $35 You Can Spend

May 17, 2012 at 10:45am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

On this Give to Lincoln Day I ask you to donate to Foster Care Closet. Here’s why.

We got into foster care closet two years ago originally as a way to expand our family. Over time our involvement in foster care evolved as we saw just how screwed up the system can be. In addition to being advocates for ourselves and our family, The Missus and I are now active advocates for the children in the system, as well as for other foster parents. We can’t help but be.

Among the most important things these children and families need is normalcy. Disruptions in family life are inherent when children are placed into foster care. Indeed they are deliberate. And they are damaging to all of the participants.

Foster Care Closet helps bring normalcy and permanency into the lives of foster children by providing them with clothing—much of it brand new with the tags still on—immediately upon their placement with a foster family and periodically thereafter. The clothing is theirs, something they are in control of during a time when they have control over very little. It is high quality, not mere hand-me-downs, so the kids don’t have to feel as though they stand out any more than their unfortunate situation already causes them to.

Foster Care Closet is a blessing to foster families. When a child arrives at a foster home, they often come with nothing, or at least nothing of adequate quality. Foster families must immediately provide clothes and related supplies despite the fact that no up-front funding is provided for the cause. That’s right: that first trip to Walmart to buy supplies is completely out-of-pocket for the foster family. Foster Care Closet provides relief by giving quick access to a wealth of clothing and other supplies.

Your gift of $35 to Foster Care Closet provides five complete outfits for one child, much of it new with its original packaging or tags. In addition, Foster Care Closet can provide a starter supply of diapers, strollers, car seats, and other non-clothing items. They do all this for $35 per child through off-season and volume purchasing, donations, and so on. The same amount of clothing purchased at retail would generally cost well over $100, and the non-clothing supplies add even more to the bill. It’s the best $35 you will spend this month. You can, of course, donate however much you like, whether $5 or $500.

I should put my money where my mouth is. I have already donated $35. I will donate an additional $35 for every Lincolnite reader who donates to Foster Care Closet, up to $350. Just post here that you donated (you don’t have to say how much).

Thank you for your help, and thank you for participating in Give to Lincoln Day whether or not you give to Foster Care Closet.

Give Today

May 17, 2012 at 10:35am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Today is Give to Lincoln Day, a 24-hour period organized by Lincoln Community Foundation designed to unite local non-profits in a friendly fund-raising “coopetition”. In addition to money given directly to area non-profits, the Lincoln Community Foundation also has a $200,000 challenge match pool available to sweeten the pot.

Please consider browsing through the nonprofits and giving to one or more local organization. There are oodles to choose from—185 the last time I checked—and they all could use your help. For some of them, this event is just a blip in their overall (and very large) fund-raising strategy. For others, however, this event is huge. Every dollar makes a difference.

Give to Lincoln Day continues until midnight tonight. Please consider giving generously to one or more area organization.

All’s Fair in Lincoln

May 15, 2012 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The so-called “Fairness Ordinance” received City Council approval yesterday. It expands Lincoln’s civil rights protections to homosexuals and transgendered folks. The measure passed 5-0, with the two Republican members of the council—Adam Hornung and Jon Camp—abstaining. Hornung cited his belief that the ordinance violates state law as the justification for his abstention.

I have so far stayed away from this issue, for several reasons. The most prominent, and perhaps lamest, is that I’ve just been too busy to do justice to such a complicated issue. And yes, despite what folks on either side may want to believe, it is immensely complicated. You’ve got different groups’ rights pitted against one another; confusion over state law; a desire by many to put the issue to a public vote; an interaction with the national debate on gay marriage; and so on. The matter had been dubbed the “Fairness Ordinance” by supporters, but “fairness” to gays is just one part of this complex story.

The ordinance’s passage is, on the whole, a good thing for Lincoln. It’s a step that puts Lincoln on the right side of a civil rights struggle that one can’t help but feel has generated enough momentum to be slowable but not stoppable. Lincoln can’t be both progressive and on the wrong side of this battle. It’s one or the other.

That being said, I don’t have high hopes that this ordinance will actually go into effect. Opponents will get the necessary signatures—just 2,500 or so—to force the matter to a vote, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet that voters will shoot it down handily. Who votes? Old people. Who likes this ordinance? Young people. It’s a simplification, but one that holds up pretty darn well across elections. Perhaps I’m wrong, but we’ll all find out soon enough.

The other night The Missus and I sat on the couch talking about a variety of topics. I brought up that there was a time in my life that I believed we were living in a time “beyond” history. We had won the major struggles, we had learned from our mistakes, and it was all (relatively) smooth sailing from here on out. Realizing how wrong I was was a critical, paradigm-shifting moment for me. It’s both fascinating and frightening to view current events as history-in-the-making. We’re just as foolish as anybody at any other time in history.

I wonder which side of the story Lincoln will be on in textbooks written fifty years from now?

Where in Lincoln is this?

May 14, 2012 at 1:07pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Pancheros Open Early?

May 11, 2012 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Missus tells me she saw folks eating at the new Pancheros Mexican Grill in Southpointe yesterday. The official opening date is Tuesday, so it’s not clear if they’re doing a soft opening or if the folks she saw were just testers.

On the one hand I’m excited to see Pancheros open. Southpointe has long needed another restaurant within the core of the mall. And y’all know how much I like Mexican food and its variants.

Then again, I don’t see anything about Pancheros that differentiates it from its burrito brethren. Cover up the logo on their website and it’d be impossible to say if they were talking about themselves, Chipotle, or Qdoba. Their one and only go-to factor appears to be the convenience of being located next to a movie theater. That’s something, I suppose.

Anyway, let us know if you’ve tried it. Perhaps they’ve got something in store that I’m just not seeing.

Lincoln Marathon: What’s Next

May 7, 2012 at 1:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

So what’s next for the Lincoln Marathon? If all goes well, it will gradually expand to 15,000 participants—50% larger than this year’s field. That can only happen after race organizers confirm that they’ve been able to adequately serve the number of folks already participating. My very limited experience suggests that they did fine this year, but obviously there’s more to it than what I saw.

Another important thing to consider is the narrowness of the Boosalis Trail between 27th and 48th Streets. Race co-director Nancy Sutton has confirmed that funding is in place for widening that stretch, but it’s not clear when the construction would happen. It sounds like a 12,000 participant race is a possibility for next year so perhaps the trail could be widened as soon as this fall. I’m speculating.

From Lincoln’s perspective, the Lincoln Marathon is a huge benefit to the community. There’s the immediate financial impact of bringing in runners from around the country, of course. But there are tons of intangibles as well. It’s a fun, prominent activity that engages the City. Furthermore, it encourages thousands of Lincolnites to get fit, even if they don’t run in the race itself.

As for me, I’ve got the half-marathon bug. I wish I could catch the full marathon bug, but physically that’s a huge improbability for me. (Explaining why is long story.) I would love to get down to about an 8:00 minute pace. I’m not sure how likely that is, but it’ll be a fun goal to chase. It’s a viable target for next year’s race—or perhaps even for Omaha in the fall. Of course, that would require me to train all summer, and if summer 2012 is as relatively hot as spring 2012 has been ... blech!

Lincoln Marathon: The Spectacle

May 7, 2012 at 1:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I don’t take credit for finishing the Lincoln Half-Marathon. Yeah, it was my legs that ran the 13.1 miles, but it takes more than that to run on 4 hours sleep. It takes willpower too, and I was running low.

Quitting was an option, at least in my head. I had convinced myself that I’d be OK with dropping out partway through the race. It would be a reasonable thing to do, right?

But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t disappoint all those spectators. That’s right: those thousands of folks who lined the course are the primary reason I finished the half-marathon yesterday.

I had heard about the morale-boosting effects of the marathon’s spectators. I had been one of those spectators for years, and The Missus attested to the value of their cheering after her marathon finishes. But I didn’t quite comprehend just how awesome it is to see block after block lined with people. People sitting on porches. People eating breakfast. People cheering. People holding signs. People giving high-fives. People playing music.

Mile after mile after mile.

I couldn’t help but feel a burst of civic pride as I ran the course. It was wonderful seeing so many Lincolnites out supporting a local event. Sure, many people were only there to support somebody they knew. But oodles of folks were there to watch “just because”. They pulled up lawn chairs or stood on the curb because what better activity could there be for a pleasant Sunday morning in May? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

And then there were the tags we wore. Emblazoned across every participant’s frontside was their first name. That meant that every single spectator could cheer for you by name. It gave the whole thing a very personal feel. In addition to the generic cries of “woohoo” and “you can do it”, I heard many shouts of “keep it up, Brent!” and “good work, Brent!”. Some came from friends and acquaintances, but most came from folks who just wanted to give a weary runner a boost.

Then there were all the volunteers, police officers, fire fighters, and National Guard personnel. I always knew it took a lot to put on an event like the Lincoln Marathon, but those people were everywhere. I manned a water station one year. It was surprisingly stressful. Stretch that out across many hundreds of people all around the course and you’ve got yourself a huge amount of work going on.

(My favorite volunteer moment: just before entering the stadium a volunteer snagged an unofficial runner and yanked her off the course. The scowl on his face as he did so was priceless.)

Lincoln’s race often gets praised for its atmosphere. As a long-time spectator I saw only snapshots of that. Now that I’ve seen it from a runner’s perspective I can affirm that it’s every bit as cool as advertised.

Lincoln Marathon: The Run

May 7, 2012 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Marathon and Half-Marathon is behind us. How’d y’all do? I know Fletch, Jack Mitchell, and several other good friends of Lincolnite ran yesterday.Did you run too?

I went ahead and ran the half-marathon despite all common sense. A little over a week ago I was assigned to a PDL soccer match in Des Moines on Saturday night. (I had marked Sunday as “unavailable” but I neglected to make myself unavailable for the entire weekend.) I figured my chance to run my first half-marathon was shot. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I might be able to pull it off.

So Saturday night I reffed the match, running over 6.5 miles and losing over 5 pounds of water in the process. I left the stadium just after 10pm. My post-game and pre-race meal? A 20-piece order of chicken McNuggets (with barbeque and buffalo sauces), a banana, a large chocolate shake, and a ton of fluids. What can I say, McDonald’s was the only food I saw near the stadium. I hit the road around 10:30pm. I pulled into the driveway around 1:40am and finally got to sleep somewhere around 2.

I told myself that I would set my alarm for 5:50am. If I turned off the alarm, no problem; I’d skip the race without shame, because who runs under those conditions? But I didn’t. I woke up with the alarm and made my way to the starting line.

At that point I hadn’t decided if I was going to finish, or if I was just going to run to where my family waited (outside Lamar’s at 48th and Pioneers), then quit and have a donut. The first mile felt great at a steady 8:05 pace. I eased up for the second mile, at 8:31. The third mile—featuring an uphill climb on South Street—made me really doubt myself and I slowed to 8:45. But then something unexpected happened—I got into a rhythm on Sheridan Boulevard, settling back in to an 8:30 pace. By the time I turned south on 48th Street I knew I’d make it to at least Highway 2. If I could get to the half-way mark, I figured I could will myself to finish. Not counting a short potty break at mile 5.5—all that hydration caught up with me—I ran 8:30s in miles 4, 5, 6, and 7.

I walked for the first time at the mile 7 marker. My heart rate and breathing were fine, but my muscles were pooped. I kept up a run/walk cycle from that point on. The 20th Street hill in particular saw a lot of walking from me. There just wasn’t enough fuel in the tank to push myself too much harder. But I didn’t care. I knew I was going to finish, and at that point that was good enough for me.

And I did finish, with a final time of 2:05:31, or about a 9:35 pace overall. That’s way off my original goal of 1:45, but well within the parameters of my updated goal of “just try not to die”. At the same time, I set a new personal record for “most miles run in a 14 hour period”. Somebody call Guinness.

I still want to hit that 1:45 at some point. I’m not sure if it will come during next year’s race, or perhaps I’ll find another half-marathon somewhere before then. Or maybe I’ll never hit that time. Who knows? I’m going to keep trying, though. Even though my body isn’t designed for those distances, my brain is dumb enough to think otherwise.

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