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July 31, 2013 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m a really crummy yard-keeper, but earlier this summer I put in some plants with the goal of attracting butterflies and bees. It’s always nice to see my work being appreciated.

Yellow swallowtail butterfly on flower

Lincoln’s One Percent

July 29, 2013 at 1:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Tom Casady posted a cool little analysis on his blog last week in which he demonstrated just how concentrated crime is in Lincoln. Before you go read it, though, take a guess at this. What percent of crime in 2012 occurred on 5% of Lincoln’s street segments? Is it: A) 33% B) 52% C) 81% D) 95%.

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As it turns out, 5% of Lincoln’s street segments were responsible for an impressive 81% of crime. And 1% were responsible for 41%. That’s some pretty concentrated naughtiness.

These data raise myriad questions. I can’t even begin to ask them all here. One that jumps out at me, though, is how 2012’s data compare to data from other years. Wouldn’t it be cool, for example, to see how crime concentration has evolved? Perhaps back in 1980 5% of the street segments were only responsible for 40% of the crime. Or maybe it was 90% back then. Or maybe the numbers actually don’t change all that much. Any of those scenarios is interesting to me.

It’s probably a good thing I’m not a grad student with access to the data and mapping tools that Casady has. I’d wind up creating umpteen million maps and not actually getting any work done.

Where in Lincoln is this?

July 29, 2013 at 1:04pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Solved!

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Zombie Walk 2013

July 28, 2013 at 3:30pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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Some really crazy and insane zombies this year at the Lincoln Zombie Walk 2013. Kudos to the organizers and participants for this cool community event!

Offer Your $0.02

July 26, 2013 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The City of Lincoln is back with yet another online survey designed to gather input about City priorities. It’s all part of an ongoing partnership with the Public Policy Center. There are also opportunities to participate via a set of survey exercises printed in tomorrow’s Neighborhood Extra (a Journal Star insert), or in one of the upcoming “Community Conversations”. You can sign up for the latter by calling the Mayor’s Office at 402-441-7511.

It seems like these online surveys have gotten more complicated each year. This year’s survey doesn’t break the pattern. You will need to dedicate a good chunk of time to complete the survey, especially if you want it to be based on an informed opinion and not just a series of gut reactions.

On the plus side, the City is putting a lot of effort into gathering these data. Unfortunately, cynical me suspects this is all part of an ongoing smoke and mirrors campaign designed to make a certain segment of the population feel like they’re having a say. It’s not an uncommon tactic, after all. That’s not to say there’s no value to the surveys. But most of the big decisions are already made. This process’s role is to either support those decisions or to help fill in the gaps with some of the smaller decisions. This isn’t a direct democracy and the City isn’t suddenly going to change course just because a majority of participants say that’s their desire. It’s a good thing, too; the folks who tend to participate in these things typically aren’t particularly representative of Lincolnites as a whole.

That could change, of course. You can make the process more representative by chiming in and getting your friends and family to do the same. So go ahead and find some time to take the survey or participate in the Community Conversations. Worst case: you learn some new things about Lincoln. We could all use a bit of that now and then, couldn’t we?

Lincoln On Two Wheels

July 25, 2013 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

On Sunday and again yesterday morning I went on two bike rides through Lincoln totaling around 55 miles. I wound up covering brand new territory as well as areas I haven’t seen in many years. It was a blast.

My route was basically: Boosalis Trail to Rock Island Trail to Billy Wolff Trail to Mopac Trail. I run on Boosalis all the time so that was nothing new. Ditto for Rock Island. The Billy Wolff trail through Antelope Valley was a big shock for me. It was the first time I’ve really seen many of the Antelope Valley changes up close. For the most part the trail and surrounding environs are fantastic. We’ll see how the area matures, of course, but for right now it’s very nice. The area near UNL’s Beadle Center sure doesn’t look like the Trago Park I used to know when I lived in an apartment near 23rd and T. And being able to ride underneath Downtown’s streets is wonderful. When I was a kid riding that trail I used to have to wait at so. Many. Stoplights.

The connection between Billy Wolff and Mopac is a little, erm, wonky, but it gets the job done. The bridge over 27th Street is nice, even if the grade is a bit of a pain. The last time I rode the Mopac the trail began at Peter Pan Park on 33rd, so the connection to Downtown is a definite plus. Other than that the trail was more or less as I remembered it, at least as far as 148th Street. One of these days I’ll get out to Eagle and beyond.

The most heartening thing about my two recent trips on Lincoln’s trails is the fact that the trails were so busy. In fact, yesterday morning almost felt like a spring marathon training day there were so many people out and about. (The awesomely cool temperatures probably had something to do with that.) Most of the trails are in pretty good shape. (There’s a nasty crack a few blocks west of 84th Street, though!) And for the most part people obey trail etiquette. Speaking of which: I really need to put a bell on my bike because constantly hollering “On your left!” gets tiring after a while.

The next thing I need to do is explore some of Lincoln’s trails that didn’t even exist when I was a kid. Trails like Bison, Murdock, Dietrich, Jamaica North, and Salt Creek Levee. Riding the Homestead Trail to Cortland is a special goal of mine. My grandparents used to live in Cortland and I would love to ride to their old house. Too bad the Dairy Sweet isn’t still around.

What’s your favorite trail in town?

I’m In It For the Coupons

July 23, 2013 at 1:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Missus and I have been slashing away at our family budget to help deal with a large hospital bill and the loss of 20% of my work hours. One of the items that got trimmed: our Journal Star subscription.

We opted to go with Wednesday and Sunday delivery, plus an online subscription for the rest. The Wednesday and Sunday papers have the best coupons. As a devout coupon-clipping family we’d lose money if we dropped those papers as well. Yes, we certainly could drop the online subscription and easily circumvent the journalstar.com paywall. It’s trivial to do. But this website relies on their content so I’m happy to pay a fair price for access to it. I do continue to use AdBlock while browsing their website, however; I’m no masochist.

I have to wonder how much longer the Journal Star will publish a Monday and Tuesday print edition. The Monday paper in particular lacks meat. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the way of the dodo in the near future. The Tuesday paper will probably hang around longer, if only for old time’s sake.

It’s weird not getting a daily newspaper. I have never not had a newspaper delivered to my door. I even subscribed when I lived in the dorms. But I have to admit that I don’t really miss it. You know what I mourn the most? Not having access to the Saturday crossword puzzle. Sitting in the living room with a dog by my side on a pleasant Saturday morning just won’t be the same without it.

I wonder how many of you folks still subscribe to the print edition of the Journal Star. Or how many of you actually pay for journalstar.com access. Or maybe you want to keep that last one a secret. grin

A Friendly Reminder

July 23, 2013 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Although this morning’s thunder shower wasn’t a drought-stopper, it was plenty to satisfy your lawn for the time being. Now is a good time to verify that your automatic sprinkler system’s rain sensor works properly, and to think about turning off your sprinklers for a couple days. Do your part to hold off water restrictions—and rate hikes!

I’m Going On a Walk

July 22, 2013 at 2:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

In September I am going to Walk Now for Autism Speaks at Haymarket Park. My sister has set up a team to raise money in honor of my nephew, Sam, who has autism.

As you probably know, every now and then I use this little pulpit of mine to ask for contributions to a cause. Today I want to ask you to consider supporting our team, Real Heroes, by donating online. Any amount is appreciated, but note that because of the way the donation site is set up only donations of $20 or more can be accepted online; amounts below that must be done offline. I assume that’s a decision they made due to credit card processing fees.

If you happen to have a spare Jackson on hand I sure would appreciate your support. And don’t worry if you don’t have the dough today, I’ll probably bug you again in September as the walk gets nearer.

Where in Lincoln is this?

July 22, 2013 at 1:18pm By: Mr. T Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

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EDIT: Unsolved!

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Hip Hip Hoo-meh

July 19, 2013 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I had a dream. I dreamt that Husker athletics would add a men’s soccer program; the men and women would both leave their current field behind; both would move into a classy facility in the Haymarket even better than Creighton’s Morrison Stadium; and the stadium would be shared with a PDL, USL, or other “minor league” team. That was my dream. I dreamt it not as a Husker fan, but as somebody with a vested interest in the local soccer scene.

Reality is a big disappointment.

The Husker soccer team is going to leave its current awful field inside the track on campus. That part of the story is fantastic. Their current field is an embarrassment to Division I soccer. It’s small, it’s dangerous, and it’s about as fan-friendly as sandpaper bleachers. The rest of the story isn’t so great.

The mockup of the complex is extremely uninspiring. In fact, the field very closely resembles the Abbott Championship Field, where the Huskers used to play. That is, the team is going back in time rather than forwards. (Although in fairness, the field at Abbott was much better for teams and fans than the present field.) There is nothing particularly unique to see here. There’s still plenty of time for the mockups to evolve into something exciting, of course. But if the Athletic Department planned something excitement I’m sure they would have told us about it.

The location is a bummer, too. The Haymarket is booming. The leftover floodplain land north of Salt Creek? Yeah, not so much. Technically the location is on campus, but only just.

And so much for a men’s team. If the Huskers were going to get one, the construction of a new facility would have been the perfect time to announce it. No such luck. Without a men’s team there’s no way Lincoln will see a PDL-type team. I suppose there is still the possibility of a comparable women’s team, but I don’t see Lincoln supporting that until they’ve shown a strong interest in UNL’s team first.

Overall this announcement is a loss for the Lincoln soccer community. There was hope for some big news and this isn’t it. The new field is certainly better for the Husker women, but it falls far short of its potential.

Ten Places to Take a Date For a Walk

July 18, 2013 at 1:35pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

...and What They Say About You

Sunken Gardens You are romantic and thoughtful. Walk slowly and stop at least once to sit on a bench or planter edge. There will be bugs; react to them with patience or indifference, unless your date likes the vulnerable, weenie type. Find an opportunity to surreptitiously snip off a flower that you can slide behind your date’s ear. Playfully pretending to push your date into the water says you are fun; actually pushing your date into the water says you take things too far.

Holmes Lake Dam You want to have a long chat in a place that’s visible but generally private. You like the idea of nature but you don’t want your nature too natural. You enjoy people-watching from afar.

Cornhusker Highway You have a strong desire to throw yourself and/or your date in front of a semi.

UNL City Campus If you are in college, it says your car is out of gas and you’re too broke to pay for an activity today. If you are older it says you’re in the mood to reminisce. The wider variety of highlights you see, the more well-rounded you appear. Always finish by sitting with your feet in the water in Union Plaza whenever possible.

Pioneers Park You want to go for a walk in nature, but with the predictability of solid, well-maintained paths. Stopping to play frisbee for a while says that you want to test your date’s sporting abilities. Remembering to bring a few slices of stale bread to feed the geese shows that you plan ahead; tearfully fleeing a pursuing goose shows that you’re not quite as into nature as you thought you were. Finish the walk with a stop at the ice cream hut on Coddington and West Van Dorn, but don’t spend the entire time complaining about how expensive it is.

Gateway Mall You are fifteen.

SouthPointe You are fifteen and your parents paid for that Cold Stone you both just ate.

Downtown You’re just passing time until the next activity. You don’t have any real plan for your journey, you’re just wandering aimlessly. You enjoy distractions and you don’t mind noise and a wee bit of chaos.

Haymarket You have romantic intent and you want everybody to know it. Tonight you are all about seeing and being seen. A stop for photos with The Watchful Citizen exposes your quirky side. Accompanying the walk with ice cream from Ivanna Cone shows you care for your date; yogurt from Cherry On Top says you’re cheap.

Wilderness Park You plan to explore your date’s entire body for ticks later.

Mr. Wilson for Hire

July 17, 2013 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Crap. I had some good posts in mind for this morning. They’re going to have to wait. I’m not in the mood to write about those topics.

Last week we received news that we owe BryanLGH money following The Missus’ stay back in December. They had finally finished all their work with the insurance companies and they had a final tally for us. It was a lot. So much for insurance saving the day.

In response we began slashing household expenses. We dropped services we didn’t need; identified products we could avoid (goodbye, Shakeology!); and found some spare change in the couch. You know, the usual stuff. The hospital bill would hurt, but with some work we could wipe it out in about a year.

This morning I received painful news. Due to budget cuts my hours are being slashed by 20%. Now, it could have been worse; I could have lost more hours or had my contract terminated. Plenty of people out there know what those worst case scenarios feel like. But 20% isn’t something you just brush off when you’ve already made substantial cuts. Our heads are (probably) still above water, but only just.

I’m not sure what comes next. I don’t really want to leave my current gig. I like the people and I enjoy the work. But my family’s budget won’t survive with this decrease in hours. In fact, I was about to ask for a pay increase, because my hourly rate hadn’t gone up in three years. I could find something part time to fill the gap, or I could just use this as an opportunity to move on. That requires looking for a job, though. I haven’t done that in a long time!

I’m going to go bang my head against the wall for a while. In the meantime, if any of you are hiring web developers and/or people with a passion for Lincoln, I’m your man.

Trucks Stuck in Bureaucratic Muck

July 16, 2013 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Ever since the first push in Lincoln’s food truck craze, there has been a lot of talk about the crumminess of Lincoln’s food truck-related ordinances. The City has been under pressure to remedy the situation, allowing the trucks to do what they do best—serve food curbside—rather than being relegated to scattered private parking lots. Now the City has come forward with a set of proposed food truck rules; they aren’t very enticing.

Part of the problem is that the new rules are based on the City’s existing sidewalk cart ordinance, which itself is lousy. There’s a reason sidewalk carts haven’t taken off in Lincoln. (Random aside: whatever happened to The Grillwalker? I miss that guy’s brats.) The new plan would cause vendors to face higher fees and more red tape with very little payoff. Trucks would be required to park 150 feet from the nearest food establishment, for example, even if that establishment is closed. That rule, designed to make the ordinance “fair” for brick-and-mortar stores, effectively pushes the food trucks out of the most desirable parts of Downtown. The City’s definition of “fair” seems a bit fuzzy these days.

I don’t know what the solution is, but clearly we’re nowhere near anything acceptable. In broad terms I suppose my druthers is for an ordinance that encourages more food truck competition while ensuring food safety. That would require things like flexible access to parking; no hogging of parking spots; appropriate fees; and a solid, but not onerous, inspection process. Maybe I’m not as worried about brick-and-mortar businesses as I ought to be. They are certainly welcome to make their case, but so far all I’ve heard from them is whining. I’m sure they can do better than that.

Fortunately local food trucks have been largely successful despite this ordinance mess. Good for them. The more good food happening in Lincoln, the better.

Water We Waiting For?

July 16, 2013 at 1:10pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Earlier this spring, in the midst of seemingly unending rains, I calmly predicted the need for water restrictions this summer. I even suggested that we might consider making Lincoln’s water use policy permanent, even if most of the time participation were voluntary. I felt like a street corner apocalyptic preacher carrying a sign that read “The End is Nigh”. I was mostly ignored.

Times have changed, though, and now calls for water restrictions are on the increase thanks to a month without relief from the heavens. The City still hasn’t made any formal declarations on the matter. Instead they have issued a plea to voluntarily reduce water usage before they have to formally ask us to voluntarily reduce water usage. I guess that’s the local government equivalent of “please” followed by “pretty please”.

We’ve been over this before, but here’s a friendly reminder: with rare exceptions your lawn doesn’t need to be watered more than twice per week. Better yet, restrict your watering to about one-half inch per week—that’s enough to keep your lawn alive while encouraging it to go dormant. If you have plants that require more water than that, target them specifically rather than unnecessarily watering a wide area just because a small patch needs it.

The current forecast doesn’t call for a high likelihood of rain any time soon. If you haven’t done so already, start taking steps to reduce your water usage. If you don’t, the City might have to up the ante—by asking pretty please ... with a cherry on top.

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