Where’s Mr. Wilson?

By: Mr. Wilson on February 27, 2005
Boy, I sure haven't been posting very much lately, have I? Frickin' slacker. I was swamped at work this past week, both 8-to-5 and in the evenings on three different nights. And my weekends are filled with indoor soccer games. This is the last weekend for indoor, but outdoor starts in a couple weeks. Then I'll be even more swamped. Oh well, the money's decent. I have also been silent in part because I have been working on a project that I'm dying to talk about ... but I can't. At least not right now. Hopefully I'll be able to say something about it sometime late during the week of March 7. It is difficult to blog about anything else when this single topic is dominating my attention. I suppose I could comment on the Future of Lincoln event I attended on Thursday. Short background: it was a "deliberative democracy" event in which a group of Lincolnites gathered to discuss various economic development and quality of life issues. The evening also included a panel Q&A featuring several prominent community leaders answering questions from the participants. I didn't see much of the group discussions involving the participants, but I did attend the panel Q&A. It was fascinating to see how frustrated the panel was over the participants' lack of knowledge of things like the Antelope Valley Project. The panel couldn't seem to believe that despite all the community events that have been held, Lincolnites don't know and love every tiny little bit of the Antelope Valley Project. On several occasions panel members stated explicitly or implicitly "If you don't know more about these things, it's your own damn fault. Lincoln has done its best to educate you." Which may be true. Lincoln may have done its best to inform its citizens about these topics. But shouldn't the fact that so many Lincolnites don't have a clue what the Antelope Valley Project (et al.) is all about tell Linc oln's leaders something? Clearly current methods aren't working. One solution is to get frustrated and blame the citizens for their unwillingness to attend umpteen community meetings. That seems to be the preferred solution of Lincoln's civic leaders. A better solution is to evaluate the city's current methods to determine if they are, truly, optimal. I could go on. In fact, I probably should go on, but this topic deserves a post of its own. Besides, it's a beautiful Sunday morning and Daisy wants to play. What kind of person would I be if I disappointed a puppy?

Eminent Domain Abuse Goes On Trial

By: Mr. Wilson on February 22, 2005
Today Kelo v. City of New London goes before the Supreme Court. Reason Magazine has put together an excellent reading list for those of you who need to catch up. Keep an eye on this case, ladies and gents. The implications for the Antelope Valley Project -- and, more immediately, John Q. Hammons' proposed hotel at 17th & R -- are huge. If the SCOTUS finds eminent domain abuse in Kelo... Well, the Antelope Valley Project's uphill struggle could suddenly become even more difficult.

Tooting My Horn

By: Mr. Wilson on February 22, 2005
I can't believe we said yes. A couple weeks ago both the Missus and I received an e-mail. It began:
Say, I've got a proposition for you and also a need for your help!!!
Rarely can anything good come from an e-mail that begins like that. I mean, he used three exclamation points. That's scary stuff. For whatever reason -- my current theory is that the Missus and I are both certifiably insane -- we decided to hear the guy out. As a result, the Missus and I are now the two newest members of your new favorite band, Death By Brass, led by Brendon "I taught James Valentine to play the guitar back at Irving Junior High" Sibley. I do autographs for $20 apiece. Actually we are technically just substitutes, in case any of the regular trumpet players can't make a gig. From what we hear that can happen fairly regularly. Last night was our first rehearsal with the band. In fact, it was our first rehearsal of any sort since 2002. It's hard to believe we haven't played our trumpets in that long. Our lips certainly felt the strain. Neither of us has the chops we used to have back in our Cornhusker Marching Band days. And yet we both fared pretty well. Most of the other band members hadn't played since November, so it's not like we were the only ones ending a long hiatus. And it's not like I could ever forget the fingerings for the notes. Some of Death By Brass's music is the same stuff we used to play back in pep band at Southeast -- Can't Turn You Loose, Fire, Girlfriend, Gimme Some Lovin', Jungle Love, Story In Your Eyes. For whatever reason my brain decided to retain those tunes in my memory. I can play many of them (more or less) by heart, e ven though I last played them in 1997. For now I can't sight-read music very well, though. What are those little # thingies again? I have been wanting to get my trumpet back out for quite a while. Playing with Death By Brass is way cooler than accompanying the occasional hymn at church. They perform on Husker game days at The Eagle's Dock Party at 8th & 'Q' in the Haymarket, and at other miscellaneous gigs throughout the year. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. We are just subs for now, but that's ok. We'll need some time to ease back into the idea of playing loud music in front of large crowds of drunken revelers. I haven't used my stadium-filling "Go Big Red" voice for a while, so I'll have to start rehabilitating that, too. This could be a lot of fun.

Serving Deuel is “a Real Honor”

By: Mr. T on February 22, 2005
As reported by a news channel in Mason City, IA, it appears that Pat's legend continues to grow nationwide: Adam Sodersten MASON CITY, Iowa (KIMT) A man that’s drawing national attention has a tie to a business in our area. Nebraska resident Patrick Deuel recently made headlines after he slimmed his weight from over 1,000 pounds to around 600 pounds. Mason City’s Pat Holt owns a big and tall store. Now, Deuel is buying all of his clothes from Holt. "He found me on the Internet and it's been a real honor serving him. I mean it's great. I feel like I've really accomplished something when I can source things out for those people with those hard to find sizes,” comments Mountain Clothiers owner Pat Holt. For Deuel, that hard to find size was a 10XL available right here in Mason City. Our dedicated research staff will continue to cover this issue and bring you all the news on Pat in Deuel Watch.

Capitalism Shall Overcome

By: Mr. Wilson on February 21, 2005
From the Austin American-Statesman (BugMeNot):
When Austin High School administrators removed candy from campus vending machines last year, the move was hailed as a step toward fighting obesity. What happened next shows how hard it can be for schools to control what students eat on campus. The candy removal plan, according to students at Austin High, was thwarted by classmates who created an underground candy market, turning the hallways of the high school into Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca. Soon after candy was removed from vending machines, enterprising students armed with gym bags full of M&M's, Skittles, Snickers and Twix became roving vendors, serving classmates in need of an in-school sugar fix. Regular-size candy bars like the ones sold in vending machines routinely sold in the halls for $1.50.

Deuel: Valentine’s Day Accomplishment

By: Mr. T on February 18, 2005
As we reported earlier in Deuel Watch, Pat fulfilled a promise to his wife Edith by taking her out for a short walk on cupid's day. Now, the Omaha Channel has reported that Edith too will have a similar operation to control her own obesity problem: VALENTINE, Neb. -- Patrick Deuel is back home in Valentine, fulfilling the request from his wife to take a walk with her by Valentine's Day. While that may not seem like much to most people, to Deuel, it is an accomplishment. He made good on his promise with a short walk Sunday. Deuel was hospitalized last summer weighing 1,072 pounds. Diet and gastric bypass surgery helped him lose 610 pounds. His goal is to get down to 240 pounds -- a weight he hasn't seen since he was in the sixth grade. His wife, Edith, also struggles with weight and said she too will have the stomach-restricting surgery. She said her husband's doctor said it would be to her advantage to have the surgery to help them both change their eating habits. Our research staff will continue to keep you up to date on the latest Pat Deuel news.

Media Bias in Action

By: Mr. Wilson on February 17, 2005
This is a pretty minor example of media bias, but one paragraph in this article caught my eye:
While many parents criticized the badges for violating privacy and possibly endangering children's health, some parents supported the plan. [emphasis added]
Did you notice it? The article's author is obviously against the badges, and he wants you to think he's in the majority. He (she? it?) used the word "many" to describe parents critical of the badges, but "some" to describe the parents in support of the plan. "Many" typically implies a greater number than "some." That wouldn't be a problem, of course, if the author quantified "many" and "some." He doesn't. Not only does the author not give any numbers, he doesn't give the reader any reason to suggest that he has even the slightest idea which side has more supporters. All we know from the article is that Dawn Cantrall is one of the "many," while Mary Brower is one of the "some." Looks like a 50/50 split, to me. Like I said, this is a pretty minor nit to pick. Still, it's enough to get me to add a new category to the blog: Media Watch.

Annexation for Taxation

By: Mr. Wilson on February 17, 2005
Today's editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star makes a good point: Lincoln stands to lose if it annexes State Fair Park solely for the purpose of imposing the city's sales tax on the property. How much Lincoln will lose -- and whether those losses are greater than or less than potential gains -- is debateable. Clearly, though, annexation solely for taxation is lame. It is desperate. The editorial raises an issue that I have harped on before: Lincoln is desperate for cash. In this case the amount is $200,000 annually. The city's (proposed) solution? Annoy the state's citizens and leaders. That hardly seems a sustainable or sensible solution. For other (relatively) small cash needs the city has resorted, fairly successfully, to begging. Begging funded the Sunken Gardens renovation, and begging is fueling the Lincoln Cares program. Begging may be uncouth, but it has worked. But again, begging is unsustainable. Beggars are eventually brushed aside. Nor will begging fund Lincoln's larger, and more pressing, needs. Infrastructure improvements, the South and East Beltways, the Antelope Valley Project, and Downtown revitalization efforts will cost billions of dollars in public and private funds. (The first stage of the Antelope Valley Project alone is projected to require a $1 billion investment, including $240 million in public funds.) Where will that money come from? Do Lincolnites and Lincoln have those resources above and beyond the status quo? Not a single Lincolnite has stepped forward with a solid, sustainable, and promising plan to address the discreprency between Lincoln's needs (solid infrastructure, good schools) and Lincoln's wants (a pretty creek bed, a Downtown park). Certainly Lincoln's leaders [sic] have done little to quell Lincolnites' unease about the future. I don't have a solution, and therefore I urge restraint and fiscal responsibility. Lincoln's civic leaders [sic] don't have a solution, and yet they are pushing forward with obstinance and unsupported confidence. If I'm proven wrong I will have been guilty of being overly cautious. If the city council, Mayor Seng, et al. are wrong, they will have robbed Lincolnites of hundreds of millions of dollars pursuing fanciful dreams only loosely linked to reality. I hope their dreams come true. I really do. But to date they have given me little reason to join in their merry crusade.

Firefox Go Boom

By: Mr. Wilson on February 16, 2005
Firefox just crashed! That's only the second time that has happened to me. This time, as last time, there was no apparent cause. Only 6,346 more times until it surpasses IE's total. When that happens I will gladly switch to IE. (I almost wrote "I will gladly switch back to IE." Then I remembered that I have never used IE as my primary browser. I have used it at a couple workplaces because I had to -- which is where I learned to love to hate it -- but I have never used it if given a choice. I used Netscape through versions 3 and 4, tried the absolutely horrible version 6 for about 2 days, switched back to 4.somethinerother, used Opera for a week, moved to Netscape 7, and then hopped on the Firefox [then Firebird] bandwagon at version .7. I'll try IE7 when it comes out because hey, if it's better than the rest I'm not going to spite it in favor of some crappier product. I suspect I won't have to worry about falling out of love with Firefox, though.)

Just Deuel It!

By: Mr. T on February 16, 2005
Along with Warren Buffet and Chuck Hagel, Patrick Deuel has recently joined the ranks of Nebraskans who have made national headlines lately. Deuel is a former restaurant manager from Valentine, Nebraska, who underwent gastric bypass surgery recently after being hospitalized at a whopping 1,072 pounds. Deuel has since lost hundreds of pounds, and as reported by the AP, went on a Valentine's Day stroll with his wife yesterday: VALENTINE, Neb. (AP) - Patrick Deuel, who eight months ago weighed more than 1,000 pounds, fulfilled a promise and took his wife on a Valentine's Day walk. Deuel, who has lost more than 400 pounds since June, promised to take his wife, Edith, on a Valentine's Day walk in their hometown of Valentine. ''That's too many Valentines not to do it,'' Deuel said. The couple stepped out of their house Monday afternoon and walked about 25 feet. Deuel said it had been eight years since he was able to walk with Edith on the holiday. We will be keeping track of Pat's progress and post frequent updates in Deuel Watch.

Big News From Bill

By: Mr. Wilson on February 15, 2005
Huge news from Bill Gates: Microsoft will release Internet Explorer 7 before releasing the next version of Windows (codename Longhorn), in stark contrast with Microsoft's original, longstanding plan. Why is this huge news? It's huge for two reasons. First, if folks adopt IE7 quickly, website designers will (hopefully) be able to begin phasing out some of the hacks necessary to get websites to display properply in IE. Current versions of IE are filled with bugs and they don't adhere well to standards of website design. Second, it demonstrates just how frightened Microsoft is of Firefox, Opera, and other "alternative" web browsers. Microsoft doesn't scare easily, so the move to release IE7 is an indication that they fear their monopoly is threatened. Oh, and this also proves that Microsoft is aware that IE is currently a steaming pile of horse crap. The makers of Firefox and Opera, et al., will need to react smartly and quickly to this news. Expect new versions of all the "alternative" browsers, and maybe even a substantial media push, before IE7 is released.
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