LES Wants More of Your Money

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2008
Lincoln Electric System wants to raise rates by 5.5% (see the info sheet [PDF]). The Lincoln Employers Coalition and the Lincoln Independent Business Association disagree, preferring a 4% or 4.5% increase. (Well, I'm sure they, like all of us, prefer a 0% increase, but it doesn't sound like that's a viable option.) One of the points of contention is LES's sustainable energy program. Both the LEC and LIBA support a voluntary program -- not unlike Lincoln Cares, I presume -- in which folks decide on their own whether or not to give to the program. My barrier at this point is a lack of information. I'm not sure what the sustainable energy program entails, and why it needs funding of $1 million. If that $1 million will actually do something -- like generate sustainable energy or directly assist in cutting costs -- great. But if it's primarily an informational fund ("You should install CFLs!"), you can probably count me out. I'm reasonably happy with LES's current informational campaigns, and to me, an extra million isn't likely to have sufficient results to justify the costs. But again, I don't have details right now (and I don't see any on LES's website), so this is all hypothetical. What are your thoughts on the rate hike? Should we fight it, live with it, or consider it a bargain?

Ahh, More Blight

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2008
It has been a while since we've seen a big chunk of land declared blighted in Lincoln. Now we can add nearly a square mile near NW 48th and I-80 to the list of blighted properties. In this case, most of the land is currently dirt. It's difficult to say how perfectly good farmland can be considered dilapidated, but the land does meet the state's definition of blight. As a result, the recently-announced commercial development in that area will be able to take advantage of some nice tax perks. How long will it be before all new developments start seeking blight designations? Sure, some of them might meet the state's definition of blight. But isn't the intent of the law to help spruce up existing portions of the city? Speaking of blight and existing portions of the city, if you haven't been by 9th/10th and South lately, you're in for a shock. The south side of South Street has been cleared out, and construction on the new buildings (an AutoZone and a fast food joint, I believe) has begun. Some people have quibbled over the "quality" of the businesses going in there, but hey, at least somebody is putting money into a stretch of Lincoln that was falling into disrepair.

26.2 Miles of Fun

By: Mr. Wilson on January 31, 2008
Are any of you folks planning to give the Lincoln Marathon a shot this year? I love the Lincoln Marathon. I have never run it, but The Missus has. Most of the people look like they're having such fun. Maybe you think that's a rosy interpretation of things, but I don't think so. Most people really seem genuinely happy to be running a marathon or half-marathon, and they're downright ecstatic to finish. Sure, the average runner swears a few times, but if you're twisted enough to try a marathon, you probably think swearing and grunting are just part of the experience. If you are planning to run in this year's marathon, I hope you've started training. May shows up sooner than you think. I can't wait to see Robbie's reaction to all the runners. I bet he'll think it's hilarious that all these crazy adults go streaming down the street for an hour.

Computer Woes

By: Mr. Wilson on January 30, 2008
Back in Fall 2006 when I was shopping for a new laptop, I received a lot of advice from a variety of people. By far the most common piece of advice was, "If you're buying a laptop, be sure to get a good warranty. Best. Advice. Evar. My laptop died unexpectedly yesterday. It appears the motherboard went belly-up. I think the hard drive is fine. Fortunately, I have a 3-year, on-site warranty that covers just such a situation, so yesterday I fired up Dell's online tech support. (I could have called tech support, but if I'm going to be on hold, I'd rather be on hold in a chat window than with a phone glued to my ear.) It didn't take long for Jayant to realize he probably couldn't help me. Before we could finish, though, the chat session unexpectedly ended. No worries, within 30 seconds my phone rang. It was Jayant. He asked if it would be ok if his supervisor were to call me within the next two hours. Sure enough, one hour and 59 minutes later (one minute to spare!) Harsimranjit called. He apologized for taking so long to call, but asked if he could call back within 30 minutes. No problem. He called back, informed me Dell would be setting up an on-site visit, and gave me the relevant information. Now I'm just waiting for the tech to call me to set up the time for him to come over. Anyway, long story short I'm back to working on my old computer. And I'm praying that my backups are relatively current so I can get some work done. So how is your week going so far?

The Anti-Solution

By: Mr. Wilson on January 29, 2008
You've got to love Senator Phil Erdman's attitude toward finding a solution to the State Fair / UNL Research Park problem. He has said that if UNL and the Fair Board don't come up with something by February 26, he will pursue a solution that "may not be to anyone's benefit". Translation: if other people can't solve the problem for themselves, then Sen. Erdman will come to the rescue with a complete anti-solution that's sure to tick off everybody. Is that the legislative equivalent of turning the car around if the kids in the back seat don't quit arguing?

Return of the Icy Dip

By: Mr. Wilson on January 28, 2008
I see it's almost time for the Polar Bear Plunge again (Flier [pdf]). The annual fundraiser for Special Olympics of Nebraska is February 23 at Holmes Lake. Last year you folks helped me raise about $400, and I got to join a few dozen other crazy people as we ran into an ice-covered Holmes Lake. It was a blast. This year I want to raise the bar a bit. First, I know we can raise more than $400 this year. Let's really kick things up a notch: let's shoot for $1,000. I'll post more information soon about how you can donate. That's a 250% jump. Pretty substantial, I know, so I'm going to need your help. I would love it if we could put together a team of Lincolnite readers and/or Lincoln bloggers so that we can pool our collective resources. Plus, it's way more fun to do this sort of thing as a group. Who among you is bold enough to take a dip into Holmes Lake's icy waters? Honestly, it's not that bad. It's flippin' cold, yes, but you're not in the water for very long. So come on, who's with me?

There Are Only Two

By: Mr. Wilson on January 28, 2008
Building off of yesterday's post about Famous Dave's, I've also been thinking about how it's amazing that there are only two "real" Valentino's locations in Lincoln these days. It wasn't long ago there were four locations in town, and they all stayed very busy. Today, I rarely hear Lincolnites talk about going to Valentino's. Instead, if people say they went to one of the restaurants, it tends to be because "Uncle Bob" from out of town wanted to go there because he only gets to go once every three years. Come to think of it, I haven't been to a Val's restaurant in three years -- not since we went with our friends the Lutfiyas from St. Louis who, as former Lincolnites, feel it's their duty to go to Val's and Runza whenever they get back in town. Are former Lincolnites doing more to keep the Val's restaurants open than are current Lincolnites?

There’s Only One

By: Mr. Wilson on January 27, 2008
Can anybody explain to me why there is still only a single Famous Dave's in town (at Southpointe, 27th and Pine Lake Road). I would have expected two more Dave's in town by now. There's certainly a demand for it; according to my sister, the wait last night at 5:00pm was an hour. I realize Lincolnites eat earlier than folks in a lot of other places, but already an hour wait at 5? That's insane!

Bye Bye, Trees

By: Mr. Wilson on January 26, 2008
I drove by 9th/10th and Van Dorn yesterday for the first time in a few weeks. It sure looks weird with so many trees removed in preparation for this spring's construction work on the south side of the intersection. Now if the new buildings on the north side of Van Dorn would ever get finished -- er, started -- it could make for a completely transformed intersection.

Worth Every Penny

By: Mr. Wilson on January 25, 2008
I'm getting a jump start on my taxes this year, since The Wilsons had a few odd changes in 2007 that will make our tax calculations trickier than usual. One of those changes: we finalized our adoption of Robbie. Fortunately, the feds offer some nice tax breaks to folks who adopt, and we're more than happy to take advantage of those. In fact, my early calculations show that we'll get a very nice return this year -- big enough to pay off almost all of our last two remaining debts (other than the house). If the Senate comes through, we'll wipe out our small debts completely. That's not what the feds wish we would spend the money on, but hey, I'll sleep much better with those debts off my shoulders than I will with a new 40" television in the living room.

Read more…

A Lincolnite Needs a Battery

By: Mr. Wilson on January 25, 2008
A Lincolnite dropped me a note asking if I have any recommendations for where to purchase a new laptop battery in town. I don't have much experience with purchasing batteries -- not beyond AA's, anyway -- so I'm turning to you folks for help. Where in town would you recommend a person go to find a new laptop battery?

Navigating to Satellite

By: Mr. Wilson on January 25, 2008
It's official, Time Warner Cable customers: no refund for you. Well, not on a city-wide scale, anyway. All complaints about TWC's "Navigator" DVR software will be handled the way they've always been handled -- one at a time. I would hope that anybody who has had a poor experience with Navigator would have already been compensated and/or switched to satellite. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? A couple months ago I had a customer service problem with TWC. Here are some tips to help you get what you want:
  • Know your problem. Be specific and accurate.
  • Don't exaggerate. If you exaggerate the customer service rep will just roll her eyes at you. Tell it like it is.
  • Be patient. Losing your cool won't help your cause.
  • Be nice, especially to the folks low on the ladder. They aren't the ones you're angry with.
  • Don't expect too much help from the customer service rep. Some companies give their reps a lot of power, and some don't. Time Warner appears to fall into the latter camp.
  • Know what you want, and tell them. Be prepared to bargain a little. Make sure your demands are reasonable; don't aim too high, and don't settle for less than you deserve.
Here is an excellent example (ending contains foul language) of a customer support call that is almost perfectly executed. It's funny, sure, but the guy gets a lot of things right.

One of the Things I Don’t Like About Ernie

By: Mr. Wilson on January 25, 2008
Ahh, good ol' Ernie Chambers. I have celebrated him many times. But it's times like this, when he calls opponents racist when they disagree with him on issues of race, that he becomes a tough person to defend. It's unfortunate to see an orator like Senator Chambers resort to petty ad hominems to make an attack. Bitter Ernie is so much less persuasive than Creative Ernie.
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